This article originally appeared on Blue Virginia on July 31, 2017
Like a lot of folks in the commonwealth, last November’s election was a wakeup call for me. When did America begin to feel like two separate countries, each with its own heroes, news outlets, and, occasionally, facts? Why do many of us seem to see our political opponents as our enemies? And when did pitting American against American become a successful political strategy? I knew I needed to do something, so I decided to run for Congress in Virginia’s 5th District.
I grew up in a rural family. My grandmother, Mama Sue, worked in a mill for 30 years and my father worked in a Ford factory his whole life. For most of my childhood, I assumed I’d follow in their footsteps. That all changed thanks to a chemistry teacher at Newnan High School in Georgia who changed my life. Mrs. Susan Smith saw something in me that I did not and her high expectations motivated me to apply myself in a way I never had. With the help of the HOPE Scholarship, which covers tuition for students who maintain a B average, I attended the University of West Georgia and became the first in my family to graduate from college. Later, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. I deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq before coming home to attend business school on the GI BIll. I spent time in technology, but my roots are in the south, so I settled in Charlottesville after my wife Emily, an OB/GYN, took a job at Martha Jefferson Hospital.
For too many folks today, my story seems impossible. I worked hard and played by the rules, but I wouldn’t have been able to succeed had I not been invested in along the way. America is the greatest country in the world, but not every community has an equal chance to achieve its promise right now. And our politicians in Washington are more interested in scoring political points than working together to expand real economic opportunity. Americans are a diverse people with a range of political views, but at our core we all want the same thing: a fair chance to work hard and succeed so that our children’s lives may be better than our own.
Our incumbent congressman in the 5th District doesn’t recognize this idea. Someone who dismisses the life and death concerns of constituents because “none of those people did vote for me,” and joins the House Freedom Caucus, a group more focused on sowing discord in DC than working with others to move the country forward, is doing us a great disservice. I don’t care who you voted for in the last election. I don’t care what God you worship, whom you love, the color of your skin, or the color of your collar. America’s problems are too great for one group of people to solve on its own. We need to come together, learn to listen to each other, and work to get things done. That’s the way it was in the Marine Corps and that’s the way it should be in Washington.
I’m going to take that message to every community in the 5th District, and I believe that it will resonate. Folks don’t want their leaders playing political games, they want them working together to build an inclusive, accessible economy. That’s the role I want to play and the movement I want to be a part of. I hope you’ll join me.