W. Brad Blanton's campaign strategy of attacking Republicans as "lying and conniving" isn't the most conventional approach in one of Virginia's most Republican districts.
Blanton, a Shenandoah Valley psychotherapist and an independent, has other hurdles, including that U.S. Rep. Eric I. Cantor has won his two congressional races with 70 percent of the vote and rocketed in just two years to one of the most powerful seats in national Republican leadership: House chief deputy whip.
But Blanton doesn't care. That's his entire point in running in the 7th District, which zigzags from the Richmond suburbs to the northwest, to highlight what he sees as a corrupt and gerrymandered political system in which the Everyman has no chance.
After a 25-year career in Washington, Blanton is driven by a conclusion that people are unhappy because they lie. He writes books about the importance of spilling your entire soul and runs workshops on "radical honesty."
"I'm here to do therapy with the country," said Blanton, of Stanley, Va.
Blanton said he expects to lose big.
There has been almost no stumping on either side. As a result, his campaign, which has been limited to a few small talks and a five-minute TV spot, is the only critique the 7th District will likely hear this season of Cantor, a former real estate lawyer and state lawmaker from Henrico County, Va.
But that doesn't surprise Cantor, who the Almanac of American Politics predicts will not "have to worry about reelection for the remainder of this decade."
Although Cantor has sponsored several popular pieces of legislation, including one banning illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses and another that gave parents a tax credit of $1,000 per child for educational purposes, he is best known for his rapid rise into the inner sanctum of Republican politics.
Some political opponents see Cantor's unwavering support of the Bush administration and say he is not sufficiently independent.
"Cantor is basically [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay's lap dog," said Ben Jones, a Democrat who, with 30 percent of the vote, lost to Cantor in 2002. The turnout was 40 percent.
Others are pleased by his access to leadership.
"We elect people to represent us. In representing us, part of that job is to build up your sphere of influence," said state Sen. Stephen H. Martin (R-Chesterfield), who lost by 197 votes to Cantor in the 2000 primary.
The district was drawn to exclude the Democratic voters in Richmond and traces around the city's edges; 75 percent of its voters are in the Richmond suburbs. It then tracks northwest.
Cantor chairs the House Republican task force on terrorism and unconventional warfare. He said he believes that having 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq has weakened terrorism in the Middle East.
Economic development is the priority of the growing, suburbanized region, he said. To that end, he has tried to help Richmond International Airport attract a low-cost airline and has worked to return tax dollars to residents, through such initiatives as a measure allowing parents who receive child-care benefits to carry over any unused portion into the next year.
Blanton, on the other hand, has a revolution in mind: Eliminate the Education Department and give all the money to parents and citizens groups. Teachers and child-care workers should be paid hundreds of dollars an hour, while lawyers should make minimum wage, he said.
Campaign finance reform is his most prominent political issue. He advocates banning donations from companies and unions and limiting individual donations to $20.