Saturday, June 27, 2009

Community Organizer Takes on Perriello

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.

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.”
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.

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.

“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.
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.)

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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Steven Latimer said...

Wow -- It's funny; I learned who Cincinnatus was just recently when I finished reading The Cult of the Presidency by Gene Healy of the CATO Institute. It's an awesome book!

John said...

Comparing this guy to Cincinnatus is a bit of a stretch isn't it?

Isn't the anti-lawyer route something Goode tried (and failed at) when campaigning against Perriello? Particularly considering Perriello never practiced law.

Finally, I (respectfully) think you're crazy if you think Tucker Watkins or the other 5th District big-whigs will let somebody like Rees get the nomination. Evidence:

“As far as I know, Virgil has not made a firm decision one way or the other yet,” Watkins said. “I don’t know Mr. Rees; I’ve never met Mr. Rees. There are a number of really good people (who could run). Congressman Goode is by far the choice of the majority of people that I know.”

Rick Sincere said...

In mentioning Cincinnatus, I was referring to citizen-legislators who choose to limit their terms in office, and suggesting that if Mr. Rees makes a pledge of that sort, he will be a potent candidate.

I don't know if he favors term limits of this sort; I only hope he does, and he'll have to answer the question himself.

Attorney Virgil Goode will have to compete for the nomination as much as anyone else. Nothing is a done deal. (That's why we have Congressman Tom Perriello today.)

Michael said...

"... if Mr. Rees makes a pledge of that sort, he will be a potent candidate."

I like where you're coming from on this one, but I hope what you mean is that a pledge will make him attractive to you, rather than to the electorate--people really don't care about term limit pledges.

It's a process issue, which matters a lot more to people who intellectualize politics (as we do) than it does to people who are losing their pensions and their health insurance.

Michael said...

Um, also... since when is Bradley Rees a community organizer? Rees has specifically said that he never got into politics until he recently started blogging and tweeting about it.

Unless you call speaking at a tea party "community organizing," this label seems to be completely inaccurate.

Rick Sincere said...

Michael, you should have read more carefully re: Mr. Rees being a community organizer.

In the quotation, above, from Media General News Services, you can see that "Rees spent four years working as a Lynchburg community coordinator for Americans for Fair Taxation before founding his own organization, Operation: Bullhorn, last spring."

Michael Ernette said...

Hi, Guys,

This is Michael Ernette, Brad's campaign manager. just wanted to drop in and thank Rick personally for the fair coverage of our event last week, and our continuing work. Also, I wanted to clarify a couple things to add to the discussion.

First, Brad was involved pretty deeply with American for Fair Taxation. In fact, he has lost some potential supporters for personal debates he had with Rep. Goodlatte over the Fair Tax issue. Fortunately, it seems that support came generally from people in the 6th district anyway, so it makes my worries easier. Sufficed to say, his work in the arena more than holds up as community organization, on par with anything President Obama did in his days in Chicago.

Second, I have discussed at length Brad's position on term limits. While I am not prepared to "pledge" for him, as this is not my place, I can assure you that he feels ten years (5 terms) is more than adequate for him to do what he needs to do in Washington and plans, if elected to limit himself to that timeframe. He does not wish to be an ensconced representative who plans to use taxpayer money to fund a lavish retirement. That said, the campaign completely understands the well reasoned issues brought about on this forum, which is why it has not become something of a policy statement at this time. Unfortunately, as we are learning daily in our work through the process, politicians before us have promised entirely too many things that they have not delivered on, so many pledges like term limits are seen as merely lip service. I can assure you of the plan, but lets look ten years down the road, and someone can copy/paste this quote to remind us.

Finally, this campaign welcomes the challenge of Tucker Watkins. A big part of the machinations surrounding our status is that we recognize that the normal backroom politics of cigar smoking knigmakers will not get Brad elected. When you plan to be an outsider, it frees up many of the problems associated with party politics, and most importantly it forces you to take the message directly to the people. If Bradley has a shot this side of the River Styx of winning, we will have to convince people like you that our message is solid and good for America. That is what we intend to do, and that is how it should be.

Thanks for your time, and if you don't mind I intend to drop in on some of these discussions from time to time to throw my two cents in.