Races to Watch: Virginia’s 5th Congressional District

In the run-up to this year’s midterm elections, you’re probably following at least a few races, likely ones that are either happening near you or garnering nationwide coverage. With hundreds of federal elections occurring on one day, though, it’s obviously difficult to keep track of them all. The purpose of this column is to shed light on different contests by answering three questions: Who’s running?; What are the polls saying?; Why is it interesting?

Today’s race: Virginia’s 5th Congressional district!

Who’s Running?

Incumbent Tom Garrett (R) has decided not to seek reelection, due to personal issues and scandals.

The Democrat is Leslie Cockburn, a journalist.

The Republican is Denver Riggleman, an Air Force veteran.

Both Cockburn and Riggleman, who have no political experience, ran unopposed in their primaries.

The candidates are focusing on different issues for their campaigns. Cockburn appears to be running on a broad platform, which includes single payer healthcare, environment protections, and improved opportunities for women. Riggleman mainly is focusing on economics and national security interests.

What Are the Polls Saying?

As I’ve noted before, polling in House races has always been spotty. The only truly reliable poll came from the New York Times and Siena College, which showed a statistical tie; another partisan pollster showed more favorable numbers for Riggleman, but that’s to be expected.

Cook Political Report has this race as Lean Republican. Inside Elections has this race as Likely Republican. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has this race as Lean Republican. FiveThirtyEight considers this a true 50-50.


Why Is It Interesting?

This district voted for both Trump and Romney by wide margins of 11 and 7 points, respectively. At first glance, it isn’t the most Democrat-friendly environment. Still, it’s home to one of the 23 GOP Representatives retiring this year, and Cockburn has managed to out-fundraise Riggleman 2.5-to-1. In an increasingly blue environment, VA-05 could be a dark horse pickup for Democrats.

The most interesting thing about this race (and the reason it’s garnered national attention) is Bigfoot erotica.

Yes, you read that right. In 2006, Riggleman wrote a book about Bigfoot hunters. Though the book was chaste in nature, his Instagram has featured many posts about the creature’s genitalia, a sentence I cannot believe I just typed. Cockburn has attacked her opponent for his unique interests, and Riggleman has obviously defended himself.

Bigfoot likely won’t be the deciding factor in this race, but it will certainly be why most people are tuning in. Even with this unique story, I recommend following VA-05 because of its propensity to flip parties.

After all, as Riggleman once said,

“These are good people, they’re smart, they’re intelligent, and they want Bigfoot to be with them.”


If you have any races you’d like me to profile, reach out on my Contact Page.

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