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Trump factors big in Virginia's primaries today


Virginians are voting in primaries today, and one of the country's most conservative congressmen is facing a tough primary challenge. This push to vote out an incumbent is seen by some in his own party as payback for past betrayals. Jahd Khalil from VPM News reports on how this race shows splits in the Republican Party over loyalty to a former president.

JAHD KHALIL, BYLINE: Former President Donald Trump has some big fans in Virginia's 5th Congressional District. It's the area of the state west of Richmond. And from a lot of it, you can see the Blue Ridge Mountains. Farmville's got a Trump-themed store. But earlier this year, when Republican Congressman Bob Good walked in, he was promptly asked to leave.

Cardinal News, a local news outlet, posted a video of the incident. In it, the owner can be seen confronting Good, asking him to leave an event for his primary opponent, State Senator John McGuire.


KAREN ANGULO: I am saying that you do not have an invitation to hijack the store. At this point, we're asking you to leave.

KHALIL: Good leads the far-right Freedom Caucus, a group of Republicans that have voted against funding the government. They were also instrumental in ousting former speaker Kevin McCarthy. At a campaign stop this month, Good defended those decisions.


BOB GOOD: I didn't go to Washington to make friends. I went to Washington to save the country.

KHALIL: But those loyal to McCarthy and Trump don't see it that way. That's part of the reason why he's in this tough fight. Groups that back McCarthy for speaker are supporting Good's challenger, State Senator John McGuire. And even as Good continues to campaign as a MAGA Republican, Trump has withdrawn his support.


DONALD TRUMP: John is running against Bob Good, who is actually bad for Virginia and who will stab you in the back like he did me.

KHALIL: Trump is talking about Good's endorsement of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis when he unsuccessfully challenged Trump for his party's presidential nomination. Speaking at a car show over the weekend, McGuire said that's what pushed him into the race.


JOHN MCGUIRE: If he can change his mind on Trump, then we, the people, can change our mind on Bob Good.

KHALIL: Dominic Carroll, who was at the event, said that, after speaking with him, he thinks McGuire will show up more for his district than Good, citing frustrations he's had with his office's constituent services.

DOMINIC CARROLL: This guy's really genuine in what he does. He wouldn't be out here in this hot sun. Where's Bob Good at?

KHALIL: Voters like Suzanne Peniche see Good's willingness to speak out against party leaders, like the former speaker and former president, as signs of an independent streak. She signed up to volunteer for him after his event in Lynchburg.

SUZANNE PENICHE: I think that we need people in Washington that have guts.

KHALIL: Kyle Kondik, with the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, tells NPR there are very few differences between the candidates when it comes to their political views.

KYLE KONDIK: John McGuire has Trump's endorsement as the challenger in this race. That doesn't make Bob Good some sort of ideological moderate.

KHALIL: They're both against further restrictions on gun ownership. They take a hard-line stance on immigration and repeat Trump's calls to limit the number of people entering the U.S. Both, in varying degrees, deny the 2020 election results. Good voted against certifying them as a freshman member of the House on January 6. McGuire later told the Washington Post he had participated in the rally near the White House on the same day. And even though Trump is only backing one of the candidates, both embrace him.

For NPR News, I'm Jahd Khalil in Richmond, Va.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jahd Khalil
[Copyright 2024 VPM]