Friday, April 23, 2010

Nominating Katrina Swett Would Be Tantamount To Handing NH-02 To The GOP


In Los Angeles everyone knows admitted Blue Dog Jane Harman as the female Joe Lieberman. At a time she didn't realize there were Democrats in the room, Harman actually stood up in front of her corporate backers and boasted "I am proud to be introduced as the best Republican in the Democratic Party." She now faces the primary of her life, as community activist, Jobs Not Wars Democrat Marcy Winograd gathers electoral support and grassroots strength daily. There's a race heating up on the other side of the country, in New Hampshire's 2nd CD with similar dynamics. A much-liked grassroots activist, Ann McLane Kuster, is facing off against an even more Liebermanesque character than Harman, wealthy reactionary-- and former National Co-Chair of Joe Lieberman for President-- Katrina Swett. Like Lieberman, Swett demonizes Democrats and Democratic values and principles for her own narrow advantage, painting herself as somehow "better" than the party she's so out of place being part of. She runs from the words "liberal" and "progressive" and always points out that she's a conservative Democrat.

Lieberman has urged her to run for Congress and pointed out-- as though it were a badge of honor-- that Swett was "right at the center" of his campaign. He clearly sees her as another voice pushing the Democratic Party in the conservative direction and supporting corporate interests rather than those of ordinary working families. And, like Lieberman (and Harman) Swett is a clueless hawk whose idea of foreign policy is backing Israel's extreme right Likud Party rather than what works for Israel, let alone for the United States of America. She was a consistent Bush backer in every move he made to drag the U.S. into attacking Iraq-- the same way she supported all his tax cuts for the wealthy that have led to a severe economic squeeze on the middle class. And like Blanche Lincoln, she's an advocate for abolishing the Estate Tax, basically the most reactionary taxation stand anyone can take.

A good little protégé and corporate shill, Swett opposed the public option, calling on Democrats to "compromise" with the extremists who oppose healthcare reform. As we pointed out in January when we first heard Lieberman had agreed to support her again, this is her third run for a seat she has no chance of ever winning.
In 2002, Swett ran for this exact same seat and outspent Republican incumbent Charlie Bass $1.45 million to $890,000. She campaigned as a conservative Democrat and did her best to blur the issues, resulting in her getting less than 41% of the vote and losing by 16 points! That was a bad year for Democrats, but there is no excuse for horrible numbers like that. Now-Senator Jeanne Shaheen ran that year too, and lost her race by only 4 points while actually winning NH-02 but losing the more-conservative NH-01.

She's actually even worse than Lieberman-- and Bass-- on women's issues and is the closest thing to an anti-choice candidate in the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Planned Parenthood panned her 2002 run and, in fact, women's groups largely ignored her run, seeing her as an embarrassment and a throwback. In October, 2002, the Concord Monitor published a piece called “Swett Not Embraced by Women’s Groups" and pointed out that her Republican opponent was actually more progressive on Choice than she was! “Though higher-ups in national women's organizations and pro-choice groups are making frequent pit-stops in New Hampshire this election season, they're not dropping in to tout the female Democrat running in the Second District. In fact, despite strong financial backing and a national name, Katrina Swett has failed to get endorsements from the National Organization for Women, Emily's List, Planned Parenthood or the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League... Representatives from the groups said they only endorse if a candidate offers his or her full support for pro-choice initiatives. Swett said she would support a parental consent law-- which requires a minor to get her parents' permission to get an abortion. Her opponent, U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, opposes such legislation." And this year all the pro-choice groups and all the women's groups, from Emily's List to NARAL, are backing Kuster and warning their members that Swett is an untrustworthy reactionary.

The latest polling indicates that if Democrats want to hold onto Paul Hodes' House seat, they'll nominate anyone but Swett
If the best known candidates for Paul Hodes' open seat win their party nominations Republicans will be heavily favored to take it back. Former Congressman Charlie Bass leads 2002 Democratic nominee Katrina Swett 47-32. Those numbers are pretty comparable to what happened when they faced off the first time and Bass won 57-41, not a huge surprise given that this is the first year where New Hampshire Republicans have much cause for optimism since that 2002 election.

Although she is the best known candidate for now because of her family name and prior run, Democrats may be better off nominating someone other than Swett. 29% of voters in the district have an unfavorable opinion of her to only 19% who view her positively. Bass isn't amazingly popular either with 35% of voters holding a favorable opinion of him to 34% with a negative one. Still he leads Swett 49-26 with independents and gets 18% of the Democratic vote against her so if that's how the race shapes up the GOP will be in a very strong position.”

Why is she running as a Democrat anyway? Can't she open a New Hampshire branch of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party? Meanwhile, if you can, please consider making a contribution to Ann Kuster's campaign at Blue America's Sending The Democrats A Message page.

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