Saturday, April 28, 2007

JOHN HALL'S RETURN TO BLUE AMERICA

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Last September, on the day after he beat Rahm Emanuel's shill candidate in the Democratic primary, John Hall joined Blue America for a free ranging discussion at Firedoglake. He went on to beat a far worse shill in November, a George Bush/Tom DeLay rubber stamp named Sue Kelly. He now represents the 19th congressional district north of New York City. John campaigned on a solidly progressive platform that was strong on confronting and solving environmental issues and strong on bringing a speedy end to Bush's occupation of Iraq. He's been in office for 4 months and he's been living up to his campaign promises-- scrupulously. In fact, in a Republican-leaning district, he thinks the way to be re-elected isn't to compromise on basic principles but to work closely with his constituents the way real leaders do.

And John Hall is already showing signs of being one of the next generation of progressive leaders in Congress. Only 3 freshmen were asked to chair congressional subcommittees. One of them was John-- the Subcommitte on Disability Assistance. The work he's doing there is one of his passions, although, I have to say, that John seems to throw himself into what he believes in-- be it alternative energy, protecting women's health choices, ending the war, or ameliorating the plight of our wounded vets-- with unbounded passion.
"It's a scandal and a travesty to so quickly-- and so frequently-- send our servicemen and women to fight on the far side of the world and yet not support them with medical assistance, housing aid or economic opportunities when they come home."

One of his priorities is to reduce the unbelievable backlog of veteran disability claims. There are over 646,000 initial claims waiting from six months to a year to be acted on and then there's an appeals process that takes 2 more years! "There's an aging Vietnam era population experiencing the aftereffects of Agent Orange and infirmities that come with age plus we're at the front edge of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans coming home now." He gave me a mind-boggling statistic that I'm still trying to comprehend. During the Vietnam War the ratio of wounded to killed was two to one. Now the ratio is sixteen to one. In many ways that is very, very good news. Keep in mind though that many of these vets coming back, who might have died in past decades, are coming back with far more serious injuries, especially when you consider how many have traumatic brain injuries or are missing multiple limbs.

When Congressman Hall and I spoke on the phone a couple weeks ago he had just walked out of the first meeting of the first meeting of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. His enthusiasm was brimming over, palpable. Chairman Markey had decided to focus on the geopolitical implications of rising oil dependence and global warming and John could barely stop talking about it, especially about the national security implications of climate change. Witnesses had included ex-CIA Director James Woolsey, Ambassador Richard Haass (President of the Council on Foreign Relations), Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, and Admiral Dennis McGinn.

Much of John's public career, long before he got involved in politics, has centered on environmental sanity. Sure, he drives a hybrid-- a Mercury Mariner-- but the level of excitement he had when he tried explaining how in the future owners of plug-in hybrids would be able to sell excess electricity back into the power grid the way solar power generators do today was tremendous. He even thinks some of the Republicans on the committee may have been convinced, although, interestingly, Minority Leader Boehner, a dyed-in-the-wool obstructionist, only appointed Republicans to the committee who had voted against its creation.

Last year in just over 2 months 735 Blue America donors contributed over $12,000 to John's campaign and he beat Kelly by just over 4,000 votes, 51% to 49%. She spent over two and a half million dollars and John spent a little less than $1.6 million. Approximately 85% of his money came from grassroots and netroots contributors. Her money came overwhelmingly from Big Business PACs, desperate for a Republican majority to keep up the rubber stamping of Bush's excruciating agenda. If you watched the congressional testimony about Rove's politicization of the GSA, you know that he has targeted John and that Republicans are pouring resources-- perhaps illegally-- into the race already. They have persuaded a fashion industry multimillionaire, Andrew Saul, chairman of Caché Inc, to run against John. (There are also several fringe far right loons who are interested in tossing their hats into the ring.)

I hope you'll join me today in helping John defend a GOP-leaning seat, and one of Blue America's most compelling victories in 2006, a man who beat both Inside the Beltway establishments and is proving himself to be every bit as good as we hoped. Blue America has a box of Neil Young CDs, Live At Massey Hall, 1971 as thank you gifts for contributions of $25 or more ('til they run out).

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