By Erich Wagner (File photo)
Republican congressional nominee Micah Edmond said the combination of his unique upbringing and an emphasis on results rather than rhetoric means he will give Democrat Don Beyer a run for his money in November.
Republicans in the 8th Congressional District nominated Edmond at a convention in May. At stake is the seat soon to be vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D).
Edmond admits his background is unusual for a Republican candidate, as a black man raised by a single mother in South Carolina. When he was a teenager, a Jewish family adopted him and he later converted to the faith.
There are no black Republicans in Congress — Florida’s Allen West lost his bid for reelection in 2012 — and the caucus will lose its only Jewish legislator later this year, after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary battle in Virginia’s 7th District earlier last month.
Edmond said his background allows him to reach out to different communities than previous Republican candidates.
“In the African-American community there are a lot of things that were external to the community that made progress difficult, if not impossible,” he said. “There’s a role that government plays, but within the community there is a role that we have to own up to, and same as with the Jewish community, we actually have to do these things [to succeed].
“If you think about the 8th District and Virginia writ large, the African-American community finds itself looking for the next generation that knows what it’s like to have these struggles. And instead of continually being wedded to one party, they are looking toward investing in a new generation of African-Americans who can be on the ballot and reflect their values and actually do things that straddle the parties.”
Edmond said his resume speaks for itself when it comes to finding compromise between Democrats and Republicans. After a stint on Wall Street — he had to pay off his student loans, he said — he joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served for eight years. Upon returning to the U.S. he gravitated toward bipartisan efforts to curb the federal deficit as a congressional staffer, and worked on both the Simpson-Bowles commission and later the ill-fated super-committee.
“This time the difference between this and Simpson-Bowles was that there was no ability to not act, and we decided to impose sequestration because everyone thought [Congress] would step up to the plate,” he said. “When [Congress could not avoid the across-the-board cuts], that was for me one of those things that led me to run for office. I felt I couldn’t do anymore behind the scenes to get things done.”
Edmond’s legislative priorities run the ideological gamut. While he supports school vouchers — a standard Republican position — he would not repeal the Affordable Care Act “wholesale,” and would instead opt for tweaks like extending insurance subsidies available to big businesses to all employers. And he supports reforming the nation’s penalties for nonviolent drug-related offenders.
“There’s a whole generation, particularly males, making mistakes like everybody does in high school, like using marijuana, and they find themselves incarcerated for 10 to 15 years for nonviolent crime,” Edmond said. “That makes it next to impossible for them to reintegrate into society. Since this disproportionately is affecting black males, we need to have mandatory minimum reform.”
And despite the conventional wisdom that a Democrat can coast to victory in Northern Virginia, he said his beliefs and background will allow him to reach voters Republicans have not been able to reach in decades.
“Jim Moran may have consistently gotten 60-63 percent of the vote, but what you have here is not taking into account that we’re doing different things than prior Republican candidates,” Edmond said. “I’m doing my best to reach across the aisle to different demographics to put the district in play. A minority candidate knows infinitely better the issues we struggle with, whether in the African-American or Jewish communities … and all of a sudden it’s a hell of a lot closer than when it was just two old white guys fighting it out.”