Denver Riggleman

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Denver Riggleman
Denver Riggleman, official 116th Congress photo portrait.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 5th district
In office
January 3, 2019 – January 3, 2021
Preceded byTom Garrett
Succeeded byBob Good
Personal details
Denver Lee Riggleman III

(1970-03-17) March 17, 1970 (age 52)
Manassas, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Christine Blair
(m. 1989)
EducationRowan College, Burlington (AA)
Air University (AAS)
University of Virginia (BA)
Villanova University (GradCert)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Air Force
Years of service1992–2007
Unit366th Fighter Wing
34th Bomb Squadron
National Security Agency

Denver Lee Riggleman III (born March 17, 1970) is an American businessman and politician from the Commonwealth of Virginia who served as the United States representative for Virginia's 5th congressional district. A former Air Force officer and National Security Agency contractor, Riggleman opened a craft distillery in Virginia in 2014. As a Republican, he ran for his party's nomination in the 2017 gubernatorial election, but withdrew from the race. Riggleman was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2018. Riggleman was defeated in his bid for reelection in 2020, losing to Republican primary challenger Bob Good in a drive-through party convention.

Early life and education[edit]

Riggleman was born and raised in Manassas, Virginia.[1][2] He graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in 1988.[2] Riggleman earned an Associate of Arts from Rowan College at Burlington County, formerly Burlington County College, in 1996.[3] He received an Associate of Applied Science in avionics systems from the Community College of the Air Force at Air University in 1996.[3] In 1998, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia.[3] Riggleman received a graduate certificate in project management from Villanova University in 2007.[3]


Riggleman served in the Air Force for 15 years.[4] After initially serving as an enlisted avionics technician, he received a commission and went on to serve as an intelligence officer.[2]

Riggleman founded NSA contractor Analytics Warehouse, LLC, in 2007, and was its CEO until 2015.

In 2014, Riggleman and his wife opened Silverback Distillery, a 50-acre craft distillery in Afton, Virginia, outside Charlottesville.[2][5] He has pushed for deregulation of distilleries in the state and changes to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority; together with other distillers, the Rigglemans established a "loosely formed distillers guild" and hired a lobbyist.[5] Riggleman has "criticized the state's alcohol and tax laws as unfairly harsh toward spirits producers and spoke[n] of a new 'whiskey rebellion.'"[6]

Early political career[edit]

Gubernatorial election[edit]

In December 2016, Riggleman filed papers to seek the Republican nomination for governor of Virginia in the 2017 gubernatorial election. His opponents in the Republican primary were former President George W. Bush counselor and Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, Prince William County Board of Supervisors chairman Corey Stewart, and state Senator Frank Wagner of Virginia Beach.[2] Riggleman suspended his campaign on March 16, 2017.[1]

Riggleman had expressed interest in running for Governor in 2021 as an independent or third-party candidate, citing his belief that the Republican Party of Virginia is broken.[7]

U.S House of Representatives[edit]



Riggleman speaking with attendees at the 2018 Young Americans for Liberty National Convention

In the 2018 elections, Riggleman was the Republican nominee for the United States House of Representatives election for Virginia's 5th congressional district. He defeated Cynthia Dunbar, who had lost the Republican nomination in the 6th district just weeks before, in the final round of voting to win the nomination.[8] The Republican incumbent, Tom Garrett, did not run for reelection.[9]

In the November 2018 general election, Riggleman defeated Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn with 53% of the vote to Cockburn's 47%.[10]

Interest in Bigfoot[edit]

During the campaign, Cockburn accused Riggleman of being a "devotee of Bigfoot erotica", based on an image he shared from his Instagram to promote a book titled The Mating Habits of Bigfoot and Why Women Want Him. In an interview with CRTV Riggleman said the image was an obvious joke, but that he had an interest in Bigfoot, and co-authored the actual self-published book Bigfoot Exterminators, Inc.: The Partially Cautionary, Mostly True Tale of Monster Hunt 2006, with ESPN writer Don Barone.[11] In a phone interview with The Washington Post, he clarified that it was an "anthropological book sort of based on parody and satire" and said, "I thought it was funny. There is no way that anybody's dumb enough to think this is real."[12]

In 2020, Riggleman released a book titled Bigfoot… It's Complicated, and described himself as a "Bigfoot scholar." Despite that, he does not believe in the creature's existence.[13]


Riggleman is the only member of the Republican party to speak on the House of Representatives floor against QAnon.[14] He is a co-sponsor of 2020 US House resolution H. Res 1154 "Condemning QAnon and rejecting the conspiracy theories it promotes". [15] He is also one of the co-authors of the Network Contagion Research Institute (affiliated with Rutgers University) report called "THE QANON CONSPIRACY: Destroying Families, Dividing Communities, Undermining Democracy" [16] where he wrote before the Jan 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol "When ideas or fantasy are weaponized, there is a metamorphosis from harmless, bizarre theories to a dangerous bloom of tribalism and dehumanization of others. This bloom expands digitally from person to person, absorbing and then converting a tribe that believes alternate realities based on a directed stream of algorithmically and group targeted data, ignorant analytic white papers, memes, ideas and coded language."

Since leaving Congress in January 2021, Riggleman has been working with experts and academics at the Network Contagion Research Institute to study disinformation and how to combat it.[17]

2020 election[edit]

The Rappahannock County Republican Party criticized Riggleman after he officiated a same-sex wedding between two of his friends, and in September he was censured by party officials who claimed that he had "abandoned party principles" over fiscal and immigration policy.[18]

On September 26, 2019, Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good—who also worked as an athletics official at Liberty University—announced his intention to challenge Riggleman in the 2020 Republican primary. In his announcement, Good accused Riggleman of "betraying" the trust of conservative voters in the 5th district along with casting votes that were not in his constituency's best interest. Riggleman secured key endorsements on the right, including from Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr.[19]

The local party leaders of the 5th Congressional District Republican Committee chose to determine the 2020 nominee for the fifth district by a convention instead of a primary election.[20] On June 13, 2020, Good defeated Riggleman at the nominating convention[21] with 58% of the vote to Riggleman's 42%.[22]


Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Farewell address[edit]

On December 11, 2020, Riggleman gave a farewell address on the floor of the House. He said his experience as an Air Force intelligence officer taught him "... the invaluable lesson of considering the source" when examining disinformation. He stated that "a well-instructed" and knowledgeable people are the pillars of a functional republic, and that "Those pillars are now being assaulted by disinformation and outlandish theories surrounding this presidential election." Riggleman added "As we transition to a new administration I implore all to consider the sources of information you receive, to fact check diligently", he pled, asking his fellow Americans "to recognize that many bad actors who spread spurious and fantastical conspiracy theories under banners like QAnon, Kraken, 'Stop the Steal, 'Scamdemic' and many other emotive terms and coded language are not disseminating information rooted in knowledge but with questionable motives and greed. They are rooted in misunderstanding, or fraud or in some cases, ignorance." He told "all those on the end of the disinformation fire hose" that "unbiased, fact-based information sustains our republic," adding that "disinformation hinders our free exchange of ideas and creates super spreader digital viruses that create a fever of nonsense." He asked his audience to remember that "people are more important than party" and that "pandering is a political sickness."[23]

Post congressional activities[edit]

On August 6, 2021, Riggleman was appointed to serve as a senior staffer to the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol .[24]

Electoral history[edit]

Virginia's 5th congressional district, 2018[25]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Denver Riggleman 165,339 53.18
Democratic Leslie Cockburn 145,040 46.65
N/A Write-ins 547 0.18
Total votes 310,926 100.0
Republican hold

Personal life[edit]

Riggleman has been married to Christine Blair Riggleman since 1989. They reside in Nellysford[2] and have three daughters.[2] In July 2019, Riggleman was the officiant at a same-sex marriage for two of his friends and campaign volunteers.[26]


  1. ^ a b Vozzella, Laura (March 16, 2017). "Populist candidate Denver Riggleman drops out of GOP race for Virginia governor". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Portnoy, Jenna (December 28, 2016). "A fourth Republican enters the race for Virginia governor". The Washington Post.
  3. ^ a b c d "Denver Riggleman III's Biography". Vote Smart.
  4. ^ "Biography". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  5. ^ a b Portnoy, Jenna (February 14, 2016). "Va.'s growing craft distillery industry pushes against regulatory roadblocks". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  6. ^ Moomaw, Graham (December 10, 2016). "As Trump era dawns, 2017 Virginia GOP hopefuls court supporters at gathering in Richmond". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  7. ^ Woodhouse, Skylar; Cirilli, Kevin (July 29, 2020). "Virginia's Riggleman Says He's Considering Bid for Governor". Bloomberg News. Retrieved August 13, 2020.
  8. ^ Wrabel, Allison (June 2, 2018). "Riggleman selected as GOP nominee in 5th District". The Daily Progress. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  9. ^ "Virginia Department of Elections, Certified Candidates in Ballot Order for November 6, 2018" (PDF). Virginia Department of Elections. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
  10. ^ "Virginia Election Results: Fifth House District". The New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  11. ^ Stack, Liam (July 30, 2018). "'Bigfoot Erotica' Becomes an Issue in Virginia Congressional Campaign". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Charles, Ron (July 30, 2018). "What is Bigfoot erotica? A Virginia congressional candidate accused her opponent of being into it". The Washington Post.
  13. ^ Friedenberger, Amy (November 24, 2020). "Rep. Denver Riggleman on Bigfoot, QAnon, and believers". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  14. ^ Goldenberg, Alex (December 15, 2020). "The QAnon Conspiracy" (PDF). NCRI Reports. 1 (1): 3.
  15. ^ "US House of Representatives list of H Res 1154 co-sponsors"
  16. ^ Goldenberg, Alex (December 15, 2020). "The QAnon Conspiracy" (PDF). NCRI Reports. 1 (1): 3.
  17. ^ Petters, Jeremy (April 3, 2021). "One Republican's Lonely Fight Against a Flood of Disinformation". The New York Times – via Yahoo News.
  18. ^ Burke, Julie (September 16, 2019). "Virginia county GOP censures Rep. Riggleman, sparking sharp response". The Hill. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  19. ^ Friedenberger, Amy (September 26, 2019). "Liberty University official to challenge Rep. Denver Riggleman for GOP nomination". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  20. ^ Friedenberger, Amy (November 9, 2019). "Republicans choose convention, setting up nomination contest for Rep. Denver Riggleman". The Roanoke Times.
  21. ^ Friedenberger, Amy (June 14, 2020). "UPDATE: Challenger Bob Good ousts Rep. Denver Riggleman at 5th District GOP nominating convention". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved June 14, 2020 – via Richmond Times-Dispatch.
  22. ^ "GOP congressman who officiated gay wedding loses primary". ABC News. Associated Press. June 14, 2020.
  23. ^ Cain, Andrew. "In farewell address Rep. Denver Riggleman urges voters to reject 'fever of nonsense'" Richmond Times-Dispatch December 11, 2020
  24. ^ Wang, Amy B. (August 7, 2021). "Jan. 6 committee hires former GOP congressman Denver Riggleman as senior staff member". Washington Post. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  25. ^ "Official Results". 2018 November General. Virginia Department of Elections. November 9, 2018. Retrieved November 11, 2018.
  26. ^ Vozzella, Laura (July 15, 2019). "Conservative GOP congressman presides at same-sex wedding in Virginia". The Washington Post.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative