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Perriello brings Fifth into play

Story by Chris Graham

tom-perriello.jpgNational Democrats are considering the Fifth Congressional District as being in play this November.

That says a lot about what Tom Perriello has been able to do in the past few months.

“It’s been really exciting to see the overwhelming response of people all over the district. This gives us lots of time to reach out to independents and Republicans who seem to be responding real well to our message,” said Perriello, the Democratic Party nominee in the Fifth, in an interview for today’s “Augusta Free Press Show.”

Perriello became the party nominee after the March 4 filing deadline for the nomination came and went with only Perriello’s name among the contenders. There had been opposition from a pair of Democrats in the Fifth – Albemarle County historian David Shreve and Chatham businessman Brydon Jackson – early on in the race.

The spectre of a challenge or challenges at the outset might have been a blessing for Perriello, who had to get his campaign ramped up a bit sooner than he might have gotten things moving otherwise.

“Competition always breeds a good conversation,” Perriello said. “I think what’s nice about the situation right now is we already have staff around the district that allowed us to do events in 17 different counties just in the last month. I was down in Martinsville (on Tuesday) at the trade show, and we’ve been down in Danville and all over the district. When you have a district that’s as big as ours, and it’s 22 counties and municipalities, you really want to have a chance to sit down and talk to people and hear what’s on their minds. And this really gives us the space and resources to make sure we’re engaging directly with voters throughout the district.”

Perriello has impressed Democratic Party national leaders with his fund-raising and organizational prowess. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently changed its outlook on the race in the Fifth, where Republican Virgil Goode is the current incumbent, from “safe Republican” to “in play.”

“I think right now people are just hungry for a new kind of politics that’s really focused on solutions and new ideas. And when we have time to not be focused on the dynamics within our own party, but really talking to people with the same message and ideas, it’s really exciting. I think so many new people are coming into the political process right now, and it can change the rules of politics a little bit, and hopefully help us get some things done finally,” Perriello said.

“Coming from a community-service and nonprofit background, we’re used to knowing that raising the resources is what lets you get your message out. And when we have that, we can have a much better conversation going into the general election. We don’t want this to be about me and Congressman Goode. We want this to be about what’s really going to make a difference for lives in the Fifth District,” Perriello said.

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

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