No really. It’s going to happen. And it REALLY does not get any more scary than voting GOP.
Here in California’s 25th district we Democrats got the short end of the stick in our new ‘top two’ primary system. Yup, I have two Republicans to choose from and zero…count ’em…zero Democrats.
There is no write-in. There is no ‘none of the above.’ There is no other choice.
There is only vote, or don’t vote. (I’m dying to try a Yoda line here…)
And I really can not stand the idea of abstaining. I know many of you Dems think this is the way to go and that’s your choice. However I feel if I don’t use my vote, a more extreme candidate will get into Congress. I need the guy who will do the least amount of damage in two years. I need the guy who might, maybe, kinda, think about listening to me and MY issues and ideas and beliefs. I need the guy who is open to change.
Yes, I still believe in Hope and Change.
The problem? Figuring out which candidate fits this description.
So me being, well, ME, I began a quest in late August to get both candidates to sit down with women Democrats. That was the initial idea. Hey, it’s what I did before Lupus starting taking my organs so I figured I had the street cred. If I can sit down with the President, his senior staff, get his wife to blog, bring conservative bloggers to the White House, get the RNC to have THEIR Congresswomen blog AND participate in talks with bloggers, arrange meet and greets with elected officials and bloggers…I could do this, right?
The difference? This wasn’t for ‘work.’ This is for my hometown. My household. My district. MY OBAMACARE. My Reproductive RIGHTS. My wanting to punch in the nose every politician *cough* GOP *cough* responsible for opposing every.single.thing. MY President has attempted to accomplish since day one. Yes, day one and the infamous meeting while Barack Hussein Obama was putting his hand on the Bible and taking the oath of office.
Unfortunately, by about mid-October they still didn’t have much of a desire to meet with me and my merry band of nose punchers. (they know I kid… I didn’t even flick their arms!)
So despite being in the midst of a round of IVIG I dragged my sorry butt to a local debate between the two. I made a point of speaking to them both, reminding them I had been pestering them and their staff (and wives) via FB, email and voicemail- and then launched into my credentials again so they knew they would be in good hands, regardless.
As anyone I’ve worked with will tell you, I’m over the TOP fair to the political types…to the point of driving my bosses nuts. However, look at it from their point of view. In the case of my job, many of these elected officials see only the ‘bad’ in social media and it scares them. They can’t control the message. They certainly can’t control the comments. The Internet can be a rough place. So I always, always allow the elected officials to lead and go with what they and their staff are most comfy with. My pitch to Strickland and Knight was the same- I’d even offered to give them the questions ahead of time (something Knight totally laughed at…bonus points for him…but he still wouldn’t commit) -Anything. Because not only would these two be walking into my blogging world but also (hopefully) into a group of left leaning folk (I ended up with a few men).
Finally, I’m thrilled to say, after meeting me in person at the debate and hearing my resume, the Strickland camp accepted. I tried at the same debate with Knight, but he just wasn’t so sure yet. I can’t blame the guy. I’m just as passionate in person as I am online and I don’t think anyone from his staff was nearby to save him when I cornered, I mean, approached him. But I did follow up with both right after and had Strickland scheduled for an intimate gathering at my home. Still no reply from Knight.
With the day now here, and Knight still not responding, I gathered 8-10 Democrat or left leaning community members who are influencers … people from various backgrounds and sectors that could then take the message back, word of mouth or via their own social media, should they be so moved by the candidate. LGBTQ, Business, Moms… you get the idea.
I put out some waters next the photo of President Obama and I (what???? oh come on I HAD TO) and near one of my boxes of White House M&Ms (I had to do that too, I just had to) made sure the kids were busy with legos and we greeted Tony Strickland, Republican, as he walked in my door.
We kicked things off with the very influential Leah aka @bookieboo who grilled Tony (I get to call him Tony now…which is nice because Newt insisted on MR. GINGRICH and Congressman Buck McKeon – the one retiring that these guys want to replace- prefers Congressman, if he’s even listening…and don’t even get me started on Mr. Speaker…but boy was it much nicer when it was MADAME SPEAKER) on GMO labeling and farmers.
GMO LABELING, ORGANIC FARMING: To the room’s surprise Tony said he would be entirely open to a federal standard for GMO labeling and would seriously look into it- asking very sharp questions about Europe’s standards and other states and what they have done and he thought it made a lot of sense to know what is in our food. Leah then went on to explain how family farms can have a hard time, almost impossible, going from using pesticides to organic, and there is a HUGE demand for organic. So much so that we have to bring it in from other countries. Which sucks, when we could totally corner the market here and supply our own. There is a three year period where, apparently, the family farm soil has to literally just sit and the farm has zero income. Something the majority of family farms these days simply can not handle financially. So she wanted to know if Tony would consider any sort of federal funds or subsidies to help these farmers make the jump to organic farming. Turns out, Tony would consider it- but in a pilot program. Something he thought might be smarter to start with before really committing a ton of money. And again, he would absolutely look into it and thought a pilot program was a good start.
LGBTQ: We then moved on to LGBTQ issues. Now, there was some flack around these parts because the candidates were asked during a forum to raise their hand if they would support ENDA. Everyone but Tony raised their hand. Causing a total uproar. So Tony told us, under no uncertain terms, he has ‘evolved’ just like President Obama on the issue. And the ENDA hand raising thing- he says he hadn’t read the bill, and he had been burned before on that sort of question and didn’t want to commit to something he had not read. He also, very savvily for this Dem crowd, talked about speaking with others who had told him this version of ENDA was very watered down and from what he understood many LGBTQ activists weren’t happy about it (totally true) and wanted STRONGER legislation.
Then we got to the nitty gritty. Marriage. He said he stops short of ‘marriage.’ YET believes in total equality…just not the whole ‘marriage’ word. He wants equals rights, allegedly, but not under the term ‘marriage.’ Now, we all know that many rights come along with that word under the law. Many same-sex couples can not have simply because of that word. However Tony said he wants those couples to have all those rights, he just stops short at the ‘marriage’ word. He admitted to me at the debate this was his own, personal issue and he knows he’s evolving. He said (D) Speaker Perez (gay) teases him that he will get him that last step…so of course I told him I’d be right there too…pushing. We also got into religious exemptions and how that would work. He agreed no one should ever lose their job because of their race, sexual orientation, etc. But he did say where the crux maybe is when someone is hired to say, teach Jewish theology and they have an issue doing the work because of their beliefs. He said that’s where it gets tricky and he could see, in that particular type of case, where the law would need to also help the employer. However the janitor or whomever should be protected- even in religious universities, etc. (Needless to say some in the room still want total clarification on this issue because we got very detailed)
GRIDLOCK: I then had to jump in and ask about the current climate in Washington and gridlock. Because so help me if I see another straight up and down ‘we will vote against anything the President puts out there’ from the GOP I will tear all of my hair out and SEND IT TO TONY along with photo of my bald head and a bill for my blood pressure meds. Will he be in lockstep with his party? – Tony says no, and his record shows it. And he’s right, he has gone against his party numerous times, notably on green energy and they weren’t very happy with him when he sued Gov. Gray Davis back in the day. He could easily tell us 6-7 instances where he did, in fact, go against his party and said he would not be afraid to do the same in DC.
DC POWER: Which lead us to what sort of pull he might have as a Freshman Congressman in DC. Turns out, Tony’s got some pull. He says he’s wanted on several committees already (including the coveted Armed Service committee) and he has friends in DC on both sides of the aisle. In other words, he won’t be your typical Freshman with zero contacts and zero pull. He compared himself to his challenger and said while it’s important to be close to your local elected leaders to take their concerns to DC, the powers in DC really are not going to care what the mayor of Santa Clarita thinks while they vote on federal issues.
EDUCATION: We moved on to education. He said he believes California has failed the kids around here and we must do better. He also agreed that kids will only learn if they feel safe, and talked very personally about bullying and supporting anti-bullying measures. We heard a very touching story about his daughter and how it made him realize how important it was that children LIKE going to school and not FEAR or have worries when trying to learn.
LOCAL YOUTH: This lead to a question about the youth in our area. With the comment being made it seems all they do is ‘heroin and screw up on social media.’ Tony talked about how as a Congressman it was up to locals to support nonprofits and things like the Boys and Girls Club- but said as the Congressman for the area he would be active in making sure these places are supported and committing himself to helping out. He mentioned he helped out with ‘gamers’ (hey, that’s my family) and setting up some gaming spots in our district, along with his various sports projects. The guy is like 6’5” so…lots of basketball people. In fact, one of his goals if elected is to play basketball with the President. He wants this pick up game, bad. From one basketball player to another… I can tell. And I have to admit, a bipartisan pick up game with the President sounds like a good way to break bread. I just really want an invite too. (hint, hint)
GUNS: We then got into the 2nd amendment. This got interesting. Tony said he’s very pro-2nd, as one would expect, but he has been in trouble with local NRA groups for not going far enough. But he doesn’t think you need a tank or grenades. He said he really wants to explore the mental health issue tied to this- because he believes if we can get a hold of that, we can solve a lot of these violence problems. The room then, of course, got very detailed- where does he draw the line on weapons. He wasn’t entirely sure, having been told by experts (he does not own a gun, but supports those who do) that many of these weapons you can simply change out one part and they are legal again. He does know that military style tank and crazy over the top stuff doesn’t need to be in your arsenal. Something local NRA groups are taking exception too.
CONTRACEPTION & ABORTION: And then came some of the biggies.. contraception, abortion… the ones that usually divide a room in two in seconds. Turns out Tony told us he’s fine with ALL forms of contraception- even the ones cited in the Hobby Lobby case and their availability. He says he’s pro-life, and has also evolved on this issue, as he believes in terminating a pregnancy if it occurs by rape, incest, or could endanger the health of the mother. He also agreed with the room when it was stated we can’t imagine anyone making that decision for our daughters but our FAMILY should the worst happen and a rape occurred. Tony said he would want that for HIS daughter, that option, and for it to not be in the hands of the government.
EQUAL PAY: Tony also told the crowd he is FOR equal pay for equal work for women and supports it entirely.
ACA: Because Tony started his campaign on a ‘repeal Obamacare’ effort, I then had to ask the million dollar question…will he vote to repeal Obamacare? Because he has said he would when this primary began, changing his tune and taking it off his website once he began running against Knight and NOT a Democrat. I should mention other things were removed as well and his stances on issues that we discussed like this and others have changed since this campaign started. He acknowledged he’s changed and now wants to ‘fix’ health care in America, not repeal ACA…but said it’s doomed to fail if it’s not fixed. He talked about his work with a health care program for children in CA. He thinks we should all be able to take our health care with us, job to job… wherever…and it be ours, not your employer’s, etc. I said…well that’s what ACA does when you buy through the exchange, I also told him of my family’s savings and how this whole premiums going up thing is crazy because they’ve been going up since well before I had my first child in 2003. Tony said he understood and that what he sees is ACA crashing if it’s not fixed because of the high number of sick people enrolled and the lack of young people enrolled. And we talked about how to get the young enrolled and he discussed how we didn’t need someone appointed to ‘track down’ those not paying and how that system isn’t even in place. I told him well, the IRS is where you get hit so if you file taxes it’s totally in place.. I didn’t really get a response to that one. But he did say he was committed to fixing, along with the President, the bumps that come up.
I then, dead seriously, told him if he was one of those 45th or 50-whatever votes to repeal Obamacare by the House he’d have to answer to me, because so help me if I see that I would lose my every loving mind. The room giggled but anyone who knows me and I could tell Tony & his staffer knew -I was NOT joking. And you really do not want a pissed off Erin in your office and you can’t hide in DC because I will show up there too, just ask the White House.
BIPARTISANSHIP: Which leads me to our conclusion and him promising Democrats and the left a seat at the table and a voice if he’s elected. In fact, he encouraged it and seemed to be counting on us to teach him more about the LGBTQ community, which he admittedly didn’t even know what it stood for. He wants to learn. He told us we are not always going to agree, and he may not go along with what we want (he is a republican, after all) but we are invited to lobby him to see our point of view or scream at him until we’re blue in the face over a vote he may have cast. He said he has a track record of being bipartisan and finding common ground and will work hard to make sure he represents the entire district, not just the Republicans- and everyone in the room was welcomed to be part of that process should he make it to DC.
Hands were then shook, cards exchanged, the kids even popped in but suddenly they were all too shy to ask questions even though my 11-year old REALLY wanted to grill him on equality.
Now I remain sitting on pins and needles to hear from the other man in this race, State Senator Steve Knight. Should that happen at any point I will do the same and blog the entire event or his written or spoken answers to the same questions asked of Tony Strickland. And it will be posted in the same manner.
Regardless I will be making up my own mind very soon and writing a post on that specifically, and why I think one Republican deserves my vote over the other. Should the Knight answers come in AFTER my endorsement, I will STILL post them for all to see. Since I could go either way, and many others could go either way, I will post what I get no matter what. In the meantime you can visit Sen. Knight’s website and Tony Strickland’s for more details.
Now to celebrate Halloween with all the gore and upset stomach from too much candy and the added bonus of election signs on all my neighbor’s lawns. We live in scary, scary times, as I cast a ballot for a Republican.