Sitting there in his brown suit, wearing a brown tie decorated with little maps of Virginia, Stan Parris doesn't look much like the Red Baron. l
But Parris has much of the same fighting spirit: barnstorming across the 7,500 square miles of the 8th district to take on the man who defeated him in the same race n 1974. Parris, the Republican nominee for the 8th district seat, is confident it is a race he will win.
Barnstorming, in the traditional sence, is nothing new to Parris, a highly decorated fighter pilot in the Korean War who later parlayed his aviation interestes to found the Flying Circus Aerodrome in Bealton, Va.
"We got out there in our jodhpurs, boots, goggles, flying scarves -- the whole schmeer -- on Sunday mornings in the summer for the pure fun of it," said Parris, recalling his stunts in antique planes such as the Red Baron's infamous Sopworth Camel. "We'd cut ribbons, burst ballooons, do loops and all that."
The flying stunts also helped spice up Paris' previous poltical campaigns, including the one in 1974, when Democrat Herb Harris upset him in the 8th district congressional race.
"I'd tow banners when I could during a campaign. And on the weekend after an election, 1'd personally tow banners saying, "Thank you."
A lawyer and small businessman by profession, Parris wants to crank up his Great Lakes plane to tow one more banner this November: a victory banner.
In addition to Harris, Parris also is opposed by independent candidate Deborah Frantz. But Parris seems to be focusing his energies on Harris, whom Parris charges votes "for every crackpot, liberal, hair-brained scheme they can come up with."
Toward this end, Parris is busy soliciting the support of voters in the 8th District, which encompasses Alexandria, the southern half of Fairfax County, Prince William County and northern Stafford County.
Last weekend, that campaign took him to the streets of Old Town and to a posh campaign kickoff at the Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria.
A cool breeze wafted up from the Potomac as Paris and a small entourage trooped up and down King Street last Sunday. Parris stopped as many visitors as he could. A quick conversation, a handshake, and then he was off again to another group of Sunday afternoon strollers.
From there, Parris headed to his official campaign kickoff at the Belle Haven Country Club. Nearly 500 supporters paid $25 apiece to sip coctails, cocktails, munch hors d'oevres and discuss politics in the balloon-bedecked clubhouse behind the 18th hole.
Outside, a dozen young women in blue "Parris for Congress" T-shirts and white shorts handed out campaign literature. A four-piece combo provided background music as Gov. John N. Dalton and Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman posed for pictures with Parris beside a plaster elephant.
A few days earlier, as Parris sat in a hotel coffee shop, munching a Danish and doodling a schooner on a paper placemat, he reflected on why he as a one-term incumbent failed in his campaign against Harris in 1974, the year of the Watergate fallout for 51 GOP congressmen:
"We had some pretty high-powered people that suggested to us, "Take the high road, don't debate, have a totally positive campaign, you're an incumbent, run on your record."
"Well '74 wasn't the best time to be an incumbent. And frankly, in retrospect, I think that [advice] was just plain wrong.
"Now, this year -- and this may sound corny -- I consider myself very much like that guy in [the movie] 'Network.' He kind of went bananas on TV. He got up on the tube and said to the American public, 'Go to the window, throw open the window and yell, 'I'm mad as hell and I won't stand for it anymore.'
"That's exactly how I feel . . ."
And that, says Parris, is exactly why he wants to get back into the political arena he first entered as a mimeograph operator in a Senate printing room, ironically by the good graces of a Democrat.
The job, Parris says candidly, was engineered by a friend through Lyndon Johnson, who then was Senate majority leader.
"I didn't know Lyndon Johnson from Frank Church," Parris chuckles, "but it didn't matter to me as long as I had a job."
He was so smitten with politics, he says, that he decided to launch his own political career.
His first elected post was as a Fairfax County Supervisor, where he served from 1964-1967. He then served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1969-72 before winning the 8th District Congressional seat.
After his defeat by Harris in 1974, Parris was asked by John Dalton, who had been Parris' seatmate in the statehouse, to serve as secretary of the Comonwealth and later as director of the Virginia Federal Liaison Office in Washington, a post he held until April when he decided to run for Congress again.
"If I have one advantage in this campaign, it's that I've been there. It's not exactly amateur night at the Bijou Theater," said Parris, who spent his 51st birthday Tuesday on the campaign trail. I know how the system works and I know where most of the bones are buried."
Still, defeating an incumbent will be very expensive, notes Parris, who expects to spend $350,000 in the current race, including $200,000 on a media campaign. To date, about $110,000 has been raised, most of it from individuals.
His corporate contributors so far have included the Marriott Politcal Action Committee, the Northern Virginia Gasoline Retailers, the Planning Research Corporation Political Action Committee and the Business Industry Political Action Committee.
While eschewing labels, Parris considers himself "moderate-conservative," with a bent toward the conservative in fiscal afairs.
The economy and military preparedness are the most pressing issues before the nation, says Parris, who charges Democrats have done nothing to improve either.
Fingering the gold "VOTE" pin his mother mailed to him, Parris reflects:
"I agree with Leo Durocher that good sports get that way because they have so much practice at losing.
"I'm not a very good loser and I didn't like the results in '74.And this time, if I didn't think it was going to be different, I wouldn't be running.