It would be every easy to say politics are black and white, especially in today’s climate. R vs D! Blue vs Red! You are wrong! I am right! With our elected leaders in Washington playing this out over and over and over again while President Obama goes gray.
Because of the “Top Two” primary system in California my home district, the 25th, is without a Democrat candidate. State Senator Steve Knight or Tony Stickland appear on my ballot, both with a big, fat “R” next to their names. There is no option to write-in a candidate. Either I check a box, or I don’t.
I’ve decided to check the box for Tony Strickland.
I’m not going to lie to you and say this is a candidate I’m thrilled with, and not just because he’s a Republican. However, he’s the only candidate running who has decided to run towards local Democrats instead of run away from them. Is Strickland running towards me and those like me simply to get our votes…you betcha. And believe me, I’m not naive’. I see it clearly. But at least he’s running.
He has changed his positions and even flip-flopped entirely in order to become the more moderate candidate in this race. When I asked him about this, he was as honest as a politician can be. He told me not only has he evolved on some issues but he also sees the numbers in the district (showing Democrats now have more registered voters than Republicans) and the district’s diversity.
Smart man. Smart staff. Smart campaign.
In order to survive for any length of time, if he wants to be the next Congressman McKeon and serve FOREVER (which is clearly what Strickland wants) he has no choice but to take a more moderate stance on issues.
Eventually the Dems in the area will get organized, will have the national party backing, and will give whichever candidate wins on Tuesday a rough fight for office. The numbers and feet on the ground working show this is all but inevitable.
That means Tuesday’s winner needs to court 25th moderates from both sides, make good on bipartisanship in DC, and be ready to run on that record come 2016.
Knight may have some bipartisan clout in his years in Sacramento, but all of his bipartisan work is very noncontroversial. Things like help for Veterans bills, money for our runaway production problems, aerospace job incentives. All very worthy causes to be sure…but nothing that shows he is truly bipartisan. I’ve poured over his record and I don’t see anything that says ‘hey, I’m willing to be YOUR guy in DC if the issue really is important to my district and even if my party thinks the other way on that issue.’
There is also a vote on Knight’s record that may be of GREAT interest to those in town looking to defeat Measure S. Yes, you are reading right…Knight voted for those paid petition
blockers* edited Nov. 2, 11:42pm GATHERERS. .
Then I look at Strickland’s record and there are a lot of the same votes on things that disturb me greatly…the same votes Knight had…especially on LGBTQ issues. But here’s the difference: Strickland says he’s evolved and wouldn’t support those things again. The same with things related to health care; pre-existing conditions, contraception being covered, maternity leave, etc. Knight’s record shows several more of these types of votes that take these issues further, but you can’t compare them side-by-side as they served different years, with just a few overlapping.
Knight isn’t and hasn’t budged on these issues.
At least not that I can find. You can call that integrity, if you like. He’s sticking to his guns (and guns, ok…there IS A DIFFERENCE on this one too! Knight has the backing of the GOA, which is even more extreme than the NRA-if that’s even possible-BOTH of which are unhappy with Strickland because while he’s very pro 2nd, he actually has some limits, not many…but some) Or you can call it plan old stupidity for refusing to move on issues this district and the entire nation have moved on. We’re sending you there to represent all of us. ALL of us. He simply points out he has, and I can confirm, worked across the aisle on legislation and will continue to do so in DC. But again, all of that across the aisle legislation are things anyone would support, and did. And there is ample evidence that when he tries to step out of line and be a rebel, he’s pulled back in and when told to sit down and shut up…and he has allegedly bowed to that pressure.
Strickland, on the other hand, has gone against his party and even Knight head-to-head on controversial issues and gone Left, despite any threat of consequence from the party. You’ll find that in his votes on renewable energy and on things like siding with Dems and the Humane Society in banning the use of dogs in bear hunting and upholding a ban on the sale of shark fins. Strickland told me he’s ‘an animal guy.’ And he’s a ‘renewable energy guy.’ We’ll see. But it’s true he was pressured by his own party NOT to sue then Gov. Gray Davis, but did it anyway. He was pressured to vote against the bear hunting ban and several green initiatives on energy. Controversial issues where he made a stand, NOT bipartisan ones.
I also need to point out a stark difference between the two when it comes to abortion. While these are Republicans we are dealing with, Knight refuses to even allow for abortion in the case of rape, incest, or health of the mother. This is important because it’s going to become a national fight. 22 states have enacted 70 abortion restrictions in 2013 alone, and there is evidence if the Senate is won over by the GOP come Tuesday, abortion is high on the list of top priorities for Congress.
Say hello to my new favorite word: VETO.
The Knight campaign is currently hitting on Strickland’s willingness to change in order to become elected as a weakness, which in a primary to see which Republican would advance, this would be great. But this isn’t a primary, and if either candidate expects to represent the ENTIRE 25th, they need to understand there are more than conservative Republicans in town. Strickland seems to get this and has changed his campaign from the moment he was running vs. another R. Knight has kept things status quo and is running as the “true” conservative on the ballot. Not exactly a wide appeal for those of us left out in the cold by top two.
There is also the matter of the people each campaign has chosen to keep around as staff, volunteers, and surrogates. While Strickland’s staff has been open to listening to myself and other Democrats, Knight’s staff (and paid surrogates, paid advocates, etc) not only rebuke any and all ‘lefty’ events, they are openly hostile to us. Paid Knight guy Joe Messina is a birther who uses his radio infomercial (he pays for it to air on our local station) to give a platform to designated hate groups like the Pacific Institute of Justice and the American Family Association. Knight has also brought on board Santa Clarita City Councilmember Dante Acosta, who’s table I sat directly next to during the Chamber debate at the Hyatt. Let’s just say I overheard things that made me want to get up out of my chair and pour my iced tea over his head as he cracked a comment everytime Strickland talked about bipartisanship. There is also Knight’s endorsement of minuteman Tim Donnelly. And we can not forget his vote to keep the confederate flag, when the entire world was telling him just how insensitive and stupid it was.
In my quest to have both candidate address community leaders from the left side of the aisle, I cannot help but think these folks have stalled any headway I made with my impeccable resume in making sure conservatives are treated fairly in such meetings or opportunities. But you see, this good ‘ol boys club didn’t even look at my credentials or do an opposition research check on me- something a ton of campaigns much bigger and much more important than there’s have done and then easily allowed me to coordinate an event.
Strickland, as you know, accepted the invite because he’s been unafraid and has sought out Democrats in this district in order to explain he is now looking to be everyone’s congressman, not just the white conservative guy’s. His team also did their homework on me.
It’s not lost on me Strickland may be making us local Dems promises he won’t keep. But, at the very least, he’s the only one making them and giving us a shot. Coming from a politician it may not be much, but it’s more than I’m getting from the other side.
Which leads me to some research I did on my own. Some things no one else would know around here. I actually called or emailed all of my RNC and GOP-tied contacts in DC and asked them about both candidates. I needed to know if they were liked, if they had any power (rare for a freshman Congressperson) and if they were moderate/extreme/otherwise.
In each instance the person knew who Tony Strickland was, said he was a nice guy, but that he was your typical politician with some very powerful friends. All called him moderate.
Not a single one knew who Steve Knight was and when a few spent the time to research, on my behalf, he was categorized as ‘tea party’ and ‘the reason we’re losing in our minority and female outreach’ and ‘oh man Erin this guy must drive you nuts.’ See…they know me.
Strickland, I can verify, won’t be your average freshman. He has an actual chance to get some things done in his two years. He has told me he, very badly, wants to get a bipartisan basketball pick-up game with the President. We both agree this would be a great way to break bread and try to build a bipartisan relationship. I even promised I would put in a good word. Mostly because I really want an invite. And yeah, yeah, all that peace love and let’s do this together stuff too…I swear.
Bottom line? Strickland is a career politician who has morphed into a candidate hoping to appeal to everyone and who has offered me and other 25th district progressives a seat at his table. His polished campaign understands the writing is on the wall for hard core conservatives around here, and they are adjusting accordingly. Clearly they want to position themselves for 2016 when Dems WILL turn out in droves.
Knight is a far-right, NONpolitiican politician who is only bipartisan on the easy issues everyone supports and says we can all call his cell because he ‘loves to hear from voters.’
I don’t need a man who loves to just hear from voters, I need a man who takes the other side seriously and will consider and in some rare cases implement our policy issues. While I admire his consistency, it also shows he’s tone-deaf to the rest of the 25th. Couple that with his confederate flag/Donnelly endorsement and his local embracing of extremists birthers and more…I will be voting Strickland to keep Knight from taking that ideology to DC.
Strickland has already laid the groundwork in DC to walk in and be able, as a freshman, to say no to his party when needed. Knight won’t even have the option. No one in DC gives a shit if some city council member, mayor or school board member birther has his back and ‘wants things’ when he sits down in Congress. They will not know who those people are will laugh at him for thinking they matter.
Strickland is also giving Dems in his district a voice and the opportunity to educate him on LGBTQ issues and more.
It’s entirely possible this will bite me in the ass and he’s doing nothing but lying to me. And it’s entirely possible Knight will prove me wrong, and if elected embrace the diversity of the district and be more than a puppet for the more powerful in DC. I would love nothing more than to be shown I was 110% WRONG on Knight and if he goes to DC he will allow Democrats from the 25th a voice and do what the majority of his constituents want, not just what he and the local powers want. Please, by all means…show me I’m wrong. I will happily and with total glee apologize and jump into advocating our side to our new Congressman.
However I can not take the chance on a man who currently won’t even attend a Democratic function and will not budge on his views.
So I’m taking the chance Tony Strickland, who has promised me to my face we WILL have a voice.
The stakes are just too high.
Get out and vote on Tuesday, and instead of sitting out the two bubbles to fill in for this race, fill yours in for Strickland. You owe it to not only every woman you know simply over reproductive rights, but you owe it to your LGBTQ friends who will have a shot at educating an evolving man- not one who’s mind is made up. You also owe it the people of color in your life who clearly hear the dog-whistle of Donnelly and the confederate flag vote. You owe it to make sure the local good ‘ol boys understand they are a dying breed. And you owe it to yourself, because you deserve the chance to have a seat at a table, one the other side, has shunned you from.
Again, prove me wrong Sen. Knight. If you win on Tuesday, prove me wrong. You’ll see a blog post praising your actions.
But in the meantime I’m going with the man giving me and mine a chance, even if it means I’m taking a chance on my part…
Vote Tony Strickland and join me in holding his feet to the fire. For all of us.