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[Ret. AF Lt. Col. Charlie Brown will be with us today to chat in the comments section about his candidacy for the CA-04.  Please drop by and give Charlie a great FDL welcome!  -- CHS]

The kinds of Inside-the-Beltway/corporate media pundits who specialize in rear view mirror predictions aren’t picking up on many of the Blue America candidates yet. Many of our challengers are still under the radar to the pundit class — but not to their opponents.

The huge Republican registration advantage in California’s very gerrymandered fourth congressional district has helped incumbent wingnut John Doolittle feel secure since he was first elected in 1990– that and the kind of special interest money (more on that below) he has been able to spend to defend his seat. In 2004, Doolittle spent over $900,000, and the Democrat spent $2,061. Two years earlier another Democrat managed to muster $7,548. Doolittle countered that with around a million. He took 65% of the vote both times, even more than Bush took in the district. The race is 2006 isn’t quite so one-sided.

But before I tell you about Charlie Brown, this year’s democratic candidate in California’s fourth district, I want to make sure you know who John Doolittle is and why his race is so important nationally.

If Charlie is at a disadvantage because of registration and because of the corporate money flooding into the district to protect Big Business’ favorite rubber stamp prostitute, Charlie has one over-arching advantage:  Rarely is there a race where the choice is so stark and clear, and where there can be no question about who is wearing a white hat and who is wearing a black hat.

I mean you get a similar dynamic in McNerney v Pombo, Space v Ney, Tester v Burns, Sestak v Weldon, Laesch v Hastert, but when it comes to alleged sheer and blatant corruption, few others can hold a candle to John Doolittle.

Most congressional slimeballs specialize in one or two genres of criminal behavior. Not Doolittle. Like Bob Ney, Doolittle has his greedy fingers in every single pot: he’s raking off gambling profits from Abramoff’s Indian tribes; like Jerry Lewis, he’s selling earmarks to municipalities in his own district; taking bribes money from corporations selling shoddy military equipment like Duke Cunningham; working the Tom DeLay prostitution angle in the Marianas; allegedly he and his wife rake off 15% of every dime that comes into his campaign; he’s virtually on the payroll of Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Finance and every corporate special interest ready to shell out the "legalized bribes" for legislators who won’t think twice about selling out their constituents’ vital interests for a pot of gold.

And if John Doolittle comes off a little like he’s from another planet from time to time– like when he made his infamous and snide remark about the kind of people who eat at Baja Fresh in the midst of demands that lobbyists stop bribing congressmen, it’s probably because he really is not like the rest of us.

Basically, he’s a guy who has never held down an honest job in his life, having been a professional politician/whore since he was 30, always profiting at the public trough. Utterly out-of-touch with the real life concerns of ordinary Americans, Doolittle was born within walking distance of my house in what was once a lily-white Republican enclave of Los Angeles (and is now far more diverse, as well as economically and culturally vibrant). Neither diversity nor vibrancy — culturally or economically — have been served by John Doolittle’s shameful career in politics.

I mean, we’re talking about a congressman who can’t think of a better way to represent his district than to introduce 3 separate bills to give congressmen $130 daily expense accounts while, of course, consistently voting against raising the minimum wage for people who aren’t lucky enough to be able to eat at a Baja Fresh, or even afford medical care for their families, and who probably can’t comprehend why someone making over $158,000 a year (with an unbelievable package of benefits that ordinary Americans can only dream of) is constantly asking for more taxpayer dollars for his expenses. The tiny minimum wage increase Doolittle has fought against would put less money per week into a worker’s pocket than what Doolittle wants for "walking around money" per day (and which amounts to another $32,500 increase in congressional pay raises). Even Doolittle’s greedy and self-serving Republican colleagues wouldn’t support him on these outlandish demands.

It would be an infinite task to go through all the filth and corruption that has earned John Doolittle a place on everyone’s list of the top half dozen worst congressmen. And in fact, there is a really terrific blog Dump Doolittle dedicated to just that. This is a team effort of local bloggers in CA-04 whose work will one day be the backbone of serious criminal charges against a congressman who makes Randy "Duke" Cunningham seem like a naughty prankster by comparison.

Today’s Blue America candidate, Air Force Lt. Col. (Ret.) Charles Brown is as far from being a Doolittle type as one can be.

He’s certainly not a career pol. But he certainly is a man of great personal and professional integrity, whose idea of "service" isn’t wrapped up in "self" but in community and country.

Charlie is a folksy, plainspoken, common sense kind of guy, very positive and a complete "glass is half-full" sort of person. Although he officially switched parties in February of 2005, he told me that the last Republican he voted for was Gerald Ford. He saw the hard right turn the Republicans were making and voted for Clinton twice, once for Gore and in 2004 he was a member of Veterans For Kerry.

"I kept hoping the Republican Party would get back to standing for something… things I supported like a balanced budget, states’ rights, smaller congressional budgets and less corporate cronyism… I wasn’t happy when Rove and the faction that has taken over the Republican Party assassinated John McCain’s character and then Max Cleland’s and then Kerry’s. These people seem to have sold their souls."

Yesterday I was so overjoyed when Phil Angelides endorsed California’s Clean Money Proposition. Clean money and public financing of elections are a cornerstone of Charlie Brown’s entire campaign.

"We should limit what congressmen can spend on slick media campaigns so they have to come back to the district and talk to the voters face to face… Voters can accept having a congressman with whom they sometimes disagree if he or she comes back home and explains it to them."

Like many Democratic challengers, Charlie faces a vicious practitioner of hot button politics.

"Wedge issues split us apart," explains Charlie. "Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said that either we all hang together or we’d all hang separately. Everyone agrees we need affordable healthcare. Why aren’t we at least talking about providing healthcare for everybody? Why aren’t we having a real dialogue on clean air? Same thing for a good educational system and a viable national security. But we can’t even talk about the major issues when there’s a small group who wants to divide us by talking about flag burning and gay marriage… all these things government ought to stay out of… I don’t want the government in my bedroom and I don’t want the government in my gun cabinet."

Charlie was a career military officer — so expect the Republicans to swiftboat him and disparage his service like they do with all American fighting men and women who challenge them.  Charlie was flying rescue helicopters in hostile fire while in Vietnam while Doolittle was seeking 3 consecutive deferments.

"He talks the ‘support the troops’ line, but he always votes against benefits for veterans and troops when it comes to spending dollars on medical care, education and equipment for active duty servicemen… He votes no on a bill that would have given $430 million to the V.A. for hospitals but turns around and votes to approve $700 million for a train track to benefit casinos in Mississippi."

Sounds good, right? But can he win?

Well, just like Eric Massa, Charlie won’t take any Big Business PAC money. His donations have come primarily from $10 and $20 contributions from people concerned about good government.

"People," he told me, "want some hope, hope that someone in government will be there to listen to them and try to help them with their problems and looking out for them when it comes to health care and Social Security."

And where the Democrat in 2004 spent a total of $3,000 on the race, in this quarter Charlie has already raised over a quarter million dollars. If he can get his message out to the folks in Mother Lode country north of Sacramento, he’s going to walk away with this race.

If you think investing a contribution in this good man and in our nation is worthwhile, please give what you can to Charlie’s campaign at the Blue America ACT BLUE Page.  This week SONY Records has donated 25 Johnny Cash 2 CD sets of his most beloved songs. The first 25 people who contribute to Charlie’s campaign get the CDs. (If you don’t want a CD, just add a .01 to your donation.)