Screenshot from C-SPAN of Rep. Bob Good casting his vote for Jim Jordan for speaker.
Screenshot from C-SPAN of Rep. Bob Good casting his vote for Jim Jordan for speaker.

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Amid the political chaos on the first day of the 118th Congress, where Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, on Tuesday failed to win the speakership on the first three votes, a lawmaker from Southside Virginia, who is a staunch opponent of his colleague from California, for the first time ascended onto the national stage.

Rep. Bob Good, R-Campbell County, has been an open critic of McCarthy’s since he was first sworn in to represent Virginia’s 5th Congressional District two years ago. And after his reelection last fall, Good was one among initially just five House Republicans openly lobbying against McCarthy’s claim to the speaker’s gavel. 

“Congress and the American people need a courageous, conservative leader in the House. Kevin McCarthy has not demonstrated over the last two years that he is that leader,” Good tweeted shortly after the first round of voting had begun when the new Congress convened for the first time at noon Tuesday.

Because Republicans won back a slim majority in the House of Representatives in November, the first order of business was the election of a new speaker, without whom the chamber cannot conduct business. 

Although McCarthy – who was first elected to Congress in 2006 and who has served as the majority leader from 2014 to 2018 and as the minority leader until now – is widely seen as the favorite to get the top job in the chamber, he still needs a majority of the members-elect who are present and voting. But because the GOP holds only a five-seat advantage, a small number of defections is stopping McCarthy from gaining the office he’s long wanted.

Of the total of 218 votes needed, McCarthy received 203 in the first two rounds of voting, but he finished with 202 after losing a supporter in the third round. Democrats, however, have shown unity, unanimously backing their new leader – Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York – with all of the party’s 212 votes. 

In the first round, Good voted for Rep. Andy Biggs, a Republican from Arizona and a fellow election denier. In the two subsequent rounds, he changed his vote to Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who never challenged McCarthy for the leadership role. 

Good’s colleagues from Southwest Virginia – Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and Rep. Ben Cline, R-Botetourt County – both voted for McCarthy during all three rounds of voting. Neither responded to requests for comment on Good’s opposition to the Republican leader on Tuesday. 

C-SPAN video of Rep. Bob Good casting his votes for speaker.

A self-proclaimed “biblical conservative,” Good joined the ranks of hard-right election deniers just weeks after his first election when he spoke at a Trump rally at Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., in December 2020, where he claimed that the presidential election – which then-President Donald Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes – had been stolen by Democrats. Shortly after assuming office on Jan. 6, 2021, Good was among a group of Republicans who voted against certifying the election of President-elect Biden.

But unlike his more prominent colleagues, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, or Matt Gaetz of Florida, he has added very little to the national conversation. 

That changed in November, when Good defeated his Democratic challenger Josh Throneburg by a margin of 58% to 42%, and he seized on his mandate to become the face of the intra-party revolt against McCarthy. 

“Very few people outside of Virginia’s 5th District have heard of Bob Good … until now,” said Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. While Good’s effort might endear him to other members of the hard-right faction of his caucus, it has made him plenty of enemies among McCarthy’s supporters in and out of the House, Sabato added. 

“Good is an uncompromising, far-right ideologue, and this is the first time he has been visible beyond the 5th since he entered Congress. I’m not sure that’s a good thing for the district or for Virginia as a whole,” Sabato said. 

Just days after the midterm election, Good appeared before a national audience on the conservative cable network Newsmax, telling the host, Sean Spicer, that he would support Arizona’s Biggs as the new speaker.

When Spicer pointed out that McCarthy helped fund Good’s first congressional campaign with a total of $2 million, the congressman said that by opposing McCarthy he was honoring the will of his voters. 

“I was asked by constituents in 2019 and 2020 not to support Kevin McCarthy for leader, however I said that I would evaluate him based on what he did in my first two years in Congress, and I was quiet externally about my opinion on leadership,” Good said. 

When Spicer noted that even proven conservatives like Jordan and Greene have vowed to support McCarthy, Good countered the latter were “to benefit from the status quo” because they are “in line for chairmanships or prime positions on committees” and other positions of leadership. “They are not going to come out publicly against the person who is expected to be the nominee for speaker,” Good said. “This should not be a coronation, this should be a competition.”

In a column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week, Good argued that he wanted the next speaker to be “a true fighter committed to using every tool to stop the radical agenda of the left.” He reiterated that “hundreds of constituents” have urged him not to support McCarthy. “Beginning with my 2020 orientation, and numerous times since, Minority Leader McCarthy promised us that we would use every procedural tool at our disposal to thwart the radical Democrat agenda. However, that did not happen,” Good wrote. 

And before a national audience on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” Monday, Good called McCarthy “part of the problem.” He saw nothing indicating that McCarthy would “change his pattern since he’s been in leadership where he’s part of the swamp cartel,” Good said. “He’s the reason on the Republican side why we passed massive omnibus spending bills that just got rammed down our throats by Republicans in the Senate.”

Griffith said in a statement last week that he decided to back McCarthy because the Californian agreed to adopt some of his suggested rule changes starting in the 118th Congress, should he be elected Speaker of the House. 

“These changes include a rule that legislation will only have a single purpose and further he agreed to a stricter germaneness rule. I believe these changes can dramatically improve our legislative process,” Griffith said. Because Leader McCarthy agreed to these rules changes, I have agreed to vote for him for Speaker of the House.”

While McCarthy also offered several concessions to the hard-right fraction of his caucus, in a House rules package released Sunday – including the creation of a select subcommittee on the “Weaponization of the Federal Government” – it wasn’t enough to sway his Republican opponents determined to defeat him. 

After three rounds of voting on Tuesday did not win any candidates the required number of votes, the House adjourned until noon on Wednesday. 

And Good has not indicated that he would change his mind – other than that he flipped his vote from Biggs to Jordan. “Proud to stand with courageous conservative patriots who are placing country ahead of selfish interests,” he wrote on Twitter following Tuesday’s adjournment. “This is what has been missing in Congress … defeat the Swamp … vote Jordan!”

Markus Schmidt

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