Thursday, June 8, 2006

One of the bread-and-butter lines Harris N. Miller uses on the campaign trail refers to his friend former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.

“I’m a Mark Warner Democrat,” Mr. Miller, a former information technology executive from McLean, tells potential voters. He often follows it with, “I’m a friend of Mark Warner. Mark Warner is one of the people who encouraged me to get into this race.”

Mr. Miller, 54, is doing what Mr. Warner opted against — trying to unseat U.S. Sen. George Allen of Virginia, a rumored 2008 presidential candidate.

An articulate man with curly hair and rimless glasses, Mr. Miller must first beat challenger James H. Webb Jr., a decorated Vietnam War veteran and a former Republican, in the Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Virginia.

Mr. Miller is optimistic about his chances of beating Mr. Webb next week and Mr. Allen in November.

“People are sick and tired of the mess in Washington, and George Allen has been part of the problem since the first day he was elected,” Mr. Miller said. “Last year he voted with George Bush 97 percent of the time. [My wife] and I have been married almost 26 years and I can assure you, we don’t agree 70 percent of the time.

“He can smile all he wants and he can do the spitting tobacco thing, but the fact is he’s been one of the most radical members of the U.S. Senate,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller, who so far has raised $1.2 million, is pro-choice and he opposes President Bush’s tax cuts.

He said he supports raising the minimum wage, firing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, forming an immediate exit strategy from Iraq, eliminating the federal budget deficit, developing alternative energy sources and finding medical coverage for “47 million Americans that go to each day without health care.”

Mr. Miller goes where most politicians haven’t gone in years.

“You think you’re going to see George Allen in this neighborhood?” Mr. Miller asked on a hot day last month as he and his daughter, Alexis, canvassed a primarily black low-income and Democrat-leaning Truxton neighborhood in Portsmouth, Va.

For some residents, it was the first time they had seen a politician in the neighborhood in more than 40 years.

“People of all socioeconomic statuses, all types of backgrounds, all types of ethnicities, are feeling cut off,” Mr. Miller told The Washington Times during the visit to Truxton. “That’s what so discouraging with what George Bush has done and what George Allen has supported the last 51/2 years. There is a fundamental break in the trust between the American people and the government to the point where the president says things and people don’t even believe him anymore.”

While Mr. Webb has been forced to explain his Republican roots, Mr. Miller has defended the 10 years he spent lobbying on Capitol Hill. He has praised Mr. Allen for an “unrivaled” “knowledge of IT issues,” and pushed policies that some labor leaders say encouraged the outsourcing of high-tech jobs.

Mr. Miller shakes his head when asked about outsourcing-related criticism.

“When Jim Webb says, ‘I’m the anti-outsourcing candidate,’ I don’t know what that means,” Mr. Miller said, adding that some unions are supporting him. “What’s he gonna do, stand on the border and wave his arms and try to make the globe go away? The question is, what you do about it?”

To stay competitive, Mr. Miller said the U.S. must invest more money in education, high-speed Internet and training. He said there should be programs available for people who lose factory- or manufacturing-related jobs to prepare them for employment that requires technology-based knowledge.

“You can’t walk out of a Ford factory and become a computer programmer,” he said. “If we start now we can give those people opportunities. Not wait until … everybody is in a desperate situation. That’s what a businessman does.”

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