There are Reasons Alan Grayson Inspires Absolute Rage on the Part of Anti-American Right-Wingers

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Blue America has helped channel nearly two million dollars into congressional campaigns. And, of course, the results have been mixed. We lost some and we won some. The National Journal measured the effectiveness of the Inside the Beltway political action committees and didn’t include us because, proudly, we’re 100% Outside the Beltway. However we helped People For the American Way put together their own endorsement list and we joint fundraised for the candidates. The primary difference was that they included some a few candidates on their list that they have special relationships with. None of those candidates won. And People For the American Way came in #1 in the National Journal survey.

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If you read that paragraph carefully, you realize that Blue America outperformed– in terms of picking winning candidates– every single Inside the Beltway PAC. But, like I said, our results were mixed. We lost some important races– like Darcy Burner’s, John Laesch’s, Charlie Brown’s and Dennis Shulman’s– as well as helping 26 men and women win House and Senate seats. A few of the ones we helped have been disappointing and a few even went over to the reactionary Blue Dogs. Only one, though, Chris Carney (Blue Dog-PA), was a disaster. Most, on the other hand, have been excellent members of Congress, from Donna Edwards (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Ben Cardin (D-MD).

None of our winners, though, have done better than one of our most unlikely successes: Orlando progressive Alan Grayson. When we first endorsed him, no insiders thought he had even an outside chance to win the primary, let alone beat an entrenched, well-financed Republican incumbent. But almost immediately we realized that Alan was anything but a run of the mill Democrat. Tireless, brilliant, idealistic and down to earth, the more we got to know of Alan through the primary and general campaigns, the more we realized he could be a rare leader in Congress who could make an outsized difference. (more…)

Blue America Welcomes Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Candidate For U.S. Senate

There hasn’t been much of a spotlight focused on the Ohio Senate primary (May, 2010), except in Ohio— at least not yet. The Republicans have all but picked their candidate for the open seat, ex-lobbyist (for Oman and Haitian dictator Baby Doc Duvalier) and pre-Mean Jean Schmidt Congressman Rob Portman who went on to serve as Bush’s Trade Representative and then his director of OMB, two jobs at which he failed spectacularly, particularly for Ohio working families.

Today we’re going to start looking at the contest by meeting the more progressive of the two candidates, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Her opponent is Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, more a garden variety, middle-of-the-road Democrat. When Blue Dog Zack Space withdrew from consideration he endorsed Fisher. Jennifer is the first woman to have ever served as Ohio’s Secretary of State and if her winning streak continues– she’s won all three races she has contested– she’ll be the first woman to ever be elected to the Senate from Ohio. Interestingly, 58% of the voters in the 2010 primary will be women. People in Ohio know she doesn’t back down on the toughest issues, from marriage equality to Choice to prison reform, access to health care and fair labor practices– the reason in fact why she was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

Most people from outside Ohio who have heard of Jennifer know her primarily because her state’s voters tasked her with going in and cleaning up the horrendous mess Ken Blackwell had made of Ohio democracy through his shameful stint as Secretary of State. Needless to say the first thing I asked her on the phone the other day was whether or not Blackwell had actually stolen the election for Bush. I guess it’s how you define "stolen," but she isn’t as conspiratorial as I am. She won’t characterize his behavior as cheating. "I don’t think," she countered, "that he was making sufficient effort to make sure everyone was enfranchised."

This is a funny race. I get the feeling that Ohio Democrats have been on the outside looking in for so long that they automatically tend to see what’s best in each other and support each other. Jennifer seems perfectly happy to talk about her own qualifications and her own vision but has no interest whatsoever in disparaging Fisher. In fact when he ran for governor in 1998 she was his campaign’s legal counsel and she has been a supporter of his, as have many of her own current supporters. On the other hand, she does feel that she’s best equipped to handle the challenges whomever is elected to the Senate will be facing.

There’s a need to make sure Ohio is a full participant in the economic recovery. We have at least one county in the state, Huron, where the unemployment rate is almost 20%. The recession has hit Ohio harder than most of the states. We’ve lost a lot of manufacturing jobs through outsourcing and our state tax structure has changed so that it benefits business more. We’re coming from a deeper hole than other states and it’s going to take more of a fighter. I sustained 15 lawsuits in an 8-week period, mostly emanating from the GOP trying to set Ohio up so that the results of what they thought would be a close election could be litigated. I fought very hard and held my ground; I didn’t back down… and in the end it was the people of Ohio who won.

The people of Ohio will be facing a great many challenges as the economy turns around. I’m sure debating Bush’s Trade Representative and OMB Director in a state with tremendous job losses and unemployment is something to be looked forward to with relish. Jennifer identifies jobs and health care as the two overriding issues of the campaign. "So many people’s health insurance is tied to their jobs and for every one percent increase in unemployment, nationally, a million more people go without health insurance." Please join us below for a live discussion with Jennifer in the comments section and let’s find out how she intends to approach health care and the other issues foremost in our minds.

Marcy Winograd To Take On Jane Harman In CA-36 Again

Marcy WinogradBefore I introduce you to, or re-introduce you to, Marcy Winograd, I need to make a little disclaimer. One of my closest friends in the world– and a good friend of this community– John Amato of Crooks and Liars is contemplating a run against Jane Harman, the Representative for his district. Marcy, having challenged Harman in the 2006 primary, is finished contemplating. She’s filed her papers and will be officially kicking off her primary campaign for CA-36, the district John lives in and Harman represents, with a rally on Monday afternoon (4pm) at the Venice Pier.

Marcy, who is a kind of West Coast Donna Edwards, founded the Los Angeles chapter of Progressive Democrats of America and built a good solid base from which to start her race against Harman. Three years and one week ago I urged Down With Tyranny readers to support her bid against the aloof, imperious Harman. Yesterday I asked her what will be different this year than in 2006.

"The critical factor will be time; I have more time now. We have over a year to organize on the ground. And that’s what it’s going to take– a lot of on the ground organizing, particularly in the two opposite ends of the district: the harbor area, where you have a very strong working class base, and in the West L.A./Mar Vista/Venice area where lots of liberal Democrats… You’re looking at 40-45,000 high frequency primary voters. Last time I jumped into the race very late– with only three months, barely enough time to even reach the absentee voters. Another important factor is Jane Harman herself getting caught with her hands in the cookie jar… [It appears that she was] taking favors, agreeing to backroom deals, to work on behalf of a foreign government to drop charges against 2 people accused of spying and then colluding with Alberto Gonzales to support warrantless wiretaps and be their posterchild! Even though I did not win last time, the fact that I came close– with almost 40% of the primary vote– sends a message that she is not invincible and the Machine is not invincible. This can be done.

Marcy can’t talk about the urgent priorities facing the country in terms of health care, education cuts, and the rest of the catastrophic consequences of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy– the veritable impoverishment of the country and hollowing out of our government’s ability to do its job– without talking about the billions, if not trillions, of dollars wasted on pointless wars. (more…)

Blue America Welcomes Back a Real Keystone State Democrat: Joe Sestak

When we asked Congressman Joe Sestak, the retired admiral who Blue America backed in his successful 2006 run to replace a corrupt Republican hack in a suburban district south and west of Philadelphia, it was to talk about his lead role as the spokesperson on changing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. After the 2006 midterms, Rep. Sestak was one of the very first of the candidates we had supported to reach out to this community and ask to come back on and talk with us about the issues we’re facing in Congress. He’s been open and frank, and when we heard he might take on the role of ending the destructive and costly–over $350 million in enforcement wasted–DADT policy, in conjunction with Eric Massa and Patrick Murphy, we were eager to talk with him again.

Since then, however, Joe has been on TV an awful lot–just this morning on CNN and, even more impressively, on Hardball with Tweety a couple nights ago (clip above). This morning, if you follow twitter as well as Tweety, you may have noticed that Andy Stern, the brilliant and forward-thinking head of the SEIU, is meeting with the outspoken Pennsylvania congressman tomorrow, and I have a feeling topic #1 will be to find out if Joe is really serious about primarying non-Democrat Arlen Specter or just trying to pressure him to start behaving like a Democrat. After speaking with Joe on the phone this afternoon, I don’t have a single doubt that he is 100% serious about getting into a primary battle to keep the Pennsylvania Democratic Party Democratic. I fully expect that we’ll be raising money for Joe in a tough battle against Snarlin’ Arlen (and then an easier battle against Toomey or Ridge or whomever the debilitated Pennsylvania GOP decides to run).

Few people understand what Reid, Rendell, Biden, Casey, and Obama think they’re getting by throwing the drowning Specter a political lifeline. Speculation that the one part of the deal Biden negotiated was a guarantee that in return for taking his mangy ass into the party, Specter would support health care reform, turns out to be wishful thinking. He supports exercise and diet, not an opportunity for people to get away from private insurance rip offs–by the very same insurance companies that have donated $1,020,130 to Specter’s political career since 1990, more than to any other Republican in the Senate save presidential candidate John McCain (unless you consider Ben Nelson a Republican). (more…)

Blue America Welcomes Virginia Delegate Margi Vanderhye

A couple months ago Jane called to give me some disturbing news. She warned me that it was heart of darkness time right near where she was living! One of the most reprehensible extremists any of us had ever run across, Barbara Comstock, is trying to get into elected office. Many of us first heard about Comstock when we read David Brock’s book, Blinded By The Right

One night in the winter of 1995, as the scandal over the firings of workers in the White house travel office reached a crescendo on the Hill I received a late night telephone call from one of Ted’s colleagues on an investigative committee, Barbara Comstock. Around the committee, the two Barbaras [Comstock and Olsen] were known as “the Barbarellas,” a reference to the 1968 movie starring Jane Fonda as a space-age vixen whose cosmic adventures take her to bizarre planets via rocket ships. Late night calls from Barbara Comstock were not unusual. She often telephoned with the latest tidbit she had dig up in the thousands of pages of administration records she pored through frantically, as if she were looking for a winning lottery ticket she had somehow mislaid. A plain woman with tousled reddish brown hair, she once dropped by my house to watch the rerun of a dreadfully dull Whitewater hearing she had sat through all day. Comstock sat on the edge of her chair shaking, screaming over and over again, “Liars!” (more…)

Welcome Back Darcy Burner!

Darcy BurnerFar more than most of the candidates the netroots has gotten behind, Darcy Burner, who ran in 2006 and 2008 against Dave Reichert in WA-08 west of Seattle, became integrated into the online community. A few days ago I covered the entry on the 2010 candidate into that race, Suzan DelBene, an old colleague of Darcy’s from Microsoft.

Darcy isn’t thinking about elective office now and when I called her a few weeks ago I got her in her car as she was driving across the country from Washington to Washington, DC, to start work at a new job heading up the American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation. And it’s that job, heading up a non-profit foundation under the auspices of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is why we asked her to come back and talk with us here at FDL today.

A little background before we meet in the comments section below for a chat. First off, the mission of the new foundation is to connect progressives inside and outside of Congress. Specifically, she’ll be focusing on building connections in both directions between the progressive movement and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

She was looking for a way to make a difference on the things she cares about and has been fighting for, and this seemed like a great opportunity to do so. "I’m passionate," she told me yesterday, "about small-d democracy, and decided I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to work on making it easier for the millions of people in the progressive grassroots to be more connected to the people they send to Congress to work for them." If she succeeds it could revolutionize representative democracy. And if I’ve met anyone with the brains, maturity, energy, strength, and intuition to get something like this off the ground, it’s Darcy. (more…)

Blue America Welcomes Back Francine Busby (CA-50)

Francine Busby headshotFrancine Busby was one of the first candidates Blue America ever endorsed. 1,216 members of our community contributed $22,828 to her campaign to succeed Republican bribe taker Randy "Duke" Cunningham in 2006. She took 43% of the vote (to lobbyist Brian Bilbray’s 54%). Two years earlier she had taken on Cunningham himself, winning 36% of the vote and spending $212,406 against Cunningham’s $939,542. What attracted us to Francine’s candidacy in 2006 was her absolute determination to stand up for basic progressive values in a strongly red district. Unlike the 2008 candidate, she didn’t play Republican-lite. At all times she tried persuading independents and moderate Republicans that her solutions were better than those offered by right-wing ideology.

Thursday, Francine announced that she would run against Bilbray again in 2010. I called her yesterday and invited her to come on for a chat at Firedoglake today. Before joining us in the comments section below for a live discussion, let’s do a little quick catch-up on the politics of CA-50. Francine reminded me that when she first ran in 2004 "there was very little Democratic presence in this North County San Diego area. There was a 16% Republican voter registration advantage in this very gerrymandered district. "I ran," she said, "because it was a time when I couldn’t stand to not be active any longer in speaking out against what the Bush Administration was doing; I needed to stand up and do something. We built the nucleus of a network of Democrats and progressives in North County… Now we’re starting this campaign with 500 precinct captains already in place. The differences between 2006 and now are enormous." That’s exactly what I was eager to hear about.

First of all, as a candidate I have a lot more experience in running a campaign and dealing with the media, not to mention the millions of dollars in name recognition I have because of my previous runs. In this district voter registration has shifted, just like it has in the state and across the nation. President Obama won this district, 51-47%. The Republican registration advantage has been cut from 16% to 8.9% and there’s been a steady decline in Republican registration here. Independents are 24% of the registered voters; it’s no longer a Republican-majority district. The voters here do want change and they like Obama’s message that we’re going to work together to solve the problems that people have in their lives and reform health care and education and energy.

If Francine can keep voters in CA-50 focused on that, they will easily draw the conclusion that the congressman they re-elected last year, who swore up and down the district that he’s a "moderate," has been a lockstep obstructionist for everything that has come up this year– against the Stimulus package, against the budget, against equal pay for women, against health care for needy children, against middle class tax cuts, against mortgage relief for responsible homeowners… everything that they elected Obama to do. (more…)

The Future of Cuban-American Relations and the Impact on American Politics: A Discussion with Reese Erlich

Last Saturday Robert Farley from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky hosted a Firedoglake Book Salon with Reese Erlich, who’s newest book, Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of Cuba. It was a fascinating session and I strongly urge you to read it over at the link above. Today, I want to talk with Reese not so much about the future of Cuba, but the future of the U.S., at least insofar as it is effected by our relationship with the island 90 miles off our southern coast.

Monday, Reese and his publisher allowed me to post a portion of a chapter from Dateline Havana, where he looked at what the real aims of the U.S. wanting to "bring freedom" to Cuba. Concurrently, President Obama announced a disappointingly modest few steps towards normalizing relations with Cuba, and a small gaggle of noisy wingnuts, predominantly Florida Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who fancies himself the future presidente of his Cuban birthplace (and the prospective, and equally right-wing, first brother, Mario) announced their opposition. This morning they were joined by two right-wing Illinois Republicans–odd, because most farm state congressmen are pushing Obama to move further and faster–John Shimkus, who first came to national prominence as a Mark Foley enabler, and Aaron Schock, who is Congress’ youngest member and purportedly a new and improved version of the same Mark Foley.

Schock isn’t just parroting role model Mark Foley’s support for ideological intransigence towards Cuba; he’s actually confused–he’s just a kid–about the difference in the kinds of trade bills he’s pushing to pass for Panama and Colombia (the NAFTA/CAFTA kind that exports American jobs) and what opening up normal trade relations with Cuba means–selling the Peoria area’s agricultural and manufactured products into the Cuban market. (more…)

Blue America Welcomes Rep. David Zuckerman, Lead Author of Vermont’s Same Sex Marriage Bill

David ZuckermanA same sex marriage bill easily passed the lower House of the Hawaiian legislature last month. The vote was 33-17. But then it got stuck in a procedural mess in a Senate committee and, despite overwhelming support in the Senate, and a clear path to solve the problem, the Senate’s Democratic leader, Colleen Hanabusa, a gubernatorial hopeful, purposefully let it die. Something similar could have easily happened in Vermont last week. But it didn’t. Instead, both houses of the Vermont legislature overrode the veto of Republican governor Jim Douglas and that state became the fourth to pass a same sex marriage bill. Today let’s spend some time getting to know one of the legislators behind that hard-fought victory–that most people said was impossible–Representative David Zuckerman, a member of Vermont’s Progressive Party.

David was one of the two Progressives in 2000 who co-introduced marriage legislation (H.0694) with four Democrats when the Vermont Supreme Court ruled (Dec. 1999) that Vermont had to extend equal rights to the gay and lesbian community. When Civil Unions was debated on the House floor David was one of 22 who voted for the marriage amendment to grant full equality. David has been introducing marriage legislation and has worked with advocates to build support for equality legislation since that time. He was the lead author of the bill that passed this week.

As the last person in the alphabet, David is proud to have cast the 100th vote to override the Governors veto of the equality legislation.

David Zuckerman and his partner Rachel Nevitt (along with their 3 year old daughter Addie) own and operate Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg. It’s a 150-acre farm with 20 acres of vegetables marketed through their CSA with 300 shares. They also sell their produce at the Burlington Farmers Market. He was first elected in 1996 and has been serving Vermonters for 13 years from Burlington District 3-4. He served for six of those years on the Natural Resources and Energy Committee and six years on the Agriculture Committee. From 2005-2008 he was Chair of the Agriculture Committee. This biennium he was promoted to the Ways and Means Committee to work on Vermont tax policy. He’s best known for his dogged advocacy of sustainable agriculture, sustainable energy policy, livable wages, marriage equality, progressive taxation, election reform, and end of life choices. Does he sound like the perfect Blue America candidate or what? (more…)

Making Sense of Chris Van Hollen’s Criticism of Progressive Activists Fighting for Obama’s Agenda

van-hollen-question.thumbnail.jpgWe invited DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen over to FDL today to talk about Wednesday’s incendiary Politico piece by Alex Isenstadt. In what Van Hollen’s office claims were out of context remarks, Isenstadt seems to have framed Van Hollen as "calling on liberal groups to back off in their efforts to target moderate Democrats who have been skeptical of President Barack Obama’s ambitious budget." Van Hollen couldn’t make our chat today but his office claimed a NY Times report on the same day by Kate Phillips more accurately– less Drudgily– described what the chairman was saying.

First off, no one is attacking "moderate" Democrats, just the really
reactionary ones who vote with Republicans as a matter of course on
core issues– like the budget, which saw 20 Democrats, including
right-wing Blue Dogs John Barrow (GA), Dan Boren (OK), Bobby Bright (AL), Travis Childers (MS), Parker Griffith (AL), Frank Kratovil (MD), Jim Marshall (GA), Jim Matheson (UT), Mike McIntyre (NC), Walt Minnick (ID), Harry Mitchell (AZ), Glenn Nye (VA), and Gene Taylor (MS) abandon the Democratic leadership and line up behind Republican clowns Boehner, Cantor and Ryan.

Allies of Van Hollen’s tell me, off-the-record, that he’s all for progressive groups encouraging support for President Obama’s agenda. Of course what he doesn’t want– and what many Democrats don’t want– is a situation where any Democrats wind up being defeated by Republicans, who will be just as bad on the core issues and much worse on other issues– the ones that give the Democratic Party the power it strives for above and beyond the principles it may or may not represent. “What I’ve been warning people very clearly is, beware of forming a circular firing squad,” Van Hollen said. “We believe people should be focusing their efforts on expanding the Democratic majority, and that should be their singular focus."

Van Hollen indicated that he had communicated that message to people associated with the liberal groups in question.

Van Hollen was quick to point out that during the 2008 campaign cycle, the conservative Club for Growth ran damaging ads in then-Maryland Rep. Wayne Gilchrest’s primary race. The effort, he said, wounded the more moderate Gilchrest and paved the way for a more conservative and ultimately weaker general election candidate to win the nomination.

Ironically, it did progressives no good at all since the Democrat elected is a reactionary Blue Dog, Frank Kratovil, who frequently votes with the GOP, as he did on the president’s budget. In fact, this is what lies at the heart of the disconnect between the reasonably progressive Van Hollen and grassroots progressives Outside-the-Beltway. (more…)