Monday, May 17, 2010

Will Democratic Voters Dump Conservative Hacks Blanche And Arlen Tomorrow?


Tomorrow's primary election day in a 4 states: Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. If you haven't made up your mind yet, allow us to make some suggestions in the 3 Democratic Senate primaries pitting conservatives against... more progressive alternatives. We urge you to vote for:
* Bill Halter in Arkansas
* Jack Conway in Kentucky
* Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania

Barney Frank once said he never agreed with anyone running for office on 100% of the issues until he ran himself. "And after a few years," he quipped, "I didn't even agree with myself 100% of the time!" Now, it isn't easy for an insurgent to beat an incumbent of his or her own party in a primary. A few weeks ago I was at an event with Barney Frank who told the assembled progressives that the way to turn Congress around and make it more responsive to ordinary Americans-- as opposed to special interests-- would be to support primaries against shady Members of Congress. He refused to comment on my question about Blue Dog John Barrow... although I could swear I saw a twinkle in his eyes. John Barrow has his moment of truth before Georgia voters on July 20 and, like most incumbents, he done enough special favors for special interests to have a very special campaign war chest. Likewise, the 3 conservatives running in tomorrow's primaries are all loaded with special interests corporate cash.

By the way, as far as I know, the only one of these races Barney has endorsed in is the one in Pennsylvania and I'm guessing that having served along side Joe Sestak and having gotten to know him over the last few years, he felt comfortable endorsing him against a sitting Democratic incumbent, something that is, alas, rarer than snow on the 4th of July on Penn's Landing. Sestak was also the easiest of the 3 for us to endorse-- and, like in Barney's case, primarily because we know him best. We don't agree with Joe Sestak on every single issue-- and in one case, disengaging from Afghanistan, its a serious disagreement-- but we trust Joe's integrity and goodwill. I couldn't say the same for Arlen Specter, who will change positions based on political tides and special interests donations. Joe is a straight-shooter with America's best interests first and foremost in his mind. Arlen is a sleazy, corrupt hack with Arlen Specter first and foremost in his mind... always and forever. Voting out a worthless shill like Specter and replacing him with an earnest, honest, hardworking public servant like Joe Sestak is exactly what primaries are all about. Disgust with incumbents in general and today's trendlines are Joe's friends going into tomorrow.

On a personal note, I want to say one other thing about Joe Sestak. Blue America endorsed him in 2006 and he turned out to be exactly how he campaigned, a mainstream leader with a decided progressive bent, willing to go out on a limb the way he has on ending DADT. But what marks Joe as unique among members of Congress is that when we've disagreed with a vote he's taken he never once-- not one time since being elected-- shirked from coming forward to publicly explain his position and listen to our criticism. This is almost as rare as that 4th of July snow on Penn's Landing.

When I first met Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, I admit, I didn't have high hopes. I knew how reactionary and steeped in corruption Dan Mongiardo was-- and I was certainly aware how he had campaigned against women's choice and against equality for gay people-- but I assumed Conway would better the best of two evils. Scratch the "two evils" meme. If he wins tomorrow-- and, like the two other races, this is polling neck-and-neck-- he is likely to be a solid advocate for working families in Kentucky. I don't expect to agree with every single vote he makes over the next six years but, having gotten to know him, I expect he will approach each vote with the best interests of ordinary American families in mind, not personal political ambitions and not corporate special interests. Jack has displayed good sense and political courageousness in his career. Mongiardo should be running as a Republican since he agrees with virtually their entire conservative agenda. Senator Wendell Ford's endorsement of Conway shocked everyone; he had never endorsed anyone in a primary before. This one, however, is crystal clear.

Anyone a Democratic candidate would care to be endorsed by in Kentucky politics has come out for Conway. Here are some of the more prominent endorsements:
Senator Wendell Ford: "Jack Conway is the best candidate for Kentucky, and that's why I'm supporting him."

State Auditor Crit Luallen: "I know that Jack Conway is a man of character and a man of integrity. He represents all that is best about a new generation of leadership for Kentucky."

House Speaker Greg Stumbo: "Jack has spent a career working on behalf of Kentucky's families and will be a champion for them in the Senate."

Congressman Ben Chandler: "Jack Conway will work tirelessly to bring economic opportunity to all parts of Kentucky."

Congressman John Yarmuth: "…I can't mention one person I can think of in this great Commonwealth who could serve us better than Jack Conway will in the United States Senate…"

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson: "We need somebody that brings this Commonwealth together, that reflects our values, that speaks on behalf of the citizens he has an opportunity to represent and that candidate is Jack Conway."

The Arkansas race is the most difficult for us. We know-- better than most-- how awful Blanche Lincoln has been, first as a conservative House member and then as a conservative senator. She's a posterchild for congressional corruption and if selling your vote was a serious crime, as it should be, she'd be serving life without parole. OK, but what do we know about Bill Halter? He's taken some popular populist positions but he's the only candidate in the history of Blue America who we were unable to get to come on and talk with us. We know he's busy-- and we know he's going to be better than Blanche Lincoln. Last week the Arkansas Leader endorsed Halter, with similar reservations:
Halter is a harder choice because we don’t care for his single achievement as a public official in Arkansas, the state lottery.

The lieutenant governor does not have a chance to do great deeds, but Halter went out of his way to do harm when he engineered a ballot position and a resounding vote for the lottery in 2008.

How differently he will perform as a senator from Lincoln we cannot be sure, but he indicated that he would have voted the opposite on all those initiatives of the Bush administration that turned federal budget surpluses into the mammoth deficits and converted the most buoyant economy in the nation’s history into the worst in 70 years. Neither do we believe that he will be at the service of people of great wealth and the petroleum and coal industries, which have pumped fortunes into the campaign of Lincoln.

Arkansas' top political columnist John Brummett informed his readers-- you might say apologetically-- he had already voted... for Halter. He's impressed by Halter "who is smarter, supremely competent, superbly qualified by academic and work experience and perhaps more progressive" but is completely repulsed by Blanche. How could anyone not be?

Outside of the three big Senate primaries, there are a number of other races worth looking at. Underdog Manan Trivedi seems on the verge of catching up with Doug Pike, the establishment fave for Jim Gerlach's shaky seat northwest of Philly. Due north of there, in a district I was lived in, Corey O'Brien doesn't seem to have closed the deal with Democratic voters to replace corrupt relic Paul Kanjorski. A bolder and more progressive Democrat would have been able to have done in with ease. In the conservative-trending 12th CD on the other end of the state, there's a special election between two conservatives, Democrat Mark Critz and some cookie-cutter GOP asshat, vying for Jack Murtha's old seat. Both are anti-choice, homophobic and completely corporate-centric. There's nothing under any circumstances that would ever get me to vote for either. Interestingly, though, at the same time Democrats may hold their noses and vote for Critz, just to keep the seat ostensibly blue, they can oppose him in the simultaneous primary by voting for Ryan Bucchianeri.

Sheila Dow Ford, a progressive, is opposing Blue Dog Tim Holden in the 17th CD, which stretches out from Harrisburg through Pennsylvania Dutch Country almost to Reading and north to Pottsville. Sheila is by far the better candidate in a race that hasn't been polled. If she wins it will probably because Democratic voters there are sick of Holden's conservatism and angry at his vote against healthcare reform.

In Arkansas crooked Blue Dog Mike Ross has no primary challenger but there are lively races for the seats of two retiring less conservative Democratic congressmen, Marion Berry in the first and Vic Snyder in the second. The last time any Democratic presidential nominee broke 50% in any of Arkansas' congressional districts was in 2000 when Gore eked out a narrow victory over Bush, 50-48% in the first CD. It's been all downhill, statewide, since then. Obama's best showing was in the second (Little Rock) where he managed to get 44% against McCain's 54%. Pretty dismal. The race for the Democratic nomination to take Snyder's seat pits four moderates against one conservative-- and the conservative, former House Speaker Robbie Wills, is well-known and well-financed. Willis is an anti-healthcare type of candidate who will, no doubt, join the Blue Dog caucus and vote with the Republicans on substantive issues. The best way of beating him is by voting for state Senator Joyce Elliott, the most progressive among the others.

There are 6 Democrats running to replace Berry in the eastern part of the state-- state Senator Steve Bryles, conservative former Berry chief of staff Chad Causey (who has been endorsed by Berry), moderate state Rep. David Cook, orthopedic surgeon Terry Green, businessman Ben Ponder, and very conservative former state Senator Tim Wooldridge. The big money seems to be mostly flowing to the two conservatives, Causey ($356,024) and Woolridge $315,780), with Bryles having brought in $131,380, Cook $54,173, and Green and Ponder just over $25,000 each. In all likelihood there will be a June 8th runoff between the two worst candidates, Causely and Woolridge, neither of whom will be worth supporting.

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At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

Almost, I think that Blanche Lincoln is unfortunately going to win, KOS agrees.


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