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Blue America: Brad Miller (NC-13)

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[Rep. Brad Miller is kind enough to join us for discussion in the comments section below.  As always with Blue America chats, please keep the discussion on topic and respectful.  And please stop in and give Rep. Miller a good FDL welcome.  — CHS]

When I mentioned to my friends that I was interviewing a Democratic congressman from North Carolina I got a collective look of skepticism. A Dixiecrat? Of course not. But someone who doesn’t understand North Carolina politics might think so.

The state gave Bush 56% of its vote in 2000– and 56% of its vote in 2004 despite the fact that the state’s senior senator, John Edwards, was running for vice president and despite having seen Bush in action for 4 years! And the state’s two current senators, the famously, even embarrassingly, incompetent Liddy Dole and the Stepford rubber stamp kook Richard Burr, are both far right extremists. And speaking of extremists, North Carolina has the distinction of being able to claim both the congressman and the congresswomen with the most reactionary voting records in the entire House of Representatives: Patrick McHenry and Virginia Foxx. And the 5 other Republican House members from North Carolina can all be described as being on the far right fringes of the Republican Party.

On top of that, even the Democrats aren’t exactly shining examples of progressivism… except for two: Mel Watt and, the reason why we’re here today, Brad Miller.

When it came to the vital issues effecting middle class Americans, DMI examined the voting records of the North Carolina delegation and rated each incumbent. All 7 Republicans’ voting records merited F’s. The 6 Democrats rated B’s and C’s, and an F… except Watt and Miller, both of whose records got A’s.

Brad is the first incumbent we’ve invited to come over and blog with us here at Blue America. You may wonder why? The fact that he was also the only incumbent congressman to take part in Yearly Kos might give you a clue. But even more to the point, read his diaries at Kos (here too) and you will immediately recognize a kindred spirit.

I found him extremely down to earth, brilliant in a policy-wonk kind of way.  But Brad is also a man grounded in a solid set of progressive values.

And then there’s his opponent, Vernon Robinson.

What can one say about a man who brags that he’s "the Black Jesse Helms?" Remember I mentioned above that North Carolina has the most reactionary congresswoman in America, Virginia Foxx? Her voting record makes the most far right extremist loons like Mean Jean Schimdt, Tom DeLay, Adam Putnam, Ernest Istook, Lynn Westmoreland, Steve King, and J.D. Hayworth look almost mainstream! Well, in 2004 Robinson ran against her and attacked her as a liberal and ran TV ads with her face morphing into Hillary Clinton! In short, Vernon Robinson is probably the single most extreme right wing, bigoted candidate running for Congress anywhere. He’s actually far worse than his hero — and supporter — Tom Tancredo.

I don’t think I’ve ever asked you to look at a Republican candidate’s website before. If enough people examine Robinson’s, he won’t have a chance to win. Take a look and watch his psycho videos: I hate Mexicans and gays clip and his crazy and offensive Beverly Hill Miller ad.

So why would anyone even think twice about an opponent like this, someone who is so obviously deranged and outside even the Republican mainstream? One word: money.

"Two years ago he raised $3 million," Brad told me. "That amount of money is kind of scary… He taps into the most extreme sliver of the far right. It’s like Ann Coulter. Most people, regardless of political party, find what they say repugnant but the sheer outrageousness appeals to that sliver. Over 80% of the money he raises comes from outside North Carolina; almost none comes from the district."

Aside from being a crank candidate and an extremist gadfly, Robinson doesn’t have any real career. He runs a fake advocacy "group" that favors vouchers over public schools but when the "group" raised an annual total of $107,000, Robinson’s salary was $104,000. Jack Kemp, a Republican corporate whore who will endorse anyone who favors vouchers, endorsed Robinson and then, on seeing his bizarre, xenophobic and fanatical positions, publicly withdrew the endorsement.

Obsessed with homosexuality and Hispanics, Robinson hasn’t found a way to claim Brad is Hispanic (yet) but he pulled the same dirty Republican trick on Brad and his wife that Ken Blackwell tried pulling on Ted Strickland and his wife. Both homophobic Republicans had sleazy surrogates claim their opponents didn’t have children because they are gay and have marriages of convenience. The blowback in Ohio seems to have ended Blackwell’s chance to be taken seriously. There hasn’t been polling in the 13th CD, so no one knows what effect Robinson’s idiotic charges have had.

When I asked Brad what issues his constituents are most concerned about, first up were jobs and health care. Not only are people losing jobs, the wages aren’t keeping up with inflation.  Brad started a bipartisan caucus in the House to deal with community college issues because he sees them as a way for more Americans to learn needed new skills to compete in a changing marketplace.  When it comes to healthcare, he told me affordability was just one part of the issue. "People are amazed at how hateful the whole system is to deal with." (Envision Bill Frist.)

And, of course the other issue he hears about over and over is Bush’s foreign policy blundering, namely the war in Iraq and the instability of the world and of energy supplies.

His committee work has had him dealing extensively with consumer protection, predatory lending and the issues around scientific integrity and the manipulation of science by policy makers. I’m going to leave the specifics of these issues for the live discussion with Brad in the comments section below. You can volunteer for Brad’s campaign here and you can donate here.

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Howie Klein

Howie Klein

Howie Klein spent much of his life wandering around the world living in places like Afghanistan, Nepal, Holland and Morocco. He moved backed to America when Richard Nixon resigned and promptly helped start the first punk rock radio show in the country and then a DIY punk rock record label. His adventures in the music business ended a couple of years ago when he retired as president of Reprise Records. He began blogging almost immediately, starting Down With Tyranny. Jane taught him html while he held one of her dogs at a party. He is a raw foodist, lives in L.A., swims and hikes every day, thinks Howard Dean could be a president as great as FDR and will never be completely happy until Bush and Cheney are behind bars.

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