Last week John Edwards headed off some bad publicity for himself in his home state by quickly changing course on some foolishness he had been sucked into. When Edwards had sent out an e-mail announcing a "pick-the-candidate contest" similar to what Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer have been doing he neglected to do any serious due diligence on which candidates he was including and excluding from his list. He just blindly took direction from Rahm Emanuel, the DCCC head who is rarely accused of being a straight-shooter. I did an extended blog about the whole matter last Friday. The reason Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, had to make some changes is because grassroots Carolinians went nuts when they saw Edwards had left off Larry Kissell, the progressive Democrat who is looking more and more like a winner against the ultimate rubber stamp Republican, Robin Hayes. (Hayes provided-- albeit tearfully and in the wee hours-- the decisive vote to pass CAFTA, with DeLay, Blunt and Boehner twisting his arm, a piece of legislation that devastated his district's textile industry-- and which he had previously promised constituents he would oppose.) After a grassroots and netroots eruption Edwards corrected his "oversight" and added Kissell to his list of candidates.
The first sound out of my lips today was a loud, excited "whoooopie!" I had woken up at 6:30 AM and there was Larry Kissell on CNN. But what had me excited was far more than just the well-deserved national attention his campaign was getting. It was what he was doing on CNN that was so awesome. Larry had been an early guest on the weekly "Blue America" Saturday live blog sessions at Firedoglake and I had gotten to know him a bit. When we spoke on the phone we discussed his plan to viscerally point out to North Carolina voters how detrimental the policies of the Bush rubber stamp congress have been in our lives.
Larry figured out that when Hayes was first elected the price of gas was $1.22 a gallon. Since then, the Bush Regime and rubber stampers like Hayes have been the recipients of millions and millions of dollars in campaign contributions-- legal bribes-- from Big Oil and they have showered Big Oil with... well, let's cut to the chase... oilmen Bush and Cheney and their bought-out Republican congressmen have given Big Oil a license to rip off the American consumers to the tune of billions of dollars. No one delineates the specifics of this grand rip-off better than David Sirota in his book HOSTILE TAKEOVER. But it took a Baptist deacon from an exurban/rural district in North Carolina to bring it to the masses.
Today the North Carolina mass media is filled with story after story after story about Larry Kissell meeting voters at a gas station which is offering fill-ups for $1.22 a gallon. Around 500 motorists lined up for 4 hours at Benjy Dunn's Filling Station in downtown Briscoe.
Larry's campaign paid for the difference between the $1.22 that gas cost when Hayes first came to power and the almost $3.00 a gallon that his and Bush's policies have brought on. In the sweltering heat Larry walked up and down the line of autos waiting to fill up and talking with the drivers about their concerns. No one complained about the long wait or the hot weather; everyone thanked Larry for noticing the problem and bringing it to the forefront of the campaign.
A carefully documented press release from his office pointed out that "Hayes (NC-08) has taken nearly $250,000 from Energy Special Interests and nearly $135,000 from Oil and Gas Interests while voting for a final energy bill that gave away billions to Oil, Gas and Nuclear Industries. Hayes also voted three times against cracking down on price gouging and lowering gas prices, and against giving consumers immediate relief at the gas pump with increased investment in new energy sources like ethanol just last year."
These are the kinds of grassroots activities that will win Democrats' seats in moderate districts like NC-08 this November. Earlier today Larry told me that he felt great that his campaign was "sending a message yesterday to Big Oil, but the people were sending a message as well. They need help. We had folks waiting in line in that heat for over two hours to get $1.22 gas and couldn't even afford to totally fill up when they got to the pump. It breaks your heart how our working families are struggling."
The same week I had originally discussed this idea with Larry, Dennis Hastert's opponent in IL-14, John Laesch, was thinking along the same lines. He tours his district in a Bio-diesel vehicle and he has also been doing gas station campaign events. This morning John told me that "campaigning at gas stations should be part of every Democrat's strategy; the response was amazing and lots of people contacted the campaign after the story ran in the DeKalb Chronicle. I believe that a Democratic Congress needs to make an alternative energy policy our first priority when we take back the House of Representatives after the 2006 election. Affordable gas prices and an alternative energy policy are at the top of my list when I speak to audiences in the 14th District."
If you'd like to help Larry-- and John Laesch-- continue bringing America's fight to the rubber stamp incumbents, there's a very easy way to do it. And tomorrow at 11AM (West Coast time) another Democratic candidate, Charlie Brown, with a bone to pick about an incumbent who takes huge "contributions" from Big Oil and then consistently votes for their poisonous agenda, will be joining us for our live session at Firedoglake. Stop by and ask Charlie how he plans to solve the mess Bush and Republicans like Robin Hayes, Dennis Hastert and John Doolittle have made of our country's energy policies.