John Douglass of Fauquier County, who is contending for the Democratic Party’s nomination to run in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District against incumbent Republican Robert Hurt, met with area citizens at the Crozet Mudhouse March 29.
A retired Brigadier General, Douglass served in Vietnam and was the number two NATO general during the First Iraq War in 1991. He was attacked by terrorist assassination teams three times while in that capacity. “I know terrorism,” he said. “I’ve seen it up close.” He was assistant secretary of the Navy and served in the Pentagon and White House under Presidents Reagan and Clinton. He is the father of four and lives on a farm now. His purpose in coming to Crozet was to win support for his candidacy at the county caucus meeting coming April 23 in Charlottesville, when delegates will be elected to the May 19 Fifth District convention in Lovingston.
“The country has evolved a lot since the Cold War,” he told the group of about 20 who had come to meet him. “The West won the battle and then we went into a period with the U.S. as the only superpower. Then we got into Afghanistan and Iraq and spent money that should have gone into education and health care.
“We can’t afford to import oil,” he said, “and we have to deal with the deficit. We have to invest in those parts of the economy that will let us flourish in the 21st century.”
He said he understands that the tax base in rural counties does not allow them to support education effectively. He has a child who needs special education services and he thinks those need greater funding. “Rural counties are losing hope,” he said.
He also backed Obamacare. “If Obamacare fails, my 92-year-old mother in Colorado will be out on the street because of pre-existing conditions.”
Douglass explained that he entered the race “after the senior leadership of the party called me and wanted me to run a campaign to the center. I’m wired into the Obama campaign and somewhat less to the Kaine campaign.” He blamed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates for gerrymandering the Fifth District, which now stretches from Danville to Loudoun County and geographically is the largest district in the state. “This is the heart of Virginia and Charlottesville is the nerve center.” Douglass’s home was formerly in the Tenth District.
Douglass said that as a child he did not know his dad, who was chief petty officer in the Navy and often at sea, very well and after a falling out in his junior year in high school he was on his own and lived in a car for two months. “I know what is like to be hungry and to be sick and not able to get attention.” A coach noticed his situation and arranged for a foster family adoption.
“This election is a really clear choice between Hurt and me,” he said. “He was born with silver spoon in his mouth and has never worked except as a politician.” He called former congressman Tom Perriello’s loss to Hurt “terribly unfortunate. Everybody was crushed that Tom lost. He is universally loved.
“We have to win the Fifth District. A loss here would drag the whole thing down.”
Douglass said he has raised more money than Perriello had and that former President Bill Clinton “will come to the district to campaign for me. What I can bring to the race is the support of the party from all over the country.” He said he has had dinner with House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi and talked about what committees he might work on. “We want the preliminaries over and then we’ll bring in the party money,” he said.
Douglass said he sees “political attacks being made on women’s rights. We’re fired up about it. My wife and daughter are fierce Democrats. Virginia has become the laughingstock of the nation. It’s a huge issue for us.” He predicted women’s issues “will drive a wave back to Obama.”
On the war in Afghanistan he said, “If I had my way, I’d bring home the troops next week.
“It’s a terrible dilemma we’re in, but we can’t afford to build their nation. We need to maintain a capacity to get bad people wherever they are in the world. The strongest deterrent to say to the leaders of nations that support terrorism is that we are coming to get you personally, we’re not coming to take over your country.
“Our troops are exhausted. Some have been there for five tours. The kids snap. Human beings can only take so much. Our country is more secure when it shows what it can do for its people.
“There isn’t a single general in the House or Senate,” he pointed out.
He said he is “disappointed that Obama did not embrace the recommendations of the Bowles-Simpson commission” on how to reduce the country’s multi-trillion dollar public debt. “It is a wise way to go forward.”
He said Obama “has been feeling his way a bit. The ‘one percent’ has to pay more. We also have to cut defense and other parts of the government.”
On terrorism he said, “We have no idea who is coming over our Mexican border. I’m not in fear of illegal aliens, but sooner or later terrorists will get explosives in here. Hopefully not a dirty [radiological] bomb. But we’ll hear about one exploding in New York City.”
He said Hurt is trying to reduce the EPA’s regulation of dust because his father is trying to reopen a uranium mine in Southside and uranium dust issues are one way the mine could be regulated. “We’ve got to get Hurt out.”
Douglass characterized Tea Party supporters as wanting to send unqualified people to Congress. “We need skilled people who know what they are doing.” He said “Most Tea Party people have never had to rely on the safety net.”
Later he said America’s energy future lies in nuclear power and that in a hundred years the nation will be “all-electric.”
“We should follow France’s lead on nuclear power.” He believes nuclear fusion will develop as a power source. He said he has been responsible for decommissioning nuclear–powered submarines and “It is not an easy job.” He did not have an answer for how to deal with accumulating tons of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, but predicted it will have to be buried somewhere. “I’m not an expert on that,” he said.
He said he expects people will someday “plug their cars in at night.” He said trucks should convert to natural gas-fueled engines.
“I’m with the President that it’s time to end subsidies to oil companies. We have to get off petroleum as quick as we can.” He favors tax incentives to get farmers off the electricity grid and producing the power they need independently. He said his farm is now off the grid.
“We have to have the courage to stand up and get the job done,” Douglass told the group. “We have to get out the Democratic vote and we have to get the independents who are fed up. We have to keep charity in our hearts. There is more that unites us than divides us in the Fifth District. We have to listen to the other side. I don’t want to contribute to animosity. This is the race to win in Virginia. The eyes of the country are on us.” He predicted independent voters will pick Obama over Romney.
He said he had spoken at 61 events in the previous 30 days, put 60,000 miles on his car since starting his campaign and appeared on CNN three times in March.