Young progressives in red states

by: Brian Tashman

Fri Oct 22, 2010 at 15:00


PFAW Action Fund is sponsoring OpenLeft through the election with a series on young progressive candidates around the country.    

As Republicans outline their radical agenda on the national stage, we can already look to states dominated by Republicans to see their extreme ideology’s impact on government.  Under Republican leadership, state legislatures have considered and approved bills which undermine a woman’s right to choose, take away the rights of immigrants and their families, challenge health care reform, and jeopardize voting rights.

Now more than ever, it is up to young progressives to challenge the reactionary and dangerous ideas of the Far-Right.  On the People For the American Way Action Fund website, you can find out what young candidates and elected officials are doing to further the progressive movement and advance principles of equality, social and economic justice, and fairness in public life.

People For the American Way would like to introduce you to two young progressives who are fighting back against right-wing extremism in their deep-Red States:  Seneca Scott of Oklahoma and Elena Parent of Georgia.

Brian Tashman :: Young progressives in red states

Oklahoma’s Seneca Scott, 32, has focused his efforts as a State Representative to combat poverty and inequality since he was first elected in 2008.  Scott stood up to the Republican leaders who voted to cut the income tax for the most wealthy taxpayers while placing a sales tax on basic-needs goods, which disproportionately affects low-income families, and cutting funds to public schools.  The former head of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network and a member of the Choctaw tribe, Scott has helped promote community gardens, and even though the Republicans control the majority in the State Legislature, he wrote and successfully passed the law to bring health-food grocery stores to food deserts.    

But while Scott is working to improve the livelihoods of his constituents with progressive economic ideas, the Radical Right has concentrated on implementing an ultraconservative social agenda.  Scott has taken tough votes by opposing what’s been called “one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country” that has “no exemptions for victims of rape and incest.”  He also voted against laws to ban stem cell research and deprive women access to contraceptives, and Scott fought measures that weaken voter rights and chip away at health care reform.  

Scott’s North Tulsa district is “one of the most diverse in the state” but is also one of the most disadvantaged.  He is coming under fire for his pro-choice votes, and is being challenged by Republican Randall Reese.  As Seneca Scott defends his progressive record in Oklahoma, Elena Parent is running a principled and competitive campaign against a powerful Republican incumbent in Georgia.

Running in Georgia’s 81st House District in North DeKalb, young progressive Elena Parent is taking on a vulnerable Republican, Jill Chambers, who has served in the State House for eight years.  Parent has been active in her community by working for HOPE Atlanta, which fights homelessness, and the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers Foundation.  A former litigator, Elena Parent was an aide to a Democratic State Senator before running for the State House.

She vigorously opposed the $3 billion cuts to public education that Republicans were pushing in the name of “austerity,” even while they continued to pass tax cuts to benefit big business.  Not only are Republicans prioritizing their pro-corporate agenda over Georgia students, but they are cutting money to education despite the fact that children in Georgia rank near the bottom “when it comes to the health, education, and economic security of its children and their families.”

Elena Parent also understands that helping the economy and the environment must go hand-and-hand, and she has a plan to develop “green-collar” jobs and strengthen the public transportation system.  In fact, she has earned the support of the Sierra Club, the AFL-CIO, and Georgia’s teachers.

Georgia’s Republican-led State House has pushed numerous bills that threaten a woman’s right to choose and the rights of the LGBT community.  Elena Parent is a pro-choice progressive who has received support from Planned Parenthood and the Georgia WIN List, and she has pledged to “play offense” when defending the rights of gays and lesbians, and told the Georgia Voice that she intends “be a voice for GLBT equality every day” while serving in the State House.    

Her Republican opponent, State Rep. Jill Chambers, voted in favor of the state’s harsh anti-immigrant law, supports legislation that undercuts the rights of voters, and wants to prohibit health insurance mandates, a centerpiece of health care reform that lowers costs and ensures universal coverage.  Chambers has one of the most pro-corporate voting records in the State House, as she votes lockstep with the wishes of the business lobby.

Desperate to win re-election, Chambers is running deceptive robo-calls against Parent with charges that PolitiFact Georgia said “border on the ridiculous” and gave a “Pants On Fire” rating.  Chambers’s nasty attacks have been dubbed “extremely and deliberately misleading,” but are not a surprise in what has been described as “one of the most hotly contested State House races.”

Help Seneca Scott and Elena Parent stand up to their critics and fight for progressive values, as their voices are needed more than ever in their states’ far-right legislatures.  Check out the PFAW Action Fund website and visit the candidates’ websites to see how you can help them win in 2010.

Support Seneca Scott

   Visit His Website

   Contribute to His Campaign

Support Elena Parent

  Visit Her Website

   Contribute to Her Campaign


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kudos - who else is doing work like this? (4.00 / 1)
I grew up in a conservative county, somehow broke with that worldview, and became an organizer.  When I moved back to my conservative home county years later to organize, I was amazed about what could be done with a little bit of organizing know-how, an ability to speak the local "language," and simply being oriented to engage (rather than to retreat into a progressive bubble, however understandably attractive that may be).

In the health care fight last year, it was striking how a handful of conservative Democratic senators from states like Arkansas, Montana, Indiana, and Nebraska - who represented relatively few constituents compared with coastal states - had so much power to chip away some of the best stuff in health care legislation.  And I thought to myself, geez, these states don't have that many people.  An investment of a little money and infrastructure and good organizers (preferably homegrown) could go a long way in a few years in changing these states.  This should be a no-brainer.

And I guess this was a lot of the idea with Dean's 50-State Strategy.  But where's that at now?  What groups are prioritizing this?  Is there a systematic, long-term, progressive approach to this challenge?

Would love to hear more.  Cheers!

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