Sunday, August 15, 2010

REGINA! Is Back-- And Barrow Shouldn't Start Counting His Chickens Yet


There's no way to prove that sleazy Blue Dog John Barrow stole the primary election in Georgia July 20. The state of Georgia made certain of that by opting for voting machines with no paper trail. What we do know is that Barrow was unable to buy off the electoral officials in the biggest county in the district, Chatham (Savannah) and that there Regina Thomas swamped him better than two to one. According to the Secretary of State's official canvas, Regina wound up with 6,083 votes and Barrow, the Blue Dog incumbent only took 2,788 (in his adopted hometown). She won Screven, a rural county north of Savannah, with a much closer margin but lost the rest of the district with suspiciously high returns, including tiny Johnson County which early returns showed she had won (with approximately 90% of the precincts counted before it tuned into a route by Barrow). In the end, the official canvas shows Regina with 14,201 votes (42.1%) to Barrow's 19,505 (57.9%). As of June 30, the FEC shows Barrow had raised $1,344,515 and spent $713,332. Regina raised $43,709 and spent $35,792. The day after the election, Regina, in excellent spirits, called me up and told me she wouldn't be challenging the results or even running again.

I just got off the phone with her. She's running in the November general election as a write-in Democratic candidate. "When I lost the Democratic primary on July 20," she began, "I had no thought or inkling that I would even consider qualifying as a write-in candidate. With 42% of the vote and barely raising the amount to run a viable campaign... it wasn't a bad showing. But my thoughts were of the people in the district, a district that has been represented by a "Blue Dog" Democrat for the last 6 years and the residents of the district, my friends and neighbors. So many people asked me to run as an Independent-- not an option for this Democrat-- then there were others who said be a 'write-in'... something to consider. At least I would still be a Democrat. I had to weigh the pros and cons. What did I have to lose? How would this affect the outcome of the general election and, most important, how would it effect the people here? One thing I do know-- a Republican cannot win the 12th and since we are already represented by a 'blue dog'-- what do we have to lose? My conscience would not allow me to think of anything else but the district and how we have suffered. I for one do not like to wonder, bite my nails or hold my breath to see if the 'blue dog' would turn 'yellow' and vote with the party. How can we trust a politician that will campaign one way-- say what they will do/support then do the exact opposite?

"It is past time that we bring back trust between those elected and the people back home. It is time to have a representative with integrity whose word is their bond. It is past time to have a representative who cares for the whole district and votes for what is right and not what is popular or just to get elected.

"I am first and foremost a Democrat, a true public servant who has the desire to serve-- even when my own party will not support me. As I have said, this is not about me; it's about being able to trust who is elected, it's about we the people, of the people, for the people and by the people. If the GA 12th is ready for a true Democrat who is a public servant with integrity-- then you want REGINA, if not then it will be 'politics as usual'."

Far fewer Republicans showed up to vote (27,477 as opposed to almost 34,000 Democrats) in their confusing 4-way race. The winner of the Republican primary Ray McKinney took far fewer votes than Regina, only 11,709, and ended up with 42.6% of the GOP vote. The other candidates, particularly runner-up Carl Smith, hate him and aren't going to be voting for him. The two of them just faced off in a hard-fought primary last week and McKinney won 14,256 (62%) to 8,722 (38%). The bitterness between the two camps in palpable. Nevertheless, the first response to Regina's declaration tomorrow will be that she's a spoiler who will throw the seat to McKinney.

The first journalist to write about the new situation was Dave Weigel, who went right there:
Here’s another reason to be skeptical that Democrats will benefit from Republican infighting and insurgent candidacies: They’re not keeping their own house in order.

...“I’ve had a lot of people asking me to run,” Thomas told me in a phone interview. “The people deserve it. Those who voted for me on July 20, and those who didn’t vote because they didn’t realize I wouldn’t be on the ballot – they deserve a chance to restore some honesty and integrity to the relationship between this district and its representation.”

Thomas’s two runs against Barrow pitted her political base against the national Democratic Party, which intervened for the congressman. Then-candidate Barack Obama even recorded ads for Barrow in 2008. Thomas said she wasn't worried, and that it would be "dishonest" to back Barrow.

“It is what it is,” said Thomas. “You deal with it. You can't let it stop you. Look, if they're pleased with his voting record, with begging him to support the president, with him embarrassing the president with his votes, that's fine. The president does not live in Georgia. They don’t live in Georgia.”

Thomas said that she's "running to win," and doesn't think Republicans have a chance at winning the seat. In Georgia, a candidate who fails to win more than 50 percent of the vote on election day is forced into a runoff. The most likely beneficiary of a situation like that would be GOP candidate Ray McKinney, but Thomas confidently predicted she'd make the runoff and that McKinney had "no chance."

This is all happening in a context of a battle Pelosi is working furiously to tamp down: Democrats vs Blue Dogs. Russell Berman and Molly Hooper interviewed Henry Waxman for The Hill last week and he spat out some positions that are as impolitic as they are clear headed. I hear the coverage at DWT ruffled some feathers from our serious friends Inside the Beltway. Steven Dennis at Roll Call has been sniffing around the story and reports that Waxman has walked back his anti-Blue Dog howl in the night and that Barney has "clarified" his tirade as well.
While Waxman’s comments earned rave reviews from some left-wing bloggers, Blue Dogs fumed. They sought a rebuke from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and wanted a public apology from Waxman.

Waxman instead wrote a letter to the editor objecting to how The Hill represented the interview and vowing his support for all incumbents.

“For those who support universal health coverage, clean-energy policies, and economic stimulus for our struggling economy-- as I do-- there can be no bright side to the defeat of any Democratic members of Congress,” Waxman said in the letter.

Pelosi, in an apparent effort to quell the unrest, reiterated to the Democratic Caucus during this week’s special session her support for bringing back every Democrat in November.

“The Speaker’s highest priority is to re-elect every single incumbent Democratic Member of Congress, who have worked to create jobs, restore fiscal discipline and move America forward, not back,” said her spokesman, Nadeam Elshami. “The Speaker has said on numerous occasions: we will not yield one grain of sand.”

However, senior aides for moderate [sic] Democrats told Roll Call that Waxman needs to do more to repair his relationships with Blue Dogs, which they say were already frayed by Waxman’s handling of climate change and health care bills in his committee.

“He needs to pony up,” said one aide who complained that Waxman has been stingy with helping Democrats who opposed the health care and climate change bills. “He needs to demonstrate with his war chest that he wants these Members back.”

“I’d like to line them up and ask him which ones are too ‘difficult’ to come back,” fumed a former senior staffer for moderate Democrats. “Those are the types of things that make it tougher and tougher and tougher for the Democratic Caucus to work together collegially.”

The Waxman kerfuffle is emblematic of the broader fight between the two wings of the Democratic Party; moderates feel leaders like Waxman and Pelosi walked them off a plank for issues like the climate bill that went nowhere in the Senate, while liberals have been frustrated that moderates have slowed or watered down a host of agenda items.

Dennis followed the bright shiny object down the rabbit hole and away from a story I suspect he'll be breaking this week when the Blue Dogs go on the offensive and make a concerted effort to destroy a progressive leader. Stay tuned; this is going to be big.

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