06/17/2010 10:02 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Magic of a Vigorous Primary -- Claudia Wright v Jim Matheson (UT-02)

Yesterday Blue America's cable ads started running in Utah's 2nd Congressional District. I called every gay millionaire I know to help with funding the inexpensive spots (which we made ourselves at NO COST, not even a dime). And every gay millionaire I know called their inside the Beltway contacts, and they all got the same answer: "Who? Never heard of her. Don't waste your money." And all those gay millionaires gave me exactly zero dollars and zero cents. So... we quickly put up this ActBlue page and sold 216 ads for $4,072, an average of less than $20 each. And we did it in three days, mostly via Twitter! It was more productive than listening to some know-it-all battle-weary "progressive" in DC tell me she's a great candidate but she couldn't win because she didn't have any professional photographs taken. (Yes, it's different in DC than in America.)

Unseating an entrenched incumbent in a primary is a thankless and nearly impossible task. The Inside the Beltway (gay and otherwise) organizations that gave Claudia the big thumbs-down-- just because they don't know her and she's not part of their cloying and claustrophobic little world-- may be proven correct on Tuesday. In fact, odds favor their negative approach. Meanwhile, though, the previously homophobic Blue Dog, the ultra-entitled Jim Matheson, scared of his first-ever primary, voted to abolish Don't Ask Don't Tell two weeks ago, and on Tuesday, shockingly, was one of the Blue Dogs who refused to join any of Boehner's maneuvering to rescind healthcare reform, which Matheson had originally joined Boehner to vote against. That's the magic of a vigorous primary.

Yesterday the district's biggest weekly not only endorsed Claudia, they really endorsed her. If, as expected, she gets something similar from the Salt Lake Tribune later in the week, Matheson will be able to fly Steny Hoyer back to the district 20 times and it'll do him as much good as it did when he failed the first time. The Salt Lake City Weekly makes it clear that it"s time for a change-- not of direction, but of heart:

Some Utah Democrats living in Rep. Jim Matheson's congressional district are wringing their hands about what to do come next Tuesday's primary election. Should they vote for the guy who has, time and again, forsaken them, believing it's better to have a Democrat in that seat-- any Democrat, even one whom they often despise-- or should they vote for political neophyte Claudia Wright, perhaps risking Utah's only congressional seat held by a Democrat?

I'm not a handwringer on this one. I'm voting for Wright and have three reasons for doing so. First, Matheson abandoned his Salt Lake County base long ago. The only kinship he retains with that crowd are on environmental and land-based issues in Utah, and claiming he is against open-air nuclear testing. Outside of backsliders like Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee-- the Republicans vying for Utah's open Senate seat-- most are against such nuclear testing. Thanks to Matheson being descended from Utah's nuclear Downwinders, he's gotten lots of mileage out of that issue. Every two years it mushrooms up, then blows away. It's time to put that old Geiger counter down, Jim. We get it. It's not only your problem; we're all in this together.

Secondly, he's been a lousy representative. If you voted for Matheson in the past, did you expect that he would thank you by not taking your phone calls? Or not returning your e-mails? Or asking you to talk to him instead via electronic public meetings? Or by talking to the press only when it suited him-- as with the little-boy-in-the-sandbox cold shoulder that he gives to City Weekly?

When Holly Mullen was our editor, she began publishing a regular tick of how many weeks had elapsed since Matheson had granted an interview or talked to a City Weekly reporter. It was a number that equated to years of elapsed time since Matheson had spoken to this paper. According to his press aide, we weren't nice to Jim. Holly's been gone for over a year, and only this week-- the one just before his most important election date ever-- has he finally been sufficiently scared into answering a couple of questions. So, no thanks, Jim, I'm not voting for a pandering fool such as yourself, and I don't feel bad about saying so.

And third, I'm with the Tea Party on this one-- it's time to vote the cynical, incumbent scoundrels out of Congress who do less for us than we can do for ourselves. Matheson, for example, cites his allegiance to due diligence and fiscal responsibility when he defends his vote against what is derisively called Obamacare. He says the bill was flawed. All congressional bills are flawed. The real flaw is that he doesn't mention how much money he reaps from the health-care industry. He can claim fairness all day long, but it just isn't so.

It isn't fair that the health-care bill is lambasted as socialized medicine when he has a taxpayer-paid health plan that is more socialist than the one he would deny his constituents. What is fair is if Matheson finds himself without health care and without health-industry-support dollars in his pocket. It would also be fair if he would do as some of Americans have done-- shoot himself. That way, he wouldn't be denied admission to an emergency room where he could then show why he's really there, to renew a lapsed medication, perhaps. Not to worry-- if he loads a gun the same way he handles his public comments, he'd be firing blanks anyway.

Jim Matheson entered office nearly a decade ago upon the backs of tens of thousands of formerly disenfranchised Democrats, their hopes pinned tightly to him. He turned on them. Forget the narcoleptic argument that his district is equally rural, equally Republican and his votes reflect his constituents' wishes-- he's been consistent at licking that shoe from Day 1.

He's made his money. He's made fools of his Democratic supporters. His Republican detractors know he will do it to them, too. He's not a man of substance; he's a man of opportunity. His bus left the depot, and, this time, I and many others, aren't along for the ride. He's just one long night of empty foreplay-- not only will he never kiss you back, he wants you to pay for the gas that burned in his engine while he let you fool around.

I don't want to fool around, but neither do I want to be fooled again. Claudia Wright can win this primary election and she can win in November. It is indeed time for a change-- not of direction, but of heart.

It's why Blue America goes to real people to help elect progressives, not to Insiders. We don't win every time but guess what? In the 2008 cycle, according to the National Journal Blue America's record of success was bigger than every single Insider group. We scored better than every labor union, every environmental group, every gay group, every woman's group, every PAC that endorses candidates-- both Republicans and Democrats. When we urged them to get behind Donna Edwards they laughed. It took two cycles but she beat an entrenched incumbent backed by Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel. When we brought up Alan Grayson even the smartest and savviest bloggers told us to stop wasting everyone's time and money. We don't decide on who to support based on viability-- just on their policy platforms and their character. The viability is part of our job. And, yes, I personally maxed out to Claudia's campaign; she meets every single criteria I look for in a candidate.