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I Threw My Hat in the Ring – and It Won’t Be the Last Time

Bearing Drift – oh, how I have missed you.

I had stepped away from the keyboard and Grand New Podcast the past few months to focus on my campaign for the Republican nomination for the House of Delegates in the 50th District. You know, the one that a self-proclaimed socialist currently occupies.

I thought that I had a real shot with a unique message aimed at winning back the suburbs of Northern Virginia but also bringing in new voters to expand the Republican tent. However, I am sorry to disappoint you that I came up short.

It is hard to have a real shot at expanding the Republican electorate when the local powers that be choose to hold a fire house primary/canvass instead of a regular primary – a process that is less advertised, more exclusive, and more confusing to the average voter – especially when it is held a week before the messy RPV unassembled convention that is to decide the Gubernatorial Nominee.

I was up against the old adage, “Keep it small to control it all.” But it was not all for naught. I learned some incredible lessons along the way, made some amazing connections, had help from family, old friends and new, and was able to run a race and push a message I was proud to share.

Lesson #1: Be Yourself

When I threw my hat in the ring, I knew I wanted to bring a different kind of message and appeal to the Republican Party. The Republican Party of Virginia is hurting, and has not tasted victory in such a long time that people are still talking about the good ol’ days of George Allen – almost 30 years ago.

Virginia is a changing Commonwealth, and I thought my message was perfect. I wasn’t going to hide from who I was to paint myself a little redder. I wanted to control the narrative – hell, I even designed my own logo.

I am a 28-year-old public school teacher in an interracial marriage and the father to a biracial son. I support gay marriage and criticize right-to-work.

I believe Virginia should be affordable to live in and that Pre-K shouldn’t be the cost of a second mortgage. I believe with an economic crisis due to Covid that there are bigger fish to fry than Dr. Seuss and which set of genitals belong in sports.

I believe in standing up for public school and creating a pro-life society that doesn’t just stop at birth. I believe that if you “back the blue” you should pay them more, too, and I believe just because you support law enforcement then that shouldn’t mean that Black lives don’t matter.

Maybe this isn’t what some good ol’ boys in Richmond or out in Prince William County wanted. But I represent a new kind of conservatism – one who believes government should not be invasive but also one who believes government can function and be efficient if enough fat is trimmed.

As a teacher, I actually knew what it took to send our kids fully back to school, without lies or over simplifications.

I will never apologize for myself, my life, or my positions because this is where the young Republicans are. Where most Virginians are. Where most Americans are. This is the message that will win in Northern Virginia if we just get out of our damn way. I was not afraid to embrace this new style because it was wholly me to my core.

Lesson #2: You will forever remember who supported you and who was there for you

My friend and mentor Aliscia Andrews, the 2020 Republican Congressional candidate in the 10th, came out swinging for me.  So did Heather Mitchell, the Republican candidate for the HoD-2 special election. I was able to lean on these amazing women for advice and strategy.

My Bearing Drift colleague Matt Walton, even though he left the party, saw a glimmer of hope in my candidacy. Tim Parrish Jr., Chairman of the Prince William GOP, was excited for me to jump in, and was an early backer – we became friends as two millennials who were fighting the good fight to get Republicans elected in NoVA.

Former Delegate Tim Hugo encouraged me early to run, saying I “had the fire in the belly.” YRFV Chairman and courageous disruptor Jessi Rapelje-Blakey loudly voiced her support for me as did so many YRs, and even the Teenage Republicans lent their support and fiery passion to my campaign.

Delegate (and my first boss in politics) Nick Freitas gave me his wisdom and backing eagerly. As did conservative activist Martha Boneta. I even did the impossible – I unified Glenn Youngkin and Pete Snyder! They both threw their financial and vocal support fully behind me.  Glenn even drove up all the way from an event in Fredericksburg to talk to last minute voters before the polls closed and root me on.  I will never ever forget that.

But the most important support came from my family, old friends, and new. My mom and dad stood out there tirelessly, talking to voters, handing out lit, and singing my praises to undecided voters as only amazing parents could. A few voters on their way up to me even acknowledged that my parents won them over enough to cast their ballot for me.

My friend Nate Fritzen, a local student of politics and Manassas advocate, poll watched for me, stumped on my behalf at events I couldn’t make, and set up signs. Matt Colt Hall, my buddy, former co-host, and Bearing Drift alum, came all the way from Southwest to work the polls and win over voters for me with his southern charm.

I met so many volunteers along the way – volunteers that drew awareness to the election on social media, volunteers that made phone calls and set up meetings, and even older volunteers that knocked in their neighborhoods in the rain in a last ditch effort to get out the vote for us.  It is support and love like this that keeps me from feeling defeated. I can say at the end of the day I moved the needle. I left it all on the field.

Lesson #3: Get to know your opponent

I didn’t get to know much about my opponent. I only met him once. I’m a competitive guy so to me all I saw was competition and I was hungry to win. He was older, a dentist, and seemed to know a lot of people either on a neighborly basis or a clientele basis. In my view, he jumped in late – with two weeks to go before the deadline. I was in the fight since October, and I saw him as a latecomer.

I jumped in early because I felt like there were too many problems Virginia was facing to simply just sit back. I felt like I had the best shot to beat Lee, or whoever the Dem nominee was because even Lee was going to be primaried. So, I took a few swings at him.

Now – yes, all is fair in love and politics. And I’m a fierce competitor. But as we got to talking after the results, I found that he was a nice man and a guy that just wanted to stand up for his end of the county. We were even both from Long Island! Fancy that.

Just like Kirk Cox did, we have to find the good in our opponents. Sometimes it’s easy to be blinded by passion and enthusiasm. But at the end of the day we are all people, and it takes bravery to stick our necks out there in this business. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.

I am excited to try again, and motivated now more than ever. I hit the bottom, and if this is the worst it gets, well then I’ll be okay. George Allen lost his first race for Delegate. Lincoln lost several times in a row.  Dubyah lost his first Congressional race. Pence lost early, spent years as a radio host, then mounted a comeback.

Right now, I’m going to rest, be a father and a husband, and go on vacation. But, I’ll be back. Soon, you’ll see – to quote King George from Hamilton.