Old Dominion Race

Rep. Bob Good faces primary threat from Trump-backed challenger John McGuire

The Republican Jewish Coalition, in a rare show of opposition against a GOP lawmaker, is backing McGuire

Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP/Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Del. John McGuire, R-Goochland, speaks against one of a number of gun-related bills during the floor session of the Virginia House of Delegates inside the State Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020/

Rep. Bob Good (R-VA), the House Freedom Caucus chair who has frequently voted against U.S. funding for Israel since Oct. 7 and backed a series of candidates opposing foreign aid across the country, is fighting for his political life in Virginia’s June 18 primary election.

Good was already facing a tough primary campaign against state Sen. John McGuire, but his odds of winning the nomination tumbled further after former President Donald Trump endorsed McGuire on Tuesday. 

Good drew Trump’s ire because he endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the presidential primary. Good has also been a top target of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) after he was one of eight House Republicans who voted to oust him.

McGuire, a former Navy SEAL, told Jewish Insider that Good’s backing of DeSantis was a major factor in his candidacy. He said he picked up widespread anti-Good sentiment in his state Senate district during his 2023 campaign. 

Good, who ousted a moderate Republican at a GOP convention filled with party activists in 2020, was once a staunch Trump ally, and voted against certifying the 2020 election results. McGuire was also an early Trump supporter, and attended Trump’s Stop the Steal rally on Jan. 6.

McGuire framed Good as a “divisive” drain on Republicans’ unity and effectiveness in Virginia and nationally, both through his support for unseating McCarthy and his involvement in primaries nationwide. Allies of McCarthy and other outside groups have spent over $4 million on TV ads tagging Good a “backstabber” and “MAGA traitor.”

In a statement to JI, the Good campaign criticized McGuire as an opportunist with his eyes on higher office, highlighting previous unsuccessful congressional bids and his decision to announce his congressional bid shortly after being elected to the state Senate.

McGuire highlighted that the weekslong speakership vacancy coincided with the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the beginning of the war in Gaza.

“In our time of need for our greatest ally, we couldn’t help [them] because we didn’t have a speaker,” McGuire said. “That right there is enough for me to run against him.”

He called Good “not reliable with regard to Israel.” Good has said he voted against Israel aid over concerns about federal spending and the national debt, as well as provisions in the legislation that provided humanitarian aid for Palestinians. He has maintained that he’s supportive of Israel.

The Republican Jewish Coalition endorsed McGuire and hosted him at a recent leadership meeting in Washington, D.C. It has also been working to defeat a series of Good-backed candidates across the country. The RJC rarely challenges sitting Republican lawmakers.

The RJC has highlighted Good’s vote against Israel aid, which the group said “showed who Israel’s true friends are, and exposed those like Congressman Bob Good who are not.” It described the vote as part of a concerning pattern from the incumbent. RJC said in a statement earlier this week that it’s increasingly confident in McGuire’s chances of victory.

McGuire said he’s also been receiving significant support from AIPAC donors and affiliates, although AIPAC has not endorsed him.

The state senator said he would have voted for supplemental Israel aid.

“It’s an American thing to support our ally,” McGuire said. He said that supporting Israel is also deeply rooted in his Christian faith, and mentioned that he’d grown up alongside the children of a prominent Holocaust survivor in Richmond, Va., hearing stories about the atrocities of the Holocaust as a child.

He condemned the administration for its posture on the current war in Gaza, describing the war as one of good against evil.

“We need to let Israel do what Israel needs to do,” McGuire said. “And the idea that we have to have a cease-fire — we’re going to tell them how to wage war? We wouldn’t let anyone tell us how to wage war, would we?”

He blamed Hamas for putting civilians in harm’s way, “like cowards” and for “constantly manipulating the media and everything else.”

McGuire said he had worked with the Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers during his time as a Navy SEAL. He visited Israel on a church trip with his wife during the Trump administration.

The candidate said he’s not deeply familiar with dynamics on the ground, but said “everything I’ve heard is a two-state solution… is not going to work,” highlighting that many Palestinians are taught from birth to hate Israel — ”it’s kind of hard to get that out of you.”

He also said he supports stringent sanctions on Iran, blaming the Biden administration’s sanctions policies for increased Iranian-backed terrorism in the region. McGuire warned that “unless they have regime change or something, they’re going to continue to be a threat to the Middle East and the world.”

More broadly, McGuire said the U.S. needs to adopt a more aggressive posture in responding to adversaries like Iran, China and Russia — ”if you don’t punch [a bully] in the nose, if you don’t stand up, it just gets worse.”

He said that he believes that reelecting Trump would restore the world’s respect for the U.S. and help regain global stability and U.S. strength.

But McGuire said he was unsure about supporting additional aid for Ukraine without receiving formal intelligence briefings on the subject. He explained that he wasn’t clear on the details of the war and expressed concerns that U.S. aid is being misappropriated. He said he would back whatever Trump’s position on that war would be.

At home, McGuire touted his efforts to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Virginia, tracing those efforts to a conversation on the campaign trail two years ago, during which he promised to introduce anti-BDS legislation. He said he’s tried to pass that bill twice, but has so far been unsuccessful.

He also expressed support for legislation passed in Virginia last year to codify the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. Of that bill, he said, “I don’t think either side is completely happy with that definition but it’s a step in the right direction.”

He added that college campuses must enforce the law and their rules against antisemitic activity, and that the federal government should hold people and schools accountable, including by stripping federal funding.

“I’m blown away because most of these people protesting in these college campuses, if you took them over to Gaza, they’d probably kill them,” McGuire said. “They have no idea the evil that they’re talking about.”

Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of the political tip sheet Sabato’s Crystal Ball, said he rated Good as the underdog, an unusual predicament for any sitting lawmaker. “I think at this point a Good win would be an upset,” Kondik said. 

McGuire acknowledged that the Trump endorsement is a major boost to his campaign, saying that the former president had “helped big time.” But he also said that internal polling showed him beating Good by 14 percentage points earlier this month, in advance of the endorsement. “It’s got to be much better now,” McGuire continued. 

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