FRAMINGHAM (03/18/2004) - When we visited with him last summer, Mike Emmons, a former programmer at Siemens ICN in Florida, was so angry to see his job filled by a nonimmigrant worker on an L-1 visa, that he talked of getting even by running for Congress this year. Now he's collecting signatures to appear on the Democratic primary ballot.
Emmons concedes he's a long shot to win. But on the way to the ballot, Emmons made an interesting discovery: At least four others with IT backgrounds, from Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas, have declared their candidacies. Among their primary motivations: a desire to change the country's policies on IT outsourcing and immigration.
IT workers are the latest in a line that has included autoworkers in the 1980s and mothers whose children were killed by drunk drivers, who turn to politics for personal reasons, says David King, an expert on Congress from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
"Most people aren't born political, they become political," says King, who has interviewed every new member of Congress since 1992. "Most have a compelling story around a life-changing event." King says he thinks that outsourcing is too narrow an issue on which to base a candidate's winning campaign; it doesn't resonate with large chunks of the population. But the number of candidates willing to make outsourcing an issue will grab Washington's attention and force lawmakers to do something, he says. The candidates, whose stories follow, are all political newcomers.
Mike Emmons, Democrat, Florida, 7th District
Emmons, an Independent, switched to Democrat for the Aug. 31 primary. Emmons has met with party officials and has lined up speaking engagements across the central Florida district, which stretches from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach. State party officials have told him that his candidacy is a long shot, but Emmons says, "I know we can win if we tell the people what is going on."
If Emmons gets through the primary, he'd face a six-term incumbent, Republican John L. Mica, who's official website includes an update on his efforts to close a loophole in L-1 worker visas.
Floyd Jay Winters, Democrat, Florida, 13th District
Winters, a computer science professor and program manager at Manatee Community College, puts jobs and the economy at the center of his campaign, while also stressing his support for education and health-care benefits. Winters seeks the seat representing the Sarasota area now held by Republican Katherine Harris, who is reportedly considering a run for Senate. Harris is the former Florida secretary of state who presided over George W. Bush's victory in the state's presidential recount in 2000.
Brian Rubarts, Republican, Texas, 3rd District
Rubarts is an IT consultant who was seeking to oust 13-year incumbent Republican Sam Johnson, a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, for the district that serves an area north of Dallas. The two were slated to face off in a GOP primary scheduled for March 9. "Our national security is being put at risk because of the outsourcing of software development to nations that are not the right trading partners for the U.S.," Rubarts says on his website.
Another IT consultant, Paul Jenkins, has made protecting American jobs and overhauling immigration policies his central themes. Jenkins is running as an Independent in this conservative GOP district where no Democrats are on the ballot, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Bob Dodge, Republican, Pennsylvania, 15th District
Dodge, a veteran AS/400 administrator, seeks an open House seat in Eastern Pennsylvania so he can change federal policies on worker visas a`nd offshore outsourcing. "The new education initiative in the United States is called 'No child left behind,'" he says on his website. "We need a new initiative called 'No American left behind.'"