Tag Archives: perriello

Don’t average voters deserve a little representation?

Here’s the thing about Rep. Robert Hurt: he’s a perfectly average congressman.

It’s tough to campaign against average. There’s a reason why just a shade less than 100% of Congressmen seeking reelection are successful: they keep their mouths shut and try not to do anything, while their staff dutifully arranges tours of the Capitol, mails out American flags, and expedites agency responses to constituents’ requests.

Hurt is one of these congressman. In his first two years in office, he has passed no legislation, and introduced just four bills. He’s cast no brave votes. He’s taken no principled stands. He’s a standard nobody freshman, and as long as he remains in congress, he will continue to be a nobody in congress. He’s not a major figure in the district, certainly not nearly as visible as past congressmen. I’ll wager that there’s a solid majority of congress who could not pick him out of a two-man lineup.

(Keep in mind, being a nobody in congress still makes you a congressman. There are a few hundred nobodies in congress. It’s perfectly ordinary.)

The other day I got a slick, two-page mailer from Hurt—paid for by the Republican Party of Virginia—and nowhere on it does he mention that he’s a Republican. An informed voter would probably figure out that he’s a Republican, based on some of his positions, but a lot of people would have no idea. That’s the point.

Hurt stands in sharp contrast to our last two congressmen: Virgil H. Goode (D/I/R/C) and Tom Perriello (D). Like ‘em or not, nobody could doubt where these guys stood.

Goode was firmly against NAFTA, Muslims, the United Nations, and Mexican restaurants displaying the Mexican flag. He made national headlines on a few occasions, none for reasons that made the district look particularly good, but most of which I’ll wager he was proud of. Goode routinely took unpopular positions, and his legislative priorities were either bold or Quixotesque, depending on one’s perspective.

Perriello distinguished himself by being quantifiably the hardest-working member of Congress, holding more town hall meetings with constituents than any other member. He met with thousands of constituents to discuss healthcare reform, ultimately becoming a notably important vote in favor of the Obama administration’s overhaul. Perriello suspected that his vote would cost him his seat, and he was right—he was one of a handful of freshman Democrats across the U.S. who were unseated in 2010, losses that were attributed widely to backlash over healthcare reform. Casting that vote, knowing that it would cost him his seat, is the very definition of taking a principled stand, regardless of what one thinks of healthcare reform. Perriello introduced 23 bills in the same amount of time in which Hurt introduced four, with seven passing the House (three resolutions, four bills) and one (the Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act) passing into law.

Hurt has distinguished himself among this trio by doing absolutely nothing to distinguish himself.

You’ve got to feel for…Douglass? Is that name of the Democratic nominee? I truly cannot remember the name of the nominee. (I looked it up—yup, it’s John Douglass.) He’s got no purchase on Hurt. Sure, he can run against Hurt as a generic Republican, and that’s what he appears to be doing. This is effective in a wave election, or a demographic-shifting redistricting. but there’s no sign of the former and the latter does not describe last year’s redistricting, which did turn the Fifth District into a sociogeographically bizarre district, but it became only more conservative. Hurt was nominated two years ago by virtue of being the sole non-Tea-Party-aligned candidate, so he can’t even be tied to that fringe group’s fading fortunes.

President Obama has been rising in the polls in Virginia and nationally, and it’s certainly not impossible that he’ll win by the same landslide electoral college margin that he won in 2008. If that’s the case, it’s likewise not impossible that he’d bring Douglass along with him, if only because independents turned off by Mitt Romney’s incompetent campaign decide to toss in for some other Democrats as long as they’re in the booth.

Short of such an event, it’s tough to see how Hurt loses his seat any time soon. He’s got a district that was tailored to him and he’s unlikely to ever do anything interesting. Inertia is a powerful thing.

Links for February 16th

  • Washington Post: Ex-rep. Perriello might run for U.S. Senate in Va. if Kaine doesn’t
    Good. Kaine is my first choice, for practical reasons, but Perriello is my second.
  • Library of Congress: Chronicling America
    The LoC has the complete contents of long-ago newspapers from all around Virginia, mostly from around the turn of the last century. The Richmond Planet, the Tazewell Republican, the Highland Recorder, The [Fredericksburg] Free Lance, the Clarke Courier—they've got it all.
  • Hayes Carll: KMAG YOYO
    One of my favorite musicians, country artist Hayes Carll, has a new album that does not disappoint. His prior release, "Trouble in Mind," was just brilliant, and I figured that his follow-up probably couldn't reach that bar. After listening to it a few times through, I think "KMAG YOYO" is every bit as good. (The title is a military acronym: "kiss my ass, guys—you're on your own.") Standouts include the title track, one of the few songs about the war in Afghanistan, and the very funny "Another Like You." If you're a fan of Todd Snider—who performs on this album—you'll like Hayes Carll. If you like country, but not the crap that's passed for country for the past twenty years, then you'll love him.

Cuccinelli: Obama says Perriello is his favorite Congressman. Really?

Said Ken Cuccinelli, in a campaign letter today:

No wonder President Obama has called Perriello his “favorite Congressman”!

Really? I mean, that would be really cool, but that’s the first I’ve heard of that. My suspicion is that Cuccinelli’s so deep in the echo chamber that he’s not aware that’s an invention of the far right, but I don’t know that. It’s possible that, out of 435 members of congress, the president has chosen to single out a freshman from Virginia as his favorite. But I think probably not.

Can anybody find any support for this claim?

Robert Hurt, flaming liberal?

Sen. Robert Hurt has repeatedly accused Congressman Tom Perriello of being in the pocket of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi for voting with her 90% of the time, including just a few minutes ago, during their debate here in Charlottesville. Assuming that statistic is (I have no idea), I thought I’d run a quick comparison of Hurt’s own voting record.

I compared four years of the votes cast by Hurt in the state senate (in which he is the most conservative member) to those cast by Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (in which she is the most liberal member).

Sen. Hurt and Sen. Whipple voted the same way 1,833 times out of 2,342 shared votes, or 78% of the time. And they’re members of the opposite party—the two farthest-apart members of the senate!

For a comparison more like what Hurt is lobbing at Perriello, I looked at the farthest-left Republican in the senate, Sen. Fred Quayle. Hurt and Quayle voted identically 87% of the time.

The point of this isn’t to say that Hurt is a Democrat. The point is that calculating batting averages like this is meaningless. Votes that survive the committee process to finally get a floor vote tend strongly to pass. The point of the committee process is to weed out the bills that aren’t likely to pass; the ones that make it to the floor are ones that most members agree on. Knowing that Perriello and Pelosi vote together 90% of the time tells us absolutely nothing. Hurt must know that, having served in the General Assembly for eight years. It’s disappointing to me that he keeps claiming that statistic means something, when obviously it does not.

That explains why Hurt didn’t want to debate.

In tonight’s debate between Congressman Perriello and Robert Hurt, I’m surprised at how badly Hurt came off.

Although I don’t think I’ve ever met Hurt (I just can’t remember), we have a bunch of friends in common, and I know him to be a nice guy. He’s no dope. But with his performance this evening, one wouldn’t know that. Here I’d been giving him the benefit of the doubt that his refusal to debate was because of the involvement of a conservative third-party candidate and the usual sturm und drang that goes into arranging a candidate debate. Apparently, it’s because he’s totally unprepared.

Host Jay Warren asked no surprising questions. If Hurt’s staff was going to prep him for just a half dozen topics, those covered surely would have been among them. But Hurt could muster no meaningful responses, nearly all of which were somewhere between weak and just plain wrong. The fact that he couldn’t name a single federal program that he’d cut was pretty amazing. Hurt’s campaign, like those of many Republicans this year, has been based substantially on cutting spending. The man’s running for office on the promise to do that. But he can’t name anything that he’d actually cut? Nothing? That’s a shell of a candidate right there.

Maybe I gave Hurt too much credit. Or maybe, like post-2000 and pre-2008 John McCain, he’ll have to lose this election to regain the credibility that he’s losing now.

Well done, WSLS.

WSLS hosted a debate between Rep. Tom Perriello and challenger Robert Hurt this evening, and they deserve credit for how they did it. They simply tossed their six o’clock newscast out the window, and dedicated the entire time to having anchor Jay Warren question the two candidates. By airing it at that time, WSLS surely wound up with far more viewers than if they’d broadcast it in any other time slot. Good for them.

Clark has abandoned his professed beliefs for his own ambitions.

Jeff Clark, the far-right independent candidate in the 5 CD race, is considering filing a lawsuit to force his way into debates with Congressman Perriello and challenger Robert Hurt:

He has been working with the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization headquartered in Albemarle County, to challenge his exclusion from the debates. Clark said the organization may file a legal challenge to force his access into the debates.

What we’re seeing here is Clark tossing his professed beliefs out the window in support of his own political ambitions. Like the rest of the Tea Party, Clark is all about the supremacy of private property…unless it’s somebody else’s private property that he wants. Next week, Perriello and Hurt will be debating on Roanoke’s WSLS, a TV station owned by Media General. This is not a public resource. WSLS is not government-run. The FCC does not require that media outlets provide equal time. Clark has no more legal right to appear on WSLS than he does to walk into my front door and have a seat at my kitchen table. (Whether it is right for Clark to be excluded from debates is another matter.) If he were a socialist candidate I’d figure, “hey, at least he’s consistent.” Kelo, anyone?

The Tea Party talks a good game, but when push comes to shove, these guys are just politicians, in the worst sense of the world. This has to be a tough lesson for the political newbies backing this guy. Here they thought they were overthrowing the established order with an idealistic guy who would stand up for what’s right, no matter what. But Clark’s just another hypocritical political hack. Welcome to politics, kids.

Congressman Perriello’s got cojones.

Whatever one might think of Rep. Tom Perriello, only a fool or a liar would deny that the guy has cojones.

Just look at what he did this evening: speak at the monthly meeting of the Jefferson Area Tea Party. Consider that for a moment. Perriello is, for the second year in a row, holding dozens of town hall meetings across the district. Last year he held more such meetings than any other member of congress, and I imagine he’ll set the record this year, too. That’s really quite remarkable. Those of us in the district have come to regard this as normal, but it’s really not.

Can you imagine Virgil Goode having ever done this sort of thing? Speaking at—to use the left-wing equivalent of teabaggers—a meeting of angry socialists? Taking questions, some hostile, from audiences of hundreds of people? Of course not! Save for the minimal number of debates with challengers, I don’t remember Goode ever addressing an audience more challenging than his own donors, and that includes when he was a Democrat, independent, and a Republican.

I wonder if Robert Hurt might be willing to commit to doing the same thing, if elected. Would he agree to hold two dozen public forums throughout the district each year, take unscreened questions from audience members, and respond to all of them? Like all challengers, he’d almost certainly say “yes,” but the important thing is to get him on the record, in case he does win. If he does emerge victorious next November, I’d put $50 up against anybody that he won’t meet or exceed the bar established by Perriello in this regard.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more responsive, more open congressman in the nation than Rep. Perriello. Don’t lose sight of that.

Conservative poll shows Hurt leading Perriello.

I’m trying to figure out how to get back into the swing of things here after an extraordinarily trying month, but I do want to point out the first reasonable poll in the Fifth District. (And understand that I’m using “reasonable” loosely—this poll was conducted for the American Action Forum, a conservative group, making it inherently suspect.) Their survey shows Rep. Tom Perriello behind challenger Robert Hurt, 49/43. They do not specify the margin of error, but assuming it’s around a reasonable 3%, then they’re tied within the margin. Hurt’s got 75% name recognition, Perriello has 95%.

It’s entirely possible that Perriello is a few points behind Hurt now, given the political climate—these results may well be correct. And I think it’s good news that Hurt’s name recognition is comparatively low, because that gives Perriello a chance to define him. With this poll, I finally feel like this race can be assessed. Let the games begin.