Saturday, September 20, 2008

Help Blue America Pick A Senate Candidate


A few weeks ago Blue America launched a competition among 9 of our progressive House candidates. It was far more successful than we had imagined when our PAC offered $5,000 as seed money to get the show on the road. In the end, 1,899 individual donors contributed over $43,000 to our candidates. On top of that DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen matched our $5,000 to the winner and two other Democrat House leaders, who wish to remain anonymous, gave another $15,000 between them. So, our winner, Miami-Dade progressive Democrat, Annette Taddeo walked off with over $30,000-- and the next day she was added to the DCCC's Red to Blue list.

Today we begin a week long competition between the five candidates for the U.S. Senate endorsed by Blue America, Tom Allen (D-ME), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rick Noriega (D-TX) and Andrew Rice (D-OK). None of these are the "easy" races that the big money is flowing to. These are the tough ones, although each one is winnable. And these are the races that will make the difference between the Republicans ability to filibuster and thwart Obama's reform program for real change. If at least two of these candidates don't win, we will be stuck in the same hideous gridlock we're in now-- with partisan hacks like Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl and John McCain obstructing everything the Houses passes and then cynically claiming the "Democratically-controlled" Senate can't get anything done.

Each of these candidates has done at least one live-blog session with us at Firedoglake and I encourage you to go back to the archives and re-read their responses to the questions they were given. Each link above goes to an FDL session. I want to say something about the rules of this game before we go further. Blue America will send the candidate with the most "votes" a check for $5,000 and the runner-up will get a Blue America check for $1,000. A vote is a contribution-- for any amount between $1 and $2,300 at the Blue America Senate contest page. If you contribute $1.00 that counts as one vote. If you contribute $2,000 that counts as one vote. (We're Democrats for the most part; not Republicans.) We loved the enthusiasm of supporters donating again and again and again. One guy gave Russ Warner 80 individual donations. It still just counted as one vote though. If you vote for two or more candidates though, each counts as a vote.

I asked each candidate to write a few paragraphs that would serve as a vision statement about why they are running for a seat in "the world's most exclusive club." Before I share them with you, though, I want to say something about our candidate in Texas, Rick Noriega. Rick is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Texas Army National Guard and is on duty this week which has been so calamitous for so many residents of Texas. With the devastation in Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast area, his campaign and the Texas progressive movement are putting all their energy into helping with the recovery efforts. As Matt Glazer wrote today, "We have Red Cross facilities and shelters being shut down and there is no food in the food banks in Austin or San Antonio." (Needless to say, John Cornyn is using this lull as an opportunity for more negative, distorted campaigning.)

Rick had managed to get this statement off to us though:
I'm running for the Senate, because I believe that we need to get our country back on track.

Our energy crisis is a national security concern. I have proposed policies that provide immediate relief for Texas families, move the United States towards energy self-sufficiency, and develop a sustainable energy and economic future for Texas. By increasing investment in alternative energy technologies and improving the efficiency of our cars and homes, we can begin to address our nation's energy problems, make Texas a leader in renewable energy technologies and create thousands of new jobs.

Our health care system is broken and Washington hasn't doing a thing to fix it. I've called on the federal government to expand health insurance for children of hardworking Texas families. I've also proposed providing tax incentives for small businesses that provide health coverage for employees, closing the prescription drug "donut hole" currently affecting Medicare recipients, focusing on preventative medicine and building transparency and accountability in our health care system.

I'll work to responsibly end the war in Iraq and bring our troops safely home, with a phased military re-deployment. At home, veterans are denied the basic benefits they deserve. We must honor the sacrifices of our men and women in the armed services by keeping our benefits commitment, and I am dedicated to this goal.

Texas needs a senator who will prioritize Texas families over the special interests, and that is exactly what I am committed to working for you when I'm in the U.S. Senate.

Even before Alaska's corrupt senior Senator, Ted Stevens, was indicted Mark Begich was leading in the polls. He was looking like a shoe-in. The danger now is that with his Republican colleague, Sarah Palin on the national ticket, Stevens could get a boost to what once seemed like a moribund and hopeless campaign. Mark may still be favored to win, but it's going to take a great deal of hard work and plenty of resources. As of last month Stevens had raised $4,438,543, primarily from the special interests he serves, and Mark had raised $1,714,299. Here's what Mark had to say about why he's in the race:
I'm running to represent Alaska in the US Senate to try to get Washington working for Alaska's families again. Being born and raised here and as the father of a young son, I care deeply about Alaska and its future. Alaska families face many challenges today, including skyrocketing energy costs and decreasing health care access. Alaska needs open, ethical and independent leadership to set our state on a path toward healthy, vibrant communities with new opportunities for Alaska families. The contrast I offer with Senator Stevens is clear.

Alaska has accomplished a lot in the last 50 years since statehood but it time to start a new chapter of Alaska history. I recognize the past but its time to think about the future. I will work to provide leadership to develop a national energy policy-- Alaska should be a world-leader in developing our non-renewable and renewable resources responsibly and in a way that improves local economies. Alaska can-- and should-- be exporting these energy innovations into the world market. I also intend to bring to new standards for ethics in government. I will work to end self-policing by senators, make financial records of public servants accessible, and stop special treatment for senators and their families. It's time to rebuild trust in our government. While I work to make new, tougher standards the law of the land, I will personally live by them from Day One.

Thanks to Crooks & Liars, Firedoglake, Digby, Down With Tyranny, and all the supporters of Blue America. I appreciate the help you're giving to my campaign and the work you're doing to achieve change nationwide.

Andrew Rice is running in Oklahoma, a state with a proud populist tradition that has gotten redder and redder in recent years. We really have our work cut out for us with this one! But, considering what it would mean to Oklahoma, to America and to mankind to retire James Inhofe and replace him with someone as forward-thinking as Andrew, it's well worth the effort. We've gotten to know Andrew and his family pretty well and I guess that's why he sent such a personal statement:
I’m regularly asked why I decided to run for the U.S. Senate. There are certainly moments when I wish I wasn't so busy and away from my wife Apple and our two amazing boys. I know it's worth it, though, because we desperately need new solutions and new leadership that will put people before politics again. Truth be told, there are a lot of personal and important reasons why I am running for U.S. Senate. The two most important and simple reasons are below:

That is Parker on the left. He is 20 months old, and that's a photo of him on his first birthday enjoying his cupcake. On the right is Noah; he is 3 years old, and he loves to wear his cowboy hat and dance. Noah and Parker are Apple's and my two children. It may seem cliché to say I'm doing this for my kids, but this is the easiest and most sincere way to explain why I care about what happens in the United States Senate, and why I want to have a seat at the table in deciding what happens.

What I want to do for Oklahoma is simple: I want to make sure that the people of this state have a voice in Washington. They haven’t gotten that from Jim Inhofe, and I think that’s the very least people should get when they elect someone to the U.S. Senate. When I’m elected to the U.S. Senate, the people of Oklahoma will know that we may not agree on every single issue, but when it comes down to what’s most important-- jobs, the economy, health care, protecting our troops-- I will always have their back. I will look out for Oklahoma because I will always think about the effect my decisions have on the world Parker and Noah will inherit.

No matter what the pollsters or the pundits say about me or my race, I will always hold fast to these simple truths. That’s true for my campaign, and will be true when I get to the U.S. Senate.

In politics no one is perfect so I don't use perfection as a standard of measurement. I use Paul Wellstone. I like to think all of our candidates will get into the Senate and work as selflessly and courageously as he did. From the minute I heard Jeff Merkley speaking in front of a live audience, I thought, "Wow, he's like Wellstone!" His statement is too:
Hello Blue America, I’m Jeff Merkley and I’m challenging Republican Gordon Smith for U.S. Senate in Oregon. I’m here to tell you why I’m running and what I’ll do to shake things up in Washington. When I was a child, my father took me to my public school, pointed to the front doors of the schoolhouse and told me they were not just doors to the building, they were the doors to opportunity-- if I worked hard, I could do and be just about anything. I took his words to heart.

You and I know that Washington is truly broken. I am determined to change the way Washington works. As House Speaker, I fought hard to make serious changes in Oregon from granting gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples, to cracking down on the payday lenders who prey on working families. I took on the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies and never backed down. In my eight years as a state legislator I have never abandoned my progressive values and I will not abandon them as your next Senator from Oregon. I will never look the other way when Government tries to take away your civil liberties and erode the laws this nation was founded upon. I will not sit quietly when Congress tries to block hardworking people from organizing and advocating for fair wages and affordable health care. And, I will fight with every fiber of my being to end the biggest foreign policy blunder in the history of this nation and bring our sons and daughters and husbands and wives home immediately.

It’s time to inject some backbone into Congress, and if elected, I’ll be there to lead the way.

Tom Allen was elected to the House on the same day Susan Collins was elected to the Senate. She has been a dependable rubber stamp for Bush and for the special interests that have so lavishly financed her career. Tom took a very different approach to his duties. He's been working for the families of Maine, not for the insurance companies, not for Big Oil, not for the banks, not for Wall Street and not for Big Pharma-- and not for Dick Cheney. His voting record and Susan Collins' voting record are very different. His looks like what you would expect a Mainer's to look like. Her's would be perfect too... if her constituents lived in Mississippi.
Since first being elected to Congress I have never never been afraid to stand up for what is right and in the best interest of Maine and America. In 2002, I stood up to President Bush and the Democratic leadership to vote against the War in Iraq. I opposed the President’s failed economic policies and the Cheney Energy Bill, while helping to ignite a national debate on prescription drugs and writing legislation to prohibit the construction of U.S. bases in Iraq. Susan Collins has supported President Bush on all of the biggest issues of our time-- on energy, on the economy, and on the war in Iraq. She also voted for FISA, voted against habeas corpus, voted for the President’s plan to redefine the Geneva conventions against torture, and cast one of the deciding votes to confirm Samuel Alito.

I am the only U.S. Senate candidate to have my own plan for universal healthcare. I have worked towards some of the toughest climate change legislation ever introduced in Congress and I have an energy plan to provide immediate relief to Mainers and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I have made the right choices for Maine and will work to change the direction of the country when in the U.S. Senate. I need your help to get his message out to the people of Maine!

This competition will last all week and we'll announce our winner and runner-up winner next Saturday. Please don't forget to vote and don't forget to get your friends and family to vote. Try to visualize a U.S. Senate without James Inhofe, John Cornyn, Susan Collins, Gordon Smith and Ted Stevens. And truck over to Crooks & Liars where you can see the TV ads the campaigns made so you'll get an idea about one of the ways they'd like to use your donation. In fact, if there's an ad you see that you feel is especially effective and want to see run on TV... think about including an extra couple of bucks.

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