One of our own running against Goode

Following the latest commentary on what is happening / will happen / might happen / could happen in this presidential primary, faithful Democrats around the country should take a moment to check out the race for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District.  This race is shaping up to become a test case on whether Democrats can win in the South by running on our deepest convictions instead of on a false centrism or poll-driven pandering.

The incumbent in VA-05 is the infamous and yet relatively popular Virgil Goode, the guy who led the anti-Muslim campaign when Rep. Ellison said he would be sworn in on the Koran.  He’s also one of the most rabid anti-immigrant voices in Congress.   But the reason we should be watching this race isn’t Goode, but because of the challenger, Tom Perriello.

Tom is a founder of Catholics in Alliance and  He’s a true faithful Democrat and has been one of the leaders of the progressive faith movement that has sprung up and taken the country by storm since 2004.  He’s also a guy who has lived a life that exemplifies faith in action (kind of an “Indiana Jones with a rosary”).  After law school, he went to Sierra Leone to help end the civil war there and then was special advisor to the prosecutor who brought down Liberian dictator Charles Taylor and helped restore democracy to Liberia.  He’s worked on sustainable solutions to global warming and spent time with the rebels in Darfur helping work toward the ceasefire there (which sadly was just broken this past week by the Sudanese government).  In short, he’s a pretty cool guy, and you can read about him on his website.

But what is especially exciting about this race is that he has been running the type of campaign that our community has been waiting for.  He’s running against a perfect, fear-mongering foil, but he hasn’t been running “against Virgil” as much as“for the common good.”  His positive message of “results-oriented leadership focused on right and wrong instead of right and left” has been resonating throughout the district.  He’s spoken at Darfur rallies, marched against inner-city violence, talked about the issues most important to our community, and his campaign has already reported over 1200 volunteer hours. 

Tom has broken 2-straight fundraising records in the district, and he outraised Virgil 3-1 in this past quarter.  His press has been overwhelmingly positive, and the DCCC recently moved the race from “safe Republican” to “in-play.”  This is a race to watch, and a candidate we should all be supporting…during our breaks between reading the latest Texas and Ohio poll results, anyway.

About Rachel Johnson

Rachel Johnson serves as Director of External Communications at The Riverside Church in the City of New York. She is an ordained Baptist minister who has spent her career working at the intersection of faith and the public sphere. Rachel holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a MAR in Theology from Yale Divinity School. Rachel has worked with churches, non-profits, denominational groups, and political organizations to develop strategic outreach campaigns on a wide range of issues, including creation care and climate change, nuclear security, human rights, international development and peace building, domestic poverty, healthcare, and the intersection of faith in the public sphere. Follow her on Twitter at @rachelnoelj