[Please give a big FDL welcome to Randy. As always, with our Blue America threads, please stay on topic and be polite. Welcome Randy — chatting today as a candidate, as well as an FDL reader! We're focusing on a local race today to emphasize how important all these races are, up and down the ticket, and hoping some of our other readers will take a page from Randy's book and think about running in the future, or at least doing some work on local races. Every little bit helps! — CHS]
Unless you live in a tiny northeast corner of Wisconsin west of Marinette (basically the Green Bay northern suburbs), chances are the only way you know Randy Koehn is as "noonan," his Firedoglake blogger sign-on. Lately though, until this afternoon, he hasn't been on Firedoglake as much.
That's because he's knocked on 8,000 doors in the last few months. That's a lot of doors. And he's been going to an awful lot of Friday night football games.
You see, blogger noonan/Randy Koehn is also the progressive Democrat running for seat being vacated by Assembly Speaker John Gard, Wisconsin's 89th Assembly District. Gard, virtually always referred to as "the Tom DeLay of Wisconsin politics," is trying to move up to the congressional seat being vacated by right wing rubber stamp Mark Green so he can pursue his futile but messy attempt to become Governor.
Wisconsin Democrats need to wrest about a dozen seats from the Republicans in order to prevent them from gerrymandering the state in 2010. Randy's race for the open Gard seat is the tip of the arrow in that crucial battle. He won a tough primary against a well-known middle-of-the-road Democrat and now he's facing an extreme right wing nutjob named John Nygren.
Randy grew up in the district. In fact, now he's a history teacher, teaching in the same classroom he studied history in when he was a kid!
Until this spring he was an independent but he registered as a Democrat so he could run for Assembly and bring progressive ideas and solutions to the fore there. He feels blogging has made him a much better — and much better-informed candidate — although his reactionary opponent, an insurance salesman, a Republican Party county chairman and a serial spousal abuser, never stops deriding him as "an extremist blogger," whatever that is.
I have a friend, Gil, in a small town in the western part of the district, in a town called Puluski. He grew up there and he doesn't know Randy. He has known Nygren for years.
"He's a real Eddie Haskell type," he told me last night, "the kind of guy that gives you the creeps…comes over to your house and steals a rare stamp out of your stamp album when you're in the bathroom."
Gil has already made up his mind to vote against Nygren before I called to get his lay of the land.
When someone like Randy says "We need to build our economy from the bottom up, with a strong foundation, not wait for money to trickle down," that may sound like music to progressives' ears. To the wingnuts, it sounds like communism or atheism or gayness or terrorism…or whatever they hate this year.
When Randy started his race, he had a wide range of progressive issues he was running on — from "easing the property tax burden, equalizing school funding throughout the state, and bringing high paying jobs to the area" to helping to solve the medical care breakdown that middle and working class folks in his district are so burdened by:
"Now," he told me, "I don't get much further than talking about affordable medical care. That's the #1 issue, the issue on everyone's mind I meet. I'm not meeting anyone who wants to discuss the GOP talking points, 'Gays, Guns and Abortions;' everyone wants to know what I plan to do about affordable health care."
And Randy has a plan — one that provides everyone with health care and drives the right-wingers crazy, especially right-wingers like Nygren who supports risk pools (that's what insurance agents do) and Bush's thoroughly discredited health savings accounts.
Endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters, the AFLCIO, SEIU, AFSCME, and Planned Parenthood, Randy has to face a mass media owned lock stock and barrel by partisan Republicans. They didn't even cover the one candidate forum Nygren agreed to do. Why bother? They already know who they're supporting regardless of what the candidates say.
Up against that Randy's got a legion of his former students and they're all over his My Space page and all over the district.
Randy has put a lot of the money he's managed to collect into hundreds of yard signs and into fliers that his volunteers are passing out every weekend. He also put a TV ad together. He's been able to run the TV ad on cable networks in the area. Last night it was on during The Daily Show. I'm thinking we could significantly help Randy out with his race.
Take look at the ad. It only costs $14 to run on the local cable system. I bet a lot of us can find $14 to get someone from our own community and who believes in the same values and principles we believe in to be able to run the ad on TV. We added Randy to our BlueAmerica ActBlue page to make it easy. (He's right between two of our favorite candidates, John Laesch and Larry Kissell. Let's show him the kind of love we've shown them.)