Pennsyvania's Lady Di: Diana Lynn Irey
During Diana Lynn Irey's remarkable campaign against John Murtha, I exchanged perhaps 30 e-mails with her, trying to sustain her emotionally and spiritually as she waged her uphill battle. The e-mails probably helped me a lot more than they did her.
I worked at Diana's headquarters in Monongahela, PA, a 70-minute drive from my home in Ambridge, PA. I saw her many times on TV, initially on the Hannity and Colmes program on Fox.
I contributed what's me a significant amount of money to her campaign -- and ecouraged many other people to do the same. To me, this beautiful and charismatic young woman -- a devout Christian and a dedicated wife and mother -- represents everything that her cynical and corrupt opponent does not.
Diana e-mailed me several times to make sure I was coming to her election eve Victory Party. I was there on November 7, 2006, election eve. I followed the lead of Diana's staffer Tammy, who told me, "I just know I'm going to cry tonight."
She knew, and I knew that Diana was not going to win the election against a competitor whose campaign war chest was engorged with huge contributions from grateful lobbyists.
The election party demonstrated the diversity of the coalition Diana had built. At one point, I was sitting with three members of the "Rolling Thunder" motorcycle group, Viet Nam vets and bikers, as well as a couple of evangelical Christians, a salesman, and an older woman who was about as likely to ride a motorcylce as she was a unicycle.
Diana isn't one of those candidates who waits, holed-up in a room with advisors, as returns come in. Just before 9 p.m., she entered the hall dedicated that night to the victory she would not have.
Accompanied by her husband, she wore white slacks and a dark top. The audience of about 150 people gave her a standing ovation.
I walked up to Diana and said, "Hi, I'm Steve." She hugged me, and I hugged her.
Diana is about 60 inches tall and weighs perhaps 99 pounds. It's hard for a petite person to convey a sense of grandeur and gravitas, but she does just that.
As a public speaker, she's quite amazing. She's highly animated and powerful, but the key is her absolute sincerity.
(If you want to see her speaking, visit the Vets4Irey.com site, where she has a 3 1/2 minute video.)
As the quote from the "Vets4" at the start of this piece indicates, Diana had a powerful effect on veterans, who supported her vigorously -- online and offline. If the 21st century has a Joan of Arc, this tiny Washington, PA County Commissioner is that person.
I told one woman who worked tirelessly for Diana that the Republican Party needed a lot more candidates like her -- good candidates. The woman, a political veteran, said, "For some reason, they don't want good candidates."
I had to admit she was right. This was the year when we found out to our sadness that many Republican congressmen -- California's "Duke" Cunningham, Ohio's Robert Ney, Pennsylvania's Don Sherwood and Florida's Mark Foley -- were morally defective.
They were either crooks (Cunningham and Ney), or adulterers and abusers (Sherwood), or pedophiliacs (Foley).
The disgusting behavior of such Republicans made the mountain Diana was climbing so much higher. They gave Republicanism an odor of seaminess, and their actions probably led to the defeat of otherwise strong candidates like Melissa Hart of PA's 4th District.
Before their fall, the Neys of the political world had no trouble raising money -- or getting party funds from the Republican Congressional Committee.At the time of Foley's political collapse, his campaign funds totalled $2 million.
If the Republican Party is to have a future, it must recruit candidates like Diana Irey (and I'd add Melissa Hart). At the same time, the party must exclude people like Foley.
For all her attractiveness and oratorical skills, Diana has even more important qualities. Most significantly, she scrupulously honest
Admittedly, we can't ask Diana or any human being to be "perfect." As St. Paul says in Corinthians, "For all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God."
If we don't need perfect people, we do need good people. Beyond that, we need individuals who will inspire others, as Diana has done with a multitude of veterans.
Ultimately, we should avoid those, like Cunningham and Ney, who excel at schmoozing with lobbyists. Today's self-servers and dealmakers are no better than their earlier counterparts throwing their weight around in smoke-filled rooms.
If America's veterans continue to "cling to her" (Diana), the Republican Party needs to follow suit. In her campaign, she "gave not less than everything," and those of us who believe in her principles should do the same.
Because of her skills and character, Diana has a chance to transform not only Pennsylvania, but also our nation. I look forward in the years ahead to seeing her do just that.
Note: In my communications with Diana, I mentioned to her Newt Gingrich's progress in Georgia during the 1970s, when I worked on his campaigns. In 1974, he ran against one of the most-entrenched of Democrats, John Flynt, and garned 48% of the vote. In 1976, with Jimmy Carter heading the national ticket, the "yellowdog" Democrats came out in great numbers -- and Newt again got 48% of the vote. In 1978, Gingrich found John Flynt not wanting another campaign, and Newt won easily, later going on to be a great leader of the Republican Party.