Update: Since the interview with Mr. Riggleman and prior to this publication, his campaign has been suspended, citing funding difficulties. We feel this is unfortunate as he is the best candidate for Governor, and have decided to run this article regardless due to the very valid issues regarding Virginia that Mr. Riggleman brings up in the discussion.
Air Force veteran and small business owner Denver Riggleman is aiming to be the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia. With only two governor elections in 2017, there is a strong focus on this race, and Riggleman’s position as a businessman and a government outsider could uniquely qualify him for office.
“What if somebody ran who did not have a financial stake but is actually taking a pay cut to run for Governor?” Riggleman asked.
Riggleman is the owner of Silverback Distillery in Afton, VA, along with his wife, Christine. Previously he served in the US Air Force as both an enlisted avionics technician and an Intelligence Officer, ultimately being stationed at the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, MD. Upon exiting the service, Riggleman co-founded a contracting company providing intelligence support to the NSA and other government agencies.
After founding Silverback Distillery in 2013 Riggleman unwittingly was brought into a statewide debate about eminent domain as the Dominion Power corporation is seeking to place a 42-inch pipeline across Riggleman’s property. His ongoing dispute with Dominion is what he states as his primary reason for running for governor.
“That was the beginning of me seeing that there was a real issue in Virginia,” Riggleman said. “That was probably the spark that lit the fire for me to run for governor.”
Riggleman is running as a “Liberty candidate” and focused on private property rights for both individuals and business owners. He not only has concerns about the abuse of eminent domain throughout Virginia, but also feels that his business has been targeted by other businesses in the state.
“Beer lobbies don’t want distilleries to be successful in the state because of [the] high tax burden,” Riggleman explained.
“I pay 54% tax on every bottle that I sell out of my own distillery. They pay about 8 cents per liter.”
According to the Tax Foundation, Virginia has the third-highest tax rate for distilled spirits in the US. Further analysis by R Street shows that the distillery industry in Virginia is treated far differently than the wine and beer industries.
“What participate in the process means in Virginia is putting money in the right pockets to get things done,” Riggleman said. “My participating in the process is coming over the top with Thor’s hammer and saying I’m going to run for Governor.”
Enacting positive change and eliminating cronyism is a common theme in Riggleman’s take on the issues. According to the Denver For Governor website, Riggleman promises to eliminate two regulations for every new regulation enacted. He will further reduce the red tape for business owners in the state as well as reduce corporate taxation.
“We need a revolution of new leaders and people who are not afraid to say what is actually going on,” he said.
Riggleman said that there is a cultural change needed in Richmond.
“Number one is transparency,” he said. “If I had my druthers I would tack the top 10 donors” to each state legislator’s door.
Riggleman also said that every state agency should be fully audited, and any programs that are non-productive can be reduced or eliminated. He said that a lack of oversight has built the cronyism he claims is rampant throughout Richmond.
In a crowded field of both Republican and Democratic contenders for governor, Riggleman is not the only veteran. State Senator Frank Wagner served in the Navy and was a graduate of the US Naval Academy. Recently, Senator Wagner has been asked why his website claims him as the only veteran running in the race.
With more than 800,000 military and veterans in Virginia, approximately 10 percent of the total population, veteran issues are important to Riggleman.
“Wait until I’m governor,” he said. “If there’s anything I can do to help our veterans with me being one and actually knowing a little about the awfulness of it, I think that’s something I’ll have more insight about, emotionally, than anybody else.”
Riggleman said he suffered what he calls a “spectacular heart event” in 2015 that has changed his view on life and how he wants to spend his days.
“I have to serve again because I’ve been given another chance,” Riggleman said. “And I’m going to tell you this right now, I will do everything in my power, and I don’t know everything yet, but I will do everything in my power to make sure that Virginia veterans are taken care of better than anyone.”
The official campaign page for Denver Riggleman can be found here.