Virgil Goode on the hustings last fall>
A little more than a month into Tom Perriello's tenure as the 5th District of Virginia's Congressman, vanquished five-term Republican Virgil Goode is up to no goode (sorry, couldn't resist). As one might have expected from a guy so entrenched that he was still practicing Congressional gift-giving even after Perriello took office, he's filed candidacy papers for the 2010 election.
Goode handed out federal checks to organizations in the district in February that emerged from legislation passed during the transition, his priviledge, certainly, but hardly an appropriate response from a guy who would never have been accused of being appropriate on a regular basis in any case.
The national Repubs have been running harsh, last-minute campaign-style ads against Perriello over the congressional bailout of late (which may be unprecedented for a guy who'd been in office less than a month), setting up the possibility that they really want that seat back. Whether Goode is the guy who can take it is the question.
Goode had a reputation for laziness that Perriello can't even spell. He didn't take Perriello seriously as an opponent until the last minute, then lost by less than 1,000 votes, which likely would not have happened if he'd campaigned a bit more aggressively, smarter and not been such a parsimonious spender (he still has $166,000 in his campaign chest). He squandered the advantages of incumbancy, I'd say, something I don't expect the much, much smarter Perriello to do.
There's another, more important dynamic here: people in districts like the 5th--mostly conservative, blue collar or poor people--tend to vote against their interest in the South and Goode has been a prime example of that with his right-wing bloviating and minimal activity on behalf of his constituents. Perriello is a man who is much more interested (personally, almost emotionally) in the well-being of this population. He is a liberal and constituents' health and welfare goes to his very core. He has worked most of his adult life with the poor and the oppressed, has fought for justice and freedom and now is attacking American rural poverty (his work had been in Africa and in urban U.S. areas before). Goode doesn't even seem to recognize poverty's existence and certainly wouldn't understand it if he tripped on it.
For those very reasons--and Perriello's personal charm--I don't think Goode has much of a chance of beating Perriello in two years, regardless of the Obama Administration's popularity, which could, frankly, wane in rural areas where skin color still matters. At least for the moment.