Blue America: No Endorsement This Week — CO-2 Looks Good
Congressman Mark Udall is giving up his House seat to run for the U.S. Senate, a race he is favored to win. His district, the 2nd, centered in Boulder, is the second bluest in an increasingly blue-tinted state. In 2004 and again in 2006 the Republicans fielded a candidate who managed to wind up with 30% of the vote. Bush wound up with 41% in 2004. I’m sure the Republicans will find some chump to run next year but it won’t be a race anyone takes seriously.
The serious race is the Democratic primary. There are 3 candidates: Joan Fitz-Gerald, Jared Polis, and Will Shafroth. It’s a very hot, contentious race and the local blogs, like our pals at Square State and Colorado Confidential are all over it.
Early on I was barraged — as was Jane — by Jared Polis partisans. Even though he’s a multimillionaire, he has been painted as the grassroots guy, very much independent of the Inside the Beltway power structure. The same conventional wisdom portrayed Joan Fitz-Gerald, the former State Senate president, as the Establishment candidate and Will Shafroth as the also-ran. All their positions seemed suitably progressive and we decided to just give the district a pass, leave it to the residents who know a lot more about each of the candidates than we do, and hopefully endorse the best man or woman against whatever extremist dog the wingnuts puke up. Let em skip to the end of the story. As you may have guessed from the headline, that’s where we still are — though not without some turbulence along the way.
You may recall that last month Establishment insiders held a little training session for favored candidates in Chicago, conducted by Christine Pelosi, who will be visiting with us at FDL later today. Most of the candidates who were invited have no primary opponents and they are busy battling Republicans. A few– one of whom was Joan Fitz-Gerlad– have very serious primaries and this caused some alarm. Was this the dreaded anti-grassroots DCCC interference, the kind of interference that saddled us with a Congress that can’t get much done because of so many reactionaries, some of whom were unscrupulously pushed by Rahm Emanuel last year? I spent some time carefully examining all three candidates’ websites and talking with Joan and Jared on the phone.
It was AFSCME, a union very much in cahoots with the Inside-the-Beltway crowd, that had invited Joan and they based their tremendous enthusiasm for her on a solidly pro-labor record. You know how suspicious I am of the DCCC so I kept digging. The fact that her website has no issues stinks of a classic Emanuel tactic. (Jared’s and Will’s websites are issues-rich and you get a real feel for where they stand.) The odd thing about Joan is that after talking with her campaign manager and with her, she really doesn’t have anything to hide. Her stands on the issues are fine.
Emanuel claims that immigration is the third rail of electoral politics this year and the same degree of hysteria he exhibited last year regarding the war– he demanded candidates tone down their criticism of Bush– is what he’s demonstrating this year about immigration. “Move to the right,” is what he’s demanding, as utterly tone-deaf this year as he was last year. 15% of the residents of CO-02 are Hispanic (far less than Emanuel’s own Chicago district) and the area is rational about the issue of immigration. So are each of the candidates.
The topic of immigration has been wrongly exploited by some for political gain; most of us come from families that immigrated to this country during the past few hundred years. Immigration reform, however, remains a vitally important issue. I support a guest worker program with a path to citizenship that will help bring millions of undocumented workers out of the shadows. We must be careful that this is done in a fair and respectful manner. In addition, we must crack down on other areas of the broken immigration system. I support strengthening border security so that immigrants can enter our country through safe and legal routes. We also must create and enforce stronger penalties for employer violations.
When I spoke with Jared, who is on a fact-finding mission to Iraq this week, he was, if anything, even more supportive of comprehensive reform. His website statement:
My great-grandparents found hope and opportunity on the shores of this fine nation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. America offers the same promise to millions of people around the world. The hardworking, taxpaying, law-abiding immigrants who renew our country and add to our diversity and strength should not be exploited to create a massive underclass—such an approach opposes our values and hurts all working families. On the contrary, we should establish a path for them to earn full participation in the America they help to build.
The current immigration system must be replaced by comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders and enforces the rule of law, respects the dignity and dreams of immigrants, reflects our values, and recognizes the needs of our communities and businesses. We must effectively address both the security and economic interests of our nation.
Therefore, I support the bipartisan compromise reached through the leadership efforts of Senator Salazar that does the following:
• Provides a transitional pathway to citizenship for qualifying immigrants
• Boosts the number of border agents
• Tightens border security and work-site enforcement
• Establishes an identity verification system
• Sets aside 40 percent of future visas to be allocated on a merit-based system, awarding points for education and skills needed in the U.S.
This plan is fair, tough, enforceable and realistic, and brings millions of people out of the dark shadows and into the American mainstream.
Like I said, Joan has no issues on her cookie cutter site. It made me mistrustful but when I spoke with her about the issue, I was greatly relieved to hear her very reasonable explanation of her work in the Senate around Amendment 55 and the special session ex-Governor Bill Owens, a right-wing demagogue, called to clamp down on immigrants. Joan did what she felt she could to mitigate his demands with her shaky one-vote majority. It’s up to the citizens of CO-02 to determine if her rationale is what they’re looking for in a congressmember. I was more interested in how she would respond going forward.
When I asked her if she recalled hearing Rahm Emanuel tell Democratic candidates at the infamous training session in Chicago a few weeks ago that they had to move to the right on immigration, she giggled and said “no, I guess I wasn’t paying much attention to him.” I was surprised. You weren’t paying attention to Rahm Emanuel?? “No,” she continued; “he’s going to say things nationally that he thinks are important but every congressional district is different. He wasn’t giving us a ‘You must go do this.’ It was a suggestion, nationally from the D-Trip. I just took it as a suggestion.”
When I asked her how she felt about the harsh enforcement-only/xenophobic Heath Shuler immigration bill, co-sponsored by so many Democrats in Emanuel’s orbit her reply was “I wouldn’t. If Tom Tancredo’s name is on it, I’m not co-sponsoring it. I know Tom Tancredo and I know where he is on immigration. I think you have to vote not from the pulpit on high but from your heart… I was urged to run for governor but I didn’t want to move to the right. I wanted to run from this district; the state is more conservative than this congressional district. I wanted to run from a district that is progressive so that you could actually say things and move people’s minds and hearts. You cast a vote and you tell people why you did and why you’re proud to do it– to act and sound like a Democrat.” They all do. I wish we had such good choices everywhere in the country.