3rd District Congressional Race Spotlight: Col. Richard Bew

By on April 4, 2019

In a political climate where even the word “climate” evokes sharp-tongued partisan rhetoric, The Outer Banks Voice decided to highlight a small sample of the crowded, 26-candidate field seeking to fill the 3rd Congressional District seat vacated by the death of Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones this past February. Our strictly subjective standard is candidates who are political novices or do not fill the typical profile of a congressional office seeker.

Col. Richard Bew, Democrat

If one pays attention to cable news, the Democrats who consume all the air in the room seem to be cut from the mold of controversial first-term U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while the rough-hewn rhetoric of President Trump serves as an ever-present media obsession that attempts to paint all Republicans with a broad brush.

Somewhere in the middle exists the real world the rest of us occupy, and surprise of surprises, candidates exist who aren’t as easy to pigeonhole.

Recently, Richard Bew, a retired U.S. Marine Corps aviator, sat down with The Outer Banks Voice and the Ocracoke Observer and described his reasons for seeking the 3rd Congressional seat, providing a refreshing discourse devoid of the usual partisan rhetoric and posturing.

Our first question to Bew was an obvious one.

In a district that is rated strongly Republican, how does a Democrat get elected?

I served in the Marine Corps for 29 years and from that service, I’m running as an American first. So yeah, I’m running on the Democratic ticket, but I’m running to represent the interests of the district. To me, that doesn’t seem so hard. I’ll reveal some of my battle map. This district might lean 12 points Republican and the President might have won by 23 points, but I see three different parties: Republican, Democrats and military-affiliated voters who make up 20% of the district. The takeaway from military service is that you take care of your country first and that’s why I’m running.

In 2014, another retired military officer, Marshall Adame ran for the seat and only received a third of the vote against Walter Jones. Does the fact it’s an open seat make it a different game in the special election?

One advantage I have, whether it’s in the primary or a general election is that I can run on strong Democratic values without sacrificing those values because of my military credibility. I can represent independents, Democratic party values, and bring military voters in at the same time. In the general election, I think Republican voters could also be comfortable with my candidacy.

In past elections at the state and national level, Republicans in this region have been successful tying any Democrat seeking office to the more left-leaning members of the national Democratic party, especially in mailers. How do you plan to offset this tactic? Are you willing to separate yourself from the more extreme elements within your own party?

One of the problems in Washington, D.C. is a lack of courage and if you don’t have the courage to cross party lines. I don’t know how you can serve your constituents. One example, and I’m not using this as a partisan example, is the recent example of Sen. Thom Tillis, who said he would oppose President Trump on the emergency border wall funding and then flipped and voted for it. It showed a lack of courage and likely he sought to keep from being opposed from the right in a future primary.

What inspired you to run?

There is a small cadre of service-oriented men and women such as Rep. Conor Lamb (D,PA-17), Rep. Seth Moulton (D, MA-6), Rep. Jaren Golden (D, ME-2), and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D, VA-7), Democrats who come from military or CIA/Intelligence backgrounds of service that prepared them for making the kind of courageous calls that I admire. I am absolutely prepared to make those same calls and if I have to oppose the national Democratic Party on an issue that is important to the state or my district, I am absolutely prepared to do so. On the other hand, whether it is Ms. Pelosi or the current or any future president of the United States that supports a policy that benefits the state, I’ll be 100% on board.

I teach government and economics and I have to ask this question. The framers of the Constitution intended the legislature to be the most important branch of government. It seems in the modern era, Congress has abdicated much of its power and responsibilities to the other two branches of government. What’s your take on that observation?

Allow me to get a little ‘wonky’ here. The framers put Article 1 first (the portion that outlines the powers of Congress) and that wasn’t by accident. It was the people first and that construct had logic; the executive was second and it was clear they wanted the people’s voice to be heard and take the lead.

On a systemic level, it dates back to the reaction to 9-11. The tragedy brought out the best of American courage and resolve, but it also led to the abdication of responsibility (in Congress) and in the use of military force the legislature abdicated its power and allowed the executive to put American men and women in harm’s way. The legislature never tried to take that responsibility back and that is unacceptable.

On an acute level, for the past two years, the Republicans in the legislature have demonstrated an inability to hold the president responsible for the actions he has taken that has hurt our position in the world and has hurt individual Americans at home.

Many people in this region would cite federal government overreach in areas such as the environment, be it the replacement of the bridge over Oregon Inlet, access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and threats to commercial fishing as a problem that neither party has addressed. Do you agree?

I’ll admit up front I don’t know about all of these issues in specifics. I just declared one week ago! But I made Dare County and the Outer Banks my first official campaign stop and I’m here to learn about these issues and I will learn. My background in the military leads me to place a lot of value in data and to make data-based decisions.

This is a huge district geographically and it contains a diverse population and economy. Can you effectively represent such a large district? In the past, virtually every area of the district has expressed the view their specific concerns have not been addressed and the vast size of the region has often been offered as an excuse for this lack of attention.

I can say up front I disagree with the idea that this district is too large to represent effectively. It can be represented and if that means you have to work three times as hard, then that’s what I’ll do. I recognize we have a coastline, including inland waterways that rival places anywhere in the world, such as the Philippines archipelago. Look at this place. How can you not love the Outer Banks? And so I will make three points: 1) I will not take any corporate PAC money so the people know I will make decisions without that influence, 2) we have to address health-care issues in the district, not just affordability but something as basic as access to health care providers, and 3) when it comes to the environment, if we don’t address the challenges we’ve created on our own, places like this might escape costs now but they will pay an invisible tax in the future. Take offshore drilling, it will benefit financially someone somewhere else, but not here. And if something goes wrong, we’ll pay that invisible tax.

You have to win the primary first. What parts of your strategy can you reveal to accomplish that goal?

Right now, no one has any name recognition across the district and that is actually an advantage for me. In my short time traveling the district, people seem to think the ‘local’ primary candidate is the front-runner, but once you start talking to store owners, people at the gas station, you make progress and win supporters. Come November, if I’m able to win the primary, I think the idea that these strongly held convictions that people say divide us are far more fragile than we believe. I don’t think everyone who voted for the president in 2016 was voting to separate children from their parents, for example. There’s room to come together, including attracting wistful Republicans.

Sum up your candidacy for us.
I’m not a politician. My work in the military started at the operational level, including eight combat deployments flying the EA-18B Growler. I then moved into tactical management and at the end of my career, I advanced to the strategic level working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff interfacing with numerous agencies and across governmental departments. Politics is a craft. No one in any of my military roles ever asked or told me they were a Republican or a Democrat. I’m not selling my soul or my values. My mother was a church organist and pianist, my father was a teacher and a lifeguard. My son is in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. I have other family members serving in the U.S. Navy.

Political courage is issue #1, 2, 3 4 and 5 for me. In two years, if I’m lucky enough to be elected to serve, you won’t be asking me about a change in my courage in the next election. I will explain every vote I make, even if it bucks my party. I won’t be driven by emotion, I’ll be driven by facts, data and what is in the best interests of the district, the state, and the country.

More about Richard Bew
Outdoor Hobbies: Renovating Old Homes, Body Surfing, Diving, Sailing
General Hobbies: Playing Guitar, Spending Time With Family, Reading, and Running
Learning new skills, currently teaching myself welding.
Website: richardbew.com

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Alexander Hollingsworth

As an individual that was selflessly given the gift of life through adoption by my biological mother, I cannot find a reason to support an individual that aligns himself with a political party that openly supports infanticide.

Nunya Biz

This is the perfect example of the fluff piece. What are his stances/beliefs on policies? Current economic climate? Taxes? Foreign Policy? Socialism? etc?

Windy Bill

Wow! A candidate who really understands what it’s all about!