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One week from today there will be several battles for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. In addition to the Tester/Morrison race in Montana and Jay McNerney’s battle for CA-11, we also have Jane Harman fighting in an increasingly contentious race to keep her seat in CA-60.

Harman is the Democratic incumbent from a safe Los Angeles seat who once proudly boasted that she is "the best Republican in the Democratic Party." Marcy Winograd is the real Democrat trying to oust her.  It’s another California race, and it’s come crashing into the collective political consciousness in recent days.

This is a genuine insurgent campaign by progressive activist Marcy Winograd, a serious challenge — if not an affront — to entrenched Establishment Democrat Jane Harman (CA-36). This is like a smaller version of Ned Lamont’s valiant campaign to dislodge Bush’s favorite Democrat, Joe Lieberman in Connecticut.  And unless you’re a Zell Miller/Joe Lieberman type of make-believe Democrat, Jane Harman is probably not someone you want to see re-elected to Congress from the safely blue seat which runs from San Pedro to Redondo Beach to Venice.

Although Joe Lieberman might debate her on her claim to be the best Republican in the Democratic Party, her voting record is even more reactionary and more rubber-stamp Bush than even his.  The multi-millionaire Harman is a hawk on Iraq and supports Bush on the disastrous occupation. Not coincidentally, almost every one of her big campaign contrbutors are arms merchants. She voted for the Constitution-shredding "Patriot Act" twice (she was one of just two House Democrats to back the administration’s efforts to monitor the records of public libraries when the Patriot Act came up for reauthorization) and she was one of only four Democrats briefed on Bush’s illegal warrantless domestic spying program. (Tellingly, when that program was finally revealed by the NEW YORK TIMES, Harman expressed outrage… not at the Bush Regime, of course, but at the TIMES, for making the American people aware of what she, Bush and other anti-democratic traitors were doing in secret.)  

Let me repeat, this is a safe Democratic seat, gerrymandered by Democrats for a Democrat. Bush got his wimpy ass kicked by Kerry 60/40 in 2004 and the Republicans, perfectly content to keep their pal Harman in the seat, have a pathetic challenger sacrificial lamb named Brian Gibson who hasn’t even bothered to put up a website. (He naps a lot and is said to be hoping for a Republican tsunami of support for Bush to defeat all Democrats in California and place him in Congress.)  Of course for us, there is a far more palatable way to get rid of the odious Harman.

Like Lamont’s courageous challenge to Lieberman,  Marcy Winograd  has decided to offer Democrats from Venice to Torrance a real choice next Tuesday. Marcy has been endorsed by Ron Kovic, Tom Hayden, Gore Vidal, Ed Asner, Cindy Sheehan, Tim Goodrich, Jim Hightower, Mimi Kennedy, Ed Begley, Jr., Mike Farrell, Howard Zinn, Stanley Sheinbaum, Dan Ellsberg, Robert Greenwald and scores of local Democratic clubs, as well as the local Democracy for America and Progressive Democrats For America and the Western Region of the United Auto Workers, all people both fed up with Harman’s right-of-center politics and impressed with Marcy’s record as an effective advocate and activist.  

After reading Marcy’s diary at MyDD I decided to start an ACT BLUE page for her. What got me so excited? Here, take a look yourself: 

"President of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, I am running to replace pro-war incumbent Jane Harman in California’s 36th Congressional District. I run with a great sense of urgency, for we stand on the precipice of losing our democracy, of sinking a trillion-dollars into Iraq, of launching another war in Iran, of developing over 100 new nuclear bombs each year, and of shredding the Constitution. Everywhere I travel in the 36th District, a 30-mile urban stretch from San Pedro up through Venice and Mar Vista, a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 40,000 votes, people stop me in the street, in elevators, at meetings to ask, ‘Where are the Democrats? Why aren’t they speaking out?’

"I assure them this Democrat, Marcy Winograd, is speaking out passionately, challenging the leadership of the Democratic Party to stand for the possibility of peace, for the rule of law, and for a brighter day when we reject pre-emptive war and, instead, engage the world community in tackling illiteracy, AIDS, and poverty, all the while engaging our own citizens in redefining security as universal affordable health care, quality education to close the achievement gap, and environmental protection to cool the threat of global warming.

"Some ask, ‘Have you ever been elected to office?’ and I tell them, ‘No, isn’t that great? I have no investment in the status quo, in the power of the Beltway.’ Quite the contrary. I have spent the last three years on the ground, knee deep in the grassroots, organizing town hall forums and congressional lobby delegations to end the US occupation of Iraq.

"As Co-Founder of the California Election Protection Network, I have stood on the frontlines of the movement to ensure our votes are not gobbled up by hackable electronic voting machines and to keep a close eye on a Republican Secretary of State who waltzed into office with a Diebold lobbyist on his transition team.

"I am relentless, unstoppable, moved by a deep sense of conviction that the Bush agenda of eternal war is not the answer, and that it will take a groundswell of both outrage and hope to lead our nation back to sanity, to strengthen the Democratic Party, and to ensure the Party stands for something other than accommodation to those who rush to war and pledge allegiance to a false sense of patriotism.

"A former LA County Democrat of the Year, I managed a Democratic Club headquarters in Santa Monica during the 2004 election and helped launch Swing State Sisters, a group of women who traveled to Arizona and Florida to GOTV for Kerry. Never again will I support someone who waffles so treacherously on the question of war and peace, particularly when the war in question is wrapped in a package of lies by men who want to build a corporate empire via a sanitized notion of regime change.

"Now is the time for all of us to summon the activist, the humanitarian, and the visionary inside ourselves. Yes, we must invest our precious time and energy into taking back Congress, but not without a commitment to peace, to leaving this world a better place for our children and our children’s children, not without seizing the reigns from leaders, be they Democrat or Republican, who climb into bed with war profiteers and then masquerade as advocates for the people.

"To those of you who remain skeptical, who argue that a grassroots activist cannot claim victory over a $550,000 six-term incumbent, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee– Jane Harman, the same woman who boasted she was flattered to be considered the best Republican in the Democratic Party, to those of you who say the people cannot prevail over entrenched power and influence, I say, ‘Join the hundreds of volunteers walking precincts from Venice to San Pedro, stand with me and Cindy Sheehan and Daniel Ellsberg and Ron Kovic and Fernando Suarez del Solar and Ed Begley and Ed Asner and Howard Zinn and Jim Hightower and Mimi Kennedy and Tim Carpenter and Lila Garrett and feel the excitement in the air, and hark back to the day weeks ago when we blocked my opponent’s endorsement by delegates to the Democratic Party or the day that the rank and file of the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the California Federation of Teachers, now mindful that their leadership had knee-jerked endorsed a pro-war incumbent, said NO, we reject this candidate, we rescind our endorsement. Yes, hark back to the day when the Sierra Club could not muster enough votes for Harman after hearing me, Marcy Winograd, speak of war and nuclear proliferation as the worst environmental crimes imaginable, and know that the time is ripe for change and that the people are hungry for real leadership and that Winograd for Congress will prevail. Be part of this movement electrifying the grassroots, contribute, endorse, volunteer, blog away. Join Winograd for Congress (winogradforcongress.com) as we sprint to the finish.’"

Meanwhile, the race has gained some attention because of Harman’s unexpected difficulties from her own turf, Inside the Beltway. Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has reminded Harman that party rules on term limits for committee chairpersons (and, in this case, ranking members) on House committees, mean that her tenure on the House Intelligence Committee is ending. This is her power base and this is where her dereliction of duty has made her unfit for office.

Last week’s L.A. WEEKLY pointed out:

[A]s ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Harman was privy to more of the administration’s case for the war than just about any Democrat on the Hill, though she cannot talk about the information — whether fact or fiction — the administration confided to her. Over the past two years, as the history of the administration’s refusal to consider any of the genuine intelligence about Iraq during the run-up to the war became glaringly obvious, Harman became a near regular on the Sunday talk shows, where she frequently voiced her objections — which were also the objections of the intelligence establishment — to the anti-empirical biases of the White House. But she had also been close to leading figures in the administration’s anti-empirical leadership — Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in particular — before the war went so obviously bad. And even in recent months, her defense-intelligence mindset has led her to take positions at odds with large numbers of her Democratic colleagues.

Harman has been fighting like a mad dog to keep her Committee status– even to the point of ignoring Winograd’s challenge, a mistake that has cost her in the district. (Her latest tactic has been to lobby insider journalists– you know, the regular suspects like Joe Klein– to write articles about how indispensable she is and how unfit her successor, Alcee Hastings would be.) One congressman told the WEEKLY that “Having Joe Klein write up your point of view is not the most effective tactic to shape Pelosi’s thinking."

Funny how out-of-touch Harman is not to be able to figure that out herself. Of course, if she pulled her head out of Bush’s ass, she probably wouldn’t be as disliked as she is by members of her own caucus and by grassroots Democrats back home. And, although I recognize what a tough journey it is for a under-funded challenger to go up against a powerful incumbent, if anyone can do it, it is Marcy Winograd. Click here if you’d like to send Marcy some last minute support. And if you’re in the neighborhood next weekend (as well as Monday and Tuesday), Marcy’s campaign would love some more volunteers to help out.

LAST MINUTE ADDENDUM: IF YOU’RE IN THE O.C., MARK HULL-RICHTER NEEDS YOU

East of Marcy Winograd’s district is CA-42, a suburban sprawl snaking down from Chino, Diamond Bar and Rowland Heights through Brea and Yorba Linda to Mission Viejo. It has the highest percentage of married people in the entire state and it is very white bread (although 40% of the people living there are Hispanic and Asian). In 2004 Bush carried the 42nd with 62%. The district is so hopelessly conservative that no Democrat bothered to even file to run against extreme right-wing nutcase, Gary Miller, who has one of the 10 most far right voting records in the entire Congress, more extreme than Tom DeLay or Roy Blunt and more extreme than any of the California Republican dead-enders like Richard Pombo, John Doolittle, Duncan Hunter, Jerry Lewis, although, like them, he is a crooked self-server who uses his congressional power to enrich himself at the public’s expense. The only times Miller is not busy being a Bush rubber stamp is when Bush’s (and DeLay’s) positions aren’t steeped in a high enough degree of sheer Wingnutery for him. Hate to see a kook like this get off without even having to defend his pro-war, pro-Big Business, anti-environment, anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-Labor, anti-education, anti-health care, anti-human positions?

The good news: a full-fledged progressive, a citizen-patriot, Mark Hull-Richter is running as a write-in candidate. A former Dennis Kucinich volunteer, Mark is campaigning on the kinds of themes you would expect from an enlightened progressive: supporting our troops by bringing them home from Iraq, reigning in the run-away presidency, putting an end to the culture of corruption in DC, restoring a sense of power balance between Big Business and common citizens, protecting civil rights and civil liberties for all Americans.

Mark needs 2,461 write-in votes next Tuesday to qualify to run against Miller. Do you know anyone in the district? The congressman before Miller, another right-wing crook, Jay Kim, who was convicted of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, was punished by voters for his unethical behavior (although I think he was still serving in Congress while under house arrest). Perhaps the conservative voters in the district won’t wait for Miller to be hauled off to prison before ridding the Congress of his sorry ass. But you can’t defeat someone with no one and Mark Hull-Richter is the best hope– and only hope.