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NY Senate 2010: A Primary Challenge Almost Certain

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Over the past few weeks, a group of progressive political activists throughout New York State have exchanged ideas and thoughts about the Democratic Senate seat soon-to-be-vacated with the resignation of Sen. Clinton. We have come to the following conclusion: we will almost certainly be fielding a progressive candidate for the 2010 Democratic primary for that seat. Here is why.

Our full statement follows (and you can add your name here and volunteer here):

A Progressive Senator for New York State In 2010

We, the undersigned, believe that New York State deserves a progressive United States Senator. By progressive, we mean someone who will: articulate a substantially different foreign policy than most "liberal" Democratic politicians support; someone who will aggressively push for single-payer health care; and someone who fights for a different economic strategy that favors people over corporations on the whole range of issues from trade to unionization to the power of corporations.

As it stands now, it appears that such an individual will not be chosen to occupy the soon-to-be vacated Senate seat in New York.

We, therefore, declare that we will support a progressive challenger for the Democratic nomination in the 2010 Senate primary in New York State. We make this statement now so that it is clear that we are not coalescing in opposition to a specific candidate who may be named to the Senate seat. Rather, the primary race will be entirely about presenting a dramatically different, progressive vision for the country. In the near future, we will work together to identify the strongest possible progressive candidate.

We believe the prospects for a progressive Senate primary challenger in 2010 are quite good for three basic reasons:

1. A progressive candidate will be facing an opponent who was not elected to the seat by the voters, and could be facing a candidate who has actually either never run for public office or someone who has never run statewide.

2. Because of #1, a progressive candidate could raise a significant amount of money, in part, because of the maturation of the power of the Internet and the role of decentralized fundraising and message projection.

3. Most important, the country and the state face a crisis not seen in generations: worldwide armed conflict and a worldwide economic collapse. As a result, a progressive candidate, and a progressive message, will have a huge audience yearning for deep, systemic change.

To be sure, a progressive candidate will likely face significant intra-party opposition to his or her candidacy. There will likely be pressure from the party machinery to unite around the replacement and that party machinery will likely work to raise huge amounts of money to create the impression that the replacement is a shoe-in.

However, we believe that the people deserve a choice. We believe primary contests are a time to debate the direction of a party. We believe progressive ideals represent views held by the majority of the voters of New York State. We pledge to support a strong, progressive candidate and we believe a progressive candidate can be elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010.

Initial signers*

Larry Beinhart, author, "Wag The Dog"
Reverend Billy, activist, Church of Stop Shopping
Tim Carpenter, national executive director, Progressive Democrats of America
Jeff Cohen, Progressive Democrats of America, Woodstock
Savitri D, activist, Church of Stop Shopping
Philip DePaolo, President, The New York Community Council
Barbara Ehrenreich
Gillian Farrell, Woodstock, NY
Will Fudeman, Progressive Democrats of America, Ithaca
Frances Goldin, Literary agent, activist, Manhattan
Robert Harding II, Blogger, The Albany Project
Flora Huang, community activist, Manhattan
Sally Jones, Peace Action, New York State
David Jones, Peace Action, New York State
Marty Luster, Former State Assemblyman, Member, Tompkins County Democratic Committee
Daniel Millstone, Attorney, NY, NY
Chris Owens, president, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats
Sam Pratt, activist, Taghkanic, NY
Al Ronzoni, Progressive Democrats of America, 14th Congressional District
Maida Rosenstein, president, United Auto Workers Local 2110
Josh Skaller, former president, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats.
William Stricklin, president of Village Independent Democrats.
Jonathan Tasini, executive director, Labor Research Association
Marc Weiss, creator, PBS' P.O.V.

(*organizations listed for identification purposes only)

I'm going to add a little more information here, from my perspective, not necessarily speaking for every person on this list. But, first:

If you want to add your name, go here. If you want to volunteer, go here. Most important, please spread the word to your lists, friends, websites, FACEBOOK PAGES and blogs: we would be truly grateful if you would take this message and send it out broadly.

Okay, so now a few additional thoughts.

1. This statement is explicitly not an attack or criticism of a specific person. It is a criticism of the process. Whoever is chosen will have been chosen by ONE voter, not the people of the state. I would suggest that such a process--entirely closed, not transparent and top-down--stands in total contrast to the the whole culture and energy we saw in the president-elect's campaign--open, grassroots and bottom-up.

2. A primary in 2010 will be a debate about the direction of the party--and will be open, transparent and bottom-up, and, most important, allow the VOTERS to decide who they want as their Senator.

3. Our statement leaves open the notion that we would support the person who is chosen by the governor. It is entirely possible that the caretaker Senator--and, no matter who is chosen, that is the only way to view a person chosen by one voter--will be a person who will spend the next two years charting a progressive path. We would welcome the opportunity to support such a person when s/he goes before the VOTERS in 2010.

4. Since this question will be asked a bunch, I have been asked by a number of people if I would run (since I did run in 2006, for those not in the know) and I am seriously thinking about it. I think we have a strong network from the campaign in 2006. But, I'm involved in other projects that I care about so we'll see. But, truly, more important, is that we build a movement NOW behind a strong, progressive candidate. Trust me, I know: Whoever that person might be will need money, troops and an infrastructure to run a statewide campaign.

Here is what this boils down to for me:

I am really tired of settling. Settling for someone who we--every progressive organization on any issue--have to constantly be fighting with to keep in line or beg to do the right thing or who robotically intones the "free market" without knowing what the hell that means and who seems to finally, sometimes, do the right thing...in return for a campaign contribution.

I want a Senator who doesn't have to be convinced that single-payer is the only moral and economically sane health care plan for the country. I want a Senator who will take the fight for single-payer to the Senate floor and stop the Senate in its tracks--filibuster until s/he drops--for single-payer.

I want a Senator who will actually walk picket lines with workers, and be such a pain in the ass that s/he will be begging unions to use him/her more.

I want a Senator who understands that economic prosperity will come from trade around the world, but who also can see right through the phony marketing phrase "free trade" as a dead-end philosophy that does not increase prosperity.

I want a Senator who has the courage to stand before the people and say, "tax cuts are not the answer to every economic problem" and taxes are a duty we have to each other and, finally, we can deal with the current financial crisis, and our needs long into the future, if the richest people in America start paying their fair share (which, by the way, is not just putting the top rate back to the Clinton era but much higher).

I want a Senator who will really understand how to make our country great again in the eyes of the world, mainly by arguing that we have to put aside the doctrine of American exceptionalism, see ourselves as equals to other countries around the world and spread the economic advantages we have to increase global prosperity. That kind of vision, I think, will lead naturally to abandoning military aggression as a tool and, certainly, significantly reduce our waste of valuable resources on military power.

That is the person I want to see representing our state--and our country.