Blue America: Dave Mejias, NY-03
(Dave Mejias joins us live in the comments to chat with you about his candidacy. Please stop by the comments and give Dave a great FDL welcome. Thanks! — CHS)
When I spoke with Dave Mejias on the phone a couple days ago I mentioned that I grew up in his Nassau legislative district– you know, good way to establish a bond. He got excited. "Where?" he asked. And when I said "Roosevelt," the next words out of his mouth were "Chuck D, Julius Irving and Howard Stern." Dave Mejias isn’t your father’s brand of stuffy politician.
Two days short of one year ago I started writing about Peter King, the odious Republican congressman from central Long Island’s mega-suburban district (NY-03), which takes in both the North Shore and South Shore and parts of Nassau and Suffolk. My first outburst against King— the first of many to come– was brought on by his appearance on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, where he showed up to call for the deaths of… "Tim Russert and the others." Actually, he was there to defend Rove exposing Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent. And his exact quote was "And I think people like Tim Russert and the other, who gave this guy [Joe Wilson] such a free ride and all the media, they’re the ones to be shot, not Karl Rove."
He hasn’t changed much. Two days ago he was flapping his jaws again, this time railing at Connecticut voters for wanting to get rid of their rubber stamp U.S. Senator, Holy Joe Lieberman. Making an ass of himself again, King bleated that "fortunately, the third district is not composed of the left-wing bigots who went after Joe Lieberman." The bad news for King is that the third district is not composed of the right-wing bigots who are likely to tolerate his extremist voting record and his supine, rubber stamp posture towards all of George Bush’s worst and most catastrophic policy initiatives. And, even worse for King, for the first time since he was elected in 1992 he has a vigorous and aggressive opponent who understands how to make voters– Democrats, independents and Republicans– confront actual voting records. King’s is uniformly abysmal.
"Peter King," Dave told me on the phone, "has forgotten where he comes from, He fights harder for the lobbyists on K Street than he does for the hard-working families on Main Street."
Dave is right, of course, as witnessed by the nexus of King’s legal bribes from one Big Business after another and the votes he freely gives for their special interests in return. But King forgot where he came from long before he became a congressman. Growing up the son of working class Democrats in Queens, King couldn’t wait to abandon his family and re-invent himself– as a pretentious right-wing phony. He worked for Nixon… and it’s been all downhill ever since, supporting extremist Republicans’ attempts to
privatize abolish Social Security while always voting against raising the minimum wage for working people (while enthusiastically and selfishly voting to raise his own pay).
That raising his own pay chapter in King’s disgraceful career contrasts markedly with Dave Mejias, who made quite a name for himself — both inside and outside the County Legislature — by being the only one of the nineteen legislators to oppose a salary increase for themselves. Nice — but it gets better. Tough odds, right? But odds don’t make a leader back away and Dave didn’t — and he won! 19-1 and he won. He didn’t win a popularity contest in the legislature (or in his own party) but he shamed enough of them into changing their positions that the fat pay raise didn’t pass.
The best place to find out how completely unsuited King is to represent a moderate district like NY-03 is at the Peter King Watch blog. They’ve got it all.
But what got me really excited about Dave was a dairy he wrote himself last month at Daily Kos. I found his personal story compelling and inspirational. A first-generation American, his dad was a political refugee from Cuba, where he was imprisoned for opposing Castro. But unlike so many children of Cuban refugees, Dave turned out thoroughly committed to progressive values and ideals.
A lot had to do with the visceral assistance his family got from Social Security, New York’s sterling public higher education system– like me, he’s a SUNY grad– and the help his family got from his mom’s labor union after his dad passed away when he was still a kid. He told me he’s running for Congress because he believes in "the power of the American Dream. I’ve lived it."
And Dave is a firm believer in Town Meetings. He’s held more than 50 of them since he was elected to the County legislature.
"Usually there’s a theme– property taxes, Medicare Part D, SuperFund sights… people want to know how to cope with real problems… There are a lot of issues the people here are concerned about but many are struggling to make ends meet and are looking at a government that doesn’t care about them or their problems. People are working harder and having a tougher time."
The NY-03 is ripe for new congressional leadership. A brand new Cooper & Secrest poll of the district shows that 65% think America is on the wrong track and 56% say that "this part of Long Island" is on the wrong track. The generic congressional preference in the district is 46% Democrat/33% Republican. 56% of those polled agreed with this statement: "We need to elect a Democrat to Congress to act as a balance to the Bush Administration’s programs and policies. (31% agreed with the opposite: "We need to elect a Republican to Congress to support the programs and policies of President Bush.") King had famously said about Bush that he "thanks God every night that he is our president. The district gives Bush a job approval/disapproval rating of 30%/70%.
It appears to me that if Dave can get his message out, NY-03 is very likely to go blue. (Gore beat Bush by 5% in 2000 and Spitzer is building a solid 3-1 majority.) This is going to be a good Democratic year. Please consider giving Dave a hand at our Blue America ActBlue page. The first dozen donors get a copy of George Lakoff’s brilliant new book WHOSE FREEDOM? THE BATTLE OVER AMERICA’S MOST IMPORTANT IDEA.