An earlier version of this post stated that Moore lost in 2012 by 200,000 votes, but it was 100,000 votes.
It was surprisingly crowded considering Part I of what would be the greatest day (so far) in the history of college football in the Magnolia State was already underway. The people wearing maroon far outnumbered people wearing any other color; this despite the fact that Mississippi State had already kicked off against Texas A&M in Starkville. Matt Moore had agreed to meet me at the Zonta Arts and Crafts Festival in downtown Pascagoula, where he was scheduled to be between noon and two. This was to be the middle stop of a day spent driving from one end of the 4th Congressional District of Mississippi to the other for Moore, which is the type of thing you have to do when you want to get elected to the United States House of Representatives.
Zonta is the type of event that will always attract politicians. It’s an audience of thousands available free of charge. This year was no different. The plethora of Sheriff candidates, along with those seeking a seat on the bench in Chancery Court were spread throughout Downtown Plaza amidst the local artists and businesses selling paintings, homemade jewelry, baby clothes, knick knacks, and greasy food.
Moore was running late, leaving me to wander about aimlessly after I located the tent for the Jackson County Democratic Party where I assumed correctly Moore would post up. That wandering brought back memories of the only other instance I actually recall spending any amount of time at the local festival, memories which double as my first introduction to political activism.
It was 1996 and my mother, for reasons that I’m sure I didn’t understand, was selling t-shirts in support of Bob Dole. I remember walking around with my Free Willie Vote Dole t-shirt, ambling from one end of the plaza to the other, just like I was ambling this time around.
When the candidate arrived he was wearing a button up shirt and slacks. A Matt Moore for Congress pin stuck to his right chest, and, hanging like a boutonniere from a lapel, a Fire Palazzo pin was stuck near his collar on the left side; his slightly greying hair slicked back, eyes peering through unfashionable frames, and likely no longer in the shape required of the peacetime sailor he once was. Here was the Democratic candidate for US Congress for the 4th District of Mississippi. No handlers, no volunteers, no staff. Nothing but himself, eager to meet the fine electorate of Pascagoula, MS.
In a way, every politician is playing a long con. The current districts for Congressional seats are solidly held, and those that hold them will keep their jobs for life as long as they say, but not necessarily do, the right things. And here’s Moore, campaigning in one of the most conservative districts in the country, represented by a man swept to power on the wave of the Tea Party in 2010 when he ousted long serving Congressman Gene Taylor, a man who had done nothing wrong with the exception of having the word Democrat following his name.
So why would Moore do this?
He doesn’t have any money, which is both a blessing and a curse. It means he has no conventional firepower, but it also means he hasn’t been bought yet. In a world where corporations are considered people and money is considered speech almost every politician is owned by somebody and everybody has a price. Moore may have one himself, but right now he is of a rare and pure breed, the politician who still owns his principles.
“A man without principles is no man at all. So if you can’t try to guide those actions by your principles whether it’s faith based or, other, then what the hell are you doing? What’s the point?“
Moore talks fast, not like a used car salesman, but like a man whose got something to say and knows he doesn’t have a lot of time to spare in making you believe him. Every politician, good or bad, has something in common with a good con man.
“He’s been an insult to everyone whether you’re a Republican, an Independent, or a Democrat, I mean what has the man done in four years that’s assisted anybody other than himself or the national party,” said Moore of his opponent, incumbent Steven Palazzo.
He has a point. Palazzo made national headlines only once during his time in office thus far, and that was for voting against the funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery. In the name of politics, he decided to slap those that had helped his constituents, no questions asked, when they needed help after Hurricane Katrina. He eventually did a U-Turn and voted in favor of a spending package after touring the devastated regions of New Jersey and New York, but no one who survived Katrina and, in his role at the Biloxi Housing Authority, helped spearhead rebuilding efforts with the aid of Federal money, should have needed to see it with their own eyes to understand it. He did it because his party saw an opportunity to cut funding in other areas in the name of fiscal responsibility and if innocent people were left to suffer then so be it.
It’s easy to guess Palazzo’s positions. He is a party line Mississippi Republican. Pro-life, anti-gun control, anti-EPA and climate change, anti-Obama everything. This also means he has been another cog in the most obstructionist Congressional delegation in modern times. He joined his party brothers and sisters in voting over and over again to repeal Obamacare, without offering a reasonable alternative. This despite the fact that the status quo prior to the ACA had done nothing to improve the health of Mississippians or the abysmal status of the state’s financially overburdened health care system. He’s also played his part in the budget wars, voting against raising the debt ceiling multiple times, a move which jeopardized the entire economy, including during the Senator Ted Cruz led pointless government shutdown.
The most damaging to his constituency though is likely the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance bill which Palazzo voted for then immediately lamented the bills supposed “unintended consequences” which were abundantly clear from the outset. It was and is a boondoggle for insurance companies allowing them to drastically raise rates. His response to it implied he either didn’t understand the bill or never read it in the first place.
Then there is the more petty stuff like sending out mailers to constituents on tax payer dime and paying for a party with his Congressional credit card where his staffers raised so much cane that police were called multiple times or hiring a chief of staff who was later convicted of embezzling $180,000 from the City of D’Iberville.
None of this matters though because Palazzo will win reelection, if for no other reason than the R next to his name. This was ensured back in June when he again beat Gene Taylor, this time posing as a Republican, in the primary election. Since then Palazzo has been able to lay low and ignore Moore and the three other candidates running eternally doomed campaigns to unseat him.
There is no record on which to judge Moore. He’s a former peacetime sailor and community college student with no legislative experience, not a member of the political elite or state politics in-crowd. He’s a Democrat to boot, which in this part of the south has become a dirtier and dirtier word. Philosophically, he is the polar opposite of Palazzo, which puts him at odds with most of the electorate in this district, but it is a battle he seems eager and happy to fight.
“I can only do so much to try to oppose that. The only thing we can really do is oppose the stereotype that’s been painted of progressives, with the dirty word liberal,” says Moore, who at one point was a Google Glass Explorer, a tool he says was quite effective with combating the ignorance sowed by what he calls rather bluntly, lies.
“They want to talk about fines (in relation to Obamacare), Palazzo still sends emails to people saying they are going to receive a fine if they don’t sign up. Really? We’re exempt, We don’t pay any fines. Why would you lie instead of helping us? That’s a bold faced lie. You’re not helping people. You’re lying. If he’s going to attempt to continue to lie to the people then he doesn’t need to be in the position that he is in. I think the people as a whole have grown kind of intolerant to this level of being, I don’t know, disingenuous.”
Moore is not necessarily alone in his quest, but the help he is getting is very minimal
“We are a small crew, the folks that think I’ve got a huge staff or that I’ve got handlers, it hilarious. We get a good laugh out of it. There’s about 5 or 6 of us in reality and out of that group of us half are family. So in reality we are literally grassroots. The only assistance we are receiving is from these fine committees in the counties that have the ability or the time to contribute to the cause in events like these where they are already doing county or party work.”
The national Democratic Party and the State Democratic Party largely ignore him. Which makes sense as cynical politics considering he has absolutely no chance at winning. Moore seems fine with that. He’s smart enough to understand that everything he is doing is the longest of longshots, but he keeps plugging along with his small staff and the financial handicaps, which I suppose means he is delusional or he actually gives a damn.
So what would he do if he actually won?
“Upon arrival, it’s going to be, I got to care for my vets, I got to try to get the VA into mandatory spending versus discretionary, this political football is not going to work for anybody, not for the left, not for the right, it shouldn’t be done. It’s wrong. When it comes to equal pay for women, it’s got to be taken care of. This has gone on too long. Mississippi’s ranked 41st out of 51, counting D.C. of course,” said Moore.
He’s also in favor of raising the minimum wage, free health care for veterans for life, and fully funding education. Plus he’s pro-union and pro-choice, two topics which get the conservative base in this district all sorts of riled up, and he agrees with science in regard to the reality of climate change and the threat it poses to humanity, which is another area on which he and Palazzo disagree.
“Our incumbent voted against federal funding for climate change research, now we got an eroding shoreline in his district, but he’s not aware of the rising sea levels apparently. But when’s the last time he went to the beach to do anything other than fundraising is the next question,” said Moore.
Despite these conservative boogeyman positions, Moore is most dedicated to constituent services and responsible governance.
“If they back me as the nominee or as an individual candidate prior to or otherwise I want to pay attention to what they’ve got to say. It’s the only way to appropriately represent them in Congress. And being a salesman and customer service rep for most of my hired corporate career, I’ve got a lot of experience in that where I’m on the receiving end having to solve the problem so I don’t have any issues with constructive criticism, direction.”
“In 2012, I had Matt Moore signs next to Mitt Romney signs in Hancock County because I told them, “I’m not asking you to vote for the President, I’m asking you to vote for me. I’m the one that wants to go represent you. I’m the one who wants to go there and do good by you, be there and available, be their customer service rep. We’re taxpayers, we are the investors in government. So as an investor, a fellow investor, who’s at the lower rungs of the income ladder, I agree, I want to make sure my money is going to the right places and appropriately spent.”
Moore was chosen as the Democratic candidate in 2012 when the initial candidate withdrew from the race to take care of an ailing parent. He had five weeks to get his name out there and still managed to get over 80,000 votes, which meant he still lost by 100,000. Maybe this time it’ll be different. Maybe he’ll get over 30% of the vote, maybe he’ll crack the 100,000 vote barrier. The only certain thing is that he will lose, partially because the game is rigged against him, as well as the other challengers, and partially because many voters will only see the party affiliation instead of the human being. The human being next to it, the one with no funding, the one who is running for Congress for free, the one without any apparent ulterior power hungry motives, the one who believes that your political representative shouldn’t treat voters like sheep, might actually be the better choice, no matter how much you disagree with him.
Long Live the Losers!
 I still don’t. A Democratic administration was always going to serve her best when it comes to taxes, services, etc. We weren’t dirt poor on welfare but we were low on the ladder. As Clinton would later argue, on behalf of Obama, it’s simple math.
 He’s not alone in doing this. Freshmen Republicans sent 25.6 million pieces of mail in 2011 totaling $9.8 million
 During which time he has missed 5.4% of votes in the House. The national average is typically 2.5%, but it is election season, so people think it’s fine to not do their job.
 His professors joke that he’s the only student going for a Ph, D at a county college