If you don’t live in Virginia’s fifth congressional district there are probably two stories you know about its member of Congress, Virgil Goode, Jr. One is how integrally tied up he has been in the Republican Culture of Corruption, particularly in regard to congressional bribers Mitchell Wade and Brent Wilkes. They were both found guilty, but the man they paid the most bribes to is still a member of Congress! And their MZM fiasco is not just about corruption but also about a local tragedy that cost the taxpayers of the City of Martinsville and Henry County upwards of $775,000 after Goode’s deal with them went bust.

And if GOP corruption has faded from your memory, you may still remember Goode’s moment on the national stage when he introduced anti-Muslim bigotry and old fashioned racism with a gratuitous and deranged attack on a newly elected congressman from Minneapolis, Keith Ellison. (Oh, and Goode isn’t too good at math or working and playing well with others.)

When I met Virginia activist Tom Perriello for the first time he told me he is running for Congress to replace the culture of corruption in Washington with a culture of service. I liked how it sounded. As I got to know him better over the months, and to meet his friends and colleagues, I came to understand that that isn’t a slogan; it’s at the core of his life. Tom struck me as one of the most earnest guys I had ever met running for office.

He comes from a faith based background– in the finest and most admirable sense of the term– which has community service front and center. He’s spent years working on solutions to human rights issues in Africa and security issues in Afghanistan.

I’m not willing to cede on inch of my faith or my values to one side of the equation claiming to know God’s will on earth. I believe this is a chance– even bigger than our politics– to reclaim the very debate about what it means to live in what Martin Luther King called "the beloved community." That’s because loving your neighbor as yourself is not just a good idea, it’s an actual Commandment.

Before we go on to ask Tom about his specific plans to bring a new perspective to Congress, I’d urge you to watch this little video he made for us that explains why he decided to run for Congress.

There’s a chance Virginia Democrats could pick up as many as 4 seats in the House and almost a sure thing that they are picking up an open Republican Senate seat. If Obama wins one southern state this year it is likely to be Virginia. Tom’s district has a PVI of R+6 and Bush won in 2004 with 56% of the vote.

On the other hand, Mark Warner and Jim Webb are probably the most respected and best liked politicians in the area and local Democrats have been winning elections in VA-05 lately. In the last congressional race, Al Weed held Goode down to under 60%. Since then, the Republican agenda, which he has consistently rubber stamped, has turned toxic in the minds of most people.

Tom is running neck and neck with Goode in the fundraising race; each has just over $600,000 on hand– Goode from lobbyists, PACs and big industries whose interests he looks out for, and Tom from individuals looking for a new kind of political leader. We just added Tom to the Blue America candidate’s list and I hope you’ll be moved to make a donation to his campaign today after hearing what he has to say in the comments section.

Howie Klein

Howie Klein

Howie Klein spent much of his life wandering around the world living in places like Afghanistan, Nepal, Holland and Morocco. He moved backed to America when Richard Nixon resigned and promptly helped start the first punk rock radio show in the country and then a DIY punk rock record label. His adventures in the music business ended a couple of years ago when he retired as president of Reprise Records. He began blogging almost immediately, starting Down With Tyranny. Jane taught him html while he held one of her dogs at a party. He is a raw foodist, lives in L.A., swims and hikes every day, thinks Howard Dean could be a president as great as FDR and will never be completely happy until Bush and Cheney are behind bars.