Bruce Shuttleworth knows it takes hard work and tenacity for a political newcomer to edge out a 22-year incumbent congressman. Despite long odds and a funding gap that favors Democratic primary opponent Rep. Jim Moran, Shuttleworth thinks he’s got what it takes to win.
“In 12 years of living here, I did not meet many people who enjoyed voting for my competitor, and without any prompting, quite a few people said they wanted a fresh perspective,” Shuttleworth told Patch. “And so I’m going to test that, and we’ll see how that works out.
"Clearly, he has the experiential advantage over me, but I think I bring the power of a fresh perspective, and energy and commitment, to these issues that clearly are life and death to me,” he said.
Shuttleworth, a North Arlington resident with no prior political experience, is challenging Moran in the state’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Arlington County, the city of Alexandria and parts of Fairfax County. According to the latest data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Shuttleworth has raised slightly more than $76,000 to date, while Moran has amassed more than $585,000.
What he lacks in funds, Shuttleworth said, he attempts to make up for in shoe leather and phone calls.
Local residents may see him at the Metro station in the morning, at farmers’ markets or other community events. His campaign is also blanketing the area with robocalls. Many people call back to speak with him personally, he said. His campaign is also using social media to get his message out.
“The way that an upstart campaign works is, hopefully, you leave a favorable impression with the folks that you are able to talk to, and then, sort of like the Prell shampoo ad a few years back, they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, kind of thing,” he said. “And if that goes in the upward direction, then I have a chance of winning, and if it goes in the downward direction, then I won’t.”
Melanie Corrigan, also a North Arlington resident, has thrown her support behind Shuttleworth, who coached basketball and soccer for her sons. Corrigan helped collect signatures for petitions to get Shuttleworth on the primary ballot and has attended a fundraiser. Still, she said, Shuttleworth faces a challenge in attempting to unseat Moran.
“l think the incumbent’s certainly got the name recognition,” she said. “It’s not all positive, but there’s obviously a longevity bias. That said, while Bruce has an excellent record of service, he doesn’t have a record of political service, and that’s a question people have been posing to him.”
From Jet Pilot to Businessman
Shuttleworth, 47, is a native of upstate New York who moved to Maryland in 1973. Upon graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy, he entered the Navy, where he served as a flight instructor and later as a jet pilot for nearly eight years.
After leaving the military, he attended Harvard Business School, where he graduated with an MBA in 1997. He launched a career in business, first as a strategy management consultant and later working as a director of marketing operations, a chief marketing officer, a technology firm founder and a senior director of marketing communications with various companies. Currently, he’s taking a break from the business world in order to campaign full-time.
Shuttleworth’s platform focuses on three core issues: universal health care, energy reform and “prudent” defense cuts.
His parents, non-smokers, both died from lung cancer. His mother was diagnosed first, in 2002. Shuttleworth recalled he was impressed with the free treatment she received during an emergency, early in her disease, during a vacation to Sicily. That sparked his support for universal health care in the United States.
“I think Obamacare went in the right direction,” he said. “We need to move all the way.”
His parents’ deaths also led him to embrace environmental issues, primarily clean energy. He wants action on climate change and he supports a carbon tax with revenues going toward investment in a national electricity supergrid. He also supports the electrification of transportation and an increased, but fluctuating, gas tax, which would increase when gas prices drop and decrease when they rise, to encourage people to buy electric or hybrid-electric cars.
“We should treat clean energy like we treated the Apollo mission in the '60s,” he said. “If we can have the determination and grit, as a nation, to put a man on the moon and return him safely, in the '60s, there’s no reason why we can’t use existing technology and create a national supergrid across the country that can finally efficiently utilize existing technology to leverage scaled economies of solar power in the deserts, wind power on the oceans, nuclear power as necessary, and certainly we’ll use carbon-based fuels to fill in the gaps.
“But this is the kind of thing we have to start going on now. And if we want to do something good for our kids, do this.”
Additionally, by his reckoning, the United States spends at least $100 billion per year to safeguard foreign sources of oil, plus the costs of wars. That leads to the third prong of his platform, reduced defense spending. A “bloated defense budget,” he said, doesn’t make the country any safer.
Shuttleworth proposes investing more in special forces and cybersecurity, and less in the nation’s submarine fleet, some standing forces and some capital ships. “I think America has too much of a ‘cowboy’ mentality,” he said. “And when the mentality is that our primary tool is a hammer, a lot of issues start to look like nails.”
Shuttleworth favors smart diplomacy and increased funding for the U.S. Peace Corps and other mediating organizations. He wants to see a quicker departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, leaving behind a smaller, rapid-reaction force.
Shuttleworth has his fans, who extol his virtues. Corrigan, whose sons he coached, said Shuttleworth always offered encouraging yet challenging feedback to the boys.
“I think Bruce is extremely smart,” she said. “I think he’s community-oriented. I think he really cares about where he lives and the community, and I think he’s really honest. He doesn’t sugarcoat things. He’s very direct.”
John Tougas, one of Shuttleworth’s trainees in flight school and now a retired Navy commander who now works for a major aerospace corporation as a defense contractor, is a registered Republican in Maryland but supports Shuttleworth’s campaign and appeared in a campaign video on Shuttleworth’s website. Both men agree on targeted cuts in military spending, and Shuttleworth asked his advice in crafting his defense platform, Tougas said.
Tougas described Shuttleworth as a classic perfectionist.
“He’s your classic, type A, fighter pilot, “gotta win, gotta win big on the first time” type personality,” he said.
While Shuttleworth said he agreed with Moran’s stance on many social values, he believes it’s time for a fresh perspective in Congress.
“I think too many congressmen are too enamored with the status quo in Congress, and reforming Congress is certainly something that I’m eager to do, as well,” he said. “I don’t think they’re doing a good enough job in keeping conflicts of interest at bay, and I think they need to focus on these life-and-death issues.”
Shuttleworth lives with his wife and their twin sons, age 10. Read more about him and his campaign on his website.