TOM PERRIELLO (D-VA) FOR HOUSE
Tom Perriello is the Democrat running for Congress in Virginia's 5th Congressional District. The 5th district is located in south-central Virginia, reaching the North Carolina border in the south and Charlottesville in the north.
After receiving his law degree from Yale University, Perriello accepted an assignment working to end atrocities in the West African countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, which had suffered long civil wars fueled by blood diamonds. His work with child soldiers, amputees, and local pro-democracy groups in Sierra Leone played a significant role in the peace and reconciliation process that ended twelve years of violence in that country.
Perriello then became Special Advisor and spokesperson for the International Prosecutor during the showdown that forced Liberian dictator Charles Taylor from power without violence. After this success, Perriello served as a national security analyst for the Century Foundation. He has worked inside Darfur and twice in Afghanistan.
Since 2004, Perriello has worked to launch a political and social movement to bring communities of faith together to advocate for progressive causes. He helped found FaithfulAmerica.org and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to fight for children's health care, a higher minimum wage, environmental stewardship, and responsible solutions in Iraq.
Perriello was one of the first ten signatories of Washington State candidate Darcy Burner's Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. He believes the U.S. should respect the wishes of 78% of Iraqis and permanently and completely withdraw its military presence from Iraq under an agreed timetable supported by the Iraqi people. Perriello sees withdrawal not as a goal, but rather a political resolution that will create peace and stability.
Perriello's opponent is Rep. Virgil Goode, who was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1996 but has since switched parties and established a reliably conservative voting record. In November 2006, lobbyists for defense contractors pled guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to Goode. Goode claimed he did not know the contributions were illegal and gave the money to charity. In early 2007, in response to freshman Rep. Keith Ellison taking his oath of office on a Koran, Goode wrote to constituents that Americans must "wake up" to illegal immigration or there would "likely be many more Muslims elected to office."
This culturally conservative district may seem inhospitable to a progressive Democrat, but Perriello, who explains his positions in terms of his religious faith, fits it well. Fundraising reports through the spring of 2008 indicate that he has assembled a competitive campaign. Still, Goode's years of easy election victories and seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee have allowed him to amass a large campaign chest.