Change in a Crowded Field
BY Kerry Eleveld
June 10 2009 12:00 AM ET
"That was a dream that I could not wait to fulfill and take part in, but then I realized, how could I live in the honor code, how could I stand up there as their professor knowing that I'm lying every single day about my personal life?" he recalls. "I just couldn't be a part of it."
Though he's a newcomer to politics, Woods points out a number of qualities that set him apart in the race -- he's the only African-American, the only veteran, and the only millennial in the race.
African-Americans, he said, make up about 7% of the population in California; and because the district is home to Travis Air Force Base, military personnel and retirees account for about 13%-14% of population.
"That's a natural constituency group that I can appeal to that my opponents cannot," he says. "If I'm the only one who can specifically excite a certain demographic, that could be really helpful to me."
Woods also features his discharge under "don't ask, don't tell" in his campaign literature and thinks his sexual orientation is an asset in a district that voted against Proposition 8, the antigay marriage measure. Lt. Dan Choi, a fellow West Point classmate who was also discharged for being gay and has recently become the face of the repeal movement, endorsed Woods just last week.
True to his life story, Woods's three main policy objectives are providing universal health care with a government-run public option, aiding the economic recovery and stimulus package, and strengthening national security. He calls what he brings to each area "real world perspective." As someone who grew up without health insurance, he says, "I would never reach a solution that wouldn't have helped my mother and I when I was growing up."
And he shrugs off the higher name recognition of his most well-known Democratic rivals: Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, state senator Mark DeSaulnier, and state assembly member Joan Buchanan, who polled at 24%, 13%, and 10%, respectively, in an internal survey released by Garamendi last month.