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Electability key concern in Sixth, Richardson says

Story by Chris Graham

drew_press_photoforweb.gifThe 49,860 votes that two independent congressional candidates received combined in 2006 in the Sixth District made Drew Richardson stand up and take notice.

Nearly one in four voters who came to the polls in the Sixth in ’06 cast their lots for Republican incumbent Bob Goodlatte’s two challengers. I am among those who have said that a decently-backed Democrat could have gotten 40 percent, and who knows, maybe pulled the upset of the first decade of the century.

But even as Richardson talks about what might have been, he realizes that it means next to nothing in 2008.

“That phenomenon indicates to me that there is some dissatisfaction. Now, I don’t know for sure that one can assume that those are people who would necessarily vote Democratic given the opportunity. They could be disaffected Republicans wanting to give the incumbent a message. I don’t know that we can necessarily assume that that’s 25 percent in the hip pocket of somebody from the Democratic Party who would be opposing him, and one needs another 26 percent in order to reach a majority,” said Richardson, a candidate for the ’08 Democratic Party nomination in the Sixth District.

“But clearly there is some dissatisfaction, whether it be with independents or Democrats or Republicans. I don’t know who those 25 percent are, but I think a strong case can be made to moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats and independents, both on the national-security issue, which I think will have continued importance, as well as somebody to address the various domestic and social issues. I think a winning campaign can be put together,” Richardson said.

Richardson entered the race for the nomination a bit late in the game, at least relative to his opponent, Sam Rasoul, who had been actively campaigning for the nomination for more than a year when Richardson got into the fray last month.

He’s got a lot of making up to do, and a look at his daily schedule shows that he is already in overdrive mode on the campaign trail.

“It is busy. Lots of travel, lots of telephone. I spend a tremendous amount of time on the telephone. If I’m not in the car, I’m on the telephone. And frequently both activities are connected,” Richardson said.

“I’m adding campaign staff. I have volunteer field workers. I have a professional campaign manager working for me. I have just in the last few days brought on a professional campaign-finance manager. So we’re doing a lot of things in terms of trying to raise some money, and also to get people to commit to be delegates for us, and to get other people that might vote for those delegates,” Richardson said.

Richardson isn’t all that concerned that his late entry into the race will prove to be a detriment in the end.

“If organization were the only thing that mattered, the one that gets the head start obviously has the advantage. But the case that I like to make, and I will tell people – people like to ask me, do I feel like I’m a year behind as a result of his activities over the past year? And my answer to that is, No, I feel like I’m 30 years ahead,” said Richardson, who at age 56 is the 26-year-old Rasoul’s senior by 30 years.

“The reason being that regardless of grassroots organizational support within the Democratic Party, irrespective of monies raised and whatnot, I think in order to win this election, it’s going to be about convincing undecided voters, independents, Republicans, even moderate Democrats, to vote for that candidate. That’s going to come down to electability issues, and I think experience, judgment and so forth comes from a lifetime of activity and so forth,” Richardson said.

“Ultimately that’s going to be the foundation for whether this works or doesn’t work. It’s not going to be running up and down the Valley in the last weeks in my case and the last year in his case. Those things are important. They have to be done. But I think the whole foundation for this is credibility and experience that can be sold,” Richardson said.

“Basically what we’re asking people to do is throw out an eight-term incumbent who by all means is probably a likeable guy. I think a case can be made that some of the things he’s done in the legislative process are not in the best interests of the district or the nation. But nevertheless, that’s only one side of the coin. The flip side is, if we’re going to throw him out, do we have a credible alternative?” Richardson said.

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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