But fearing for a nation in dire fiscal straits, Rigell in 2010 threw himself into a crowded GOP primary in Virginia’s Second Congressional District. Despite having donated money to then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008 – a move some thought would be a showstopper in a GOP Virginia primary – he won, riding the Republican wave (and a cool $2 million of his own funds) into the House over freshman Rep. Glenn Nye (D).
He hasn’t been tapped as a rising star by the GOP’s leadership and doesn’t have any sweeping legislative achievements. He’s a low-key member with a seat on the House Armed Services Committee, the political lifeblood of a member from a district studded with military installations, but he hasn’t been at the forefront of Washington’s most high-profile political fights.
But many who have met Rigell say he has a particular skill that many politicos claim to posses: He not only listens, but he actually hears what people say.
Quentin Kidd, a professor of politics at Christopher Newport University in Virginia Beach, sidled up to Rigell at a Boy Scout event and introduced himself as a new constituent. When Mr. Kidd mentioned where he lived, Rigell told him, “ ‘I need to get over there and learn the issues and meet people.’ I appreciated that because a lot of people would act like they already knew a good part of the district.... I think that’s his character," Kidd said.
And when what Rigell hears doesn’t make sense, he goes after the facts.