New York's Southern Tier, the 29th congressional district, is the most conservative in the state. Our Blue America candidate last year was Eric Massa and he came within 6,000 votes (out of nearly 200,000 cast) of beating right-wing extremist and Bush rubber stamp Randy Kuhl. NY-29 shares a long border with one of the reddest of Pennsylvania's congressional districts, the 10th. PA-10 is currently represented by Chris Carney, the Democratic congressman who promised to support hate crimes legislation and then voted against it (one of only 14 super reactionary Democrats who did) and promised to help extricate us from Iraq and then voted to stay the course. I was one of the 722 Blue America contributors who fell for Carney's lies and donated to his campaign last year.
Carney's perfidy has had a demoralizing effect on many of us. He has refused to give back the donations or to even offer a reasonable explanation for his actions. (Instead he regurgitated some tired GOP talking points.) I've decided to talk to perspective endorsees about our bad experience with Carney. Like Carney, Eric Massa was a military man running as a Fighting Dem. I could see his jaw drop through the phone line when I told him how Carney had voted on these two bills.
Eric was very impressive when he joined us at Firedoglake last July. Look it over so I don't have to repeat his illustrious history or explain why so many of us were so powerfully attracted to his character and his candidacy. We asked him to come on again to tell us why he's decided to run again and to explain how he plans to beat Kuhl next year. And to ask him how we can help.
"The war of occupation and attrition in Iraq– and 18th century war that we're fighting– is the issue of my generation. It is unethical, immoral, financially bankrupting and the largest strategic military blunder in the history of this country. It is based on a lie, twisted into propaganda and sustained by falsehood. We have turned so many corners in Iraq that we are, literally, running in circles. And so any candidate," he continued, referring to my question about fellow former Fighting Dem Chris Carney, "must be clear and put down an unequivocal marker about where they stand on Iraq. Right now the president won't even talk about leaving; he won't use that word. We need to stand up as a nation, tell the world we are leaving, and start immediately."
Carney may not have voted for the McGovern bill to end the war. Eric certainly would have.
As for the Hate Crimes legislation Carney voted against, not only would Eric have voted for it, even his reactionary Republican opponent, Shotgun Randy Kuhl, voted against it!
"He's been super-glued to George Bush and he became a minority whip. For two years I campaigned on very consistent statements of policy and fact and I ran in the most Republican district in New York and lost by just a couple of percent. Whether it's people in rural areas or in metropolitan areas, there is a widespread realization that discrimination and violence based on that discrimination can no longer be tolerated. My position is very simple: I support the legislation as it was passed. I don't intend to change any of my beliefs, my statements, or my policies. And the way we know we're going to win is that the people of this district– like people all over the United States– have changed. They now know they cannot trust anything Dick Cheney says. Underline 'anything.'"
Eric is getting started very early. That's a lesson he learned from 2006. He's already up on the air with 2 minute radio spots talking substantively about serious issues facing voters. "You have to hold these people accountable early." Last time he had to spend a huge amount of money to create name recognition. He raised over a million and a half dollars– without taking one cent from a corporate PAC, something he will never do. He's as serious about real campaign finance as any candidate I've ever spoken to. He doesn't wait for me to bring it up, either.
"I believe if you're going to talk about campaign finance reform, you have to be willing to do it to prove your point. And I did and I would not be able to look myself in the mirror if I took money from ExxonMobil. My opponent gets over 70% of his money from PACs… Of all the issues we face, the core issue has to be campaign finance reform because nothing will change til we get the Board Room out of the voting booth."
The Southern Tier is an economically depressed area and Eric has no doubt in his mind that what the voters there want their representative to do more than anything is to work on economic expansion that brings jobs– the kind with living wages attached– to the area. Like many people in the district who aren't asleep at the wheel, he's watched Bush's and Kuhl's policies sending jobs and opportunities to China. "I'm a violent FAIR trader," he explains, "not a free trader." That might have something to do with why 180 local unions endorsed him. "To join the European Union, your whole country gets inspected to insure that there exists the rule of law, standards of human rights, enforcable environmental policies, and adequate labor protections. We have failed to do any of that with respect to WTO and China." And it isn't just Republicans like Kuhl pushing these disastrous trade policies. There are more Democrats than there should be going right along for the ride. Eric won't be on that bandwagon.
Take a look at the video Eric's friend, neighbor and colleague, Major General John Batiste, cut for the district. They served together in Kosovo and the general is hosting a fuindraiser for him in a few weeks. Take it to heart; it's our future at stake. Then please join me in helping arm Eric for the coming battle with Shotgun Randy.