Blue America Welcomes Back Our Friend and Ally, Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)

An American hero, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and an old and loyal friend through thick and thin, I don't think Raúl Grijalva needs much of an introduction. As always, he has plenty he wants to share with us. Let me just preface his guest post with two things:

1- he'll be taking questions live in the comments section starting at 11 am (PST), 2pm on the East Coast; and
2- conservatives who hate him as much as we love him-- and for the same reasons-- have figured out they can't beat him with a Republican so they're running Republicans repackaged as "Democrats" in a primary and he needs some help from his friends.

Like most progressive legislators, Raúl spends virtually all his time on policy and working on behalf of the ordinary American families who can't afford to hire lobbyists. So he's not doing hours and hours of call time, begging rich people, special interests and sleazy lobbyists to contribute to his campaign. He deserves our help-- and he's the only incumbent House Member we've endorsed this cycle. Please contribute what you can here at a special Blue America Raúl Grijalva page.

What Makes A Progressive Campaign?

-by Raúl Grijalva

It you had to pick the one thing that Progressives do best (aside from being awesome, all the time), what would you say?

That’s right, grassroots community organizing.

When it comes to mobilizing our folks to fight injustice, hold government and corporations accountable and make our communities the best they can be, Progressives can be counted on to do it right.

It starts with an idea, and through word of mouth and organized action, the idea grows into the change we demand. Over the years, as the Internet has brought people closer and facilitated the sharing of ideas and information, we’ve seen a steady crop of Progressive community organizers take note, look around, and realize that they can make a difference, not just for their own communities, but for our American community.

They’ve stepped their game up to the next level to fight for what we all know is right-- equality justice, fairness, good government, and the right of every American to pursue the American Dream.

Candidates like David Gill and Ilya Sheyman in Illinois, Patsy Keever in North Carolina, Darcy Burner in the new first district up in Washington, Matt Cartwright in Pennsylvania, Raul Ruiz, Lee Rogers and Normon Solomon in California, the unstoppable Alan Grayson in his new Florida district, Eric Griego in New Mexico are all fighting to make a difference. Some may not join us in Congress next year, but they all are great leaders who have many victories ahead of them.

As I head into my fifth re-election campaign, I feel even more inspired by the spirit of organizing and involvement that we’ve seen in all these Progressive campaigns around the country. I believe that the future of Congress and the direction of this country must be in the hands of Progressives like us-- the stakes are too high for it not to be. Only when the people are in power can we keep corporations from calling the shots.

We’re facing an epic battle between the people and the powerful-- corporate money is pouring into races all over the country, and mysterious super PACs are popping up to silence Progressive voices. They are keenly aware of our accomplishments-- justice, equal rights, peace and prosperity for all-- and they’ll stop at nothing to halt our progress. Fear and loathing isn’t just something out of a Hunter S. Thompson book, it is the way that big business, special interests and Republicans feel about Progressives. Four years ago, we saw hope trump fear and ideas trump ambition-- and our opponents know that when we’re in charge, they are held to account. And nothing terrifies them more than that.

Two years ago, big business and the Tea Party tried to take me out-– but we beat back their aggression with people power and Progressive principles. They spent millions of dollars against me, and we won. But this time, they think they’ve found a new strategy-– I call it the Wisconsin strategy-– because, just like Scott Walker and the Koch Brothers, they’ve decided to run fake Democrats against me in the Democratic Primary. And we’ve got to let the voters know all about it. Fake Democrats won’t stand up for their constituents-- they want the prize and none of the responsibility, sort of like the big corporations and Republicans that are backing them.

This primary is about whether corporate money can prop up someone with a “D” next to her name long enough to buy another seat in Washington. We believe Democracy is about ideas-- they believe it is an auction.

I know you agree with me that Democracy is not for sale. And I know I can count on you as we fight harder than we ever have for the government and America that we believe in. Let’s keep fighting for Progress, and let’s do it together.



Blue America Welcomes Matt Heinz

Democrats generally cheered when Ron Barber won the special election in AZ-8 a couple weeks ago-- or at least when Jesse Kelly lost it-- to finish out the remainder of Gabby Gifford's term. No one paying attention exactly expected her district manager to be a progressive voice in Congress but I don't think anyone expected him to get into the House and immediately start voting for the Republican agenda-- against the environment on this first day and then against Eric Holder a few days later.

On August 28 there's a primary in Arizona and Democrats will be asked to pick a candidate for a new congressional seat, AZ-2, that includes much of the old 8th. It's significantly more Democratic and there's no need for a Blue Dog or anyone else who caters to Republicans and kicks his own party's values and principles to the curb. We covered it yesterday. Today at 11am (PST) Blue America is welcoming a young Arizona doctor and state Rep., Matt Heinz for a live blogging session in the comments section below. Matt is the newest candidate to be endorsed by Blue America.

Like many Democrats in the district, he was disgusted when Barber jumped right on the Boehner-Cantor team, giving them an opportunity to call their anti-environment jihad "bipartisan." Matt had a very different perspective. “I understand the importance of securing our borders,” explained Matt, “We cannot do it at the expense of our environment and civil liberties. Our environment is irreplaceable. We must be stewards of our natural wonders, particularly the unparalleled beauty of Southern Arizona's Sonora desert. We must stand on our convictions and principles to make the right decisions and not be cowed by hollow Tea Party claims that we need to degrade our environment in order to ensure our security and prosperity.”

Apparently Barber thinks he knows better than Mo Udall and senior agents of the Border Patrol. There is a difference between true bi-partisanship and caving to ideologues that are out-of-touch with the very agency they claim to support. Ron Barber failed to see that distinction. Matt had a 100% rating in 2011 with the League of Conservation Voters and a 100% rating with the Humane Voters of Arizona. Unlike Barber, people know where Matt stands on conservation, environmental and wildlife issues. Bipartisanship is about putting aside your politics for the greater good, not throwing out conviction for political gain.

Like most of us, Matt-- Doctor Heinz-- had mixed emotions when the 5-4 came down last week upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which he supports as a step in the right direction (and which Barber has more positions on that lead no where than Mitt Romney does).

“I feel strongly that every American has the right to see a doctor. I am dedicated to the solutions that ensure access to medical service for all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status.

"While I cheered the Supreme Court for finding most of the Affordable Care Act constitutional, I paused to consider the ramifications of Court’s ruling on the Medicaid expansion. The Supreme Court found that the federal government cannot penalize states for refusing to expand Medicaid eligibility to under-served populations. Without this incentive for states like Arizona to expand eligibility, the health and wellness of our most vulnerable populations remain at risk. This is a situation that we cannot stand for any longer. It is a glaring problem I promise to do all I can to fix.

“One day, a woman named Bobbie Thayer entered my legislative office and told me tested positive for breast cancer and had no idea how she could afford the treatment she needed to save her life. Her provider said because of a loophole and bureaucratic red tape, she did not qualify for insurance coverage for the treatment.

"As a legislator and a physician, I had to find a solution-- not only to help save Bobbie's life, but to make sure other women did not have to face near certain death because of byzantine loopholes because so many people face similar situations. No woman should be denied breast cancer treatment because of her income level.

"At that very moment, we embarked on our journey to change the law. Before our efforts, if a woman was not screened by a Well Woman Healthcheck Program provider (WWHP), she couldn’t receive treatment through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (our local Medicaid program). Uninsured women were denied lifesaving medical attention simply because they unknowingly walked into the wrong clinic.

"The law I passed will broaden WWHP access and lift age restrictions so we can save Arizonan women’s lives."

Matt has taken it on himself, as a doctor and as a lawmaker, to make sure women don't get pushed around by misguided right-wing ideologues. Arizona's state government, completely dominated by far-right Republicans with no checks and no balances, has been passing crackpot laws that have targeted the most vulnerable among us. Matt went on Fox News with Greta Van Susteren show to counter ultra-conservative attacks on women's privacy after Gov. Brewer signed HB 2625, a law requiring women to provide proof that prescribed birth control are taken for reasons other than the prevention of pregnancy in order to receive reimbursement. Under the guise of employer's rights, conservatives attacked women and Matt took them to task for it. I doubt I have to remind people that women are facing the same battle nationally and need someone who has proven themselves. Matt also denounced Arizona HB 2800, a ban on reimbursements paid to Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services provided to low-income women. That ban will impact thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventive treatments and evaluations, including mammograms, cancer screenings and vaccinations. Matt: "Proponents of this law created a problem that does not exist in order to infringe upon a women’s privacy and freedoms. I am committed to efforts to repeal this
law.” So it probably won't surprise you to know that Matt is also standing up for equal pay for equal work.

“Promoting a woman's right to equal pay and societal status is another fight that is near and dear to me. It is egregious that an estimated 18% payroll gap exists between men and women who perform the same job. I support Congressional efforts to pass measures like the Paycheck Fairness Act. This law would ease wage dispute procedures and do more to hold employers accountable for salary gaps.”

Again, the primary is August 28. Early voting starts August 2-- exactly one month from today. Please consider making a contribution to Matt's campaign here on the Blue America ActBlue page.



Live Chat: Blue America Welcomes Back Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ)

Today Raúl Grijalva, a tireless champion on behalf of America's hard-pressed working families and an old and trusted friend of Blue America's-- our only endorsed candidate with a dedicated Act Blue Page-- will be spending an hour with us here from noon to 1pm, PT, 3-4pm back East to help us understand the machinations of the debt ceiling debate roiling Washington-- and the financial markets-- of late. He'll be answering questions in the live forum in the comments section below.

Aside from representing a sprawling southern Arizona congressional district that encompasses everything from the western half of Tucson down to Nogales on the Mexican border and across to Yuma on the California border, Raúl is also the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (with Keith Ellison). The Progressive Caucus is Congress' largest, with 76 Members. In the Great Shellacking last year, when Democrats lost the House in a rout, the CPC essentially held it's ground. While the conservative Blue Dogs lost more than half their members, the CPC only lost 4, all swept away by the refusal of Democratic and left-leaning voters to put their disappointment in Obama aside and turn out to vote. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Phil Hare (D-IL) and John Hall (D-NY) were the casualties. The Caucus picked up 3 new members at the same time: Karen Bass (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-CA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

I spent some time on the phone with Raúl yesterday trying to get a better grasp on what the Caucus does and what it hopes to accomplish. Unlike the Blue Dogs, it is not a fundraising powerhouse. They are hardly the darlings of the K Street lobbyists and power-brokers who distribute the legalistic bribes to the members and the organizations that doing their bidding. When the Murdoch scandal started to break, one of the first things we saw was that his PAC was donating heavily to the Blue Dogs. Find a scandal or an outrage in any newspaper and you'll find a source of contributions to the Blue Dogs-- though never to the CPC. Members dues, meager, go to pay a single staffer and for some office supplies.

Raúl sees the CPC was a vehicle to unify Congress' disparate progressive voices and to go beyond just unifying around individual votes. He has been working diligently to assert a kind of independence from the party leadership based on solidly progressive values and principles. "We're often taken for granted," he told me. "Leadership thinks 'they have nowhere else to go'." That's why we've seen Pelosi, and especially Hoyer, making legislation and strategy more and more conservative to lure Blue Dogs and other conservatives, while basically ignoring progressives. But Raúl and Keith have forged together an inner core of nearly three dozen members who are serious about breaking away from playing the insider game that always leaves progressives coming up short.

They are building relationships with grassroots activists and advocates for the progressive agenda around the country, groups dedicated to working families, education, the environment, equality, peace... all the issues that differentiate progressives from conservatives. And they are making their members available to the media and helping give them national visibility beyond their own districts. Raúl tells me that they even plan to utilize the CPC Pac to help elect progressives in districts held by Republicans and in open districts.

Yesterday Raúl cut our chat short to get to a CPC meeting where they resolved to endorse Peter Welch's H.R. 2663, The America Pays its Bills Act. The bill calls for a clean debt ceiling vote in order to end the Republican-created Default crisis. They also resolved that "failing a timely, satisfactory legislative agreement to end the Republican-created default crisis, the CPC urges the President to use his powers granted under section 4 of the 14th amendment to raise the ceiling."



Live Chat: Blue America Welcomes Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona

When Arizona's accidental governor signed SB 1070 into law in April, Digby, John and I put up a new Blue America page, One America, dedicated to helping Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) fight back against Know Nothings and teabaggers in his state. Yesterday Congressman Grijalva met with President Obama at the White House to discuss comprehensive immigration reform and we invited him to join us for a chat below in the comments section.

Grijalva, as we explained at One America, is the chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a booming voice on behalf of working families on every issue that comes before Congress. He helped lead the fight against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, helped lead the fight against Wall Street predators and helped lead the fight for equitable health care. And he was the first to step up and speak out, at great political -- and personal -- peril, against SB 1070, urging the governor to veto what is clearly an unconstitutional bill. He even called for a boycott and pointed out that "one of the first conventions to cancel was Martin Luther King's fraternity, which would have brought up to 5,000 people. It was going to have a convention in Phoenix and within a few days of the governor's signature they canceled and moved it to Las Vegas. That should have been a harbinger of things to come for the governor and the state legislature... I find it ironic that the resort industry and Chamber of Commerce are so concerned about the loss of business, but have yet to state publicly how they feel about the law.”

There's a pattern here. 1070 was the peak of a crescendo that's been building in the state for the last five or six years.

...At some point soon one out of every three kids coming into kindergarten is going to be Latino in this state. This growing population is seen as a threat. Whether it's Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, you name it, it's just feeding and feeding. Underlying the issue of immigration here in Arizona and in other parts has been the issue of race. What 1070 did, both in Arizona and on a national level, is put the question of race front and center in the debate. It was always there, but now it's out in the open.

...We're going to look for opportunities to encourage people to come to this state, but to come with a sense that they're part of the opposition to this law, as opposed to blindly ignoring the fact that we have this law in this state. We're looking at a political change that is probably a decade away. So in the meantime what becomes the avenue to undo this law is the courts.

This year, because of his forthright stand against SB 1070, the GOP has targeted Rep. Grijalva and they and their front groups have been pouring a great deal of money into the election. This is anything but a safe seat. Although Pima and Santa Cruz counties went for Obama in 2008, Pinal, Maricopa, Yuma and La Paz counties all voted Republican. Rep. Grijalva has been popular in the district but the Republicans have their divisive engine on overdrive. Our guy doesn't whore himself out to lobbyists and corporate PACs. Digby, John and I want to ask you to consider joining us in doing what you can to retain a true tribune for ordinary working American families. That's why Raúl Grijalva is the only Member of Congress aside from Alan Grayson with his own personal Blue America page! Today marks the first of a monthly series Crooks and Liars will host with Congressman Grijalva. Help us make him feel at home.



Late Night Music Club with Blackfire

Tomorrow Blue America has our first-ever Arizona candidate, Howard Shanker, an environmental and civil rights lawyer. He does a lot of work for the native American tribes and in fact, an edgy, punk/indigenous rights band, Blackfire, has been on the campaign trail with him playing benefits and warming up the crowds at his rallies. "They're like family to me," he told us. Come meet Howard at Firedoglake tomorrow at 11am (PT) and enjoy Blackfire's "It Ain't Over" tonight:




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