Tom Perriello: Better Than Goode

Article excerpt

Thirty-four-year-old Tom Perriello--Congressional candidate and Catholic activist extraordinaire--is a winner. And that's regardless of whether or not he squeaks out a victory in Virginia's 5th Congressional District.

The vote for the seat first held by James Madison keeps shifting. At 11:30 a.m. Nov. 5, the day after the election, the state Elections Board reported Perriello Wafting six-term incumbent Virgil Goode by 145 votes. By 2:30 p.m. Goode's lead had dwindled to just six votes. Thirty-five minutes later, the Board reported Perriello up 30 votes. By Thursday morning, Nov. 6, Perriello led by 31 votes.

A recount will decide the contest.

The electoral strategy of Perriello's opponent, Goode, was one part pork and two parts fear. Goode touted the bacon he said he brought back to the district, including landing the bottled water distribution account on Capitol Hill for a local company. Meanwhile, he told Virginians that Perriello, a Yale-educated lawyer, was really a New Yorker, though the Democrat was born and raised in Virginia's Albemarle County.

Goode came briefly and ignominiously to national attention in 2007 when, commenting on the swearing-in of the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., he wrote: "If American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use [during swearing-in ceremonies] of the Quran."

The Old Dominion's 5th District includes, to the north, affluent and educated Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, and, to the south, Danville, a once-thriving textile city now nearly crippled by NAFTA. It is an area a McCain spokesperson termed "the real Virginia" in a pre-election interview, not to be confused with the northern portion of the state, home to latte-sipping liberals and other suspect types.

It's in this real Virginia that Perriello, trailing last summer by double digits in the polls, launched a "Common Good Fellows Program" in which college-age students reached out to churches and community groups throughout the district to promote his candidacy. …