Tom Perriello

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Tom Perriello
Perriello Official Portrait (cropped).jpg
United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In office
July 6, 2015 – December 23, 2016
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Russ Feingold
Succeeded by Vacant
Special Representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review
In office
February 24, 2014 – July 5, 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 42)
Ivy, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Education Yale University (BA, JD)

Thomas Stuart Price "Tom" Perriello (born October 9, 1974) is an American attorney, diplomat, and Democratic Party politician. He served one term as a U.S. Representative for Virginia's 5th congressional district, serving from 2009 until 2011, was the United States Special Representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review from 2014 to 2015 and the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo from July 2015 to December 2016. In January 2017, he announced his candidacy for Governor of Virginia.

Born and raised in Ivy, Virginia, Perriello graduated with a J.D. from Yale University in 2001 and then worked as a Special Advisor to the international prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. He then worked for the International Center for Transitional Justice, The Century Foundation and for the National Council of Churches of Christ. He also launched several international and faith-based organizations.

Having previously worked as a legislative page in the Virginia House of Delegates, Perriello ran for Virginia's 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives in the 2008 elections. He narrowly defeated six-term Republican incumbent Virgil Goode by 727 votes out of over 317,000 cast. At the time he served, the district included much of Southside Virginia and stretched north to Charlottesville. A populist Democrat,[1][2] Perriello was a key ally in Congress of President Barack Obama,[3] and was defeated in the 2010 election by Republican State Senator Robert Hurt.[4]

After leaving office, Perriello served as President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and as a Counselor for Policy at Center for American Progress, where he spoke out on issues of immigration reform,[5] voting rights,[6] inequality, and campaign finance reform.[7] In February 2014, he was appointed Special Representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, serving until July 2015. He was then appointed Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, succeeding former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold.[8]

Perriello is running for Governor of Virginia in the 2017 election.

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.[9] His paternal grandparents were Italian immigrants, and his mother is from an evangelical Christian family from Ohio.[10] 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.[11][12] 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.[13] 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.[11] 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 Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes on prophetic justice principles.[14]

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.[15]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

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?"[16]

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. Perriello framed his positions as "for the people and not for the corporate establishment" and did not focus on partisan divisions.[17]

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.”[18] Time termed Perriello an “unapologetic progressive” in naming him one of the “new civic leaders” in its 40 under 40 issue for 2010.[19]

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.[20][21] 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.[20][22]

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.[23]


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.[24] 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.”[25]

His reelection campaign was targeted by the national Democratic party, as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent financial resources, ads, and staff to the district in an effort to protect a seat that Perriello had won for the Democrats by a razor-thin 727 margin in 2008.[26] As early as two weeks after being elected in 2008, Perriello was targeted for defeat by national Republicans and by outside groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers' funded Americans for Prosperity.[27] His effort to maintain his seat was marked by full days of campaigning, including one period called "24 hours of Tom" in which the congressman held one or two events every hour for twenty four hours in the final weeks of the election.[28]

Ultimately, Perriello lost by 3.9 percentage points, over-performing in the Republican +5 district. As a point of comparison, another freshman Democrat in a Virginian Republican +5 congressional district (VA-02) lost by 11 points in 2010 to his Republican challenger.[29] The two congressmen took dramatically different approaches to campaigning, with Perriello embracing his short congressional record that included votes for progressive legislation like the Affordable Care Act, and the other Democrat attempting to distance himself from his party.

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.[30]


Committee assignments

During the 2009 legislative session, Perriello voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,[31] the American Clean Energy and Security Act,[32] and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010.[33]

Perriello voted against the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009,[34] because the bill extended unemployment benefits for only some states and excluded Virginia.[35] He pressed the administration and Congress to include more infrastructure spending in the stimulus bill, and authored the Every Penny to Main Street Act, which would have used the money that banks paid back from the bailout to directly create new jobs in construction.[36] He also repeatedly urged Democrats to introduce a comprehensive national jobs bill.[37]

Perriello called for "keeping America safe by working to ensure that our military is equipped with the resources, equipment, and training necessary to win the global war on terrorism".[38] Although he cast votes for the continuation of U.S. military action in Afghanistan,[39][40] he also cosponsored legislation requiring U.S. President Barack Obama to submit an exit strategy for the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.[41][42] Perriello also opposed removing the United States Armed Forces from Pakistan.[42] In 2010, Perriello voted in support of the defense bill, 2010 military appropriations and spending for combat operations.[40][43][44]

United States Department of State[edit]

Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review[edit]

Tom Perriello was selected by Secretary of State John Kerry to lead the 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review, a strategic planning process intended to be conducted every four years for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The two agencies are made up of approximately 80,000 employees, with a budget of more than $50 billion. The resulting document, Enduring Leadership in a Dynamic World, set out four strategic priorities for American diplomacy and foreign assistance: preventing conflict and violent extremism, promoting democratic societies, advancing inclusive economic growth, and mitigating climate change. It also identified ways to make the agencies more efficient, including improving the use of data and diagnostics. [45]

Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of Congo[edit]

In July 2015, President Obama appointed Tom Perriello to succeed former US Senator Russell Feingold as Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As Special Envoy, Perriello was the US representative to a region including Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda, countries working to overcome a recent legacy of civil war and genocide. Perriello was charged with implementing the administration’s policies of preventing mass atrocities and supporting the emergence of peaceful, democratic societies.[46]

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Perriello worked closely with the national council of Catholic bishops to support mediations between the President and opposition groups over a political crisis triggered when the President attempted to stay in office beyond his constitutional term.[47] This work culminated in the historic New Year’s Eve agreement on December 31, 2016, that lays out a path to the first peaceful transition of power since the country’s independence in 1960.[48]

Run for Governor, 2017[edit]

In December 2016, Perriello indicated that he would run for Governor of Virginia in the 2017 election.[49]


  1. ^ E.J. Dionne, Jr. (October 7, 2010). "Atlas Slugged". New Republic. Retrieved March 22, 2016. 
  2. ^ George Packer (March 10, 2010). "The Progressive and the Populist". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 22, 2016. 
  3. ^ Kendra Marr (October 29, 2010). "Obama: 'Go, Tom, go'". Politico. Retrieved March 22, 2016. 
  4. ^ E.J. Dionne, Jr. (November 3, 2010). "The Perriello Way". The Nation. Retrieved March 22, 2016. 
  5. ^ Yu, Esther (November 27, 2013). "While Congress Stalls On Immigration, Activists Encourage Others to Join Fast For Reform". ThinkProgress. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Bipartisan immigration reform is possible and crucial". TheHill. February 5, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  7. ^ Syed Zaidi (March 29, 2013). "Money in Politics This Week: Two Former Congressmen Support Fair Elections | Brennan Center for Justice". Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Perriello, Thomas". February 24, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "The Virginia Experiment". Archived from the original on December 2, 2010. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b Goldsmith, Will (October 7, 2008). "Can he go the distance?". Charlottesville News & Arts. Retrieved August 24, 2010. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Gibson, Bob (October 6, 2007). "Perriello enters race for 5th seat". The Daily Progress. Retrieved May 18, 2008. 
  14. ^ Baker, Bernard (February 5, 2008). "Pastor: Poverty 'weapon of mass destruction'". Danville Register & Bee. (via WSLS-TV). Retrieved May 18, 2008. 
  15. ^ Hopkins, Shawn (January 1, 2008). "Perriello wants to bring changes". Martinsville Bulletin. Retrieved May 18, 2008. 
  16. ^ Perriello, Tom. "Conviction Politics... in Practice". TPM Cafe. Talking Points Memo. Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Tom Perriello Reportedly Open To Virginia Governor Bid In 2013". HuffingtonPost. Retrieved May 21, 2016. 
  18. ^ O'Connor, Patrick (July 3, 2009). "Climate vote threatens Dems' careers". Politico. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
  19. ^ "40 Under 40". Time. October 14, 2010. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  20. ^ a b Alexander Burns (December 29, 2008). "Top 10 political upsets of 2008". Politico. Washington, D.C. Retrieved March 19, 2009. 
  21. ^ Kleefeld, Eric (September 2, 2010). "SurveyUSA Poll: Dem Perriello Getting Crushed In VA-05". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Michael Rogers: Sex, Drugs and Earmarks: Virgil Goode makes his party proud". October 15, 2008. Retrieved January 10, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 26, 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-22. 
  24. ^ Dashiell, Joe (October 15, 2010), "Tom Perriello makes it official. NRA endorses 5th District Democrat", WDBJ7, retrieved February 5, 2011 
  25. ^ Adams, Mason; Siuss, Michael (October 6, 2010), "Perriello endorsed by VFW PAC", The Roanoke Times, retrieved February 5, 2011 
  26. ^ "Perriello Tied in New VA-05 Poll". Retrieved September 29, 2016. 
  27. ^ George Packer (October 20, 2010). "Tom Perriello's Lonely Battle". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 3, 2017. 
  28. ^ aznew (October 24, 2010). "24 Hours of Tom". Blue Virginia. Retrieved September 29, 2016. 
  29. ^ "The Cook Political Report – Charts – 2010 House Competitive Races". Retrieved September 29, 2016. 
  30. ^ Barr, Andy (March 24, 2010). "FBI investigates Virginia incident". Politico. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  31. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 46". Clerk of the House. January 28, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  32. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 477". Clerk of the House. June 26, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  33. ^ Was Rep. Tom Perriello targeted for his vote on healthcare bill? 
  34. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 722". Clerk of the House. September 22, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  35. ^ "Perriello Fights to Extend Unemployment Benefits in Virginia". Tom Perriello. September 30, 2009. Archived from the original on October 7, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  36. ^ "Obama's Lost Year". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  37. ^ "Are Swing District Dems Toast?". Mother Jones. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  38. ^ "Personal Statement re:Foreign Policy". Archived from the original on July 4, 2010. 
  39. ^ "Voting History: Rep. Thomas Perriello D, VA-5] – U.S. Congress". OpenCongress. Retrieved August 21, 2010. 
  40. ^ a b "HR 4899". The New York Times. 
  41. ^ "H.R. 2404". 
  42. ^ 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. 
  43. ^ "HR 5136". The New York Times. 
  44. ^ "HR 3326". The New York Times. 
  45. ^ May 14, 2015 (2015-05-14): "Tom Perriello" Location: (linkback:
  46. ^ "On the Appointment of Thomas Perriello as Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  47. ^ "Defusing a Ticking Time Bomb in Kinshasa". Foreign Policy. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  48. ^ "Congo rulng party, opposition sign deal for Kabila to step down". Reuters. December 31, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  49. ^ Martin, Jonathan (January 4, 2017). "Unexpected Candidacy Upends Virginia Democrats' Plans for Key Governor Race". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 

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