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Perriello says party is backing him
Despite report that his bid is vulnerable
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U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello campaigns in June. (Bulletin file photo)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Fifth District U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello was undaunted by a New York Times article that identified him as one of a handful of vulnerable freshmen members of Congress in the Nov. 2 election.

"I didn't care one lick. I've always been underestimated, and I've always over-performed," said Perriello, D-Albemarle County. He is facing state Sen. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, and conservative independent Jeff Clark in the Nov. 2 election.

The article, titled "Democrats Plan Political Triage to Retain the House," appeared in the Times' Sunday edition. It included "strung together quotes from different people at different times. If it was an issue Sunday, it's not an issue anymore," Perriello said Wednesday afternoon.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which focuses on U.S. House races, issued a statement Tuesday from chairman Chris Van Hollen, who suggested the Times article "erroneously suggests that the DCCC has decided not to allocate resources to specific campaigns. That simply is not the case."

"The DCCC has been supportive. The DCCC certainly offered a lot of support," Perriello said Wednesday.

"We told them the best thing we can do is to get a jobs bill through that focuses on construction and manufacturing," he said. "I'm more interested in producing results than the political process."�

He did not know how much the DCCC will contribute or has contributed to his campaign but said the group "has offered support" to his field campaign.

Perriello campaign spokesman Jessica Barba said the DCCC provides technical support and voter contacts to the campaign.

Perriello said he is "not that worried about whether the (national) party supports us or not. The party support is there, but we're not relying on it."�

He said his campaign has the largest number of private donors of probably any other campaign in the United States.

He described himself as one of the 15 "most independent people in the House." He said he prefers doing things his way, and "we will keep on doing it."�

In the 2008 election, Perriello upset then-5th District U.S. representative Virgil Goode Jr., a Rocky Mount Republican, by about 720 votes.

That victory came despite polls conducted before the election that showed him trailing Goode by 34 to 36 points. Similarly, Perriello was quick to dismiss a poll released last week by WDBJ7-TV in Roanoke that showed Hurt ahead by a 61-35 point spread.

The poll, Perriello said, was a "Survey USA Poll" that is not taken "very seriously" by most. "Every credible poll has shown this is a dead heat," he said.

He cited a "conservative poll" that showed Hurt ahead by six points and the results of a poll released Tuesday by the DCCC that showed Hurt ahead by a two-point spread, with a 4.9 percent margin of error.

Barba said the conservative poll was done by the American Action Forum, a Republican group, a few weeks ago. Perriello's point, she said, was that two partisan polls both show the race is much closer than the Survey USA Poll.

"I think our chances are really good against Sen. Hurt," Perriello said.

Voters are "very concerned about the economy," he said, adding that in November, they will have the opportunity to vote for Hurt, who, Perriello said, has contributed to the problem for a decade.

Or, Perriello said, they can recognize that he "has worked to fix" the economy and vote for him.

In his first term in Washington, Perriello said he has "upset a lot of big corporate interests" who are now supporting Hurt and contributing to Hurt's campaign.

"Some of the biggest outsourcers" of jobs "are standing up against me," including electric utilities and others, Perriello said.

Hurt has supported those companies, and as a result, he "will always have more money" in his campaign coffers than Perriello, the congressman said.

"What people know is I've done something unusual. I have rejected the federal lobbyists and gone against the people sticking it to the middle class," Perriello said. "I am more interested in standing up for the people than in standing up for myself. I think people appreciate that.

"We have a better plan for bringing jobs to Southside" than Hurt, Perriello said of the plan that has several components, including working to change national trade policies and award more contracts to U.S. companies to keep jobs in this country. Perriello said he also wants to continue working to make the 5th District a technical and energy capital.

"We have fought to bring jobs to Southside," Perriello said. In contrast, Hurt "has sent more jobs to China. That's more hurt than most people want," he quipped.

Barba said that referred to Hurt's support of free markets, rather than restricted ones that have killed jobs, as Hurt said in an Aug. 22 speech. Also, she said Perriello voted for a bill that closed a loophole that gave companies tax breaks for outsourcing, while she said Hurt wanted to keep that loophole open.

Hurt also has accepted money from lobbyists for several companies that were listed in a report that former CNN pundit Lou Dobbs did a few years ago called "Exporting America," which listed America's biggest outsourcers, Barba said.

Perriello remains confident of success Nov. 2.

"We know we are going to win this," he said. "I want more time to keep fighting - for Southside."�


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