Bob Good, a self-described “biblical conservative” who tied himself closely to President Trump, maintained Republicans’ hold on Virginia’s largest House district early Wednesday, beating back an aggressive challenge by a University of Virginia doctor focused on the coronavirus pandemic.
The victory over Dr. Cameron Webb, a Democrat, as called by The Associated Press, was welcome news for Republicans, who had feared they could lose the seat after Mr. Good, a far-right conservative who struggled to raise money, defeated Representative Denver Riggleman in a bitter primary this summer. It demonstrated the party’s continued support in rural America, even in states like Virginia where Mr. Trump is deeply unpopular.
Mr. Good, a former athletics official at Liberty University, defeated Mr. Riggleman in a bizarre drive-through convention in June, capitalizing on the conservative outrage after the congressman officiated at the same-sex wedding of two of his former campaign volunteers.
In the general election, Mr. Good ran an unabashedly conservative campaign appealing to the rural heart of the sprawling district, which stretches from the outskirts of Washington, through the liberal university town of Charlottesville, to the far southern reaches of the state. He pledged to fight for “Judeo-Christian” values in Washington and defend the district from what he said was encroaching socialism and radicals like the Black Lives Matter movement.
He tried to tie Dr. Webb, who is Black, to both, falsely charging that he supported defunding the police and insinuating that he would advocate a government takeover of the health care system. One ad superimposed Dr. Webb’s face over menacing images of fires and confrontations with police and urged voters to “look past the smooth presentation.” Democrats denounced it as a “racist dog whistle.” Dr. Webb, whose father was in law enforcement, never supported defunding the police.
A first-time candidate, Dr. Webb tried to capitalize on discontent with Mr. Trump and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He continued to treat patients with the disease throughout the campaign and presented himself as a mainstream doctor who would stay above the political fray while steering the country toward a more effective response to the coronavirus pandemic and better health coverage.
Political donations to Dr. Webb poured in. But in the end, it was not enough to flip a district with so much conservative DNA.
The mostly white district had been relatively safe for Republicans until 2018, when antipathy toward Mr. Trump and growth around Charlottesville and in the outlying suburbs of Washington put it into play. Mr. Trump carried it by 11 points in 2016, but Democrats came within seven points of winning in 2018, and polling in recent weeks had suggested a dead heat.