RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – With his big grin and trademark folksiness, George Allen knows how to strike up a conversation on the campaign trail. The son of a NFL football coach, and a college quarterback himself, Allen sees similarities between politics and football.
“When you get knocked down, you get back up,” Allen said referring to his loss to Sen. Jim Webb in the 2006 U.S. Senate race. “I didn’t like losing the last election, it’s a humbling experience. But one of the things my father would always say is don’t brood over your mistakes. Learn from them and improve.”
Allen moved to Virginia in 1971 when his father was hired as head coach of the Washington Redskins. While at the University of Virginia, it was a request by a former football player turned politician that roused Allen’s interest in politics.
“Ronald Reagan asked me to head up Young Virginians for Reagan,” Allen recalled. “I remember telling him, ‘Governor I’ll be happy to do this, but I know nothing about organized politics.’ He said ‘well I understand you go around telling people how much you like me.’ I said ‘Oh yes, I do that all the time. And he said, ‘Well keep doing that.'”
Allen went on to become a state delegate and then a U.S. Congressman who represented Virginia’s 7th district.
In 1993 he ran for Governor of Virginia and won. During his time as Governor, Allen abolished parole for violent offenders, reformed welfare and established the state’s Standards of Learning testing.
Allen said his true legacy is job creation.
“I spent more time in recruiting business and expanding jobs in Virginia – more than anything else as Governor,” he said.
In 2000, Allen challenged and defeated former Virginia Governor and incumbent Chuck Robb for the U.S. Senate.
As Senator, Allen would come under fire from fiscally conservative Republicans for supporting spending entitlements and a federal bailout under President Bush. Still, Allen’s reputation within his party remained solid. So much so, some speculated Allen would one day run for President.
But in 2006, while on the re-election campaign trail, a video surfaced that showed Allen using a perceived ethnic slur against a young man working for his opponent. Later that year, Allen lost the race to his Democrat opponent Jim Webb.
“I take responsibility for that loss. From it we’ve put together a much better team. I’m a better candidate,” he said.
One month after winning the Republican nomination, Allen hopes his message of lower taxes and less government regulations resonates with Virginia voters. As he travels across Virginia, Allen knows the outcome of this election will be felt far beyond the Commonwealth.
“I want to be the deciding vote to repeal Obamacare,” Allen said.