"Just as a press conference by Bern Ewert was set to begin Saturday in Bedford, a street sweeper rumbled by cleaning up from the parade that had ended less than an hour before.
Ewert, the former Roanoke city manager, jokingly questioned if 5th District Congressman Virgil Goode, who has served in Congress since 1996, was at the control. By next fall it's Ewert who hopes to be at the controls of the 5th District Congressional seat, as he hopes to sweep Goode out of office.
Ewert appeared on the courthouse steps in Bedford Saturday to officially announce his intention to challenge for the Democratic nomination with hopes of defeating Goode in 2006.
Ewert will square off for the Democratic nomination against Al Weed, a Nelson County resident, who unsuccessfully ran against Goode in 2004. But it was Goode, not Weed, that Ewert focused on in announcing his candidacy.
"I can no longer sit by and watch the continual attacks on the very foundation of our country," Ewert said Saturday. "I am uneasy with the huge financial burden that has been placed on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren...I am distressed by the hollowing out of the American middle class - the true core of America."
He stated the current Republican leadership has operated with an "amateur approach."
"I try to imagine the reaction Virgil Goode and George Bush would get if they tried to sell such empty-headed policies in any city hall or county courthouse, or business, or for that matter, any family in the 5th District," he said.
Ewert touted his record in public service as to why he should receive the Democratic nomination, and the congressional seat. "We've rebuilt downtowns and neighborhoods in Charlottesville and Roanoke," Ewert stated, adding that real estate taxes were reduced in Roanoke during his tenure while basic services were expanded. He also said 5,000 jobs were created in his more than seven years of service.
"In each community I have managed I proposed new, bold and realistic changes of direction, then developed strategies to implement that direction and produced real measurable results that improved the lives of its citizens," he said.
Ewert appears well on his way to gaining the support of the state's Democratic Party. Locally Katherine Turner, a member of the state Central Democratic Committee, said she is supporting Ewert's campaign. Turner introduced Ewert at Saturday's press conference. She also said that state Democratic Party chairman Richard Cranwell has written a letter of endorsement for Ewert.
On Saturday, Ewert used a plan that is sure to be practiced in campaigns throughout the country - tying the local Republican candidate to the president, whose job approval rating has dropped significantly over the past year.
"How long are we going to allow Goode and Bush to change the subject away from the central issues faced by our country?" Ewert asked. "This is not a task for the complacent and certainly no task for the timid."
Ewert, a Charlottesville-based consultant, said the leadership needs to focus on strengthening and expanding the middle class; rebuilding the American military; and regaining a "position of moral leadership, at home and abroad."
Among his proposals was having the federal government pay for teachers' master's degrees in their core teaching areas, giving more incentive for teachers to stay in the classroom. He also suggested providing a financial stipend for working mothers by expanding existing programs to all middle class mothers during the first two years of their children's lives.
Ewert criticized Bush's decision to send troops into Iraq prior to completing the job of rooting out terrorists in Afghanistan.
"We continue to lose lives and equipment there for a goal that keeps changing, and for all of the words used to defend it, just doesn't make sense to most Americans."
Ewert suggested a two-year timetable for Iraqis to be told that, at that time, they will have to take control of their country.
"Congress should demand a full review of why this war was fought with the wrong equipment," added Ewert. Goode was also the target of Ewert's speech as he called for a return to moral leadership.
He stated that Goode should return the $90,000 in campaign contributions he received from the MZM corporation, which has been linked to a bribery and fraud scandal.
"As a child I was taught to contribute to my community and my educational
training, career path and professional values have demonstrated my life-long
commitment to public service," Ewert said of his desire to run for
office. He hopes that the next career stop takes him to the halls of Congress."
(Tom Wilmot, The Bedford Bulletin, December 7, 2005)