It Must Really Suck To Be Larry Kissell
But, at least Kissell got to play congressman for 4 years, which may or may not have been more satisfying that his previous job as a high school social studies teacher in Biscoe. When we first met up with Kissell, he was a fighting populist and we had every reason to believe he would make a great congressman. Were we ever snookered! He's been one of the worst mistakes in the history of Blue America.
In 2006 he won a 4-way primary (with 53% of the vote) and challenged independently wealthy incumbent Robin Hayes in a district that was leaning Democratic. Following local grassroots activists, Blue America got behind Kissell, who was perceived as a progressive so, naturally, ignored by Rahm Emanuel and the DCCC. When he lost by 329 votes-- the closest congressional race in the country-- the DCCC had an "oops" moment. Kissell immediately announced he would run again in 2008 and this time both Blue America and the DCCC were, for once, on the same side. This time Kissell routed Hayes, 157,185 (55%) to 126,634 (45%), winning 8 of the 10 counties, killing Hayes in giant Mecklenburg and Cumberland counties, with red, red Cabarrus and Stanley counties the only places where Hayes really held his strength.
Then something odd happened. The corrupt Beltway leadership got to Kissell... fast. If he wanted to hold the seat, they told him, he'd have to grow up and stop being a hippie and start voting conservatively, not the way he had promised his constituents he'd vote. He alienated his entire base and his voting record started looking a lot like... Robin Hayes'! Eventually he just outright joined the Blue Dog caucus and in the 2011-'12 session he's had one of the most reactionary voting records of any Democrat in Congress. His ProgressivePunch score on crucial roll calls is 36.93, which is worse than fellow North Carolinian Walter Jones (40.61). And Walter Jones is a Republican. A small handful of Blue Dogs votes with the Republicans as frequently as Kissell. Although the Democratic Party convention was in his backyard, he decided he didn't want the association with Obama and the Democratic Party; he skipped it, making himself into a local laughing stock... again. Kissell, who voted with Darrell Issa to censure Eric Holder and who refuses to endorse President Obama for reelection and voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, is despised by Democrats. And Republicans have their own candidate, Establishment insider Richard Hudson.
Hudson is attacking Kissell the wrong way and I've thought about fixing the mistake Blue America made in 2008 by taking him out with some ads that don't (falsely) point out he's a liberal, which is what that imbecile Hudson is doing, but by advertising his conservative record in Democratic strongholds. It's how Blue America beat Alabama Blue Dog Bobby Bright in 2010 and... I'm tempted. But I think the redistricting against Kissell is so strong that even a dimwit like Hudson will be able to beat him. In 2008 Senator Obama won NC-08 with 53% of the vote. Under the new boundaries drawn by the Republican legislature Obama would have lost with 42% of the vote. That's too drastic a shift for someone like Kissell, with a crumbling base, to survive.
So what about his pals at the DCCC who persuaded him to grown up and stop being a hippie? Kissell is the very first incumbent Steve Israel cut loose this cycle. Last week, The Hill reportedthat "the DCCC has already canceled two weeks of its buy for Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.), a sign it thinks he's a lost cause." No loyalty among scumbags... what a surprise!