John Fitzgerald and Virginia Fuller would seem to have little in common. He's a Democrat, she's a Republican. He's from Concord, she's from Pinole. He's a painting contractor, she's a registered nurse.
Dig beneath the surface, though, and you will find two dreamers with the same ambition. They both are running for a seat in the House of Representatives, representing California's 11th District.
That means ousting George Miller, who's held office for 38 years.
Remember, we told you they were dreamers.
Challenging Miller's stranglehold on a congressional seat is like trying to pry a ham shank from a German shepherd. He's been in office since Gerald Ford was president and gas was 60 cents a gallon.
"It's nothing personal against Mr. Miller," said Fitzgerald, "but 38 years? I don't think he needs to be in office anymore. It's time for some fresh ideas."
Frustration with elected officials is hardly new. In the current climate, it's the norm. But it takes a special determination to climb into the ring and replace words with action.
Filing fees alone are more than $1,700. The cost to put a candidate statement in voter pamphlets can be four times that. That's to say nothing of media buys, campaign signs, voter rallies and door-to-door outreach. And, oh yeah, organization.
Both candidates troll for donations on their websites (fullerforcongress.org and johnfitzgeraldforcongress.com). They hit up friends and relatives for money and advice, fully aware they are tackling a Washington fixture with deep pockets and party backing.
Isn't this like spitting into the wind?
"I'm angry at the status quo," said Fuller, undeterred. "Our representatives aren't representing us. We are going deeper and deeper into a debt our children will never be able to pay."
Fitzgerald explains that "people like us" need to run for office because Washington politicians have lost touch with the real world.
"We have the highest rate of unemployment we've ever seen," he said. "We have a housing crisis that's just getting worse. I talk to a lot of Mr. Miller's constituents, and they're suffering, and it doesn't matter what walk of life."
Problems are far easier to identify, of course, than they are to correct. The dreamers were asked what qualities they possess that will elicit voter confidence.
"I'm a very upstanding citizen," Fuller said. "I believe in honesty, and I am trustworthy. I have a strong will, and I'm well balanced. I know myself, and when I make a promise people can count on me."
Said Fitzgerald, "I can bring life experience to Washington and actually relate to what people are going through. I will not back down from anybody or anything when it comes to what I believe in."
Fitzgerald said his campaign platform includes ending all wars, stopping wasteful expenses and curtailing the outsourcing of jobs. He wants to safeguard the Constitution from further attacks such as the National Defense Authorization Act.
Fuller has her sites set on education reform -- firing bad teachers, hiring good ones -- and forestalling the administration's attempts to "disarm America."
This is the second time around for both candidates. Each was defeated in primary races two years ago -- Fitzgerald claimed 15 percent of Democratic votes, Fuller 14 percent of Republicans' -- so each has a lot of ground to make up.
There's also the elephant in the room (OK, donkey, if you prefer). Neither Fitzgerald nor Fuller can tout their experience because neither has ever held office.
Said Fuller, "What we need is not people with experience. We need people with integrity."
What else would you expect from a dreamer?
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.