Republican Chris Perkins, 55, a retired U.S. Army officer who lives with his family in Lorton and is now a self-employed defense consultant, recently kicked off a campaign to represent Virginia's 11th Congressional District, the seat currently held by Democratic Congressman .
Perkins will compete in the Republican primary election June 12 against Ken Vaughn, the only other candidate currently in the GOP primary race for the 11th Congressional District. Perkins has raised $178,000, with Vaughn raising $120,000, according to the Federal Election Commission. There is no record of Yeh yet raising funds.
Republican Keith Fimian, a businessman from Oakton, came , in his second attempt in 2010, but is now reportedly considering a run for lieutenant governor. Fimian lost to Connolly by less than 1,000 votes or .4 percent.
In Perkins' military career, mainly as a Green Beret (a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces), he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in an attempt to rescue a downed aircrew during Operation Desert Storm. After retiring from the Army as a full Colonel in 2006, Perkins was hired by the U.S. Coast Guard to help establish a maritime quick reaction force to help secure the nation's coastline. He is currently self-employed as a defense consultant helping small businesses provide deployed troops with equipment and services.
A native of Vermont, Perkins lives in Lorton with wife Petra; the two are parents to daughter Alex, a graduate of Virginia Tech, and son Nick, a cadet at West Point.
Perkins answered some questions about his run for Congress from Patch this week:
Q: Why are you running for Congress?
A: "I am running for Congress because the residents of Virginia's 11th District deserve more than what their current congressman is giving them in the way of representation. We need real leadership, not simply 'business as usual' from a politician who many believe is more concerned about his political career than he is about serving his constituents. The voters understand that this election will determine whether we continue down the path of government dependency, or whether we will reject the idea that government knows best and say 'Enough! This is not just some game! Our children's future is at stake!'
"A survey released by a local radio station on Sept. 23rd noted that only 35 percent of the voters in this area have a favorable opinion of their elected officials, to include their current congressman. I intend to offer them a better alternative."
Q: Was there one event that made you decide that now was the right time to run?
A: "The answer is '981'—the number of votes that Gerry Connolly won re-election by. That is less than one-half of 1 percent of the total votes cast, and it truly says a great deal. We obviously can't expect that our congressman will make everyone happy, but how can we possibly consider the District to be truly represented when more than half (50.7 percent) of his constituents voted against him? We deserve a lot better than that. We can do a lot better than that."
Q: What are your top three priorities if elected?
A: "Simple. I want to 'serve, protect and restore.' My mission will be to get the country's fiscal house in order and protect the people's money through a combination of spending cuts and tax reform. I also plan to restore the vision of the country's Founding Fathers regarding the value of limited government by focusing on the few tasks set forth in the Constitution: Providing for the national defense, supporting free markets, and safeguarding our individual freedoms. And as important a priority as any, I will serve the residents of this district—all of the residents of this district—with the political courage and unwavering integrity that the voters expect and deserve."
Q: Have you held or run for any other elected office?
A: "No, I've never run for public office before, instead choosing to serve my country through military service. I'm running for a federal level office for the simple reason that we're doing relatively well in Richmond, but our representation in Washington can be much improved."
Q: What differentiates you from other Republicans in the field?
A: "In a nutshell, with absolutely no disrespect intended toward any of these patriots, I would say 'proven leadership.' I have a long track record of making critical decisions under intense pressure. I know when to listen, and I know when to take action. And while my limited knowledge of their respective styles precludes comparison, I have a long and successful history of persuading friends and foes alike to do the right thing. Isn't that what politics and statesmanship are supposed to be about?"
Q: Are there any decisions Rep. Connolly has made that you disagree with and if so, name your top three and why you disagree.
A: "I already mentioned his decision to align himself so closely with Nancy Pelosi and extreme brand of partisan politics, and his decision to serve as his freshman class president clearly indicated his willingness to disenfranchise almost half of his District constituency.
"However, I think your question was probably in regards to his voting record, in which case several of his decisions stand out as not being in the best interests of the District.
"First, despite our $1.3 trillion annual deficit, Connolly voted against a bill to establish discretionary spending limits, instead siding with his leadership who believe that the country's problems can be solved simply by raising taxes. Refusing to accept reality, he then voted against a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, at the same time declaring his belief that Congress could do the right thing on their own. I find this mind-numbingly naive in light of their history.
"Next, at a time when the business community is crying out for regulatory reform in order to survive, Connolly voted against the bill that would require unelected government officials to get congressional approval before unilaterally establishing regulations that would have a significantly adverse effect on competition, employment, investment, productivity, or innovation. Recognizing these as the most important drivers of our economy, I would have voted differently.
"Finally, and only because you limited me to three things, I'll point out that he voted against a proposed law that would prohibit the government from enacting regulations that would adversely impact on the competitiveness of U.S. companies without first acquiring congressional approval. Again, I would have put American businesses ahead of his partisan agenda."
Q: Do you have a hero or someone you look up to in public life?
A: "Had you not qualified your question with 'in public life,' I would have said my parents who, above all, taught me the importance of personal responsibility. It also rules out a bunch of special ops guys who taught me what selfless-service is really about, more than one who offered that lesson in the most extreme manner possible. So despite the fact that it almost sounds like a cliché these days, but I am most impressed and influenced by President Reagan. I think he exemplified the American values of duty, honor and compassion, and he used his strength of character to inspire the entire country. As importantly, he had the courage to do the right thing, even if that was politically inconvenient. Ronald Reagan should be a role model for everyone in public service today, regardless of their political affiliation."
Q: What career or life experience do you think would most influence your work in Congress and why?
A: "The almost 25 years I spent in uniform, most of them as a Green Beret traveling to some of the most god-forsaken places on the planet, have certainly given me a unique perspective regarding the role of government. I've also had multiple opportunities to serve on Capitol Hill, to include a year as a Congressional Fellow, and I've seen up close and personal how the job can be done better."
Q: Where do you stand on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage and gun control?
A: "As a constitutionalist, I generally believe that we are better off with the least amount of federal government involvement as possible when it comes to most so-called social issues. That said, it is impossible to lump the three issues you mentioned into a single answer, so let me address each separately.
"If elected, I would not support the use of taxpayer funding for abortions except in the very rare case of rape, incest, or the imminent loss of life to the mother, nor would I support federal funding for any organization that performs abortions. However, as much as I personally abhor the practice itself, I believe this decision should ultimately be left up to the woman, her family, and her doctor.
"On the issue of gay rights, I was raised to believe that the Republican Party is the party of 'equal rights for all,' and that equality has absolutely nothing to do with one's gender, the color of their skin, their religious faith, or even their sexual preference. I frankly could not care less about any of these things, but instead judge a man or a woman based upon the merit of their character and their actions. As to gay marriage, I admit that I am a traditionalist and personally see marriage as a commitment between a man and a woman in the eyes of God and sanctified by the Church. Legal rights pertaining to gay and lesbian relationships can be readily accommodated through civil unions.
"Finally, on the question of gun control, I would point out that I've spent most of my adult life around guns of all types and sizes, and I have come to appreciate them as simply tools to be used for sport and security. Like all tools, I believe they need to be handled competently and responsibly. I also believe that the individual states are well suited to determine their own policies regarding firearms, and that the federal government should allow them to do so."
Q: Do you have debates planned with your Republican opponents? If so do you know when?
A: "While none have been scheduled to date, I would welcome the opportunity."
Q: What are you hearing in the way of support for your campaign?
A: "I have been overwhelmed by the positive reception my candidacy has received to date. I'm often not sure whether it is more because of me personally, or rather due to their frustration with the incumbent, but I suspect it is likely a bit of both. The campaign has been working very hard over the past few months to get the word out that there is a better alternative to the status quo. We've held eight old-fashioned townhalls throughout the district that were open to the public, and I've been given the opportunity to speak before 27 groups and organizations. We were joined during our tele-townhall meeting by 2,011 callers who were interested in the campaign, several of whom suggested that our forum was the first time anyone has solicited their opinions! Finally, my Volunteer Coordinator reported just yesterday that we have 162 folks signed up to actively assist in the grassroots effort. To say that I have been humbled by this response is sincerely an understatement!"
Q: Do you have any public endorsements?
A: "While I have been offered the support of a significant number of elected officials at all levels of government, I've agreed that the fair approach is to wait until the primary election is completed before going public with their respective endorsements."
Q: How is fund-raising for the campaign going?
A: "I've raised $178,000 since declaring my candidacy. The campaign did not officially begin our fundraising effort within the 11th District until after last November's state and local elections in order to preclude competing against those candidates for the limited resources. I am now, however, absolutely committed to raising the requisite funds to run a first class campaign. Believing that self-financing is tantamount to 'buying the seat,' but also believing that I should never ask anyone to do what I haven't already done, my wife and I have intentionally limited our personal contributions to the maximum allowable for an individual."