A retired Navy captain is pledging to take no prisoners in his quest to enact a conservative agenda if he makes it to Congress by flipping a Democrat-held seat in Virginia this year.
Hung Cao, who as a child came to the U.S. with his family as a Vietnamese refugee, said he’s not interested in bipartisanship and accused Democrats of dismantling the Constitution.
“What the Biden administration is doing is chipping away at the Constitution,” Mr. Cao told The Washington Times. “I will not collaborate on anything that will take away our rights as Americans and destroy what I swore to protect and support, which is the Constitution.”
The political newcomer’s campaign hinges upon assembling a broad coalition of voters in Virginia’s 10th District, which is made up of Washington’s suburbs and exurbs, including the conservative activist hub Loudoun County.
After winning a crowded GOP primary field with 53% of the vote, he is taking on Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton in November.
Ms. Wexton, a former domestic violence prosecutor and state lawmaker, is running for a third term after defeating Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Republican, in 2018.
Mr. Cao’s platform is heavy on a get-tough national security agenda with a large dose of education, fiscal responsibility, and combating illegal immigration.
He sees his lack of experience in the political arena as an asset, pointing to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s upset election win last year when the Republican businessman beat Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, whom he dubbed an out-of-touch insider.
“Virginians are sick and tired of insiders,” Mr. Cao said. “When you have career politicians that have been in there for 50 years and never accomplished anything, I don’t think Americans want that. That’s why Glenn Youngkin is the governor right now and that’s why I won the primary by a landslide.”
Before entering the political arena, Mr. Cao served for 25 years in special operations in the Navy. He was raised in West Africa after fleeing Vietnam in 1975 before the fall of Saigon and came to the United States in 1982.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy, a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School, and is currently a fellow for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
Mr. Cao blamed President Biden for a series of foreign policy blunders, including the botched U.S. withdrawal of Afghanistan, voting for the Iraq War as a senator, and blocking funding to help evacuate South Vietnamese people out of the country when it fell to North Vietnamese troops in 1975.
Mr. Biden, who was serving as a senator from Delaware in 1975, said the U.S. had no moral obligation to evacuate any South Vietnamese, though he later voted to welcome in refugees after the fall of Saigon.
“It’s become a personal fight for me because this is someone who didn’t answer the call when his country called,” Mr. Cao said. “He had five deferments from Vietnam when his name came up. We just watch this country go down the tubes because of a person who refused to stand up when his country called.”
Mr. Cao is one of several veterans running in this election cycle, though Congress faces a scarcity of servicemen holding office. Currently, about one in six Congress members served in the military, compared to three out of four veterans who were lawmakers in the 1970s.
Alongside Mr. Cao, former Air Force pilot Jennifer Ruth-Green is running against freshman Democrat Frank Mrvan in Indiana, and Army combat veteran Wesley Hunt is making a bid for Texas’s newly created 38th District.
Jay Chen, a Democrat and Navy veteran, is running in an Orange County, California, district against GOP Rep. Michelle Steel.
In addition to his military background, Mr. Cao is also one of several immigrant candidates running as a Republican this cycle.
He is among an influx of minorities joining the Republican Party and running for office, but he said he wants voters to know he identifies as an American, first and foremost.
“[The left] pits us against each other, man vs. woman, White vs. Black, gay vs. straight, it doesn’t matter. We’re Americans. We came over here to be called Americans,” Mr. Cao said. “I’m proud to be an American.”
Virginia’s 10th district is one of the most purple districts in the state, and has a partisan voter index of D+1, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
Ms. Wexton was one of three Virginia Democrats who flipped their district in 2018, along with Reps. Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria. All three are being targeted this year by the House Republicans’ campaign arm.
Ms. Wexton has touted her record of advocating for better infrastructure, creating jobs, and being tough on China by introducing legislation that addresses their forced labor practices and human rights atrocities.
In a statement after Mr. Cao’s nomination, Ms. Wexton said she looked forward to speaking to voters about “how crucial it is to defend this seat.”
Republicans need a net gain of five seats to retake the House in November.