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A few days ago I had the chance to interview Rick Waugh, the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 7th Congressional House District. We had a wide-ranging discussion and I asked him many questions relating to his background, the economy, defense, Virginia politics, and his opponent in Virginia’s 7th: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, “Mr. Party-of-No” himself. This post is a summary of some of the high points in our conversation. If you’d like to read the entire interview in five parts, you can scroll down to the very bottom of this post and click on the links to the various sections of the interview.
Rick Waugh doesn’t have the typical resume of a politician: he is neither a lawyer nor a lobbyist. He is a therapist and social worker. He is also an activist and was heavily involved in volunteering for President Obama in 2008. Rick was one of thousands of volunteers who helped to carry Virginia for Obama.
When I asked him why he was running, Rick pulled no punches: he wants to defeat Eric Cantor:
Rick Waugh: I am a therapist and social worker. I help families everyday with the struggles of life. And I tell you, life will knock you on your knees. My job was to help guide those folks to get back on their feet to being self sufficient. The problem is that too many of our representatives have forgotten what it is like to struggle. They have lost touch with the people as a whole. And based solely on Eric Cantor’s votes, not counting his rhetoric or how he lavishly spends his donations, it is clear that Cantor represents big business, executives on Wall Street, and those who have power. It seems to be a common thread among those who go to Washington. And he has been there a decade. That is why I support term limits, and I promise I will retire from Congress at the end of my fourth term. Our framers believed the House of Representatives should be a place for citizen legislators who would rotate office. Thus the House has the shortest terms of any federal office. And a citizen legislator is what I will be.
I took advantage of the fact that Rick is a therapist to ask him about the kinds of pressures he sees being placed on Virginia families.
Rick Waugh: The people I see in Virginia have great dignity, but too many of them are struggling. It is amazing what people can endure, but it is awful that so many are struggling so badly in a nation as wealthy as ours. Most people cannot imagine being in the shoes of a pregnant mother who has been left alone, or a single mother who is practically netting 2 dollars an hour because she must pay the daycare, and the rent, knowing that she probably could easily quit and make just as much on Welfare. I see working fathers and husbands caring for a disabled spouse or child, knowing that they are needed at home, but they can’t be home because these guys are working two jobs to pay for runaway medical expenses. It is unfathomable to me that Cantor wants to repeal the health care reform – imperfect as that reform may be – and that Cantor would just say “Too bad” to the people with preexisting conditions. The struggling Virginians are the majority, not the minority. Our middle class is dwindling, which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Yet Cantor has the audacity to take away the safety nets that were established in the 1930s and 1940s to provide stability to the nation.
What I see in Virginia so often comes back to economic hard times. People are spending more time at work, getting paid less, and having less family time. This will continue to produce alarming divorce rates, and unnecessary broken homes, which is not good for children or for adults. Yet Eric Cantor in effect helps companies pull the rug from underneath their employees. Then he hits people when they are down, by opposing unemployment benefits. He does not want to help people who cannot get health insurance, even thought it is so often through no fault of their own. We have spent the last year watching him grandstand about health care. He has no reasonable counterproposals to control what was a runaway spiral of health care costs. If Cantor wants to grandstand and preen, he should answer to the citizens of the Seventh. And I will stand up to Cantor on their behalf. We seem to have nothing to show for his representation. I am asking Cantor: where’s the beef? Does he have any substance, any ideas to help our District? The guy is all about conservative shibboleths. He apparently cannot do the job of Whip and the job of Representative at the same time. We need to remind him that he works for the people.
In the course of my conversation with Rick, I learned that he has a pretty unique perspective on military families. Rick was a Navy brat growing up, and his stepson is a veteran of Iraq who is still on active duty with the military.
Rick Waugh: This was more than evident when I was the Social Services Director for the nursing home. Too often in order to receive long term care, many have to sell everything they have ever earned including their homes, their life insurance policies, and their possessions. It seems that our government isn’t doing enough to take care of our veterans, our elderly, and our disabled. If they spend their entire livelihoods protecting us, and providing us a safe and secure nation, shouldn’t we do the same for them with a safe and secure life at home?
Indeed, someone who serves our nation as part of the National Guard or Reserves shouldn’t lose their home or custody of their children simply because they are called to serve our nation in time of war.
Although Rick had brought up Eric Cantor in some of his answers, I held off asking him about Cantor directly. I had wanted to learn more about Rick and his family, but once we’d covered his background, we began to discuss Virginia politics.
Q. This seems to be the year of the Tea Party. Over in Kentucky, when Rand Paul won the Republican nomination, he mentioned the Tea Party in his acceptance speech nine times and the state of Kentucky only once. Do you think the Tea Party is going to have a big influence in Virginia?
Rick Waugh: Yes. I say this because many people are angry at their politicians. They are not angry at a particular party, but rather at the establishment of government as usual. Many in the Tea Party have stated that they will not support Eric Cantor, because his actions do not support those of the true meaning of the Constitution. Personally, I understand their anger, and am glad that many are taking a stand.
That wasn’t the only question I asked about Rand Paul. We also delved into Governor Bob McDonnell’s controversial appointment of Fred Malek to head up a government reform commission.
Having discussed Virginia politics generally, we progressed to finally talking specifically about Eric Cantor.
Rick Waugh: Small businesses and farms are being wiped out, while giant “too big to fail” companies get a free pass. Eric Cantor should never bail out Wall Street unless he bails out Main Street. I saw a Republican bumper sticker the other day upset at Cantor stating “Where is my bail out?” That is so true! Our representative needs to concentrate on finding ways to put regulations in place so that our businesses are not too big to fail. But Eric Cantor can’t do that if his campaign is funded by big dollars from those same corporations. He has to side with the oil companies that ruin the families of fishermen and oystermen. He has to side with those banks that fund his campaign. He voted to bail out a bank that his wife works for, where she sits on the board of directors. By the way, the minimum account balance in that bank’s wealth management division is $40 million. How many ordinary Virginians can maintain a $40 million balance? Special interests will not ever have a place in my congressional staff. They will never influence me to vote one way or the other. Only the citizens of the district can do that. That is who I listen to, because that is who I work for.
Next, I asked Rick about Cantor’s fundraising machine. Eric Cantor rose to power as one of Tom DeLay’s bagmen, and he remains a formidable fundraiser among corporate lobbyists.
Q. Eric Cantor is one of the top fundraisers in the Republican Party. Cantor spends hundreds of thousands of his donors’ dollars every year on luxury travel and expensive restaurants for his friends, campaign supporters and staffers-how will you counter all of that campaign cash from K Street lobbyists?
Rick Waugh: All I can do is bring up to the voters what I will do for them, regarding the struggles that they are experiencing. I will lead by example, and I won’t be part of these dirty Washington games that seem to be a form of sneering at the American people. I will never vote myself a raise, or utilize any donation money to pay for luxury travel or expensive restaurants. In the last year and a half alone, Cantor has spent $136,000 of donor money on golfing and restaurants and the like. For Cantor, luxury seems to come for free, because he abuses donor money. If what he does is legal, it shouldn’t be.
If hard work can make a difference, then I believe Rick Waugh will be able to give Eric Cantor a run for his corporate money. Rick comes from the hard working, grassroots end of the Democratic Party and he is already tirelessly campaigning against Cantor. Today alone, Rick is attending at least three events in his district, to meet his potential constituents and bring them his message of reform and ethical government. I plan to join him during two of those stops and lend him my support, both moral and financial.
If you’d like learn more about Rick Waugh you can visit his website and his campaign blog. You can support him with donations by clicking here. If you’d like to read Rick’s entire interview with me in five parts, just scroll down a little further and you’ll see the links to my home blog, The Richmonder.
Thanks for taking the time to read this diary and learn a little more about Rick Waugh.