GW alumnus Drew Richardson’s decision to run for the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s sixth Congressional District places him on a long list of GW alumni who have run for local, state and national office. But in his district, it may be a futile choice.
“There are a bunch of important issues right now, important issues for the sixth district and the country as a whole and I hope that my background will allow me to address these things,” said Richardson, who obtained his masters and doctorate degrees from the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Richardson, a former FBI agent, specialized in biosciences at GW and said his education was important for his career.
“I was involved in counter-terrorism, national security, and forensic science,” Richardson said. “I want to make sure that we apply good forensic science, so that we don’t find ourselves launching a preemptive strike on a sovereign nation without the proper information.”
Richardson said he is aware of the difficulties that lie ahead in seeking his party’s nomination against businessman Sam Rasoul and then going on to challenge incumbent Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) in the election.
“I’m running in a very Republican district with an incumbent Republican congressman,” Richardson said. “Now, to the extent that people vote the way they have in the past, that would be a difficult election. But to the extent that people will listen, I think my chances are very good.”
Richardson said the academic experiences and the professors he had at GW were the basis of his ability to become more involved in specific fields within the FBI.
“The person who was probably most significant to me was my mentor in my Ph.D program, Dr. Richard Kennedy, who passed away,” Richardson said. “He actually inspired me, I suppose; seeing his fascination and his ability to speak from memory about the most complex topics. He actually turned out to be a personal friend.”
Although Richardson emphasized the importance of counter terrorism and reducing America’s vulnerability to biological and chemical attacks, he said national security is not his only area of concern.
“(My campaign is focused on) not only the Iraq War and how we properly handle that,” he said. “Other issues that are important to me are health care, . the economy, the plight of the middle class. The middle class is shrinking in the socioeconomic strata; the middle class is becoming working poor. While being fiscally conservative, I think we need to institute some policies to make the middle class more vibrant.”
Although Richardson was unable to run for political office while he was an active agent, his 25 years of FBI experience are an advantage, he said.
“Some of the things in my background, the FBI, will give me credibility,” Richardson said. “I think my background will help me with the election in general, and it will help with some of the national security issues, as well as health care.”
Adam Sharp, Richardson’s campaign manager, said Richardson’s FBI experience is a valuable asset.
“Drew has the experience in national security to counter terrorism (as a member of) Congress,” Sharp said. “(He) is going to ask the questions that weren’t asked before we invaded Iraq.”
Sharp said Richardson’s personal qualities resonate well with the voters.
“Drew is very calm and composed,” he said. “He’s not going to get all excited and give you a sales pitch – he’s not a salesman. He’s going to very calmly talk to you about the issues and he’s someone who has a lot of credibility with the average voter. Speaking as a Democrat, not many Democratic candidates have credibility with voters.”
Rick Howell, currently working as Richardson’s campaign treasurer, knows it will be an uphill battle
“Well, obviously, the biggest challenge is how do you beat someone like Goodlatte, who is the epitome of an entrenched incumbent,” said Howell. “He’s been there for 12 years, and he’s established a solid record as a conservative Republican.”
Richardson said his experience in government will help him secure the Democratic nomination over Rasoul.
“He is a 26-year-old, he is young, enthusiastic and he’s been doing things for about a year,” Richardson said. “The case that I will make is that based on experience, I will be the better candidate. Sam’s a nice guy, I think he’s probably going to be a good candidate in the future.”
Sharp said receiving the Democratic bid and winning the election could be an up hill battle for Richardson.
“Well, I think there’s the challenge of people just not knowing who Drew is,” Sharp said. “He doesn’t have very high name recognition.”
He added, “Also, a lot of people have assumed that a Democratic candidate can’t win this round. One of our challenges will be to convince Democrats that in 2008 we can win.”