Thursday, August 23, 2007



My friend Clem Guttata writes for the respected blog West Virginia Blue. I was intrigued when he and several other West Virginia progressive activists tried to draft my pal Christy from FDL to run for the congressional seat being held by ineffective rubber stamp Republican Shelley Moore Capito. Christy doesn't live in the district and she passed-- but progressives have found another really excellent candidate, one who does live in the district, and represents much of it in the state senate. I asked Clem if he'd write up a report on this important race. He just sent this along:

West Virginia State Senator John Unger is a progressive Democrat who needs our support to successfully challenge vulnerable Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (WV-02). Early Netroots support can make a major difference in this race.

W.Va. State Senator John Unger

In early 2006, I moved to WV-02 and became an active volunteer for the Democratic challenger. Through our mutual efforts on that campaign I met Carnacki, a long-time district activist and well-known member of dailyKos. One major contribution WV-02 Dems made in '06 was forcing Rep. Capito to buy an easy win (57% of vote). She panicked, stopped funding other candidates and even held two fund-raisers in DC the last week of the election.

Still, it was a disappointing outcome here in the district. The challenger never had money to get his message out, the voters were once again duped and we're stuck with two more years of mis-leadership for WV-02.

The curse of Capito fell over our district in 2000 with the ill winds of Pres. George Bush's installation to office. Vulnerable Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is the daughter of the former Rep., W.Va. Gov., and ex-con Arch A. Moore. Her path from college career counselor to W.Va. legislator to U.S. House was paved with her middle name. Like George Bush, it's long past time her public dis-service ended.

As a four-term incumbent, Capito has accumulated remarkable little power or prestige. Her greatest legislative accomplishments are founding the Civility Caucus and, just last month, passing a law making something already illegal, well, still illegal. Scratch behind the ear of any Republican Rep. under indictment, investigation, or incarceration and you'll find she's gladly received money from them (she was the single largest recipient of Tom Delay PAC funds) and her good friend Bob Ney is now sitting in a W.Va. prison.

Double-Talking Shelley Moore Capito

A moderate-in-name-only, Capito has shown her true colors by supporting Bush in his greatest time of need. She has a nasty penchant to talk out of both sides of her mouth. She said she was against the surge, but refused to vote against it. She said she supports worker's rights, but refused to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act. She said she believes in oversight and accountability in Iraq, but votes against it.

The day after Election '06, Carnacki and I started actively laying the groundwork to knock her off this cycle. One thing missing in W.Va. was an online progressive voice--we started West Virginia Blue to help fill that void and sustain progressive candidates at all levels in W.Va.

We strongly endorse John Unger as a progressive voice for WV-02.

Unger is a rare combination of someone who was both the Netroots activists' and the DCCC's first choice. After West Virginia native Christy Hardin Smith spurned our efforts to draft her for the WV-02 race, we turned to recruiting W.Va. State Sen. John Unger. Carnacki lives in his district and has known him for several years.

Unger is newly introduced to the Netroots. He just recently read "Crashing the Gate" and has welcomed our support for his campaign. Since he announced, Carnacki and I have met with for extended dinner conversations lasting late into the night. He's comfortable meeting on our turf--the same Waffle House Carnacki and I meet at every few weeks to plot Capito's downfall!

Unger has already been a fast learner of one key Netroots lesson: fight back hard at baseless right-wing attacks. In an optimistic sign for 2008, when John Unger fired back at a smear attempt by the W.Va. GOP last month, the largest paper in the district called out the Republicans for their "hateful tactic".

Unger has a compelling personal biography. He was the first in his family to attend college yet he took time off from school to work with Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta. He's a Rhodes Scholar. In his 9 years as a State Senator he has passed hundreds of pieces of legislation. He's provided aid to refugees in Hong Kong and Turkey. In 2003, he spent 3 months in Iraq working with Save the Children. He's a person of compassion and competence. He has strong moral and intellectual integrity.

John Unger and Mother Teresa John Unger in Iraq

These experiences shape his political beliefs. Unger help deliver aid to the Kurds after the Gulf War in 1995 and aid to the Iraqis during our occupation in 2003. He advocates we turn Iraq over to the Iraqis and bring our troops home from Iraq immediately. Unger would be one of the few Reps. with on-the-ground experience in Iraq. [Perhaps the only one with NGO experience?] He knows there needs to be a political solution in Iraq, instead of a military solution.

He is a progressive Democrat--he embraces that label. John Unger's life experiences demonstrate his commitment to social and economic justice. He is strongly against any form of discrimination against anyone, including discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. In a recent meeting, he spoke with passionate about hate crimes being not just crimes, but crimes against humanity.

Unger is an accomplished legislator. Elected to the W.Va. Senate at age 28, he's been an independent, effective, results-oriented state senator. He's passed over 230 bills including the West Virginia Water Resources Protection Act, the Voluntary Farmland Protection Program and legislation that created the West Virginia Division of Energy. Unger is running on a platform of getting out of Iraq, energy independence, and universal healthcare. He's a bit of an economic populist. One of the best lines in his stump speech goes like: "if we can import food from communist China, and import cooking oil from a dictatorship in Venezuela why can't we import prescription medication from a democracy in Canada?"

We Can Do Better

These qualifications are in sharp contrast with vulnerable Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. The path to her mis-leadership was paved by her middle name. The path to John Unger's leadership was been paved with hard work, a strong moral core and exemplary competence.

Capito consistently prioritizes the needs of Pres. George Bush and the GOP "team" first. John Unger lives a life of public service, prioritizing the needs of constituents first. Crapito demagogues. Unger gets results.

In summary, John Unger is the kind of progressive Democrat that can win WV-02 this cycle. The field is clear for him in the Democratic primary. He needs financial support to get his progressive message out past the conservative-dominated state media. We're working hard every day to turn WV-02 from Red to Blue.

As strong as our candidate is, we face an uphill battle. The power of incumbency and a conservative-dominated state media is strong. Entrenched interests in West Virginia cross party lines. Still, we've got a real chance this cycle. We've got a smart hard-working candidate-- he just needs the resources to get the job done. This is our best shot. Unfortunately, if we don't unseat her now, Capito could maintain the seat for life.

Please help end the Bush-Capito reign in WV-02. Help send progressive Democrat John Unger to Washington in 2008. Your contribution of any size will make a difference.

Clem Guttata

WV-02 Volunteer Netroots Activist

West Virginia Blue

Labels: , ,


At 9:47 AM, Blogger More Axe said...

oy vey...."a dictatorship in Venezuela"?!?!?

and he sounded so good up until then...

At 9:48 AM, Blogger Carnacki said...

I've known John for more than a decade - going back to before he ran for elected office.

Not only is he someone we like, we can tell from their posts and articles he's one the Republicans fear.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, a huge thank you to Howie for this guest posting opportunity. Thank you as well to everyone who helps us turn another Red district Blue.

more_axe -- I agree with you on the "dictatorship in Venezuela" part of the line--it didn't sit well with me, either. Then again, the reality of West Virginia politics is WV-02 is considerably more conservative (a partisan index of +5 Republican) than I am.

When I heard Unger's stump speech I was quite pleased that "dictatorship in Venezuela" was absolutely the only thing I was bothered by. I felt the rest of that line was so effective I wanted to share it anyway.

Unger is running on progressive Democratic values--universal healthcare, getting out of Iraq, using government to empower people to solve problems--that are in sharp contrast to our Rubber-Stamp Republican Rep.

For we've got a viable, smart, hard-working candidate. The national winds are blowing in our favor. All that's left is for us to start investing in this race.

At 8:49 AM, Blogger MadAnne said...

Calling Unger a progressive is a bit of a stretch.
Callaghan lost partly because he was more concerned with Cheri than his campaign.

At 6:31 AM, Blogger WVBlue said...

madanne -- Thank you for the comment.

It may be pointless to argue the "progressive" label (beauty is in the eye of the beholder). A couple point in defense, though:
a) Unger calls himself a progressive Democrat.
b) compared to the incumbent and WV-02 as a whole he holds progressive values.

I definitely agree with you that Callaghan under-performed as the Democratic challenger in 2006. As you say, it seems like he may have been distracted with the matters that ultimately led to his divorce.

That's one of the reasons I think this seat is winnable--the margin last time around does not reflect how soft Capito's support really is.

Clem G.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger MadAnne said...

He can call himself tall, dark, and handsome. Doesn't make it so.

At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An anti-abortion progressive. Great.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger WVBlue said...

Yes, it is true that John Unger has a more conservative position (just as WV-02 does) on abortion than I would like.

Before wholeheartedly supporting him, I had a a long multi-hour discussion with him on the topic of abortion. Here's my take on his position: the bottom line is that he agrees abortion should remain legal in cases of incest and when the life of the mother is at risk.

I'm convinced that as a House member voting for a Democratic majority leader and for Democratic budget priorities he'll do far more to uphold reproductive freedoms than Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito does.

There is no perfect progressive candidate for this district (coming very close :-), we tried to recruit Christy Hardin Smith... but she said no)--and really, it's hard to say that mythical person could ever get elected in WV-02.

John Unger believes in people-powered politics and is a huge upgrade compared to Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.

The aid work that John has done around the world is based on the idea of empowering others--a core progressive value. He is not a centrist Bush Dog, a Blue Dog or one to feed at the corporate trough. He's all for getting out of Iraq, holding those in power accountable, and using government to help solve problems.

With your help, this is a district we can win.

Clem G.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Okay - maybe I'm not reading this right. Mr. Unger calls himself a progressive, the same as Hillary Clinton does. He's anti-choice and she's pro-choice.

How can they both be 'progressive' as they both claim to be?


Post a Comment

<< Home