When 9-term Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad (MN-03) decided to pack it in and retire from politics this year, he was doing a favor for the residents of the Hennepin County suburbs surrounding the twin cities. Ramstad isn't some kind of radical right extremist like bizarre neighbors John Kline and Michele Bachmann; he's a mainstream conservative in a moderate blue-trending district (PVI- R+1). Bush managed to win the district with 51% of the vote in 2004; in a rematch today he'd be lucky to break 30%. Ramstad's would-be successor, Erik Paulsen, is not a mainstream conservative; he's a far right extremist more in the Kline/Bachmann mold. Hennepin County Democrats have nominated a far more suitable candidate, Ashwin Madia.
Minnesota bloggers are out raising funds for Ashwin today. It's Ashwin Media Blog Day. He deserves a hand-- and in a race that the polls show neck and neck, a hand is just what he needs. The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll of March 12 shows Ash and Paulson in a statistical dead heat. Right-wing PACs, Big Pharma, commercial banks, the Insurance Industry have all been pouring money into Paulson's campaign. Ash has managed to pretty much keep up thanks to grassroots and netroots efforts on his behalf. Paulson's biggest donor: Target Corp. Ash's: ActBlue.
A few weeks ago I spent some time on the phone with Ashwin and I was very impressed by an idealistic young man with a sharp mind a good solid sense of reality. The former Iraq-based Marine has strong leadership qualities that made me think he's not going to be a rubber stamp for devious Democratic Party bosses like Rahm Emanuel or Steny Hoyer. He'll be his own man, an independent voice for the folks who elect him. He was good on all the progressive issues I ask candidates about. But one surprised me-- his strong and outspoken support for equal rights for all Americans, including gays. Many Democrats, forever fearful of hate-filled Republicans and their media allies, skirt around "gay marriage" and wimp out, like Obama, with support for civil unions. Ashwin supports equality, not separate-but-equal formulations to appease bigots. Here's a statement he sent me after we got off the phone:
Ever since the start of my campaign, I have been reaching out to members of the LGBT community in Minnesota. That's because I strongly believe in full equal rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
As a Marine Corps lawyer who served in Iraq, I was one of first attorneys to successfully defend a gay Marine from discrimination in the military. It wasn't easy to stand in front of a jury made up of other U.S. Marines and argue against the military bigoted and shameful "don't ask, don't tell" policy, but I was more than willing to do so. I would I would be proud to serve alongside anyone brave enough to put on the uniform.
As someone with a brother who is gay, I would advocate passionately for passage of a federal hate crimes law that recognizes the disproportionate number of threats on a daily basis faced by members of the LGBT community. Existing law already extends legal protections for a number of vulnerable minority communities. Every day that we do not have this protection, LGBT individuals remain at risk.
I support same-sex marriage and full equality under the law. Civil unions fall short and seem to be a way for politicians to avoid recognizing all people as equal.
Lastly, it is unacceptable that our nation continues to allow a form of discrimination to exist in the workplace based on a characteristic that is just as inherent as sex, race, or disability. I support efforts to prohibit job discrimination.
I'm running for an open seat which had been held by a moderate Republican. But my opponent, State Representative Erik Paulsen, has been a vehement opponent of equal rights for LGBT Minnesotans for more than a decade. He led the fight in 2004, and again in 2006, to write discrimination into the Minnesota state constitution. He even voted to prevent equal benefits from being provided to domestic partners of state employees even though many of Minnesota's largest employers already have policies that promote equality.
I have been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign and by Minnesota's Stonewall DFL (Democrats). I hope you will consider supporting my campaign in the coming days and weeks. We need pragmatic problem solving not people who put their political ideology ahead of principles. It's time for a few more patriots in Congress and a few less politicians.
This is the kind of leadership Americans need in a post-Bush era. Forget how you feel about gay rights for a moment. And, instead, think about how you feel about a candidate talking this way. You like? Here's the joint Minnesota bloggers ActBlue page-- and here's your introduction to Ash:
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