Blue America Welcomes Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-IL)

We all often talk about how crucial it is that our political leaders have some kind of inbuilt empathy system for the ordinary working families whose interests they're supposed to be serving. The alternative, as we've seen, is a kind of self-absorbed Ayn Rand Republicanism or, closer to home, the Blue Dogs and New Dems. That's why Blue America is so vigilant about congressional races wherever and whenever they happen. And the next congressional race coming up is for the seat Jesse Jackson, Jr. resigned from, IL-02, with a primary on February 26 and a general election April 9. The second district is very Democratic-- Obama beat Romney 80.7-18.5% and Jackson, who was hospitalized for the entire campaign, was reelected with 63%-- and the winner of the primary next month is all but assured a seat in Congress. Although there are nearly two dozen people running, the two front-runners are progressive state Senator Toi Hutchinson and self described "conservative Democrat" former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson. It's a majority African American district and Halvorson's hope has been getting as many African-Americans as possible to run to split the vote so she could sneak back into Congress.

Seeking to gauge exactly what kind of empathy we could expect from a Congresswoman Hutchinson, she told us about her grandfather who passed away a few months ago. "He started his career as a door-to-door World Book Encyclopedia salesman. He worked hard, and saved his money so he would have something to leave his children, but he lost almost everything in the financial collapse of 2008. It’s critical that we hold people accountable for our current economic collapse, but I’m grateful that he was able to stay in his home because of his veterans’ benefits and Social Security. I know how important those programs were to our family when my grandfather was passing, and I’ll never support any kind of cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security that are so critical to so many people."

That's exactly the kind of Representatives we need in Congress. That kind of core attitude manifests itself across a wide spectrum of issues that Members of Congress have to deal with. Let's take the gun safety issues roiling the political elites right now. Sen. Hutchinson is on board with Obama's proposals, of course, but she knows that isn't the solution to a very real problem. "I am a cosponsor," she told us this week, "on two bills in Illinois that would outlaw assault weapons and high capacity clips, but that’s not enough. I know that kids on the South Side of Chicago aren’t being shot by AR-15s. We need to have a larger conversation about how our politics and our government are letting down poor communities that suffer every day under the yoke of violence. The source of crime and violence is hopelessness-- it is a generation of young people that doesn’t see a future, and view crime and gangs as the only path to supporting themselves. It is a generation of young men that can’t find work or a place to live, and crime becomes their only option."

Last two times Halvorson ran-- first against Republican challenger Adam Kinzinger who beat her 58-42% and then, after redistricting, in a primary against Jackson last year she lost 71-29%, voters telling her they weren't interested in her kind of corporately-oriented conservative politics. Fellow corporately funded New Dems in DC are pushing her candidacy again this year. Blue America has endorsed Toi Hutchinson and she will be joining us today for a live chat in the comments section (below) at 1pm (CT). If you'd like to help us raise some campaign money for her, please go to the special election page we set up on ActBlue.

Will Halvorson vote with the Democratic leadership on most bills? Sure... but will she fight for progressive values and issues? She never did when she was in Congress before and there's no reason to think she's any better now. She has a record; it isn't very good. Toi has a record too-- and it's a lot better. She worked with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to make their state "the first state in the country to mandate the testing of rape kits within 10 days of submission so that survivors of sexual assault can build their case in court. And while the State of Illinois was shredding the safety net in the name of fiscal discipline, I fought to pass a new tax on strip clubs that directed proceeds to help victims of domestic violence get back on their feet."



Blue America Welcomes Dr. David Gill (D-IL)

Blue America was the first national group to endorse Ilya Sheyman and we were sad that the DCCC and other DC conservatives were able beat him in the primary last month. But we were as happy as can be that just to the southeast of his district, another outstanding movement progressive, Dr. David Gill, turned back those same forces and triumphed the same night that Ilya faltered. Hopefully Ilya will run again and win-- and be greeted on the steps of Congress by David Gill, who has run several times already. Sometimes, as we saw with Donna Edwards and Alan Grayson, it takes more than one try.

Illinois' newly redrawn 13th congressional district is very different from the one Dr. Gill has run in previously. It's a D+1 district that voted for Obama by 11 points. But his opponent, conservative Republican Tim Johnson, David told us, "is still voting like he’s in his old 60-40 Republican district. He’s now voted for the extreme Ryan plan to end Medicare twice. He refused last summer to vote to raise the debt ceiling, an action that was necessary because of his votes for Bush’s wars and tax cuts for the rich. He’s been in Congress for six terms and he’s a 40-year politician. He’s out of touch with the district."

David is a 20 year member of Physicians For a Single Health Payer Plan. "I became interested in running because of what I see on a daily basis in the health care industry as an ER doctor. We have a two-tiered system of access to healthcare in America and, frankly, the American health care system is failing a lot of people." But if health care was got him interested in running originally, he's as far from a one-issue candidate as you'll find.

"Health care is one symptom of many. There are many areas impacted by our corporate governance. Retirement security, jobs, healthcare, education and restoring the health of our planet are all areas where private interests are trumping the public good in Congress. People get to Washington, spend too much time around corporate lobbyists and suddenly forget that Social Security is in better financial health than the Federal budget that’s been decimated by Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest. They forget that Climate Change is the biggest crisis we are facing today, not the deficit. They forget that we have a jobs crisis to fix. They’ve forgotten that government should be working to solve problems for regular people."

David will be joining us here (in the comments section, below) for a live chat today at 1pm (CT), 11am on the West Coast. He's a fighter for all the values and all the principles Blue America stands for. Congress will be a far better place if he's elected. Please consider helping him replace Tim Johnson with a contribution to his campaign.

And David was an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq. He's also opposed to the continued occupation of Afghanistan. "I’ve come to the realization the past few years that our presence in Afghanistan has outlived its usefulness. It’s time to end our mission there and get our troops out of harm’s way as soon as possible."

He can win this race and bring a healthy dose of Prairie State populism to Washington. Although the corrupt Illinois Machine is still unreconciled to his victory over their candidate, last week a former area congressman and member of the Progressive Caucus, Phil Hare, gave him a ringing endorsement.

"I support David Gill because I know he will have the courage to stand up to Wall Street and fight for middle-class Illinoisans everyday. David will make sure millionaires pay their fair share and he'll be a strong voice for working men and women in the progressive tradition of my friend (and former boss) Lane Evans.

David Gill knows what it's like to roll up your sleeves and work hard. He comes from a working-class family. When his father died, David started working as a dishwasher at 13 to help support his family. David worked stocking shelves to pay his way through college at U of I. He mopped floors at a laundromat in the middle of the night to put himself through medical school.

I trust David to be a passionate voice for middle-class people. I know David will protect the rights of workers. And who better than an ER doctor like David Gill to block the Republicans’ attempts to end Medicare as we know it? The bottom line is this: Illinois families need David Gill in Congress."

David just defeated a DCCC and New Democrat-backed congressional challenger who outspent him 5-1. He ran a strictly grassroots, people-powered campaign and he won without compromising his progressive values. as you can see in the video above. "I was willing to stand up and fight back against the Republican War on Women and special interest-domination of Congress and the residents of IL-13 responded and were willing to put their trust in me."

Let's make sure the primary victory turns into a big win in November. Please consider giving what you can.



Live Chat: Blue America Welcomes Ilya Sheyman, D-Illinois

The first time I mentioned Ilya Sheyman, the progressive Democrat running for the northern Chicago suburban seat held by GOP freshman Robert Dold, it was in a long and rambling post lashing out against conventional wisdom. When I finally got to Ilya, former Field Director for Democracy for America and, more recently, National Mobilization Director at MoveOn, who Blue America was urging to run against Dold, he quoted Paul Wellstone to me:

“Politics is not just about power and money games, politics can be about the improvement of peoples lives, about lessening human suffering in our world and bringing about more peace and more justice.”

Candidates with this kind of mindset are candidates Blue America is looking for to help solve the country's problems. That's why we're enthusiastic about endorsing him today and why we'd like to invite you to meet him in the live forum in the comments section below.

Until Dold's vote to phase out Medicare and replace it with a pathetic voucher system so that the wealthiest Americans get more tax breaks, not many people had heard of him outside the 10th CD between Arlington Heights and Waukegan. But that triggered an angry reaction at Dold's town hall meeting in Buffalo Grove last week and now Dold has become another right-wing poster boy for Paul Ryan's dystopian vision of a mean, dark, reactionary America.

Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) cut a presentation on the federal deficit short at a town hall meeting he held last week, after audience members began firing questions at him about the Ryan budget and its changes to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Social Security, according to the Chicago newspaper the Daily Herald.

Senior citizens in the audience expressed their discontent with turning Medicare into a voucher program, calling the change a “shell game” that would bog senior citizens down with uncertainty in dealing with private healthcare companies.

And senior citizens are getting to know Dold better now that he's been in Congress for 4 months. He may be trying to hide his support for dismembering Medicare but he's surprisingly open about his contempt for Social Security and what he insists is the need to trim it back. Dold has been the perfect little rubber stamp for the radical House leadership, buying into all their harebrained schemes. "Rep. Dold and the right wing of the Republican Party," Ilya confirmed "are hell-bent on dismantling Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and eliminating the foundations of the American Dream that have made millions of middle-class lives possible-- and we can't let them get away with it... The fact that he continues to advocate for cuts in Social Security benefits shows just how out of touch he is with the voters of the 10th District [and] his vote for the radical Republican budget that ends Medicare in order to give tax breaks to giant corporations and the wealthiest 2% of Americans should put to rest any notion that he actually cares about the deficit."

A few weeks ago a staffer for a DCCC-approved candidate called and asked if Blue America would endorse him. I asked to speak with him and, embarrassed, the staffer said he isn't familiar enough with the issues to speak with the media yet but he's learning them. That's not the kind of candidates Blue America is looking for and that's about as far from what Ilya Sheyman is all about as you can be. "I am in this race," he told us, "because I believe that government and politics are about doing good. They're about helping every man, woman, and child with a dream-- and the willingness to work for it-- achieve his or her potential... I'm sick and tired of a Democratic Party that on issue after issue seems to pre-negotiate, pre-triangulate, and pre-capitulate rather than standing up for the progressive values we know make a difference in real people's lives." This is what he's been doing as a grassroots activist for years. We need people like Ilya in Congress to save us from Beltway Democrats who are chosen by the Establishment for one reason and one reason only: an ability to self-fund campaigns-- i.e., whore themselves out to corporate interests. That isn't Ilya:

"I can't wait to organize together with grassroots advocates in our community, and allies inside Congress, to pass a real jobs bill that will put millions of Americans back to work and pave the way to a new green energy economy.

"Rep. Jan Schakowsky's 'Fairness in Taxation Act' is a model of the kind of progressive legislation we should be fighting for, and I'm eager to work alongside her to bring back fairness to our tax code so we can invest in America again."

Dold was caught asking the Tea Party to not publicly endorse him in the general election because it could blow his cover as a fake moderate. Since getting into Congress with a narrow 51-49% win, in a district Obama won with 61% in 2008, Dold has blown his own cover, voting for Ryan's toxic budget, voting to renew the Patriot Act and just marching along in lockstep to everything John Boehner and Eric Cantor wanted him for. This time Chicagoland voters get a real choice. Please help us welcome Ilya to the Blue America family and, if you can, please contribute to his campaign through our ActBlue page.

An active admirer of Raul Grijalva's and Keith Ellison's Put America Back To Work Act, Ilya will be working inside the Progressive Caucus helping to advance real solutions for working families. It's what he';s campaigning on and it's what has drawn him into politics. And it's why Blue America has endorsed him.



Late Night Music Club with Red Smear

Today's NY Times made it clear that the WGA strikers were the stars of last night's Golden Globes ceremony-- and that NBC just did a bumbling and inauthentic job in presenting a situation that wasn't pre-packaged or TV-simple. Blue America collaborators, Iowa-based band Red Smear and award-winning film makers Traveling Light Media, put together this song and video for us. It looks like Red Smear will be traveling up to Illinois to play at a labor rally for John Laesch and then to Ohio to do one for Vic Wulsin.




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