Jim Neal and son, Graham.

Enthusiastic progressives often suggest candidates for Blue America. We encourage that. I have to say, though, that since the beginning of Blue America in 2005 no candidate has come close to the amount of requests that we’ve had in regard to today’s guest, Jim Neal.

I’ve been talking with him on the phone for several months, following his campaign closely at Pam’s House Blend and I have come to understand why people are so excited about the prospect of Jim Neal replacing Bush rubber stamp, Elizabeth Dole, in the U.S. Senate… in a seat once held by arch-reactionary Jesse Helms. The delicious irony however is just a small bonus.

Jim Neal in the Senate would go a long way towards righting the wrongs that have been inflicted on our country in recent years by corporatist rule.

Before I turn this over to Jim, let me mention that not everyone is as enthusiastic as the North Carolina grassroots Democrats and I. Remember a couple years ago when Inside the Beltway characters like Rahm Emanuel at the DCCC and Chuck Schumer at the DSCC were axing progressive, anti-war and grassroots candidates in favor of their own brand of insiders? The grassroots fought hard for Jon Tester against a Schumer placement in Montanan and against Emanuelist shills who fought John Hall, Jerry McNerney, Carol Shea-Porter. We won those battles. Schumer urged a reluctant Insider, Kay Hagan, to run when he made the decision that North Carolina needed a someone to run against Dole who is… well, just like her. I asked Jim how he and Hagan are different.

The differences are pretty stark. There were only 4 instances that I know of where we have both responded to specific questions about issues at the federal level. First, we were both asked by the Raleigh News & Observer whether or not we would have voted for the appointment of Judge Mukasey as Attorney General. My opponent’s response was that she didn’t know… she wasn’t in the Senate and didn’t have access to the testimony… it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to comment… and so on. My response was ‘Hell, no!’ I wouldn’t support anybody who has to parse words about whether or not water-boarding is torture.

Another instance was when just recently, within the past 10 days, she announced that she favored retroactive immunity for Telecoms that had committed felony violations of the FISA law. I do not.

Third, she indicated that she is in favor of expansion of S-CHIP but not if it taxes tobacco companies. It was exactly what Senator Dole said when voting to uphold President Bush’s veto. [Note: this was the same position several reactionary Democrats took in the debate-- all of whom eventually backed away from it except Georgia's Jim Marshall. Blue America helped convince North Carolina's Mike McIntyre and Bob Etheridge it wasn't a proper position for Democrats.]

In addition she explained her vote in the state senate to lower income tax rates on the wealthiest North Carolinians by saying that if we hadn’t lowered income tax rates on the wealthiest they would have moved out of state and we would have… lost them as part of the tax base. It made me wonder if she gets to Washington she will vote to grant an extension to the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest people out fear that the richest Americans will move to the Cayman Islands. It struck me as somewhat nonsensical. Those are four very specific, very tangible points that will help people see the contrast between the two of us. Fundamentally, there’s very little difference between her and Senator Dole. That’s why she won’t be able to beat Senator Dole. And that’s why I will; I contrast so much with the Senator. The stances I’m taking are going to appeal to the Democratic base, to progressives, to young people who are turning out in record numbers, to the African-American community who is also turning out in record numbers and they’re going to appeal to independent, unaffiliated voters. 70% of those voters in North Carolina are Democrats just looking for a reason to vote for a Democrat. And that’s how I’m going to win.

What motivated Jim to run — his campaign’s principal underlying theme — is his feeling that Congress has not been responsive to the people who own and pay for and fund our democracy.

I believe that special interests — money — has become the single most corrosive influence in our political system. The Senate has ignored the will of the people of this country. In 2008 I happen to be fortune, being on the right curve in terms of where the electorate is because this is a year of change. Changing the status quo in Washington equates to what voters are looking for: new brand of leaders — people with fresh ideas from outside of the whole political bubble mindset that has gridlocked Washington. It’s a problem for both political parties. An example would be the number of Democrats just willing to role over on that FISA vote last week; they completely rolled, the way they did when they voted to give George Bush the power to go to war in Iraq. I would have never voted for that. The person who can attest to where I stood on that is my son Winston because he was out on the streets in Manhattan protesting with me. I remember the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Polling shows a dead heat in primary, although Hagan, as co-chair of the state Senate’s Appropriations Committee, is able to depend on the big institutional money from political insiders and lobbyists. Jim is depending on the grassroots to help him get out his message, a message that shows the stark contrasts between himself and Dole and Hagan. Please consider making a donation to his campaign through the Blue America ActBlue page.

Yesterday, Jim made a little clip for us so we can get a better feeling for who he is and what he intends to do when he gets to Washington. You can see it in the YouTube above.