Happy 420-- Meet Kyle Frenette

Kyle Frenette is the progressive Democrat running for the old Dave Obey seat in northern Wisconsin, currently occupied by Ryan ally Sean Duffy. Frenette is well known in the music industry as the manager of Eau Claire's Grammy-winning Justin Vernon and his band, Bon Iver. His platform includes raising the minimum wage, establishing universal healthcare and making broadband internet a public utility instead of a private luxury. And legalization of marijuana. He thought today would be an auspicious day to lay out his marijuana legalization plank. 

He's pointing out that marijuana's illegal status has caused more harm to American society than its side effects.

"Here in Wisconsin," he wrote, "I know folks who have had to go to extreme lengths to obtain marijuana legally for medicinal use or travel across state lines for a duration of time to use the drug for treatment. This shouldn’t be the case. I envision a future in which my children and their children view the federal prohibition of marijuana the same way we view the prohibition of alcohol today-- strange and unnecessary."

His points line up as sane and rational-- and workable for a rural Wisconsin district:

1- The federal legalization of marijuana would go a long way to ending the opioid epidemic in America. There is no reason marijuana should still be classified as a Schedule I drug along with heroin and ecstasy—not when cocaine, methamphetamine and most prescription opioids, like oxycodone and fentanyl are classified as Schedule II by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)... I will champion the federal legalization of marijuana to help curb the opioid epidemic and prevent more lives from being lost and families from being ripped apart."

2- Most Americans view marijuana as a relatively safe drug while too many futures are being tarnished due to its criminalization... Our current drug laws are not only counterproductive, they are also racially skewed. While marijuana use is relatively equal across all races, minorities are disproportionately singled out when it comes to drug related arrests... The case for legalization is growing every day. Once elected, I will push to legalize marijuana so that money is no longer wasted and less futures are ruined by the enforcement of unnecessary laws.

3- It’s no question that the benefits outweigh the pitfalls when it comes to the growing and selling of marijuana. Our country’s drug laws are outdated when it comes to marijuana and limit the drug’s economic potential. Economic growth due to the cultivation, sale and taxation of cannabis in states that have adopted legalization prove that it can be a high commodity.


"In Colorado alone, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012, the cannabis industry created 18,000 full-time jobs and brought in $2.4 billion in 2015. And when it comes to taxation, it’s reported that that marijuana has more than tripled tax revenue brought in by alcohol in that state. Nationally, at its current rate of state legalization, an estimated $40 billion in economic output is predicated by the year 2021 when it comes to the legal cannabis industry. Why not increase those odds with federal legalization?"

Let’s do everything in our power to elect a new generation of leaders who are not afraid to take a principled stand that is contrary to DC ‘Savvy Democrats’ who assure us the Legalization issue is meaningless (and therefore will not make it a priority when we take back the majority). Please support Kyle Frenette and our other Green Wave Democrats by giving what you can to their campaigns today.

Thanks for always doing what you can to make this a better world,

--Howie, for the entire Blue America team

Blue America Welcomes Tammy Baldwin

Every time I see Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin on TV, I forget she's a politician. She doesn't come across as one. She comes across as a friend or a neighbor who you turn to for good advice, someone who respects all points of view and doesn't have a mean bone in her body. Is she too nice to be in the polarized Senate? Her House colleagues think she's just right. And I suspect China doesn't either. Last week she even introduced a bill with Wisconsin Republican freshman Reid Ribble to shield American manufacturers from unfair trade practices in low wage Asian countries. "American manufacturers deserve our full support in combating China's relentless pattern of international trade law violations," Baldwin said. "The simple fact is China cheats."

And Wisconsin senior Senator Herb Kohl, who is retiring and has endorsed Tammy as his replacement, telling voters in his state that Tammy has strong convictions, a strong personality and "a tremendous drive to achieve things... she's going to be a model senator, a standard of what we look for... the highest and best kind of public servant."

Tammy is best known in Congress as one of the most dedicated and persistent fighters for economic justice. This month she got a great deal of press coverage when she introduced the Buffett Rule in the House. But on a day to day basis, she was working behind the scenes pushing legislative solutions for real people with real problems, usually efforts that didn't get noticed by the public. One of her colleagues on the House Energy & Commerce Committee told me that during the debate over health care reform she would never let up on a provision to allow young adults to stay on their parents' health insurance policies until they turn 26. I asked her what made her come up with that and what kind of push back she got from the Republicans on the committee?

Health care has always been a very personal issue for me. I was raised by my grandparents-- my mother was too young to raise me when I was born-- and they were there to take care of me. As a young child, I came down with a serious illness. Something like spinal meningitis. Though I made a full recovery, I had to spend three months in the hospital and many more after that in recovery care. But my grandparents, who had always relied on their family health insurance-- a good plan for the time-- came to soon learn that granddaughters are not considered dependents. Wife, yes. Daughter, yes. But no coverage for me, they were forced to pay out of pocket. And then to top it off, I was a child with a pre-existing condition.

So, I’m proud to have worked to ensure that more young people have access to insurance and affordable care. This includes the amendment I offered in committee to expand coverage for young adults, and also the work we did to eliminate pre-existing conditions for children, and soon adults. It also means that I’m a target. Let me tell you: the health insurance giants aren’t too fond of you when you take stances like these.

And the three corporate lobbyists masquerading as Republican candidates, Neumann, Thompson and Fitzgerald, have an entirely different vision than Tammy's. It's dark and it's based on Ayn Rand's Law of the Jungle politics. Only the strong survive. When I asked Tammy if her progressive vision is something that will work outside of Madison, in places like Waukesha and Ozaukee counties, she didn't miss a beat.

I’ve fought for Wisconsin values and the middle class, and these just aren’t issues in Madison. I’ve had constituents in Beloit who’ve suffered as manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas to places like China.

I traveled much of the state over the summer during our state senate recalls and as I went from Ozaukee county to Eau Claire and all across Wisconsin people told me about the same struggles they were facing: making ends meet, finding work, and taking care of their children. So, this fight-- this campaign-- is about their struggle. I’m fighting so that they can have a little extra at the end of each month to save for their daughter’s college fund. And to make it easier for that the single dad in Appleton to find meaningful work so he can quit that second job and stay home with his son a few more hours each day. That’s something that resonates and people can relate to whether I’m in Dane County or Waukesha County.

If Tammy wins in November, she will be the first woman ever elected to the United States Senate from Wisconsin. And she'll be the first openly LGBT senator ever... from anywhere. Blue America has only found three candidates this cycle we're enthusiastic enough about to endorse for the Senate: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin. What a team! Please consider contributing what you can at the Blue America ActBlue Senate page. And please join us for a live discussion with Tammy at 1pm today (CST) in the comments section below.

Blue America Welcomes Rob Zerban

There is no congressional race anywhere in the country more important than Rob Zerban's challenge to Wall Street's favorite politician, Paul Ryan. They look at Ryan and they see the perfect sieve for their entire one-percent anti-democratic agenda. And they see a future senator and president. With virtually no help from the DCCC-- which at least isn't protecting Ryan the way they have in past elections-- Rob is taking on the Republican superman who just reported the single largest House war chest in the country-- over $4 million. Rob has something else: the tumult of Wisconsin politics and the realization among workers and ordinary families there that this is for real; we are fighting for our lives and our children's lives. Please join us below in the comments section to meet Rob for yourself and ask him whatever you'd like to know about his campaign.

We've been following Ryan's ride in Congress for longer than most, and, of course, what we all wanted to know from Rob was why this year would be different from all the past years, when Ryan trounced his opponents.

I often get asked, “how are you going to beat Paul Ryan?” Ryan has incumbency, money, I am told a boyishly pretty face, and of course, he is a party boss. Previous challengers have not performed well. People ask, “what will be different.”

A big shift has taken place in the way people feel about Paul Ryan. Social Security and Medicare are “the third rail” of politics meaning you get shocked if you touch them. This happened to Ryan. While Ryan has gotten 60% support in the past, he is now polling easily in the 40s after our message is heard. Independents prefer me by a 3 to 1 margin. Ryan will move even lower because national Democrats, including President Obama, have taken a strong stand to protect retirement security and our social safety net. The more Democrats focus their fire on Ryan, the more people in the district become aware of his radical agenda. It also doesn’t help that Ryan has presided over one of the most unpopular Congresses in history with 91% disapproval.

The reason Ryan has been able to win is because he hasn’t had a strong Democratic challenger. The First District of Wisconsin was, and is, a seat Democrats can win. This district was previously represented by Democrats including Les Aspin, Clinton’s Defense Secretary, and Peter Barca who is a leading legislator now in state government. The district also supported Obama in 2008 with 52% of the vote. Ryan had opponents before that raised less than $20,000. There is nothing wrong with good people running for office, but against someone like Ryan, it takes a much larger effort than anyone can do on their own. It will take progressives across this country to come together to defeat Ryan. I believe we could have won this election in 2008 against Ryan if we had tried. I am here to make sure we don’t waste that opportunity again.

Another reason we can win is that we are running a strong campaign. Our campaign has focused on drawing these contrasts and being accessible to the people. We have had great success so far. Already in my campaign in 2011, we have outraised all previous challengers to Paul Ryan combined. We have over 7,000 supporters across the country and have earned great endorsements including that of the AFL- CIO, SEIU, and Senator Russ Feingold. I am focused on drawing clear contrasts, explaining my values, and showing voters how my plans will make their lives better.

The votes are here in Wisconsin, and I think with the recalls and our efforts to take out Ryan, we will have the energy to turn out the votes. My challenge is funding our grassroots volunteers and making sure that I take every opportunity to show contrast my ideas with Paul Ryan’s.

I don’t need unlimited money to beat Ryan. I need enough money to run my campaign. There is a big difference and I think we are on track to getting there. So far, we have raised over $500,000 from over 7,000 people. This is an incredible grassroots effort but we have a ways to go so we must grow.

I will beat Ryan because I understand what voters are looking for- experience and the right priorities. My focus is on drawing clear contrasts along both those lines. I grew up with a humble background and worked to build two companies and employ 45 people. Paul Ryan was born with many privileges and has spent a career in politics. I think people are looking for Representatives with real world experience in this economy, particularly business experience, and I have that and Ryan does not.

My focus is not just on personal qualities, but on values and priorities. Paul Ryan’s ideas are to benefit the ultrawealthy at everyone else’s expense. Ryan wants and to slash our social safety net, including seniors programs, the environment, women’s health, education, infrastructure, and economic recovery efforts-- all to give more tax breaks to the rich! My focus is on rebuilding the middle class by making critical investments into worker retraining, education, green energy, and research. I will pay for this by eliminating tax loopholes and the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and by cutting war spending. I am on the side of 99% of Americans, and Paul Ryan is only a 1% warrior. He is a man with a lot of money and no friends.

Blue America officially endorsed Rob and added him to our Blue America page. And not just because Ryan is so execrable. Rob is a self-taught progressive with his head screwed on right, who wants to do the right thing for working families and who has the right instincts to be a fine congressman. Help us shock the GOP, Wall Street, K Street and the DCCC on election day.

Blue America Endorses Tammy Baldwin!

This morning Tammy Baldwin officially announced her candidacy for the Wisconsin Senate seat being vacated by Herb Kohl. If you haven't already seen the announcement video, you should:

Tammy already has the boots on the ground - now she needs capital. Will you join us in endorsing Tammy Baldwin by giving something to her campaign today?

Because of her outstanding record in the House, Blue America immediately endorsed her Senate campaign-- just minutes after her announcement. And this isn't just a matter of a terrible alternative-- a whole gang of conservatives vying for the seat. Tammy is a proven progressive leader who doesn't hesitate to take the right stands, whether that means opposing Bush when he's wrong... or opposing Obama when he's wrong. She has been a consistent leader in ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and she's been a consistent leader in standing up for working families against the excesses of Big Business.

Because she's the first woman to have ever won a congressional seat from Wisconsin and the first openly gay person to campaign and win a House seat, Tammy is an historic figure. I imagine her presence in the Senate could be especially discomforting to right-wing hypocrites Lindsay Graham and Mitch McConnell, while she serves as a model for progressives across the country. If Wisconsin Democrats need an inspiring figure near the top of their ticket, they couldn't hope for a better one than Tammy Baldwin!

Wisconsin is the epicenter of the progressive grassroots movement, with organizing on the ground ready and able to take on the machine.  Tammy is a known leader among them and they will work their hearts out for her. But they will need our help -- the Koch Brothers aren't going to abandon their stake in the state and the Republicans who serve them will do everything to prevent a Democrat seizing the seat.

Over 400 Blue America donors have contributed to each of the Senate campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Please consider giving that kind of enthusiastic support to Tammy Baldwin as well. It would be hard to imagine that there will be any other candidates on this page this year.

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