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‘Chaos Doesn’t Work’: Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good Narrowly Loses Primary

The cantankerous conservative created too many enemies, most notably, Donald Trump.

Bob Good
Rep. Bob Good speaks outside the hush money criminal case of former president Donald Trump. Ted Shaffrey/AP

LYNCHBURG, VA — After a year of political missteps, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good finally, officially, suffered his worst misstep of all: a drawn-out defeat in his primary two weeks ago.

After election night on June 18, Good was down about 300 votes to Virginia state Sen. John McGuire. But with a few thousand provisional ballots left, no one dared call the race. Over the next two weeks, however, the slim margin held as election officials worked through the remaining ballots. Finally, Virginia Department of Elections officially declared McGuire the winner on Tuesday, with Good likely to demand a recount.

During a segment on Steve Bannon’s War Room last week, Good claimed he would file a legal motion to stop the certification of the vote in the city of Lynchburg, after pushing the narrative that the election was stolen from him. In the weeks since the primary, he’s made a strange claim that there were three “fires” on Election Day at different precincts. (The claim turned out to be inaccurate; rather than “fires,” three fire alarms went off, and they purportedly did not prevent anyone from voting.)

Nevertheless, the race was finally called for McGuire on Tuesday, with 31,583 votes for McGuire and 31,209 for Good.

This primary was one of the most closely watched in the country. There was a significant amount of money thrown into the race -– a group aligned with former Speaker Kevin McCarthy then spent more than $5 million against Good — and the Freedom Caucus chair created a number of enemies, both in the GOP establishment and in Trumpworld.

“He wasn’t serious about moving a conservative agenda. He’d rather just have chaos,” McCarthy told NOTUS last week. “Conservatives want the conservative governing majority, not chaos.”

Good’s future hasn’t exactly looked bright after he endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the GOP presidential primary. But Good didn’t make it any easier on himself. His vote to oust McCarthy further solidified his oppositional status with many House Republicans, and his endorsement of DeSantis over Donald Trump was likely the deciding factor for voters.

Good’s efforts to win back Trump may also have backfired. When Good embarked on a trip with other House members to Trump’s criminal trial in New York, he ended up encountering McGuire, who was also there to show his support for Trump.

Both candidates rode in Trump’s motorcade to the courthouse. McGuire sat in the backseat directly behind Good — an anecdote Good touted as a sign of his opponent’s standing in the race. During a press conference at the end of the day, McGuire stood off to the side and was not allowed to speak — another anecdote Good touted to NOTUS.

“It was actually kind of funny. He was relegated to the background,” Good said of McGuire on May 16.

But it turns out that, on that day when they were both in New York, Good and McGuire had a debate of sorts for an audience of one: Trump. As Politico reported recently, Good and McGuire went back and forth over their race in front of the former president — and there were signs then that Trump was siding with McGuire. Trump notably needled Good about his endorsement of DeSantis.

Less than two weeks later, Trump would offer his “complete and total endorsement” to McGuire, saying Good was “BAD FOR Virginia, AND BAD FOR THE USA,” in a Truth Social post.

Ultimately, Trump’s endorsement — and the $5 million spent opposing him — seemed to be crucial in McGuire’s victory.

But it wasn’t just any one thing that led to Good’s demise. Already, the Freedom Caucus chairman’s loss has many Republicans rushing to explain the root causes.

For one, Good was just fighting battles on too many fronts in the Republican Party. In addition to crossing Trump and helping to oust McCarthy, Good was holding meetings with other GOP lawmakers in the fall of 2022 on how to prevent McCarthy from ascending to the speakership, according to GOP sources. It led some Republican colleagues to believe Good never really gave McCarthy a chance.

For another, Good exacerbated relationships with his GOP colleagues by endorsing primary challengers for a number of his fellow Republican lawmakers.

“When Bob Good endorsed my primary opponent four or five months ago, I was like, ‘Alright, hey, just remember your primary is a week after mine, I’m gonna win mine, and you’re gonna lose yours,’” Rep. William Timmons of South Carolina told NOTUS.

Timmons scraped out of his primary by 3% — or 2,000 votes — three weeks ago. He then immediately dedicated himself to ensuring Good would no longer serve in Congress. Over the weekend before Good’s primary, Timmons rented a charter bus to leave from Navy Yard and went down to Good’s district to door-knock for McGuire.

Even within his own delegation, Good made enemies.

Freshman Rep. Jen Kiggans of Virginia, who once got into a heated argument on the House floor over Good’s decision to block the defense appropriations bill from coming to a vote, supported McGuire. She was even a special guest for him at a fundraiser.

“People have had enough of the games that have been played for personal agendas, and we don’t have a big enough majority that we can be sacrificing what the team needs for the team to win,” Kiggans told NOTUS.

Good’s loss also makes him the first Republican to vote to oust McCarthy and then lose reelection. The former speaker’s allies tried to defeat Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, spending millions against her as well, but they came up well short after she secured Trump’s endorsement.

McCarthy defended his allies’ spending against Good.

“I always put the majority first in all of this. I want to make sure we got conservatives who are willing to govern,” McCarthy said. “Bob Good just shows from his basis that he wasn’t serious about conservative agenda and that he would work with all the Democrats.”

Out of the eight who voted to oust him, currently, three won’t be returning to Congress next year. In addition to Good, former Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado resigned from Congress and Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana announced he would retire at the end of this Congress.

Good’s loss also puts the Freedom Caucus in a precarious position. They’ve lost their chairman — and created a division within the group after one of their own, Rep. Warren Davidson, also endorsed McGuire over Good.

McCarthy told NOTUS Good’s defeat sends a clear message to Republicans in the House looking to stir up trouble: “You can be the head of the Freedom Caucus and get defeated.”

“Chaos doesn’t work,” McCarthy said.

Reese Gorman is a reporter at NOTUS.