Nationally at least, I think it was Jonathan Martin who broke the story about Tom Perriello running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia, “disrupting Democrats’ well-laid plans in what promises to be the most-watched election in the country this year.” The Democratic establishment had already picked their candidate, moderate-to-conservative Lt. Governor Ralph Northam. Perriello, according to the media, is the progressive interloper, “hindering McAuliffe’s effort to avert a contentious primary.”
A run by Mr. Perriello will expose the tensions between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party in Virginia, which is increasingly dominant in a once-conservative state. Much of the state’s Democratic leadership is already lined up for Mr. Northam, and Mr. Perriello’s unexpected move made them to scramble to respond.
…For decades, Virginia Democrats have taken care to distinguish themselves from their more liberal national party and present themselves as prudent centrists. But having carried Virginia in the last three presidential elections and controlling every statewide office, some Democrats are hungry to elevate progressives.
Mr. Perriello, 42, largely fits that bill. Swept into office in the Democratic wave of 2008, he quickly became a favorite of the White House for his willingness to vote for Mr. Obama’s agenda despite representing a right-of-center district. Mr. Obama took a liking to the congressman, a Yale University-trained lawyer and human rights advocate. Mr. Obama even flew to Charlottesville on the Friday before the election in 2010 to campaign for him.
Mr. Perriello lost that race in the Tea Party deluge, but soon became an executive at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group. Mr. Obama then appointed him to the State Department, where he was a special envoy to the Great Lakes Region of Africa until he left the post at the end of last month.
But that’s not the whole story, not at all. And even The Times had to admit it. Way down in the second to last paragraph, Martin wrote that “Perriello is well liked among some liberal activists and could gain support with the sort of highly engaged voters who show up in low-turnout summer primaries. To do so, though, he will have to fend off questions from the left about some of his stances on cultural issues. He was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in his 2010 campaign and cast some votes against abortion.”
Oh, yes. I’m no fan of Northam’s but there are reason’s why I’m not jumping up and down over Perriello either. I know and mostly like him. But…
The Sad Saga Of Tom Perriello, A Confused And Dishonest Man, Lost In A Political Nightmare He's Spiritually Unprepared To Navigate was a post here at DWT in 2009. “Blue America,” I wrote at the time, “endorsed him in 2008 after he assured us– several times, in writing and on tape– that, if elected, we could count on him to be a pro-choice congressman. He was elected, and one week ago he voted for the horrific Stupak-Pitts anti-choice amendment to the health care bill. I wrote him a letter; he didn't respond… When he first solicited an endorsement from Blue America, we were very wary because it had been pointed out that he opposed women's right to Choice. He insisted his position had been misrepresented.
He kept calling and calling and then visited my house. On February 27, 2008, Tom did a guest post here at DWT and he addressed concerns about Choice head-on:
Confusion …[about] my position on abortion may stem either from my public association with Catholicism as co-founder of the progressive Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good or from being badly misquoted in a New York Times article following the 2004 election. I firmly believe that abortion should not be criminalized, nor can we allow any action that seeks to coerce women by reducing access to care or making the process less safe.
The emphasis is mine. But that is exactly what Stupak-Pitts does, and quite intentionally, as Perriello well knows.
Perriello is in a very tough district, and he beat one the House's most notoriously corrupt incumbents 158,810-158,083, one of the closest congressional races in a decade. Mark Warner's coattails certainly helped drag him into office– not to mention the tremendous support he had from grassroots and netroots activists taken in by his ability to portray himself as a progressive on key issues. He's turned out to be another political coward with a wretched 39.22 ProgressivePunch score on substantive issues, nestled comfortably between arch-reactionaries Brad Ellsworth and Health Shuler. In fact, many of the worst and most extreme Blue Dogs in the Congress have better voting records than Perriello: Heath Shuler (NC), Chris Carney (PA), Harry Mitchell (AZ), Dan Boren (OK), Gene Taylor (MS), Collin Peterson (MN), Jim Mashall (GA) and even John Barrow (GA). When Perriello gets burned in effigy by the teabaggers he tried to please by throwing women under the bus, he'll have to look elsewhere for sympathy and support.
Maybe he changed? Maybe he’s better? Maybe. But honesty, integrity and character are important— more important than a label claiming “progressivism,” especially when Perriello’s actual voting record is at odds with superficial reporters claiming he’s a progressive without digging around at all. It would be hard to imagine getting behind Perriello, not because Northam is any better on the issues— they’re probably about the same— but because he doesn’t smell trustworthy to me.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis