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A day on the campaign trail with congressional candidate Adam Cook

 Adam Cook is in very high demand and on-the-go these days. Cook, 35, is the Democratic challenger for Rob Wittman, Republican Representative for the 1st Congressional District. Although he has the endorsements of U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Former Virginia Governor and current U.S. Senate Candidate Tim Kaine (D-VA) and even received a special shout out by First Lady Michelle Obama recently, Cook is not disillusioned by the fact that he lacks one quality: name recognition.


Cook says, by having traveled to all 22 counties in the district, with dedicated staff and a team of family behind him, he aspires to overcome that hurdle and be given the opportunity to explain his positions, let people get to know him and make an educated decision at the ballot box.
“People should vote for whomever they want,” Cook said, “but, don’t just vote for somebody because you recognize their name. Vote for the person who has your best interest at heart. Vote for the person who puts partisanship aside, listens to the issues and makes decisions based on what’s best for the people and not best for the party.”
“I think Rep. Rob Wittman is a genuinely nice guy and an honorable person,” Cook said. “But he is right in line with the Republican agenda. He votes with Paul Ryan 91% of the time and the party line 94% of the time. With the Republican economic plan, it’s very complicated and there are a lot of people trying to confuse you about it.”
Cook, an Air Force Afghanistan veteran, who was deployed with the Judge Advocate General Corps Corps (JAG), to Afghanistan as a military lawyer, comes from a family in which he is the oldest of six siblings with a father who was a pastor.
On Saturday, The Journal had exclusive access to Cook’s campaign – shadowing the candidate and his staff from early morning until nearly midnight.
One thing is very clear – Cook spends many hours and hundreds of miles on the road as he campaigns in the large district, which begins in the northwest corner of Fauquier County and includes (among others) Stafford, King George and Fredericksburg and goes as far south as Newport News and Williamsburg.
The first event of the day was a breakfast in Dahlgren, sponsored by the King George County Democratic Committee, to which not only Democrats, but also Republicans and Independents were invited to “Get to know Adam and his ideas for America.”
“It’s been a number of years since the first congressional district has had a Democratic Representative, and we’re going to do it,” Pearl Smith, Chairwoman of the King George County Democratic Party said as she introduced Cook to the audience.
Cook spoke about the importance of this year’s election, outlining what he believed were the most important issues which included the economy, a strong focus on veteran’s affairs and women’s issues, and education, in addition to explaining his background.
“I grew up in a community in which we had each other’s back and when somebody fell down we came together to pick them up and got them on their feet, and that’s something I strongly believe in,” Cook said. “Those are the values that I grew up with, but, I think beyond that, in large part, I think that those are the values of the Democratic Party—that we are all in this together, that we all look out for each other.
“We do expect people to work and to do their part, but we know that sometimes an industry goes away or people get sick or sometimes somebody gives birth to a beautiful child and they need just a little bit of help to get back on their path, and that was the example I thought of several years later when I was about to graduate from law school,” Cook said.
Cook said he was about to start his on-campus interviews “to get some hot shot lawyer job,” however, the day was Sept. 11, 2001 and Cook said it changed his outlook on life. He said while trying to comprehend what had happened, he thought of his parents’ service, the service of his grandfather as a Marine after World War II and his grandmother, a nurse during the Korean War.
“I felt that it was my generation’s turn to step up. I thought that I owed it to my country. I was a very middle-class kid, with five younger siblings and I was able to go to college and law school on Pell grants and Federally Subsidized Student Loans, and was able to reach my potential because my government had invested in me and I believed it was time for me and my generation to give something back.”
Cook said that he signed up for the Air Force and served six years of active duty and is now a Reservist—he was the only person from his class at UCLA Law School to join the military, he said.
Cook said that he had heard from deployed friends that during the surge in Afghanistan, many al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents were being captured and that a need existed for military (JAG) lawyers, to ensure that international laws were being followed and at the same time that no detainees that should not be released were released. Again, he felt the call for service, he said, and went to Afghanistan with his wife’s blessing.
“So, I served in Afghanistan and what I saw over there was that people were willing to put aside their career goals and differences, and I thought that if only we could do that in this environment, here at home, that there’s no reason our Congress couldn’t have that same spirit of cooperation with the country’s experience ahead of their party’s interests. We need to make sure the next generation of kids has the same opportunities I did,” the UCLA graduate said.
“Adam knows the issues – all of them – he’s like an encyclopedia of information,” one of the attendees at the breakfast said.
After the King George event, Cook and his communication’s director, Aleigha Cavalier, 24, headed to Dale City for a canvassing kickoff event, joining the Kaine campaign.
Once Kaine arrived, the already busy scene became a flurry of activity as supporters excitedly waited to take photos with the candidates. A Washington Post and a New York Times reporter also arrived to cover the event.
Kaine briefly spoke about the gratitude he had for his supporters and the need to have Cook elected.
An hour later, the now dubbed “Cook Mobile” headed down I-95 south, when Cook and his wife, Melody spoke on the phone. She and family members and staffers had spent the day in other parts of the district.
“Our district is quite large, so, often Melody and I split up in order to cover the most ground, Cook said.
As the “Cook Mobile” made its way to the next and final stop for the day, down to Poquoson, Cook turned to Cavalier and said, “Melody’s coming with us.”
Cavalier reached for the GPS and entered the location that Melody and the remaining Cook clan had staked out and canvassed, at the Bowling Green Harvest Festival.
Within a half hour, the “Cook Mobile” had made it to Bowling Green for a quick pit stop and collected Melody, who was wearing a “Cook for Congress” t-shirt, along with Mark and Michele, Cook’s parents and his sisters Johnie and Jordyn and brother, David.
A quick logistical exchange that included moving campaign signs and flyers from one car to another occurred. Then Melody jumped into the back of the car, and off to the Poquoson Seafood Festival to do outreach work the “Cook Mobile” went.
Arriving shortly after 7 p.m., both Cooks and Cavalier went to work, handing out cards and shaking hands with hundreds of attendees.
Despite the mostly Republican and very conservative demographics, the team engaged almost everybody at the festival for about two hours, before heading back to King George and then Fredericksburg.
“That’s how most of my weekends go,” Cook said. Over the course of the day, Cook made clear that his focus was on listening to residents.
Cook and Wittman will debate on Oct. 29, at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg.
To learn more about Adam Cook, visit www.adamcook2012.com.

 

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