Changing the face of Congress: Peace Action West candidate update
As we celebrate the astounding Obama victory, I wanted to point to some of the still-shifting pieces of the new congressional map, which is on its way to becoming another major win for progressives. Peace Action West put our resources and grassroots power behind eight pro-peace congressional candidates to help lay the groundwork for serious change in our foreign policy in 2009. Our staff and volunteers worked diligently to educate and turn out voters, and our supporters generously donated $29,000 to help elect real progressive leaders. The day after an amazing and inspiring presidential election, we know a few of our peace candidates are headed to Congress in January. We also know we picked some of the most hotly contested races in the country, as three of our races are still too close to call.
Representative Jerry McNerney held on to California’s 11th district after a tough race against Republican Dean Andal, winning 55% to 45%. Peace Action West worked to elect McNerney in 2006 in his impressive campaign to unseat conservative Republican Richard Pombo. Since he began serving in Congress, he has voted against funding for the occupation of Iraq and saber-rattling against Iran, and in favor of a timeline for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. We look forward to seeing Rep. McNerney back in Congress in January.
Entrepreneur Jared Polis soundly defeated his opponent Scott Starin in Colorado’s second district.
another milestone in a historic election, Polis is the first openly gay man elected as a new member of Congress. Polis has pledged to oppose funding for the war in Iraq that is not tied to a withdrawal of US troops, and supports the goal of working toward a nuclear weapons free world.
In another Colorado victory, Betsy Markey unseated conservative Republican Marilyn Musgrave 55% to 45% in an incredibly tight race in the 4th district. Musgrave was in lockstep with the Bush administration’s reckless foreign policy, so Markey’s victory offers an opportunity to build a stronger majority that supports a new direction in our foreign policy. Congratulations to our organizer David, who worked long hours recruiting volunteers and getting out the vote for Representative-elect Markey.
While emergency room physician and Vietnam veteran Dr. Bill Durston was unable to defeat incumbent Rep. Dan Lungren, he made significant strides in giving voice to progressives in this Republican-dominated district. Durston, a former board meeting of Physicians for Social Responsibility, mounted a
last-minute challenge to Lungren in 2006, losing by more than 20 points. In 2008, without significant support from the Democratic Party, Durston used the power of the grassroots to come within 5 points of Lungren. While we are disappointed that Dr. Durston will not be representing the third district in the fall, we are grateful for the impact his campaign has had in mobilizing progressives and laying the groundwork for an even stronger challenge to Lungren in 2010.
Iraq veteran Ashwin Madia also faced a tough challenge in claiming an open seat vacated by popular moderate Republican Jim Ramstad. Madia, young and new on the political scene, engaged in one of the most expensive and competitive races, and ultimately lost to Erik Paulsen, 49% to 41%.
In the other three highly competitive races we worked in, we are still waiting for the results to come in. Al Franken in Minnesota has fought a volatile and challenging race against Republican Norm
Coleman. With nearly 3 million votes cast, the tallies are showing Norm Coleman ahead by approximately 600 votes. He is claiming victory, but Franken refuses to concede. Minnesota law requires a recount because of the small margin, and it may be several weeks before we know the results. Our organizer Dashielle deserves tremendous credit for her work mobilizing voters in this incredibly tight race.
Speaker of the Oregon House Jeff Merkley is still waiting for the final call on his race to unseat Republican Senator Gordon Smith. At this writing, Smith is a mere 6,000 votes ahead of Merkley, with 70% of precincts reporting. Our dedicated Merkley campaign organizer Lindsay, along with the rest of us at Peace Action West, will be eagerly awaiting the results and hoping that Merkley will overtake Smith and bring his vision for a more just and sane foreign policy to the Senate.
UPDATE: The Oregonian, Oregon's largest newspaper, has called the race for Jeff Merkley. Congratulations to Senator-elect Merkley!
We are also waiting for the results in Washington’s 8th district, where Darcy Burner is in a contentious rematch with Republican Dave Reichert. With 41% of precincts reporting, Reichert is only .8% ahead of Burner, who came within 3 percentage points of defeating Reichert in 2006. Burner
spearheaded A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq and is the kind of progressive leader we need to see offering proactive solutions to solving our foreign policy problems. Our organizer J has been hard at work in Auburn, WA to turn out voters, and we will be watching this race closely in the next few days.
I cannot emphasize enough how grateful we are to our supporters who helped make this the most successful and effective electoral campaign Peace Action West has run, and our dedicated staff and volunteers who put their hearts into making a change we have been working so hard for over the last eight years. I am excited about the opportunity the next years offer for restoring America’s relationships with the global community and turning our foreign policy around, and we at Peace Action West look forward to working with you to make those dreams a reality.