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Opinion/Editorial: Sparks flew in 5th District but no one won

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Election 2022 Virginia

Democratic hopeful Josh Throneburg speaks during a debate against Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) on the campus of Hampden-Sydney College in Farmville, Va., on Wednesday.

Abortion rights never even came up in the formal questioning. And the guy who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results never offered an answer for why.

We did find out that one candidate for the 5th Congressional District, incumbent Republican Bob Good, believes God put fossil fuels in the ground for us to harvest rather than invest in renewable energy. We also heard from Good that he does not support U.S. funding for Ukraine because it was “not an American fight” when Russians invaded and because the U.S. should not rile up a nuclear power.

Dozens of people waited two hours for a chance at the first-come, first-served public seats at Wednesday night’s debate between Good and Democratic challenger Josh Throneburg. Interest in the only head-to-head meeting of the candidates in the campaign offered a snapshot of a race where Good talked almost exclusively about what Democrats had done wrong but said almost nothing that he would do to solve the country’s challenges except finish building former President Donald Trump’s wall on the Mexican border and that he would criminalize transgender medical treatments.

Throneburg tried to counter with an approach that supported his campaign slogan of “compassion and common sense.” But Hampden Sydney College’s Crawley Forum was far friendlier territory for Good, a member of the extremist House Freedom Caucus, than the debate Good skipped in Charlottesville recently.

Ball caps extolling Trump and Jesus dotted the crowd as they filed in when the doors opened at 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. event. By 6:36 all the seats were taken and people packed the standing room only space in the rear of the building.

Local police stood at different corners of the venue to keep the peace. But the only fireworks turned out to be verbal.

The edgy intensity of the debate seemed inevitable. Good’s virulent hatred of Democrats marked his defiant refusal to work across the aisle in his first two-year term in Congress. His answers at the debate were partisan in the extreme. He called man-made climate change a lie and nothing to worry about. He pushed ahead his demand for harvesting more fossil fuels.

He called criticism of fossil fuels “demonization.” “God put fossil fuels in the ground for us to harvest,” Good said. Go back to the energy policy of previous administration, he said.

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Good had no answer for a question about how Americans should address an attack by China on Taiwan except to say that the best way the Taiwanese could protect themselves was to have the same freedom to carry weapons that has put 400 million guns in circulation in America.

Good blamed Democratic President Joe Biden for inflation and high gas prices. He defended his voting record, opposing funding bills and new veterans’ health treatment because he had to make hard decisions because of Democratic spending plans. He never mentioned his vote against election certification.

Throneburg, a Charlottesville preacher and owner of a house cleaning business, countered with calls to address climate change, calling Good’s infatuation with fossil fuels “ridiculous.”

“We only have 40 years of fossil fuels left,” Good said, labeling Good’s position “unbelievably short-sighted.”

National political guru Larry Sabato, of the University of Virginia, recently referred to Good as the most extreme Virginia representative in Congress outside of the state’s diehard racist segregationists of another era. Still, Throneburg’s answers to many questions were halting and lacked specifics while Good machined-gunned out damning facts about Democrats, repeating many of them over and over to drive his negative narrative.

Throneburg’s closing plea for democracy and the peaceful transfer of power was one of his finest moments.

It garnered a rousing ovation.

But the cheers for the incumbent were every bit as loud.

In the end, it seemed like few minds changed.

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