News-Sun photo by Katara Simmons Democrat Chris Craft currently sits on the St. Lucie County commission. He is running for the 16th Congressional seat currently occupied by Republican Tom Rooney.
published: Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Craft running for Congress
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Craft, a Democrat, has announced he is running for the 16th congressional district, a seat currently held by Republican Tom Rooney.
Craft stopped by the News-Sun Saturday morning and sat for an interview as he begins a campaign he says will be a grassroots, door-by-door affair.
Craft said two factors are at foundation of his philosophy and desire to serve the public: His inability to serve in the Navy because he is blind in one eye, and the struggle he had in getting an education.
Born Christopher Davis in 1973, Craft's father left the family when Craft was 2 years old. His mother remarried when he was 5, and his step-father adopted him when he was 12. Craft took his new father's last name.
When he was a senior in high school his father became ill with cancer, dying when Craft was 19.
The family home was in danger of foreclosure because of medical bills, so instead of going to college Craft went to work hanging drywall and drop ceilings to save the house.
Craft said it didn't take him long to know that hanging drywall wasn't what he wanted to do with his life. He researched corporate American and discovered that Coca-Cola had excellent education benefits, including tuition reimbursement and company training.
When he applied for an entry level position he was turned down because his blind eye meant he couldn't get the requisite driver's license. For six months he said he called Coca-Cola every day trying to talk his way into an interview. His persistence finally paid off when he was offered a job as a merchandizer.
A merchandizer, he said laughing, turned out to be a glorified stockboy. But he took advantage of every educational offer, including night courses at the community college in business and marketing. Eventually he was promoted into sales.
A decade later Craft was negotiating contracts worth millions of dollars throughout four counties.
Along the way he met Cliff Barnes, at the time a long-standing St. Lucie County commissioner. They became friends, and Barnes a mentor, as Craft began to think in terms of elected office as a way of fulfilling his desire for public service.
"He taught me what a community is," Craft said, "and what I should do to serve, and a way to do it."
When Craft was 29, Barnes came to him and told him he was retiring, so it was time for Craft to run for the county commission. He won his first election, he said, by 1.2 percent of the vote, despite being outspent by his opponent $157,000 to $19,000.
A term later, he was re-elected by a 2-1 margin.
In addition to sitting on the county commission, Craft serves as the chair of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments, an organization made up of representatives from 19 different elected bodies from St. Lucie, Martin, Okeechobee and Indian River counties. Counties, he added, whose problems mirrored those of Highlands Country.
"There is a need for individual identity," he said, "but we should exploit our commonalties, including a relationship between government and the private sector, because the government can cause bad things in the private sector."
He said that solving long-range problems, or making big changes -- like moving to growing bio-fuels from citrus -- takes patience. "We don't see the benefits today, but create the groundwork for tomorrow."
Craft said he had not thought about running for congress until he was recently approached by friends and colleagues and asked to think about the idea.
He said he looked at the numbers and considered the issues before making up his mind.
Craft said he thinks Congress as a whole has made mistakes, especially in defining specifics of policy issues.
"We need to put aside partisan bickering," he said, "to focus on what can be done that's useful. I don't think the people of the 16th (district) want extremes. We need to dispense with the rhetoric on both sides.
"We need to define problems more simply, and solutions too," he said, giving the 1,500-page health care bill as an example of way too complicated.
The worst outcome of overly complicated legislation, he said, is how it alienates the public and makes it difficult for elected officials to master the material.
"There is a reason the (government) process is so slow," he said. "It has to include public hearings. People have to have understanding.
"We should not be shutting anyone out of the discussion. If we can truly define and understand the issues, you reduce the amount of rhetoric, and the emotion sparked by the rhetoric."
As an example he again pointed to health care.
The goals are simple, he said: "Lower cost and expand coverage without bankrupting the country in the process. (The Congress) should not have included abortion in the bill, it's an automatic trigger (for conflict) and unnecessary."
If elected, Craft hopes to serve on the agriculture committee. "I want to help write the agriculture bill when it comes out," he said. "The 16th's one of the biggest ag areas in the nation and its congress member should be very active."
Because he was unable to serve in the Navy, Craft also hopes to create a waiver system where people like him would still be allowed to enlist for appropriate positions.
He is also dedicated to making sure the nation's promises to veterans are fulfilled.
"We need an expansion of the G. I. Bill," he said. "Lots of people are coming back. We need to make sure they have ample opportunities."
WvHsDSVjCJPaAaww (by: Home run! Great suglging with that answer! - 12/18/2011)
Home run! Great suglging with that answer!
CRAFT (by: Shrek - 9/7/2009)
I am (NPA) no party affilliated will the New Sun write a favorable piece on me. I am considering on running for the 16th congress district. The replublican are too liberal and the democrats are socialist. I consider myself a true conservative and vow to protect the constitution.
merchandiser (by: Clara Garrett - 9/4/2009)
it is amazing what some people can find to complaine about ,and yes i also need a Dictionary,but you did know what they were talking about,if that's all you have a problem with you are a lucky (person)
craft (by: top doc - 9/3/2009)
St Lucie County while Mr Craft was commissioner has had a increase in unemployment almost 2 x the national average.I haven't heard him mention one thing about how he plans to deal with this staggering statistic .Are we to expect the same type of lip service in Congress he has been feeding St Lucie County..Please spare us.
equal time (by: light weight - 9/1/2009)
Tom Rooney has more than enough money to ensure he gets more than equal time when the time is right. Craft has barely left the starting block.
Equal Time (by: SebringBob - 9/1/2009)
Can't wait to see your interview with Tom Rooney. You guys asked such tough questions.....
It's merchandiSer! (by: Yeah, I Said That... - 9/1/2009)
Mr. Tuffley- You improperly spelled the word merchandiser twice in the article. Perhaps you should bookmark dictionary.com or m-w.com?
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