Republican Denver Riggleman handily defeats Leslie Cockburn in 5th district congressional race

By John McCaslin
GOP congressional candidate Denver Riggleman of Nelson County before marching in Amissville’s annual parade last summer.

Republican Denver Riggleman, a Nelson County distillery owner and latecomer to the 5th district congressional race, easily defeated Democrat Leslie Cockburn, a resident of Rappahannock County.

With 295 of 330 precincts reporting, Riggleman had 140,678 votes (55 percent) to Cockburn’s 115,709 (45 percent).

It was more than a satisfying victory for Riggleman, a U.S. military veteran, who was seen in polls as running neck and neck with his Democratic opponent, a former investigative journalist. Just recently, the 5th district was labeled a “toss up,” although internal GOP polling gave Riggleman a 10 percentage point lead.

Early this morning, Riggleman and his wife Christine voted at their home precinct and then hit the road for a full day of last-minute campaigning. After Afton, he visited Bedford, Franklin, Pittsylvania, Appomattox, Fluvanna, and Albemarle counties, as well as the city of Danville on the North Carolina border. The Manassas native then headed back north to await the election returns at a brewery near his home.

Luke Christopher | Rappahannock News
Tuesday night, Nov. 6, Sperryville Trading Cafe hosted a nonpartisan Election Night Gathering.

Even here in her home base of Rappahannock County, Cockburn didn’t fare nearly as well as might be expected, with Riggleman taking 55 percent of the vote (1,889 ballots) to Cockburn’s 45 percent (1,548 votes), with absentee ballots yet to be counted.

Voters surrounding Chester Gap went overwhelmingly for Riggleman, giving the Republican more than 71 percent of the tally (233 votes to Cockburn’s 93). In Amissville, it was the same story — 65 percent of the ballots for Riggleman (460 votes to the Democrat’s 251).

In Castleton, 53 percent of the voters preferred Riggleman (324 votes) compared to Cockburn’s 47 percent (290). The race was closer in precincts surrounding Washington and Flint Hill. In the county seat, Riggleman garnered 370 votes (51 percent) to Cockburn’s 357. 

Luke Christopher | Rappahannock News
Onlookers react to incoming results at Rappahannock County Democrats’ Election Night Party held at Headmaster’s Pub in Sperryville.

Only voters in the Sperryville and Flint Hill precincts went for Cockburn, handing her 355 votes  (54 percent) to Riggleman’s 305 (46 percent) in Sperryville and in Flint Hill the Democrat barely edged her opponent with 202 votes to 197.

John McCaslin | Rappahannock News
Democratic congressional candidate Leslie Cockburn arrives at her Castleton polling station to vote this morning with her husband, Andrew Cockburn, who has just become an American and was voting for the very first time.

The progressive platform of Cockburn, embraced by Democratic supporters but not nearly the Republican crossovers she hoped for to put her over the top, followed more than a year of grassroots organizing by the candidate in 21 counties stretching from Northern Virginia to North Carolina — a district larger than New Jersey.

Cockburn, who sought to become the first woman elected to James Madison’s former seat, logged some 85,000 miles on her car during the campaign, using her home in Rappahannock County as her pit stop.

Driven to run for Congress by the election of Donald Trump, she immediately pledged to protect the Affordable Care Act, advocate for Medicare for all, fight opioid addiction, create jobs, protect the environment and immigrant families, work to restore racial harmony, and fight for equal rights, work and pay for women — all contrary to the president’s White House agenda.

NRCC Spokeswoman Maddie Anderson tonight released the following statement regarding Riggleman’s victory: “The Democrats put forth one of the most radical candidates in the country, and it massively backfired. Denver Riggleman fits the district and will represent Virginians well. The NRCC is proud to congratulate Congressman-elect Denver Riggleman.”

A prominent journalist, filmmaker and author, Cockburn said it was specifically Trump’s “attacks” on the Fourth Estate that sealed her bid for Capitol Hill, “because he was pointing at reporters and saying you are the enemy of the people, and that is something that is very un-American and shocking. And to do that to the FBI? It’s kind of beyond belief. But it means we all better stand up and do something about it.”

Tuesday morning, with heavy rain dripping off her “Town of Farmville” umbrella, Cockburn arrived at her Rappahannock County campaign office in Huntly, where she reminded campaign volunteers and supporters, “Rain never stopped a tsunami,” but the Democratic blue wave it turned out never reached the 5th district.

Cockburn and her Irish-born husband Andrew cast their ballots — he for the very first-time as an American — at their home precinct in Castleton, where by 9:30 more than 200 (20 percent of the precinct’s registered voters) had already showed up in the pouring rain. From there, Cockburn headed south into the huge district for some final campaigning.

In an interview with the Rappahannock News last December, five months after she announced her candidacy, Cockburn expressed confidence that 2018 would be the year for women — across the country, on Capitol Hill, and into the 5th district of Virginia, where her ultimate aim was to unseat Republican Rep. Tom Garrett.

But Garrett in a few months’ time would announce that he was fighting alcoholism, and it was in June that Riggleman was chosen by GOP leaders in the district to face Cockburn.

“About 80 percent of the activists in the Democratic Party in the district are women,” Cockburn pointed out during the interview. “There is something going on since the Trump election . . . but you really see it happening in the district, and that is women saying, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.’ You saw it in the elections of eleven women to the Virginia House of Delegates.”

Cockburn at the time wasn’t only keeping her eyes on Virginia’s women candidates, but women office seekers from around the country, who made political runs in record numbers leading up to today’s midterm elections.

“It’s really a tidal wave. It’s really going to affect the election I think. Women’s issues are paramount for a lot of people.”

Before rising to challenge Garrett and ultimately Riggleman, Cockburn defeated three fellow Democratic candidates in caucuses held last March: Ben Cullop, Roger Huffstetler, and Andrew Sneathern, all from the Charlottesville area.

Full results:

Member House of Representatives (05)

295 precincts of 330 (89.39%) reporting
Candidate Votes Percent
Denver L. Riggleman, III
Republican
140,678 54.78%
Leslie C. Cockburn
Democratic
115,709 45.06%
Write In
Write-In
420 0.16%

Member House of Representatives (05) – RAPPAHANNOCK COUNTY

6 precincts of 7 (85.71%) reporting
Candidate Votes Percent
Denver L. Riggleman, III
Republican
1,889 54.86%
Leslie C. Cockburn
Democratic
1,548 44.96%
Write In
Write-In
6 0.17%

Precinct by precinct: 

# AB – Central Absentee Precinct (05)

Candidate Votes Percent
Denver L. Riggleman, III
Republican
0 0.00%
Leslie C. Cockburn
Democratic
0 0.00%
Write In
Write-In
0 0.00%

## Provisional (05)

Candidate Votes Percent
Denver L. Riggleman, III
Republican
0 0.00%
Leslie C. Cockburn
Democratic
0 0.00%
Write In
Write-In
0 0.00%

101 – WASHINGTON (05)

Candidate Votes Percent
Denver L. Riggleman, III
Republican
370 50.82%
Leslie C. Cockburn
Democratic
357 49.04%
Write In
Write-In
1 0.14%

201 – AMISSVILLE (05)

Candidate Votes Percent
Denver L. Riggleman, III
Republican
460 64.61%
Leslie C. Cockburn
Democratic
251 35.25%
Write In
Write-In
1 0.14%

Last Modified on 11/06/2018 07:13 PM

301 – SPERRYVILLE (05)

Candidate Votes Percent
Denver L. Riggleman, III
Republican
305 46.14%
Leslie C. Cockburn
Democratic
355 53.71%
Write In
Write-In
1 0.15%

401 – SCRABBLE (05)

Candidate Votes Percent
Denver L. Riggleman, III
Republican
324 52.60%
Leslie C. Cockburn
Democratic
290 47.08%
Write In
Write-In
2 0.32%

501 – CHESTER GAP (05)

Candidate Votes Percent
Denver L. Riggleman, III
Republican
233 71.25%
Leslie C. Cockburn
Democratic
93 28.44%
Write In
Write-In
1 0.31%

502 – FLINT HILL (05)

Candidate Votes Percent
Denver L. Riggleman, III
Republican
197 49.37%
Leslie C. Cockburn
Democratic
202 50.63%
Write In
Write-In
0 0.00%

 

About John McCaslin 339 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.

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