Since Al Weed’s loss against Rep. Virgil Goode last November, there hasn’t been much talk of who would run this next cycle. We had John Boyd five years ago, Meredith Richards three years ago, and Al last year. When the election results came in last November, Al said he wouldn’t run again, but it’s not fair to hold a man to a statement said under such circumstances. Still, I’ve wondered if he’d reenter the race, and if we’d see some other folks interested in taking on Goode.
In today’s Daily Progress, Bob Gibson writes that there are two contenders for the Democratic nomination in the Fifth District. Not only does Al Weed intend to run again, but Charlottesville’s Bern Ewert says he’s running. I never would have come up with Bern’s name, but I can see how he’s not a bad fit.
Al has great credentials. He’s long made his living as a farmer, he’s a decorated veteran, and he’s both educated and intelligent. Best of all, he’s not from Charlottesville or Albemarle, but east, in Nelson. (Still a mighty long way from Southside, but it’s a step in the right direction towards electability.) But Al lost badly, garnering an even lower percentage of the vote than former Charlottesville Vice Mayor Meredith Richards did in 2002.
Bern and I have a little history. We ran against each other for the Democratic nomination for Charlottesville City Council in the spring of 2002. (For the record, I beat him pretty soundly in the race. But we both came out losers, so it really doesn’t matter.) He made for a great opponent. He’s a smart guy, and extremely knowledgeable about the nuts-and-bolts of running a city. I thought at the time he’d make a better city manager than a city councilor, and fought the urge to proclaim that, if elected, I’d support hiring him for city manager.
As I said, I never would have thought of Bern as a candidate for this district. He’s prickly and seems to lack the people skills that, for example, Al Weed has. But he’s got some serious qualifications that I’d completely forgotten about, not the least of which is that he was Roanoke’s city manager from ’78-’85. (Roanoke isn’t actually in the district, but the metropolitan area is.) If anybody remembers that, that should bring some credibility. Gibson, in the Progress, calls him ” fairly well known in much of the Southside Virginia region of the 5th District.” But perhaps best of all is that Bern claims support from both outgoing Del. Mitch Van Yahres and from party chair Dickie Cranwell. Mitch is quoted in the Progress saying “I told Bern I would help him. He’s got good experience.” Mitch and Bern are working together on a C’ville road proposal, and they worked together when Bern worked in management for Charlottesville. So while Mitch’s support of Bern is logical, given that the only locality that Al Weed carried was Charlottesville, it has got to come to as a blow.
What makes Bern awful tough to elect, though, is that he’s from Charlottesville. I’m not convinced that it’s possible to get somebody from Charlottesville or Albemarle into this seat, and it may not be possible to get somebody from north of Farmville. We’ve got some real talent up this way, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to get any support down south.
I couldn’t agree more with the premise of Gibson’s article, which is that Virgil Goode is badly weakened. Between the ongoing MZM scandal and the $5,000 that he’s taken from Tom DeLay’s PAC, his squeaky-clean image has been tarnished. A strong opponent could make sure that every voter in the district knew that.
The weirdest bit about the article is this:
He said having two Democrats vying for the right to challenge him is just fine.
“The last time, I had three so I guess someone else will come along, too,” said the five-term congressman.
Huh? Al Weed was unchallenged for the nomination last time. The time before that, Meredith had a single challenger. Perhaps Goode is confusing his race with…um…somebody else’s entirely?