US House Freedom Caucus chair faces tough primary as Trump endorses rival

<span>Bob Good leaves the Capitol after a series of votes in Washington DC on 15 November 2023.</span><span>Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters</span>
Bob Good leaves the Capitol after a series of votes in Washington DC on 15 November 2023.Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Representative Bob Good has accomplished the rare feat of unifying Donald Trump and allies of the former House speaker Kevin McCarthy, who are collectively trying to unseat the chair of the hard-right Freedom Caucus.

Good heads into his Tuesday primary in Virginia’s fifth congressional district facing a challenge from the Republican state senator John McGuire, who has received a crucial endorsement from Trump. Good had already drawn the ire of fellow House Republicans for voting to oust McCarthy as speaker last year, but the incumbent’s job appears to be in much more serious jeopardy after Trump’s endorsement.

Trump, seemingly still outraged over Good supporting the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, in the Republican presidential primary, has praised McGuire as “a true American Hero”. Good’s eventual endorsement of Trump, which came after DeSantis withdrew from the presidential primary in January, failed to appease the former president.

“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.”

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Trump went so far as to send Good a cease and desist letter, demanding that his campaign stop using the former president’s name and likeness to promote his re-election effort.

Burdened with Trump’s claims of disloyalty, Good is simultaneously fending off attacks from more establishment-minded Republicans, who say the Freedom Caucus chair has undermined the party’s agenda. In addition to voting for McCarthy’s removal, Good has pushed for aggressive funding cuts, even calling on Republicans to force a government shutdown over the issue, and rejected all four components of a foreign aid package that provided money to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

McCarthy and his allies have rallied around McGuire despite the fact that his policy views largely align with Good’s. For example, Good was one of the 139 House Republicans who voted against certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, while McGuire actually attended Trump’s rally that preceded the January 6 attack on the Capitol. McGuire has said that he only attended the rally and did not enter the Capitol itself.

In the final days leading up to the primary, several House Republicans have traveled to Good’s district to campaign for McGuire. McCarthy himself has encouraged his supporters to donate to McGuire’s campaign, and outside groups have spent heavily against Good. The American Patriots Pac, which has thrown its support behind McGuire, has already spent more than $4.3m in the race.

But Good is not without allies in the race, as fellow members of the House Freedom Caucus have rallied around him. Congressman Matt Gaetz, who spearheaded the effort to remove McCarthy as speaker, has urged voters to back Good, and hard-right groups have offered their financial support as well. The Conservative Outsider Pac has spent more than $2.5m in its effort to re-elect Good.

In total, outside groups have dumped more than $10m into the fifth district, according to OpenSecrets. The hefty investment has not produced a clear frontrunner in the race, as recent polls present conflicting evidence about whether Good or McGuire has the advantage heading into Tuesday.

If Good can make it out of the primary, he is poised to win a third term, as the Cook Political Report rates the fifth district as solid Republican. But Good’s disastrous political miscalculation of endorsing DeSantis may very well cost him his seat.

Although the fifth district is not considered a toss-up in the general election, other Virginia races will carry significant implications for the national fight over control of Congress.

Trump has endorsed the navy veteran Hung Cao in the Republican Senate primary, but the winner of that race will face an uphill climb to unseat the Democratic senator Tim Kaine in the general election. Two of Virginia’s House seats are also considered competitive, with the Cook Political Report rating the seventh district as lean Democrat and the second district as lean Republican.

In the seventh district, Democratic incumbent Abigail Spanberger has launched a gubernatorial campaign instead of seeking re-election, and her absence has kicked off a hotly contested primary. Eugene Vindman, who attracted national attention for his role in Trump’s first impeachment trial, has significantly out-raised his Democratic rivals and is favored in the race. The winner of the primary will go on to face one of six Republican candidates seeking their party’s nomination.

In the second district, the Republican incumbent Jen Kiggans is slightly favored to win re-election, but a Democratic over performance could put her seat in play. After Democrats’ impressive showing in Virginia’s legislative races last year, party leaders hope the state can help them rebuild a House majority in November.