You’re an aspiring Hollywood screen writer and you’re asked to help pen a remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the classic tale of a young, idealistic political outsider who winds up appointed to a U.S. Senate seat.
Of course, you need to update the tale for 2009 from 1939, in which Mr. Smith (played by James Stewart at his aw-shucks best) is the wholesome head of the Boy Rangers.
You’re an admirer of Aaron Sorkin, best known as the writer and creator of the literate, sharp-edged White House TV drama, The West Wing. You try to think of the kind of 2009 Mr. Smith that Sorkin would devise. Sorkin’s Mr. Smith would be a Democrat, as was his West Wing’s Josiah Bartlett. He would also be well-educated, witty, and charismatic.
But here are the qualities you would add, to enhance his status as an outsider and to show that he’s got the tough-guy pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps credibility that would trump conservatives. You would also be keen to show that he possesses personal integrity and is willing to stand up for causes he believes in, even if they might rub some people the wrong way. You would make him:
— The son of a single mom who worked as a housekeeper.
— So determined to rise above his circumstances that he worked hard in school to score good grades and to win a Congressional appointment to West Point—and later admission into the master’s degree program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
–A young officer who received a Bronze Star for leading his troops into fierce battles and for helping Iraqis rebuild their war-torn nation.
–A philanthropic athlete who biked across the country to raise money for Habitat for Humanity and who volunteered to rebuild homes in Hurricane-ravaged Katrina.
And, yes, you’d make him young, good-looking and charming.
And, as a kicker, you’d make him gay. And wanting to take a stand against the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy.”
So, that’s the public biography of Anthony Woods, who is one of about dozen Democrats, Republicans, and other party representatives who are vying to replace Ellen Tauscher as the U.S. representative for the 10th congressional district.
In writing about Woods, also known in one national headline as the “gay Iraq war veteran,” I’m not saying he’s my favorite candidate. I haven’t had a chance to look closely at the candidates to see who I prefer.
But Woods, and his made-for-Hollywood biography and opposition to discrimination against gays in the military, have garnered him national attention: CNN, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the website, the Daily Beast, which had this headline: “Best Political Resume Ever: Insurgent congressional candidate Anthony Woods’ life story reads like Aaron Sorkin wrote it …”
For the primary election, set for September 1, Woods is going up against some high-profile political heavyweights–opponents who are well-known in the East Bay, around the state, even nationally. Contra Costa Times political columnist Lisa Vorderbrueggen says the primary is an open ballot, meaning that all candidates will appear on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation. The top vote-getter in each party plus the nonpartisan candidates will advance to the general election unless one candidate receives in the primary 50 percent plus one vote. If that occurs, the candidate will win the post outright.
Given his competition, Woods’ emerging political celebrity may not be enough to assure him victory this time and propel him into Ellen Tauscher’s seat and national office. But given his personal background and story, Harvard degree, Bronze Star, and telegenic gifts, it’s likely that Woods has a bright future ahead of him—in politics or in some other arena.