50 Shades of Bob Gray

Congressional candidate Bob Gray is a great actor. I’ve never seen a candidate slip from one character into another with such flexibility and apparent sincerity. He’s a successful businessman who champions the working class. He’s a wealthy MBA who disdains the “elites.” He’s a city councilman who’s also not a politician. He believes all these things at the same time, and hopes voters in the 6th will too. 

In an interview with radio host Chuck Wilder, for example, candidate Gray said:

I’ll give you an example of one visa program that’s been utterly abused,” Gray said, “and that’s the H1-B3 visa, which I know quite a bit about.”

“We have, through the use of that visa program, have really hurt many American workers that had previously been working in very high wage jobs and we don’t need to do that.” 

(The H1-B3 visa allows foreign fashion models to work in the US, and I have no idea how Mr. Gray acquired his knowledge, but: Hubba-hubba!) 

 As a private business executive, citizen Gray “worked with dozens of Fortune 500 and private equity companies across a range of industries” …including the IT services company Keane, where he was Executive Vice President from 2008 to 2010. Gray “restructured and turned around the business,”  while Keane received 45 H1-B visas in fiscal year 2009 and 305 in fiscal year 2010, according to CNN Politics

In his defense, candidate Gray simply admitted to using foreign workers to drive down American workers’ wages: “This has caused a drastic reduction in the salaries paid to workers in the United States. As an executive in this industry, I have personally observed the incentives global technology companies have to exploit the outdated H1-B visa program.” As a former abuser of the H1-B system, I guess he should know better than anyone how exploitative it has become.  

That position dovetails nicely with Gray’s recently-adopted pro-Trumpism, while flying in the face of his prior adherence to NeverTrumpism. As a candidate, Gray is selling himself as a businessman and an outsider, with nary a mention of his service on the Johns Creek City Council. His signature accomplishment for Johns Creek was secretly crafting a resolution condemning MARTA, and getting the City Council to pass it while shutting down any public comment on it. (Given metro Atlanta’s current traffic debacle, it’s little wonder he’s not making his opposition to expanding area transit options more widely known.) 

He claims to be an outsider, ready to take on the “elites” in Washington, while bragging about his Fortune 500 experience and degrees from Purdue and the University of Chicago. In one TV commercial, he arrives in a pick-up truck to haul a pump and drain a swamp. But he’s shown up to campaign events in the district driving his black Maserati. 

His campaign strategy -offering himself to voters as President Trump’s most enthusiastic catamite- may work, although I and many other political observers have our doubts. While Trump supporters are the most energized cohort in American politics right now, he didn’t close the deal with voters in the 6th during the 2016 primary, and only eked out a 1.5% win the general. Among many Republicans in the district, attitudes toward Trump range from tolerant to highly skeptical. Democrats loathe him with the intensity of a solar flare, and that fire is spreading.  

Gray has spent a lot of money in casting himself as the most swamp-drainiest outsider businessman non-politician candidate in Georgia. His campaign playbook has a very alluring cover, but everyone knows about using covers to judge anything. Just like that infamous book from a few years back, it will only take a few chapters before the expected thrills give way to frustration and disappointment.

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