Meet E. Wayne Powell, a Democrat running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Eric Cantor for Virginia's 7th Congressional DIstrict House seat. Wayne Powell is the kind of serious candidate we need to challenge Eric Cantor. I work for Wayne Powell--I've signed on with Powell's campaign as a new media advisor. This is my first paid role with a campaign, but I'm no stranger to Eric Cantor. I've been following--and opposing--Eric Cantor for more than five years.
I can remember when Cantor was still a freshman congressman learning crooked politics at the feet of men like Tom DeLay and Bob Ney--both convicted felons now. And I saw Cantor flirt with Jack Abramoff and help to prop up the corrupt government of the Northern Marianas Islands. Abramoff even named a sandwich in his capitol hill diner after Cantor--it was a tunafish sandwich until Cantor requested something more manly. Abramoff and Cantor finally settled on roast beef on challah bread. While his crooked mentors went to prison, Cantor managed to slither away from the scandal and emerge as one of the leaders of the "pay to play" faction of the Republican Party.
For the last ten years or so the 7th Congressional District has been seen as hard to win for Democrats, and as a result the 7th District race has attracted "protest" candidates that did not run serious campaigns and did not present Eric Cantor with genuine challenges. These "protest" candidates have run for a variety of reasons: self-promotion, promotion of beliefs outside the mainstream Democratic Party, or as a token candidate simply to have a name on the ballot without actually conducting a full-scale campaign. Cantor's last challenger was an out of work social worker without any resources to speak of.
Wayne Powell is something very different: he is organized and is mounting a serious campaign aimed at beating Eric Cantor. Powell is a very successful attorney with his own firm and two real estate businesses. He has already established a bricks-and-mortar headquarters to house his campaign. I attended an organizational meeting on Sunday that was packed with volunteers looking for ways to help defeat Eric Cantor--more than 14 months before the next election.
Among the very first pieces of advice I gave Wayne Powell was to take the time to build a relationship with the Daily Kos community. DK has shown time and time again that it has real teeth and can help candidates in high profile races attract attention and support.
I was also a part of Jim Webb's successful insurgent campaign in 2006. In 2006 we showed how a true grassroots/netroots campaign could upset the Democratic establishment and then take down the Republican Party of Virginia's favorite son at that time: George Allen. The key to taking on a career politician like George Allen or Eric Cantor is to have a real candidate with a compelling record of service. George Allen couldn't stand up to a comparison with Jim Webb and in the end, he self-destructed. Eric Cantor will not find standing next to Wayne Powell a comfortable place to be.
Eric Cantor is notoriously inarticulate. Every time he goes on television he embarrasses his constituents and the entire State of Virginia. But Cantor has been able to evade debating past challengers by arguing that they weren't serious candidates. Powell's record is going to make it more difficult for Cantor to dodge a debate, but Powell is going to need the help of the netroots to get the support he'll need to force Cantor to debate--he'll need to have the means to run television commercials calling Cantor out for his cowardice if he tries to dodge.
Because of Eric Cantor's leadership role within the Republican Party, this is going to be a national campaign that draws on supporters from across the nation. Republicans have gained victories in the past by attacking Democrats where they seemed safest. We need to take a page out of their playbook and hit them where they seem strong, by taking the fight to their leaders.
It is a little more than 14 months to the November 2012 elections, and we are here to build relationships. Powell will be registering as a DK user in a day or two and I hope that we'll have him in here live blogging soon. In the meantime, on behalf of his campaign, I would like to invite you to check out E. Wayne Powell for yourselves. Read his biography,follow his news page, and "like" his campaign's Facebook page. You can also make a donation if you feel so inclined.
I hope you will join Wayne Powell as he moves forward with this challenge to Eric Cantor.