Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good Loses Primary, But Plans To Demand Recount

Virginia election officials on Tuesday declared Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), chairman of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, the loser in his close primary against state Sen. John McGuire.

The determination came two weeks after Good’s primary and makes him the first casualty of GOP infighting this cycle.

McGuire’s 374-vote margin is still slim enough that Good can request a recount, but just shy of the threshold that would absolve Good’s campaign from having to foot the bill.

“We intend to call for recounts,” Good told HuffPost last week, before the Virginia State Board of Elections had certified McGuire as the winner. “It’s close enough to justify that and we just want to make sure that every legal and human vote is counted, and ultimately, the result reflects the intent of the qualified voters who participated.”

Good has attempted to cast doubt on the outcome, drawing attention to what he suggested were suspicious fire alarms at three polling sites on election day and balloting issues in his district’s largest city, though fewer than 10 ballots were affected.

The June 18 primary, in south-central Virginia’s 5th District, was an extraordinary blow to Good, who himself unseated an incumbent only four years ago and quickly ascended in Congress to lead the House’s most prominent group of right-wing lawmakers.

It’s the first time this cycle a serious primary challenge has managed to knock out an incumbent Republican. Rep. Tony Gonzales, a West Texas moderate, narrowly emerged from a May runoff after opposing a GOP border security bill. Last month, South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace easily dispatched a primary challenge that largely stemmed from her vote against former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Good was opposed by two powerful and sometimes opposing forces within the GOP: Former President Donald Trump and allies of McCarthy. 

Good alienated both Trump and McCarthy over the past year or so — first, when he endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over Trump in the Republican presidential primary last May, and then when he and several other GOP lawmakers dethroned McCarthy in October.

“The MAGA wing sees him as a RINO [Republican in name only] because he doesn’t do everything that Trump says, or at least he’s perceived as critical of Trump,” Alex Keena, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “And then the left flank of the Republican Party — if there really is a left flank — opposes him for betraying the party by undermining support for McCarthy during that time.” 

This is really a test of Trump’s ability to completely determine the Republican Party at this point.Alex Keena, Virginia Commonwealth University

Good’s primary demonstrated how virtually any degree of dissension against Trump will be challenged in the modern Republican Party. There was almost no daylight between the two hard-right candidates on actual policy issues, and McGuire — a former Navy SEAL who attended the Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C. — is almost guaranteed to win the bright-red seat in November.

“When we’re looking at these primary challenges, they’ve typically been about ideology, a centrist versus an extremist,” Keena said. “But that’s really not the case at all here. This is really a test of Trump’s ability to completely determine the Republican Party at this point.”

Good has only nice things to say about Trump and immediately backed him after DeSantis dropped out of the presidential primary in late January. Trump still seemed to harbor a grudge over the snub. The ex-president endorsed McGuire last month, prompting several of Good’s colleagues, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), a fellow member of the Freedom Caucus, to follow his lead.

“Bob Good is BAD FOR VIRGINIA, AND BAD FOR THE USA!” Trump wrote on Truth Social last month. “He turned his back on our incredible Movement, and was constantly attacking and fighting me until recently, when he gave a warm and ‘loving’ Endorsement – But really, it was too late! The damage had been done.”

Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, who has first elected to Congress in 2020, lost a GOP primary to state Sen. John McGuire.Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, who has first elected to Congress in 2020, lost a GOP primary to state Sen. John McGuire.

Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, who has first elected to Congress in 2020, lost a GOP primary to state Sen. John McGuire. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

McGuire made hugging Trump the central focus of his campaign. Good tried to do the same, putting out his own pro-Trump signs. Good has also criticized McGuire, who previously ran for Congress in another district, as a serial candidate; McGuire entered the 5th District race against Good just days after his election to the Virginia Senate.

McCarthy, who resigned from Congress at the end of last year, was not as directly involved in the primary as Trump; he has not personally endorsed McGuire. But McCarthy hasn’t hidden the fact that he’s working against the Republicans who toppled him as House speaker.

Open Secrets reported that groups opposing Good and backing McGuire, including the normally centrist Republican Main Street Partnership, spent almost $6 million. The groups backing Good, including the Club For Growth and the House Freedom Fund, an arm of the House Freedom Caucus, spent almost $4.4 million, although a full accounting of the race won’t be available until next month. Meanwhile, McGuire managed to slightly outraise Good, $1.2 million to $1.1 million, per the latest Federal Election Commission filings.

Despite the deluge of outside money, Trump overshadowed most everything else about the primary. “The race is really just about the power of Trump and his endorsement, and his stranglehold on the Republican Party,” Keena said.

Arthur Delaney contributed reporting.


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