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In just over 2 weeks there will be a virtual superbowl of state primaries. June 6 will see Democrats picking candidates to fight for our values and our ideals in 8 states: Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota. Some of the races are forgone conclusions and a little sleepy– although the only nose-picking I’m aware of is Paul Begala’s– and some of the races are absolutely crucial. I want to cover some of the crucial ones today, all of which can still be impacted by volunteers and contributors.

What makes a Democratic primary crucial for me is when it pits a grassroots, independent-minded progressive against a company man. A company man? Yeah, someone who represents the Inside-the-Beltway careerists who think they own the Democratic Party, the Rahm Emanuels and Steny Hoyers and Chuck Schumers of the world. Look, the Republicans are the enemies of all that makes our country great and they will be dealt with by the voters in November (and by the justice system as time goes on), but there is a culture in Washington shared by career pols on both sides of the aisle and that culture is rigged against workers and consumers. Too many– way too many– Democrats have bought into that culture and the rich rewards kowtowing to the Big Business agenda brings. Primaries are crucial because it is the only time we can reclaim the party that is supposed to represent working men and women from the corporate-whores who make their careers inside the Beltway.

Ironically, the most important race on June 6 is only coincidental with a primary and it is one that does NOT pit the grassroots and progressives against a DCCC corporate shill. The northern San Diego County (CA-50) special election run-off to replace disgraced, imprisoned Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, has united all factions of the Democratic Party– from Howard Dean’s Democratic wing to Rahm Emanuel’s Don’t-be-afraid-of-us-We’re-just-like-the-Republicans wing, from liberals to moderates to reactionaries. All Democrats are firmly united behind good government/reform candidate Francine Busby in her valiant bid to stop the GOP from inserting a corporate lobbyist with highly dubious ethics into the seat of the first Republican– probably the first of many– to be jailed for taking bribes and kickbacks from Republican contractors who were given hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sweetheart deals in return.

Brian Bilbray, the Republican, is a mess and a disgrace. A defeated ex-congressman from a neighboring district, he immediately moved to Virginia and hung out a shingle as a lobbyist, using his contacts in the body his constituents had just kicked him out of, to enrich himself. As expected, the Republicans are running a typically gutter-level campaign to cling onto the seat, complete with absurd and degenerate tv ads attempting to portray Francine, a dedicated and committed lifelong educator as someone who sympathizes with child pornography. The NRCC has spent over $2.5 million on the campaign, approximately 1/10 of their total cash on hand. And yet, every week, polling in this very red district (Cunningham won with 58% in 2004 and 64% in 2002 and Bush won with 55% in 2004 and 54% in 2000), shows Bilbray losing more and more support– and Francine pulling ahead. The latest poll, from Lake Research shows her at 47% and Bilbray at 40% with Francine garnering a 53% favorable rating and Bilbray with a 48% favorable rating. Momentum is clearly on Francine’s side. But with the national GOP pouring money into the district Francine needs volunteers and donations. Help if you can. A win here, in the heart of Wingnutia, would be a great way to help build momentum going into the November midterms. In fact, the first 50 people who donate today (any amount) through the ACT BLUE Page, will get a free CD mailed to them courtesy of FDL and DWT.

The most important primary on June 6 is in northern California when Democrats have to decide who to pick to take on one of the dozen worst Republicans in Congress, Richard Pombo, the man who would like nothing better than to sell the national parks in order to give bigger tax cuts to the wealthy business interests who have underwritten his political (and financial) rise. The primary in a classic case pitting an independent-minded grassroots progressive against an Inside-the-Beltway shill who Rahm Emanuel and his clique are attempting to impose on the district.

Jerry McNerney is wearing the white hat here and Steve Filson is the Establishment puppet. In 2004, in response to the urging of his son Michael, who had enlisted in the Air Force after 9/11, Jerry entered the race for Congress as a write-in candidate because the Democratic Party had written-off the district as too difficult to bother wasting money on. Out of NOWHERE, Jerry received nearly 104,000 votes in the general election, the most votes ever received by a challenger to the execrable Pombo.

So along comes 2006 and what does the DCCC do? Do they get behind Jerry McNerney and his huge base of support in CA-11 to help him beat Pombo? No way– Jerry opposes the occupation of Iraq; Jerry is a progressive; Jerry is a populist; Jerry is independent-minded and has no intentions of serving any political bosses from either side of the aisle, not someone named Tom and not someone named… just pick any Dick or Harry out of a hat… like Rahm or Steny. So instead of capitalizing on the groundwork that has been laid and helping Democrats in the San Joaquin Valley rid themselves– and the nation– of one of the most corrupt and corrosive influences on issue after issue that has come before Congress, the DC Insiders recruited and anointed an ex-Republican, pro-Business uninvolved mediocrity who they know will be a good little pawn if they can get him the job.

Fortunately, California Democrats don’t cotton to this kind of stalinist bossism and the state Democratic party convention endorsed Jerry with 75% of the vote. Jerry has also been endorsed by the California Labor Federation (the umbrella group for labor in the state, and includes both AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions), by SEIU (The California State Council of the Service Employees International Union) and by a dozen other unions, as well as by virtually all the district’s Democratic clubs. His opponent, on the other hand, has been endorsed by a cabal of Inside-the-Beltway power brokers, the bottom feeders of the Democratic Party who Emanuel was able to whip into following his lead.

This is ground zero for the battle for the soul of the Democratic Party. Visit Jerry’s website, think about how important it is to stop the bosses so that we don’t let the People’s party be turned into just another subsidiary of Corporate America. And you know what? The same offer I made above about a free CD for the first 50 people who contribute to Francine goes for Jerry too. And then we take on Pombo… and make America a better place to live.

I don’t want to slight any of the important races in any of these states that go to the polls on the 6th. Maybe I better take the rest up next week, especially the Montana Senate primary where Democrats get to pick the man who will crush Jack Abramoff’s closest bud in the U.S. Senate, Conrad Burns. But in California there are a few other important contested primary races for Congress, particularly in picking a Democrat to oppose one of the GOP kings of the Culture of Corruption, John Doolittle, where Charlie Brown looks like the best bet. And in the suburbs of L.A., there is the race to oust the homophobic closet queen David Dreier, the man to whom Denny Hastert turned when he needed someone to draft ethics legislation that would allow the Republican Culture of Corruption continue unabated. Moderate Democrat Russ Warner is probably the best Democrat to be able to retire Dreier and turn the district blue. There’s also a lively primary to pick a challenger to take on scandal-ridden Duncan Hunter down in CA-52; all the Democrats look pretty decent so I’m just waiting to see what the voters come up with here.