gretchenclearwater.jpgThree days ago Gretchen Clearwater announced that she is running for Congress in Indiana’s 9th CD for a seat currently held by Bush Dog Dem Baron Hill. Readers of this blog are aware of Hill’s steadfast support for the Bush-Cheney agenda — in Iraq and here at home. He was the first of the reactionary Dems to fold after being targeted by Blue America with robo-calls and the threat of a newspaper ad regarding his support for Bush’s S-CHIP veto. But Gretchen is hardly new to this. She ran against Hill, a Rahm Emanuel fave, in 2006 as well. In 2006 I looked at both candidates and Gretchen was clearly the more suitable.

But with huge Insider support Hill won — handily — and Gretchen went back to work at the University of Indiana and, of course, at grassroots activism in the 9th CD. Hill, on the other hand, promptly joined the Blue Dog coalition and has been voting against progressive values and principles ever since. If Gretchen replaces him, that isn’t a caucus she would consider joining.

“I hope to work with people like John Conyers, Russ Feingold, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee. The Progressive Caucus needs some more people on their side.”

The differences between Gretchen and Hill are crystal clear — far more now than they were last year — when Democrats couldn’t see beyond just getting rid of right wing fanatic Mike Sodrel. “Times have changed,” Gretchen told me on the phone a few days ago. People who didn’t support her last year have been urging her to take Hill on again.

People are frustrated with Congress and Baron Hill has voted the wrong way on a number of occasions. S-CHIP is one example but labor folks are pretty angry about his votes on ‘free’ trade and see those votes as a threat to their jobs. And when you’re talking about people losing their jobs, you’re talking about people losing their homes. Indiana has one of the highest rates of home foreclosures. And Baron voted for the bankruptcy bill that has exacerbated the problem… Last time all the district Democratic chairs unanimously — except for Monroe County, where I’m from — endorsed Baron Hill during the primary. Now the chairman from Monroe County is lobbying the rest of the county chairs to not endorse during the primary.

I think I have more courage than Baron Hill. I’m willing to look at a bill and vote against it if I think it’s going to be bad for this district or for the country. And he tends to not lead; when you elect someone to Congress they ought to be leaders. He follows and does what people tell him to do. Someone in the Indiana legislature told me recently that they see me as a dangerous candidate because I’m not going to vote down-the-line the way a Rahm Emanuel might tell me to vote.

Rarely do Democratic candidates feel comfortable talking about the dark force behind the DCCC. I asked her how she felt about Emanuel’s dire warnings to Democratic candidates to “move right” on immigration.

“I think that’s a crazy idea,” she said. The issue is far too complicated for someone to be able to say ‘move right’ or ‘move left’ on it. There are several issues that need to be looked at and given serious consideration from labor laws to ‘free’ trade agreements. We’re dealing with human beings. Here in the 9th district of Indiana many people have lost jobs because of industry moving to Mexico or China and they don’t blame Mexican immigrants for this. The fault lies with industry moving out. They know who to blame. The immigration issue is a hyped up issue. Most Americans are decent people who can look at all sides of that issue. The xenophobia from the loud minority is something that scares me.”

Thursday night Gretchen was at a fundraising dinner for Jill Long Thompson, a progressive Democrat who is running for against extremist incumbent Mitch Daniels, a former Bush Regime operative. Gretchen got a very encouraging reception.

“At the fund raiser many people approached me indicating that they would be backing me this time. They gave me their names and volunteered to help with my campaign. I spoke to Indiana Progressives chair Eldon Robison at length. He talked about the outrageous capitulations that Hill has made in Congress and he indicated that I was the better candidate hands down and that he would be in touch with me often throughout the campaign. Last time they were reluctant to do so. They barely spoke to me and in fact wound up supporting Hill.”

Emanuel, of course, is still there for Hill, and if things get hairy I’m sure Hoyer and Pelosi will be shuttling down to IN-09 for fundraisers, just like they did for Al Wynn, but across the district Democrats are waking up and realizing Baron Hill isn’t one of them. And those who haven’t woken up yet… well Gretchen has some plans for a grassroots campaign that will help to wake them too. Here are a few paragraphs from her announcement speech this week that address the nay-sayers who think its impossible to defeat an incumbent:

To those who say I am not viable, I believe my views are more in the mainstream of the Democratic Party than those of my opponent. Unlike my opponent, I would have voted for S-CHIP every time. I would have supported higher fuel efficiency standards for cars. I would not have given financial institutions any help in bankruptcy proceedings when those same institutions continue to gouge us with their outrageous fees and interest rates. I would not have voted to authorize the war in Iraq and you can count on me to oppose a war with Iran. I would not have voted to give the executive branch more power to violate your rights through warrant-less wire-tapping. Who is more viable?

To those who say I am inexperienced, I believe I have already shown far greater wisdom and more common sense than the experienced politicians, who foolishly trusted and continue to trust President Bush.

To those who fear that I will hurt the Democratic Party’s chances of winning in the November general election, I say — the failure of the Democratic leadership in Congress to confront President Bush has done far more damage to the party’s reputation and chances of winning than anything my presence on the ballot could ever do.

And if that doesn’t sound convincing to you, ask Gretchen how she feels about impeachment. She brought it up to me and then said Bush and Cheney both belong behind bars. Gretchen will be the last Blue America candidate added to our list until 2008. More than most candidates she needs some grassroots support and I won’t be asking you to dig deep for a couple months, so… Blue America is open and I’m hoping you’ll join me in giving Gretchen Clearwater a hand.

(H/T to Adam from DWT for the illustration.)