The 5th District. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.

Back in May 2020, Dan Moy, a 27-year Air Force veteran and then the chairman of the Charlottesville GOP, cast his vote for Bob Good at the party’s nominating convention for Virginia’s 5th congressional district, helping him unseat Rep. Denver Riggleman, the incumbent. Later that year, Good was elected to Congress, where he quickly made a name for himself as a conservative firebrand and a heavily partisan lawmaker with little interest in working with anyone who doesn’t share his values. 

Rep. Bob Good, R-Campbell County. Official portrait.

Nineteen months later, Moy announced that he would challenge the man whom he had helped elect, alleging that Good has used his time in office for political “grandstanding” and was “missing in action” on a number of key issues, from economic and workforce development in his home district to taking care of active duty military and veterans. 

“Half of a congressman’s job is back here serving the people of the 5th district, and we need a congressman who has a vision for making a difference in our region when it comes to doing something with our economy,” Moy said in an interview with Cardinal News earlier this week. Good also has failed to use his platform in Congress to back the funding of critical national security efforts, Moy added. “His record in Congress shows me that while he says he supports our military, he has voted against funding our military,” he said.

Daniel Moy. Courtesy of the Moy campaign.

Good has not responded to several emails asking for an interview. 

More than 2,000 delegates will pick the Republican nominee at a party convention at Hampton-Sydney College near Farmville on May 21. The district’s GOP committee chose the convention format over a primary by a 24-8 vote (and two abstentions) during a meeting on Jan. 8, 10 days after the Virginia Supreme Court approved the new congressional maps, said Will Pace, mayor of Chatham, who was elected committee chair that day.

“People in the 5th district like the convention format because it’s more grassroots oriented, and you need to have a majority of the vote. The party controls the process and sets the rules,” Pace said in a phone interview. Because Virginia voters don’t register by party affiliation, some committee members were also concerned with Democrats participating in a Republican primary, which is not possible at a convention, Pace added.

Good first won his party’s nomination at a convention in 2020, which was held at Tree of Life Ministries in Campbell County, which happened to be on his home turf – a decision that upset Riggleman’s delegates at the time. Good, a self-described “Biblical conservative,” decided to challenge Riggleman after the latter had officiated a same-sex wedding, which upset many Republicans in the district. He won after 10 hours of voting with 58%.  

Moy said in the interview this week that at the time the committee voted in favor of the convention format, there were no challengers and it was assumed that Good would be renominated. “I voted for the convention at the time because it was the consensus view, and I believe that the process needs to be as open and as fair as possible,” Moy said.  

The college was chosen because of its location in the geographic center of the district. which stretches from Albemarle County in the north all the way down to Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg counties in the south, edging the North Carolina border. “This convention offers an opportunity for both campaigns to compete and for delegates to be served in terms of location and access,” Moy said.

But Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said that the chosen format may be disadvantageous for Moy. “A primary would be less predictable, but the convention the GOP is having gives a big edge to Good,” Sabato said. “Super-activists will dominate in a convention, and they’re mainly as far right as Good. That’s how Good beat incumbent Denver Riggleman two years ago.”

Campaigning on a far-right platform – from hardline-views on illegal immigration to his opposition to marriage equality – Good was elected in November 2020, defeating Democrat Cameron Webb by 52.6% to 47.4%.

A little over a month after the presidential election, which then-President Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, Good appeared at a pro-Trump rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., where he claimed that the election had been stolen by Democrats. The Washington Post reported that Good also told a mostly maskless crowd that the COVID-19 precautions were a “hoax,” and that the pandemic was “phony.”

On Jan. 6, 2021, Good was among a group of Republicans who voted against certifying the election of President-elect Biden. He also voted against legislation awarding Congressional Gold Medals to members of the U.S. Capitol Police and the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department for protecting lawmakers during the storming of the Capitol.

In a sharp contrast to Good, Moy said in the interview that he would have voted to certify the election results, calling it “the correct thing to do.”

“As a congressman, your first loyalty is to the Constitution, not to the political wins or other elected officials who are saying contradictory things about what has happened,” Moy said, without naming Trump, who has sown doubt repeatedly in the nation’s electoral process, even before the election, and who continues doing so to this day. “In every election there should be an opportunity to challenge, to investigate and ask serious questions, but once the states have certified and delivered their results to the Congress, that’s the end,” Moy said. “And the election has been decided.”

The question was no longer if Joe Biden is president, but why too many Americans left with “gaping questions in their minds” about what happened in that election, Moy said. “The average American is checking out, and we’ve had trouble with voter participation to begin with. But now people are questioning whether the elections work,” he said.

“I think our leaders on both sides of the aisle have not helped us resolve the doubts and the concerns that voters had coming out of the last election,” Moy said. “Multiple members of our elected officials were helping the American people question and feel uncertain about what was happening, and what we saw on Jan. 6, a vast majority who were there had legitimate concerns, from their view, about what had taken place in November. It is then upon the leaders to become the champions of our democratic process.”

Moy, a Charlottesville resident who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2016 and currently serves as an adjunct professor for the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Public Policy, boasts a number of credentials, from expertise in counterterrorism, cyber, and unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, policies, and other programs. According to his website, he has commanded counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, and served as Deputy Military Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, among other duties.

Moy said that he has always been a conservative. “What informs my politics is my higher calling to public service, which comes from my time of service in the Air Force,” he said. “The oath that you take as a military officer is to defend the Constitution of the United States, and you put your life on the line for that purpose.”

His bid for Congress is his “second calling,” Moy said. “It’s a new mission. We’re more paralized and polarized than we have ever been. The real threat is that the average American out there may have lost faith in our elections, elected leaders and what our institutions represent.”

Moy said that as a social and fiscal conservative, his faith informs his moral compass as much as his sense of duty. “I am 100% pro life,” he said. But as someone who is “very concerned” with public service, swearing an oath to the Constitution means to also swear an oath to uphold the rule of law, he said. “When it comes to contentious issues where people disagree, supporting the law of the land is exactly what you should be doing,” he said.

One such case is same-sex marriage, which become legal nationwide in 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5–4 decision that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex marriages and recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states – a decision that Moy said he respects as settled law. 

When asked about the recently leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Moy said that this question needed to be “brought back into the public purview” because there has “never been a settled argument among the American people about what our country should be doing when it comes to the question of life and choice.” Therefore, sending this issue back to the states for the people to decide would be the right approach, he said.

Despite supporting Good during his first campaign and sharing many of the same conservative views, Moy said that his opponent has lost sight of what is truly important.

“Ever since we lost our major industries – tobacco, textiles, furniture and a whole range of other manufacturing in our region – nothing has really come behind it to replace those things. We’re still suffering from an opioid addiction problem in Southside Virginia that I think is related, and when you have communities that are struggling economically, these things tend to compound on one and another.”

Moy said that he has not seen Good address any of the district’s economic challenges. “What I have heard from business leaders is that the big issue is workforce development,” he said. “We have too many young adults that would love to stay here and raise a family, but they can’t find jobs. We are losing this great asset that we have in our area – our labor force. Because of that, we have lost out on some great opportunities to get manufacturing here.”

Moy said he was equally concerned with Good’s lack of support of military funding. In December, Good for a second time voted against the final version of the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), citing its inclusion of what he called “radical left policies and increased spending measures” outside the purview of national defense.

“Sadly, the Biden Administration continues to push unconstitutional, freedom-infringing, anti-military, vaccine mandates, social spending policies, and woke training curriculums. Legislators must call out this overreach and demand declarations of vaccine mandate free policies across all 50 states. Individual healthcare choices must be put back in the hands of Americans, not the government,” Good said in a statement at the time.

Moy said that while the NDAA in its first version did include “a whole range of what you’d call social agenda items,” those were all negotiated out by the Freedom Caucus, which Good is a part of. 

“In December, he voted no, even when members of his Freedom Caucus voted yes, and he can’t provide a clear or sensible answer for why he voted no the second time,” Moy said. “I think it’s because if you look at his voting pattern, he votes no on just about everything. For him that’s his proof that he is fighting hard. But these days we need congressmen who know how to fight and win. Voting no is not a strategy for serving people in your district.”

Good, Moy said, aligns himself very closely with a group of very vocal Republican lawmakers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Co., that are often seen as part of the party’s fringe. Just last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Good is the fifth least bipartisan in a new index based on the record of representatives and senators in working across party lines on legislation in the 117th Congress.

“He takes great pride in taking a posture of no. He said that he won’t work toward any solutions that might involve him working with others who don’t think the same way he does, but that’s not how government works,” Moy said.

Sabato, the UVA professor, said that Moy would have a “solidly conservative” voting record in Congress that’s not dramatically different from Good’s. 

“The difference is in style,” Sabato said. “Moy is approachable and transparent about his views, doesn’t avoid the press, and wouldn’t be keeping company with the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene and the other Trumpy firebrands in the House. Good is one of them, less well known but dependably ‘out there’ with a far-right orientation.”

If Moy’s bid to topple Good succeeds next week, he would face Democrat Josh Throneburg in the November election, a fellow Charlottesville resident and local pastor who became his party’s de-facto nominee last month when his primary opponents failed to make the primary ballot.

Throneburg said in an email Thursday that he doesn’t believe that the Republican Party’s platform varies very much between the two candidates.

“I think voters here in the 5th district recognize that we need a representative who will be loyal to constituents rather than his party,” Throneburg said. “What I’m hearing from voters is that they want someone who will bring good jobs and opportunities for our hardworking families. That requires having a fierce, steadfast representative in D.C., and folks in the 5th district haven’t had that kind of Congressman in a long time. If they’re looking for someone to fight for them, I’m their candidate in November.”

Moy, who said that he has heard of Throneburg but has never met him, said the observation that the Democrat is a pastor is an important one, and that he has pointed this out to the Republican delegates who will have a choice to make at next week’s convention.

“What I want them to be aware of is that while you might have a sense of loyalty to the incumbent, if you want this seat to remain Republican, the most important thing is to select a nominee that will be the best competition against a moderate Democrat who is a pastor,” he said. 

Moy pointed out that when Good won his party’s nomination in 2020, he won with only 52 percent of the vote. “That’s not a very healthy margin in an R+7 district, especially during a Trump presidential year when Republicans should be coming out in spades to vote,” he said.

As one of the most polarizing and divisive figures in Washington, D.C., Good is a far weaker candidate in 2022 than two years ago, Moy said. 

“What do we think his margin will be this time? And it doesn’t get better if you don’t win over moderates and independents, you can’t depend on your right-wing, biblical, conservative base to put you over the top. You have to have others as well.”

While he believes that about half of the delegates he has been talking to are planning to vote for him, Moy said he is well aware that it will likely be a close contest. “It’s really a horse race,” he said. “Josh Throneburg offers a real challenge to Bob Good, but Dan Moy offers a much stronger challenge against Josh Throneburg as the nominee.”

Markus Schmidt

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at markus@cardinalnews.org.