Democrat runs against Goodlatte in 6th District

Tom Howarth

Warren County Democratic Committee Chairman Tom Howarth has launched a campaign for Congress in the 6th District against U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke.

Howarth, 67, of Front Royal, said in an interview and written statement that his 25 years in government and politics taught him the importance of working with members of the opposing party to pass meaningful legislation.

He cited as an example the federal minimum drinking age law he worked on as a legislative aide to the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg., D-N.J., in the 1980s. The law requires states to set their minimum age for purchasing alcohol at 21 or face the loss of 10 percent of their normal share of federal highway money each year, a sum amended a few years ago to 8 percent.

“I know how to work with people in both parties to get things done,” Howarth said in an interview. “I think that’s essential to moving things forward in this country. I don’t think we can solve problems of poverty, climate change and transportation as long as we stay in the posture we are.”

Howarth graduated from high school in Providence, Rhode Island, and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Texas.

He said he is running to counter the pressure exerted on Goodlatte by tea party Republicans to adhere strictly to their uncompromising brand of conservativism.

“I think a Democrat needs to be in the race to provide a countervailing force to that,” Howarth said.

Howarth endured a health scare in 2000 when he was diagnosed with cancer but has been free of the disease since 2001. He said he is in good health now.

Howarth said in a written statement that his spell as a cancer patient contributed to a decision to work with the poor afterward. He worked in community relations with Jubilee Housing in Washington, D.C., and as director of The Father McKenna Center, a nonprofit social service agency.

He retired in 2014 and moved to Front Royal where he volunteers at the St. Luke Community Clinic for the uninsured.

“I meet people making $800 a month,” Howarth said in his written statement. “They spend half or more of their income for rent if they are lucky enough to find an affordable apartment.”

Howarth cited Goodlatte as “part of the problem” of partisan warfare that has kept important legislation bogged down in Congress.

“He said he would stay for six terms, but somehow in his math six times two is 24,” Howarth said, referring to a promise Goodlatte made when he was first elected to Congress in 1992.

Howarth added: “During his tenure, bitter partisanship has paralyzed the House of Representatives. He says that we need an election before we can choose a new Supreme Court justice. Well, we had an election and President Obama won. Bob should check the Constitution that falls under the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee that he chairs. In Federalist Paper No. 76, Alexander Hamilton lays out the job of the President and Congress quite clearly. Mr. Goodlatte has read the Constitution and the Federalist Papers hasn’t he?

Beth Breeding, a spokeswoman for Goodlatte, said he had no comment on Howarth’s criticism for now.

Goodlatte is also facing a challenge from Harry Griego, of Roanoke, in the Republican primary scheduled for June 14.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com