A few weeks ago, I asked, with tongue only partially in cheek, "Is it 2010 already?"
The question was prompted by the appearance on local TV stations of commercials that were thinly-veiled endorsements of freshman Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA5) by health- and pharmaceutical-industry lobbying groups.
Now, however, it seems the 2010 election campaign has begun in earnest, with the announcement that Republican candidate Bradley Rees is throwing his hat into the ring, with the slogan, "Today's troubles call for some heavy lifting.
It's time to bring in the forklift."
Media General reports:
Factory worker Bradley Rees, 31, formally announced his candidacy Thursday night to seek the Republican nomination to the U.S. House of Representatives for the 5th District. A small group gathered at Camilla Williams Park along the Dan River for the announcement.A quick glance at the Rees for Congress web site suggests that the candidate is a man of libertarian instincts. Since the issues pages of the web site are incomplete, however, I will reserve judgment for the moment.
With the former Dan River Inc. building as a backdrop, Rees, dressed in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt with the word “underdog” on it, spoke for about a half hour in support of the Fair Tax bill, which would eliminate income taxes and establish a national sales tax.
“I describe myself as a reluctant Republican,” Rees said before his speech. “The GOP has strayed from its conservative roots. (The current tax system) is basically unfair — direct, compulsory income taxation. The government gets the first chunk of your money, and to me, that’s theft.”
Rees is a self-declared grassroots candidate who flaunts his non-lawyer, common-man status. A forklift operator and assembly line technician with tattooed knuckles, Rees spent four years working as a Lynchburg community coordinator for Americans for Fair Taxation before founding his own organization, Operation: Bullhorn, last spring.
“I can’t stand politics,” Rees told the group, “or most politicians … Americans are tired of the same old choices. And you shouldn’t have to hold your nose when you pull that lever in the voting booth.”
That said, in an earlier newspaper article, Rees described himself as a libertarian. According to Brian McNeill in the Charlottesville Daily Progress earlier this month:
Rees, who writes a blog called sonsofliberty2k10, is a vocal advocate of the so-called “FairTax” that would replace federal income taxes with a national retail sales tax. Rees said he has been “kind of forced into running” because of what he sees as the government infringing on his liberties.Rees is an unconventional candidate, to say the least: He's a forklift driver aiming to replace a lawyer who replaced a lawyer. (He has some spot-on comments on his web site about how the influence of lawyers in Congress has corrupted the institution. I wouldn't want to live in a world without lawyers, but a legislature without lawyers seems like a wonderful idea.)
“There’s so much encroachment,” he said. “The federal government confiscates my money before I can put food on the table for my family.”
Rees also said that government regulations and corporate taxes have led to declines in the manufacturing sector.
He considers himself a “reluctant Republican,” as he views himself as somewhat closer to a Libertarian. Nevertheless, he said, he plans to run to win the GOP nomination to challenge Perriello.
If Brad Rees is willing to take a term-limits pledge as well as advocate for the Fair Tax, he may prove to be a formidable, Cincinnatus-like candidate. As his t-shirt indicates, he's an underdog facing an uphill battle, but having a working-class candidate is a welcome change-up in an increasingly predictable political game. He brings a "common man" element into what has become, regrettably, an elitist enterprise.
Virginia's Fifth Congressional District leans heavily Republican. Tom Perriello won by narrowest of margins after a recount against long-term incumbent Virgil Goode last year. With no Barack Obama at the top of the ticket in 2010, this will undoubtedly be a targeted race for the NRCC and the Republican primary (or nominating convention) will attract a lot of interest. Rees is just the first of several potential candidates to announce, but his will be a campaign worth watching.
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