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Pearl Korn

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As the Old Guard Liberals Exit Congress, a New Breed Must Take Their Place

Posted: 03/13/2012 10:04 am

We have just lost a progressive voice in Congress that for over a decade has been the conscience of his colleagues in that body politic and a clear and proud voice of the People. Dennis Kucinich, a eight-term congressman from the hardscrabble streets of Cleveland, Ohio, was a constant thorn in the side of his own party and uncompromising in his ethics and values, fearlessly speaking truth to power, especially when it came to opposing unnecessary wars and increased militarism. He was consistently on the right side of the issues, often long before anyone else, and he expressed his views with passion and clarity, especially during his runs for president in 2004 and in 2008.

Unfortunately, politics is a brutal sport, and last week Dennis lost his primary to a fellow progressive, Marcy Kaptur. The People's champion will be missed. Dennis was brought down by Ohio's gerrymandering of its congressional districts in their redistricting process, which pitted him against a neighboring Democrat. Clearly, his district was targeted for elimination by the powers that be, and with the aid of the GOP governor, former congressman John Kasich, Dennis was defeated.

Who will pick up the mantle of this unabashed progressive voice in the House? Who will stand in Dennis' place and demand that our government do the right thing by the People and the other nations of the world? There are fewer and fewer voices in Washington that truly speak for us -- a vanishing breed, to be sure. But there may be hope for new progressive voices and blood to come into Congress and continue the struggle in the name of Dennis and Alan Grayson and Russ Feingold and the other progressives who have gone. In a race of personal interest to me -- and which I have mentioned here before -- a primary is now entering its final lap in Illinois in the IL 13th, a newly trending Democratic district also formed by redistricting. At stake is a place in the general election against 40-year professional politician and GOP foot soldier Tim Johnson. My choice to be the People's champion in this race is David Gill, an ER doctor and an unapologetic progressive Democrat.

For the sake of full disclosure, I must admit I have been a strong supporter of David's for a while, and have become close friends with his extraordinary campaign manager, Debra Kay Schrishuhn. Our emails begin zipping back and forth daily at 4am, and David's campaign has more than welcomed my suggestions and efforts to get the word out among other grassroots supporters. This is truly a People-powered campaign, and it is exciting to see that the People have turned out in force to propel David forward in this race. A win by a true progressive here could shake the national party and would place them on notice. Through almost exclusively small donations, David has raised $56,000 in the last two months alone during his primary against establishment Dem Matt Goetten, who has raised $70,000. Goetten has received $5,000 from Senator Dick Durbin's PAC and $1,000 from Rep. Jan Schakowsky's PAC, and he has also loaned $50,000 of his own money to his campaign. On the other hand, Gill has taken no PAC money or special interest money, and he has been endorsed by many current and former Illinois party leaders and has even received the endorsement of NOW.

In a poll just last week by Public Policy Polling, Gill polled at 30% against 18% for Goetten, with 52% undecided. Goetten's positions have pretty much been a mystery in this primary. He has avoided debating Dr. Gill, and has been largely silent on the hot-button topic of women's choice, not even taking a stand against the vulgar comments from Rush Limbaugh about women's health and personal freedom. Goetten has only claimed, "I am a pro-choice Catholic who has always chosen life" -- a confusing statement at the very least.

It is unclear what Matt Goetten stands for on many issues, but he is the handpicked establishment candidate, an Illinois State's Attorney and a conservative Democrat. Meanwhile, Gill has launched a petition for women's choice and he has clearly laid out his strongly Progressive views and a clear agenda once he reaches Congress. Indeed, he is probably the only Dem candidate that has come out clearly declaring:

1- He is for term limits

2- He is for an amendment overturning Citizens United and for public funding of campaigns

3- He opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and wants to bring all our troops home now

4- He supports single-payer healthcare for all

5- He supports green energy development and the creation of new energy jobs in Illinois and the nation

6- He wants to rewrite all of our "free" trade agreements, starting with NAFTA

7- He supports quality education for all, with emphasis on taking care of our returning vets -- including their health needs -- and beefing up Community Colleges

8- Last but certainly not least, he is a strong pro choice leader, publicly supporting and defending the right of all women to make their own choices regarding their health and bodies.

So it will ultimately be up to the voters in the Illinois 13th to send Dr. Gill on to the general election and then to Congress this November. People power is on the rise and my money is on this crowd in the heartland, 150 miles from Chicago. This campaign is also being powered by many more progressive Americans who care in numerous other states, with over 1,000 unique donors to the campaign from Maine to Hawaii. Gill is capturing hearts and minds, and giving us all hope that a better Congress is possible and just over the horizon. It's just up to us.

Please check out this worthy candidate by going to his website, www.gill2012.com.

- with Jonathan Stone