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These days it isn’t that hard to find Democratic candidates who espouse the solidly progressive positions that are required to win a Blue America endorsement. It isn’t even that hard to find men and women, like Gary Peters, whose own records show their dedication to those positions.

But Jane, John, Digby and I are looking for something even beyond that in our candidates– men and women who show signs of being leaders of a progressive movement that will change the course of go-along-to-get-along politics.

There is plenty of factual information about Gary on his website and he can tell you more about himself in the comments section today. But before I tell you a little something about the rubber stamp incumbent Gary is hoping to rescue MI-09 from, I want to tell you about the clincher that ultimately sold us on Gary the very first time we spoke with him earlier this year.

Gary was elected to be state Senator in 1994 and in 2002 he ran for Michigan Attorney General, losing by 0.17% (around 5,000 votes). Gary was an unabashed proponent of equality under the law for all people– including gays and lesbians– and the Republicans attacked him for this and turned it into their big issue. This year he is running against a longtime Republican incumbent and he’s as committed to equality– and to gay marriage– as he was when the bigoted GOP used the issue as a wedge against him. (Knollenberg has an unambiguously anti-gay voting record; he has voted against gay equality every single chance he got. No one has been worse in the entire Congress.) This is what he told me last week:

I believe in civil rights and equality for all people and to me gay marriage is a basic human rights issue, one I feel very strongly about. When I take a position based on core principles, I’m not going to waiver from it.

Sounds like the kind of person we like seeing in Congress– even more so as a replacement for a congressman that doesn’t have any core principles, or at least has never demonstrated any– unless being an unwavering rubber stamp is considered a core principle. Joe Knollenberg’s pals in the local media give him some cover and try to paint him as a "moderate" and an "independent voice."

With his voting record readily accessible online, that becomes rather difficult, since he has voted with Bush over 95% of the time. And that doesn’t count Iraq, since he voted with Bush 100% on that one– 62 roll calls, 62 pro-war votes. Same with his 100% record against the well-being of our military personnel and 100% against veterans. Funny for someone who’s always yelling "support the troops." (He must have meant "support the military contractors" or "support the war profiteers.")

For someone who lives in a moderate suburban district (Oakland County, in the northwest suburbs of Detroit), he’s run up quite the extremist record– across the board:

He’s #2 on the League of Conservation Voters’ “Dirty Dozen” list (after Jim Inhofe), and the #1 dirtiest in the House. He also voted eight times against raising the minimum wage, but voted 11 times to give himself a pay raise. In the end, he voted for the most recent minimum wage increase– the one that was tied to war funding.

He’s one of the most extreme anti-Choice members of Congress but had no problem at all voting against stem cell research and against health care for needy children (S-CHIP).

Knollenberg is connected to Abramoff and lots of other dirty lobbyists and there is always a correlation between big corporations giving him large "contributions" and his voting patterns. He actually celebrates outsourcing and the kinds of trade deals that have been an economic disaster for Michigan.

Guess who blurted this out on the floor of the House of Representatives– "Trade between the United States and China is a net plus for the American people. It supports hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs. It creates competition in the economy. It results in the American people receiving better goods and services at more affordable prices."

Gary needs to let Oakland County voters– who have recently backed Democrats for the U.S. Senate and the governorship– about Knollenberg’s extremist agenda and about the kind of alternatives he would offer. We added him to our Blue America page today. Please help him.