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Perriello battles to keep seat in U.S. House

When voters go to the polls next Tuesday, they will have a choice between three candidates seeking election to the position of 5th District congressman.

The candidates are incumbent Rep. Tom Perriello who is seeking his second term, Independent challenger Jeff Clark and Republican challenger Robert Hurt.

The Gazette will feature a biographical profile of each candidate leading up to the election.

Today, The Gazette features a profile on incumbent Perriello.

All eyes are focused on next Tuesday’s House of Representatives race for the 5th District Congressional seat that pits Incumbent Democrat Tom Perriello against Republican challenger Robert Hurt and Independent candidate hopeful Jeffrey Clark.

Perriello recently took time to answer this newspaper’s questions about his candidacy and the upcoming election.

Proud to be a native Virginian, Perriello said he was born Oct. 9, 1974 in Ivy, just outside of Charlottesville and has spent his entire childhood in the area.

He is single and said he is dedicated first and foremost to serving the people of the 5th District.

Perriello currently lives in Ivy when he says he’s not traveling the 5th District to meet with working families, small business owners, farmers and others.

“Living in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson and his estate at Monticello, I learned from a young age the importance of civic engagement, and I am glad that I have brought these Virginia values to Washington.

“My deep faith and commitment to public service was shaped by becoming an Eagle Scout in the Stonewall Jackson Area Council and serving in the offices of the late Delegate Mitch Van Yahres and former Congressman L. F. Payne,” he said.

The congressman said he does not desire to be a career politician, and he has never held any other public office.

He believes his interest in politics was fostered at an early age when his parents instilled in him a strong faith that he describes as “a lived faith.”

“I have been called by my faith to serve others, working with faith-based organizations to fight against poverty and for health care for children. This call to public service continues today as I serve my Creator by serving the people of Virginia’s 5th District,” the congressman said.

He describes himself as “a man of faith who felt a calling to service,” and he said his time in public office has been an extension of that call.

“One of the promises that I made to my father when I got into this was that I would always remember that Judgment Day is more important than Election Day.

“I believe in conviction politics, that the first responsibility of elected public servants is to honestly and transparently address the important issues facing voters.

“Folks may not agree with me 100 percent of the time, but they will always know where I stand and what my values are,” he said noting he has held over 40 town hall meetings in the last two years and will listen to and engage with any constituent, regardless of their politics.

He attended Murray Elementary School, Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, Henley Middle School, Western Albemarle High School and St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Albemarle County. He earned a B.A. and J.D. at Yale University.

Labeling himself as a “pragmatic idealist,” Perriello said upon graduation he answered the call to help others.

“I traveled to some of the most war-torn areas of the world. I worked with former child soldiers, rape victims and amputees in West Africa suffering from one of the longest civil wars on that continent. I also worked in Afghanistan developing counter-insurgency strategies to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and corrupt government officials involved in the drug trade,” Perriello said.

When asked what he believes makes him the best candidate to represent the 5th District constituents in Washington, D. C., Perriello pointed to his proven record of being an effective and independent voice for the 5th District.

“I have a vision to rebuild the economy of Southern and Central Virginia and put people back to work doing what America does best: building, making, and growing things.

“I have delivered investments that make our area globally competitive, and we are already seeing the jobs of tomorrow being created in our area today.

“I am ranked as one of the 15 most independent members of Congress and have broken with my party to oppose President Obama’s unbalanced budgets, bad trade deals and Wall Street bailouts.

“I have an A rating from the NRA and was humbled to receive an A+ rating from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the endorsement of the VFW PAC.

“People want an independent voice who will fight for them in Washington, not a career politician who will listen to the powerful special interest groups,” Perriello said.

Looking to the challenges facing the next congressman to go to Washington, he said, “These are serious times, and the biggest question is whether the middle class is going to survive. For far too long the elites in Washington have enacted policies that favor big corporations and the financial sector, but I am working a double-shift to bring to this area jobs that pay a decent, middle-class wage.”

Perriello said he is not willing to give up on America and say “our best days are behind us.”

He said he wants to get back to building, making and growing things here in America, and particularly Central and Southern Virginia.

“In my short time in politics, I have worked with like-minded colleagues from both parties to fight for the middle and working class folks who have been getting squeezed for two decades by rising expenses and flat wages,” Perriello said.

He contrasted himself to his GOP challenger saying, “In his 10 years in office, Senator Hurt has a record of serving the powerful. He supports returning the lobbyists and special interest groups to the halls of power. That means allowing the energy companies to write more laws gouging consumers and giving insurance companies the right to kick people off insurance plans for no reason.”

If reelected to a second term, Perriello said he plans to be “an independent voice” for the families of the 5th District, adding that he has “repeatedly broken with my party when I feel their goals are not compatible with those of the district.”

Perriello paraphrased the great English conservative Edmund Burke saying, “A representative must choose the needs and interests of his constituents over his own but must not sacrifice his judgment or conscience.

“I have always put the interests of this district first and have always based my decisions on my conviction of what is best for the district.

“I am proud to represent all citizens of Virginia’s 5th district, regardless of their politics,” he said.

The issues he feels are most important in this campaign involve improving the economy and getting back to basics.

“Our economy is recovering, but it is still fragile and there are too many qualified workers who can’t find a job. The elite economic philosophy of the last two decades, that you can somehow send all the jobs overseas and get cheap products in return, has failed the people of Central and Southern Virginia.

“We must get back to the things we do best in America: building, making, and growing things. I believe this area can be a capital of new energy technology and jobs, the home of next leap forward in automotive technology, and the place where the best high-tech products in the world are made.

“If we get back to the basics, we will see a return of the good paying jobs that can support a family. We also must end the elite consensus of rewarding failure with bailouts and rewarding the companies that send jobs overseas. I have fought against NAFTA-style trade deals that would further erode our manufacturing base and cost our area jobs,” he added.

As the days wind down, Perriello said he looks forward to continuing to discuss the important issues of this election with constituents across the political spectrum as well as both of his opponents and making a case for why he is “the independent-minded fighter this area needs.”