RICHMOND — Denver Riggleman, a populist running as a Republican for Virginia governor, announced Thursday that he was suspending his campaign.
“Based on business considerations, resource shortages, and family health issues, I have no other choice but to suspend my campaign for Governor effective today,” he said in a written statement. “I want to thank everyone who has supported me, and particularly those that were willing to donate to our cause.”
Riggleman, who turns 47 Friday, declined to elaborate in a brief telephone interview.
A former Air Force intelligence officer and distillery owner, Riggleman was one of four Republicans seeking the nomination in the party’s June 13 primary.
He had based his outsider campaign on the tale of regulatory woes he and his wife encountered as they opened Silverback Distillery outside of Charlottesville in 2014. He also had highlighted his battle with Dominion Power, which at one point planned to route a large natural gas pipeline through his property.
His populist message and lively delivery — he called his campaign the “Whiskey Rebellion” — had ardent fans, including veterans of Donald Trump’s Virginia campaign. But Riggleman struggled to raise funds.
His exit leaves three Republicans in the primary race: former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie; Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors; and state Sen. Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach).
The impact of his departure will likely be minimal given that Riggleman remained relatively unknown, said Bob Holsworth, a former Virginia Commonwealth University political scientist.
“He had an entertaining shtick, that was for sure,” Holsworth said. “And to the small group of people he was able to meet without spending much money, he was always quite an appealing character. But at the same time, he just didn’t have enough visibility, didn’t have enough name recognition, didn’t have enough resources.”
Without Riggleman, Republicans energized by Trump will have to choose from among two establishment figures (Gillespie and Wagner) and a guy who was fired from Trump’s campaign (Stewart).
“The Trump folks are in quandary,” said Mark Lloyd, a Riggleman backer who was Trump’s Virginia campaign director. “Ed Gillespie, he’s reached out to everybody and their mama’s dog. He’s done it. But right now, I don’t know where I’m at.”