Focus | McPadden: ‘(C)hange the party from the inside out’
Congressional candidate pushes back-to-basics GOP campaign
Story by Chris Graham
“Those kids were out there in the streets fighting for their liberties. That was a watershed moment for me,” McPadden said of the student-led protests in Iran raising issue with that country’s controversial presidential elections.
The military veteran, pilot and financial-services industry CEO said he was upset with the way the Obama administration reacted to the protests – sitting on the sidelines instead of standing in solidarity with the students.
“To sit there and let those kids get mowed down the way they were, and not stand up and stand with them, I said to myself, This has to change,” said McPadden, one of seven candidates seeking the Republican Party nomination in the Fifth District, which represents a swath of Central Virginia from the Charlottesville area to Danville in Southside.
The winner of the June 2010 primary gets first-term Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello, who at first glance would seem vulnerable in a district that went 61 percent-to-39 percent for Republican Bob McDonnell in November. But McPadden gives Perriello, who upset long-time Fifth District Congressman Virgil Goode in 2008, credit where credit is due.
“Tom Perriello is a smart guy,” McPadden said. “On all the important votes that he’s taken, he’s voted with his base, the liberals. On cap-and-trade, health care. He’s broken away on a couple of votes that didn’t really matter, but when it comes down to the votes that are important to the people who put him into office, he’s voted the way they wanted him to vote. That’s smart politics, as far as I’m concerned, but it’s not good for the Fifth District.
“Republicans think that because Bob McDonnell ran so well in the Fifth that this is going to be a cakewalk. But like I said, Tom Perriello is a smart guy. He’s a good campaigner. His supporters are going to be out in force next year. This is not going to be an easy race for anybody,” said McPadden, who is facing a bit of an uphill battle in the GOP race at the outset, with party leaders seeming to coalesce around Southside State Sen. Robert Hurt as the middle-of-the-road choice for the nomination, and conservative radio squawker Laura Ingraham this week giving a thumbs-up to conservative Laurence Verga.
McPadden joined Verga in publicly questioning the decision of the Fifth District GOP to go the primary route in deciding its nominee. The conventional wisdom is that a primary will favor Hurt by allowing moderates and Democrats to insert themselves into the nomination process at the polls.
“The decision should be made by the people that I call the laborers in the vineyard of the Republican Party, the people that make the Republican Party work, the ones putting yard signs up. Now you’ve opened the process up to people who don’t get involved, who show up to vote every once in a while, to Democrats who want to vote for the weakest candidate,” McPadden said.
McPadden might not have come into the Fifth via the tea-party route, but his heart is definitely with the conservative wing of the party that shares the interests of the tea-partiers.
“The Republican Party isn’t a one-size-fits-all party. The conservatives are the base of the Republican Party. You can never forget that,” said McPadden, who believes conservatives checked out of the Republican Party in 2006. “They said, I’m done with this moderate party. They were done with the Republican Congress that was passing big-government programs and temporary tax cuts. They were done with the Republican president who ran as a conservative but was probably one of the most liberal presidents we’ve had.
“John McCain is the perfect example of what happens when the conservatives check out of the party and don’t get involved,” McPadden said. “What’s happening now is the tea-party people are outside the party, even though they’re the natural constituency of the party. When I talk to them, I get the same sense. They say, I’m mad at the Republicans. And I say, I know you are, but you need to get involved, because we need people like you to change the party from the inside out.
“People are starting to understand that if we want to have a conservative-leaning party in America, we need to get conservatives back involved in Republican Party politics,” McPadden said.