Saturday, August 02, 2008

Blue America Welcomes Annette Taddeo (D-FL)


A few weeks ago 11 southern California congresswomen-- spanning the ideological landscape all the way from Orange County Blue Dog Loretta Sanchez to progressive heroine Linda Sánchez-- threw a fundraiser for Democratic women candidates for House seats around the country. There was a whole lotta speechifying. But it gave an observer a rare opportunity to compare candidates, as well as incumbents. This is a very good kind of forum for south Florida progressive Annette Taddeo. She shines. She has a firm grasp of the issues, a charisma you can't buy, a great sense of style, a genuineness and warmth that comes through when she talks. In terms of the impact she made on the audience, she was right up there with Darcy Burner and Linda Sánchez (who, with lines like "We need to put Karl Rove behind bars" and "We need to get Mean Jean Schmidt out of Congress," was never going to be beat by anyone). I had an opportunity to spend plenty of time with Annette that day and the next day she had dinner with Jane and a couple days later spent some quality time with Digby at Netroots Nation. We all came to the same conclusion: we need to help this woman get into Congress.

The first time I wrote about Annette I was having trouble seeing through the flack-filled air of "inevitability" created by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Forida's very own Rahm Emanuelette. DWS is working mighty hard to save the seat of her extreme right-wing pal, Republican incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. DWS has been successful in creating a media narrative that Ros-Lehtinen can't be beat because she's a moderate-- false-- and because the district is too Republican-- false-- and because her constituents love her-- also false. Two days later, I had sorted out the story and separated the truth from the Wasserman Schultz.

Unfort-unately, though DWS is co-chair of the DCCC's Blue America program and has been successful in keeping Annette from being endorsed by it. Establishment Democratic donors, the ones who write the big checks, tend to write checks for candidates on that list. Aside from the Rahmish inevitability narrative, DWS is also starving the campaign of money. That said, Annette is the first Democrat to ever give Ros-Lehtinen a real contest-- and the first one to raise over $70,000. As of June 30 she had raised $644,990, a lot, although Ros-Lehtinen is massively financed by every corporate special interest she's ever served-- and that means every corporate special interest.

Today we have an opportunity to talk with Annette and get an idea of what kind of congressmember she will be. Please join us at the FDL comments section and ask her any questions you think would be relevant for the representative from South Beach, Little Havana and Key West. I asked her to define herself and give us an idea of the most basic differences between the kind of congressmember the incumbent is and kind of member she will be.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been very good at doing a wonderful p.r. campaign and leading people to think that she's a moderate. You are not a moderate when you vote 100% against a woman's right to chose-- not even taking into account cases of rape or incest. You are not a moderate when you are the ranking member of the International Relations Committee and you are Bush's rubber stamp on the gag rule taking away all the funding in regard to any kind of issue that deals with birth control, even for women with AIDS. You are not a moderate when you are in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act-- and you vote that way. You're not a moderate when you're against children's health care and you vote five times against the extension of S-CHIP. And you are definitely not a moderate when you support President Bush's war 100% of the time, every step of the way and you never question him one time.

The district is changing-- and changing in ways that favor Annette. This year's new registrations favor Democrats by an astounding 10-1. Even Little Havana, which is newly represented in Tallahassee by a Democrat-- is no longer a Cuban bastion and there are more non-Cuban Hispanics there-- and throughout FL-18-- than there are Cuban-Americans. When Annette is elected she will be the first member of Congress with South American heritage.

The funniest thing about this race is that Ros-Lehtinen, who is wisely avoiding televised debates with Annette, is now taking all of her cues from Annette and has, in the last 2 months utterly abandoned her reflexive rubber stamp posture and is voting like a Democrat. "The only thing she has left to do," Annette laughed, "is switch parties. She's so desperate to keep her job... after seven and a half years of following President Bush, all of all sudden she wants to unstick herself." But Ros-Lehtinen, despite all the help from Wasserman Schultz, is very confused. She's taken nearly $70,000 from Big Oil & Gas and she's always votes in favor of their agenda. Now that she that she has an opponent she says she's against drilling off of the Florida coast... but she's ok with drilling in ANWR. She can't take back her 18 years of extreme right-wing voting. And even last month she was still voting to continue the occupation of Iraq and to give Bush the power, through FISA, to wiretap Americans and to grant retroactive immunity to criminal telecom executives, who, after all, have already "donated" $10,700 to her campaign so far this year.

Annette, on the other hand vociferously opposes FISA, unequivocally supports women's right to choice, full and complete equality under the law for all Americans, a speedy, safe end to the war in Iraq (she's a signer of the Responsible Plan to End the War). And, unlike Ros-Lehtinen, she's never had Jeb Bush as a campaign manager. Please join me at the Blue America ActBlue page and help send this extraordinary woman to Congress.

This isn't the DWS vision of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. It's the way Democrats and working families in FL-18 see her, though:

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