Don Beyer likes climbing mountains. One of his two current dreams is to climb a via feratta, one of the climbing routes along the alps. Beyer has a certain fascination with the Eiger, or “The North Wall.” For Beyer, the appeal is in the challenge.
Beyer’s second ambition is to be elected Democratic representative for the 8th congressional district.
“You know some days, when you feel like you’re in the wrong business?” said Beyer. “I don’t have those, not with this.”
Beyer’s political resume goes back to his election as Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 1989 and continues through to his recent Ambassadorship to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. But for Beyer, it feels like it has all been leading to this election.
“I feel like I was born to do this,” said Beyer. “Ambassadorship is a messenger role; someone else is making the policy. I’m looking forward to being in a change agent role, where I can affect policy.”
While Beyer enjoyed both being an ambassador and being lieutenant governor, he’s looking forward to being able to work on a federal level. Immigration, infrastructure, and corporate tax code are all things he feels passionately about but has had a very limited ability to influence. Beyer’s top priority in office is to deal with climate change.
“It’s not what I hear most about knocking on doors, for a lot of people it’s still remote, especially after a cool summer,” said Beyer. “But the best leaders think long-term, they’re not just thinking about the warm September we had. All of the science, planet wide, suggests that biggest crisis we face is climate change.”
Beyer’s second priority is the economy, which he identified as a less grim but more immediate crisis. As the owner of the Beyer Volvo dealerships, along with his brother Michael, he cites his first-hand experience in business as essential to his economic policy.
“The globalization of the American economy forces us to ask what the next generation will do,” said Beyer. “That’s mirrored in 16.9 percent unemployment rate for 19 to 29 year olds, and mirrored in the fact that everyone loves that young people can stay on health insurance until 26.”
Beyer’s third major priority is America’s 30,000 gun deaths each year. He said the attack on former Gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds hit this note particularly hard. Beyer has said one of his major focuses in office would to implement greater measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those in a mentally ill state.
Beyer hopes to build strong partnerships with his Republican peers in Congress, and cited his eight years of experience as lieutenant governor for a Democratic, and then Republican, governor. With a 20-20 split in the Virginia Senate, Beyer says he cast lots of tie-breaking votes, but never voted out of partisan ties. Beyer believes it was his largely his experience as lieutenant governor that helped him win the Democratic primary.
“All of the people I was running against were really good people, but they have much smaller bodies of experience,” said Beyer. “With Frank Wolf and Jim Moran leaving, there’s a loss of leadership in Virginia’s congressional delegation. We need experience.”
It was this political experience that drew a lot of his campaign staff to his cause. Rashan Colbert, Beyer’s deputy finance director, said Beyer’s eight years as lieutenant governor and years representing the United States overseas is a large part of what drew him to the campaign.
“I looked into who was going to be running … of the mountain of people piling into the race, he stood out,” said Colbert. “He had an amazing record, and I’d grown up seeing his dealerships and had heard of his ambassadorial appointment from the President.”
For Tia Shuyler, Beyer’s communications director and an Alexandria native, Beyer was a large part of why she got involved in politics, so she wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to work on his campaign.
“My first political experience was going with my parents to volunteer for Don’s 1993 campaign,” said Shuyler. “My whole life, politicians – local or national – have been measured against Don Beyer.”
Beyer admits that the primary, competing against other highly qualified Democrats, was more nerve-wrecking than the general election, but that he doesn’t want to take the general election for granted.
“The primary fight was against a bunch of incredible elected officials, some really smart people, well grounded in the community,” said Beyer. “That was harder than being in a solidly Democratic seat running against people with much thinner records and connections to Northern Virginia. But every day in this office we say ‘well, that’s what Eric Cantor thought.’”