The General: Douglass battles for 5th District seat
The skill set of military general and Virginia farmer is a popular one in American politics, dating back to George Washington. That's why Democrats tapped Brigadier General John Douglass, who's retired from the Air Force, to challenge Robert Hurt for the 5th District congressional seat.
Besides, he's been through more terrifying events than running for Congress. "There aren't too many candidates for Congress who've looked down the barrel of an AK-47," observes Douglass. "It's shaped my views on defense."
He's recounting his brushes with kidnappers when he served as the number two American general at NATO in Brussels as the Cold War was ending in 1989. The second attempt sounds like something out of the Bourne Identity when two cars pull up in front of and behind Douglass' car. His female driver escapes by driving onto the sidewalk– as she was trained to do, Douglass adds.
In August, Douglass came under fire from WINA's Rob Schilling, who called him a "chickenhawk" for not coming on his show, but seems unfazed by that attack.
He's had some pretty high-level assignments in high places, like working in the White House under Ronald Reagan on the National Security Council. And after retiring from the Air Force in 1992, he was called back to service by President Bill Clinton to be assistant secretary of the Navy.
"We don't have a single general or admiral in Congress," notes Douglass, who claims he's also up on farming issues.
At age 71, Douglass is running for his first political office in a district he's only lived in since his Fauquier farm was redistricted into the 5th District earlier this year. Previously, he'd planned a run in the 10th District.
He sees his distinguished military career as a plus for Congress and doesn't think his post-government job as head of Aerospace Industries Association, a top defense lobby, will raise eyebrows. "I did very little lobbying" says Douglass, who describes his job as pushing for policies that affect the aviation industry– and Americans.
"Who wants to be in a plane and the wing falls off," asks Douglass. "I'm not at all worried or afraid of what I did as a lobbyist. It was all in favor of Americans."
John Douglass was born in Miami. "I come from very humble origins," he says. "I'm pretty rare in understanding how issues affect regular Americans in ways my opponent doesn't."
For instance, he worked his way through college and one of his gigs was as a mechanic– a Jaguar mechanic. From humble beginnings, Douglass ended up a with a collection of old cars that includes Jaguars and a Morgan, and a farm in horsey Fauquier County.
Douglass' hobby combines his military background and a connection to history that goes deep into Virginia's past. As a Civil War reenactor, he's got his own unit that's fought for both sides, the Huffington Post reports.
Douglass' 14-year-old son is autistic, a condition thousands of families deal with. "We need better policies for autism," he declares.
Jobs and education are driving the election, says Douglass, and he serves on several boards that promote education, such as the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.
"Jobs follow education," he says, noting there's a lot to do in Virginia with the textile mills that closed and devastated Southside Virginia, the southern end of the huge 5th District, which stretches from the North Carolina border to Fauquier.
"People who say we can cut the budget and not raise revenue are crazy as hell," says Douglass with the bluntness of a general rather than a politician.
So why run for office in a contentious, partisan Congress after a career in which he's served two presidents and took part in the thawing of the Cold War? "I have a long history of working in a bipartisan environment," says Douglass.
But we suspect there's something more that pushes Douglass to service of country. It's that duty thing.
Favorite hangout? Barn
Most overrated virtue? Physical appearance. Don’t judge a book by the cover– it’s what’s on the inside that matters most.
People would be surprised to know: Worked way up from a foster home at early age.
What would you change about yourself? Get more exercise.
Proudest accomplishment? Helping our country lead the world in developing stealth technology.
People find most annoying about you: Talk too much.
Whom do you admire? President Lincoln.
Favorite book? The Bible/Book of Common Prayer.
Subject that causes you to rant? Chicken-hawk war mongering.
Biggest 21st-century thrill? Getting Osama Bin Laden
Biggest 21st-century creep out? Tea Party
What do you drive? Ford Escape Hybrid.
In your car CD player right now: Carly Simon
Next journey? Family vacation to a tropical island after election.
Most trouble you’ve ever gotten in? Several kidnapping attempts.
Regret: Not having more time with kids during time in military.
Favorite comfort food: Cherry pie.
Always in your refrigerator: Slimfast.
Must-see TV: History Channel.
Describe a perfect day. Bush-hogging the farm and then dinner with my wife and kids.
Walter Mitty fantasy: Parties working together in Washington.
Who’d play you in the movie? Harrison Ford.
Most embarrassing moment? One time I led the Pledge of Allegiance and messed up the words.
Best advice you ever got? Go into the Air Force.
Favorite bumper sticker? Douglass for Congress.