Features

Dylan for dollars

National | Young, energetic conservative challenger puts some serious cash behind his test of new ideas

Issue: "Rethinking divorce," June 13, 1998

in Albany, Ga. - It was after 9 p.m. and Jim Dyke was changing the toner in an overworked Mita copier in a tiny office in Albany, Ga. His five-o'clock shadow was just getting going. At 29, Mr. Dyke seems too young to be running one of the toughest-and most promising-congressional campaigns in the country. The candidate is the even more youthful Dylan Glenn, 28, a conservative with strong political ties outside Georgia, and even stronger family ties within his district. He's running against Sanford Bishop, a powerful incumbent who has never had to face a serious Republican challenge. "Dylan Glenn changes the dynamics of the race," said Mr. Dyke. "It's no longer about race; it's no longer about rich Republicans versus poor Democrats. It's finally about ideas-what the Democratic Party stands for, and what the Republican Party stands for." When Dylan Glenn arrived back at the office after a speech in a nearby town, he was still energetic and crisp in a lightweight wool suit and a cinched-up tie. "I have a lot of work to do," he said as he took off his coat but did not loosen his tie. "Sanford has a lot more name recognition 'round here than I do. He knows everyone, and everyone knows him." He calls his opponent Sanford-and Rep. Bishop called Mr. Glenn's mother when he heard Mr. Glenn was running. "What's that boy doing?" Mr. Glenn recounts with a laugh. "My mamma said, 'I can't control that boy.' But I think she was just as surprised as he was-she didn't know yet." Although Rep. Bishop has better name recognition, Mr. Glenn has far outclassed his opponent in fundraising. Mr. Glenn has raised $330,000 so far, compared to the approximately $200,000 raised by Rep. Bishop. The Glenn donor list includes Republican heavyweights Colin Powell, Haley Barbour, James Baker, Mary Matalin, and Sen. Trent Lott, along with Time Warner president Richard Parsons. Mr. Glenn forged these links during his time in Washington as a Republican Party operative. He served as an assistant in the Office of Domestic Policy during the Bush administration, and as a consultant to the Republican national conventions in Houston and San Diego. He's a partner in the Washington-based political consulting firm Jensen & Co. Only about 10 percent of his funds have come from inside his district. That's a liability, he admits, but not as big a liability as an empty bank account. The heavy war chest has enabled Mr. Glenn to hit the airwaves already, with a sophisticated television spot produced by the seasoned political firm Stevens Reed Curcio & Co. The spot emphasizes his "new ideas," but Mr. Glenn admitted some of these will be a tough sell in an economically depressed area. "This is a poor district," he said. "The state is growing, but this district isn't. It's the only district in the state that's losing people." In fact, Georgia's 2nd Congressional District, 31 counties in all, was ranked the ninth poorest in the nation by the 1990 census. It's tempting to speak of economic aid, but Mr. Glenn is so far avoiding that and sticking with talk of economic development. "We have to focus on our strengths," he said. "We're an agricultural area-we're good at growing cotton, peanuts, produce, and some tobacco. That's what we must build on. We grow tons and tons of cotton, but we don't mill any of it in this district. We can work to change that." During the campaign, he'll be trying to tie economic development to education reform-an area in which Rep. Bishop might be vulnerable. "I think everyone understands we can't have economic development without education reform," Mr. Glenn said. "I'd like for us to try vouchers here-I'm not saying they're for everybody, but I think they're worth a try. I think a lot of the black families here would respond to that, because they know their kids are the ones who are being left behind." That's only one of the traditionally Republican issues that should resonate with black families, Mr. Glenn says. "There are lots and lots of others. The failure of the Republican Party to attract black voters so far has been a shame. But Republicans have never been good at speaking to black families-they don't care what a candidate knows, they just want to know that the candidate cares. That's what I've got to communicate."

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