One of my blogger colleagues from the western part of the state, Gordon Smith‘s pad is over at  Scrutiny Hooligans. He is in Blue Dog Dem anti-gay U.S. Congressman Heath Shuler’s district.

Gordon is mounting a grassroots campaign for city council in Asheville, which constitutes a sizeable chunk of Shuler’s district. It’s not often that you’ll see bloggers, stereotyped as pontificators in their jammies actually running for office, so he’s over at Firedoglake today, talking about his transition to the political rat race. Howie Klein at FDL:

He’s 38, married to Rachel with whom he has two dogs, and makes a living as a child and family therapist. After he graduated from college he served in Belfast for two years with the Brethren Volunteer Service doing community reconciliation work with Protestants and Catholics. He started blogging in 2004 at DFA and co-founded Scrutiny Hooligans, which evolved into a political blog and then BlogAshville. As the 2006 congressional race approached the Scrutiny Hooligans bloggers realized there wasn’t anyone covering incumbent Republican Charles Taylor’s corrupt dealings–so they got serious and very busy and helped replace Taylor with Shuler. He’s proud of helped get rid of Taylor even if he and his colleagues are having serious buyers’ remorse over the replacement.

“I discovered that the more local I blogged and the smaller my focus got, the more traffic we got. So we started covering county and city affairs in Asheville and Buncombe County and suddenly we were a part of a regular go-to media for news in this area. . . . Scrutiny Hooligans has become a destination for folks trying to catch up on what’s going on locally.”

When I asked him what made him decide to jump from blogging to running for office there were many factors he talked about, but one of the most important is that “Asheville is facing an enormous budget deficit for a city of our size. And here in North Carolina we have what’s called ‘home rule,’ which means that if you don’t balance your budget, the state will come in and take over your city. When the budget deficits were announced the first things that came out of the city managers mouth was about cutting the things that make our community most resilient through recessions. He was talking about cutting money that was going to go towards an Affordable Housing Trust Fund for the construction of affordable housing, and cutting money for alternative transportation–for buses, for bike lanes, for greenways. . . . All the stuff that make this city more affordable, more liveable, more sustainable were the first things that were on the chopping block. So I’m running, first and foremost to be able to protect those priorities.”

Here is Gordon’s campaign web site. These local races are the building blocks for changing the level of progressive activism and involvement public service — the ultimate goal is for people in districts like Shuler’s to field more progressive candidates that can be groomed for higher office and challenge the DINOs like Shuler one day. Maybe Gordon will be one of them, as he plans to take full advantage of blogs and social networking to build a volunteer base.

We have one of the highest costs of living in the state of North Carolina and one of the lowest median incomes. What that means is that people have a hard time finding a place to live. This has been a very attractive vacation destination for a long time; we have a lot of people who have second homes here and that’s really driven up property values in ways that no one has ever expected. There are a lot of people in this town who are working two and three jobs and who are having to either live substandard, share places, or live with family because they just can’t afford a place to live. That’s why it’s so important to maintain the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which gives loans and helps developers who are creating affordable housing to get lines of credit.

Join in the conversation at FDL right now, where Gordon is taking questions.


* Gordon Smith: “Our Rebound Relationship with Heath Shuler

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding