The owner of a craft distillery formally announced his candidacy for Virginia governor Monday, promising to bring “blunt force trauma” to a rigged political system.
Denver Riggleman, owner of Silverback Distillery in Nelson County, registered his campaign with the state Board of Elections in December, but said at the time that he had not made a final decision about whether to run.
On Monday — with a news released headlined “Denver Decides” — he made it official, joining a GOP field that already had three contenders.
“I am running to radically change business as usual in Virginia,” Riggleman said in a written statement. “The plain truth is that the system is wired for lobbyists and large donors and against small business and the people. I have explored every other avenue to fight for not just myself but for the people of Virginia. I believe someone needs to use blunt force trauma to break up the good ole boy system in Richmond that, as Ronald Reagan said, ‘takes from the needy to give to the greedy.’ ”
The political newcomer is positioning himself as a populist small-business man whose start-up distillery has been hurt by taxes and government regulation. He also has tangled with one of the state’s biggest businesses, Dominion Virginia Power, over a proposed pipeline that would cross his property.
Riggleman was born in Manassas and graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School and the University of Virginia, where he studied foreign affairs. He spent 11 years in the Air Force, traveling the world as an intelligence officer, before working as a National Security Agency contractor and then starting his own defense company. He and his wife, Christine Riggleman, opened Silverback Distillery in 2014 on 50 acres in Nelson County.
His competitors in the June 13 GOP primary are Republican strategist Ed Gillespie; Corey A. Stewart, chairman of Prince William’s board of county supervisors, and state Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach).
Two Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination: Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former representative Tom Perriello.