Blue America: Chris Carney (PA-10)
[Chris Carney joins us in the comments to talk about his candidacy. Please, as always with Blue America threads, keep the discussion on topic and polite. And please stop by and give Chris a big FDL welcome. — CHS]
As this year’s electoral cycle got started, prognosticators realized there are a virtual goldmine of moderate Pennsylvania districts filled with citizens who have grown disenchanted with Bush and his rubber-stamp Republican Congress. The DCCC and other observers quickly identified 3 suburban districts near Philly (PA-06, PA-07 and PA-08) as likely targets.
But as things started sorting themselves out Democrats started realizing they have a truly outstanding candidate, Chris Carney, running in PA-10. Even Rahm Emanuel, someone adamantly opposed to Democrats taking unequivocal positions against Bush’s occupation of Iraq, felt he had no choice but to add Chris to the DCCC’s "Red to Blue" quasi-campaign.
Everything about Carney spelled "ideal candidate." Except one thing: a powerful and entrenched incumbent in a very red district. How red? Until Howard Dean came along with his 50-state strategy, DCCC hacks haven’t even been trying in the 10th. There were no Democrats running in 2002 or 2004 (Before a 2002 GOP redistricting that excised Democratic Scranton, another anti-choice reactionary Casey — son of Gov/brother of current Senate nominee, Pat — gave the current right-wing kook, Don Sherwood, a couple of close calls.
Since then Sherwood has wracked up 93% winning majorities.) And Bush racked up a 60% victory in the district in 2004– ironically just under what his unfavorability rating is now in the district: 61%.
So what makes Chris Carney think he can successfully take Sherwood on?
The district looks and feels more like Appalachia than like Bucks County. It’s virtually all white, mostly rural, and the medium annual income is just under $36,000. Carney isn’t a politician and has never run for office before. He’s just a civic-minded citizen who, like so many of us, has had it up to here with the Beltway shenanigans that have served the country so poorly of late.
A Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserve, he spent much of the last 6 years serving either overseas, or at the Pentagon as a senior advisor on intelligence and counterterrorism issues. His other job is professor of political science at Penn State University in Scranton. A Fighting Dem and a teacher — great combo. So why take on so onerous and unlikely a task?
This week he told me what pushed him into the race.
"It was Palm Sunday, 2005 and I was driving back from the Pentagon. I pulled in to a gas station in Gettysburg and there was Don Sherwood pumping gas right beside me. But I knew he was headed in the other direction — back to DC to vote in the Terri Schiavo "case." That was the final straw for me. Here was the Administration and the Congress playing the politics of division to the Nth degree and it frankly made me very angry. I had a couple hundred miles ahead of me to think about it and I made my decision along the route to run so I could help get the country back on the right track and away from this divisiveness."
"I am fed up with Washington politicians leaving most Americans behind while our national priorities are forgotten. I am tired of legislators focusing on the extremes of issues instead of finding ways to move the nation forward. And I am tired of the values of middle America being ignored. Our families, our small businesses, our teachers, our farmers, and our children all deserve more from our representatives."
"I am running for U.S. Congress to change the way congress does business. Now, more than ever we need an effective government that focuses on the issues that affect us all: National Security, Homeland Security, Retirement Security, Job Security, Environmental Security, and Energy Security. In the face of terrorism, growing deficits, disappearing jobs, and skyrocketing healthcare costs, the 10th District deserves a representative who has good judgment, who has the expertise to lead in a dangerous world, and who will always fight for the people of the 10th District."
Chris has moderately progressive, commonsense, non-ideological stands on the issues of the day, stands that are in sync with the area. He sounds like he’s the kind of guy with real leadership abilities and a sound moral foundation. But can he win in this kind of district? Outside of his immediate circle, not many thought so– at least not until May’s Pennsylvania primary.
That changed everything and opened a lot of people’s eyes — inside and outside the district — to the immense dissatisfaction people are feeling about rubber-stamp wing-nuts like Sherwood.
Sherwood’s pathetic voting record shows a garden variety reactionary who has steadfastly gone along with every disastrous bit of Bush’s and DeLay’s horrendous agenda, an agenda that has especially hit most of his overwhelmingly working and lower middle class constituents very, very hard. When it comes to aid for the poor, the disabled, veterans, the unemployed, workers thrown out of jobs because of corporate trade agreements like the hated NAFTA and CAFTA, Sherwood has a closed fist and a raised middle finger. When it comes to tax policies that help the wealthy and subsidies for the kinds of corporations that give crooked Republican politicians big campaign contributions… well…if Sherwood was as generous to his own constituents as he is, always to big corporate interests, people would be doing a lot better in struggling towns like Carbondale, Williamsport, Kingston and Sunbury — let alone in the depressed counties along the New York State border.
On election night Sherwood was in a state of shock when a completely unknown, unfinanced school guidance counselor, Kathy Scott, came close to beating him in the primary. In her campaign, she had emphasized that Sherwood is an outrageous corporate whore who takes millions of dollars from business PACs in return for his votes on their very special interests, even when those interests are at odds with those of the district’s residents. She also brought up the bizarre sex scandal that has plagued the holier-than-thou fake family-values Sherwood and claimed that he "settled a $5.5 million lawsuit for alleged physical abuse brought against him by his 29-year-old mistress of 5 years." She explained to Republican voters that Sherwood’s votes to cut benefits for Social Security, Medicaid, veterans, education, student loans, and job-training were not in their interests.
Now it will be up to Chris Carney to pound that home.
Although an overwhelming disgust among social conservatives because of Sherwood’s sexual peccadilloes, abusive behavior and grotesque hypocrisy, coupled with widespread anti-incumbent sentiment, may help Carney, he will have to overcome a gigantic financial gap between the two campaigns. A member of corrupt Jerry Lewis’ earmark-plagued Appropriations Committee, Sherwood has had a "For Sale" on his back for many years and has amassed a sizable warchest to defend his turf. His biggest congressional ally, Jack Murtha, who has been on the campaign trail with Chris, has promised him a place of the House Appropriations Committee if he replaces Sherwood in Congress.
Chris, father of 5 energetic, beaming children, has been running a Values and Character campaign to help his neighbors focus on the stark differences between himself and Sherwood. And he pounds the issues relentlessly while a seriously debilitated Sherwood sends out childish press releases and mutters Republican talking points darkly. Sherwood’s most recent foible was to schedule a partisan fundraiser for the exact hour on 9/11 that planes were crashing. His re-elect numbers have been slowly shrinking as his constituents face up to the fact that their own congressman is a big part of what they hate about Washington. Since the primary it has dropped about a point a month and is currently hovering around 45%.
"People in the 10th want change, real change, and they want a representative they can be proud of," Chris explains. I think they’ve found the right man.
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