06/24/2006 06:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Two Democratic Candidates in North Carolina-- Larry Kissell and Heath Shuler

North Carolina has 13 congressmen. Six are Democrats and they all seem pretty safe bets for re-election in November. All 7 Republicans have Democratic challengers but two are already poised to defeat powerfully entrenched GOP incumbents. What these two races have in common is that their opponents are both far right extremists and Bush rubber-stamps. Here's a quick look at each of them and the districts.

Robin Hayes represents the 8th CD, the south-central part of the state including Cabarrus County at the tip of the old textile corridor-- devastated by Bush's "free trade" policies-- and east to Fayetteville with parts of Charlotte, kind of a swing district, although Bush scored 54% in 2000 and 2004, about what Hayes has been getting since he was first elected in 1998. Hayes is most famous for breaking down and weeping like a 9 year old girl after DeLay, Blunt and other Republicans forced him, on the floor of the House, to vote against his constituents' interests to break a 214-214 tie for some hideous trade policies that wreaked further havoc and despair on North Carolina's textile industry. He is generally a posterboy for weak-charactered rubber stamp irresponsibility. His voting record is positively abysmal; he ties for the absolute worst congressmen on every single issue concerning corporate subsidies, education, human rights and civil liberties, and everything involveded with criminal and civil justice. No one in the entire House is worse than Hayes on these issues. He gets a flat zero on his votes on all of these-- and doesn't have a decent voting record on any other issues either.

Charlie Taylor's voting record is about the same. Where he stands out, however, is in the corruption department. This is his 8th term representing the 11th CD, the extreme western end of the state, the heart of the Great Smokey Mountains. It's a rural district, overwhelmingly white, somewhat poorer and more Republican than Hayes' district. The only city is Asheville. Kerry did considerably better than Gore had 4 years earlier. Taylor's weakest point is that he is widely considered to be the most corrupt politician in contemporary North Carolina. A member of Jerry Lewis' criminal Appropriations Committee, he is a major self-server and has been caught up in scandal after scandal, far beyond his involvements with taking tainted money from DeLay and Abramoff. Two counties in his district threatened to garnish his congressional salary because he refused to pay his property taxes and he owns a bank that loans cronies money that never gets paid back and gets written off (after, according to some observers, portions are kicked back to the slippery congressman).

The two men opposing these two weak and disgraceful Republicans are as different as night and day from each other. One, Heath Shuler is a flashy favorite son being lavishly pushed by the DCCC. He fits their model perfectly: down-the-center moderate and totally uncontroversial. He's best known-- and was recruited by DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel because-- he is a former NFL quarterback (for the Washington Redskins). His website could have been put together by Emanuel himself: slick and very light on issues beyond studied support for mom and for apple pie. His positions are standard Democratic Party fare, much of it pabulum. Although you can quickly see he's a gun supporter, you'd be hard-pressed to even find out that there's a war in Iraq, let alone how he feels about it... although he honors our veterans. I hope he wins because there is no comparison between him and Taylor. If you live in the district, please vote for Heath Shuler. If you have some spare change you're willing to contribute to a campaign for someone who will work positively to make North Carolina and America a better place to live... go to the next paragraph.

Larry Kissell was not the DCCC-annointed candidate. He's a genuine grassroots candidate with an independent mind of his own. He doesn't plan to go to Congress to take orders from a party boss like Rahm Emanuel or anyone else. The DCCC candidate withdrew from the primary and the district rallied behind Kissell, who's very different from Robin Hayes-- and far better suited to represent the
interests of the 8th CD.

A 27-year veteran of the textile industry, a social studies teacher and a deacon of the First Baptist Church, Kissell's website leaves nothing to guess work on how he feels-- and what he wants to do about-- all the major issues facing North Carolina citizens. When Kissell talks about "values," it isn't empty rhetoric crafted to hoodwink strangers into voting for him. Kissell's Main Street values (not Wall Street values) are what informs and drives his desire to help his neighbors and his nation to do better.

This is not some right of center Democrat who will go to Washington and cause progressives to tear their hair out ala Lieberman or Zell Miller or Henry Cuellar. On the other hand, Inside-the-Beltway, DLC elitists are already tearing out their hair, reading stuff like "We staged our way into Iraq in one year, there is no reason we can't stage our way out in one year. My position is out of Iraq by the end of 2006." Reading Kissell's detailed, straight-forward essays on why he's running and what he plans to do in Washington make you feel this is truly a good man-- not an ambitious politician-- and one who you know you could trust to make the right decisions for his neighbors and for us all. You don't have to vote for Larry Kissell just because he's better than the Republican; you can vote for him because he'll make a great legislator imbued with compassion, strength, humility and wisdom.

I like his positions and I like how he's come to them. many people don't necessarily vote for a candidate based on his specific platform. They vote for a candidate based on what kind of a person he seems to be and assume that he'll make the right decisions on the specifics. I'm betting that's going to work in Larry Kissell's favor-- both in November and when he's serving on Congress.

I suspect most assistance the DCCC plans to put into North Carolina between now and November will go predominantly to Heath Shuler. That leaves Larry Kissell to depend on plain citizens who believe in the promise of a better society. If you live in the district you can volunteer here. If you want to be part of a coast to coast movement of people contributing $5 and $10 and $20 increments to buy into an American dream of the "ordinary people" who are the backbone of this nation putting their collective foot down to Bush and his rubber stamp congressmen (and to Democrats cut from the same cloth), please click here on the DWT ACT BLUE Page. Saturday morning Kissell joined us for a question and answer session over at Firedoglake and you can read how he handled questions from a discerning populist online community.