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(Coleen Rowley joins us this morning for a chat.  Please stop by and welcome her in the comments. — JH) 

Coleen Rowley was the very first congressional candidate to whom I donated money this year. That’s how sure I was that she was the real deal. And back in February I wrote an endorsement of her on Down With Tyranny. If I could be sure you’d hit that link and read the original, I wouldn’t have to repeat any of it and I could just pick up from where I left off. (But, not being sure, I may repeat a line or two.)

I called Coleen a few days ago to catch up after what has been a very hectic four months for her. She was very excited when she came to the phone, brimming over with a kind of cautious optimism that must have been exacerbated by that morning’s MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, the most read newspaper in her sprawling district south of the Twin Cities.

It wasn’t an editorial endorsement or even a news story that had helped get Coleen into such a great mood. Much to her surprise the paper was carrying a huge ad from the League of Conservation Voters. After Kline (her opponent) took nearly $100,000 in legal bribes from Big Oil to help scuttle environmental protections, it should come as no surprise to anyone– least of all Coleen– that a non-partisan conservation group like the League of Conservation Voters would be steamed enough to rate him a flat zero on conservation issues and go to the extraordinary lengths of attacking his abysmal record in an advertisement.

This Kline character is serving his second term in Congress, having beaten a Democratic incumbent in 2002 after the suburban/exurban district was gerrymandered to make it more Republican. Although Republican registration beats Democratic registration and Bush took the district, narrowly, in 2000 and 2004, it is very much a moderate district.

John Kline, however, is no moderate.

He’s the most extreme right-winger of anyone in the Minnesota congressional delegation, with a political outlook far better suited to his native Texas than to Minnesota. Certainly Kline’s "default position" in Congress has been that of a rubber stamp most of the time. But when he’s not a rubber stamp, it’s always because Bush, DeLay, Boehner and the radical Republicans controlling Congress are not far enough to the right for him!

Kline’s voting record is to the right of Tom DeLay’s and at the very bottom of the congressional barrel with the worst loons and miscreants– from Georgia’s racist imbecile Lynn Westmoreland and Florida’s bribe-taking Tom Feeney to the embarrassingly savage and psychiotic Jean Schmidt of Ohio and Iowa’s xenophobic maniac Steve King.  Nice company.

How does a radical and over-the-edge extremist like Kline get away with it in moderate and enlightened Minnesota? Well, he doesn’t show fangs and he does his best to hide his far right ideology behind the sham of a bland, grandfatherly veneer.

At this time in the election cycle a lot of campaigning gets done at the district’s 40-some small town parades. Coleen and her volunteers go to them all, handing out printed bookmarks that highlight her issues and positions on one side and Kline’s on the other side. He’s handing out recipes for fried chicken and peppermint candy.

When his real recipes are all for unpopular and indigestible dishes like the privatization of Social Security and the building of permanent bases in Iraq (seasoned with his kooky record for voting against broadly bipartisan initiatives like securing the former Soviet Union’s nuclear materials), what can he do but try every which way possible to hide the record from his constituents and confuse them with standard GOP hot button attacks.

The efficacy of those attacks are unlikely to make much of a dent in former FBI agent/TIME Magazine "Person of the Year" Coleen Rowley. She’s a solution-oriented, commonsense moderate with 100% progressive instincts and an aggressively independent mind. (The aggressively independent mind part is what scares Rahm Emanuel, who, predictably, has done what he could to ignore this race and keep the national spotlight away from it, regardless of Coleen’s starlike qualities.)

While Emanuel was warning Democratic candidates that "radicals" like John Murtha and Cindy Sheehan would be toxic for campaigns, Coleen was down in Crawford showing solidarity with Cindy. And her well thought-out position on Iraq sounds very much like Jack Murtha’s. It’s going to be up to grassroots and netroots activists to help get Coleen’s message across so that she winds up in Congress.

Even with Emanuel and the DCCC incumbent-protection racket frightened of her clear, proud progressive approach to issues, Coleen has been endorsed by Russ Feingold and local Minnesota progressives like Congressman Jim Oberstar, as well as by the National Women’s Campaign Fund, the AFL-CIO, the United Auto Workers, AFSCME, SEIU and virtually all of organized working people.

Jonathan Singer did a great q&a with Coleen about 6 weeks ago at My DD that will help give you a glimpse into this remarkable woman’s mind and give you an idea about how extraordinary it would be to have someone of Coleen’s experience and calibre serving in Congress. In contrast, local bloggers in the district have been following John Kline very, very closely and… they don’t hold back.

Coleen’s been running a real grassroots campaign — holding giant banners over freeways, handing out the bookmarks I mentioned above, meeting voters one on one every single day.

She needs volunteers and she needs donations. Please consider going to the ACT BLUE Page and helping Coleen out as best you can. It’s the only way our political system won’t be completely dominated by multimillionaires or by candidates beholden to Big Business’ pernicious interests.

Last weekend filmmaker Robert Greenwald stopped by our chat with Rick Penberthy and he has donated 30 DVDs of the incredible new movie THE BIG BUY– TOM DELAY’S STOLEN CONGRESS. The film is the story of how the DeLay political machine has undermined American democracy and it is a perfect reminder of why it is so crucial to do whatever we can to help candidates like Rick Penberthy, John Laesch, Jon Tester, Ned Lamont, Larry Kissell and Coleen Rowley take back our government.

Anyway, to make these DVDs even more special, Robert has autographed each DVD for us. The first 30 people to donate to Coleen’s campaign here will get a DVD. (A lot of people have asked that I don’t send them the stuff we give away, telling me they are happy to just make the donation and for me to pass along the give-away to someone else — so if you just want to donate and would like to pass the DVD on to the next donor, indicate it by adding a penny to your donation.)