Saturday, September 01, 2007



Of all the solid, progressive candidates Blue America didn't get around to endorsing last year, one of the ones that I felt worst about was Indiana's Barry Welsh, who I covered quite a bit here at DWT but never got a chance to have on FDL. Barry's running against Mike Pence again, who has one of the most extremist voting records in the entire Congress-- far more radical right than even your run of the mill, garden variety rubber stamp Republican. And when Barry announced he was going to try again, I knew exactly who to turn to-- DWT's Indiana connection, Joh Padgett who, no surprise, was one of the first people to volunteer for Barry's campaign. I'm on a plane today but Joh is going to help Jane host our first meeting at FDL with a progressive easily worth more than all three of the Blue Dogs Indiana elected last year. Here's Joh's report:

I was struggling with how to begin writing this introduction and I got to thinking about something I keep telling everybody that asks "how's the campaign coming along?" ever since Barry Welsh announced at YKos that he was running against rubber stamp extremist Mike Pence (R-Iraqi Markets) for the second time in Indiana 6th congressional district. It's an honest question and my reply always starts out with "it's gonna be different this time." The reason I say this is because it already is different this time, one month into the announcement, as of Labor Day, and already we have experienced the shift that occurs when a candidate truly turns a corner.

Last time around, in 2006, Barry ran a Netroots savvy, groundbreaking campaign whose official website resides in the US Library of Congress as part of the Election 2006 MINERVA collection created to document the online history of the 2006 elections. Barry pushed for Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy by putting up a special section of his campaign site to help recruit and identify potential candidates to run in every state of the Union. Without Barry Welsh the 2006 elections could very well have gone very differently. This is one clear difference about Barry-- its not always about him and he fights for the team, not for his own personal glory.

When election night rolled around, November 7th 2006, Barry lost his race against Pence, but something unexpected that nobody, not even Barry, thought would happen. As returns rolled in, it became apparent that Barry's little campaign-that-could, had beaten the odds to crack 40% of the vote. Now I know some of you read that figure and think to yourself "only 40%? Why is this guy so impressed by 40% of the vote?" And normally, you would be correct in your assessment, but this is not a normal district Barry is running in.

This is a district that is so red the previous Democrat that ran in 2004 got 31% of the vote. Barry and his band of volunteers and average people who never campaigned before in their lives struck a chord wherever they went and forced a 9 point swing in votes with less than $50,000 in total donations, more than half of which from in-kind donations and very little from cash on hand. That is something we call in Indiana "brassroots campaigning" because that means someone brought out the brass knuckles when they went campaigning-- and that someone was a Methodist minister from Laurel, IN named Barry Welsh.

The man is an animal on the campaign trail; I mean it! He doesn't know when to quit and if you tell him to take it easy, it makes him drink an extra can of Mountain Dew and get started earlier than he was planning to. But again, this time it is different and the story about that is one that must be shared as it explains what drives the man.

For the past ten years Barry has been pastor for Laurel United Methodist Church in the tiny town of Laurel, IN. Located in an economically depressed area of the state, life can be hard in Laurel and so a lot of people who live in the town of 584 (2006 Census estimate) turn to their faith to get them by in these difficult times. Barry led a flock of about 40-50 of his neighbors every Sunday in worship at Laurel UMC, one of eight churches in Laurel. That little town has a lot of faith, and Barry's congregation love and support him and his wife Sherri.

Every couple of years the pastors assigned to the different UMC congregations come up for reappointment to their churches. Earlier this summer, when Barry met with the church officials who decide such things, what he thought would be a routine reappointment ended up not being the case. The church leaders decided that Barry was not the kind of minister they want leading the church in Laurel despite his popularity with the congregation and 10 year tenure in the same post. The official reason for his dismissal? He turns in his paperwork at the last minute. Not late, mind you; he turns in his paperwork exactly on time. This was obviously a political decision made by the church officials, and as a result Barry has taken a 2 year sabbatical from his ministry in order to pursue the nomination to run against Pence full time.

The GOP tentacles in our society today reach far and wide and can even destroy families on a personal level like they tried to do to Barry. Fortunately for the Welsh family Barry's wife Sherri works outside the home and they can, with belt tightening and creative budgeting, work it out so that Barry can concentrate on campaigning full time this cycle. This means Barry is dedicating himself to 24/7 Pence Watch and fundraising for the campaign. Yet another clear difference this time around.

Barry does not run from a fight, if anything he welcomes it. He is a man of peace but he is also a man who is not afraid to use righteous anger. FDL folks know all about righteous anger, and when you see the video below of Barry speaking to the UAW members at a rally from last year you will see him display his righteous anger in a manner not seen in a long time. The hairs on my neck literally stand up every time I watch this clip and I know it will affect you in a similar way. This video clip shows a very clear difference between Barry and the kind of Blue Dog Democrats that tend to come from the state whose name means the Land of Indians. Barry is one of the More and Better Democrats Howie and Darcy talk about.

Another thing you need to know about Barry is that he is also a former teacher and coach. His brilliance and his respect for education, especially science and history, is exemplary. He truly understands the science behind ecologically friendly initiatives and wants Indiana and our nation to embrace technologies that could make us energy independent and far less reliant on foreign oil. He embraces innovation and would like to see a "moon shot" program to invent the technologies we need to have a sustainable energy future for our children and grandchildren. He sees the closed down auto factories in the 6th District and envisions high tech manufacturing plants churning out solar panels and other products that will go a long way toward securing our energy needs for the future. Yet another clear difference between Barry and Pence, the reactionary regressivist.

On a personal level Barry is one of the kindest and most caring human beings I have ever met. He is like that friendly neighbor you love to invite to the backyard barbecue because he's so outgoing and charming, but genuine and the kind of person you walk away from saying "I like that guy." You look forward to seeing Barry at the high school football game, grocery store or while walking the dog.

My only regret is that I could not get involved in his campaign last cycle due to the circumstances I found myself in last summer presiding over the eventual passing of my mother Phyllis last September. Mom would have loved Barry and would have been shoulder to shoulder with me in support of him. I hope you all will join me in support by heading over to our Blue America page to donate to his campaign, or go to his website to sign up for updates or to volunteer.

I want to thank Howie for having Barry over to talk to the community here at FDL about his campaign. Barry and I really appreciate the opportunity, and we are both honored to have Jane moderating the discussion with Barry in the comments section while Howie is traveling back east to do battle with the forces of conservative evil on his latest trip. Barry and I are set up in the cafe at Paradise Bakery in the Castleton area of Indianapolis where we have turned this into a public event to introduce Barry and FDL to the public. If you would like to see what is going on at our end while the discussion takes place, open up a separate browser window to catch our live video stream.

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At 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to let others know, last year our Democrat opposing Don Young Diane Benson, won 40% of the vote here in Alaska, without much help from the Democrat Party, or without much money. She does a great job when she has debated Rep. Young. too. She is an Alaskan Native and her son fought in Iraq. She has constantly spoken out AGAINST the war. She is not afraid to speak her mind. I feel with some extra support, she could defeat him.


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