Anything that brings a group of people together is a chance for a politician to “press the flesh” and try to secure some votes. That’s what brought Rick Waugh to Rappahannock County on Aug. 20. He dropped in on the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue parade that afternoon.
The Democratic Party candidate first stopped by the office of the News to talk about his campaign to unseat Rep. Eric Cantor, who has represented the 7th congressional district in Virginia since 2000. Cantor is the current House minority whip. The 7th District extends northwest across the Blue Ridge from Richmond’s western suburbs, encompassing Rappahannock County.
Waugh, who is making his first bid for elective office, paints himself as a common man out to represent others like himself by taking away the congressional seat away from a man who he says is “only represents the privileged few and that upsets me.”
Though running against an established politician like Cantor might seem like an uphill climb, Waugh said he’s doing it “because it’s my duty as a citizen. My mother taught me that if I wanted something changed I should change it. I’m frustrated at Eric Cantor. We think we have a darn good chance.”
He said he has been knocking on doors and calling folks and generally “outhustling and outworking Eric Cantor.”
Waugh, 36, is a social worker from Louisa County who worked on the Barack Obama presidential campaign in 2008. “I knocked on doors and shook a lot of hands” in Virginia during that campaign, he said. His father served in the Navy for 20 years and the family lived in Norfolk for a time when he was growing up. Waugh said his social work background has given him insight into the problems and concerns of people.
“I have extensive experience working with families. I know what problems they’re facing and struggling through,” he said.
The public “is tired of politicians playing politics. They’re not representing the people on Main Street.”
He said he’s found on the campaign trail that “everyone’s concern is the same as everybody else’s in district and in the nation — jobs, jobs, and jobs.”
He said he believes smaller businesses and entrepreneurs “should have the same opportunities as big companies.” He said he favors providing banks with incentives to provide loans to smaller businesses and tax breaks to help insurers lower costs.
Waugh said he has worked with at-risk students in school. His exposure to what is happening in schools leads him to believe that “No Child Left Behind is leaving children behind.”
He said, “We should be investing in education. Education should be the last to be cut.”
He believes rural and inner city schools get shortchanged when money is handed out and he finds fault with “culturally biased tests . . . I think what happens is the schools with the best score get the money and inner city and rural schools are left in the dust. And if you don’t have the resources the kids are at a disadvantage.”
Waugh said he would “put every issue in front of me before I cut education.” Asked if he would cut defense spending before education he said, “I don’t think we want our nation to be defended by undereducated people.”
The candidate sees a need to invest more in the country’s infrastructure — transportation projects, green energy initiatives and the like.
“I met a farmer the other day who was interested in solar-powered electricity to utilize a sprinkler system. There was very little in government subsidies” for that, Waugh said. “Many of the farmers I’ve spoken with are frustrated with big corporations. They feel they’re not getting the same support as big corporations.
“They want incentives for clean energy and to assist with their farming,” he said.
On foreign policy, “we need to do diplomacy first. That’s what we have a Secretary of State for. We should not just be talking to our friends but to our enemies.”
Waugh says if elected he will put the interests of the constituents ahead of his own part or special interests.
“Everybody wants to feel they’re part of their government” and that their voices are heard, he said. He pledged to hold town hall meetings, if elected, and to listen to all views, including those who oppose his own.
“I’m not Mr. Know-It-All. I want to hear new ideas,” he said.
Waugh said he isn’t accepting any corporate contributions. “I won’t be influenced by a financial contribution. I consider a donor who gives my campaign $5 as equal as one who gives $2,400, he said. The latter figure is the maximum individual campaign donation allowed.
Waugh has pledged not to serve more than five terms (10 years) if elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I’m not up there to be a career politician. If I can’t do what I want to do in that time then it’s time for me to leave,” he said. “It’s absolutely your job to keep me in line.”
The candidate has a Web site at www.rickwaugh.com and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Contacted for comment, Ray Allen, senior strategist for Cantor for Congress, said “I think there’s a book out there that says if you’re a challenger you say the incumbent doesn’t understand his constitutents.”
Allen said “Congressman Cantor is very, very focused on what is the top priority in the district and throughout Virginia and that is creating jobs and jump-starting the economy. Over the past two years there’s been tremendous amounts of money spent on pet projects” instead of job-creating measures.
Allen said Cantor favors tax cuts for small businesses because “75 percent of jobs are created by small businesses” and he favors control of budget deficits, “Only then can we start creating jobs.”
He said that the congressman has been explicit about what he feels needs to be done for over a year “and every indication is that the people of the 7th District agree with him.”
Allen noted that Cantor’s children attend public schools. The family lives in Wyndham in Henrico County.
“I think that the people have indicated they will support him and that he does understand what’s going on right now,” Allen said. “People are losing their jobs and it’s really hard on families. The Democrats are completely focused on other things but that and are not focused on everyday people’s lives.”