Will Jordan speaks his mind

News-Record.com

Edward Cone
News & Record

10-3-04

Will Jordan, the first Democrat in years to challenge perennial incumbent Howard Coble in the Sixth Congressional District, is running as a liberal. God bless him. Here in a district created to elect Republicans, Jordan is representing what Howard Dean called the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

The Greensboro attorney knows he is on a quixotic mission -- he trails the popular and conservative Coble in campaign funds by a factor of more than 100 -- so he figured he might as well armor himself in core beliefs. "I was told my real stands on the issues will turn off some people and be a mistake," he says. "But I'm not a person who mealy-mouths around."

His new campaign Web site (www.jordan4congress.com) certainly eschews triangulation. "I wrote every position paper and did my own reading and research," he says. Here's some of what he came up with:

"Will Jordan believes the war in Iraq was wrong from inception. America is not safer with this war. Will Jordan will fight to repeal the Bush tax cuts to reduce the tax burden now imposed on middle and working class families. Will Jordan supports creation of a Universal Health Care program for all Americans. Will Jordan supports the repeal of the Patriot Act. Will Jordan supports a woman's right to choose."

You want a contrast with Howard Coble, you got it. Not that everyone wants that contrast. When I wrote last spring that the persistent lack of a major-party alternative to Coble was a bad thing, a surprising number of people replied that we don't need no stinkin' alternatives around here. But Jordan argues that even people living in this Frankenstein's monster of a district (drawn by Democrats in Raleigh to gerrymander the state in their favor) deserve a choice.

"Lots of people have come up to me when I say these things at meetings and said they are glad to hear someone say that," says Jordan.

The 59-year-old Greensboro native has practiced law in his hometown for more than three decades (his undergraduate and law degrees are from Chapel Hill). A grandfather who has been active in such non-radical causes as the United Way and St. Francis Episcopal Church, Jordan says he resists political labels because they are often misleading. "I consider myself a conservative in that I don't want the government involved in people's lives on things like abortion," he says. "I'm very conservative about the environment -- I want to conserve what we have got, not squander it."

Jordan has no illusions about the upcoming election. He knows that he's starting late and that the last Democrat to run in the Sixth got less than 30 percent of the vote. Coble has close to $1 million in campaign funds; Jordan has less than $10,000. Forget help from above: The national Democratic Party only invests in races it thinks it can win. Coble is a folksy familiar presence, an attender of events and answerer of correspondence, in office since the Uwharries were the size of the Alps and of course playing with that gerrymandered home-field advantage.

Maybe Jordan's blunt message will earn him some support. Maybe he can attract some money online from people who disagree with Coble about Internet privacy issues, or his remarks explaining away the World War II-era internment of Japanese Americans. Maybe some people will just admire Jordan's guts -- his refusal to run toward the center, and his willingness to run at all against a 10-term incumbent.

But Jordan sees this election as a first step, not the last word on competitive races in the Sixth District. "I want to revitalize the idea that we can run somebody and get our issues out front," he says. "Then we'll have the next election, and maybe someone else will get in there as a candidate, and maybe do a better job than I could." Eventually, despite all appearances to the contrary, Coble will quit and go off to not collect his pension. Perhaps a re-energized Democratic Party could make his successor work for the job.

In the meantime, Jordan hopes to draw more Democrats to the polls and perhaps help candidates in other races this November. A clear message, he says, is a strong message. "I want people to feel like they have somebody to vote for."

Edward Cone (www.edcone.com, efcone@mindspring.com) writes a column for the News & Record most Sundays.

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