There’s a scene in the 2019 miniseries “Watchmen” where a troubled antihero, locked up in prison and bullied by fellow inmates, violently beats a picked few and says, “I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me.”
Former U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-5th, recalled the scene in a recent interview about his hopes to jump into the Virginia governor’s race as an independent, a decision he said is now only predicated on cash, given his level of frustration with the field of candidates in both parties.
“If I had the money to do this, if I had the fundraising, I would scare the hell out of the Republicans and Democrats,” said Riggleman, who lost his seat representing Virginia’s 5th District in a GOP convention last year after presiding over the wedding of a gay couple. Republican Bob Good went on to win the 5th District seat. Riggleman has since left the party.
“I don’t have to satisfy a base. I can sit back like a machine gun.”
Three months until the deadline for independent candidates to register their candidacies with the state, Riggleman’s is a big “if.” But, he said, he has been speaking with friends and supporters who are urging him to run, and said that if he decided to jump in, he would announce it on June 7, a day before the Democratic primary.
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Riggleman was speaking from the distillery he runs with his wife where he has spent the last few months working on his upcoming book about how he says “grifters” profited off of people they fooled into believing conspiracy theories, including “millions of Republicans.”
On April 3, The New York Times reported on Riggleman’s long crusade against QAnon and the effort’s lack of traction among fellow Republicans, mentioning that the former congressman was still mulling a run for governor.
There’s no shortage of people seeking to become Virginia’s next governor: five Democrats, seven Republicans and an independent are already in contention.
Riggleman said he is particularly disappointed in the GOP field, which he says had led the GOP in Virginia to become a “circus party.”
Since losing his bid for re-election in a drive-through convention, Riggleman has spent much of his time pushing back on the conspiracies and activities surrounding QAnon, vehemently criticizing former President Donald Trump and fellow Republicans for fueling it in the lead up to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The four front-runners for the GOP nomination for governor have all made election security and election reform a key campaign issue, to varying degrees casting doubt on the integrity of the U.S. electoral system. In interviews with The Times-Dispatch, Sen. Amanda Chase of Chesterfield, Del. Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights, entrepreneur Pete Snyder and former private equity CEO Glenn Youngkin said they acknowledge Joe Biden as the president but said they have plans for securing the state’s elections, because it’s a top concern for GOP voters.
“On the right, you have a ‘hold my beer party’ that thinks that conspiracy theories and disinformation are the way to go to reach the people and gather votes,” Riggleman said.
Riggleman’s frustration registers higher when talking about his former party. As for Democrats?
“You have a rehash of the same old, same old. People that have been in the party pipeline. Politicians who only want to be politicians, and they want to push the commonwealth to the left,” he said. The field includes former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William; Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond; Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax; and Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas.
Though, he added, McAuliffe is a “moderating” force.
Princess Blanding, the sister of Marcus-David Peters, who was fatally shot by Richmond police in 2018 while in a mental health crisis, is running as an independent, dissatisfied with Virginia Democrats’ efforts on police reform.
If Riggleman jumps in, he’ll be aiming for the one-third of Virginians who identify as independents, and with working-class people looking to leave their “Republican or Democrat tribes.”
“Really what you’re fighting is, you’re fighting the extremes in the fringes,” Riggleman said. “And if there’s not a courageous center that rises up at some point, I think this country’s in a lot of trouble.”