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Author John Grisham stopped in Bedford Monday morning, campaigning for Fifth District Congressman Tom Perriello.
The event took place at the Bower Center for the Performing Arts. Grisham served as a warm-up speaker for Perriello at the event. About 100 people turned out.
Grisham said that he had a background in politics, having served in Mississippi’s state legislature. He said he moved here from Oxford, Miss., in 1994, settling in Albemarle County in the 5th Congressional District’s northern end. He said that one draw for the area is that his wife loves horses and that’s a good place for them. At the time, the quality of the schools was also important.
He said that he got involved in Chuck Robb’s Senate campaign after meeting Oliver North, the Republican candidate seeking the seat. He said that the time he encountered North, North was surrounded by what he described as “Hitler Youth.”
“I met Tom [Perriello] in January of 2008,” Grisham said about getting involved in his first campaign.
He said at that time he wasn’t happy with former Congressman Virgil Goode. He said that Goode, after going to Washington, became totally seduced by the money. He accused Goode of always voting for big money special interests, then coming back to the district and making inflammatory speeches.
“That is what we had here for a number of years,” Grisham said. “I don’t have to worry about Tom going to Washington to be something else.”
Perriello began his speech explaining why he didn’t go to work for a big law firm after leaving law school.
“The real motive is that I didn’t want to be one of the bad guys in one of his books,” Perriello commented about Grisham’s novels.
Perriello mentioned some issues that he would like to help make happen. One involves veterans’ educational benefits. He said that he would like to see these benefits apply for technical training as well as for getting a four-year degree.
Addressing education in general, Perriello said that the cost of college has gone through the roof while government grant programs have dropped. He said that students spend their first 10 years after graduation paying back debts. Perriello said that Congress has expanded student grants and reduced the cost of school loans. He said that he would like to see more done to cut costs, as well as finding ways to assist people who want to learn a trade.
Speaking on energy, Perriello said that there is a large dairy farm in Pittsylvania County that is using methane from cow manure to generate electricity for the farm. He thinks that the project may eventually be able to power the nearby town of Chatham.
Another area of potential is canola oil. Perriello said that farmers in the 5th Congressional District who formerly grew tobacco can grow canola, which can be refined to produce diesel fuel.
“This is technology that exists today,” Perriello said.
Perriello is not a fan of Larry Summers, director of the White House National Economic Council. Summers recently announced that he will leave this post after the end of the year.
“I shed no tears for Summers,” Perriello said.
Perriello said that he sees Summers as part of an elite economic consensus that both sides of the political aisle have bought into, that benefits the financial sector. This part of the economy involves, to a large extent, people doing speculation.
“It is essentially very highly educated gambling,” Perriello said.