The son of one of the highest-ranking Republicans in Congress, retiring Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, turned on his father’s politics in a series of tweets and urged voters to flip the conservative district from red to blue.
Bobby Goodlatte, a venture capitalist who lives in San Francisco, on Sunday tweeted his support for the underdog Democrat running for his father’s seat, announced he had donated the maximum of $2,700 to her campaign and encouraged others to do the same.
As word of the bombshell endorsement spread Monday, the younger Goodlatte wrote that he was “deeply embarrassed” that fired FBI agent Peter Strzok’s career “was ruined by my father’s political grandstanding.”
The tweets helped Democrat Jennifer Lewis raise more than $10,000 from across the country and brought national attention to the contest in a conservative western Virginia district that President Trump won by double digits.
Lewis is a first-time candidate and “progressive populist” running against Ben Cline, a state lawmaker and Goodlatte’s former chief of staff who has been endorsed by the congressman. Analysts consider it a safe Republican seat.
An aide to Goodlatte did not respond to requests for comment about his son’s communications. Cline declined to comment.
Lewis said she awoke at 5:30 a.m. Monday to a flood of texts and calls alerting her to the younger Goodlatte’s activity.
“We’re just completely honored to have his support,” she said. “For him to put himself out there was just so honorable, also. He didn’t have to. He could have just quietly sent us a check. The fact that he chose to get involved shows just how important this race is.”
In addition to donating to Lewis, Bobby Goodlatte gave to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
His father is the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
He is not seeking reelection after more than a quarter-century in Congress representing the 6th District, which stretches from the Shenandoah Valley to the Roanoke Valley and east to Lynchburg, the home of Liberty University.
Bobby Goodlatte, 32, was raised in the Roanoke region as one of two children of the congressman and his wife, Maryellen, an attorney.
He moved to California after graduating from Duke University and was one of Facebook’s early employees. Today, he invests in tech start-ups.
The Goodlattes’ daughter, Jennifer Goodlatte Barblan, is an attorney who works on Capitol Hill and has been a visible presence on the campaign trail, friends and political observers say.
Bobby Goodlatte has posted liberal messages on social media in the past, and told Tech Crunch in 2015 that he and his father “were starting from the exact opposite sides of the political spectrum.” But this appears to be the first time he has publicly targeted his father.
“I just gave the maximum allowed donation to Jennifer Lewis, a democrat running for my father’s congressional seat. I’ve also gotten 5 other folks to commit to donate the max. 2018 is the year to flip districts — let’s do this!” Bobby Goodlatte tweeted Sunday evening.
He asked his 32,000 followers to do more than retweet him. “Donate!!” he wrote with a link to Lewis’s Act Blue page.
Hours after the FBI on Monday fired Peter Strzok, the agent who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Bobby Goodlatte tweeted a condemnation of the way his father questioned Strzok during a hearing in July.
“I’m deeply embarrassed that Peter Strzok’s career was ruined by my father’s political grandstanding. That committee hearing was a low point for Congress. Thank you for your service sir. You are a patriot,” he tweeted.
Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) copied the tweet and joked: “In related news, Bobby will apparently be having Thanksgiving dinner at the Strzok’s home this year.”
Lewis, 36, favors Medicare for all, legalization of marijuana and hemp and a $15 minimum wage. She said she would not support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for speaker if Democrats win control of the House.
Lewis works for the state helping mentally ill individuals transition from institutions to living in the community,
She built a reputation in the district as an early and vocal opponent of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile project that will carry natural gas from West Virginia through central Virginia.
The pipeline, being built by Dominion Energy, would bisect the congressional district and faces opposition from environmentalists and critics of eminent domain.
Pipeline construction stopped last week after three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit vacated a National Park Service-issued permit that allowed the pipeline to tunnel under the Blue Ridge Parkway, saying the agency had not explained how the pipeline fulfilled its mandate to conserve public lands.
Cline, a member of the House of Delegates from Rockbridge since 2002 and an attorney, has a larger war chest than Lewis.
He has raised $390,000 for the race and had $85,000 cash on hand by the end of June. Lewis raised $72,778 and had $34,363 cash on hand.
Cline has not said whether he opposes the pipeline.