A Citizen Candidate Steps Forward

When Mr. Smith went to Washington, he was an idealistic citizen appointed to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat who was intent on saving the world.

That character came to mind while checking out congressional candidate Dale Woodson’s website … a real-life Mr. Smith right here in Virginia.

More interested in local government, the reason Charlottesville’s Dale Woodson, 31, even considered a run for Congress came after the unexpected and emotional announcement Monday from incumbent Congressman Tom Garrett (R, VA-05) who held a press conference to alert that he was struggling with alcoholism and would not run for reelection in November.

The Congressman’s bombshell caused a flurry of activity from many potential candidates, all who had been involved in politics in one way or another. Except an unknown named Dale Woodson, who had no political experience with the exception of a brief foray into a Charlottesville City Council race that was very short-lived.

When I found Dale’s message waiting at Bearing Drift early Wednesday morning that provided his website and expressed interest in the congressional race, I was intrigued. He wasn’t a state senator or delegate. He was stepping out with a genuine belief that every citizen had the right to run for political office.

Something made me contact him because I felt there was a story behind this young man. I wasn’t wrong.

He had no campaign manager, no high-cost political consultant, no bevy of volunteers. He was, simply, a citizen candidate who, according to his resume, had roots that go back hundreds of years in Virginia’s Buckingham and Fluvanna counties located just a stone’s throw from Charlottesville. His relatives were among the early settlers at Jamestown; one was the first surgeon in the colony.

He was throwing his hat into the congressional ring so sent Bearing Drift a copy of the email that he had submitted to the Fifth District GOP Committee, and gave us permission to share it. Inside was an intriguing and eclectic resume.

With parents who were Southern Baptist missionaries, Dale Woodson was born and lived in Chile and Mexico until the age of 12 when his family moved back to Fluvanna. Because of those early years, he learned to speak fluent Spanish “without an American accent,” he said, and is fluent in the Hispanic culture.

After moving to Fluvanna, his dad pastored Bethel Baptist Church. His grandfather, Ralph Johnson, was sheriff for 30 years.

Dale graduated from Fluvanna County High School and in 2008 earned his B.A. in sociology from the University of Virginia. Joining the Peace Corps, he spent a year teaching about computers in a school in the small village of Bochabelo located in South Africa.

His desire to work across the aisle with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents may put him at odds with dogmatic purists. “I think,” he noted, “the most extraordinarily shocking thing that a party could do is to run a campaign that’s not negative and that really understands how to directly speak to and reach extremely different audiences.”

That’s the Mr. Smith optimism and belief in the world that caught my attention with this unlikely candidate.

For just one moment it is nice to overlook the fundraising demands, the staff that would be needed to run a campaign in the largest congressional district in Virginia, the contacts and donors and local party leaders who are necessary for such a huge task, and to see the unjaded dreams and optimism reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s shining city on the hill.

The field is crowded with names familiar in political circles: State Senator Bill Stanley, State Senator Bryce Reeves, Delegate Michael Webert, Nelson County distillery owner Denver Riggleman who threw his name in the gubernatorial ring in 2017, Joe Whited who ran for the 5th District congressional seat in 2016, and Martha Boneta who has been around the political arena since 2013 when then-Delegate Scott Lingamfelter took her cause to the General Assembly.

And one name that’s not so familiar: Dale Woodson. Read his letter to the Fifth District chairman, included below, expressing his interest in being considered. It gives further insight into his beliefs and hopes for future political office.

No matter what happens at Saturday’s decision-making meeting, for one brief moment in the midst of this high profile race with the eyes of the nation watching, there is a hopeful optimist in the process.

Dale Woodson’s letter to the Fifth District GOP Committee:

I would like to officially announce my candidacy for the Virginia GOP 5th District US House of Representatives seat that will be vacated by Mr. Garrett at the beginning of the next term.

While I may not have all the political experience that some other candidates possess, I have the benefit of being a real person that someone can identify with. For my previous run I had support from many members of local churches, small towns and farms, the liberal UVa elite professors and students, the C’ville art and music community, as well as young millennial voters who I convinced to register and vote for the first time. There are not many candidates that can come to the table with such a broad and diverse spectrum of support.

This message is not going to cover the traditional Republican bullet points that a candidate “should” lay out. I agree with them and will be more than happy to follow up with details on those specific issues… There is no doubt that politics is a game. But sometimes the rules of the game need to change.

We’ve got to give the people what they want and what they are asking for. We want peace, we want positivity, we want things to get better. We want to trust our elected leaders. We’ve been beaten down by the constant negativity and name-calling to the point that nobody really cares anymore. We’ve all grown numb to it, and this goes for everybody (Republicans, Democrats, Independents, etc.). I think the most extraordinarily shocking thing that a party could do is to run a campaign that’s not negative and that really understands how to directly speak to and reach extremely different audiences.

I grew up as a Southern Baptist missionary kid and was born and lived in Chile and Mexico until the age of 12. I am fluent in Spanish (without an American accent) and, more importantly, fluent in the Hispanic culture. We moved back to Fluvanna and my father pastored Bethel Baptist for years as I went through Fluvanna County High School and the University of Virginia before they returned to the mission field. I am blessed to have had such a unique upbringing and amazing family. I’ve seen and understand things that would not even be on the radar for the majority of people.

With all that history of travel, I have always known that this area has always been and will always be home… I have deep family roots going back to the 1600s in Buckingham and Fluvanna County, and that connection forms a huge part of who I am. My ancestors came across to Jamestown (as the first surgeon for the colony) and eventually moved a few miles up the James River where ‘home’ has always been. It’s been that way for countless generations, and I will do everything I can to make sure my great-grandchildren will still call that same exact plot of land home. On my father’s side of the family (Woodson), I’m pretty much the only person that didn’t go to seminary. On my mother’s side (Johnson), it’s all been farmers (except for my grandfather Ralph Johnson who served as the Sheriff of Fluvanna for 30 years).

I had the privilege of graduating from Fluvanna High School in 2004 and then attended the University of Virginia. After graduating from UVa in 2008 with a B.A. in Sociology, I spent a year in the Peace Corps teaching computers in a school in the small village of Bochabelo in South Africa. Since returning back to the states I have been living here in Charlottesville. I started off sorting trash at the VanDerLinde recycling facility, then worked a couple of years repairing computers at the local Staples stores, and have since been with the local software company Health Data Services as their IT Manager.

I grew up in a conservative household and during and after college there were a few years where my thoughts were pretty much in tune with liberal/leftist thinking. As the years progressed, I grew to understand the realities of the world a bit more, and I’ve “come home” to the Republican Party.

Last year I ran for a seat in the Charlottesville City Council as an Independent candidate. That was my first official foray into politics, and I dropped out of the race in July. Not because I didn’t have enough support, but because I knew something like Aug 12th was going to happen. I had been unsuccessfully trying to get people to “stop feeding the trolls” since the first candidate forums and interviews in May.

Currently I am the president of a housing Co-op with about 20 members called CHUVA (Cooperative Housing at the Univesity of Virginia). Sounds like a commune with a bunch of extreme leftist hippies, right? Well, that was true a couple of years ago. Now at CHUVA we have far-leftists, democrats, republicans, libertarians, anarchists, and communists. And we’re all great friends, constantly hang out, and have countless hours of completely civil and enlightening political discussion. When someone mentions a particular political topic, you don’t yell at them in disagreement. You tell them the parts of their arguments that you agree with, and remind them that we do not all see the world through the same lens. Try spending a day in that person’s shoes and with their life experiences and knowledge.

And it’s working. Really well… The other day I was walking to the corner store and the same person that was crying and opening safe spaces after Trump’s win looked at an SUV with an “F*** Trump”, “Impeach Trump” and a “Love Trumps Hate” sticker, shook her head, and the years of asking the question finally clicked: “Which side do you think really has hate in their hearts?”

Republicans should always win the 5th District. There’s only one real strong area for the Democrats, and that’s Charlottesville. But I’m doing everything I can to change that. Not by protesting, marching, starting lawsuits, or getting media attention, but through real one-on-one friendships and conversations. It’s not that fast, it’s not that easy, and the results won’t really show on a spreadsheet. But I’ve been planting the seeds and slowly but surely we are making a lot of progress.

In conclusion, I believe that I would be a great choice and selection for the traditional Republican areas of the district. I am a Christian, a conservative, and a nth generation Fluvanna farmer. I understand and live the Southern tradition of country living and I’ve been “from here” since Virginia went all the way to the Pacific.

However, I believe that I can bring a huge number of left-leaning millennial voters, award-winning UVA politics professors, the Cville music/art community, the LGBTQ community, and more. The Republican party has a great opportunity to reach pockets of the voting population that they never have before….

If I am not honored with receiving the nomination at this time, I will be again reaching out soon as my political career begins. I plan to run as a Republican for a Cville City Council seat next year as well as in upcoming state and national races. Thank you so much for the opportunity and all of the committee’s hard work. I’m sure this has been an insane week for you and I fully trust that the committee will choose the best candidate for the fall.

Hope to see you Saturday,

-Dale Woodson

The Fifth District GOP Committee meeting will be held Saturday, June 2, 2018.

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