Blue America: Meet Linda Ketner

In what looked– at least from the outside– as one of the most unlikely outcomes of the 2008 election cycle, Democrat Linda Ketner came within two percentage points of beating entrenched Establishment wingnut Henry Brown in a gerrymandered South Carolina district specifically drawn to be an easy win for Republicans. At the same time, Obama only managed 42% in the district. Linda was the only South Carolina Democrat who came close to ousting an incumbent last year. Until near the end of the campaign the DCCC and the punditocracy didn’t have a clue. The fact that Linda is openly gay and openly progressive on social issues– and very outspoken– caused quite a few people to not even give the race a second look.

I’ve been trying to persuade her to run again in 2010 and asked her to come by and meet our community today. Before asking you to join us in the Firedoglake comments section, let me share with you a helpful bio her brother had some fun with:

– at age 8, she sent a petition with 300 signatures to President Eisenhower asking that girls and African Americans be allowed to play Little League baseball.

– age 8 also found Linda showing other early signs of activism. She uniformly drank from water fountains marked “colored” instead of the ones marked “white” and made sure to ride in the back of the bus (for which she was “thrown off” the bus more than once).

– In 1961, her widely known pit-bull stubbornness was evidenced at a piano recital. After having blown the heck out of Moonlight Sonata in 1960, she announced to her mom and dad she would not be playing in the recital of ’61. Her mother announced back– and louder– that indeed she would play in the recital… end of subject. So, Linda found a poison ivy field, bathed her hands up to her elbows in the stuff and spent the next 6 weeks wrapped in bandages. She, however, did NOT play in the recital of ’61 or any thereafter!

-In ’69 she started college and was elected President of the Freshman Class. She neglected her studies woefully and spent all of her time marching in the Civil Rights movement and plotting with her friends as to how to save the world. They had almost accomplished it (saving the world) when they graduated and were dispersed. Linda’s mom blames the 60’s for almost everything she doesn’t understand about Linda.

I asked her if she thought being upfront about being gay, even campaigning with her partner of 9 years, Beth Huntley, impacted the race. "When you lose by such a tight margin, anything could have played a role." In focus groups she found that people didn’t care about her personal sexual preference but respected her honesty. "We have more gay people serving in South Carolina than probably in anyplace in the United States; they’re just not out of the closet. We have an awful lot of people in the closet– Lindsey Graham, Glenn McConnell who’s our Senate president pro tem, our Lt Governor… I obviously lost the conservative, religious crazy vote, but I would have anyway because I’m pro-choice… It got more national attention than it did local attention; it was no secret to anybody around here." She actually won in Charleston County.

Speaking with Linda on the phone this week she reminded me a lot– in her attitudes towards taxpayers’ money, towards corruption, towards the abuses of incumbency– of Alan Grayson. Somehow she has the idea that her impetus towards reform gives her something in common with Blue Dogs. I almost fell out of my chair. She promised to do some research about Grayson. She’ll be blogging live for 2 hours at FDL today starting at 2pm (ET).

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