Why I’m Running for Congress

My name is Dan Seals and as many of you may know, I am running for Congress in Illinois’ 10th district. I wanted to take this opportunity to first thank all of you for the outpouring of support I received through Blue Majority but also to introduce myself as a candidate for Congress.

Like many of you, my decision to get politically involved was borne out of frustration. It was a decision borne out of frustration with President Bush’s re-election in 2004, frustration with our open-ended engagement in Iraq, and frustration with the record budget deficits that have saddled my three little girls with unimaginable debt.  

But it was also a decision borne out of optimism for a better future. That is why I am here today: I believe and know that we can do better. My grandparents and parents raised me with the knowledge that I was growing up in a better America than the America of their youth. Like them, I want to leave our country better off for my children, and that is why I am running for Congress.

Right now, due to wasteful federal spending on the part of the Republican Party and my opponent, Mark Kirk, each of my three daughters is over $30,000 in debt. That is over $30,000 in debt before any of them have reached the age of 10, much less gone to college or owned a home. I can’t imagine anything more un-American than saddling our children with this kind of debt.

This debt didn’t appear overnight. In fact, it is the result of seven-plus years of conscious, wasteful spending on the part of the President and the national Republican Party- from tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to hundreds of billions of dollars shipped overseas to Iraq.

My opponent, Mark Kirk, has been a part of this problem in Washington. From supporting tax cuts for billionaires and corporations who move offshore, to rubberstamping the Bush administration’s failed policies in Iraq, to giving away billions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives to big oil, he has shown where his priorities lie.

Over the next several months, I look forward to talking not only with voters in the 10th district, but also with you. I look forward to putting an end to the myth that Republicans own the mantle of fiscal responsibility. But most importantly, I look forward to being a part of a Congress that understands that we have no greater duty than leaving our nation better off for our children and grandchildren.

To learn more about my campaign, please visit my website at www.dansealsforcongress.com.

Cross-posted at Open Left and Daily Kos.

GOP’s answer to our Red to Blue, BlueMajority, Obamajority, etc…

Well, it looks like Boehner is starting to take matters into his own hands and rectify some of Tom Cole’s incompetence.

More after the fold…

Full article from cq politics:


It’s not uncommon for congressional leaders to steer fundraising assistance to party candidates who are in difficult races and in need of extra campaign cash. One such effort is the House Republicans’ “ROMP,” an acronym for Regain Our Majority Program, which has released its latest list of Republican candidates who will benefit from additional aid because they are politically vulnerable and/or have been targeted by the Democrats for defeat.

“ROMP 2008,” presently overseen by the political operation of House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio, was recently established in papers filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). These records identify the 10 newest recipients of the program’s assistance.

These candidates make up the first batch of ROMP candidates named this year, and the third since the current election cycle began in the 2007-08 cycle. The new recipients’ election contests are outlined below.

7/10 of the candidates were incumbents we ousted in the last election cycle.

• Michele Bachmann , Minnesota’s 6th District (North and east Twin Cities suburbs; St. Cloud). Bachmann was first elected in 2006 to succeed Republican Mark Kennedy, who lost his campaign for the U.S. Senate to Democrat Amy Klobuchar . The Democratic nominee for November’s election will be either Bob Olson, a lawyer, or Elwyn Tinklenberg, a former state transportation commissioner. The latter candidate initially campaigned for the Democratic nomination in 2006 but later deferred to Patty Wetterling, a child safety advocate who lost to Bachmann after also losing as the Democratic nominee against Kennedy in 2004.

• Vito J. Fossella , New York’s 13th (Staten Island; part of southwest Brooklyn). Fossella is the only House Republican who represents part of New York City. He saw his re-election percentage drop from 70 percent in 2002 to 59 percent in 2004, and then again to 57 percent in 2006 even though Democratic challenger Steve Harrison didn’t raise much money. Harrison, a lawyer, is seeking a rematch, though he faces a well-funded primary opponent in New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia.

• Sam Graves , Missouri’s 6th (Northwest – St. Joseph, part of Kansas City). Graves’ campaign for a fifth term may well be the toughest of his career. His Democratic opponent, former Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes, is well-known and well-funded.

• Ric Keller , Florida’s 8th (Central – most of Orlando). Keller won a fourth term in 2006 by a 7 percentage-point margin over Democrat Charlie Stuart, a marketing executive who is one of several Democrats seeking the 2008 nomination.

• Anne M. Northup, Kentucky’s 3rd (Louisville Metro). Northup, who served in the House from 1997 through 2006, is challenging Democratic freshman Yarmuth, who unseated her by a margin of less than 3 percentage points. Northup hadn’t planned a bid to reclaim her seat this year, but she jumped in after the Republican she had been backing, lawyer Erwin Roberts, dropped out of the race to fulfill his military obligations. Northup sought a quick political comeback last year but lost a primary challenge to then-Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who subsequently lost the general election to Democrat Steve Beshear.

• Erik Paulsen, Minnesota’s 3rd (Hennepin County suburbs – Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Plymouth). Paulsen, a state representative, is the presumed Republican nominee in this suburban Minneapolis district, which retiring Republican Jim Ramstad is giving up after nine terms. The Democratic nominee will either be state Sen. Terri Bonoff or Ashwin Madia, a lawyer and Iraq War veteran.

• Bill Sali , Idaho’s 1st (West – Nampa, Panhandle, part of Boise). The strong Republican leanings of this district are indisputable, as President Bush took 68 percent of the vote there in his 2004 election. But Sali underperformed in his 2006 election for the then-open 1st District seat, in which he defeated Democrat Larry Grant by the underwhelming vote of 50 percent to 45 percent. Grant is seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination along with Walt Minnick, a businessman who lost as the party’s losing Senate nominee against Republican Larry E. Craig in 1996. Sali is opposed in the May 27 Republican primary election by Matt Salisbury, an Iraq War veteran.

• Jean Schmidt , Ohio’s 2nd (Eastern Cincinnati and suburbs; Portsmouth). Schmidt, who is seeking a second full term in a district that usually exhibits strong Republican leanings, faces a rematch of her exceptionally close 2006 race against Democratic physician Victoria Wulsin. Schmidt won that contest by a margin of about 1 percentage point. In the primary elections that took place March 4, Schmidt was renominated with 57 percent of the Republican vote and Wulsin won with 58 percent on the Democratic side.

• Tim Walberg , Michigan’s 7th (South central – Battle Creek, Jackson). Walberg, a freshman, was elected in 2006 over Democrat Sharon Renier, a little-known and underfunded Democrat who lost by just 4 percentage points. The unexpectedly close outcome was influenced by a bitter Republican primary fight in which the very conservative Walberg unseated one-term GOP moderate Joe Schwarz. Renier is running again this year, though Democratic officials are rallying behind state Sen. Mark Schauer, a better-known and better-funded candidate.

• Darren White, New Mexico’s 1st (Central – Albuquerque). White is the sheriff of Bernalillo County, which includes Albuquerque and which is the population base of a politically competitive district that Republican Heather A. Wilson left open to pursue a U.S. Senate bid. White is opposed in the June 3 primary by state Sen. Joseph Carraro. The four Democratic primary candidates are Michelle Grisham, a former state health secretary; Martin Heinrich, a former Albuquerque councilman; Robert L. Pidcock, a lawyer; and Rebecca Vigil-Giron, a former New Mexico Secretary of State.

Blue Majority: Final Day of the Quarter!

Today is the very last day of the first fundraising quarter. Money raised today will get counted in the reports that get released in two weeks; cash taken in after today won’t get toted up until July. So please make a donation to the Blue Majority candidates – or any favorite Dems of yours – today.

We’re thrilled that we met our goal of 6,500 donations for the page. Now we’re trying to bring each candidate up to 1,000 gifts apiece. Can we do it by the end of the day today? Let’s go for it!

P.S. Please tell us who you’ve given to this past quarter in comments, whether on Blue Majority or elsewhere.

Firing away at a misidentified target

In a Comment to DavidNYC’s article, Blue Majority Page: Call for Nominations JeremiahTheMessiah raised a point:

**Our dollars can go further in races which, so far, have received less attention and institutional backing.**

So then why is Leslie Byrne on the list? … getting sufficient institutional support, already has Webb doing fundraisers, has a contested primary, etc.

So what’s the answer here?

Much more below the fold.

I grew up in Texas, live in NYC. Never heard nor seen Ms. Byrne nor Mr Connolly. I only know what I read online.

Matt Stoller wrote the intro when she got the nod, so maybe something got him excited. But here at SSP the endorsement got only one Comment, about the competitiveness of the district, not a word about the horse picked in the primary.

Go back to the Comments on Stoller on dKos — I’ve never seen so much negative feedback about a candidate put on the Netroots/Blue Majority list. (Condensed & emphasis added.)

I can only hope that she has learned from past campaigns. She ran very poorly in her statewide Lt Gov race, and does not have a great history as a campaigner.

Not impressed with her. I was her constituent when she was in Congress, heck I was her constituent when she was a delegate & state senator. So I know Ms. Byrne and still cringe over her proposed law to make sleeping in a room in your house other than your bedroom illegal.

Not to pour water on the bonfire … I live in VA-11 and I’m not sure she’s a good fit for this district … a very edgy reputation, comes across as a bit too ideological/partisan for many independents. The voters in VA-11 are VERY moderate and ripe for Dem takeover but not sure if they want someone like her.

She’d be a better rep than Connolly, but I have my doubts she can win. She lost the Lt. Gov. race, and that was not a race we should have lost.

Andy Hurst (the ’06 Dem candidate for the 11th) endorsed Connolly

Hate to be a wet blanket. But Byrne … tends to be abrasive and obnoxious. She lost a number of legislative elections, including a recent contest for the VA State Senate. Connolly is a shoo-in. Moreover, he’s a fine progressive Democrat.

Just before the VA primary, I got either an Email or a flyer with Byrne’s picture and statement in favor of HRC. Can’t find the original. Ms. Byrne now claims not to have endorsed (her husband works for HRC, as she did during the Clinton years).

Gosh, no … my congresswoman growing up, one of the worst attendance records in the VA State Senate … a competitiveness that many find abrasive, a history of alienating colleagues. I voted for her in 2005, but that doesn’t mean I believe she is the best candidate.  Not by a long shot.

I’ll say this: The hope is Leslie Byrne has learned something over the last 15 years. In 1992 my wife and I volunteered for her campaign – worked the phones, licked the envelopes, walked the neighborhoods. She won! In 1994 we called to offer our help: “We don’t need you” we were told …

Altogether only 50 Comments, very few for a frontpage article on dKos. And 5 or 10 were sort of off-topic. Above I tried to avoid quoting anyone more than once. So a huge share of the Comments were decidedly negative.

Oh, yeah. About her bad guy opponent. Gerry Connelly’s website, on the Issues:

“I bring a passion for progressive values, and an ethic of getting things done. I want to bring that same ethic — the expectation that government will work for its citizens — to Congress.”

End the War in Iraq

For 10 years, Gerry Connolly was a senior staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has the experience to work with the new administration to end the war in Iraq and restore American credibility around the world.

Enact Comprehensive Health Care Reform

The next President and Congress must act boldly to control rising health care costs and provide quality, affordable care for the 47 million uninsured Americans. Connolly will work with a broad coalition to design a plan that emphasizes preventive coverage and makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage for preexisting conditions.

Provide Strong Environmental Leadership

Connolly worked with the Sierra Club to champion the “Cool Counties” initiative to combat global warming. In Congress, he will lead the effort to promote energy conservation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

They say Connolly is pro-business and pro-developer. Well, I hope it takes more than being “pro-business” to get your opponent endorsed around here. And “pro-developer.” Dayum, I thought that was a job requirement for his current position. Somebody wanna work up a short list of all the anti-development county execs elected in the last few decades?

I was very disappointed to see this intervention in a hotly contested primary where for the life of me I cannot see national implications.

This endorsement runs the risk of diverting thousands of dollars from candidates and races that clearly meet the declared standards of the Blue Majority page. When you put Gary Trauner or Joe Garcia on the list, I get excited. Leslie Byrne, not so much.

VA-10 is one of the richest districts in the U.S., part of the extremely costly Washington-Baltimore media market. Now precious Blue Majority dollars will be poured into a big spending primary against a well-funded and popular Democrat, a self-described anti-War progressive. To me that’s a wanton waste of our resources.

(Our dollars can go further in races which, so far, have received less attention and institutional backing.)

Less attention than a costly open-seat race in a newly competitive battleground state?

How blue is the district or state?

Well, how blue is VA? How blue is this district? Is this the one where Blue Majority can make the most difference? Or would that have been Tom Perriello, VA-5, against Virgil Goode? Or even Judy Feder against in VA-10 against Frank Wolf?

In conclusion [insert roar of applause here] the standards for endorsing in a contested primary should be extremely high. If the high hurdles aren’t met, hold off until a nominee is chosen.

Meanwhile put the emphasis back on races like Steve Sarvi in MN, Sam Bennett in PA, Tom Perriello VA-5, Kay Barnes in MO-06, Vic Wulsin in OH-02, Jane Mitakides in OH-03, Anne Barth in WVa-02, Annette Taddeo in FL-18, Betsey Markey in CO-04, — either Ann Kirkpatrick, the front runner, or Mary Kim Titla, a Native American, AFTER the primary — in AZ-01, Jill Derby in NV-02, Debbie Cook in CA-46, or even Chris Rothfuss (WY-Sen).

DavidNYC, you guys need to keep a closer eye on Matt Stoller. Sometimes over there those guys go off and see Bush Dogs where there are none, ya now what I mean?

Blue Majority Page: Call for Nominations

As you know, this week – the final week of the first fundraising quarter – Blue Majority is pushing to reach a total of 6,500 donations. We’re getting there – following on the heels of our endorsement of Barack Obama, we’ve now moved past 5,800 donors. That means we need about 700 more, so if you haven’t given yet, please do. Donations of all sizes are welcome.

There’s also another way you can contribute. We’d like to solicit nominations for new candidates to add to the page. To be clear, this isn’t a vote – we won’t simply pick the people who get talked about the most. Rather, we want to get a sense of who our communities like, and why. We also don’t have a specific timetable for adding new names, but we hope to choose some soon.

As a guide, here are some of the criteria we like to look at – some of these are old, and some are new:

Is the candidate running against a Republican incumbent or for a GOP-held open seat? (This is close to being an absolute requirement.)

Does the candidate embody the kinds of progressive values you’d ideally like to see in Congress?

Is the race not a top-tier affair? (Our dollars can go further in races which, so far, have received less attention and institutional backing.)

Has the local blogosphere embraced the candidate – and vice versa?

Does he or she pass the partisanship litmus test?

Is the Republican an easy target? (Think back to Tom DeLay.)

How blue is the district or state?

Please submit your ideas in comments – and again, please be sure to donate before the end of the quarter.

Blue Majority: Time for a Presidential Endorsement?

We’d like to poll our readers again on the issue of presidential endorsements. This site has mercifully avoided this cycle’s primary wars. But the math has been clear for some time to rational observers: Barack Obama will hold the lead in elected delegates after the last primary is conducted, and the only way Hillary Clinton can secure the nomination is if unpledged superdelegates choose to subvert the will of the pledged delegates. Given that Clinton’s rolled up very few superdelegate endorsements since Super Tuesday, and the discord a superdelegate-based victory might foment within the party, this is an extremely unlikely development.

So our question to you is, should Blue Majority endorse Obama now? I will admit I’m not some perfectly un-biased neutral observer – I voted for Obama, I’d like to see him be the nominee, and I no longer see a reason to hold off. But we’d like to see how our readership feels, too.

I also want to address one question which came up previously, which is, won’t adding our presidential candidate “take away” from donations to the downballot races that make up the rest of Blue Majority? The answer (perhaps surprisingly) is no. Having observed our list closely for several years, there is a definite “spillover” effect from the more prominent races. Last cycle, the Lamont, Tester & Webb races provided that “top-of-the-ticket” spark – this time, Obama can.

What happens is that, quite frequently, people come to the Blue Majority page with the intention of giving only to a better-known candidate on the list (eg, Tester). But, once there, they wind up giving to other candidates as well. And this isn’t speculation. I ran the numbers last year. As the number of races on our page grew, average donations per candidate dropped slightly, but total donations per donor went up. In other words, the more candidates on the page, the more people gave overall. Obviously, there’s a point of diminishing returns, but we haven’t reached it yet. And I’m pretty confident that Obama could provide an even greater “spark” than any of our senate races did last cycle.

So let us know what you think in the poll. Thanks!

By what margin will Bob Shamansky win?

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Blue Majority: Leslie Byrne for Congress (VA-11)

(From the diaries – promoted by DavidNYC)

I grew up in Miami, a region dominated by Cuba politics, so I have some knowledge of how significant Joe Garcia’s candidacy is in South Florida.  It is a direct challenge to the pay-to-play foreign policy apparatus of the United States, one where sugar interests and right-wing politics determines that we should have a pointless embargo against the Cuban people.  But today I want to announce that we have another significant nomination for the Blue Majority page: Leslie Byrne for Virginia’s 11th district.

Republican Tom Davis is retiring this year, and the district is a good pickup opportunity.  Jim Webb won the district 55%-44% in 2006, Tim Kaine won the district 56%-42% in 2005, while John Kerry lost it by 50-49% in 2004.  It is turning sharply blue; Tom Davis’s wife, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, lost to Democrat Chap Petersen by 11 points in a race for state Senate.

With such a ripe pickup opportunity, the primary is ferocious.  The Washington Post frames the primary fight within the Democratic party as follows:

Leading the pack are two of the state Democrats’ biggest personalities: Leslie L. Byrne, a former congresswoman, state delegate and state senator with deep roots in the party’s progressive wing, and Gerald E. Connolly, a Latin-quoting, pro-business Democrat who, as chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, represents one in seven Virginians.

Byrne is the long-time progressive movement candidate facing off against developer ally Gerry Connolly.  Byrne’s progressive credentials are first-rate; a liberal member of Congress from 1992-1994, she was an opponent of the war in Iraq from day one, endorsed Howard Dean in 2004, is a favorite of the local netroots, and endorsed fellow war opponent Jim Webb early on.  That endorsement was critical and provided Webb’s campaign with an early boost of legitimacy in his primary against lobbyist Harris Miller, who supported the war in Iraq and thought Bush’s tax cuts were “a great idea”.  Webb defeated racist Republican George Allen narrowly because he presented a clear choice on economic inequality and the war in Iraq, and has turned around and endorsed Byrne’s campaign.

Leslie Byrne has also been endorsed by Raising Kaine, Not Larry Sabato, Anonymous Is a Woman, 750 Volts, and Bryan Scrafford.  To contextualize these endorsements, understand that the Virginia blogs are probably one of the most sophisticated group of progressive bloggers in the country; they helped put Tim Kaine and Jim Webb into office, and the state in play for 2008.

This is a nasty fight, with Connolly up by 22 in his polling and Byrne up by 10 in her polling.  Connolly is generally seen as heavily tied to developers (see all the coming soon on his campaign’s endorsement list), while Byrne’s endorsement list is pretty impressive and shows her commitment to progressive values:

UAW Virginia, CWA, IUPAT, Ironworkers, Plumbers, Operating Engineers, Heating and Asbestos Workers, Washington DC Building Trades Council, AFSCME Virginia, Boilermakers, Operating Engineers, EMILY’s List, UAW International, National Women’s Political Caucus, and EMILY’s List.  

If she win the primary and the general, Byrne will be a great member of Congress.  I emailed back and forth with her over our standard set of questions focusing on key moments of progressive leverage in Congress; the war funding vote in 2007, the FISA vote in 2007, and retroactive immunity for the telecommunications industry.  Here are her responses.

1) How would you have voted on the war funding bill that the Democrats passed in May?

I would have voted against the war funding bill. I have been on record since January,2003 as being against the war and the occupation of Iraq when a dozen former members of Congress and I sent a letter to President Bush not to embark on this foolhardy war.

2) What is your position on the Protect America Act that went through Congress in August, the bill that extended the President’s eavesdropping power3?

I would have voted against it. Warrantless wiretapping, cutting courts out of the process and giving the power to the administration, under any fair reading of the Constitution should be illegal.

3) What is your position on retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies?

I’m against immunity.  The telecommunications companies  who complied (not all did) have some of the highest priced legal talent available. They should have asked for a court ruling before handing over their customers records. I was very pleased that the US House found their voice on this issue.

Byrne has also signed on to the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, showing leadership now as a candidate for office and facing withering attacks because she spoke out substantively to change the conversation on national security.  

Even though many of us are political junkies, we don’t get many chances to really impact politics in this country.  Primaries, though, are the moments when our influence is felt most keenly, because it is at those times when Democratic activists and Democratic voters really shape the party’s direction.  It’s hard to have a clearer choice than the one presented in this primary in Virginia, so if you want to put money to where it will really matter, give $50 to Leslie Byrne, and let’s send another progressive Democrat to support the fight we started years ago.

Give to Leslie Byrne through Blue Majority

Leslie Byrne for Congress

UPDATE:  Right now, Blue Majority is at 5534 donors.  Since we started the page, here’s what our candidates have done:  Donna Edwards won a primary, Bill Foster is a member of Congress who was pivotal in the FISA fight, Al Franken is winning his primary, Joe Garcia is presenting a fundamental challenge to the fruitless embargo against Cuba, and Darcy Burner and Eric Massa have presented a substantive and responsible plan to end the war in Iraq.  I’d say we got our money’s worth.

One point to note is that these are the salad days of progressive change, with Republicans dropping like flies.  We will not face an environment like this for years, so it is right now when your money matters.  We’ve seen the change that our candidates are already making.

It’s time to support them, so throw in $75 if you can.  Blue Majority is setting a goal of getting to 6500 donors by the end of the quarter.  If you haven’t given, now’s the time.  I just threw in $100.  And now, courtesy of Actblue’s new user account feature, you can store your donation history.  Here’s mine.

My Donations

Blue Majority End-of-Quarter Fundraising Push

It’s that time again: A week from today, all federal campaigns have to close the books on the fundraising quarter. This means that if you want your favorite candidates to be able to issue strong quarterly campaign finance reports, you’ve got to contribute by March 31st.

Now, I’ll be honest – this is one of my least favorite parts of blogging, and it’s certainly one of the less pleasant aspects of politics in general. But money still matters – a lot. If we want to expand our majorities in Congress – and especially if we want to see progressive change – we’ll need a lot of cash to do so. Many big players – including labor unions, progressive organizations, and deep-pocketed donors – will look at these reports to decide which candidates to give to. It may not seem fair or even wise, but it’s reality, and we’ve got to work the system as best we can.

So we’re asking you to contribute to the Blue Majority candidates on ActBlue. These men and women are all strong progressives who are taking the fight to Republicans all over the country. Of course, they can’t do it without our help, which is why it’s the netroots’ duty to get involved.

Right now, the Blue Majority page stands at about 5,500 total contributions (you can see the number right at the top). Our goal is to add a thousand more contributions by the end of the quarter so that we can hit 6,500 overall. The size of your contribution doesn’t matter (though of course, we encourage you to give as generously as you are able to). We’re looking for aggregate numbers of donors. As the Obama campaign in particular has shown, smart campaigns can get a lot of mileage out of small donors, especially those who give early on. (And it’s still early.)

So please, stand up and be counted – make a donation to a worthy Democrat or three. And of course, if your favorite candidates are not on the Blue Majority page, we strongly encourage you to give to them at their own websites. Let’s nail that 6,500 target!

Blue Majority Endorsement Poll

Those of us behind the Blue Majority ActBlue page would like to gauge reader sentiment on the timing of a presidential endorsement. If two-thirds of the community concurs, we will endorse Barack Obama tomorrow. If not, we will wait until the nominee is certain. Please take the poll below. Thanks!

UPDATE: The results are in. We wait.

By what margin will Bob Shamansky win?

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WY-AL: Progressive Leadership from a Red State Democrat

(From the diaries – promoted by James L.)

I’m really happy to announce the next endorsement on the Blue Majority page, Wyoming candidate Gary Trauner.  Like several of Blue Majority’s candidates, Trauner nearly won in 2006.  He was up against super-wingnut Barbara Cubin, and lost by only .5%, 47.8% to 48.3%, with the balance going to the libertarian in the race.  Cubin, instead of running for reelection, has chosen retirement.

The Republican establishment in Wyoming is in disarray, with a probable field of 5-7 candidates vying for the nomination (the primary is in August).  Possible Republican establishment choices include former state treasurer Cynthia Lummis and Cheney acolyte Tom Sansonetti, both of whom sought to fill the Senate position opened up when Craig Thomas died, and that John Barrasso now occupies.

Though Wyoming is a deeply red state, in 2006, about 25% of the Republicans in the state voted for Trauner over Cubin.  A much higher percentage have voted for the well-liked conservative Democratic Governor, Dave Freudenthal, so this is a place where the electorate is willing to pull the lever for Democrats.  A libertarian populist streak runs through the state, one that Trauner captures with his grassroots-driven and outspoken campaign.  

In Wyoming, as in the rest of the country, people are looking for leadership.  And that’s what Trauner is about.  His blog is peppered with familiar arguments about the rule of law, media accuracy, secrecy, and core constitutional values.  And he speaks out when it’s hard, not when it’s easy.  Here is what Trauner said about the FISA legislation back in August.

Yesterday I announced my intention to run again for Wyoming’s lone seat in the US House.

On my long drive home, I had time to think about what really matters to me this election.  And I kept coming back to 2 things: 1) my belief that we need true leaders who will “do the right thing” regardless of party or political calculation, and 2) my concern that the politics of fear is beginning to corrode our Constitution and our country from the inside out.

Which brings me to the current debate about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (known as FISA), warrantless government intrusion and large corporations, specifically telecom companies.  We hear a lot these days about National Security.  Certainly, we must maintain a strong military to protect our Nation from external threats .  However, there won’t be much left to defend if we fail to enforce the law and uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.  As one constitutional scholar recently wrote, “There is no such thing as a ‘patriotism exception’ to the laws that we pass. It is not a defense to illegal behavior to say that one violated the law for ‘patriotic’ reasons.”

Let’s review the situation: First, Congress – Republicans and Democrats – passed multiple laws to prevent the government from intruding in our lives by secretly getting information on American’s communications from private telecom companies. Next, Telecom companies proceeded anyway, in conjunction with our federal government, with the exact behavior these laws criminalized. Finally, the Administration vows to veto any bill that does not give retroactive blanket immunity to these companies.

Granting blanket retroactive legal immunity to large corporations who may have broken the law undermines, at its core, the very notion of American Democracy. It is a slap in the face to every law abiding citizen in this country who believes that laws should be applied equally to everyone, even powerful and influential corporations. Democracy and Constitutional freedom is hard work. Ben Franklin put it clearly as we were forming this nation, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither.”

Forget politics – this is about right and wrong, about what makes Wyoming and America great and what we need to do to keep it that way.   Amending the FISA law to ensure our ability to monitor foreign-to-foreign communications for intelligence purposes is the right thing to do.  Allowing companies, public officials or individuals to break the law and get away it is not.  Ensuring our constitutional system of checks and balances is the right thing to do.   Allowing one branch of government unchecked ability to determine, in its sole discretion, whether or not to intrude in our private lives or follow the law is not.

Blue Dog Democrats tend not to stand up for the Constitution because they think that the public is willing to let the government intrude into every facet of their lives.  They think that convincing Republicans to vote for you is about pandering to fear.  Gary Trauner stands this equation on its head by showing actual leadership.  He actually fights for core Constitutional values, says no to fear, and is able to persuade Republicans to vote for him as a result.

Now, Wyoming is not an easy state for a Democrat, but there are several trends that make this race winnable.  One, there is tremendous frustration with the war in Iraq, and a strong sense that there needs to be a change in strategy.  Two, though Wyoming is an energy patch state and has a budget surplus, it also has one of the highest percentage of people working multiple jobs in the country.  The people are struggling, and the benefits of high energy prices are going to large companies which don’t put their profits back into Wyoming.  

Three, the ‘hook and bullet’ crowd of hunters, fishers and ranchers are beginning to see climate change and environmental damage as a real threat to their way of life.  With more BTU’s of coal in Wyoming than BTU’s of oil in Saudi Arabia, the state is being physically gutted.  Fishermen and hunters are noticing gas rigs in their favorite spots.  And Gary told me that that when he goes to talk to ranchers, he is beginning to hear less about cheap beef imports and more about health care and climate change.  Rancher families that have lived on the same land for five generations are noticing the extended drought and changes in weather patterns, and are beginning to realize something has got to be done to curtail carbon emissions.  

Trauner is a businessman, and he likes to talk about Congress as a board of directors and the President as the CEO.  He told me that any board of a company where the CEO had a bad strategy, used bad information, didn’t plan well, didn’t execute, and was unwilling to consider any other path to success would have a a fiduciary responsibility to put some restrictions on that CEO.  Trauner said that “there is no way you can give someone like that a blank check”.  He will carry this attitude forward in Congress as an aggressive Western Democrat.

The key to Trauner’s race is to appeal to the independent libertarian streak that runs through Wyoming.  Voters are fed up with the establishment and with bad decisions coming from DC, and are looking for someone willing to authentically carve a different path forward.  Trauner’s willingness to speak out on core constitutional principles and his aggressive grassroots campaign are important ways to build that narrative, and his track record in 2006 and ability to appeal to Republicans suggest he can win.  He has after all already forced Cubin out of Congress.

That said, this is not a safe race.  It’s Wyoming.  And Trauner isn’t a milquetoast candidate with your standard political rhetoric.  He’s outspoken and aggressive, not when it’s easy, but when decision-makers in DC just want to pass bad legislation, like blank check war funding and immunity for telecom companies.

And that’s why we need Trauner in Congress.  Because he’s a leader.  And with Trauner standing strongly for the Constitution in Wyoming and getting Republican support, it’ll be increasingly difficult for anyone to use the ‘oh the bill of right isn’t popular in my district’ excuse.  The Constitution is popular everywhere, except, perhaps, in DC.

You can read more at his remarkable blog.

Blue Majority

Gary Trauner for Congress