REMEMBER MIKE MANSFIELD!
I've been arguing with my friend Johnny about the 2006 elections. He thinks Americans are getting fed up with Bush and his neo-fascists and that the Republikanische Partei, as he puts it on his amazing radio show (KTLK-AM, Los Angeles), may get swamped. Obviously I hope he's correct, but what we've been arguing about is not the House of Representatives, but the U.S. Senate. I gladly concede that between all the corruption scandals erupting about DeLay, "Duke" Cunningham, Pombo, Taylor, Jerry Lewis, Bob Ney, Doc Hastings (DeLay's crooked head of the Ethics Committee who keeps all this bottled up), and at least a dozen others, voters are ready to make some big switches in the House. But the Senate? Where? We both agree that Santorum is probably going to be working full time for Opus Dei after November, 2006. (Or maybe I should say he will be working for them full time ON THE BOOKS, since he's been working for them full time ever since he was elected.) But beyond that, his unbridled optimism has been met by my grumpy skepticism. He sees Democratic wins in Rhode Island, Tennessee, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, Montana, Ohio, Missouri and maybe Virginia. WOW! As I often yell when he's on the air and I'm driving in my car, "Go, Johnny, Go!"
I was recently at a progressive think tank session in DC and the only toss-ups they saw were for a Democratic seat in Minnesota (being vacated by Dayton), Santorum's Pennsylvania seat, Chafee's Rhode Island seat and the seat Frist is giving up in Tennessee. Since the meeting, DeWine's Ohio seat is looking very vulnerable because the state GOP is in shambles and he has some connection to the scheme that looted the State Workmen's Compensation Fund for Republican campaign funds.
But today I started checking out some of the races Johnny was so passionate about and I want to start with Montana, a seemingly unlikely target that I'm now convinced can be wrested out of the hands of a bumbling unpopular wing-nut and won by the President of the State Senate, Jon Tester.
Let's start with the incumbent, Conrad Burns, who almost lost last time against someone far less known than Tester. The well-financed Conrad was barely re-elected with 51% of the vote. Recently Montanans have turned back towards their populist roots and elected a Democratic governor and even if Burns isn't indicted in the DeLay/Abramoff corruption scandals-- and he may be-- Montanans are pissed off about his close ties to these crooks. Public records seem to point to Burns accepting over $135,000 in bribes from Abramoff. Abramoff, like Bush, Cheney and DeLay, has hired an attorney to help him evade justice. As chairman of the Interior Appropriations subcommittee, Burns controls funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and is in a key position for tribes seeking special projects. The Washington Post reported that Burns diverted a $3 million grant meant for impoverished Indian schools to the Saginaw Chippewas in Michigan, one of the richest tribes in the nation. That tribe, of course, was a client of GOP super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff (the funneler of illegal bribes to Tom DeLay), both of whom are under investigation by the FBI for buying legislative favors with campaign contributions and bribing Congressional aides. Maybe that has something to do with Burns' pathetic polling numbers recently. Only 36% of the voters in Montana are currently planning to vote to send him back to DC. His votes against Social Security and Veteran's health care as well as for voting against Montanans' interests to support corporate fat cats in regard to the Farm Bill have turned more and more voters against him. Almost half of his campaign money comes from PACs (special interest groups) and rich Republicans from outside the state. He raises very little money in Montana any longer.
Last year was an amazing year for Democrats in Montana. Yes, the state stuck with Bush but Montana also elected a Democratic governor and swept the Repugs out of the leadership of both houses of the state legislature. And who are the Democrats going to run against this corrupt sack of shit-- who, by the way, promised that he'd never be corrupted by DC because he'd only ever accept 2 terms (he's trying for his 4th)? Meet Jon Tester, an organic wheat farmer from Big Sandy, who served as the Montana Senate President in 2005. (The citizen legislature meets for 90 days every other year, so he spends more time farming than politicking.) He's a 48 years old straight talkin' populist who first won his State Senate seat in a very Republican district. Tester announced his candidacy driving his tractor-trailer rig around the state. Between now and when he becomes a U.S. Senator in 2006, I'll be following his campaign on these pages. Stay tuned.
A LITTLE UPDATE (Monday, August 8)-
The Montana State Democratic party just started running this TV ad today. Take
a look-- http://movies.crooksandliars.com/Smell-Test.mov/-- it looks like it will be very effective to me. It makes it abundantly clear that Burns is a crooked pol and it's the kind of information the mass media so-called "news" organizations have no room for between the updates from Aruba and runaway brides.