June 1 is primary day in Alabama and if things work out that day, November will offer Democrats a chance to elect not just a Democrat, but-- and in Alabama this is saying a lot-- a real Democrat. The current Alabama Democratic members of Congress, Bobby Bright, one of the worst of the Blue Dogs, and Artur Davis, an ambitious would-be governor who thinks his path to fame and fortune is accelerated aisle-crossing, leave a lot to be desired. But Alabama's 5th CD, across the northern half dozen counties along the Tennessee border (plus a sliver of Morgan Co.), offers Democrats a great chance for actual change.
The 5th CD is a traditional Democratic district. They haven't elected a Republican in a century and a half but they're represented by one now. Conservative oddball Parker Griffith-- whose only qualification was that he's a multimillionaire (all the DCCC ever asks for)-- snuck into office last cycle as a Democrat, immediately became the most Republican-voting Blue Dog, declared he wouldn't vote for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker in 2012 and soon after officially joined the GOP. No one can quite tell who hates him more, Democrats in AL-05 or Republicans in AL-05. He has plenty of primary challengers from inside his new party and Democrats are lining up to oppose him too. Problem with the Democrats is that most of them are just as bad as he is. One, Taze Shepard, is making it clear that he's even more conservative than Griffith! He's the grandson of Klansman and former Senator John Sparkman. Steve Raby is also a conservative Democrat, but a lobbyist who has funneled thousands of dollars to Republicans all over America. David Maker, a local misfit, is also running.
And that leaves one shot for Democrats to elect an actual Democrat in the tradition of FDR, Truman, JFK, Bill Cinton and Obama: Mitchell Howie. I asked him to do a guest post on his Green TVA proposal since it is so integral to his campaign and so constructive and appealing to people across partisan lines. He sent me this earlier today (also posted to DailyKos-- where, in comments, he just pledged that if elected he wouldn't join the Blue Dog caucus):
In the first few decades of the 20th century, North Alabama was like a lot of other communities in our region. We have always had great communities and strong families, but a century ago most of those families made due with very little, and faced hardships in the course of their daily lives that few today can comprehend. Along with our nation, our region was in transition.
When President Roosevelt and a Democratic Congress created the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1933, a model was created for targeted government investment and innovation. An example was set for how the power of the federal government can be leveraged for great results when action is motivated by a commitment to service.
I am running for Congress from Alabama's Fifth Congressional district, because I believe the time has come to return to Congress that commitment to service. Once in Congress, I plan to put forth a jobs proposal to recapture that original spirit of the TVA, by creating what I'll call a Green TVA (GTVA). Where the TVA's primary and lasting mission is to bring electrical power, the GTVA will work to enable Northern Alabama to serve as a center of research and development into the clean energy technologies of the future.
Few areas of our country are as well positioned to leverage the engineering and technical expertise of Northern Alabama. Paired with Marshall Space Flight Center and the TVA's existing research facility in Muscle Shoals, the GTVA will ensure that our region will continue to chart America's future in innovation. That innovation will draw manufacturing firms from across the globe to Northern Alabama, where they will find our unmatched blue collar workforce. We already have the infrastructure to ship newly manufactured goods across the globe, where they are in high demand.
It's well known that the TVA's expanded scope of work included projects that directly created jobs, but what some might not recall is that the jobs created by the TVA went well beyond those who went on the Authority's government payroll. The positive business climate created by the TVA brought private investment and jobs far beyond those directly hired to work on energy or economic development initiatives.
In this same way the GTVA can serve as a business magnet for North Alabama, attracting private investment and partnered research in the areas that will help draw the map for our country's path to energy-independence. For every dollar-- public or private-- spent on research there is an economic impact returned to the community multiple times over. An infrastructure like the GTVA, bringing serious government investments to bear in addressing the most pressing technical challenges of our time, right here in North Alabama, is exactly what our community needs.
Like the TVA, the GTVA will play an important role in community development as well. Researching and commercializing ways to generate more energy will be most effective, only if paired with concrete steps to create a culture of conservation. So the GTVA will dramatically expand projects such as the Campbell Creek Energy Efficient Homes Project, looking into improvements in weatherization technologies. That research will then be employed by crews to make the homes of qualified seniors more efficient, to minimize the bite being taken out of fixed incomes by ever-rising energy costs. The GTVA will also research new technologies make government buildings-- including schools and state and local government buildings-- more energy efficient, so that fewer tax dollars fly out of poorly insulated windows. Initiatives will be undertaken with clear goals, and followed up on with regular reports posted on the GTVA's website - ensuring that the tax dollars invested are going where they're supposed to go.
Though our region remains strong, our state suffers from one of the ten worst unemployment rates in the country. I believe that Alabamians look to our portion of the state, and our strong foundation to create growth that can resonate. Like the TVA before it, the GTVA represents a chance to seize this opportunity to employ government investment and a targeted commitment to service, to lift our great state out of the Great Recession. Lastly, I consider this jobs initiative as a way to strengthen our national security because fostering energy independence will help disentangle America from countries that willingly sell us oil but hate our way of life.
Please join us in making this vision a reality by visiting HowieForCongress.
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