Catching Up with Our Blue America Victorious Candidates

edwards-small.thumbnail.jpgYesterday we saw how both Inside-the-Beltway political establishments are going broke. Donations are down–way down, possibly because Americans are wising up to the correlation between big money politics and the kinds of special interests-driven policies that have led the country’s economy right off a cliff. At the same time, many of us have watched with great pride as some of the Blue America-endorsed candidates from 2006 and 2008 have gone on to distinguish themselves in Congress, fighting daily for the aspirations of America’s working families.

Click on the ProgressivePunch score page and you’ll see that the #1 most progressive voter in Congress is still Donna Edwards (D-MD). An imperfect indicator, ProgressivePunch allows us to get an idea of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. Many of us were extremely disappointed when we read last week that former Blue America candidate Mark Begich joined the Evan Bayh anti-Obama bloc in the Senate. The Blue America blogs keep trying to let everyone know when the men and women we helped elect stray from their promises–and when they perform in exemplary ways–the way Gary Peters (D-MI) did last week and the way Alan Grayson (D-FL) always seems to. I know some people pay attention. The latest Blue America contribution came yesterday:

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Have you noticed any serious transgressions among any of the Blue America alumni? Is there anyone you think should be included on the 2010 cycle list? (more…)

Sam Bennett: The New President of the Women’s Campaign Forum

The Lehigh Valley, basically PA-15, has become more and more Democratic in its politics as the GOP has moved further and further in an extremist, right-wing direction. Obama took the district with a convincing 56-43% win over McCain. Blue America followers are already very familiar with Sam Bennett, the woman who ran against Charlie Dent last year. We last talked with Sam just two months ago and then last month spent some time blogging with her about the ruinous impact of still raging political misogyny. Over half the population in America–women–hold 18% of the seats in the House… and only 17% of the Senate.

We asked Sam to come back today to talk about her brand new job as president of the Woman’s Campaign Forum, a non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing the political participation and leadership of pro-choice women by providing the necessary encouragement, education and resources. They recruit and support women to run for office beginning in their earliest days in politics. They’re also building a national network of women voters, donors and activists whose efforts and venture capital ensure women’s voices are heard.

Sam:

"My goal as new President will be to drive home the national importance of getting more women, more progressive, pro-choice women, in elected office. We must recognize how the U.S. trails behind all other industrialized democracies and tackle this problem head on. WCF has a great tradition of early investment in promising women and we will grow that– investing in women throughout the course of their political careers not just in the races they run. Dramatically building the pipeline will ensure more women get elected– work that will require high degrees of collaboration with partners like the Net Roots community."

Let’s join Sam in the comments section and learn more about what she plans to do with the organization.

Blue America Welcomes Gordon Smith–from North Carolina (Not Oregon)

gordonsmith1.thumbnail.jpgA couple weeks ago western North Carolina activist and blogger Gordon Smith of Scrutiny Hooligans penned an expose about what went wrong with the highest ranking local Democratic elected official in his area, Blue Dog Congressman Health Shuler. Two weeks later–yesterday, to be precise, Gordon officially announced his own campaign for city council in the biggest city in Shuler’s district, Asheville (population 90,000/greater metro area is 370,000). Today we’ve asked Gordon to join us at Firedoglake to talk about his grassroots efforts in the district and about transitioning from blogger/activist to actually running for office.

He’s 38, married to Rachel with whom he has two dogs, and makes a living as a child and family therapist. After he graduated from college he served in Belfast for two years with the Brethren Volunteer Service doing community reconciliation work with Protestants and Catholics. He started blogging in 2004 at DFA and co-founded Scrutiny Hooligans, which evolved into a political blog and then BlogAshville. As the 2006 congressional race approached the Scrutiny Hooligans bloggers realized there wasn’t anyone covering incumbent Republican Charles Taylor’s corrupt dealings–so they got serious and very busy and helped replace Taylor with Shuler. He’s proud of helped get rid of Taylor even if he and his colleagues are having serious buyers’ remorse over the replacement.

"I discovered that the more local I blogged and the smaller my focus got, the more traffic we got. So we started covering county and city affairs in Asheville and Buncombe County and suddenly we were a part of a regular go-to media for news in this area. . . . Scrutiny Hooligans has become a destination for folks trying to catch up on what’s going on locally."

When I asked him what made him decide to jump from blogging to running for office there were many factors he talked about, but one of the most important is that "Asheville is facing an enormous budget deficit for a city of our size. And here in North Carolina we have what’s called ‘home rule,’ which means that if you don’t balance your budget, the state will come in and take over your city. When the budget deficits were announced the first things that came out of the city managers mouth was about cutting the things that make our community most resilient through recessions. He was talking about cutting money that was going to go towards an Affordable Housing Trust Fund for the construction of affordable housing, and cutting money for alternative transportation–for buses, for bike lanes, for greenways. . . . All the stuff that make this city more affordable, more liveable, more sustainable were the first things that were on the chopping block. So I’m running, first and foremost to be able to protect those priorities." (more…)

Meet Emanuel Pleitez, the Other Progressive Candidate Running to Replace Hilda Solis in CA-32

emanuelpleitez.thumbnail.jpgWhen Obama nominated longtime Blue America fave Hilda Solis for a cabinet position, I got a call from another Blue America alum, Roberto Rodriguez, who had run against GOP crook Buck McKeon in a district northeast of Los Angeles in 2006. Roberto wanted to introduce me to an old friend of his who is running for Congress in CA-32, the East L.A./San Gabriel Valley district that Hilda has represented. There are three Democrats in the race and all are solid progressives: State Board of Equalization head Judy Chu, state Senator Gil Cedillo, and Roberto’s friend, Emanuel Pleitez, straight off President Obama’s transition team. Judy and Gil are both very well known to people who follow Los Angeles and Sacramento politics. Emanuel is well known in the district but unknown outside. We invited him to join us today so we can talk about his very DIY grassroots campaign. He’ll be blogging with us today between 11am and 1pm (PT). (more…)

Democrats Successful in Beating Back De Facto GOP Filibuster on DC Representation

DC sealAt 11:16 this morning, 62 senators who believe all taxpaying Americans–even African-Americans in Washington, DC, deserve to be represented in Congress–voted to override 34 rightist loons (+ Robert Byrd) who attempted to stifle a vote. That was 32 Republican obstructionists plus their ally Max Baucus (D-MT). Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) smelled the roses and switched votes from 2007, joining fellow Republicans George Voinovich (R-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dick Lugar (R-IN), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) to shut down the filibuster. The only Republican who supported the bill in 2007 and opposed it today was Robert Bennett (R-UT). All the die-hard, good-ol’-boy Republicans–Vitter, Burr, Bunning, Shelby, Coburn, Isakson, et al.–voted against equal voting rights for DC residents. (Jim DeMint missed the vote.)

The bill, S.160, placates Republican partisans by also giving an extra vote to the most reactionary state in the Union, Utah. (more…)

Blue America Welcomes Terie Norelli, NH’s Speaker of the House

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We have a very special Blue America guest today, a woman unique in so many ways I hardly know where to start. In fact, she seems as unique as the institution she runs. Terie Norelli is the first Democratic woman Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives– and the first Democrat, now in her seventh term in the legislature, ever to serve back to back terms as Speaker. With 400 members, it’s the third-largest legislative body in the English-speaking world. Only the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament are larger.

The members get $200 for a two year term (i.e., $100 per year plus travel expenses for the Tuesday-Thursday sessions that last from January through June. (The Speaker and the Senate President do a little better; each gets $250 for the two year term.) All of the members are, basically volunteers– the only volunteer legislature in the U.S.– and each member has approximately 3,700 constituents they represent. Each member gets a chair and a file drawer– but no desk. The Speaker has an office.

When Speaker Norelli was first elected (1996) there were only 135 Democrats. Today there are 224 Dems and 175 Republicans (and one empty seat). In 2006 Speaker Norelli helped flip the House from red to blue– the first time in 84 years New Hampshire could boast a Democratic House. It was also the first time New Hampshire had a Democratic governor, House and Senate at the same time since before the Civil War! It’s helped them accomplish a great deal for the state from an increase in the minimum wage to a smoking ban in bars and restaurants, a good deal of environmental regulations and New Hampshire even became the first state in the Union to pass a civil unions bill without court intervention. (They even managed to get 15 Republicans to vote for it!)

Mostly what the legislature has to deal with is balancing the budget– $10 billion every two years– with, predictably, the Republicans trying to cut services to the bone and the Democrats attempting to hold the line on essential services without enacting broad-based income or sales taxes.

(more…)

Buying a Home in the Midst of the Bush Depression — and Marcy Kaptur’s Squatting Option

My friend is a school teacher in Compton. He makes around $55,000 a year, give or take. It’s never been enough to buy a home in L.A. and these days of frozen credit the dream of home ownership is further away than ever–even as home prices drop down to more affordable levels. Banks just will not lend–even to the most qualified buyers with steady, tenured jobs. The Bush Regime shoveled $300 billion–no strings, no adult supervision, no accountability–at the banksters and what happened was predictable: some of it went to scooping up other, more distressed banks and related businesses and some of it was simply stolen (in the form of self-awarded "bonuses" for… jobs well done? Rudy Giuliani may think $18.4 billion in taxpayer money to crooked, grasping millionaires (like himself) is a perfect way to get the economy moving–in essence that is the heart of the GOP trickle down theory–but most Americans are howling mad and want the stolen money returned. Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill would go even further.

Sen. Claire McCaskill has delivered a sharp threat to the wallets of corporate executives who took large compensation packages even as their companies accepted government bailout funds. Things, she warned, are going to change.

"I’ve been mad for a while," said the Missouri Democrat. "When we passed the initial half of the TARP money, [there were] rumors about bonuses, the fact that too many of these guys were holding onto the jobs even though they were running these companies into the ground. Reality didn’t seem to be the order of the day."

So McCaskill took to the Senate floor on Friday to put an end to the surrealism. In a bill that came to the surprise of reporters, her colleagues, and the White House alike–there was no coordination with the Obama administration, she said–the Missouri Democrat called for compensation for employees of bailout recipients to be capped at $400,000 a year.

"They don’t get it," McCaskill said on the floor. "These people are idiots. You can’t use taxpayer money to pay out $18-billion in bonuses… What planet are these people on?"

Planet Republicana, of course. And we elected Democrats, by substantial margins, to save us from that deadly, toxic, sociopathic planet. And that brings us back to our topic of home buying. (more…)

Blue America Welcomes Jim Holbert (KY-05)

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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. (more…)

Blue America Welcomes Back Sam Bennett (PA-15)

Sam BennettThis morning the Lehigh Valley has been in the news because a former congressman, Club For Growth president Pat Toomey, has given Arlen Specter a pass in terms of his right flank. The somewhat demented Toomey, a right wing extremist who preceded Charlie Dent as PA-15’s rep, said he’s not going to primary Specter (and run for governor instead).

This morning we’re welcoming back a dear Blue America friend, Sam Bennett, who ran against Dent in the last cycle. Yesterday she told me that "After getting around 128,000 votes, which is significantly more than any other Democrat candidate has garnered in a congressional race in this district, it’s become clear to me that we’re moving things in the right direction." Sam spent $940,252 against Dent’s $1,736,715. He spent $9.63/vote and Sam spent around $7.37/vote.

Would more money have helped? "We had a lot of support from the national progressive community and we’re moving in the right direction in terms of votes garnered compared to the amount of money raised," she said. "but there’s a lot more work to be done." And as the vice-chair of the Lehigh County Democratic Party, there’s a lot Sam can–and plans to–do.

I would argue that in my district–and in others–that when we have well-entrenched incumbents who position themselves as "moderates," thru franked mail and campaign expenditures, despite having a very unmoderate voting record, they are thought to be "moderates" in the local voters’ minds. That becomes a particularly tough target for us as progressives.

So what I need to do, and what I’m going to do, working with others in my district is keeping that coalition together that worked on my race–feminists, Greens, unions, environmentalists–and forming a federal PAC and putting up our own blog. Right now the blogosphere in my district is uniquely dominated by the regressives not the progressives.

We need to turn that situation around and look for any opportunity we can to communicate to the voters at large and give progressives voices a place to be heard. It’s clear to me that to win this district I’m not the right candidate but I’m working hard with others and we’ve got at least one phenomenal candidate, and maybe two, so we’ll be working hard to make sure there is a great progressive candidate here.

In the meantime we need to continue getting Dent’s voting record out to the public on a regular basis and utilizing any communication methods we can to get that information into the voters’ minds.

(more…)

Blue America Welcomes Kenneth Quinnell

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Ken Quinnell is running for a Florida State Committee position. Many of us feel like we know him, not because we’ve gone down to Florida to meet Ken but because we read his blog, the Florida Progressive Coalition blog.

Aside from being a blogger and activist, Ken is a political science professor, a poet, a fiction writer, a husband and a dad (3 young sons). And he lives in a state with one of the most dysfunctional local Democratic parties anywhere. He means to do something about it.

Although Obama won in Florida (4,143,957 to 3,939,380), Ken was disappointed because he– like many of us– felt Democrats could have had a far better election day. If you count defeated ex-Republican Tim Mahoney as a Democrat, there was only one net congressional pickup (with Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson both ousting GOP incumbents), and there was just one net gain in the state legislature.

And a number of great candidates that many of you are familiar with– Joe Garcia, Annette Taddeo, Doug Tudor– lost. One of the key reasons for these losses, from what I can tell, is the incessant infighting in the state party. There is still significant stranglehold on many local parties by the good old boy network and there are factions in the state party who are constantly undercutting other Dems both in the party and electorally.

Ken is running for state committee man in the hope of changing some of this. He’s running, in part, on a platform that stresses his experience with blogging, BlogTalkRadio and other Netroots groups and tools. His opponent will be familiar to those of you who paid attention to the primary mess in Florida– Jon Ausman. Many in Florida think Ausman is a symbol of all that is wrong with the party. He is constantly involved in undercutting other party members to further his own agenda and if you watched his presentation to the DNC, you could tell that he’s much more about promoting Jon Ausman than he is about moving America or Florida forward. He’s still suing the DNC over the primary and he endorsed Hillary Clinton after Barack Obama won the nomination in the name of "unity." It will be a tough race, but Ken is picking up some pretty big endorsements from local elected officials that give him a legitimate shot.

Ken’s been busy; he’s the president and founder of the Florida Democratic Party Netroots Coalition, the adviser to the Tallahassee Community College Democrats, president of the Leon County Young Democrats, a Leon County Democratic Party Precinct Committeeman and the chairman of the Leon Democratic Party Rapid Response Committee– above and beyond being a blogger and online activist since 1998.