Carol Shea-Porter joins us today from a sickbed in DC. She had planned to be blogging from New Hampshire but she wasn't able to fly home. Let's keep on topic today and keep other subjects to the previous thread.
Most people in government are lawyers. Of the 42 men who have served as president 25 were lawyers. The 109th Congress included 218 members who said they were attorneys. There was something very refreshing and unique about speaking with Carol Shea-Porter the other day. More than almost anyone I've interviewed for Blue America, she felt like "just plain folks." Before she became the first woman ever elected to Congress from New Hampshire– just 4 months ago– she… wasn't a lawyer; she was a social worker and a grassroots citizen-activist.
"I'm looking at the problems Congress is facing through that prism… how does this impact ordinary people. What is the difference between policy intent and delivery and does this get us there?"
I'd been trying to get Congresswoman Shea-Porter on the phone since last summer. She was too busy fighting an uphill battle, first against the state Democratic Establishment to win the nomination– she beat the Democratic State House leader who was very much supported by our old pal Emanuel– and then against an entrenched rubber stamp Republican doofus, Jeb Bradley. Since then, she's been busy trying to save the country. "I miss the serenity of the campaign," she told me, only half in jest. Before I could even ask her a question, once I did get her on the phone, she was off and running about one of the biggest passions that caused her to challenge both parties' establishments and run for Congress: Bush's catastrophic war in and disastrous occupation of Iraq.
Like every progressive member I spoke with in the last two weeks, Ms. Shea-Porter had gone through a great deal of anguish about supporting the Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill which authorizes spending over $100 billion dollars on Bush's war, while attempting to put him on some kind of a leash (setting real benchmarks, establishing tough readiness standards for deploying U.S. troops abroad and requiring the withdrawal of American combat forces by the end of August 2008). The congresswoman was once escorted out of a public event for wearing an anti-Bush/anti-war t-shirt. She's not one of those phony Inside-the-Beltway pols making believe they oppose the war while supporting it. This was a tough decision — and a heartfelt one. The pragmatist in her won out.
"Would I want a tougher leash? Yes, but I'm happy we're sending a powerful message out to the world. One of my colleagues who I spoke to about this told me about the Cheney Rule — how would Dick Cheney want me to vote?"
Yesterday she urged her colleagues to support the bill. Watch her kick some GOP ass in the 60 seconds she was allotted during the debate:
Above and beyond the refreshing approach she brings to the congressional table, there is a verve and a humanity, even poetry, that is embodied by her service so far. She says she is doing her best to reflect the will and the needs of New Hampshire's first congressional district.
"It has been an honor for me to vote to raise the minimum wage, to vote to take away unjust oil subsidies, to vote to allow for negotiations on the price of prescription drugs for our elderly, to vote to cut the interest rate in half for student loans, to vote to protect America's veterans and to improve healthcare for them and for our children. It's time to spend money in this country, on our people, instead of on a war in Iraq."
When I asked the congresswoman what had surprised her most about the realities she has bumped up against in her new job, she said it was that she's had "no problem keeping an independent voice." Ah, ha, thought I. What about your decision to run your re-election as another grassroots campaign without any help from the DCCC. That's unheard of. Emanuel must have had a fit. He didn't. This is what the bane of grassroots Democrats told Carol Shea-Porter at their meeting about her decision.
"You know your district better than anyone else. You won."
That she did. In the primary, she kicked his candidate's ass with only $17,000 and then, outspent 5-1 by the incumbent, she wound up as one of the only challengers in the country to unseat a Republican with less than a $1,000,000. Her campaign, in fact, spent under $300,000!
Now Bradley is trying to take back the seat and he and the Republicans– one of the dirtiest GOPs anywhere in the U.S.– along with their media allies have launched a full scale war against Congresswoman Shea-Porter. This article in the Hampton Union attests to the unrelenting Republican attack on her, above and beyond what they've done with almost any other freshman congressperson anywhere.
A couple weeks ago she won Russ Feingold's Pick A Progressive Patriot, which included a $5,000 purse. She's going to need a lot more than that if she's going to hold onto her very evenly split district. Last week we had an impromptu Blue America townhall meeting at Firedoglake and we selected 5 members of Congress who we felt were keeping the promises on which they had run.
We sent gratitude checks of $200 each from the Blue America PAC to Jerry McNerney, John Yarmuth, John Hall, Paul Hodes and to Carol Shea-Porter. They were symbolic. Today I'd like to ask everyone to join me in helping make sure we keep someone who is proving to be a national treasure in Congress. It's going to take more than symbolism. Because we are many, even small donations of $5 or $10 will help send the congresswoman back into battle armed to meet the Big Money challenge that Bradley poses. Here's where to do it or you can send a check to Blue America, P.O. Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027.
Many of us have read Joe Conason's powerful new book, It CAN Happen Here. Joe has been generous enough to send Blue America a box of them, autographed, and the first contributors today will each get one of the signed books (until the box is empty).