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Pearl Korn

Pearl Korn

Posted: July 19, 2010 07:40 AM

Perhaps it is quixotic to pursue a seat in Congress these days if you are a progressive. I think not. Candidate Dr. David Gill has been chasing that dream in a gerrymandered Republican district for 8 years in President Obama's home state, and that dream is at long last within reach.

Even without a primary challenger, Dr. Gill has no funding from the Democratic party or corporate interests -- only the donations and hard work of his grassroots supporters. Indeed, the Gill campaign represents grassroots at its best, moving forward while the Dem party continues to support and finance feckless incumbents and tepid Republicrats. Hundreds of volunteers work on the campaign, with over three thousand additional supporters on Facebook. This volunteer army mans three campaign offices, including one in a railroad station. An inspiring bunch that makes us believe once again that real people can help put real progressives back in Congress.

So who is Dr. David Gill? He is an ER doctor working way too many hours in one of the most challenging branches of medicine. Often necessitating split-second decision-making with lives on the line, his years of training in reacting to crisis certainly qualifies him to serve in Congress, one would think. Few in Congress could match this kind of skill set. He is also a 17-year member of Physicians For A National Health Program (Improved Medicare For All) -- this candidate is definitely no tepid Dem.

The doctor is also a family man, with a wife and six children, ages 12-24. You can bet on his salary he knows what financial responsibility is all about. After all, how do you pay to send six kids to college when even one would break the bank and send one spiraling into long-term debt? Few privileged members in Congress can say they have had this experience.

There are many flavors and stripes of Dems in Congress and we must use all of our wily abilities and smarts to discern who and what kind of Dem they really are. My concern here is to promote and support a real progressive for office and not just a garden variety Dem with weak cred in the progressive community. Of course, progressives must define what "progressive" means, as opposed to its current loosey-goosey interpretation, with many variants and meanings.

So, just what is a progressive? I humbly offer some criteria:

  1. Supports a REAL national health plan (IMPROVED MEDICARE FOR ALL), delivered by single payer.
  2. Supports withdrawal from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan NOW.
  3. Supports labor and reinvigorating the union movement.
  4. Supports public funding for federal campaigns.
  5. Is pro-choice.
  6. Supports real immigration reform that does not criminalize the 12 million immigrants living here now, including a humane pathway to citizenship and working with the international community to boost the economies of these immigrants' home countries to give them more incentive to stay home -- rewriting NAFTA and CAFTA would be a good place to begin in this effort.

The above six criteria for defining what a progressive is should be embraced by progressive candidates and progressive grassroots organizations, ALONG WITH THE PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS IN THE HOUSE -- one set of criteria and one message. Then these criteria should be posed to candidates running as progressives and be made available online for all to see. If they support this progressive mandate they should in turn receive wide support from the progressive community.

In Dr. Gill's race, his opponent is long-term incumbent Republican Tim Johnson. So just who is Congressman Johnson and what does he stand for?

  1. He voted against the American Re-investment and Recovery Act that would have brought jobs to his district.
  2. He voted against the Employees Free Choice Act.
  3. He voted against the Democrats' and tepid Republicans' Health Reform bills - the Republican plan mainly because it contained medical malpractice reform. As an attorney, Johnson knows which side of the bread is buttered for him, and so he did not want to display disloyalty to his attorney Pac money (on health reform, Johnson also said, "We have the best health care system in the world," and free markets can fix what ever is wrong with it).
  4. He voted against the student loan overhaul that would aid students in desperate financial straights.
  5. 70% of Johnson's campaign funding comes from corporate special interests and PAC's such as AT&T, the American Sugar Growers and more. Johnson also votes with the Republican party 88% of the time.
  6. He is a 40-year career politician, rising through the ranks from city council to State Representative over 24 years and then onto the House in 2000. He once professed a belief in term limits (so much so that a pro-term limits advocacy organization pumped money into his first Congressional campaign, propelling him by a narrow margin into Congress; of course, he has since proved this conviction to be a lie, deceiving his constituents once more).
  7. He also voted against the Restoration of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act, which would have extended benefits until November 2010 and aided many of those 10.8% unemployed in Illinois. This bill passed in the House but failed in the Senate.
  8. He has voted against anything to do with clean energy or environmental protection, even failing to respond to toxic dumping in the Clinton landfill in De Witt County in his own district.
  9. He has voted against net neutrality.
  10. He has voted against extending mortgage modification to homeowners.
  11. In addition to all of these negatives, he has also managed to only write four pieces of legislation in the 111th Congress.

The League of Conservation Voters gives Johnson a 43% vote. The Human Rights Campaign has given him a score of 0 for voting against legislation that would ban discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and for refusing to adopt a written policy for his own office pledging not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. On the other hand, the Family Research Council, a social-conservative organization, gives him a 100% rating.

The fact is, this is a bad dude. Why would any one vote yet again for this incumbent, who only made it because his district was gerrymandered for him in 2000?

Now is the chance for the people of the 15th CD in Illinois to get it right. So why should they vote for David Gill?

  1. As an ER doctor, he knows exactly what the pitfalls of our current health "care" system are. He vigorously supports an Improved Medicare For All.
  2. He supports term limits.
  3. He supports funding of higher education for students and vets, as a well-trained work force is the key to economic prosperity.
  4. He supports the Free Elections Now Act, eliminating corporate influence in elections and providing public funding for elections.
  5. He supports sustainable alternative and green energy, building new industries and new technologies here in America for a healthier and better world.
  6. He is outraged at the handling of the BP gusher and the lack of oversight and regulation that enabled it to happen and demands new safety measures and regulation be put in place before any new wells are drilled, as well as an end to drilling wells at such depths offshore.

In 2006, David received 42.4% of the vote, and received 60% of the vote in DeWitt County where he lived at the time (he now lives in "red red" McLean County, where he now looks to find support among his decidedly more conservative neighbors!) . He is known and respected by his community, bringing real people's perspective and support to his candidacy. Gill did not run in 2008 due to the death of his first wife, his partner in life and on the campaign trail. He is now back with renewed vigor and passion, seeking that seat in Congress once again with a new wife and partner, who shares his mission and passion to serve the public.

I am a strong believer in full disclosure, so I will mention here that the Gill campaign has neither offered nor given me any money or other consideration for this glowing endorsement -- not even a cup of coffee, Dr. Gill! I simply believe he is the kind of candidate we desperately need in Congress, a man with a super backbone who will represent his constituents and the country well. Progressive Democrats of America agrees with me, and has endorsed him (http://pdamerica.org/articles/campaigns/2010-06-28-17-00-22-campaigns.php).

I ask that you check out Dr. Gill and his campaign and support him, too.

You can find out more at http://www.gillforcongress.com/ or http://www.gill2010.com/.

Additional content by Jon Stone.