HOTSEAT- Oddo man out: House race challenger looks green

Joe Oddo is a serial candidate. He's running his fifth race this fall. This time he wants to represent the 5th Congressional District, taking on incumbent Virgil Goode and challenger Al Weed.

Does he have a speck of a smidgen's chance? "I've already won by running," he responds, "even though I may not raise enough money."

In fact, he's raised no money, and it was the fund raising that turned him away from traditional political parties. "I'm a recovering member of one of those parties," he admits. "They judge you by what you bring to the table– money."

Oddo (pronounced oh-doh) spent $2,400 on his 2004 House of Delegates race in Northern Virginia, and he's still using leftover bumper stickers from that one: "More trains, less traffic."

He's running with Senate candidate Gail "for Rail" Parker on the Independent Greens of Virginia ticket. "We started out with three people three years ago," he says. "Now we have about 300."

 Train transportation is an obvious platform, but the Independent Greens are pretty loose about the issues they embrace. "We don't hold a litmus test for people," Oddo explains. "We just see a need for candidates. You can bring your own platform. That's why we got kicked out of the national Greens."

Oddo's own hot buttons? Income tax: "unconstitutional."  Civil liberties: "The government should not be in your business," he declares, conceding that he has a few issues in common with Libertarians.

Oddo's political interest was piqued watching what he calls the "Richard Nixon screw up and the Vietnam debacle" as a youth. After obtaining a degree in politics from Penn State-Harrisburg, he headed to Washington, "where it's who you know," he recalls.

That's why he says he ended up in automotive sales instead of public policy. Two years ago, he moved to Ruckersville and launched a career in real estate. With a freelance-writing business, Oddo describes himself as "dual-careered."

Like his foray into third-party politics, Oddo believes he can carve his niche in the crowded, slowing real estate market here by specializing in green, energy-efficient properties.

His incentive for running with zero name recognition in the 5th District against two comparatively well-funded candidates? "I do this to recruit people to run," he says. "It's vitally important for apathy."

Oddo is particularly peeved at the number of incumbents who run unopposed, citing 51 out of 100 in the House of Delegates last year. 

That isn't the case in the Goode/Weed battle, where Weed has questioned whether Oddo is a credible candidate and refused to debate him. At a recent debate in Charlottesville, Oddo watched from the sidelines. "That's just his desperation," Oddo says.

The challenger plans to bike through all the 5th District county seats, and has challenged both candidates to debate. He says Goode has agreed, and he's trying to coordinate a meeting– and get his message out without money.

Mainly, Oddo just wants people to participate in the political process, and to understand that you don't have to be aligned with the Dems or Republicans to do so. "If someone comes forward, they can be a campaign manager right now," he promises. Has he got a deal for you.

Age: 48

Why here? Had to get out of Northern Virginia, but still be close to DC. This area is like NoVa was when I moved there 22 years ago. 

Worst about living here? The library is not open on Sunday in the summer.

Favorite hangout? Library

Most overrated virtue? Cosmetic beauty

People would be surprised to know: I can rap The Message from Graham Master Flash.

What would you change about yourself? I'd remember people's names better.

Proudest accomplishment? Paying my way through four years of college after five years in a blue-collar profession

People find most annoying about you: I tend to interrupt people and try to finish their sentences for them.

Whom do you admire? Martin Luther King Jr.; Petra Kelly, founder of the Greens in Germany 

Favorite book? History of Knowledge by Van Doren

Subject that causes you to rant? Incumbents running unopposed for reelection

Biggest 21st-century thrill? Too soon to tell

Biggest 21st-century creep out? Seeing Orwell's surveillance society develop before our eyes

What do you drive? Specialized 18-speed hybrid bicycle; wife's SUV

In your car CD player right now: Yes

Next journey? Redwood forest in Northern California

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I totaled my car one month after getting my driver's license. 

Regret: Profanity-laced Gong Show appearance in college– I got gonged out. 

Favorite comfort food: Salad

Always in your refrigerator: Iced tea

Must-see TV: I don't have TV, but I did have to see the Steelers win the Super Bowl.

Favorite cartoon: Sponge Bob

Describe a perfect day. The kids love animals and riding the train. So any town we ride the train to and go to the zoo satisfies their senses.

Walter Mitty fantasy: Train trek through historic Europe visiting every art museum on the continent.  

Who'd play you in the movie? Willem Dafoe

Most embarrassing moment? Drinking before a college night class, then falling asleep in class

Best advice you ever got? "Don't take my advice." Lots of people offered this, but especially my mom.

Favorite bumper sticker? More Trains Less Traffic –

Joe Oddo