'Underdog' takes on Republican incumbent

Paige Gance

Democrat Andy Schmookler has never run for public office, but next year he hopes to beat Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Republican incumbent in the conservative 6th Congressional district.

Goodlatte has held his seat for 18 years and raised more than $500,000, according to the most recent data collected by Federal Elections Commission.  Schmookler has raised about $19,000, nearly all from individual contributions.

“He’s a little bit of an underdog,” said Jeremiah John, an assistant professor of politics at Southern Virginia University.

During a speech Wednesday at SVU, Schmookler, a Shenandoah County resident, said he knows the odds are against him, but added, “The conventional assumptions don’t apply to me.”

“People power must defeat money power,” he said.

John Zeledon, acting president of the Young Democrats at SVU, said the group invited Schmookler to the small Mormon-affiliated campus that is predominantly conservative.

Schmookler spoke at length about the country’s political polarization and how it stirred him to run for Congress. “We’ve ceased to share a common factual reality,” he said. “We are losing our country because lies are beating truth.”

He accused Republicans of “scandalous conduct” by threatening to filibuster to block legislation.  He also called President Obama and Democrats “wimpish” for allowing the Republicans to get away with this behavior.

“The Democratic Party is weak, and the Republican Party is destructive,” Schmookler said.

He said Goodlatte could spend $2 million to $4 million on his campaign. Schmookler also said his opponent “has made himself a willing foot soldier of a party that has behaved shamelessly.”

A representative from Goodlatte’s Washington office said the congressman had no comment.

Schmookler said he will rely on small donations to finance his campaign, and he needs “all the help I can, not to be outspent 10 to one.”