A personal appeal

“Hey John, so are you going to enter the race or not?” I asked back in the spring as I stood outside near my grape arbor.

“I don’t know [my real name],” he said. “I’m thinking about it. Someone on the Internet is pushing for me to and the DCCC has called.”

I told him the person on the Internet pushing for him to run was me. And I knew the DCCC was interested because our site meter on the old site was filled with DCCC.org visits coming in off Teh Google looking up information on him.

Some of you might remember in 2004 I worked hard mainly on the Kerry-Edwards campaign. I wrote diaries about it (here’s one example, my first ever recommended diary, West Virginia by DCDemocrat and Carnacki, appropriately on Halloween.

I didn’t work much – some canvassing and phone banking for the WV-02 candidate in the 2004 race.

We lost the presidential and the WV-02 race even though we had better candidates in both.

I did all I could in 2006 for Mike Callaghan, the Democratic challenger in WV-02 to beat the faux moderate Shelley Moore Capito, daughter of the federally convicted former Republican Gov. Arch Moore. We lost big, 57-42.

I met wvablue (Clem here) at a campaign event and the two of us became close friends, one of several great friends I’ve made through Daily Kos.

Instead of quitting, the two of us kept working. We didn’t stop with the 2006 election. The day afterwards we were already at work on the old site and with our offline meetings at Waffle House working to lay the groundwork for the 2008 race.

There wasn’t a Democratic or progressive group blog for the state. So we made one. We tried to draft fellow West Virginia Christy Hardin Smith from Fire Dog Lake to run, but she did not want to uproot her family. (Don’t worry, along with Howie Klein, we still have plans for drafting her for an office in the future, even if I have to forge her name on the candidacy papers…mwhahahah…Oh don’t act so shocked and pretend you haven’t committed election fraud in the past eith…you haven’t? Uh, never mind.)

So I thought who would give us the best chance at beating Shelley Moore Capito in WV-02?

I’ve known John Unger before he ran for office and liked him then. As my State Senator, I’ve touted him on the blog before (here’s one example from 2005).

In very Republican Berkeley and Jefferson counties, Unger won against a well financed and popular Republican challenger Jerry May (Berkeley 65 percent, Jefferson 67 percent).

wvablue and I looked at the math. If Unger could match Callaghan’s numbers in the rest of the WV-02 and hold his own in his home turf, because of the high density of the Eastern Panhandle Unger would beat Capito.

Now John is more socially conservative than I’d like on two issues: abortion and gay marriage. Both of those issues are important to me and I’m still working to persuade him to my point of view on them.

The truth of the matter is in this district, my ideal candidate would get crushed. My ideal candidate wouldn’t have a chance.

John does have a chance. CQ has just downgraded Capito’s chances. The DCCC has named this race one of top challenger races so they’re committed and they wouldn’t be committed if they didn’t think he could win.

How often have those of us in the netroots complained that the Democrats don’t listen to us.

John is listening to us. On many other issues important to progressives – the Iraq war, respect for the U.S. Constitution, access to healthcare for every one, protecting labor rights, protecting the environment, opposition to torture, finding alternative sources of clean energy, helping the poor, he’s on our side.

So going back to those depressing days of November 2006. wvablue and I had several goals: find a viable candidate to run. We did that.

Get the DCCC in our race. We helped do that.

Get the Big Boys of Blogging paying attention to the race. We helped do that (clem is wvablue here. See also Kos’s Capito’s in the crosshairs and here.

I know a lot of us are disappointed in the performance of our Democrats.

But I know John. We’ve met with him several times. He’s joined us at Waffle House and talked politics with us from the early evening until 2 a.m.

He’s a guy who worked with Mother Theresa as a volunteer helping the poor and flood victims.

He took a year off from college to do it. Think about this a second if you don’t think John is committed to making the world better: he was the first person from his family to go to college. And he took a year off from doing so to spend a year as a volunteer in India. He went on to become a Rhodes scholar. In 2003 he worked with a nongovernmental organization (NGO) called Save the Children that followed the troops in after the invasion to do humanitarian work.

Some people talk about helping others. John’s done it.

The rightwingers in West Virginia mock Unger as “St. John.” He has a reputation as an independent voice in the state legislature when it comes to ethics issues.

Meanwhile let’s look at Shelley Moore Capito. Although she calls herself “independent” she’s voted consistently with Bush and the most extremist corporate agenda when it comes to the Iraq war, worker rights, and warrentless wiretapping.

She was the leading recipient of Tom Delay’s illegal PAC funds and formed a PAC with Republican Congressman Mark Foley while he was being a sexual predator of Congressional pages and she was one of three members on the Page Board. Her aides have been linked to Jack Abramhoff scandals and she was a recipient of campaign contributions from the Utah mine owner who wanted to reopen the collapsed mine back up for operations before the bodies were recovered and who has a history of fighting against safety regulations.

Capito is the Zelig of Republican scandals. You name it and she’s in the background. Is it because she’s clueless or turns a blind eye to wrong doing as with the Foley case? Is it because she’s willing to do anything to maintain her seat and help the Republican Party?

I don’t know what’s in her heart. I just know I’d rather have John Unger representing me in Congress.

But forget everything I wrote about Capito and Unger. Donate to his campaign because I’m tired of her. I’m physically and mentally tired of her.

Don’t do it for Unger. Don’t do it for the Democrats. (You know my thoughts on them. Don’t do it to eliminate someone like Capito who’ll vote for endless war and occupation.

Do it for me.

Do it because I spend two or more hours a day slogging it out at West Virginia Blue trying to help the grassroots and the state netroots. And a lot of my time is spent having to counter Capito’s bullshit lies.

No really, if we don’t knock her out of office now, she’s going to run for U.S. Senate in the future – or governor. Who knows? She’s the only big name Republican in West Virginia. And I am sick of writing about her.

Everyone else is asking for money now for their candidate. I’m asking for me. If I ever made you laugh about Wild Monkey Sex or smile with a happy story or you appreciated something I wrote on equality for gays, help me out here.

Unger is very close to meeting his fundraising goal for the quarter. As someone who helped get him into this thing, I’d love to be the one to put him over the top.

I ain’t got no money and if you can’t give I understand. But if you can, do me a favor and donate today.

Because I don’t want to write about Capito after the 2008 election.

If you can afford to donate, please donate. Any amount will help. $5, $10, $50, whatever you can afford. I’ll also assure you that Unger’s campaign won’t spend the money frivolously. I know because he’s a tightwad when it comes to spending money on campaigns. People had to sign out for his State Senate race yard signs so he could get them back after the election. So a $1 in this race will stretch a lot farther (further?) than in other races.

WV HR2: Why John Unger Matters for Retaining the Majority

The Democratic field is cleared for State Senator John Unger (campaign site) to challenge Foleygate/Page Board scandal star and incumbent Wall Street Journal Republican Shelley Capito for West Virginia’s Second Congressional District seat.

The Democratic House leadership seems to be lining up behind Unger’s bid to unseat the increasingly vulnerable Capito, hopefully giving Unger vital early support in a district the Democratic leadership dreadfully under-invested in the 2006 cycle. Unger has even been honored as one of Rahm Emanuel’s “Six Pack”, one of only six candidates to whom he has donated so far in this cycle.

It is a very encouraging sign that Monday evening six of the leading House Democrats (including Hoyer, Emanuel, and Van Hollen) will host a big old fundraiser (info) for Unger.

In 2006 Democrats picked most of the low-hanging fruit in regaining the House majority. Seats in which we have a legitimate takeover opportunity are few and far between (and we have several seats we won in 2006 we are going to be hard-pressed to hold and need to offset).

John Unger’s campaign in 60-some percent Democratic registration WV-02 offers us a chance to pick the GOP’s pockets of a seat which traditionally belongs to us. Read on for the who, how and why.

OK, with the formality of condensing my verbose but incredibly persuasive arguments into few enough characters to fit into the Main Text, let me now indulge in my customary Faulknerian self-indulgence.


First off, WV-02 is not a seat any Republican, even the daughter of beloved but convicted former Governor Arch Moore, should ever hold for long.

As noted, Democrats retain over 60 percent of voters by registration. This figure has dropped from the 2-to-1 edge held for generations. Two factors account for the GOP’s small gains over the years.

The Eastern Panhandle has grown remarkably quickly. And most of the new arrivals have been Republicans. The 2000 and, especially, the 2004 Bush campaigns did a fantastic job getting these newbies registered and out to vote. Capito has benefited enormously from this. In fact, without this influx of Republicans, she never would have won the seat in the first place. The Panhandle, particularly Berkeley County (the most populous and fastest growing of the Panhandle counties), provide Capito’s margin.


John Unger’s State Senate District includes Berkeley County. And his electoral success there, despite his Democratic identity and generally progressive politics, is quite impressive.

In 2006, Unger simply pounded his GOP opponent in Republican-friendly Berkeley County, clearing 63 percent. In the rest of the district, Unger did even better: clearing 67 percent.

Unger can compete with Capito in her base region. Unless Capito can rack up big majorities in the Panhandle, the math just does not work for her in the rest of the district… especially as she continues to lose ground each election in the other major population center of WV02 (Kanawha County).

Capito’s vote percentage has fallen in each of the last three general elections (60% in 2002; 59% in 2004; 57 in 2006). Had anyone from outside the district itself invested in Mike Callaghan’s energetic but underfunded challenge in 2006 until the weekend before the election, Capito would have dropped well below the 55 percent figure which redflags vulnerable incumbents.

Unger is uniquely suited to chip away or (Lord willing and the DCCC actually writes some checks before election day) actually reverse Capito’s margin in the county she has to win big. He’s a proven vote-winner in the region key to unseating Capito.


The erosion of Democratic support among values voters has converted a lot of previously reliable Democratic voters into tacit Republicans when it comes to federal elections. We simply have lost a lot of our old pro-labor base on the abortion issue. They can’t in good conscience vote their economic self-interest at the expense of their moral code. In a district in which a plurality of Democratic primary voters self-describe as pro-life (let alone the general electorate), the identification of the national Democratic party’s rigidly pro-choice stance has created for the Republicans the wedge they have used to keep Capito in office.


Remember I said GENERALLY progressive politics?

John Unger is pro-life. And I don’t mean the heartless, calculating kind of pro-life that seems to fill the ranks of GOP office-seekers. Unger spent a year working for Mother Teresa (I kid u not.check pix as a college kid.

Just as an aside, is there any better way to annoy Christopher Hitchens than to back a guy who worked for Mother Teresa?

His position on abortion is a matter of deeply held faith rather than political calculation. And, when you check out his websites and see all his charitable and relief work, you will realize this is a man of compassion in action. His concern for future generations does not end at the moment of birth.

Contrast Unger’s position on abortion with Capito’s twists and turns over the years on this vital issue.

Capito spent her early career as a pro-choice Republican. When she decided to run for Congress, she began to morph into a pro-lifer. By the time she filled out her NPAT form for Project Vote Smart for the 2004 cycle she was checking off on opposing abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the woman, voted for the Global Gag Rule, and rated a 30 percent from NARAL.

Attempting to keep her feet in both camps, Capito spoke one way to choice groups and another to lifers… effectively blurring the public perception of her true position and allowing folks to see what they wanted to see.

However, Capito made a rather uncharacteristically overt and unambiguous move in the wake of the GOP losing control of the House: she joined the GOP House Pro-Choice PAC.

I can only spitball as to the logic behind her decision. Perhaps she decided in the wake of the loss of the House, the wind was blowing in the other direction (and in the word of Mayor Quimby, let it not be said that she did not also blow).

In any event, she has made an enormous strategic blunder. Abortion was the only thing holding her up among fundamentalist voters. At the very least this will suppress their turnout. More likely it will seriously erode her margin among values voters. Almost certainly it will hurt her at the polls in a district where pro-choice is not an edge in a Democratic primary… let alone a general election.

Now imagine the following scenario:


Governor Joe Manchin will be heading the ticket. And running as a pro-life candidate. With his favorability and job approval ratings in the 80s and facing only a sacrificial lamb GOP challenger, the only real question is if 70 percent is a ceiling or a floor for his vote. Manchin is going to have long coattails.

This is going to happen. It will boost Unger across the district. Republicans will be demoralized. Indies will trend heavily Democratic. And wayward Dems will come home even if just to jump on the winner’s bandwagon.

But imagine the scenario if Rudy Giuliani is on the GOP ticket. The voters of WV02 will have a choice between pro-life Democrats and a Republican federal ticket headed by a Planned Parenthood Contributor and seconded by someone who flipped to the other side on the pro-life majority.

The Republican edge on values issues evaporates and possibly reverses. Capito will be bleeding lifers all over the district while facing Unger popular in the region she has to rack up even bigger majorities than ever just to survive.


The math does not add up to a majority for Capito without the Panhandle margin. Berkeley County alone accounted for 14.74 percent of her total 2004 vote (think that’s the best year to use as it was the last Presidential election year). Her dependence on huge winning margins in Berkeley has  grown and continues to grow over the course of her terms in office.

In the 2002 off-year cycle, Berkeley County accounted for 11.05 percent of her vote total. In 2006 the figure swelled to 13.29 percent. Extrapolating from this and the 2000 to 2004 change, just to stay even from her a natural erosion elsewhere, she would need to boost her Berkeley County numbers to 17 percent of her vote total.

Now what that means in performance on the ground is Capito would have to boost her percentage of the Berkeley County vote from 68.5 percent in 2004 (which was rung up with the massive Bush exurban GOTV effort deploying enormous resources there virtually unopposed) to 79 percent in 2008. She would have to raise her vote total from 21772 to 25105 in a county which only saw 31768 votes in a record-turnout year for the GOP.

Does anyone think she can do that against a guy who pulls 63 percent of the vote AGAINST the tide?


John Unger is uniquely suited to win this race.

Why do you think the DCCC recruited him to run? Why do you think West Virginia’s Congressional delegation took the unprecedented step of endorsing a candidate before the filing deadline?

John Unger is the only dog we got who can win this fight. Capito has left her flank open on social issues. Unger can exploit this. Capito has become too reliant on unsustainable margins from the Panhandle to hold her seat.


With the GOP having lost control, Capito can’t raise money like she did when she was in a position to reward her corporate benefactors. Despite moving back to the Finance Committee (usually a gold mine as financial services firms line up to throw money at its members) after the 2006 thumping, Capito’s fundraising is lagging (309K cash on hand in her last quarterly versus 472K at the same point in the last cycle).

And her peril is greater than it appears. With the majority, she could raise vast amounts quickly. With Democrats holding the majority, there is very little incentive for business to up the ante for Capito. She simply can’t raise two millon in the last months before Election Day 2008 now because it is no longer a prudent investment for big business. She is no longer positioned to give them a good return on the money invested.

My guess is she will max out around a million and a half dollars in 2008.

This sounds like a lot, but one has to consider what she had to spend to survive Mike Callaghan’s energetic but underfunded 2006 challenge to Capito.


As I whined earlier, the Callaghan campaign got almost no institutional support from the national party apparatus and campaign committees. While Callaghan did a fantastic job raising 600K from a less than wealthy district (in comparison, the 2004 nominee raised less than 100K), the total is somewhat inflated as most of the money did not arrive until it was too late to do anything with it.

After a bruising three-way primary against two essentially unelectable opponents, Mike Callaghan’s campaign was essentially broke. With the noticeable lack of outside-the-state financial support, Callaghan had to take valuable time away from the stump in a district which has historically rewarded retail campaigning to focus on personally raising from small donors enough money to keep the offices open and the phones on.

Callaghan had no choice. There simply aren’t enough max or even high amount donors in WV02 to raise enormous sums of money without a lot of time-intensive effort by the candidate.

Meanwhile, Capito was raising money in increments of hundreds of thousands as leading Republicans willingly trekked to the state on her behalf. It is truly shameful that Capito was able to raise $2.44 million to add to the million she had salted  away from past campaigns with out breaking a sweat because her party gave her backing while Democrats left our nominee twisting alone in the wind.

And so we arrive at Labor Day 2006. Capito starts her media campaign. Fully aware that Callaghan does not have the funds to go on air, she unleashes a relentlessly upbeat series of ads in a massively heavy rotation. She doesn’t mention Bush. She doesn’t mention she’s a Republican. She’s just this nice lady you shouldn’t fire.

Then the Mark Foley scandal breaks, Capito is a member of the Page Board. She takes the tack that no one told her, conveniently ignoring her job was to provide oversight and her own responsibility to keep herself informed. She panics and goes negative. And I mean, she goes viciously, relentlessly, personally, and dishonestly negative against Mike Callaghan. She drops a million and a half dollars on negative ads (and at West Virginia rates, that is an enormous number of gross rating points). She keeps this up for weeks. Until the week before the election, West Virginia’s radio and TV is wall-to-wall Callaghan-bashing ads.

Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Mike Callaghan doesn’t have enough money to respond… unless he wants to miss a payroll for the campaign staff. It is to his credit that he chose to take the punches rather than short his people. He goes on the road and tries to fight back as best he can.

I said this district rewards retail ( and it does, as the last three flips have gone to the candidate who outworked on the ground the opponent who relied on an air war alone). West Virginians expect to know or at least meet the folks for whom they pull the lever. But no district rewards retail enough to overcome a $3,000,000 to none edge (especially when a radio spot costs twenty bucks a run).

And so it goes. Capito spends all the 2.44 million she raised for the 2006 cycle and the million or so she had stashed away for a future statewide run. Perhaps realizing her unceasing negativity is building to the point of backlash, in the last week and a half, Capito shifts to an (arguably…and weakly so) humorous TV spot where she’s saying she’s busy and scurries around in fast-motion silent movie style.

A late poll shows Callaghan closing. The national party throws in enough money for a small buy the weekend before the election. That is all Mike Callaghan had to fire back at three million bucks of mostly vicious, personal, and fallacious attacks over the course of three months.

Despite this utter lack of support for a promising young challenger, Callaghan actually knocked Capito’s percentage down a couple of points… nearly below the 55 percent vulnerability trigger.

With any backing at all, this would have been a much closer race. With substantial backing in the wake of the Foley scandal and Capito’s ridiculously incoherent rationalizations of her irresponsibility, Callaghan would have beaten Capito.

If this is an unreasonable conclusion, why did Capito spend it all? She’s been saving for a statewide for years. I see no other reason than she saw the possibility of a defeat which would derail her political future. Kudos to Mike Callaghan for making her spend it all (“make him spend it all, Arch” was the unofficial motto and slogan on the most popular bumper sticker of Capito’s father’s run against Jay Rockefeller, my fellow West Virginians of a certain age will recall).


I am terrified we will let let another golden opportunity pass. In John Unger we have another viable candidate with a winnable race against a vulnerable incumbent in a Democratic leaning district in a swing state.

Face it, folks. The way Congressional districts are drawn these days, there are very few seats left where we have a reasonable chance of a Republican-to-Democrat flip. WV-02 is one of the best chances we have.

And we are going to need it.

We caught the Republicans napping in 2006. And Foleygate broke just at the right time to derail their counteroffensive. They were about to start waving the bloody shirt right when the Foley/Page Board scandal shifted the environment (remember we were falling fast in the generic preferences the three weeks before the Foley story broke).

The GOP is doing everything they can to force into retirement any of their folks who carries a whiff of scandal. They are cutting loose from President Bush.

Simply put, we can’t count on them making mistakes again they way they did in 2006.

And now we are playing defense. In politics, like a knife fight, it is always easier and more productive to attack than defend. We have to be smarter and tougher than we were in 2006 just to break even.

We simply can’t afford to pass up opportunities like the one John Unger (campaign site).

It is encouraging to see Members from the leadership showing early support for Unger and his race in WV-02. I truly hope this is one they shortlist for special attention.

And I beg anyone who reads this to contact the DCCC, their unions and professional associations, friends, neighbors, and anyone they bump into on the street to get involved.

Check out Unger’s bio and record. This is a good man with a great shot at winning a crucial seat.

The campaign e mail is info@ungerforcongress.org

By what margin will Bob Shamansky win?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Adopt Our District (WV-02)

Do you live in a safely Democratic Congressional district? Are you eager to add to the Democratic Congressional majority? Want to tie down incumbent Republican resources in a top Democratic House pick-up opportunity?

Adopt our district!

It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever stepped foot in the district before or not, we welcome you here in West Virginia’s Second Congressional District.

W.Va. State Senator John Unger

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). Your help today can make a major difference in this race.

The Curse of Capito

In early 2006, I moved to WV-02 and became an active volunteer for the Democratic challenger. There 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.

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.

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.

Who is John Unger?

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.

West Virginia Netroots Support

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.

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 redoubled our efforts to grow 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 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".

We Can Do Better

John Unger embraces the label of progressive Democrat. His 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.

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.

Adopt Our District

In summary, John Unger is Democrat who can win WV-02 this cycle. The field is clear from 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–we just needs the resources to get the job done. This is our best shot. Unfortunately, if we don’t unseat her now, Capito could remain a fixture of West Virginia politics for life.

Please help us end the Bush-Capito reign of WV-02. Help us 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

Similar diary appeared as a guest-post at Down With Tyranny.

My Congressional rep just spent a day in Iraq

Cross posted from West Virginia Blue

Pro-Iraq war Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito spent a day in Iraq and now she’s an expert.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito has just returned from an unpublicized trip to Iraq and Kuwait.

Though Capito, R-W.Va., had to tread around mostly in full military armor in 116-degree heat, she said the visit helped reinforce her confidence in U.S. efforts there.

She flew into Baghdad earlier this week accompanied by a Republican delegation of Reps. John McHugh, N.Y.; Frank LoBiondo, N.J.; Douglas Lamborn, Colo.; and Gus Bilirakis, Fla.

After arriving in Baghdad, she then went to Fallujah and back to Baghdad.

“We wanted to get a firsthand sense of how things are going,” said Capito in a telephone interview just hours after her return to the U.S. on Thursday. “We talked with leadership and the troops on the ground. My overwhelming impression initially was how proud I am of the men and women in uniform.”


She was mostly impressed with the turnaround of Fallujah, a city 43 miles west of Baghdad and notorious for a 2004 attack on four American contractors who were dragged from their cars, beaten, set on fire, pulled along the streets and hung from a bridge.

“Seven or eight months ago, we wouldn’t have been able to come here,” Capito said. “The level of violence has decreased dramatically. It’s very encouraging, but I still realize it’s a very dangerous situation.”

The U.S. delegation met with Fallujah city government officials. They acknowledged that while the violent atmosphere has lessened, progress remains needed for the political system.

Author, Daily Kossack and Iraq war veteran The Angry Rakkasan wrote a diary about Congressional delegations going to Iraq for the “fact finding” tour:

This is how it happens: A desperate Republican goes to Iraq looking for something-anything-to justify the continuing presence of American troops there.  The Republican stays for a week (give or take), and then returns home as if he or she were Moses coming back from Mount Sinai, carrying to the American people stone tablets engraved with The Ultimate Truth About Iraq.

And of course, this Ultimate Truth About Iraq is learned by the Republican in the chow hall, on the secure base, with the hand-picked soldiers sitting at the table.

This is what Senator Jim Webb rightly  called the “dog and pony show.”  For those who don’t know, that’s an old military expression used to describe how troops are often forced to put on a “show” for visiting politicians or VIPs to convey just how swell everything is going on the front lines.

Politicians or VIPs who’ve served in a combat zone know this.  Sadly, the rest visit the troops in a state of blissful ignorance.

The story does not say what day she was in Iraq, just that it was earlier this week. Somehow in reporting she saw “progress,” Capito and the Daily Mail reporter Jake Stump forgot to mention this happened also this week perhaps on the day she was there:

Hospital officials in northwestern Iraq have told TIME that the death toll from Tuesday’s blasts in Qahataniya may exceed 300, making the multiple suicide bombings the deadliest terrorist operation in the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein. One hospital is saying that there are at least 500 bodies and that 375 people are injured. That report, however, cannot yet be verified.


Since then, the massive “surge” of U.S. and Iraqi troops in and around Baghdad has made the Iraqi capital safer than before from such bombings – but terrorist groups have stepped up attacks elsewhere. There have been a number of attacks in northern Iraq, which had enjoyed a long spell of peace before the start of the “surge.”

Tuesday’s bombings were also a reminder that even successful U.S. military operations can have a short shelf life – a sobering thought for Bush Administration officials and independent analysts who have recently been talking up the successes of the “surge.” After all, the area around Qahataniya was the scene of a major anti-insurgent operation barely two years ago. In the fall of 2005, some 8,000 American and Iraqi troops flushed a terrorist group out of the nearby town of Tal Afar in an operation that was a precursor to the “clear, hold and build” strategy that underpins the current “surge.” A few months later, President Bush cited Tal Afar as a success story for the U.S. enterprise in Iraq.

There have been several attacks in and around Tal Afar since then; last March, two truck bombs killed more than 100 people in a Shi’ite neighborhood in the town. The bombings in Qahataniya were a deadly reminder that the terrorists have not gone very far away. 

And she failed to mention this:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Despite U.S. claims that violence is down in the Iraqi capital, U.S. military officers offer a bleak picture of Iraq’s future, saying they’ve yet to see any signs of reconciliation between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.

Without reconciliation, the military officers say, any decline in violence would be temporary, and bloodshed could return to previous levels when the U.S. military cuts back its campaign against insurgents.

The downbeat assessment comes despite a buildup of U.S. troops that began five months ago and has seen U.S. casualties reach the highest sustained levels since the United States invaded Iraq nearly 4 1/2 years ago.

U.S. officials say civilian casualties in Baghdad are down by half. But they wouldn’t provide specific numbers, and statistics gathered by McClatchy Newspapers don’t support the claim.

The number of car bombings in July actually was 5% higher than the number recorded last December, the statistics show, and the number of civilians killed in explosions is about the same.

Daily Mail reporter Jake Stump. He’s still under the illusion that Gen. David Patraeus is going to write the report.

Army Gen. David Petraeus, top commander in Iraq, informed Capito that areas of the country have undergone vast improvements. Petraeus is slated to give Congress a report next month that addresses whether the troop surge strategy is working. The general has stated that it could take until the summer of 2009 to attain security in Iraq.

The report is really going to be written by the White House. Dan Froomkin of the White House Watch at WashingtonPost.com:

The “Petraeus Report” — the supposedly trustworthy mid-September reckoning of military and political progress in Iraq by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker — is instead looking more like a White House con job in the making.

The Bush administration has been trying for months to restore its credibility on Iraq (as well as stall for time) by focusing on Petraeus — President Bush’s “main man” in Iraq — and his report to Congress. But now it turns out it that White House aides will actually write the “Petraeus Report,” not the general himself.

But it does appear as if Capito now knows what it is like to suffer. She had to wear a helmet and body armor in the 116 degree heat for a little while and “endured” a 14-hour flight from Kuwait back home.

But maybe her suffering was much worse:

Capito said she gave soldiers opportunities to spill their concerns or frustrations over the war, but none complained.

Or maybe they know that Capito doesn’t listen. Maybe they know that whatever the reality is in Iraq, she’s going to say she has “concerns” and then keep voting to keep them occupying Iraq in the middle of a civil war forever.

We need a Congressional representative who is smart enough not to fall for the “dog and pony shows.” We need a Congressional representative who listens.

WV-02: Our candidate strikes back

Crossposted from a version at West Virginia Blue.

State Sen. John Unger is that rare candidate, drafted by those of us at West Virginia Blue and the DCCC to run against vulnerable Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.

As we’ve posted before, the GOP has desperately sought anything to throw at State Sen. John Unger, Democratic challenger to the vulnerable Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.

With her neverending Iraq occupation stance, her handcuffing herself to an incredibly unpopular president, the DCCC making this a top tier race, the growing anti-Capito sentiment with the netroots, and the overall weakness of the GOP bench, the West Virginia Republicans are desperate to find something to throw at Unger to protect her even when they have to make it up.

We’ve called the rightwingers on it before. This time Unger called them on it and it’s good to see the campaign fighting back.

Once again a Republican attempt to throw mud at Unger has splashed back on Capito.

The latest attempt is a variation of one they’ve tried before on Unger’s employment as a federal contractor and yet it only highlighted how much better qualified Unger is for the job than Capito.

This time, however, the effort not only shows a potential ethical breach by the WV GOP, but it reveals dirty tricks by Capito. So much for her genial, civility veneer.

From Unger’s statement to the media today:

CHARLESTON – To combat the State Republican Party’s early smear campaign against him, Senator John Unger today made public a letter from Lewis G. Brewer, Executive Director of the West Virginia Ethics Commission, directly contradicting the State Republican Party’s attack on Senator Unger’s 2007 financial disclosure form.

In the attached letter from July 16, Executive Director Brewer states:

“Marking `other’ on your form would not meaningfully change the financial information you have already disclosed in completing the form.  Accordingly, it is my opinion that you are not required to file an amended financial disclosure statement.”

In simple words even rightwingers can understand the West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Doug McKinney filed an ethics complaint for Unger filling out the disclosure papers properly. How much more desperation are they going to get?

Seriously, they filed a complaint for someone filing a form properly. What’s next from the West Virginia GOP? “Unger places stamp with torn corner on envelope.”

Anyway, back to Unger’s statement:

West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Doug McKinney filed a formal complaint with the State’s Ethics Commission on July 17 alleging Senator Unger did not properly complete his personal financial disclosure statement.

“I am very proud of my employment with EG&G Technical Services and the work I do in the area of homeland security,” Senator Unger said.  “As can be seen by my financial disclosure forms, I have been open and transparent about my employment with EG&G.”

Filing ethics complaints against challengers of Shelley Moore Capito’s is not uncommon practice with the state’s Republican Party. In 2000, Shelley Moore Capito ran ad campaigns alleging at least 18 ethics charges had been filed against her opponent Jim Humphreys in an effort to attack his credibility.

In her ads, Capito herself said her intention was to state “the truth about Jim Humphreys’ questionable conduct, deceit and repeated violations of personal and professional trust.”

“It is unfortunate that the West Virginia Republican Party has run out of meaningful ideas about solving the pressing challenges our state and country are facing today, and instead has decided to engage in these petty character assassination attempts,” Senator Unger said.

What will be interesting to see in the days ahead is whether the media digs into how Capito’s supporters are filing false ethics complaints and abusing the ethics system for partisan political reasons or whether the press simply parrots Republican talking points.

Jake Stump of the Charleston Daily Mail already debunked the smear on Unger’s employment.

An employee at the National Energy Technology Laboratory recommended him for the EG&G job, Unger said.
“I’m not a federal employee, but I work with federal officials,” he said. “The reason I don’t talk much about the particulars of the job is because we’re dealing with sensitive materials and homeland security.”

The senator said he believes the company tapped him not because of his political background, but for his experiences overseas.

He has worked with Mother Teresa in India during monsoons and riots in 1990. There he coordinated the distribution of relief supplies.

Before that, he worked for the United States Refugee Program in Hong Kong and helped Vietnamese refugee children there.

He’s also aided in disaster relief efforts in Turkey and Iraq, where he has traveled twice.

Unger said those experiences provided him with knowledge concerning international relations and security.

“Part of our training in Iraq dealt with security,” Unger said. “When you’re working with government in the area of human relief, there’s a large component of security.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again of the rightwing whining smears on Unger: That’s it? That’s all you’ve got?

Capito’s got no positive record to run on after six years as an ineffective representative for West Virginia. All she and her supporters got against Unger is he filled out a form correctly and they’ve tried to make an issue of it.

They’ve done it before because they’ve got no ideas to run on and no facts to use against him. So they throw mud. They throw mud and it splashes on Capito. With friends like them, Capito doesn’t need any enemies.

Republican Rep. Capito (WV-02) takes credit for bolting a locked door

I know we often make fun of lawyers in this country (“What do you call a smiling, sober, courteous person at a bar association convention? The caterer.“). On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for the value of training in law for political leadership. The Clintons (Bill, Yale; Hillary, Yale), Barack Obama (Harvard), John Edwards (UNC), and Harry Reid (George Washington U.) all have law degrees.

Then we have our Republican mis-leadership. There’s George Bush with an Master’s in Business Administration. That’s the same degree that Duke Cunningham and Jeff Skilling have. There’s Rep. Shelley Moore Capito with a Master’s in Career Counseling. That’s the same degree as… well, actually, no one comes to mind. Bush and Capito share a mis-understanding of the law, too. Whereas Bush missed the week in high school civics class about constitutional checks and balances, after six years in Congress Rep. Capito still hasn’t figured out the basic mechanics of when a law is needed.

Case in point: Rep. Capito is crowing about her success in using an obscure legislative maneuver to outlaw something that is already illegal!

West Virginia Democrats had no problem getting it right (emphasis mine):

West Virginia?s other two congressmen?Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall?voted against the measure. Rahall says he opposed the amendment because the program already includes ID requirements and toughening up the standard would be burdensome to many rural and elderly citizens and raise privacy concerns. Mollohan?s office said the amendment was “nothing but political chicanery.”

You know, it’s hard to counter the negative stereotypes the rest of the country has of West Virginia. Rep. Capito isn’t helping any. They noticed up in New York, too: Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens) said “It’s all demagoguery.” As Albor Ruiz of the New York Daily News put it:

While the fate of 12 million people, thousands of families and the future of the nation’s economy wait for Congress to do its job on immigration reform, some of its members would rather play games.


“Loopholes in current law, like this housing assistance loophole for illegal immigrants, act as a magnet and invite people to enter our country illegally,” Capito is quoted as saying. “We should not be rewarding those who have come here illegally by awarding them taxpayer-funded services intended for law-abiding citizens.”

Wow! Is she tough! She’s cracking down and closing loopholes! No “illegal” will take advantage of taxpayers on her watch!

Not to rain on her party, but there is one small problem: What loophole is she talking about? Undocumented immigrants already are ineligible for housing vouchers. Under current law, all recipients of assistance are required to be citizens or to prove their lawful immigration status.

Capito can do all the chest-thumping she wants, but there is nothing to crack down on.

Here in West Virginia, the coverage is a mixed bag. Tom Searls article reads like a Capito press release. Yet, he did prominently mention his inability to get a quote from Rahall or Mollohan. Loopy Kercheval’s opinion piece does include quotes from Rahall and Mollohan but it distorts the issue even worse than Capito did.

Capito should be called out for immigration race-baiting and class warfare. Her arguments are full of lies and distortion. Here’s a just a few ways her actions are deceitful:

1. The HUD reform is benign at best and an assault on poor people at worst. It is already illegal for illegal residents to get section-8 benefits. As Rahall noted, her additional ID requirements create an additional burden on those who can least afford it.

If this legislative action has any effect it will be to make it harder for those who are entitled to the benefits to get them. This is an assault on poor people. Republicans like Bush and Capito believe that government cannot help people–this is an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy as they make it more difficult for the government to help those who most need help.

2. She provides no evidence whatsoever that there is a problem with Section-8 housing that needs “reform”. The one statistic she quotes in support of this bill has nothing to do with Section-8 housing.

You can be sure if she had any examples of illegal residents receiving Section 8 housing she would have mentioned them. As Mollohan said, this is “nothing but political chicanery.” It is a waste of time, money, and resources.

3. In her floor statement she repeatedly says the tax dollars paying for Section 8 housing come from hard-working Americans. That’s a misleading statement. Tax dollars are paid by not only by hard-working Americans but also by legal immigrants and illegal immigrants who reside and pay taxes in this country.

She knows this. She’s using misleading inflammatory rhetoric to score cheap political points. Rep. Joe Crowley is absolutely right, “It’s all demagoguery.”

This is yet another example of Bush-Capito style mis-leadership. There’s a reason why 75% of West Virginians feel that the country is headed on the wrong-track. Passing do-nothing legislation doesn’t help.

West Virginia need leaders who put their energy into solving the many difficult, significant problems that we face–ending the occupation of Iraq, providing universal health care, and providing social and economic justice for all of us, not just the wealthy few.

It’s time for Bush and Capito to leave office. We can do better.

Cross-posted at West Virginia Blue

WV-02: GOP efforts to throw mud back fire on Capito

Crossposted at West Virginia Blue.

I’ve watched with bemusement at the effort by supporters of vulnerable Rep. Shelley Moore Capito to throw mud at State Sen. John Unger only to have it splash back on Capito.

The latest effort by Capito’s supporters to protect their vulnerable Rubberstamp Republican has been to criticize what Unger does for a living and make it sound like there is controversy where none exists.

Now considering how badly the last effort by the right worked, you would think they would learn.  Of course, they don’t. They’re rightwingers.

Jake Stump of the conservative-leaning Charleston Daily Mail does a good job debunking the latest smear effort by the rightwingers.

Unger acknowledges he has what some might consider a vague, confusing job title. He’s senior adviser of homeland security and economic development for the National Energy Technology Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy with offices in Morgantown.

But he is an employee of EG&G, a Gaithersburg, Md.-based national defense contractor that provides engineering and technical services. The company provides direct-labor employees who are paid based on their performance with contracted clients.

Now some of Unger’s critics are too stupid to understand the complexities of federal government contracting. But others are simply Republican political hacks who know they haven’t found any dirt to throw at Unger so they have to make it up through implication.

But like an earlier effort, see here for an example – their efforts end up unintentionally making Capito look bad.

Here’s Stump on how Unger got the job:

An employee at the National Energy Technology Laboratory recommended him for the EG&G job, Unger said.

“I’m not a federal employee, but I work with federal officials,” he said. “The reason I don’t talk much about the particulars of the job is because we’re dealing with sensitive materials and homeland security.”

The senator said he believes the company tapped him not because of his political background, but for his experiences overseas.

He has worked with Mother Teresa in India during monsoons and riots in 1990. There he coordinated the distribution of relief supplies.

Before that, he worked for the United States Refugee Program in Hong Kong and helped Vietnamese refugee children there.

He’s also aided in disaster relief efforts in Turkey and Iraq, where he has traveled twice.

Unger said those experiences provided him with knowledge concerning international relations and security.

“Part of our training in Iraq dealt with security,” Unger said. “When you’re working with government in the area of human relief, there’s a large component of security.”

In other words, the Rhodes scholar Unger not only can speak knowledgeably on homeland security issues, he already has experience at international issues. Plus he did missionary work which shows he cares compassionately about people.

Compare that experience to Capito’s, whose only qualification before her election in 2000 was she was former Gov. Arch Moore’s daughter and she has a pleasant smile.

In an earlier smear attempt, Republican strategist Gary Abernathy tried to put words in the mouth of Unger’s friend and WEPM cohost Chris Strovel to make up dirt on Unger even though Strovel had said nothing critical about Unger.

Just like before, there is nothing there.

You don’t  have to take my word for it. Thanks to Stump’s reporting you can hear it from Unger’s employer:

Brent Armstrong, vice president of the Energy, Environment and Health Services Department at EG&G, confirmed Unger’s employment with the company.

“He is earning a living,” Armstrong said. “I’m not sure what the confusion is.”

Two specific projects Unger is contracted to work on with the laboratory include the modern grid initiative, which updates the nation’s electricity system, and ensuring that infrastructure is in place for securing energy supplies.

Armstrong said he’s heard no complaints from the laboratory regarding Unger’s job performance. Unger is required to submit monthly progress reports on each project.

“I don’t care who they are,” Armstrong said. “If they’re not cutting the mustard, they won’t have a job. He’s been doing a job the client is very pleased with.”

Unger makes his employer happy. He’s knowledgeable and experienced at national security issues, energy issues, and international issues.

Capito has a pleasant smile. She’s probably quite personable to talk with. People say she’s quite devoted to her family. I’ve never questioned that. But as a Rubberstamp Republican, she has shown poor judgement time after time and as a continued supporter of occupying Iraq in the midst of a complex sectarian civil war that is bankrupting the country and making us less secure, she has blood on her hands. She has failed to show the wisdom of our other Congressional representatives Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall on Iraq. She has floundered as a Congressional representative, allying herself with suspected criminals like Republicans Tom Delay (she was the largest recipient of his illegal PAC contributions) and Mark Foley (she formed a political action committee with him even while he cyberstalked underage male pages and she served on the Page Board that was to protect them). Did she intentionally ally herself with so many Republicans now caught up in criminal scandals? Real scandals unlike the ones the rightwingers keep trying to make up about Unger. I don’t know what is in her heart.

I do know that Unger is knowledgeable and makes his employer happy with the work he does and as a constituent of WV-02 I want to hire him to represent all of us in the District in Congress in 2008.

WV-02: Quality Democratic Challenger, DCCC Support, Incumbent Moves Signal Top-Tier Race

(From the diaries – promoted by James L.)

There has been a flurry of developments in WV-02 during the last two weeks. All of them point to one conclusion: State Sen. John Unger’s challenge of vulnerable incumbent Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is a top-tier pick-up opportunity for the Democratic Party in 2008.

Unger–recruited by both netroots and the DCCC–has emerged as an early, well-positioned challenger to Capito. The major recent developments include:

* Potential challenger Anne Barth (W.Va. State Director for Sen. Robert Byrd) ended speculation and stated she is not running. This clears the path for a single strong Democratic Party nominee–it’s all but certain now that Unger will face no significant Democratic primary opposition.

DC fund-raiser - Rahall Unger Mollohan Davis

* Unger held a successful fund-raising event in Washington, D.C. hosted by a Who’s Who of W.Va. and DCCC Reps. The event was officially hosted by our two W.Va. Dem. Reps. Mollohan (WV-01) and Rahall (WV-03), along with DCCC Chair Rep. Chris Van Hollen and DCCC Recruitment Chair Rep. Artur Davis.

Capito DCCC

* As part of their July 4th week campaign hitting vulnerable Republicans, the DCCC announced a series of radio commercials targeting Rep. Capito’s poor record of supporting veterans. This level of support from the DCCC is highly significant–this is a strong signal that WV-02 is a key target for 2008. (James L. has more details here.)

* Not long after the DCCC announcement, Pres. Bush announced he was visiting John Unger’s hometown, Martinsburg, W.Va. on July 4. Providing a safe harbor to her good friend Rep. Shelley Moore Capito greeted Bush with open arms at his time of need. Bush held a private, closed door morning speech with National Guard members and their families.

John Unger We Can Do Better

* Wasting no time after getting setup on ActBlue, Unger sent out his first email fund-raising appeal. Using Pres. Bush’s visit to show how out of touch Capito is with West Virginia values in “Bush and Capito Stick Together!“, Unger called for bringing our soldiers home from Iraq.

This is shaping up to be an exciting race. John Unger is a good fit for this district. He is similar to Rep. Rahall in that he’s more socially conservative (just like this district) than a typical member of the Progressive Netroots, but he is also adamant about issues of social and economic justice–and, that includes getting out of Iraq.

Written by Clem G., a W.Va. volunteer Netroots activist. Cross-posted at West Virginia Blue, the home of WV-02 coverage.

The DCCC Plays In 14 Districts This Independence Day

According to The Hill, the DCCC has targeted 14 Republican incumbents for web/phone/radio hits starting on Monday. Here’s the full list, including each district’s Presidential vote in the last two cycles:

State CD Incumbent Kerry ’04 Bush ’04 Gore ’00 Bush ’00
AK AL Young 36 61 28 59
CO 4 Musgrave 41 58 37 57
IL 10 Kirk 53 47 51 47
MI 9 Knollenberg 49 51 47 51
MO 6 Graves 42 57 44 53
NC 8 Hayes 45 54 46 54
NJ 7 Ferguson 47 53 48 49
NM 1 Wilson 51 48 48 47
NV 3 Porter 49 50 49 48
NY 25 Walsh 50 48 51 45
NY 29 Kuhl 42 56 43 53
PA 3 English 47 53 47 51
VA 2 Drake 42 58 43 55
WV 2 Capito 42 57 44 54

However, only seven districts (NC-08, MI-09, AK-AL, NV-03, NY-25, WV-02 and MO-06) are getting the radio ads. But this is a good indicator, perhaps, of the districts that the DCCC plans to aggressively contest next year. While many of these look tough, dynamite candidates in State Senator John Unger and Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes (MO-06) could very well be map changers.

John Unger shows WV-02 “We can do better”

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Last Friday evening, West Virginia State Sen. John Unger held an Eastern Panhandle campaign kick-off event in Martinsburg, W.Va. (lots of pictures here). After reading so much about Unger–both good and bad–from fellow Democratic activists and Republican concern trolls trying to Draft Anne Barth, I really didn’t know what to expect. Maybe all that ink-spilling had lowered my expectations… whatever the reason, I was pleasently surprised. It was an impressive start for his campaign for WV-02.

Follow below the break for my full report.

A late start

We all waited a while for Rep. Alan Mollohan (WV-01) to arrive from D.C. [As any of us who regularly drive from DC can tell you, arriving at Martinsburg at 5:30pm on a Friday afternoon is a tricky driving task!] I did heard Mollohan made it later in the evening for the Berkeley County Democratic Woman’s Dinner (at the same venue).

The event opened and closed with a prayer delivered by a local clergy (I didn’t catch the name). Perhaps because I grew up in the bible belt, this outward display of religion doesn’t bother me. More importantly, these prayers offered were prayers of inclusion, not exclusion. [Even though the religious beliefs of this progressive appear to differ (quite a lot!) from those of Unger, many of our core values overlap. In a 2005 profile he named his heroes as Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Jesus and Thomas Jefferson.]

On to Unger’s speech

He’s starting with a stump speech that is already better than many politicans ended their 2006 campaigns with. I rate the content as very good (I’ve minor quibbles I share below) and the delivery is… well… let’s just say it’s still early in the campaign season. Unger was very comfortable in front of this crowd, he can speak from his heart, and he showed potential for a great speech. Once Unger has this material memorized–after he throws away his notes and just talks to the audience, he’s going to have a top notch stump speech.

About the content

The theme for his speech is “we can do better”. He spoke frequently of working for “common good.” The key issues he stressed are: universal access to affordable health care, improved educational opportunities, milestones / removing troops from Iraq, veteran’s support, infrastructure upgrades and United States energy independence.

Here are some lines that stood out in particular (not exact quotes):

– America has not kept its promise to its people… let’s return government to the people.

– We can import food from communist China, import cooking oil from a dictatorship in Venezula so why can’t we import affordable prescription drugs from a democracy in Canada.

– We’re building schools in Iraq, we need to build them here.

– Removing troops from Iraq equals a healthy Iraq.

– If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

I really like the one about “removing troops from Iraq = a healthy Iraq.” The line about importing drugs is great populist rheteroic, too. Considering the only phrase in the whole speech I found a little off was calling Venezula a dictatorship, I’d say he did quite well. Even with that, it’s still a great line.

Some minor quibbles

As many others have said around the progressive blogosphere, the Democratic Party is too slow in realizing that the Iraq War is the issue of the 2008 election (just as it was for the 2006 election). I liked what I heard Unger say about Iraq, it was just buried a too far into the speech. He can say the same things more prominently. [If he truly listens as he tours the district, he’ll figure this out on his own. After all, “getting out of Iraq” was probably the loudest applause line on this night.]

The electorate wants out of Iraq. This is a huge vulnerability for incumbent Republicans. Despite anything he might hear otherwise from the DCCC back in Washington, this is one place not to be timid.

My second quibble has to do with energy independence. I have some concerns about that framing of energy policy. I’ll reserve judgement until I know more details about Unger’s positions. [Unger was sole sponsor of legislation that recently created a Department of Energy in West Virginia, so he’s certainly well-informed on the topic.]

In all, there’s a lot to like

Unger comes across as authentic in his compassion for those who are less fortunate in society. Unger comes across as authentic as someone who believes that government can help promote the common good. His signature issues of universal health care, education, getting out of Iraq, veterans, our nation’s infrastructure and energy indepenence are winning issues in WV-02 that progressives can also rally around. He is running on issues of inclusion, not division.

Yes indeed, John Unger is showing us “we can do better”.

No doubt there will be at least one primary challenger in this race. The allure of press coverage for a Congressional seat is too much to keep challengers at bay. Still, anyone with serious political aspirations will think twice before taking on an impressive candidate with strong support from fellow West Virginia Democrats (and the DCCC). Unger is going to be a formidable candidate.

Thankfully for all of us in WV-02, State Sen. John Unger is already showing that a Democrat does indeed have a prayer to win this seat in 2008.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Cross-posted at West Virginia Blue