Tom Perriello

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Tom Perriello
Tom Perriello, official portrait, 111th Congress.jpg
United States Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa
Assumed office
July 6, 2015
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Russ Feingold
Special Representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review
In office
February 24, 2014 – April 28, 2015
President Barack Obama
Preceded by David McKean
Succeeded by Vacant
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 5th district
In office
January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2011
Preceded by Virgil Goode
Succeeded by Robert Hurt
Personal details
Born Thomas Stuart Price Perriello
(1974-10-09) October 9, 1974 (age 41)
Ivy, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Yale University
Religion Roman Catholicism

Thomas Stuart Price "Tom" Perriello (/pɛriˈɛl/; born October 9, 1974) is United States State Department official[1] and American lawyer from Ivy, Virginia, who served one term as a U.S. Representative for Virginia's 5th congressional district, serving from 2009 until 2011. He is a member of the Democratic Party. At the time he served, the district included much of Southside Virginia and stretched north to Charlottesville. He formerly served as President and CEO of Center for American Progress Action Fund and Counselor for Policy at Center for American Progress, where he spoke out on issues of immigration reform,[2] voting rights,[3] inequality, and campaign finance reform.[4] Tom Perriello was the Special Representative to the Secretary of State for the QDDR before taking office as United States Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa.

Life and education[edit]

Perriello was born in, and is a lifelong resident of, Ivy, Virginia, a small unincorporated community west of Charlottesville. He is the son of Linda (née Gillooly), a financial analyst, and Vito Anthony Perriello, Jr., a pediatrician.[5] His paternal grandparents were Italian immigrants, and his mother is from an evangelical Christian family from Ohio.[6] He attended Murray Elementary School, Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, Henley Middle School and Western Albemarle High School in the county school system, and then graduated from St. Anne's-Belfield School, a private school. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout in Boy Scout Troop 114 in Ivy, and was a legislative page in the Virginia House of Delegates. He earned B.A. (1996) and J.D. (2001) degrees at Yale University.[7][8] At Yale, Perriello was a Humanities major.

Early career[edit]

From 2002-03, Perriello was Special Advisor to the international prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where he worked with child soldiers, amputees, and local pro-democracy groups, and helped to prosecute warlords.[9] He later became the Court's Spokesman and helped to indict Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, peacefully forcing him from power. He has worked as a consultant to the International Center for Transitional Justice in Kosovo (2003), Darfur (2005), and Afghanistan (2007) where he worked on justice-based security strategies.[7] Perriello has also been a fellow at The Century Foundation and consultant to the National Council of Churches of Christ. He helped to launch, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and is a co-founder of and, an international on-line community of 20 million members, operating in 16 languages, dedicated to building a global response to "problems without borders" such as climate change. He has also worked with the James A. Forbes on prophetic justice principles.[10]

Perriello, a resident of Albemarle County, has spent much of his career working in West Africa and the Middle East to create strategies for sustainable peace, and he was involved in the peace processes that helped end the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia.[11]

Conviction politics[edit]

Main article: Conviction politics

In announcing his first bid for Congress in 2007, Perriello credited conviction politics for his inspiration to run. "Conviction politics will make me more effective if I win. The first question I asked myself before deciding to run for office was not "can I win?" but "can I improve people's lives if I win?"[12]

Citing the 2006 midterm elections, Perriello pointed toward the example of fellow Democrats including Senators Jim Webb, Sherrod Brown, and Jon Tester—all winning in difficult political environments with firm positions that cut across typical progressive or conservative ideologies.[citation needed]

During his time in the House of Representatives, Perriello would often explain his support for controversial votes by his standard of conviction politics. Perriello described his vote for Cap and Trade legislation as a national security imperative, stating "There’s got to be something more important than getting reelected,” in an interview with Politico. “If I lose my seat, and that’s the worst that happens, I could live with that.”[13]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Committee assignments

During the 2009 legislative session, Perriello voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,[14] the American Clean Energy and Security Act,[15] and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010.[16]

Perriello voted against the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009,[17] because the bill extended unemployment benefits for only some states and excluded Virginia.[18]

Perriello is a supporter of the War on Terror.[19] Although he cast votes for the continuation of U.S. military action in Afghanistan,[20][21] he also cosponsored legislation requiring U.S. President Barack Obama to submit an exit strategy for the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.[22][23] Perriello also opposed removing the United States Armed Forces from Pakistan.[23] In 2010, Perriello voted in support of the defense bill, 2010 military appropriations and spending for combat operations.[21][24][25]

Political campaigns[edit]


In the 2008 election, Perriello launched a campaign based on conviction politics, achieving what was described as an upset victory over entrenched Republican incumbent Virgil Goode, a longtime figure in Virginia politics who had represented a large portion of the district in the Senate of Virginia before serving six terms in Congress.[26][27] Perriello trailed Goode in the polls by 30% only three months before the election. Politico remarked that Goode's campaign was impaired by remarks by Goode that were interpreted as anti-Muslim and by a flap over Goode's tenuous connection to a gay-themed movie.[26][28]

The traditionally Democratic urban areas of the district gave Perriello significant margins over Goode. While Goode won 13 of the 20 county-level jurisdictions in the district, Perriello won all but one independent city, Bedford, which went for Goode by only 16 votes. Ultimately, Perriello prevailed largely on the strength of a more than 25,000 vote margin in Charlottesville and surrounding Albemarle County. Perriello's performance showed the most dramatic improvements over past Democratic voting in the more conservative areas of the district hardest hit by decades of job loss and economic slowdown. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama also improved on past Democratic performance, but he ultimately lost this district by around 7,500 votes (2.5 percentage points). For example, Perriello significantly outperformed Obama in the strongly conservative southwestern portion of the district (ironically, where Goode is from). Perriello may also have been helped by coattails from atop the ticket, as Mark Warner won the district in a landslide with 65 percent of the vote.[29]


Perriello lost to Republican nominee State Senator Robert Hurt in a race between the two and Independent candidate Jeffrey Clark. During the race, Perriello was noted for touting Democratic achievements during his two years in office rather than running from them. In recognition of his support for gun rights, Perriello received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.[30] He also received the endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the race in recognition of his “strong support for veterans, national security and defense, and military personnel issues.”[31]

Propane gas line incident[edit]

In March 2010, a propane gas line at Perriello's brother's home was cut, after the brother's address was mistakenly listed on a website as the congressman's. The incident was investigated by the FBI as a threat to Perriello over his vote on healthcare reform.[32]


  1. ^ "Perriello, Thomas". 2014-02-24. Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  2. ^ Yu, Esther (2013-11-27). "While Congress Stalls On Immigration, Activists Encourage Others to Join Fast For Reform". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  3. ^ "Bipartisan immigration reform is possible and crucial". TheHill. 2014-02-05. Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  4. ^ Syed Zaidi (2013-03-29). "Money in Politics This Week: Two Former Congressmen Support Fair Elections | Brennan Center for Justice". Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ [2][dead link]
  7. ^ a b Goldsmith, Will (October 7, 2008). "Can he go the distance?". Charlottesville News & Arts. Retrieved August 24, 2010. 
  8. ^ Perriello, Vito Jr.; Mrs. Perriello (October 5, 2008). "Letter: Dr. and Mrs. Vito Perriello Jr. - Perriellos tell of son's roots". Martinsville Bulletin (Martinsville, Virginia). 
  9. ^ Gibson, Bob (October 6, 2007). "Perriello enters race for 5th seat". The Daily Progress. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  10. ^ Baker, Bernard (February 5, 2008). "Pastor: Poverty 'weapon of mass destruction'". Danville Register & Bee ((via WSLS-TV)). Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  11. ^ Hopkins, Shawn (January 1, 2008). "Perriello wants to bring changes". Martinsville Bulletin. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  12. ^ Perriello, Tom. "Conviction Politics... in Practice". TPM Cafe. Talking Points Memo. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
  13. ^ O'Connor, Patrick (7/3/2009). "Climate vote threatens some Democrat's careers". Politico. Retrieved 31 January 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 46". Clerk of the House. January 28, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 477". Clerk of the House. June 26, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  16. ^ Was Rep. Tom Perriello targeted for his vote on healthcare bill? 
  17. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 722". Clerk of the House. September 22, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Perriello Fights to Extend Unemployment Benefits in Virginia". Tom Perriello. September 30, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2010. [dead link]
  19. ^ "Personal Statement re:Foreign Policy". [dead link]
  20. ^ "Voting History: Rep. Thomas Perriello D, VA-5] - U.S. Congress". OpenCongress. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  21. ^ a b "HR 4899". The New York Times. 
  22. ^ "H.R. 2404". 
  23. ^ a b "H.Con.Res.301 - Directing the President, pursuant to section 5(c) of the War Powers Resolution, to remove the United States Armed Forces from Pakistan.". OpenCongress. 
  24. ^ "HR 5136". The New York Times. 
  25. ^ "HR 3326". The New York Times. 
  26. ^ a b Alexander Burns (December 29, 2008). "Top 10 political upsets of 2008". Politico (Washington, D.C.). Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  27. ^ Kleefeld, Eric (September 2, 2010). "SurveyUSA Poll: Dem Perriello Getting Crushed In VA-05". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Michael Rogers: Sex, Drugs and Earmarks: Virgil Goode makes his party proud". 2008-10-15. Retrieved 2011-01-10. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ Dashiell, Joe (October 15, 2010), "Tom Perriello makes it official. NRA endorses 5th District Democrat", WDBJ7, retrieved February 5, 2011 
  31. ^ Adams, Mason; Siuss, Michael (October 6, 2010), "Perriello endorsed by VFW PAC", The Roanoke Times, retrieved February 5, 2011 
  32. ^ Barr, Andy (March 24, 2010). "FBI investigates Virginia incident". Politico. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Virgil Goode
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Robert Hurt
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
David McKean
Special Representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review
Preceded by
Russ Feingold
United States Special Envoy for the African Great Lakes and the Congo-Kinshasa