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[Howie's Blue America series continues to be a fantastic highlight of progressive Democrats in races all over this nation of ours.  Today, we are fortunate to not just have Howie's article -- which is great -- but also one of the featured candidates -- Larry Kissell -- here to chat with our readers.  Thanks, Howie, for setting this up!  -- CHS] 

North Carolina has 13 congressmen. Six are Democrats, and they all seem pretty safe bets for re-election in November.  All 7 Republicans have Democratic challengers — and two of these Democrats are poised to defeat powerfully entrenched GOP incumbents. What these two races have in common is that their opponents are both far right Bush rubber-stamps. Let's take a quick look at each of them and their districts.

Robin Hayes represents the 8th CD, the south-central part of the state including Cabarrus County at the tip of the old textile corridor — devastated by Bush's "free trade" policies — and east to Fayetteville with parts of Charlotte.  This is a swing district of sorts, although Bush scored 54% in 2000 and 2004, about what Hayes has been getting since he was first elected in 1998.

Hayes is most famous for breaking down and weeping like a baby after DeLay, Blunt and other Republicans forced him, on the floor of the House, to vote against his constituents interests to break a 214-214 tie for some hideous trade policies that wreaked further havoc and despair on North Carolina's textile industry.

He is generally a posterboy for weak-charactered Republican rubber stamp irresponsibility. His voting record is positively abysmal: he ties for the absolute worst congressmen on every single issue focusing on corporate subsidies, education, human rights and civil liberties, and everything concerning criminal and civil justice. No one in the entire House is worse than Hayes on these issues. He gets a flat zero on his votes on all of these — and doesn't have a decent voting record on any other issues either.

Charlie Taylor's voting record is about the same. Where he stands out, however, is in the corruption department. This is his 8th term representing the 11th CD, the extreme western end of the state, the heart of the Great Smokey Mountains. It's a rural district, overwhelmingly white, somewhat poorer and more Republican than Hayes' district. The only major city is Asheville.  Kerry did considerably better here than Gore had 4 years earlier.

Taylor's weakest point is that he is widely considered to be the most corrupt politician in contemporary North Carolina. A member of Jerry Lewis' Appropriations Committee (Lewis is currently under Federal investigation himself), Taylor is a major self-server and has been caught up in scandal after scandal, far beyond his involvements with allegedly taking tainted money from DeLay and Abramoff.

Two counties in his district threatened to garnish his congressional salary because he refused to pay his property taxes, and he owns a bank that loans cronies money that never gets paid back and gets written off (after portions, some observers allege, are kicked back to the slippery congressman).

The men opposing these two weak and disgraceful Republicans are as different as night and day from each other. One, Heath Shuler, is a flashy favorite son being lavishly pushed by the DCCC. He fits their model perfectly: down the center moderate and totally uncontroversial. He's best known– and was recruited by DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel because– he is a former NFL quarterback (for the Washington Redskins). His website could have been put together by Emanuel himself: slick and very light on issues beyond studied support for mom and for apple pie. His positions are standard Democratic Party fare, much of it pabulum.

Although you can quickly see Shuler's a gun supporter, you'd be hard-pressed to find out that there's a war in Iraq, let alone how he feels about it…although he definitely honors our veterans. I hope he wins because there is no comparison between him and Taylor.  If you live in the district, please vote for Heath Shuler. 

If you have some spare change you're willing to contribute to a campaign for someone who will work positively to make North Carolina and America a better place to live… go to the next paragraph.

Larry Kissell was not the DCCC candidate. He's a genuine grassroots candidate with an independent mind of his own. He doesn't plan to go to Congress to take orders from an authoritarian nitwit like Rahm Emanuel or anyone else.

The DCCC candidate withdrew from the primary and the district rallied behind Kissell, who's very different from Robin Hayes– and far better suited for the 8th CD. A 27-year veteran of the textile industry, a social studies teacher and a deacon of the First Baptist Church, Kissell's website leaves nothing to guess work on how he feels– and what he wants to do about — all the major issues facing North Carolina citizens.

When Kissell talks about "values," it isn't empty rhetoric crafted to hoodwink strangers into voting for him. Kissell's Main Street values (not Wall Street values) are what informs and drives his desire to help his neighbors and his nation to do better.

This is not some right of center Democrat who will go to Washington and cause progressives to tear their hair out a la Lieberman or Zell Miller or Henry Cuellar. On the other hand, Inside-the-Beltway elitists like Emanuel are already tearing out their hair, reading stuff like "We staged our way into Iraq in one year, there is no reason we can't stage our way out in one year. My position is out of Iraq by the end of 2006."

Reading Kissell's detailed, straight-forward essays on why he's running and what he plans to do in Washington make you feel this is truly a good man– not an ambitious politician– and one who you know you could trust to make the right decisions for his neighbors and for us all. You don't have to vote for Larry Kissell just because he's better than the Republican; you can vote for him because he'll make a great legislator imbued with compassion, strength, humility and wisdom.

I suspect any assistance the DCCC plans to put into North Carolina between now and November will go entirely to Heath Shuler. That leaves Larry Kissell to depend on plain, ordinary citizens who believe in the promise of a better society. If you live in the district you can volunteer here. If you want to be part of a coast to coast movement of people contributing $5 and $10 and $20 increments to buy into an American dream of the "ordinary people" who are the backbone of this nation, putting their collective foot down to Bush and his rubber stamp congressmen (and to Democrats cut from the same cloth), please click here on the DWT ACT BLUE Page.

Firedoglake is very proud this morning to be able to open up a dialogue between our community and Larry Kissell, who is at his computer at the North Carolina Democrat State Convention right now. You can address questions to Larry or to Howie (or to anyone else– although no one can guarantee that anyone else will respond.)

Oh– and one more thing– I asked Steve in Larry's campaign office what music Larry likes and he told me he's a fan of both classic rock and country. A Firedoglake admirer at Warner Bros has donated a couple of brand new, just released Willie Nelson boxsets, THE COMPLETE ATLANTIC SESSIONS, and 20 copies of ME AND MR. JOHNSON, Eric Clapton's incredible tribute to one of his musical heroes, Robert Johnson. The first 20 contributors to Larry on the ACT BLUE Page get the Clapton CDs and the 2 Willie boxsets aren't tied to money, just to ideas and comments. (Pach and Christy are going to help Howie figure out who to send them to…)