Politics in West Virginia has been stunned this season by a congressional candidate, Richard Ojeda, a one-term legislator and former Army paratrooper. A Democrat, he is running for Congress in a strongly Republican U.S. House district (open this year, as the Republican incumbent is running for the Senate), and his candidacy is the talk of the state. Where he goes, crowds develop, and they chant his name.
One description called him “JFK with tattoos and branch press,” but a lot of his appeal is this: He’s fierce. He was a key spark behind the recent West Virginia teachers’ strike - the strikers love him - and he generates reports like this in Politico: “Ojeda uncorked a nearly unbroken, 13-minute tirade in which he called lobbyists ‘the absolute scum of the earth,’ said they should have to wear body cameras in the Capitol, said they shouldn’t even be allowed ‘in the damn Capitol’.” Not what you might think of as a stereotypical coastal Democrat.
He won’t necessarily win. Then again, he might.
Some of this came to mind when I heard from Jim Fabe, a newly-filed Democratic candidate for Idaho lieutenant governor in Idaho (one of two as this is written). He said in an e-mail that he has been “a licensed dentist in Idaho since 1979, in addition to a stockbroker, insurance agent, major in the US Army and a farmer.”
He has an unusual and complicated background. For example: “In 2006 I was recruited to serve using my degrees of DDS and MBA in the United States Army. I entered as a major because of my background, experience and foreign language skills. I helped with computer based human identification, which is creating a data base of dental x-rays; panoramic (jaw) x-rays and DNA to identify soldiers. My role was to supervise the entry of the dental x-rays and the panoramic x-rays that was made by technicians, enlisted service members, lieutenants and captains.” That’s a little different.
What is he concerned about? He cites climate change (from a farmer’s perspective), managing growth in Idaho (something not many candidates have discussed), health care (with a position unlike any I’ve heard elsewhere, across the spectrum) and addressing credit interest rates.
One of his immediate prompts to run was: “I want to answer to my 16 year old son: which adults created a safer environment for our children. I believe that the right to life for school age children is more important than the civilian use of military weapons.”
But before you pigeon-hole him on guns, consider what else he has to say on the second amendment: “Create a well regulated militia of ages 30-59. All able bodied/able minded citizens will be required from age 30 to 59 to train and be proficient with handguns and rifles. Eliminate guns for ages less than 30, and 60 and over, to reduce school shootings and suicides. Elimination of assault weapons for civilian use. Distinguish between militia and army use of weapons.”
That should make for an interesting discussion.
Don’t consider any of this an endorsement of the Fabe platform; I’d just say here it’s an interesting mix. But that’s the point.
Candidates like Fabe, and Ojeda, are outside the mold, and shouldn’t be treated as cookie-cutter candidates. More than a party label ought to be in the mix as voters make their choices.