Last week, Lieutenant Colonel (RET-Army) and U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Daniel Gade  made his first swing through southwest Virginia. Gade, a professor at American University, made stops in Abingdon, Wytheville, and Roanoke before continuing on to other parts of the state. I attended his meet-and-greet in Roanoke and also attended the Roanoke County Republican Committee meeting. In between candidate events, we were able to chat, and I got a sense of his candidacy.
The best way to describe Gade as a candidate is, well, an interesting description. He’s the former Secretary of Defense and Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis candidate.
Let me explain.
The “Mad Dog” aspect comes from the fact that he is a soldier and he doesn’t make any bones about it. He is ready for a political fight in a way that I have seen in few candidates before him. Much like Secretary Mattis, Gade has a few rough edges that show in his “no-nonsense” approach to his opponents, no matter if they are Republican or Democrat. He sees an enemy; he’s locked on target. Add to that an extremely dry wit that keeps people engaged in the conversation.
However, those rough edges are what I admire about Gade’s candidacy. No topic is unsafe with him; no issue is too “politically inconvenient” for him to discuss. His raw and beautiful honesty about the events in Charlottesville two years ago was something of a work of art. His genuine sense of the 2nd Amendment advocacy and the start of the political movement in Virginia with the 2A groups is positive. Some candidates would be scared to make bold stances but Gade isn’t.
This is not your normal candidate who comes in from a different part of the state and tries to act as the “savior” to the people of southwest Virginia. If I have seen it once I have seen it a thousand times. Some candidates will fly down I-81 and promise high tech jobs and a suburban life if we only change our wicked ways of being poor Appalachian folk. That candidate is not, and I have the feeling he will never be, Daniel Gade. His rural upbringing and military life have made him extremely relatable and someone who can fit into the conversation of everyday life down in southwest Virginia. His real sense of our way of life and his ability to connect with people of Appalachian descent truly shows that he can represent southwest Virginia effectively.
Toward the end of our conversation he talked about being in combat spoke of one of his soldiers who had died under his command. I won’t share that story, because I feel Gade tells it in a way that is very respectful yet heartbreaking, and I cannot do it justice. I have never had a candidate tell me about an experience like that and my stomach physically turn over because of the graphicness of the situation. The way he talks of war is that of a man who loves a good fight but hates the tragedy of the battlefield.
It was in that moment that I learned the caliber of the man. Gade hates war, but if you start one, he will damn sure finish it. He loves combat but recognizes the sadness of the battle. He recognizes the enemy; he wants to eliminate the enemy. However, he carries the scars of war every day of his life. There is a wonderful human quality to him.
Again, his campaign is in its infancy. He is still working on ballot access and working to gain the base of supporters. His staff is excellent to talk to and work with, especially his political director Loren Hubbard. Gade has the potential to be a strong candidate to take on U.S. Senator Mark Warner in the fall.
Cover photo by Lynn R. Mitchell