What's this, Mr. President?

So let me get this straight, Mr. President. I voted for you, I've supported you through thick and thin, I've been planning to support you for another term - and you show up at that school in Columbus????

Tsk, tsk, tsk!



The Party of Women (And Sensible Men) endorses its candidates

While I was bartending here in greater GR, other Democrats from across the state were gathered at Cobo Hall to endorse a slate of candidates for various offices in this year's election. The endorsees are:

  • Supreme Court (technically nonpartisan): Bridget Mary McCormack, Shelia Johnson, Connie Kelley
  • State Board of Education: Lupe Ramos-Montigny, Michelle Fecteau
  • U-M Regents: Mark Bernstein, Shauna Ryder-Diggs
  • MSU Trustees: Joel Ferguson, Brian Mosallam
  • WSU Governors: Sandra Hughes O'Brien, Kim Trent

They are set to be formally nominated at a separate convention in late August (state law provides a certain window during which they may actually be nominated). I don't yet know a whole lot about all of these candidates, but a few observations:

1. McCormack has been campaigning for this for quite some time now, going around and meeting with grassroots Democratic activists around the state. It's a strategy I call "the Jocelyn Benson," since Jocelyn did that for more than a year before she was nominated for Secretary of State.

2. Johnson also campaigned across the state in 2010, appearing at many Democratic gatherings. However, she ended up not being nominated in 2010. I'm glad she got a nod this time.

3. Lupe was one of our nominees in 2010, as you may recall. She was a teacher in Grand Rapids Public Schools for 36 years. Don't you think the Board of Ed could stand to use an educator's perspective?

4. Bernstein should win on name recognition alone. Let's face it: If you're a candidate for one of these offices, most of the votes you get will be from people who (a) recognized your name or (b) vote straight ticket or close to straight ticket. If he does win, Bernstein will be the second in his family to be elected to a statewide education board; his brother, Richard, was elected in 2002.

5. Ferguson is the only incumbent Democrat seeking re-election to any of these boards.

6. If our Supreme Court candidates all win this year, the Michigan Supreme Court will have five women. Five out of seven. And of the 11 candidates endorsed this weekend, eight are women.

Of course, I don't think that merely having women in public office is the end-all, be-all for equality. I'm glad we have Vice President Biden instead of Vice President Palin. But at a time like this, it highlights a difference between the two parties.

The Party of Palin has been declaring war on Palin's gender in the name of "religious freedom" or "conscience" - and now they are paying the price in the polls. Their nominees for various offices will likely include Mitt "What Will He Believe Next Month?" Romney, Stephen Markman, Brian Zahra, Pete "Cultural Sensitivity" Hoekstra, and probably several men (and a couple women) for education boards. (There will likely be a lot of pressure from Republicans to have their party nominate a woman for the other Supreme Court slot, and given their plummeting standing among women, don't be surprised if Romney picks a woman for VP.)

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party's nominees for various offices will include our first African-American President, the author of the Violence Against Women Act, Michigan's first female Senator, and the aforementioned women (and men).


Transparency, anyone?

Knowledge is power.

Cliches are a dime a dozen, but when you think about it, knowledge really is power. That's why I'm a big fan of transparency.

Now, I understand that there are times when government - and those who influence it – need to maintain some sort of confidentiality. People's identities need to be protected, and dangerous consequences may result if the CIA’s work is blown or a secret military operation is leaked (who knew about the raid on the bin Laden compound?)

But overall, transparency needs to be the rule, not the exception. That goes for those in government as well as those who seek to wield their massive resources to ensure that government does their bidding.

In the wake of that disastrous Supreme Court decision of 1/21/10 – the one whose name I will not mention – many of us wondered what we can do about it. There is growing support for an amendment to the United States Constitution, which would involve a massive undertaking if it is to be adopted.

But while we might not be able to stop corporations from spending their vast resources without, we can make them tell us when they’re doing it.

Enter the Corporate Accountability Amendment. It's a proposal to amend the state Constitution (much easier than amending the US Constitution!) to shed some light on the campaign finance system.According to their website, this amendment has two primary goals

1. Disclosure: Ensuring citizens know when CEOs and lobbyist are influencing elections and public policy by requiring instant disclosure of Corporate Funded Political Communications and Lobbying in Michigan.

2. Disclaimer: Ensuring large corporations and CEOs "Stand By Their Ad" by requiring them to identify who funded the political and lobbying communications on the ads themselves, just like candidates for office and unions have to do right now.

One thing I like about this is that when a political ad comes on TV, people will see right there who is behind it.

That Supreme Court case was one of the biggest affronts to democracy in a long time – right up there with the Emergency Manager law. If this amendment passes, starting in 2014, voters will see who is responsible for these ads that we have to put up with every election season.

And that knowledge will be power - power to make an informed decision and to know who's really responsible for that propaganda.

Being an amendment to the state Constitution, 322,000 signatures need to be collected to put it on the ballot. So be sure to sign up on their website to keep updated on how to help.


Pestka announces for Congress


America had just turned 200, West Michigan native Gerald Ford was President, disco was big, and most Republicans were decent.

That year, Congressman Dick VanderVeen - a Democrat who had won a 1974 special election to replace then-VP Ford in Congress - lost his bid for re-election. Ever since then, Greater Grand Rapids has been represented exclusively by Republicans.

Steve Pestka wants to change that.

Pestka, a longtime fixture on the West Michigan political scene, announced today that he is running for Congress in Michigan's 3rd Congressional District. Pestka has served as a assistant prosecutor, Kent County Commissioner, State Representative, and Circuit Court judge.

Pestka is the second Democratic candidate to enter this exciting race. Trevor Thomas, a rising star in our Party, has worked for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for the Granholm Administration; he jumped in the race three weeks ago. Either one will make a fine Congressman.

The new 3rd District includes all of Calhoun, Ionia, and Barry counties, a piece of Montcalm County, and most of Kent County. Grand Rapids and Battle Creek are the two big cities in the district.

Pestka has already earned the endorsements of former Congressman Mark Schauer; State Representatives Brandon Dillon, Roy Schmidt, and Kate Segal; and a host of local Party activists and elected officials and Democratic Party activists.

Thomas has landed two big endorsements in recent days: Both Granholm and her lieutenant governor, John Cherry, have endorsed Thomas. In addition, Thomas has already raised nearly $19,000 on his ActBlue page alone - not to mention much more offline.

A recent poll showed Amash leading Pestka in a hypothetical matchup 50-39, but after respondents were given positive statements about each candidate, Pestka pulled within two. When positives and negatives were added to the mix, Pestka actually led 47-43.

Combine that with Amash's 25% approval rating, and you'll see that Amash is in big trouble.

As long as we have a healthy primary contest, and as long as our nominee fights for progressive Democratic values, Amash will have a heck of a fight on his hands!