There's hope for America. I saw it this past weekend in Fairfield, Calif.
I flew out to Sacramento to speak at a fundraiser for Rick Tubbs, the Republican challenger to Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. Almost everyone has told Tubbs that he cannot win. But as I told his wife Kristy last fall, "If you don't run, you can't win." He's running, and he just might win.
Fairfield is home of the Jelly Belly Candy Co., the same company that provided President Ronald Reagan with his jelly beans in the White House, where the 250-strong fundraiser was held Friday night.
Life has not been all sweet for Rick Tubbs, who grew up on welfare. But through education and military service, he is now living the American Dream with his wife and three children, and he wants everyone to have that same opportunity.
Tubbs is a commercial airline pilot, an Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel, a member of the Air Line Pilots Association and a former small-business owner who served in combat in Afghanistan. His opponent, incumbent Miller, has never served in the military, has never held a private-sector job, has never run a business -- but he has been a congressman since 1974, when he was first elected at the age of 29.
The Vacaville Chamber of Commerce at the Travis Credit Union hosted their most recent debate, on Sept. 8. A sea of red shirts provided evidence that Tubbs had more support in the audience, but there were a few white Miller shirts evident. Host Gary Tatum noted that the crowd was the largest in the "12 years and five months" he has been associated with candidate forums.
Voter interest is high.
Having won the coin toss, Tubbs began by listing his experience.
Miller started off forgetting where he was in his district. "Thank you very much to the Vallejo Chamber," he said, "excuse me, the Vacaville Chamber, for hosting this event."
The event continued to be challenging for Miller. As he was answering the second question, protesters walked near the stage waving signs. After a few moments, the protesters were escorted away by officials.
Miller's attempt at laying out his accomplishments as a congressman, "The stimulus did create some 3 million jobs," was met with laughter from the audience. (According to the California Employment Development Department, California's unemployment rate is 12.3 percent).
Tubbs, in contrast, was optimistic and determined. In response to Miller's challenge to the feasibility of a proposed guest-worker program, Tubbs responded, "Don't tell me it can't be done."
His approach to business focused on killing what he termed the "three-legged monster" -- too much taxes, regulation and litigation. "Why do we look at the rich as evil," asked Tubbs "and try to say tax cuts only work for us, but not for them? Why isn't it the right thing to do for all Americans?" He underscored his personal experience to connect with his audience: "I understand what it's like to be unemployed."
In his close, Miller's rhetorical question of whether we are going to "continue to make progress and move America forward ... or are we going to go back to the old policies ..." made me wonder if he was reading off a Democratic flash card. His statements, "These are the issues that have been going on too long ..." and "a problem that we should have addressed many years ago ..." made me wonder if he had forgotten that he has been in Congress for 35 years.
Tubbs closed by noting, "I grew up on welfare; I know what it's like to be at the bottom." He vowed to focus on "practical, common-sense solutions."
Miller's campaign site continues to promote his first debate against Tubbs, "Watch the Debate ... on August 24th in Martinez. ... And don't forget, the next debate is Wednesday, September 8th, for an hour, in Vacaville at the Travis Credit Union."
Nearly a week after that second debate, Miller's campaign had not yet posted a link to it on its Website -- but then, after watching his performance, I can certainly understand why.
In contrast, Tubbs' Website links to the entire debate, including Miller's opening and close. It also notes: "Together, we can be The Next Great Generation that saves the American Dream of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness for generations to come."
It might be a long-shot -- but it is the people's seat, and I'm betting on California common sense coming out on top.