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Five Questions for Heather Beaven

The November 2010 election may be months away, but Democrat Heather Beaven has been campaigning for nearly a year to replace U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Orlando, an 18-year veteran of Congress.

Beaven, a Missouri native who moved to Florida in 1990, is a Navy veteran who runs an education foundation geared at upping the number of high school graduates and moving them into high tech fields. But while she has a strong candidate profile, she faces an uphill battle against Mica, who is well known throughout the district and has strong backers in the Republican Party.

He's working with a pot of $1 million and she has $35,000. The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee doesn't see her as a contender and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has thus far not been too active in her campaign, though former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has spoken out in support of her candidacy.

She sat down with the News Service a couple weeks ago, immediately after wrapping up a summer science and math camp for girls in Flagler Beach, to talk about her Congressional bid.

Here is a snippet of the interview.

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NSF: You've got a pretty formidable opponnent. John Mica's been around for a long time, has a lot of money. So, that's a tough race to break into. Why not go into the state House or state Senate?

BEAVEN: “Well, because the issues I care about are really national issues. My three platform issues , which are education, jobs and veterans' affairs. The rubber meets the road at the national level on those. You know when I take office, I'll be the only female veteran serving in Congress. And you know, we have 15 percent of our military are women and we're returning home from combat really for the first time ever. And the VA has very publicly said that it's not prepared for the onslaught of female specific injuries and mental health needs.

“In so many ways, we've learned nothing from Vietnam on how to smoothly transition folks home from war. And I think that's because we have really slid. Being a military veteran used to be a right of passage for Congress and now there's only 120 vets there at all and no women.

“There's things like that are so important and go to the very character of who we are as a country that who you're running against is irrelevant. It's what you're running for.”

NSF: Do you think you might benefit – you know they keep talking about the year of the oustider, obviously in Pennsylvania and Utah -- do you think you might benefit from a little bit of that?

BEAVEN: “I don't know. We'll see. I'm definitely a political outsider, although I have a masters' degree in public administration and I spent most of my career in policy development as a public servant in a non-profit world. So, it's not that I'm naïve to the political realities of the world or the political process, but I've never been elected to office before. And so we'll see if that benefits.

“I'd obviously like to think that people do their homework and they're thoughtful on who they elect. I'd still like to believe that people vote for people because they're aligned with their philosophies versus voting people out. So I think i'd rather prefer to think the voters do that.

NSF: “So, what's been the most surprising part of the campaign so far? Have you learned anything or been struck by anything since you've been in the campaign?

BEAVEN: “Yes, the incestual relationship that campaigns and money have. I wasn't prepared for that kind of underbelly. I mean, obviously you know races are expensive. You know that you have to raise a lot of money. But I wasn't prepared for how incredibly twisted the actual financing of a campaign can get and how easy it is to slip on a slippery slope of you know family dynasties and huge amounts of money that are directly related to earmarks and directly relate to how you vote and things like that.

“I guess I really thought people gave you money because they believed in you and they were investing in your campaign. And I think individuals still do, but I don't think corporations do and that has been eye opening to me, to really watch how people message. Like the BP disaster for example. And then it doesn't take long to follow the money and figure out why that message is coming out of their mouths. And I find that disheartening, very disheartening.

“Campaign finance was never one of my top issues. I'm much more into domestic policy and good policy, and good government, smart government and effective government, things like that. Campaign finance probably wouldn't have made my top 10 priorities until this. I think it's really the root that bears all of the rest of the fruit.”

NSF: So how much campaiging have you been doing? Are you trying to do weekend events, local meet-and greets, going door-to-door?

BEAVEN: “I work, I'm still the CEO of my company and I'm running for my kids. So I'm certainly not going to abandon them now. I have almost 5,000 kids throughout the state who depend on us. And I just can't, I wouldn't walk away from that.

“So yeah, that means that campaigning happens, you know, a lot of 2:30 in the morning on Facebook kind of talk. Stuff like that. My husband I raised the first $20,000 or so literally in bed, with him on one laptop, me on the other laptop, Facebooking everyone we could think of at 1:30 in the morning.

“But that's reality, right? That's the real world. And you know, when your friends are working two shifts at a restaurant to make ends meet because they've been laid off and when you've got moms in Afghanistan away from their families for years at a time, taking on an additional job of being a candidate seems pretty minor.”

Beaven and her husband Doug, also a Kansas City, Mo., native, have two daughters, Olivia, 6, and Bella, 5. The girls are entering first grade and kindergarten respectively.

NSF: So did you have a conversation with them saying 'I'm going to try to run for office'? How did that play out?

BEAVEN: “My girls started really realizing what's going on when Barack Obama was campaigning. They just fell in love with him and they started...something exciting is happening

“What I tell them is -- they think they are meetings. They're meetings, they're meetings, they're meetings. Why are you always going to meetings?

“What I say is we've got big issues in America and Mommy's trying to get to Washington to help with those issues. So they're getting it. They understand I'm asking people to vote for me. They really, really grasp the oil. Every time the news is on, they say ‘Mommy, is that the oil? Mommy, is that the oil?'

“Kids really have an innate understanding that this is not how we should not be treating the world. They just really get it. I don't know if it's a generational thing. I don't know if this is an especially environmentally sensitive genration or if when you're little you understand when you – I mean, pick up your trash. I don't know. But they're really interested in the oil and what that means, and why are the birds dying?”

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