My friend, Suzanne Scholte, the leader of the North Korean Freedom Coalition, has won the Republican nomination to run for a seat in the U.S. Congress, representing Virginia’s 11th District, in the suburbs of Washington, DC. I’ve known Suzanne since October 2003, the same month I left active duty with the Army and started the antecedent to this blog at a long-forgotten place called Geocities.
Suzanne Scholte, a well-known U.S. activist on the North Korean human rights problem, has become a Republican candidate for November’s congressional election, according to her campaign website.
She will take on Democrat incumbent Gerry Connolly seeking a fourth term in the House to represent Virginia’s 11th district where there are relatively many Korean-American residents.
“This is time for all of us to come together to preserve what makes America the greatest nation on earth, our Constitution, our rule of law and our freedoms,” Scholte said on Saturday in a speech after defeating her party rivals in a nomination race. “We will bring together people from diverse backgrounds and build a unity of purpose to achieve greater opportunity and hope.” [Yonhap]
Suzanne’s nomination is big news in Korea, as it should be. More here, at The Joongang Ilbo.
I have only kind words to say about Gerry Connolly, Suzanne’s opponent. I’ve met him and I like him. If he were running against any ordinary candidate, he’d probably be the best candidate on this issue. Connolly has shown commendable behind-the-scenes leadership on this issue this year. I’m glad this isn’t a partisan issue anymore. Maybe it never was.
The 11th District has a large Korean-American vote that has traditionally hewed toward the Democrats, despite its conservative values, mainly because of immigration. A Democratic candidate who doesn’t win the Korean-American vote in this district decisively could be in for a very close race, especially in a year that already looks bleak for swing-district Democrats (in 2010, Connolly was reelected by less than 1,000 votes out of 227,000, or 0.4% of the total, less than the vote totals of the Independent and Libertarian candidates).
The point of this is that, despite descriptions of her as the “underdog,” Suzanne could actually win this race.
All of this leaves us with a welcome relief from our binary love-hate politics. Instead of a contest between good and evil, we’re fortunate enough to have a contest between good and best. Connolly’s leadership on this issue has been good this year, but in past years, this issue hasn’t had the traction it deserved in Congress because it lacked a dedicated leader from within — someone who would push this issue day after day, year after year, and not just during election years. Ed Royce probably comes the closest, but now that he’s Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the span of his agenda is as wide as the world itself. Royce’s leadership on this issue has been essential, but he simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to be its battle captain in Congress. Suzanne could, and she would.
On this issue — the issue of saving the North Korea’s next generation from its own government, and saving American’s next generation from whatever weapons Pyongyang will eventually sell to terrorists — Suzanne Scholte has led, year after year, often as an underdog, and usually when the issue was either unpopular or forgotten, because of the inexhaustible drive of her conscience. That leadership has made Suzanne an influential “outsider” among members of Congress in both chambers, and in both parties. She knows how to build a coalition that spans cultures and continents.
In the contest between good and best, Suzanne Scholte is not only the best, but also the best we’ll ever see. If Suzanne weren’t one of my closest friends precisely because of her enduring leadership on this issue, I wouldn’t have written this post. It has been my policy for the last decade that I don’t endorse candidates — based largely on the knowledge that you don’t care who I endorse — but a candidate this great demands an exception, and perhaps calls the whole rule into question. (There are also great Democratic candidates, such as Albio Sires of New Jersey, who also deserve our support.)
Until today, I had never imagined that I could support a candidate because of a single issue. Once again, I’m about to make an exception, because on this issue — an issue I care so deeply about, and which many of you also care very deeply about — Suzanne is an exceptional candidate. I don’t have to agree with Suzanne about every issue. All I ask is that just one member of Congress out of 535 cares about this issue as much as I do.
Knowing Suzanne Scholte as well as I do, I’ve watched her dynamism, her integrity, her compassion, and her leadership. And, above all else, I’ve observed her extraordinary determination, which seems to have no half-life. I can’t fail to use this site to support her. What a terrible lost opportunity it would be to fail to put our strongest champion into the corridors of power. Image the possibilities with Suzanne Scholte in Congress, and one day, sitting on the Foreign Affairs Committee. I hope you’ll support her, too.
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Correction: A previous edition of this post said that in the 2010 election, Gerry Connolly won by 1% of the vote. The actual percentage was 0.4%. This post was originally published on May 17, 2014 at around 1800 hours, and was “bumped” by changing the posting time.