Editor’s note: Of the 26 candidates vying for the 3rd District Congressional seat, Richard Bew is the only candidate to visit and meet with Ocracoke voters. If others visit, we will provide coverage.
By Peter Vankevich
With 26 candidates seeking to fill the 3rd District Congressional seat that opened upon the death of long-serving Walter Jones in the April 30 primary, word spread on short notice via Facebook that one of them, Richard “Otter” Bew, would visit and meet islanders at Oscar’s House Bed and Breakfast in mid-March.
It may have been a surprise for some present to see someone so young looking as he walked in. His high and tight crewcut keeps his identity with the Marines, but his casual dress, relaxed manner and quick smiles recalled the demeanor of an earlier life as he put it, a surf rat, growing up on the beaches of New Jersey.
Bew is part of a trend in American politics of newly retired combat veterans who wish to continue their public service. He retired as a Marine Corps colonel last October after 29 years of military service.
A decorated pilot, he deployed nine times including eight combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Serbia. Towards the end of his military career, Bew’s assignments were as legislative assistant to the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and three Marine Corps commandants.
He has a master’s degree in International Public Policy from the prestigious Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
He explained why he was entering politics.
“As my retirement from the Marine Corps approached, I speculated on what the next phase of his life would be,” he said. “I looked around me these past couple of years especially in D.C. and what our nation is doing to itself and I couldn’t walk away. I told Trish (his wife) I got to find another way to serve. Rome is burning. Our place in the world has eroded over the past couple of years. The confidence of the American people has plummeted, and D.C. is as divided as it has ever been, certainly in my lifetime.”
Well-connected by his work on Capitol Hill, Bew met with about a dozen members of Congress with military backgrounds and they encouraged him to run.
Bew said health care is his top priority and recounted how Trish survived a potentially deadly heart ailment 29 years ago thanks to military health care.
“I’ve had socialized medicine,” he said. “We got great health care instead of going bankrupt. We don’t leave Marines or family members behind. We don’t leave Americans behind.”
Environment is the other important issue he is campaigning on, saying that in the military climate change is no longer a debate.
“It’s not a question we ask,” he said. “We need to shift the conversation to what we’re going to do about it.”
He opposes seismic testing and offshore drilling.
“I grew up on the beach,” he said. “We gotta protect that.”
His combat experience and legislative experience gives him an understanding of the serious foreign policy challenges.
Islanders peppered him with questions about health care, offshore drilling, immigration and the need to have someone representing them that would follow the principles of Walter Jones.
Bew, who wrote a tribute to Jones for the Raleigh News & Observer, indicated he would continue his tradition of independence, courage and doing what is right.