Interview Georgia Senate Candidate Jim Martin: A Progressive in the South?

by: Matt Stoller

Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:56


So last week I asked whether we should endorse Jim Martin, candidate for Senate in Georgia.  Most people said yes, but I wanted to do an interview with him to make sure he's a Better Democrat.  After five days of hard campaigning, he was finally able to get back to me this series of thoughtful answers.  I don't think you'll agree with everything here, but there's plenty to like.

After reading through the interview, let me know whether you think we should add him to the Better Democrats page.

Question:  Most people wrote off this Georgia Senate race months ago.  What changed?  Why are the polls closing?
Matt Stoller :: Interview Georgia Senate Candidate Jim Martin: A Progressive in the South?
Jim Martin:  These polls confirm what we've been hearing from middle class Georgians all across the state who are fed up with Saxby Economics: they're being hit hard by the failed economic policies of the Bush Administration that Saxby Chambliss has supported every step of the way and they're turning to me to stand up for their needs in the Senate.  

What we had to do was get that message out.  And we've done it through an aggressive approach of early - and expensive television - that has fed our ground and grassroots enthusiasm.  It's a risky strategy to spend that much money early but we were able to show just how vulnerable Chambliss is by closing the gap with Chambliss quickly and going into October neck-and-neck.  

Question:  Why are you running for Senate?  What is wrong with the job Saxby Chambliss has done?

Jim Martin:  Like most working Georgians, I've felt the pinch of the failed Bush/Chambliss economic policies.  From putting gas in the car, to putting food on the table, the cost of living has gotten out of control.  This is unacceptable to me.  Like most Georgians, I realize that it is time for a change.  It is time to put an end to the failed economic policies that have left the middle class behind.  It is time to get this country back on track again.

In my 35 years of public service, I have developed a proven track record for bringing about change for the people who need it most.  From my service in Vietnam, to my nearly two decades of service in Georgia's legislature, to my leadership of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, I have dedicated my life to standing up for those who don't have a voice.  And right now, Georgia families feel they don't have a voice in Washington.

Question:  Explain how the gas shortages are affecting Georgia.  Has this been a surprise?  Who are voters blaming?  And what are your solutions?

The shortages have largely passed now, but it was a very serious crisis for several weeks.  Governor Perdue could have done a much better job of preparing Atlanta-area residents for the shortages - and then he left on a trip to Europe in the middle of the crisis!  Many voters I talk to are unhappy with Governor Perdue for his lack of leadership on the issue.
The folks who are in charge simply don't take these sorts of responsibilities seriously enough.  Longer term, we also need to do more to support transportation infrastructure that gives choices to commuters, so that the Atlanta area is better equipped to deal with any future such emergencies and is not paralyzed.
Though obviously I'm running for Senate not Governor, the people I talk to tell me it's time for new leadership.  The call for change is as loud here in Georgia as it is anywhere in the country and  voters are looking for  someone who understand what they're going through and will work hard to address the problems of regular people, whether its gas shortages or a broken economy.  

Question:  Has the drought had an impact on the state's politics?

Jim Martin:  The drought is a major problem for Georgia.  There has been virtually no leadership in addressing this issue and without action, the problem will simply grow.  Because a statewide problem requires a comprehensive solution, the first step needs to be the development of a statewide water plan - something I have called for and will work on a federal level to accomplish if elected.

Question:  Are you in favor of net neutrality?

Jim Martin:  Yes.

Question:  I know you opposed the bailout.  Why?

Jim Martin:  As I've said, I strongly believe that action must be taken to stabilize our economy in order for us to start reversing the failed Bush economic policies that have proven so disastrous for the middle class.  But what I am not willing to do is to stick taxpayers with an enormous and costly bailout bill, rushed through in haste, which won't even solve the problem.  Among other issues, the package failed to address the fundamental problems created by the deregulation of Wall Street.  And it lacked consumer protections to stem the abusive lending practices that are at the root of this crisis - practices that I devoted hundreds of thousands of dollars in television ads to sound the alarm on two years ago, long before the mortgage crisis began.

Question:  Do you have a position on FISA and government wiretapping?

Jim Martin:  The threat of terrorism is real and the government should take all necessary measures to protect us.  While I support the overall aims of the recent FISA bill, the inclusion of a provision granting amnesty to telecom providers who permitted the government to listen in on the conversations of Americans without a warrant troubles me.  Because I do not believe that the government should craft policy that permits law breaking, I would not have supported the FISA bill that included telecom immunity.  

Question:  Do you consider yourself a progressive?  Why or why not?  If yes, why do you think progressives can win in the South?

Jim Martin:  Yes.  I've often tried to explain why I believe what I do in this way:  My mother taught her six sons that we define ourselves by our deeds, not by our words - by living the values that come from our faith.  When I was eight years old, I contracted polio.  My parents had to isolate me from my brothers and take me out of school for fear that I would infect others.  For months, I was confined to my bedroom, visited only by my parents and my doctors.  I recovered, but some things in life you never forget.  I will never forget what it feels like to need a little help.  A government founded on solid principles does not turn its back on children, seniors, or people with disabilities.

Progressives can win in the South because people are fed up with where we are as a country, and they are looking for real change.  

Question:  Who are your political role models?

Jim Martin:  I am lucky enough to count Max Cleland as a friend and a strong supporter of my campaign.  Everyone knows of his service to his country, but I am also inspired by his long service to the state of Georgia.

Question:  Zell Miller is from Georgia, and there is a long history of candidates turning sharply more right-wing when they get to the Senate.  What is going to stop you from moving in that direction?

Jim Martin:  Simply put, I am not Zell Miller.  I am a proud Democrat and a proud progressive and I would just ask you to look at my record.  Over the course of my career, I have earned deep, bipartisan respect as a principled leader for progressive causes.  That is who I am and what I will be as Georgia's next United States Senator.

Question:  Do you think that Congress should investigate potential criminal activity within the Bush administration after he leaves office, or should Congress choose to ignore them and work on legislation going forward?

Jim Martin:  Congress has an awful lot to do in order to get this economy working for the middle class again, and that would be my first priority.  That said, laws are meaningless if not applied and applied fairly.  If there is reason to believe that Bush Administration officials broke the law, they should be investigated and punished if found guilty just like anyone else.

So what do you think?


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Add him. (4.00 / 11)
He's a proud progressive from Georgia, it's a no brainer. Furthermore, if he wins it will shatter the notion that only conservative Dixiecrats can win in the south. Getting revenge for Max Cleland is a nice side benefit as well.

Yep (0.00 / 0)
Do it. Thanks!

"And life is grand And I will say this at the risk of falling from favor With those of you Who have appointed yourselves To expect us To say something darker." -- Camper Van Beethoven

[ Parent ]
What's not to like? (4.00 / 6)
That's the guy who's on the verge of winning Georgia? Hell yes you should add him. I'd be happy to have somebody half as progressive as Martin in that seat.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

Are you kidding? (0.00 / 0)
Fucking Yeah, add him to the Better Democrats page! The dude articulates Progressive positions on every subject you bring up, and this from a politician from the Deep South.  

Former Edwards Supporter, Obama Supporter since January 30, 2008

Truly progressive on civil rights, health, education (4.00 / 1)
I don't need to add a "for someone from Georgia" qualifier, because he'd be a fine progressive candidate anywhere.

Add him.


Good point (4.00 / 1)
I can think of more than a few Democrats from deep blue states that aren't as good.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
I gotta join the chorus. (4.00 / 2)
I was one of the most skeptical about the chances of unseating Saxby, and I'm still not sure it can be done. BUT this guy is a man after my own heart, and we desperately need a decent senator. You have NO idea how discouraging it is having no place to go after talking with Chambliss and Isaacson. I haven't felt represented since Cleland lost. I'd give about anything to see Saxby selling apples on the street corner.

put him on the Better Democrats page. (0.00 / 0)
what are we waiting for?

Agreed (0.00 / 0)
It doesn't get much better than that.

He's not perfect on FISA (4.00 / 2)
but when asked if he considers himself a progressive he answers "yes."

That counts for a lot in my book, none of this "both sides" hemming and hawing. When you know what side you are on, and why, that's more than half the battle.

Montani semper liberi


He opposes telecom immunity (0.00 / 0)
So that's good enough for me.

[ Parent ]
He said (4.00 / 1)
he has "bipartisan respect" for being a progressive.  That doesn't make any sense.

But I liked all the rest.  He's hugely progressive for someone in GA, and pretty progressive overall.  Why the heck not?

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...


Sounds great to me (0.00 / 0)
Hell, he's a lot better sounding that many of the top Democrats currently in Congress. I think if Martin won this seat, he'd hold it for a long time and be a better-than-average Democrat on most issues.

Plus, beating Saxby Chambliss would be one of the highlights of Nov. 4th, second only to beating McCain.


I like (0.00 / 0)
He could be a lot more conservative and I'd still urge his support as payback for Cleland.

On twitter: @BobBrigham

I just checked... (0.00 / 0)
and Martin is not on the Better Democrats page yet. Go ahead and add him so I can contribute there, instead of O2B.

ec=-8.50 soc=-8.41   (3,967 Watts)

Add him! (0.00 / 0)
It's not that he gets us closer to 60, but he would make for a more progressive democratic congress as well. He is worth investing in.

Yes. Please add Jim Martin today. (0.00 / 0)
I just received my credit card bill today, which I was waiting for to plan my final donations for this election cycle.  Although last month's damage was bad, I have some left in the tank.  Jim Martin was someone I haven't donated to yet and I was considering him.  So, your timing is perfect for me.

It's getting late in the election cycle.  We need to get donations in so candidates can plan on how to use those donations most effectively in the final weeks of the campaign.  


If you are going to do it, do it quick (4.00 / 1)
Every day that passes is another where he could have made a bigger impact with a little more money.

And yes, you should do it.


heck, he sounds (0.00 / 0)
more progressive than a lot democrats from deep blue states.

From that brief interview, he sounds like he'd be to the left of Dodd, of Schumer, of Clinton, and numerous others.

He may not be a Feingold, Kennedy, Sanders, or Brown, but it sounds like he'd be a Senator to be proud of.

Whether or not you add him, I'm going to see if I can't squeeze out a few bucks to send his way.

Plus, he's running against Saxby Chambliss.

I'd support just about anyone not named Lieberman or Zell against Chambliss.  


After reading through the interview, let me know whether you think we should add him to the Better Democrats page. (0.00 / 0)
ABSOLUTELY!  I have been regularly contributing to his campaign. I despise Saxby!

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