In this year of frustration with mainstream establishment candidates, I made a refreshing discovery, right in my own back yard.
My doctor, Dr. Bryan Barrilleaux is running for Congress in Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional district. His unique selling proposition is that he will not spend any money on his campaign, neither his own, nor any campaign contributions. He calls himself, “The Guy you Can’t Buy.”
Some might think his campaign is a futile gesture. But I think a radical and principled stand for good government may be exactly what we need.
Dr. Barrilleaux (pronounced “Bear-e-o,” after the Cajun fashion) is a physician in South Louisiana, a practicing Catholic, a passionately pro-life homeschooling father of six who has been married for 35 years. He was inspired to run when the Republican majority in Congress did next to nothing about the issues they were elected to address. The Tea Party turned out millions of citizen-activists for the 2010 election. But the Republican majority offered token resistance to the Affordable Care Act, and token defense of life and marriage.
Dr. Barrilleaux, the Guy You Can't Buy, at the Alligator Festival with the author. (Jennifer Roback Morse, Ruth Institute)
The turning point came for Barrilleaux in 2012. He attended a public meeting at which his recently-elected congressman, Jeff Landry, was the featured speaker. Dr. Barrilleaux asked him why no action? Landry described how the Republican establishment sat him down when he arrived in Washington and explained how the system works.
“If you do what the party wants, you will have lots of campaign money for your reelection, and no opponent in the primary. If you don’t go along, you will have a well-funded opponent in the primary.”
Dr. Barrilleaux must have been a bit like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” He was shocked by what he considered it shameful corruption, plain and simple. He even complained to the FBI. They blew him off. “Everybody does it.”
He decided to take a stand for good government by running a campaign for Congress in 2012, with no money. As he described it to me, “In Louisiana, one can get on the ballot either by paying a $1,000 qualifying fee, or by submitting a petition signed by 1,000 voters. I believe I am the only candidate in my race who got on the ballot by petition.”
He wouldn’t even spend his own money. “Freedom of speech” should certainly include being able to spend one’s own money to run for office. But Dr. Barrilleaux does not approve of the concept of rich people dominating the political system, whether they are running for office, or just trying to influence candidates or policy makers. (I wrote about that last week.)
“We ran an ethical and dignified campaign: no asking for money; no cheap shots against opponents,” he said.
Wow. Ethical? Dignified? Almost unimaginable.
But can he actually accomplish anything?
He admits that getting elected is a long shot. But he is undaunted.
He obtained 3 percent of the vote in the 2012 election, and almost 10 percent of vote in 2014. He is running in an open primary, with 11 other candidates. If none of these candidates gets 50 percent of the primary vote, there will be a run-off election in December between the top two primary candidates. With 12 candidates, 20 percent of the vote could well get him into a run-off. Given the momentum of his past two races, and the general interest that people have in good, non-corrupt government, making it into the run-off is entirely possible.
He has an interesting plan for Social Security reform. I sense that he is actually interested in something bigger and more significant than getting elected. He is also interested in getting more people involved in the political process. You simply cannot count on the Party Machine to produce TV ads for the cause you favor.
To support Dr. Barrilleaux, you have to do something yourself. You have to download the bumper sticker from his website, cut it out yourself, and paste it in your windshield. He hopes people will exercise good citizenship by informing themselves and sharing with friends on social media.
This past weekend, he was asked to speak at the Alligator Festival in Grand Chenier, Louisiana. (Yes, there really is such a thing as an Alligator Festival. We ate the alligators; they didn’t eat us!) My husband and I went to support him, and the local church putting on the festival. People seemed surprised and flattered that a Congressional candidate would attend their event. He gave a brief speech, but he also spoke to people personally.
The Alligator Festival reminded me of what I imagined old-time frontier elections might have looked like: neighbors out for a social occasion, eating good food, and listening to the candidates. And the candidates understood that they were running for the chance to serve the people, not just the chance to serve themselves and their handlers.
As Dr. Barrilleaux said to me, “I’m running for the principle of good, participatory government. Somebody has got to do it. I’m capable and I’m available. I would ask people to pray for our country, and a good outcome for a just cause.”
We can all do that, regardless of whom we plan to vote for.
Jennifer Roback Morse Ph.D. is Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization, dedicated to creating a Christ-like solution to family breakdown. Visit at www.ruthinstitute.org or facebook.com/TheRuthInstitute/ To hear more from Dr. Morse, sign up for her e-newsletter here and receive a free gift.
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