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Kentucky’s 5th congressional district, which has long been represented by unabashed reactionary Harold Rogers, is in the eastern part of the state, a typically Appalachian district filled with working folks who consistently vote against their own economic interests to support religionist values-spouting Republicans. The Democrats didn’t bother running a candidate against Harold Rogers in November and Obama only won 3 of the district’s almost two dozen counties. In 2006, when a Democrat, Ken Stepp, did run, he only managed 26%. The candidate who did run against Rogers last year was Jim Holbert and he ran as an independent, was endorsed by the United Mine Workers and wound up with around 16% of the vote after spending less than $5,000. He has recently changed his party registration to "Democratic" and has declared that he will oppose Rogers again in 2010.

The 57-year-old Holbert spent 21 years in the military and now works as an Emergency Medical Service helicopter pilot. He’s for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, Afghanistan and NAFTA, and advocates single payer health care. He’s kind of anti-choice and pro-gun and very much opposes mountaintop removal mining. Over the holidays Jim sent the Blue America PAC a letter asking for our support. It’s why I asked him to join us at FDL today in a sort of vetting session. I thought it might be an educational experience for everyone involved. Here’s a copy of the letter:

Allow me to introduce myself as a Democratic Congressional primary candidate for 2010 in Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District. I’ve announced already so I can seek funding to win the next District Democratic primary and then go against entrenched Republican incumbent Hal Rogers, and I’d like to request a primary election campaign contribution from Blue America PAC.

My campaign platform is progressive, populist, and practical, reflecting the true interests and needs of Kentucky’s largely rural and working class 5th District. Please visit my campaign website www.holbertforcongress.com, to see where I stand on the issues.

I ran in 2008 as an Independent in a grassroots campaign against Hal Rogers– who would otherwise have been unopposed– and won 18% of the general election vote with total contributions of less than $4,000. I changed my party affiliation to Democrat shortly after the election and I am determined to put together a winning campaign organization for 2010.

If Blue America and other organizations whose goals I share will help support my campaign, together we can defeat "business as usual" Hal Rogers in 2010, bring Kentucky’s 5th District better representation, and put forth practical solutions in Congress to the real problems facing our region and the Country.

I hope that Blue America will favorably consider my request for a contribution, and I would be grateful for the opportunity to discuss my campaign with you further at any time. Thank you.

I’ve had a few phone conversations with Jim since then and I thought perhaps members of the community would like to ask him some questions, sort of go through an online, live vetting process. I did ask him why he switched from an Independent to a Democrat and he told me that when he ran in "2008 as an Independent I was fully committed to independent ideals and I still am not a slave to party identification but I realized after the 2008 run that organization is everything. I’ve been told that I’m more progressive than some of the Democrats of this region so I feel that I’m a good fit for the Democratic Party… I hope to focus attention of problems of working people. I feel that the Democratic Party left its roots as the party of the working person and I’d like to return to those roots– specifically I’d like for us to take economic and trade actions which will return good-paying middle class jobs to America."

Here’s a video of the "debate" from the last election; Rogers ducked it so it was just Jim.