John Saylor says with pride that he was Gwendolyn Beck’s friend long before he became her campaign manager. Like most friends in the Washington area, he’d talk politics with Beck. The conversation always seemed to get back to why Congress isn’t working and what can be done to fix it. People in these conversations always ask “What can somebody do?” and someone always jokes “well, you can run for Congress.”
But Beck wasn’t joking. Saylor, who had worked on political campaigns before, tried to make sure Beck understood how much work was involved: Not just in terms of getting elected, but in actually getting the federal government to function. She understood the commitment it would take, and in October last year she asked Saylor to be her campaign manager if they had the opportunity to run for Congress.
Early the next year, that opportunity came up. In January, 8th District U.S. Rep. Jim Moran announced his retirement, and the election scramble to find his replacement began. In a heavily Democratic district, there’s a passive assumption that the position will likely pass on to Democratic candidate Don Beyer, but Beck won’t let that happen without a fight.
“People say we have to have a balanced budget in a certain amount of time, and that’s got us gridlock. That’s gotten us shutdown,” said Beck. “We need to fix these problems. If you send a Democrat or a Republican, it’s just going to keep the two sides apart.”
She added that she has the utmost respect for Beyer and the work he’s done for Virginia, but she believes he’ll face the same partisan obstacles Moran did and the gridlock will continue.
“There’s nothing wrong with them,” said Beck, “they just don’t work with the Ted Cruz’s and John Boehner’s of the world.”
According to Saylor, that change has to start now and it has to start in the 8th district.
“Let’s get the message out there, that there are alternatives,” said Saylor. “The timing is now. Congress is so dysfunctional, what’s it going to take to fix that?”
Beck started working with her mom in the travel industry when she was a child. There she discovered her love of math and finances. She went on to work in bonds, then stocks, eventually become a vice president at Morgan Stanley. Along the way she wrote a book, “Flirting with Finance,” that tries to break economic principles down into simple, relatable stories.
“Finance taught me to deal with coalitions and contract negotiations,” said Beck, “how to get parties to a table that don’t necessarily agree on everything, and leaving with a win-win situation. I also understand the intricacies of the financial system. We’re all connected to each other. Our currency has certain values. We need to be cognizant of what we’re doing going forward.”
Beck gestured out the window to Washington Street, that runs along their campaign headquarters.
“Our corporations are leaving,” Beck said. “And we’re seeing more ‘For Sale’ signs every day.”
Beck largely attributes this to businesses’ inability to repatriate profits from overseas, which forces them to leave money in other countries and continue to invest there. America’s corporate tax rate, one of the highest in the world, also keeps businesses that could boost the economy out of the country.
As an Independent, Beck says she’s willing to reach compromise where most Democratic or Republican candidates won’t. Beck is a gun owner, but acknowledges that the government has a responsibility to take measures to reduce gun violence. Beck says the primary focus should be on addressing problems with treatment of mental illnesses, but says she’s support more extensive background checks to help keep guns in the hands of responsible gun owners.
This emphasis on building coalitions extends to her foreign policy. Rather than focusing on whether or not to deploy soldiers to combat terrorism in Iraq and Syria, Beck says the U.S. needs to refocus its efforts on working through nearby countries to enlist their support.
She acknowledges that her campaign is ambitious, but says that anyone who replaces Moran will go as a junior congressman. As an Independent, though, Beck says she can use this to her advantage in a way Democrats or Republicans can’t.
“The closer in number the Democrats and Republicans are,” said Beck, “the more they’ll have to reach out to any Independents there.”
As an independent, Beck believes she can help facilitate coalitions between Democrats and Republicans. It won’t be easy, but it’s more than she expects the 8th district would see from a Republican or a Democrat.
“Take a chance on me,” said Beck. “At least with me, there’s a chance for change.”