Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The Fifth District Race is On!

On Saturday Tom Perriello officially became the Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives from the Fifth Congressional District of Virginia.

People have been asserting for a long time that Virgil Goode, the incumbent republican, can't be beaten. But, to quote my favorite movie: "nonsense! You're only saying that because no one ever has!" [extra points if you get the reference].

Actually, while he certainly has a very "safe" gerrymandered district, and a sort of legacy seat (his dad, Virgil Goode, Sr. was a popular politician from the region) Virgil has made himself vulnerable on a number of fronts: voting against the GI Bill (I mean, how dumb can ya get?) and against mother's day . He also has been caught up in a campaign-finance scandal.

The received wisdom is that no one from outside Virgil's home territory (the southern part of the district) can win it. But not everyone in the southern part of the district is in love with Virgil, as was noted in this article from 1995. The fact is that the world is changing and Virgil's not changing with it. He's still trying to appeal to his base, and only to his base--which may be a good short-term strategy, but it's a loser in the long run. For instance, look at one of his hallmarks--his unabashed bigotry. This may still play well with a certain constituency in that part of the district. But George Allen found out the hard way that it's not a sure-fire strategy for winning in a modern, demographically-diverse state (which Virginia is rapidly becoming).

Goode's recent press release justifying the Iraq war by (falsely) asserting that more Americans die as a result of illegal immigrants than in Iraq show that he's still trying to play this losing hand. Aside from the clearly spurious math (which right-wing wack groups have been calculating on their skewed-statistics calculators for quite a while now), it completely misses the point, which common-sense voters can see for themselves (and which street preacher/singer/voice of conscience/Charlottesville character Uriah J Fields articulates in a recent letter to the editor): that our country should aspire to a higher standard than that of drunk drivers and murderers. The great thing about this response is that it removes the debate out of the realm of numbers (which most people pretty much ignore) and puts it on moral ground--where Tom Perriello clearly wins.

Tom has been raising an extraordinary amount of money, making him a highly viable candidate, and bringing national attention and dollars to the race. He has a long row to hoe (and he needs to learn a more dynamic speaking style), but I think he has a real chance. And, the previous challengers (Meredith Richards and Al Weed) did much to revitalize the moribund Democratic party in the southside. Tom can build on those gains, and win the District!

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