FAUQUIER — Republicans in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District chose a convention to pick their party nominee next year, setting up a competition between Rep. Denver Riggleman and at least one other opponent.
The 5th Congressional District Republican Committee — composed of local party leaders in central Virginia — chose the method after a few hours of public discussion at a meeting Saturday in Fauquier County.
Riggleman, R-Nelson, is seeking a second term representing Virginia’s largest congressional district that stretches from Fauquier County to the North Carolina border and includes Franklin County and part of Bedford County.
Conventions are a common method Republicans use to pick congressional nominees. The process is limited to a smaller number of voters, allowing faithful party activists to ensure ideological purity.
Some voting members pressed for a firehouse primary, which is managed by local political committees. A convention takes place at one location, and can require people to be there for hours. A firehouse primary sets up polling locations in each locality, allowing for more Republicans to vote.
“A firehouse primary would give voters of our party the opportunity to vote for their party candidate rather than merely a handful of party insiders,” said Chris Tomlin, who spoke in favor of a firehouse primary on behalf of Virginia college Republicans.
People who spoke against a firehouse primary expressed concern about Democrats participating and local committees not having enough funds to properly manage one.
A majority of the committee voted to reject a firehouse primary and instead approved a convention.
Additional details about when and where the convention will be held will be determined at a later date.
So far, Bob Good, an athletics official at Liberty University, is the only person to announce he will challenge Riggleman. Good, who also sits on the Campbell County Board of Supervisors, has said Riggleman has “betrayed the trust of the Republican conservative base” in the district.
Riggleman inflamed some social conservatives in July when he officiated a same-sex wedding for two men who volunteered on his campaign. It led to a couple political committees voting to censure Riggleman for not adhering to the party’s platform. Some members on the 5th District Republican Committee tried, but failed, to censure him for performing the wedding.
Riggleman narrowly won the party’s nomination last year at a mass meeting, an event in which 37 local party leaders cast votes. The mass meeting happened shortly after Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Buckingham, unexpectedly announced he wouldn’t run for reelection so he could seek treatment for alcoholism.
Riggleman has libertarian leanings, and has been open about taking a states’ rights approach to same-sex marriage. Some social conservatives took issue with that position during the nomination contest last year.
Some of the people who have criticized Riggleman for performing the gay wedding voted for the convention.
Melvin Adams, the chairman of the 5th District Committee, told the group he hoped to avoid any controversy and “foul play” throughout the convention process.
Last year, the neighboring 6th Congressional District Republican Committee used a convention to pick a nominee among eight candidates. The process drew criticism over some organizers attempting to use unusual rules, which some Republicans said was to try and rig the convention for a preferred candidate who ended up losing.
“I care about a clean, transparent process that is best for everybody,” Adams said.