COVER- High hopes: Locals pump up Barack, Hillary, Mitt, and more with money, time (and sometimes helium)
Although it's been 87 years since a Virginian has resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, make no mistake that the Mother of Presidents is as important as ever in deciding who will become the next Chief Executive of the United States. While she doesn't have a child in this year's race (see p. 35 to find out why not) she's a sugar mama to anyone seeking to move into the White House in 2009.
The Hook examined federal disclosure forms and found that candidates have raised over $290,000 through fiscal year 2007 in the Charlottesville area alone. But locals aren't just opening their wallets for their favorite presidential contenders. They're donating time, star power, and, yes, helium.
Jack Faw has tricked out his truck in all things Ron Paul.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
Jack Faw: $2,000 (plus $3,000+ in blimp costs) to Ron Paul
Seven months ago, retired goat farmer Jack Faw had no intention of getting involved in this year's presidential campaign, He'd had his hopes dashed one time too many.
"I worked hard for Barry Goldwater in 1964," says Faw. "When he lost, I was heartbroken. Since then, I've just voted for the lesser of two evils."
But then, in May of last year, Faw was watching a Fox News debate between the Republican candidates in South Carolina, and he fell in love at first fight.
"When I saw Ron Paul stand up to power and tell Rudy Giuliani that it's our interference in the Middle East– not our values– that makes the terrorists hate us, I got online and made a donation to his campaign that night," says Faw.
The more Faw learned about the Texas congressman, the more he knew this wouldn't be a one-night stand.
"He's like a prophet," says Faw. "Our government is way too big, we're going broke, and he's the only man standing up against it. He's been in Congress 35 years fighting for the things I believe in, and I didn't even know it."
The law limits contributions to $2,300 per election, but Faw has found ways to go beyond donating cash to Paul's coffers. Every day, he hands out literature and preaches the gospel according to Paul to anyone who will listen. That's a task that's become easier with the help of a particularly conspicuous visual aid he acquired for $3,000– a 15-foot long helium blimp.
"Radio and newspaper ads, they just get lost," says Faw. "But this blimp's definitely gotten people's attention. Our group has really grown over the last few weeks."
Charlottesville-Albemarle Public Defender Jim Hingeley says that when he met Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) last March, Obama expressed "appreciation for the work we do" relating it to his experience as a community organizer in Chicago.
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
Jim Hingeley: $2,200 to Barack Obama
In recent presidential elections, one technique voters have used to pick which horse to back is asking, "Who would you like to have a beer with?" If public defender Jim Hingeley ever gets to have that hypothetical brew with Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), they will have a lot of common experiences to talk about.
"After he graduated from Harvard Law School, he could have written his own ticket," says Hingeley, himself a graduate of Harvard and UVA Law, "but instead he went to Chicago, wanted to give back, and got involved in public policy. I identified with that."
After meeting Obama in March at a reception in Richmond with Gov. Tim Kaine, Hingeley was completely sure that he was betting on the right candidate.
"Sen. Obama just seems to have really good judgment," says Hingeley. "It's not just about the issues at hand, but when you're president, you get hit with all kinds of issues you can't predict. He has the judgment, the life experience, and the public policy experience to make the right call."
Hingeley so strongly believes in Obama that he's currently using his January vacation time to campaign for the freshman senator in the key early primary state of South Carolina.
"I'm in my car driving down to Charleston right now," Hingeley told the Hook Wednesday, January 2, more than three weeks before the Palmetto State's primary. "I don't quite know what to expect, but I'm ready for anything."
Attorney Duane Zobrist says Mitt Romney's Mormon background isn't the reason he's backing the former Massachusetts governor, but that "he would bring a level of morality to the presidency."
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
Duane Zobrist: $2,100 to Mitt Romney
While most Americans are only beginning to become acquainted with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R), Duane Zobrist's support for the whole Romney clan goes back 40 years.
"In 1967, when I was an undergrad at the University of Utah, I was the chair of Students for George Romney [Mitt's father, then Governor of Michigan], back when Mitt was just a kid," says Zobrist, a Charlottesville attorney.
Now that both he and Romney are grown, Zobrist says that Romney is the best man to move into the White House in January 2009.
"He just hits home runs in everything he does," says Zobrist of his candidate. "From founding [Boston-based private equity firm] Bain Capital, to saving the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when they were in such, bad corrupt shape and saved us a national embarrassment, to governing as a true conservative in the bluest state, he's accomplished a lot, and he's a winner."
Much has been made of the fact that Romney is a practicing Mormon. As recently as last month, former Arkansas governor and Romney rival for the GOP nomination Mike Huckabee wondered aloud to the New York Times, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"
Zobrist believes that Romney has handled the issue of his religion correctly.
"He's taken the right position in that it's not an issue," he says. "He's been married to the same woman his whole life, and he would bring a level of morality to the presidency, but he hasn't made an issue of it. I'm a Mormon, but I support him because he's the best man for the job."
Doug Caton met Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) at a Washington fundraiser last year and found the San Diego congressman to be "a dynamic guy who's generally concerned about the average American citizen."
PHOTO BY LINDSAY BARNES
Doug Caton: $500 to Duncan Hunter
As the founder and chair of Management Services Corporation, a Charlottesville-based property-management firm specializing in building and restoration, an issue that's particularly important to Doug Caton is illegal immigration. That's why he's backing California congressman Duncan Hunter in his run for the White House.
"We are the only developed nation that cannot control its own border. So he sponsored and got passed a law to build an 850-mile fence along the Mexican border," says Caton of the Republican lawmaker. "So far we've built only a mile of it. At that rate, it will take 850 years to complete, but he says he'll get it done in his first six months in office."
Additionally, Caton, a Vietnam veteran in the 82nd Airborne and a retired major general in the U.S. Army Reserve, says he relates to Hunter's Vietnam experience as an Army Ranger.
"I'm really uncomfortable with politicians sending young men and women to war who have never heard a shot fired in anger," says Caton. "Other than [Sen.] John McCain [R-AZ], Duncan Hunter is the only one with any experience in active military where the rubber meets the road, and John McCain makes bad judgments."
Currently, Hunter's chance of winning the Republican nomination is a long shot at best. At press time, a Gallup survey put Hunter dead last among Republicans voting in this week's New Hampshire primary, polling at 1 percent. Caton says that both he and Hunter remain undaunted.
"He's the underdog," says Caton, "but he's a doer, and he makes better sense than most of the nonsense coming out of Washington."
Grisham with Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) at their Paramount Theater fundraiser on September 23.
FILE PHOTO BY TOM DALY
John Grisham: $2,300 to Hillary Clinton
When best-selling author John Grisham got on board with Sen Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) presidential campaign, it was the fruition of a more than 10-year relationship.
"We go way back," Grisham told the Hook in August. (He was unavailable for a comment for this piece.) "We met the Clintons 15 years ago when they were in the White House for a screening of The Pelican Brief."
At the September 23 fundraiser Grisham hosted for Clinton at the Paramount Theater, the former First Lady revealed the connection goes back even further than that. She said that some recent genealogical research had revealed her husband and Grisham, both born in Arkansas, were "like 17th cousins twice removed."
Grisham retorted, "Sooner or later, everyone there's pretty much related."
That event raised a reported $200,000 for Sen. Clinton's campaign, accounting for her huge fundraising lead among Charlottesvillians in fiscal year 2007. (See graph, p. 33).
Should Clinton eventually return to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Grisham joked in September that he might be considered for a prestigious post abroad.
"Paris or Rome, can I plug in for those two?" Grisham asked from the stage.
"Sure," Clinton deadpanned. "I'll just add you to the list."
Dave Matthews Band's Boyd Tinsley– seen here at DMB's John Paul Jones Arena show in September 2006– backs former North Carolina senator John Edwards.
FILE PHOTO BY WILL WALKER
Other notable campaign donations from Charlottesville
Patricia Kluge (entrepreneur, Kluge Estate Winery)- $2,300 to Hillary Clinton
Boyd Tinsley (fiddler, Dave Matthews Band)- $2,300 to John Edwards
Peter Griesar (former keyboardist, Dave Matthews Band)- $1,000 to Hillary Clinton
Jim Murray (venture capitalist, Court Square Ventures)- $2,300 to Barack Obama
Ludwig Kuttner (former CEO, Hampshire Group)- $500 to Barack Obama
Phil Wendel (founder, Atlantic Coast Atlantic Club)- $2,000 to Rudy Giuliani
SIDEBAR- Hill-bent: Clinton's appeal divided along Blue Ridge in '07
Although the presidential campaign season is still young, there's no denying that at this early stage Charlottesville is Clinton country. According to the Federal Election Commission, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) leads among all White House hopefuls in money raised from the Charlottesville area with a whopping $105,846,nearly triple the amount raised by her closest rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).
Much of this is due to the September 23 fundraiser Clinton held at the Paramount Theater with best-selling author John Grisham a week before the end of fiscal year 2007. (The money Obama hauled in at his October 29 Charlottesville Pavilion rally won't be reported until January 31, when the FEC reveals totals from the first quarter of fiscal year 2008.)
CAMPAIGN DONATIONS FROM THE CHARLOTTESVILLE AREA*
Hillary Clinton (D)- $105,846
Barack Obama (D)- $39,662
Mitt Romney (R)- $34,805
John McCain (R)- $23,050
John Edwards (D)- $22,739
Rudy Giuliani (R)- $21,950
Ron Paul (R)- $12,729
Chris Dodd (D)- $12,500
Fred Thompson (R)- $8,750
Mike Huckabee (R)- $5,125
*zip codes beginning with 229
In the Shenandoah Valley, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson lead the pack with $4,550 each. This comes as no surprise, as the region has long been identified as socially conservative (70 percent voted in favor of the 2006 marriage amendment), and both Thompson and Romney have courted those alienated by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani's left-leaning positions on such hot-button issues as abortion and gun control.
What's surprising is that Obama– an unapologetic social liberal– trails Thompson and Romney by only $120. Even more contrary to conventional wisdom is that while Clinton has positioned herself as the most moderate Democrat in the field, she has raised only $750 in the Valley, a mere 17 percent of Obama's total.
CAMPAIGN DONATIONS FROM THE WAYNESBORO/STAUNTON AREA*
Fred Thompson (R)- $4,550
Mitt Romney (R)- $4,550
Barack Obama (D)- $4,430
Ron Paul (R)- $2,000
John McCain (R)- $1,500
Rudy Giuliani (R)- $1,200
*zip codes beginning with 244
SIDEBAR- Best laid plans: Why a Virginian won't be in the White House
Once considered frontrunners for their respective parties' nomination, neither former governor Mark Warner (D) nor former senator George Allen (R) are candidates for president in 2008.
On January 5, 2006, in a cover story called "Grown in Virginia? Are Allen and Warner ripe for the Oval Office?" the Hook wondered if the 2008 race for president might come down to an all-Old Dominion match-up between former governor Mark Warner (D) and then-senator George Allen (R). Politicos were aflutter at the time, as both former guvs had set up federal political action committees, fared well in hypothetical presidential polls, and yet remained coy about their aspirations for higher office.
But two years is an eternity in politics, and now both Warner and Allen are nowhere to be found in the '08 campaign for the White House. What happened?
By October 2006, Warner had spent many a day in Iowa and New Hampshire, had raised over $9 million for his Forward Together PAC, and was considered the leading alternative to then-frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). But then the cell phone magnate-turned-statesman rocked supporters on October 12, 2006 when he announced that a visit with his octogenarian father, and college tours with his teenage daughter had led to a change of heart.
"This is not a choice that was made based on whether I would win or lose," Warner read from a prepared statement at a press conference. "I can say with complete conviction that 15 months out from the first nomination contests, I feel we would have had as good a shot to be successful as any potential candidate in the field."
As it turned out, Warner was not finished with politics. On September 13, 2007, he announced his candidacy for the seat to be vacated by retiring Republican Senator John Warner (no relation). If he's elected this year (he's a heavy favorite against former governor and presumptive GOP nominee Jim Gilmore), it would mark the first time the Commonwealth would be represented in the Senate by two Democrats since Harry Byrd Jr. and William Spong in 1970.
While Warner engineered his own departure from the 2008 presidential race, many have argued Allen was vanquished by YouTube. In August 2006, he was the conservatives' darling, coasting to re-election to the Senate on his way to a presidential bid. Then, at a campaign rally in a small rural part of the state, he uttered the now-infamous words, "Let's give a welcome to macaca here. Welcome to America, and the real world of Virginia."
"Macaca"– a young UVA student of Indian descent who was in the audience filming Allen's remarks on a digital camera– was S.R. Sidarth, a volunteer for Democratic opponent Jim Webb. As it turned out, "macaca" also happens to be a species of monkey and an ethnic slur in northern Africa.
Soon the video dominated the Internet and cable news, and from there, a series of public relations gaffes– including Allen volunteers tackling left-wing blogger Mike Stark at a Charlottesville event eight days before the election– decimated Allen's once-sizable lead. On Election Day, Webb barely pulled off the upset, ousting Allen by just 9,329 votes, less than half a percentage point.
In the aftermath, Allen announced he wouldn't seek the presidency in '08, and last year he declined to make another run for the Senate. But Virginia hasn't seen the last of the cowboy-booted Republican who used to represent Albemarle in the General Assembly and in Congress. The former UVA football player currently writes a blog at georgeallen.com, filled with political and pigskin commentary, and he co-chairs former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Last month, he teased conservatives pining for his return to the fray when he told Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, "Many people are encouraging me to run" for governor in '09, but he said, for now, he's "simply listening."