In the epochal election of 1994 Republicans picked up 54 seats in the House of Representatives. Republicans’ electoral success that year brought them a House majority for the first time since 1954.
Will the election this coming November see a return of the House to Republicans? It would take a pickup of 39 seats, and it is a consummation devoutly to be wished.
One factor that puts me in mind of 1994 this year is the variety of appealing Republican candidates running for election to the Senate and the House. One such candidate whom I had not heard of before yesterday is Sam Meas, running against incumbent Niki Tsongas in Massachusetts’ Fifth District.
MA-5 should be winnable for Republicans. Tsongas has a good name, but she is not a terribly strong candidate. She narrowly won her first campaign for Congress 51 percent to 46 percent in a 2007 special election against Republican Jim Ogonowski. The district is Massachusetts’ most conservative; Scott Brown carried the district by a wide margin over Martha Coakley in the special Senate election this past January.
Meas is running in the Republican primary for the right to challenge Tsongas in November. As Charles C. Johnson recounts, Meas has an incredible personal story:
Born in Cambodia, sometime between 1970 and 1972, Meas isn’t sure how old he is, nor does he know how many siblings he had. His birth records and his father were lost in Pol Pot’s murderous reign. His family fled, to a refugee camp near the Thai border, but that, too, was overrun when the Vietnamese military invaded, separating him from his family. In the confusion, a cousin whisked him away to a Thai refugee camp, where they stayed for two weeks. His cousin left him there and returned to Cambodia, never to be heard from again.
Alone in the refugee camp, Meas lived a Dickensian existence – chopping wood, babysitting, cooking, and doing the laundry for other Cambodian refugees. He slowly learned English through UN-sponsored classes and, after convincing a customs agent that he didn’t know what his own birthday was, he received permission to immigrate to the United States through Catholic Charities in Virginia.
Before the plane even landed, he learned the generosity of Americans, when a stranger, upon learning his story, walked up and down the aisle, collecting over a hundred dollars for him and the other orphans to start afresh in America. “We went from hell to heaven in twenty-four hours,” says Meas.
“In America, everything was new,” he says, laughing and recalling stories of his first time purchasing Coke from a vending machine or sleeping in a hotel. Through the help of his adopted family and the Cartoon Network, Meas learned English and assimilated, a lesson he fears is lost in our current debate over immigration. “I waited three years in a filthy refugee camp,” he says. Immigrants must “assimilate to the American way of life, not try and change it.”
Today, Meas is the first Cambodian-American to run for congress in the country….
Johnson reports that Lowell mayor Mike Sullivan says Meas is one of the most electable Republicans statewide, while Frank McNamara, former U.S. attorney, has signed up as his campaign finance chairman, hoping to infuse the grassroots campaign with much needed cash. Check out Meas’s site here; contribute online here.
I will say this: I love his campaign slogan. It alludes ironically to the election of 2008: “Change? Make mine Meas!” This is one more race with respect to which we’d like to hear from readers.