I am thrilled with the House voting NO to the Iraq War funding today. I am thrilled with CA passing marriage legislation for gays today. I am thrilled that MS and LA and IL picked up Dem seats recently. I am disgusted with the crack-pot we have as commander-in-chief, his golf "sacrifice" and his fear-mongering, low political blow in Israel yesterday. But I have a personal story to tell. Campaign finance reform cannot come soon enough! I have given myself almost 2 weeks post-election to let things settle. ‘Tis time for me to record what I have learned in the political arena for 18 months. I initially entered the congressional race for LA-01 because not enough was being done to help us recover from the broken levees fiasco and Hurricane Katrina. 15 months after the tragedy, the landscape looked hardly different than the day after the storm had passed. Knowing my district needed a fighter who would not take no for an answer, I dove in head-first. My district’s needs were paramount and I would defy even my own party if it stood in the way.
There were hardships and family things missed. There were sleepless nights and harried days. There were stressful forums with asinine questions designed to stump candidates rather than to educate potential voters. There were many thousands of miles put on our van criss-crossing 6 parishes constantly. There were radio, newspaper and television interviews where slips of the tongue were taboo. I had to be on guard with every word uttered. I could no longer call Bush a bozo or worse. I had to wear skirt suits every day and only power colors—no light pink or lavender. Make-up and hair style and even modest jewelry had to be considered daily. I could no longer use a wheel-chair for distances but had to hoof it with my wheeled walker sporting my bumper sticker. Miles of feverish heat at festivals, cattle shows and events built my stamina as a side effect. Simply enjoying music in between events was replaced with writing the next speech or grilling for the next onslaught of questions. And the very worst of it all was days of cold-calling voters to ask for donations.
A trip to Yearly Kos in Chicago and a trip to DC were high points. But what sustained me, pushed me onward, and would not let me quit were the poignant personal images such as---
--The busboy who gave me a wrinkled $5 bill imploring, "Fight for me, ma’am."
--The independent trucker trying to feed his family when a $3000 load cost him $1500 in diesel to deliver.
--A young Republican woman disabled by a job injury begging me for humane help in work-comp decisions.
--A distraught, skilled worker with 30 years experience crying behind sunglasses for being fired unfairly from 2 jobs in 3 months and not knowing how he was going to meet the notes on his $600,000 home. --Elderly deciding on a daily basis to either eat or take their meds because they could not afford to do both.
--Desperate voters with disabilities and no where to turn.
--Returning veterans not being treated for their PTSD.
--Constituents, having lost everything in the Katrina fiasco, begging me, a non-elected candidate, to find them some relief. When I called back to check on one, the elderly, terminally-ill woman had died.
--Union workers expressing frustration in not being able to bid for jobs because illegal immigrants were willing to work for much less.
--Sick children and adults with no health insurance and no doctors willing to treat them.
--A small business-owner who was denied a much needed SBA loan because his pre-Katrina credit was too good.
--Firemen and police officers unpaid for services rendered.
--A business property-owner who had to tell tenants that she could no longer rent to them as her insurance company cancelled her policy and skipped town with profits.
--Countless college students with life-threatening depression, panic attacks and anxiety, and no place to seek help.
--Homeowners who after rebuilding, were being threatened with taxes on the insufficient Road Home dollars already spent.
--Formaldehyde-laced trailer residents wondering why they were ignored and where the Road Home funds were physically located.
--Mayors stiffed by FEMA and facing unpaid bills from contractors who helped get their cities up and running again.
--A sheriff asking for a universal open channel for use by all 1st responders without the need to buy expensive equipment.
--A retiree hunter who no longer can hunt on land promised for public use in return for reduced taxes. The lumber company instead leases to wealthy businessmen.
The stories I listened to and the tears I helped dry kept me energized to fight on against insurmountable odds. The media, the political pundits, the know-it-all-bloggers kept promulgating the self-fulfilling prophecy that only Republicans could win the district seat. Of course, this hurt fundraising immeasurably. Towards the end, a seed of hope was interjected by the media as they toyed with the idea that a Dem win upset was not probable but was still possible. On election night, the faces of the reporters and videographers were quite telling. They looked as dejected as my disappointed campaign workers. When I truthfully answered no to a question of a follow-up run in November, the faces got longer and the eyes more pained. One cameraman, who had covered at least 3 stories with me, gave me a hug and kiss before picking up his equipment. Was it pity for me or sorrow that our district was denied what it so sorely needed, a fire-in-the-belly advocate for everyday Americans? Hurry up, campaign finance reform!
To give my district a choice, I ended up fighting 2 parties—the Republicans who had a million dollars and the Democrats. The DCCC did not give my $125,000 campaign a nickel, even though I won my primary by 70%. Not only did they not help, they actually wounded me mortally by interfering with unions donating. Two dozen unions endorsed me, but few contributed funds because if my own party would not support me, then why should they? My husband and I sunk $15,000 into the campaign the first year as contributions rather than loans. To attract donors and prove viability, the campaign could not be mired in debt. Since January, we are in the hole another $15,000 as loans. It was too late to turn back once it became apparent that the DCCC was not going to help at all, so we charged to keep afloat. It was less painful than dialing for dollars for many hours daily to talk mainly to recorders. Hurry up, campaign finance reform!
I have 7 children. No way would I ever educate only the children most likely to succeed while refusing to feed or shelter the others. My district race was not even put on the DCCC website. The Dem Party (not locals) made a business decision that threw LA-01 under the bus in support of their omnipotent mastery plan. Yet all along, the party continued to plead for funds from us as our share of expenses for the banquet that we were not invited to. We were not worthy of help and the party removed the voters’ chance of having a real choice. They cemented the undemocratic practice of Republicans choosing their golden boy designee bought by money and favors owed to the greedy corporate world. Hurry up, campaign finance reform!
I plan to try and make inroads into a defunct party that insists on discounting LA-01 as a lost cause. Perhaps I am too idealistic. I did not enter the race with an illusion of winning, but entered when we still had an incumbent many thought walked on water, but who, in reality, was more interested in his next job than fighting for us. Why in holy hell should we sit back according to marching orders of the chain of party command and accept such a fate? And just because the enemy is so much better equipped and supported by its party, why should we roll over or surrender? Hurry up campaign finance reform!
After the way my own party treated me, what legitimate Democrat is going to be willing to run in November as a sacrificial lamb? I have been asked by dedicated local Democrats to carry on the fight. It is going to take years, though, to come out from under the debt incurred by running once. Twice is out of the question no matter how progressive and determined I am to invoke change. Hurry up, campaign finance reform!
ISSUES WHICH WILL NOT BE ADDRESSED NOW
Hurricane recovery and coastal restoration are still top issues. People in all 6 parishes are gasping for air, including the areas which had no flood waters. The victor Scalise claims hurricane recovery is tops but has done little in the state legislature in the almost 3 years since Katrina to address this. And just what will he be able to do as a freshman, minority-party rep known for his extreme partisan attacks on the very people he must now work with? We in LA-01 are again without appreciable representation.
There are also other issues like getting out of the raging civil insurgency in Iraq. Scalise plans to continue re-funding to send our sons and daughters to fight in a war with no clear objectives and no exit strategy. The Government Accountability Office, which is the non-partisan investigative arm of Congress, recently issued a report which talks of our national security being compromised while we divert in Iraq instead of focusing on what is going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al Qaeda is regrouping and strengthening. It was Bin Laden and al Qaeda who killed 3000 of us on 9-11, not Iraq. We must go after the criminal worms who attacked us and let Iraq fight its own civil war. This is not a cowardly or soft position. It is patriotic and smart. I come from a proud, 3-generation Navy family. My father fought in WWII; my husband is a Navy veteran; 2 of my sons are Navy officers, 1 of whom is still active as a carrier pilot and CO of the West Pacific C-2 squadron. My nephew scraped body parts off of streets outside of Baghdad for one of his teen years and will never be the same. Getting out of Iraq is supporting our military heroes the right way.
$5 a gallon for milk, $3.60 and rising at the gas pumps, $3 billion a week in Iraq, senior citizens not being able to afford medicine, military heroes returning to find their benefits cut, children being tested instead of educated, millions losing homes to foreclosure, American jobs exported, no broad access to affordable health care, border insecurity, elections requiring candidates to owe the wealthy---something must be done! And we have elected a representative who wants to make permanent the tax cuts aimed for the upper 1%, removing another $500 billion dollars from our budget. Plus he wants to stay in Iraq indefinitely "until the job is done". How are we going to be able to solve any of the above problems by feathering the nests of the Paris Hiltons? Hurry up campaign finance reform!
Tax cuts to the wealthiest making over $350,000 yearly, do not strengthen anything but their trust funds. Tax cuts to the middle class strengthen the economy and increase buying power. Even McCain voted against Bush’s tax cuts twice and said in 2001 that they offended his moral conscience because they were aimed for the wealthiest who did not need them. To continue the cuts, which only passed to begin with because they were sold as temporary, will burden the middle class and poor by making sales taxes and other regressive forms of consumer taxation more oppressive.
I want to close the Enron Loophole which allows energy traders to run amok unregulated. They can artificially inflate the cost of a barrel of oil because the cop is off the beat. We must demand that energy traders abide by the same rules other commodities traders obey. Transparency and a ceiling on how many contracts a single trader can have at 1 time must be instituted. The 5 huge oil conglomerates now control over 50% of the US refining capacity. We must be more judicious in allowing mergers.
To increase supply and decrease demand, I want to earmark 10 to 15% of oil company profits for alternative, renewable energy source development and production. The money would remain within the company’s capital investment program and under its control. Thus the company could choose the alternative energy project that stood to make the most money. Use it, though, or lose it. In Louisiana, sugar cane is a promising biofuel possibility that outshines corn in every way. The price of sugar does not inflate, as the waste of the cane is used. The biofuel product is more potent and environmentally friendly than corn ethanol. Brazil has been producing it successfully for 30 years and is no longer dependent on foreign oil.
Louisiana gives more than it receives and Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Charlie Melancon have been successful in getting more of our oil royalty share from new leases on the outer continental shelf. It takes 8 or more years to realize any return on new leases and we need help now to rebuild our coasts and wetlands. We must go after our fair share of existing leases as well. The oil companies helped chop up our wetlands and need to be held accountable, plus they have a vested interest in partnering with us so that their billions of dollars invested in pipelines and infrastructure will not be jeopardized.
No Child Left Behind is a travesty and must be revamped. Certainly, it cannot be scratched altogether since we need the funding to care for disadvantaged children. But to test does not mean to educate. The emphasis on punishing teachers and schools if 100% of students do not score above a certain mark by a certain year, is ludicrous. We do not punish doctors when 100% of patients do not get well, and we do not punish police when there is not a 100% reduction in crime. But yet it is okay to punish teachers? This does not make our system more accountable.
We need college and trades education to be available to any student who wants them. We need a structured interim system for misbehaving youth who are not performing well. We need developmentally appropriate education
SMART GOVERNMENT NOT BIG GOVERNMENT
I am a fiscal conservative. You cannot spend what you do not have and then charge the bill to our grandchildren. I believe in smart government not big government. Smart government re-prioritizes and puts people first again. Smart government enables its people to provide for themselves without unneeded giveaways. Smart government is of, by and for the people—not of, by and for a few large corporations and those who make over $350,000 a year. Smart government stays out of our bedrooms, bank accounts, emails and telephone conversations. Smart government levels the playing field during elections so that our leaders are not limited to the rich and those supported by the rich. Hurry up campaign finance reform!
PRO-LIFE and ROE vs WADE
I am pro-life and Scalise has maliciously misled voters to vote against me as a pro-abortionist. Never would I have an abortion nor would I ever advise anyone else to have one. Neither do I support public funding of abortions. However, in my determination to protect the safety of the mother, I will not regress to the days of underground, back-alley, butcher-shop abortions. This is what would happen if Roe vs Wade were overturned. Abortions need to be stopped but not via law. Are you going to lock up all women who have aborted? My stance is not pro-abortion or anti pro-life. Who defines pro-life? My definition is just as valid as that of the pope, a pastor or a preacher. And church leaders who dictate to their congregations whom to vote for or against, based on their definition of pro-life, should have their tax exemptions removed.
I live my values; I do not have to proclaim them as Scalise does. After birthing 5 babies, I adopted 2 babies with disabilities while my youngest was still in diapers. Though we were advised not to adopt the first baby due to a grade 4 intraventricular hemorrhage and massive brain damage (born in February but due in June 26 years ago), we gave this baby a chance. We were warned that he would be a vegetable. He is a college graduate. Am I pro-life? You bet I am!
We watched in horror as 2 precious grandbabies died in the arms of our son and daughter-in-law. The little boy lived 2 ½ days. 2 years later, the little girl lived 2 hours. Do I appreciate and value every minute of life? You bet I do! We have 2 adopted multi-ethnic granddaughters from Central America. We treasure these darlings as much as any of our 14 grandbabies. Am I pro-life? You bet I am!
How dare Scalise mislead voters to thinking he has moral values and I do not. (I could reveal some truths here that may shock his faithful, but I refuse to dirty myself.) To translate---moral conservative values to Scalise, and to the 33,000 who voted for him, mean no blacks, no gays, no Jews, no poor people, no desperate women who may consider an abortion. At Scalise’s election party, those bigots who supported David Duke years earlier were in full attendance.
We have a state senate seat now empty and a district with no representation until the fall after a 3-month reign. Scalise was a state rep in December, a state senator in January, and running for the US House by February. This expensive seat-hopping will not stop here either. Scalise will be first in line when Vitter decides (with party urging) that he must retire from the US Senate for family reasons in 2010.
How can you claim to be fiscally conservative when you cost the state so much money? How can you claim to be fiscally conservative when you uphold the policies of the administration that put us so much in debt? How can you claim to be fiscally conservative when you will remain in Iraq at a cost of $3 billion a week? How can you claim to be fiscally conservative when you are willing to cost the budget $500 billion to award the super wealthy an unearned gift? What will Scalise be willing to cut to balance the teetering budget—social security, Medicare, food inspection, border security, college loans? Or does he prefer to skyrocket the national deficit even more?
AFRAID OF GRANDMOTHERS?
Scalise ducked me at most every turn. He did not want to be questioned or confronted. When I announced after a radio show to the other 3 candidates that I was taking off of campaigning the following day to be present for the delivery of my 14th grandbaby, Scalise re-arranged to have his appearance at a radio debate re-scheduled for this day. He had earlier ducked out of a League of Women Voters forum saying he was going to DC to meet the pope. At the last minute, he ducked out of an ABC News forum, as well as a WLAE PBS forum. He taped early or called in instead. While he was telling these producers that he had senate floor duties, his senate office was telling constituents that he was out of town campaigning for 2 weeks and would not be available.
Since I did not have the funds to get my name blasted via paid media, since Scalise used strong arm tactics to gain the endorsements of major political officials including Democrats, since he had a million dollars, since his name was already known from previous political races, a first-time unknown with no party support had not a chance. Then came the deluge the night before and morning of the election dumping 22 inches in poorer areas, collapsing a road and closing others. But topping the list of explanations for my defeat is voter apathy. Of the 351,607 registered voters, well over 300,000 of them did not vote at all. Of those who showed up to vote, 22.5% voted for me.
Now I feel better and can put this chapter aside and dig in with 100% attention on the important matters at hand—enjoying and visiting many grandbabies in LA, TN and CA. I must also prepare without pay for my hundreds of students registered in the fall with only 3 months to do it all—lectures to research, write and record for 4 online courses plus 12 exams to write personally and post. (I am not rated #21 in the nation by Rate Your Professor for nothing.) No more time wasted pretending that gears can be shifted dramatically without therapeutic writing. I am now truly free though still orphaned. And I have earned my right to bitch if I do not like what is happening in my country! Now let’s get a Democrat in the White House!