Blue America Welcomes Back Our Old Friend, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy

You may have noticed, that with the exception of Alan Grayson, there haven’t been any incumbents on the Blue America endorsement list this year– at least not until now. Ohio freshman, Mary Jo Kilroy, who we worked so hard to elect in 2008 and who has been such a stand-up progressive fighter is, like Grayson, under severe attack from the GOP. And the DCCC has taken a hands-off approach so far. Today Mary Jo is joining us for a live blogging session below in the comments forum and Congressional Progressive Caucus chairman Raúl Grijalva has offered to personally match every donation up to a thousand dollars we can raise for Mary Jo on our Blue America page this afternoon. I hope you’ll chip in what you can.

Most readers here have probably heard most recently about Mary Jo because of the letter that she drafted, with the help of Grijalva and Grayson, to prevent the Cat Food Commission from trying to balance the budget on the backs of Social Security recipients. But that kind of legislative attitude is what regularly made Mary Jo Kilroy such a valuable leader for ordinary working families– and, of course, a target for the special interests and their Republican allies. Normally she and Grayson are hard at work inside the House Financial Services Committee looking out for the interests of ordinary middle class families, instead of the bankers and special interests lobbyists who feel so very entitled to be served by that committee. (Her opponent, Steve Stivers, I might add, is not just a close ally of John Boehner’s, he’s also a career-long banking lobbyist eager to repeal Wall Street Reform.)

This week Stivers and Boehner were hysterical over a widely popular bill Mary Jo wrote, the Medical Debt Relief Act, which is meant to prevent credit bureaus from using paid off or settled medical debt against consumers seeking car loans, home mortgages and the like. The problems addressed have affected nearly 72 million working-age adults who have some sort of medical debt listed on their credit reports. The bill passed unanimously through mark up. The bill passed unanimously in the Committee; not even the worst reactionary Wall Street shills dared to vote against it– and it should have passed by a voice vote but Boehner, sensing the House was about to give Mary Jo a big legislative win, decided to cause problems, and placed a hold on the bill requiring Republicans and Democrats to negotiate whether or not a recorded vote would be necessary. The Republican Study Committee then got into the act claiming the bill would have all sorts of false unintended consequences, straight up fabricating a rationale for Republicans to vote against it. Mary Jo swung into action and beat back Boehner’s purely partisan attempts to destroy the much needed legislation. More Republicans voted with Mary Jo (87) than with Boehner (81) and the bill passed with a huge bipartisan majority, 336-82.

Since being elected, Mary Jo Kilroy played a very active role in crafting Wall Street reform regulations. She authored key provisions, including one that would end the credit rating bureau’s ability to stamp AAA ratings on junk mortgage assets by putting serious penalties on them for approving bad assets. She was one of the key players and proponents in ensuring a strong Consumer Financial Protection Board and she was one of two freshmen to serve on the Wall Street Reform Conference Committee where she fought behind the scenes against the Senate for greater consumer protections. Along with Obama’s new chief of staff, Peter Rouse, she was the first Member of Congress to call for Elizabeth Warren to head the CFPB.

Stivers, who she beat in 2008 by less than 2,000 votes, is being financed by the banking industry and by all kinds of right-wing special interests eager to take out Mary Jo. Currently he has $1,242,961 in his warchest to her $933,626 (figures as of the June 30 FEC report). He’s part of the disgraced GOP Young Guns program and they, along with GOP front groups, are funneling large amounts of money into this key race. Almost all the Democrats likely to lose in November are Blue Dogs who have courted failure by voting with the GOP and betraying the base. Mary Jo– like Carol Shea-Porter and Alan Grayson– are the exceptions. The nature of their GOP-leaning districts and their refusal to back away from middle class values and Democratic principles are what has made them targets for the far right. Last weekend the Columbus Post Dispatch had this to say about the race:

Unlike many other Democrats elected in swing districts, Kilroy did not shy away from taking liberal positions on issues. She was an enthusiastic backer of President Barack Obama’s health-care reforms and economic-stimulus package, voting to raise the debt ceiling to accommodate the spending. And she played a key role in crafting tough new regulations on Wall Street practices.

Kilroy’s supporters say she fits the profile of a hard-working, policy-oriented freshman. Backers of Republican rival Steve Stivers, however, say Kilroy has consistently sided with liberal interests in Washington, ignoring the centrist nature of a district that includes parts of Columbus, its western suburbs and rural Madison and Union counties.

Stivers wants this year’s election to be a referendum on Kilroy’s policies, particularly on the economy and federal spending. Kilroy wants it to be a referendum on Stivers himself and what he represents– seven years as a top lobbyist for a banking company.

“People in the 15th (district) have a very clear choice,” Kilroy said. “They can vote for someone who spent a career as a banking lobbyist and supported the kinds of policies that led to the recession and ‘too big to fail,’ or they can support someone who has been a watchdog and an advocate for the middle class. I think it makes a difference that people know I’m on their side.”


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