A Blind Psychologist and Rabbi…for Congress?

I’ve heard it said that the ideal political candidate is the individual who neither wants nor needs to hold public office. Instead, the ideal candidate is the individual who serves simply because he or she feels a civic and moral responsibility to do so.

This individual is Dennis Shulman, a Democrat running for New Jersey’s fifth congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives.

So, who exactly is this ideal candidate? As a longtime student in Dennis’s classes and congregant at his services, I believe I’m in a unique position to answer this question.

Let me begin with some background. First, Dennis is a Harvard-educated, internationally recognized clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. Second, Dennis is a revered and respected ordained rabbi in his New Jersey community. And, to put these facts in proper perspective, Dennis has been blind since childhood.

But this background information, as remarkable as it may be, fails to capture who this man really is. It does not convey Dennis’s fundamental decency, honesty, and integrity. It does not communicate the depth of his wisdom, compassion, and commitment. And it does not speak to the profoundly positive impact Dennis has had on my life, and upon the lives of countless others. Ultimately, mere biographical data is not enough-one must know Dennis to grasp what my words cannot express. 

While I’m only 30-years-old, I’ve lived and experienced enough to know with absolute certainty that human beings like Dennis Shulman are rare in this cynical and broken world of ours.

So, you might be wondering, why on earth would such a good man want to run for congress?

The answer is simple: His conscience dictates it. As a proud American who, in his words, feels “heartbroken and troubled by our recent direction as a nation,” Dennis feels obligated to take action. While writing checks, signing petitions, and attending political rallies is both important and necessary, Dennis feels compelled to do more. Certain in his belief that we as a nation can and must do better, Dennis is choosing to run for the United States House of Representatives. 

As someone who feels utterly disheartened by the corruption, cronyism, cynicism, and lies that are currently debasing and destroying our democracy, I have been waiting and searching, often in desperation, to find a politician that I can believe in and support without reservation. For me, Dennis Shulman is this candidate.

So, if you too are yearning for a candidate that you don’t have to support with one hand on the lever and one hand holding your nose, I tell you that Dennis Shulman is your man.

But don’t take my word for it.

Check Dennis out for yourself and read what others are saying about his unorthodox and inspiring exploratory campaign at Shulman for Congress

IL-11: Halvorson Goes to Washington

A source close to the DCCC tells us that Illinois Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson will be traveling to D.C. this weekend to meet with DCCC officials, Emily’s List, and several House members who are all trying to recruit her to run for the seat of retiring Republican crumb-bum Jerry Weller.  With a PVI of R+1.1, the suburban district is a ripe pick-up opportunity for Democrats looking to expand their majority.

Halvorson faces a choice of hanging on to become the first female Senate President in Illinois history or to join the ranks of the House Democratic caucus in DC.  She is expected to make her decision shortly after her trip to the capitol.

VA-SD34, VA-Sen: Poll Shows Democrats Leading Mr. and Mrs. Davis

Here’s an interesting nugget from Virginia: a poll testing the strength of Democratic challenger Chap Peterson, who is going up against Republican incumbent Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis, the wife of Rep. Tom Davis, in Virginia’s 34th state Senate district this November.  First, a few caveats about the poll: 1) Not Larry Sabato, the source of the poll, has a good track record of getting inside dope in Virginia, but we don’t know anything about the poll other than its results–crosstabs, margin of error, or even the name of the pollster.  2) State legislative districts are notoriously difficult to poll.  It’s difficult to get a good sample in a small voter pool (it’s hard enough with a congressional district) like a state senate district in Virginia (which contain under 200K people).

That said, take it or leave it (Pollster Unknown, 9/23-24; July results in parens; n=406):

Chap Peterson (D): 46 (38)
Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis (R-inc.): 36 (39)
Undecided: 17 (22)

The battle between Peterson and Devolites-Davis is seen by many as a proxy war of sorts between Tom Davis and former Gov. Mark Warner, who are both vying for the seat of retiring US Senator John Warner.  The poll also tests their strength in the state Senate district, which NLS describes as “the heart of the 11th district”, Tom Davis’ political base:

Mark Warner (D): 53
Tom Davis (R): 35

If this poll is at all accurate (and that’s anyone’s guess, given the questionable track record of state legislative race polls), Tom and Jeannemarie have their work cut out for them in Northern Virginia.

S-CHIP Crumb-bum Roll Call

Last night, the House passed the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, preserving coverage for 6.6 million children whose parents do not qualify for Medicaid, but can not afford private insurance, and expanding the program to bring badly-needed health coverage to millions more children in low-income families. The roll call vote was 265 to 159, 25 votes short of a veto-proof margin. 45 Republicans broke ranks to support 220 Democrats on the legislation, while 151 Republicans and 8 Democrats cold-heartedly voted “no”.

It always amazes me that Republicans are eager to put on their “fiscal conservative” hats when it comes to taking care of society’s most vulnerable constituencies, but are so willing to rubberstamp billions upon billions for an endless war in Iraq with no questions asked. But when it comes to healthcare for kids? Oh no, we can’t afford that kind of pro-life legislation. In the words of crumb-bum extraordinaire David Dreier (R-CA):

“It dramatically expands the welfare state,” said Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif.

The following is a list of incumbents from districts with a PVI of R+6 or weaker, in order of the strongest Democratic seats to the most Republican seats in this bracket. Maybe the following Representatives forever be relegated to the crumb-bum hall of shame:

District Incumbent Party PVI
FL-11 Kathy Castor D D+11.0
OH-10 Dennis Kucinich D D+8.3
NJ-03 Jim Saxton R D+3.3
MI-09 Joe Knollenberg R R+0.1
OH-01 Steve Chabot R R+0.5
IL-11 Jerry Weller R R+1.1
MI-11 Thaddeus McCotter R R+1.2
MI-08 Mike Rogers R R+1.9
WI-01 Paul Ryan R R+2.2
MI-07 Tim Walberg R R+2.5
NC-02 Bob Etheridge D R+2.7
MN-02 John Kline R R+2.7
NC-07 Mike McIntyre D R+2.8
IL-06 Pete Roskam R R+2.9
FL-08 Ric Keller R R+3.0
NC-08 Robin Hayes R R+3.0
FL-24 Tom Feeney R R+3.1
NY-26 Tom Reynolds R R+3.5
MI-04 Dave Camp R R+4.0
CA-26 Dave Dreier R R+4.1
FL-07 John Mica R R+4.1
FL-15 Dave Weldon R R+4.1
FL-09 Gus Bilirakis R R+4.3
AL-03 Mike Rogers R R+4.3
FL-18 Ileana Ros-Lehtinen R R+4.3
NJ-05 Scott Garrett R R+4.4
FL-25 Mario Diaz-Balart R R+4.4
IL-16 Don Manzullo R R+4.5
CA-50 Brian Bilbray R R+4.6
IL-13 Judy Biggert R R+4.7
IL-14 Dennis Hastert R R+4.8
MO-06 Sam Graves R R+4.8
VA-04 Randy Forbes R R+4.9
OK-02 Dan Boren D R+4.9
FL-04 Ginny Brown-Waite R R+5.1
MN-06 Michele Bachmann R R+5.1
NY-29 Randy Kuhl R R+5.2
FL-12 Adam Putnam R R+5.3
NJ-11 Rodney Frelinghuysen R R+5.5
VA-05 Virgil Goode R R+5.6
NM-02 Steve Pearce R R+5.7
VA-02 Thelma Drake R R+5.9
AZ-03 John Shadegg R R+5.9
CA-44 Ken Calvert R R+6.0
CA-46 Dana Rohrbacher R R+6.0

Dishonorable mentions go to Democrats Baron Hill (IN-09), Jim Marshall (GA-08), and Gene Taylor (MS-04), who also voted against the bill, but represent redder districts than the ones listed in this chart. If the likes of Chet Edwards, Nick Lampson, and Jim Matheson, who represent some of the toughest districts in the nation for a Democrat to hold, can find ways to vote for this crucial legislation, surely you guys can rediscover your inner Democrat when healthcare for kids is at stake.

Challengers running against these Representatives would be well-advised to hammer their opponents hard on this bill. As Greg Sargent notes:

The poll finds that voters side with Dems on the issue by 60%-35%; that independents want the program expanded by a 34-point margin, 62%-28%; and that voters in Republican-held districts also overwhelmingly favor the expansion, 55%-39%.

One such candidate isn’t wasting any time. Dennis Kucinich’s primary challenger, Rosemary Palmer, hits him hard:

I was appalled by Congressman Kucinich’s vote against the State Children’s Health Insurance Program on the House floor tonight. This bill would have expanded an already successful program to provide health insurance to millions of children across the country. It takes some twisted logic for someone who claims to support health care coverage for all to oppose this necessary and overdue move in the right direction.


Blue Majority: Dan Seals for Congress (IL-10)

(From the diaries – promoted by DavidNYC)

The next addition to the Blue Majority page is Dan Seals, who is running in Illinois’s 10th district against Republican Mark Kirk.  The district is one of the bluest in the country held by a Republican, going for Kerry over Bush in 2004 by 53-47.  Seals ran a hard race in 2006, and had a heart-breaking and narrow loss.  Running for office is incredibly difficult; you must work 14 hour days for months, with almost no income, no sleep, limited family time, and no exercise.  You have to beg for money from anyone you’ve ever met, and you get yelled at by activists on both sides.  Meanwhile, voters are looking to be persuaded that they can trust you, and while your arguments make sense to you and your staff, you can never tell if voters believe you.  It is incredibly difficult, and almost everyone loses their first time out.  A successful political movement helps not just those who win, but those who take risks and lose, because without risk-taking, change cannot happen.  And that’s why we’re in this.  Seals gave up his career, his family life, and his privacy in 2006, and we’re going to make sure that he, like Eric Massa, Darcy Burner, and Charlie Brown, gets to finish the job.

As for Kirk, it’s pretty simple why this guy has to go.  He’s considered a ‘moderate’ Republican by many anonymous strategists in insider publications, because apparently in DC, up is down.  Sometimes he breaks with his party when we don’t need his vote, but the reality is closer to the video above, where Kirk ran away from an Iraq veteran so he wouldn’t have to answer questions about his stance on the war.  The camera man is an AAEI organizer named Josh Lansdale, who also happens to be an Iraq vet.  I wrote this episode up in July.

Kirk likes to portray himself as a moderate Republican, and he even went to the White House earlier this year to talk about Iraq with George Bush.  In fact, The Hill reported that Karl Rove came down on Kirk hard for leaking this ‘confrontation’ to the press, and Kirk has quieted down.

Josh is an organizer for AAEI, and his goal is to stop the war by getting members of Congress to come out on Iraq.  In this case, he went to the event trying to get Kirk to go on the record with what he said in the White House and what his current position is on Iraq.  Does he support a withdrawal?  Does he support timelines?  Where is he on the surge?  People who attended the event said that Kirk was wishy washy, but Josh couldn’t get a direct report.  This episode took place at an event where Kirk keynoted eight local Chambers of Commerce coming together.  Josh had bought a ticket online, but was not allowed to attend, with organizers claiming the event had been sold out as they were selling tickets nearby.  So Josh eventually had to find Kirk out back, with this video camera.

The district, blue and getting bluer, is going to eat Kirk alive on Iraq, and he’s pushing extremely hard to be perceived of as moderate.  He’s even going so far as to propose ‘bipartisan’ solutions with Bush Dog Democrat Dan Lipinski, as Kos noted earlier this month.

The Lipinski-Kirk plan calls for a phased withdrawal similar to the one that U.S. Gen. David Petraeus outlined on Monday. Under the plan, one troop brigade would return to the U.S. in December and three more would be removed in the spring, without replacement. It would provide for troop levels in July 2008 of about 130,000, which is equal to “pre-surge” troop levels.

Got that? We’d simply hit the “reset” button, taking 10 months to get us back to the pre-surge status quo. And somehow, this “bipartisan” bill (which Bush will announce this week anyway) is supposed to be a solution to anything?

Nope, it’s two endangered congressmen — one a Republican, the other a Lieberdem — clinging together for dear life in the face of an unpopular war that they in reality support. Their actions don’t change the facts on the ground (the surge was always unsustainable for the long haul). It does nothing to end a conflict in which a solution is far beyond our grasp.

We’ve already got Lipinski in our cross-hairs, and it’s going to be tough to take down the Chicago Democratic machine.  But wouldn’t it be sweet if our response to Kirk and Lipinski’s bipartisan shill plan to keep troops in Iraq indefinitely was a bipartisan response of getting rid of both of them?

Yes, it would.  Please throw a few coins to Dan Seals for Congress on Blue Majority.

CO-04 Leading Challenger, Paccione (D) bows out of primary

A leading contender for the CO-04 seat of Marilyn ‘Defense of Homophobia Amendment’ Musgrave has left the race.

Angie Paccione who narrowly lost against Musgrave eliminated herself from the potential rematch today to pursue a job in the private sector:


There are no words adequate enough to describe the privilege I’ve had representing the people of Fort Collins as their State Representative and as the Democratic candidate for the people of the 4th Congressional District.  In 2000, when there was no democratic candidate on the ballot for the 4th CD, I was motivated to enter politics to fill the void in leadership. At that time I offered my service as the voice of the people in representative government. I am forever changed, forever grateful, and forever indebted to the people for the opportunity they gave me to serve them.

This opens up a much easier primary for the now leading Democratic contender Betsy Markey, who until now was hampered by shallow fundraising.

Also in the primary is ex-libertarian-ex-Republican-ex-Independent Eric Eidness, who was a distant third last race. It is unclear if the Democrats are better positioned or not with Eidness not running as a third party, but the improved clarity in the race overall will probably move this race closer to being a real pick up opportunity.

The RNCC has in the past suggested that they would again pump the millions into Musgraves races that they have in the last two cycles, but with internal squabbles on the RNCC and their weakened fundraising, Musgrave might find herself relatively orphaned.

OH-10 : While Dennis Kucinich Plays Political Games, Children Suffer

Using poor children as pawns is the nastiest sort of partisan politics. That Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), once a poor child himself, would stoop to this level by voting against the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) shows that his desire to become president has surpassed his ability to support progressive values.

This bill would have expanded an already successful program to provide health insurance to millions of children across the country. It takes some twisted logic for someone who claims to support health care coverage for all to oppose this necessary and overdue move in the right direction.

It wasn’t perfect, Kucinich expounded, because it didn’t include children who are legal aliens. He took the opportunity to promote his own universal health care bill, HR 676, which would cover both children and adults as a better choice – despite the fact that it is not going anywhere soon.

Full text available at Huffington Post and Rosemary Palmer for Congress

MI-09: 5 Days Left to Send a Message

2 terms of George Bush is too long. 15 terms of Joe Knollenberg is WAY too long. I’m excited to share with you the story of my congressional district, and tell you about the most exciting candidate to run in the past few cycles!

Last November voters across the country told the Republican party that we are sick of their war, we are sick of their endless spending, and we want change. Joe Knollenberg faced his toughest challenge yet.

Now is the time to bring about change in MI-09.

Gary Peters is the kind of leader we need to send to Congress. He’s stood up to special interest money before, fighting the oil lobby to ban drilling in the Great Lakes as a State Senator. He’s ready to go to work for us again, to get us on a new direction in Iraq, fight for pay-as-you-go budgeting, and making health care affordable for all Americans.

There are still 5 days left to contribute to Peters for Congress, so we can work together to bring about change. Early donations (before the September 30th FEC deadline) help get essential campaign operations off the ground and attracts attention.

Contribute today at ActBlue!

It is disappointing to see 146 Democrats vote to condemn online activists, when we face much bigger problems and challenges. Gary Peters is a respected legislator ready to get to work on the REAL issues we face.

In an email to supporters today Gary said:

Knollenberg is vulnerable and polling confirms that I am one of the strongest challengers anywhere in the country.

We need to support our progressive Democrats in winnable districts. There is no reason for MI-09 to elect a Republican for one more term. The district has been trending blue, however underperforming Democratic candidates have yet to seal the deal. Gary has a proven track record of supporting our values.

The AFL-CIO recently endorsed Peters in their earliest congressional endorsement ever. Peters was previously the Sierra Club’s “Environmentalist of the Year”, and the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association’s “Champion of Justice”.

I was at Yearly Kos with many of you, and Gary Peters. It isn’t just his positions on the issues which have convinced me to support him, he’s clearly on our side! It was the passion he puts into his views.

At Yearly Kos, he specifically wanted to go to the sessions on Iraq, Healthcare, and using new technology in campaigns. I watched him take pages of notes on the edge of his seat. I heard him tell a fellow blogger that he “couldn’t sleep at night” if he didn’t read the legislation before him, to know what he was voting on. We don’t need leaders voting the right way so they get re-elected…we need leaders who are honored to be our Representatives, ready to serve our country, and committed to moving our country forward.

Gary Peters is the kind of candidate we need to support.

There are just 5 days left before the September 30th FEC deadline! Show your support now…Contribute today at ActBlue!

McCaul Should Move On – TX-10

One day after voting against extending the same kind of taxpayer-funded health care he himself enjoys to more than four million eligible American children who have no insurance at all, Mike McCaul has found a cause he can support — condemning the free expression of opinion by a group of citizens during an important national debate.

The testimony to Congress by Gen. David Petraeus about the civil war in Iraq and what the U.S. should do about it was notable for at least two reasons:

  * The aimlessness of the White House’s policy
  * The absence of one of that policy’s chief cheerleaders, Mike McCaul

That is, until now. Mr. McCaul has finally roused himself long enough to participate in a shallow charade that does nothing to make us safer, bring our troops home, or make up for rubberstamping the Bush-Cheney administration’s misadventure in Iraq.

I served as a civilian in Iraq. I watched all kinds of men and women from all walks of life work their hearts out to try to fix this disaster. And while Mr. McCaul engaged in this pointless theatre, some of those people may have died. Shame on him.


Dan Grant


AL-02: Everett Retires

And yet another Republican has decided that being in the minority cramps their style. Rep. Terry Everett (R-AL) announced his retirement this morning:

In February I will celebrate my 71st birthday. While there remains much work to be accomplished by Congress, I made a difficult decision over the weekend not to seek election for a ninth term.

In a district that clocks in at R+13, the GOP will likely have a wealth of candidates declare for the race. State Representatives David Grimes and Jay Love, both of Montgomery, are likely contenders. When asked in July about Everett potentially retiring, Grimes told the Montgomery Advertiser "I'd love to follow a man like that."  

However, Democrats also have a strong bench in the area. State House Speaker Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia) lives in the district, and could potentially be wooed into the race. In addition, state Senators Jimmy Holley (D-Elba) and "Walking' Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne) have been mentioned in the past as candidates. Other names thrown about include state Rep. Terry Spicer (D-Elba) and Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, who recently took 60% in his re-election bid among a crowded field.

And while we've been disappointed in the past, it's worth noting that Ag Commissioner Ron Sparks has also been mentioned as a candidate.

Update: State Rep. Jay Love (R-Montgomery) says he's "definitely running" and “has been on the phone all day with supporters.”

Update 2: State Rep. Greg Wren (R-Montgomery) has formed an exploratory committee.

Update 3: Speaker Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia) passes on race