Tuesday's Republican primary in Alaska may still be undecided, (currently incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski trails her tea-party challenger Joe Miller by approximately 2,000 votes) but that hasn't stopped anti-environment pundits from speculating that if Murkowski loses, it will be because of her support for climate legislation. Now I follow the climate debate pretty closely, (even if it wasn't my job, as a political junkie I'd follow it nonetheless) and I just don't remember Murkowski being a climate champion. That isn't to say she's another James Inhofe in the Senate, but being open to negotiations on climate legislation does not make her the zealous supporter her opponent portrays her to be.
Fact is that Lisa Murkowski is far from an environmental champ. The League of Conservative Voters(LCV) gives her an 18% career rating, meaning that she votes the right way on less than one out of five environmental issues. And, more recently, she gave us environmentalists heartburn by leading an assault on the Clean Air Act - only one of the most successful environmental laws of all time.
Murkowski's effort to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's scientific finding that global warming threatens our health and welfare was bad, but at least she was polite enough to claim her attack "has nothing to do with the science of global warming." That's a far cry from her opponent, Joe Miller, whose campaign website says that "The science supporting manmade climate change is inconclusive." The last thing that Alaska needs is a climate denier representing it in the Senate. Even the late Ted Stevens, never an environmental champ himself, recognized that "Alaska is harder hit by global climate change than any place in the world."
To say this primary suggests that climate change is a political non-starter in Alaska shows a selective memory. Just two short years ago, Alaska elected a real climate champ, Mark Begich, to the Senate. Climate change was a top issue during Begich's campaign, when he called for an 80% reduction in carbon pollution by 2050 and adaption strategies to help Alaska deal with the effect of climate change. Since coming to the Senate, he has continued to work to advance clean energy and climate solutions, earning an 82% rating from LCV in his first year. Last August, he introduced a package of seven bills aimed to help Alaska prepare for the changes and challenges created by a warming planet. And, in June, he voted against Murkowski's Clean Air Act attack.
This is just another case of anti-environment pundits not letting the facts get in the way of propagating their backward agenda. I'm interested to see how they'll change their tune if the absentee ballots put Murkowski in the lead. If she wins in the end, I wonder if they'll claim her victory was due to her steadfast support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Or maybe it'll be her support for offshore drilling?
The only thing I know is if she wins, they won't be crediting her position on climate.
Senator Mark Begich is open to using reconciliation for health reform. From a letter to a constituent:
Thank you for contacting me regarding health care reform.
The reconciliation process is a budgetary tool used to address spending and deficit issues with a simple majority vote. The budget reconciliation process has been used 22 times by both parties since 1980. Action to clean up the health reform bill will further reduce the deficit.
Comprehensive health care reform has already passed the Senate with 60 votes. If the House passes the Senate bill, the President could sign that version of comprehensive reform into law. I believe reconciliation would only be used as a tool to take out special backroom deals and to eliminate concerns raised by many Alaskans I've talked with. The President has proposed narrow changes which I support, including completely closing the coverage gap for seniors' prescription drugs, eliminating the special Nebraska funding provision, providing additional federal financing to all states to help pay for the expansion of Medicaid, and strengthening the Medicare waste, fraud, and abuse provisions.
Again, thank you for contacting me. As the 111th Congress moves forward, please continue to be in touch with your thoughts and concerns.
Here are parts of Begich's 40-minute stint on The Shannyn Moore Show on KBYR. Senator Begich, his wife Deborah and their young son Jacob are currently in the middle of taking three weeks to drive cross-country from Alaska, all the way to Washington D.C. He was in Minnesota when he called in to the show.
On the Public Option
(after Senator Begich lost his phone connection and called back)
Begich: I'm here, can you hear me?
Moore: We're on the radio, so you just wave!
Begich: I'm waving! I'm waving!
Moore: (laughs) I know you're waving... I hope you're raising your hand to support a public option. I just really am.
Begich: I am.
Not exactly the most straightforward way to come out in favor of a public option, but it still seems like Begich has jumped on board none the less.
The difference is now 2,374 votes. That's up from 1,022 I believe, and good for a percentage lead of 0.77%. The number of votes remaining to be counted is small which makes it unlikely Stevens can close the gap.
Stick a fork in this one. Begich is going to win. Better Democratic Senate candidates remain undefeated. Now, a victory from either Franken or Martin will deliver the Employee Free Choice Act, and structurally shift the country to the left. This win is a huge boost. We are almost at the point where Republicans just don't matter anymore.
The one drawback: Sarah Palin as a Senator would have been pretty funny.
Somehow, contrary to pre-election polling, incumbent felon Ted Stevens leads challenger Mark Begich in votes tallied so far in their race for Senate:
The good news for Begich is that those 210,000 votes only represent about 70 percent of the votes cast in the election. Another 90,500 votes remain to be counted and they break down this way (rounded):
61,000 absentee votes
20,000 questioned ballots
9,500 early votes
Now, the early votes probably skew to Begich. According to the Alaska Democratic Party he carried 59 percent of the early votes already counted. They say Democrats were encouraged to vote absentee as well. Republicans in Alaska say they had an advantage of 10,000 in voters requested absentee ballots.
The "questioned ballots," if they skew the way provisional ballots often do, will favor Democrats.
Today at least 50,000 of the early and absentee votes will be counted. If Begich has a shot at overcoming the 3,257 vote deficit we should know by the end of the day.
Yesterday, I asked you to help Democrats Jim Martin and Mark Begich via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page as the Georgia Senate race heads toward a run-off against Shameless Saxby Chambliss and the Alaska Senate race heads toward a protracted vote count and possible legal battle against convicted felon Ted Stevens.
You responded with hundreds of dollars and we are so close to our goal on the Expand the Map! ActBlue page - please help Martin and Begich meet the goal this weekend:
$615 just $100
$447 just $180
Please make a contribution today via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page and help Jim Martin and Mark Begich eject Saxby Chambliss and Ted Stevens from the U.S. Senate.
As you may have noticed, we busted through our goal of 600 donors on the Better Democrats page. We're amazed and shocked that people here were able and willing to raise this much money on our little ole blog for progressive Democrats in such a short amount of time. I think what it means is that there's a real hunger not just for change, but for progressive change. And that's the key. In 2009, we could be sitting with a Blue Dog swing block or we could be sitting with a progressive swing block. And the difference between the two is immense.
A couple of big donors have stepped up to match donations of up to $3000 apiece for the women on the page. I've moved them all up to the top. Alice Kryzan just got the Working Families party line, which should help her immensely. Darcy Burner, Debbie Cook, Annette Taddeo, and Sam Bennett are all facing tight races, but all of them are winnable. Chris and I have blogged about how the caucuses are divided not just by ideology but by gender, so having more women in Congress will be very important. It shouldn't be a surprise that the Blue Dogs and the Republicans are nearly all men. In 2006, most of the new Democrats were men. This cycle, we need to even out the freshman class.
Now, Chris and I are shocked that 600 of you have thrown some cash towards Better Democrats since we set up the page. But that's still about 1% of the daily readership of this blog. That means that a lot of you haven't given. Well now's a great time, since you can get your donation matched to a great progressive Democratic woman. Even if it's just $5, it matters. So give. And don't be shy about throwing some cash to some of the men, too, they're ok I guess.
Ted Stevens's full statement is here, but I want to focus on the last few sentences.
I am innocent. This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial. I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate.
I don't think there will be a whole lot of people saying something cheesy like 'We are all Ted Stevens'. It is worth nothing though that Colin Powell and Daniel Inouye both served as character witnesses for him. It's also worth noting that Stevens is blaming the prosecution for the verdict, notwithstanding that the job of the prosecution is to convict him. If he wanted to do the 'I got a bum rap' thing, he would rail against the court, the media, and the Justice Department.
I've moved Mark Begich up to the top of the Better Democrats page. If you want to throw $5 his way, it'd be a nice way of saying that you do NOT stand with Ted Stevens.
Ok, so we made it through that $50K barrier for Better Democrats. I suppose it's time for a little update on how our candidates are doing.
Markos and Crisitunity blog the new Dailykos/Research 2000 poll (these polls are such an awesome concept), which shows the race all tied up at 46-46. It's a random digit dial, which makes this kind of poll more favorable to Reichert since cell phone only and VOIP users aren't sampled. The stats seem to bear that out; Obama's ahead by only 6 points in the poll, and most people think he's up more than that in WA-08. Trendwise, it's very good news that Darcy's gone up by 8 points since the last Kos poll, when she was behind 49-41. Reichert's dropped 3 points and Darcy's gone up 5.
The Mormons are pulling the plug on Prop 8 calls from Utah.
Progressive Democrat Senate candidate Jim Martin is about two points off of Chambliss in a composite of polls, which is far closer than anyone could have imagined a month ago. Al Franken is up by three, Begich leads by two, and Merkley's up by six.
We managed to convince Debbie Wasserman Schultz to back Annette Taddeo, which is not a small feat. Taddeo is in a tight race with Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in the district that encompasses South Beach. South Beach. That's the setting of the Bird Cage movie.
Massa's opponent is on the 'death list' of Republicans, Dennis Schulman and Tom Perriello are closing, and Grayson is up over 10 on his opponent.
When Blue Majority split up earlier this year, it took us some time to figure out the right way to add to the Democratic wave. In retrospect, the Better Democrats concept should have been obvious - with our work on Donna Edwards and Ed Fallon, it was pretty clear the direction this community was headed. I'm really proud of what all of us have been able to do with Better Democrats. In the waning days of a campaign, money becomes less important, because the electorate is basically settled. In this case, though, there are so many seats on the bubble, including many of our best Better Democrats (Merkley, Darcy, Perriello, Martin, etc), that a little more cash to bring them up to the level of Obama actually matters. So to those of you who have given till it hurts, thank you. And for those of you who haven't, what are you waiting for?
Stevens also said that Senator Daniel Inouye, the Democrat from Hawaii who Stevens refers to as his "brother," was in Alaska with his wife, to join Stevens while he campaigns across the state (Inouye didn't join Stevens at this rally). Inouye is scheduled to appear with Stevens in Anchorage at the Alaska Federation of Natives' Leadership Roundtable Partnership for Affordable Energy at the Hotel Captain Cook Tuesday morning and at the dedication of the Opinsky Mail Center at 4141 Postmark Drive Tuesday afternoon.
Stevens said he would fly to Fairbanks today to join President Bush and meet U.S. troops at Eielson Air Force Base, and return to Anchorage this evening.
As Republicans return money from Ted Stevens hand over fist, the only politicians will to still appear with Stevens appear to by Hawaii Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye and George W. Bush. Nothing like a sitting U.S. Senator working against creating more Senators from his own party.
In my experience, this is what bi-partisanship appears to most frequently mean in Congress: long-term, powerful, elite insiders protecting one another. While increased partisanship is not a sufficient threat to make our political system less responsive to powerful elites in and of itself, it is a partial threat that moves power away from individual masters of the universe like Ted Stevens and toward more collective party structures. This is actually one of the reasons why the punditry fosters a public hatred against a shadow partisan enemy that is responsible for... something.
There is an individualist streak in the American psyche that recoils against partisanship, but the truth is that the vast majority, like 99.9%, of Americans are not personally powerful enough to make even the smallest dent on the political process without joining up with a larger collective structure like a political party. Unless you are individually wealthy, have a large media platform from which to pontificate, or have accrued decades worth of favors and relationship from being in Congress, good luck getting anything done on your own. In this regard, Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye are in a very different position than most Americans, and thus have no use for partisanship.
It is always important to keep in mind who would benefit from whatever change is suggested in Washington. When it comes to reducing partisanship, elites would benefit far more than average Americans.
Though Stevens faces six opponents in the Aug. 26 Republican primary, the poll showed him with a handsome lead over businessman Dave Cuddy, his chief competition. In the same July 30-31 survey, which polled 219 Republicans about the primary, Stevens scored 59 percent and Cuddy had 19 percent with about 20 percent undecided.
Cuddy has to consolidate the anti-Stevens vote and pick up 32 points in 26 days. That means pulling all the undecideds and converting about 10 percent of the voters who have already settled on Ted Stevens. It's possible, but extremely hard.
And in the general, with Stevens in the race, Begich is up 56 to 35. I met Begich at Netroots Nation, and I've seen him speak. It's very simple why he needs to be in the Senate, and it's not because he's a Democrat. Begich is going to become our icon for climate change in the Senate; he can talk effectively about villages in Alaska sliding into the sea, and he can talk about what it's like to convert an oil rich state into one that uses tide and wind power, and conservation.
Begich is one of our Better Democrats. He won't be there with us on everything, but he's going to be with us on climate change and civil liberties, and that counts for a lot over the next few years.
Along with McJoan and Jonathan Singer, who will have more complete transcripts later on, I just had a twenty-minute interview with Howard Dean. Three important notes:
At the rally beforehand, there were chants of "four more years." When asked if he would run for another term, he said that he wasn't thinking about it. In fact, he said that since Barack Obama would be the next President, and since the President traditionally chooses the next DNC chair, he did not anticipate being around for four more years. In short, he was happy with his term, and wasn't running again.
Dean said that his main goal as chair has been to build a permanent political operation for Democrats in all fifty states, and that this goal is on the brink of being accomplished. He also said that he thinks there is no going back from the fifty-state strategy, and that this sort of broadly based political operation is here to stay for Democrats even after he is no longer chair. He was clearly very proud of this accomplishment. I was clearly in love with him.
Jonathan and McJoan will have the complete audio up later today at Daily Kos and MyDD.
This conference is crazy. Mark Begich, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Alaska, is doing fundraising call time next to me right now. It is fascinating to be able to hear it in person. There is no way I could ever run for office if I had to do that.