Thursday, May 7, 2009

No Mo' Joe?

Stop the presses... (even though we haven't received the press release yet). Time Magazine is reporting - burying rather - the news that Joe the Plumber, also known as Samuel Wurzelbacher, is quitting the GOP. That's big news considering Joe became the new GOP mascot during the McCain campaign and has since advised the party during conferences and in Capitol Hill briefings.

Yes, that's right. The GOP's once "new mascot" is officially out of the GOP. Why, you ask? He thinks they "spend too much", though he can't say what he wants cut. Ain't the Republican life grand!

So who can the GOP use as their "new new mascot"? Teabaggers

CA-47: Battleground in My Backyard?

(This is the start of my multi-part series on emerging Western Congressional races in 2010.)

If we're to believe the local news reports, Democrats may actually lose a Congressional seat in Southern California. Central Orange County Assembly Member/Local GOP Power Broker Van Tran has announced he will challenge seven-term Democratic incumbent Loretta Sanchez next year. Already, Republicans are cheering victory and preparing to dance on Loretta's political grave... But are they celebrating too early?

Believe it or not, the GOP is. But how can that be? Isn't Orange County extremely conservative and Republican-friendly? Not exactly.

Overall, the county is changing and becoming less of a "red county" and more of a "swing county". But in the 47th Congressional District, we saw quite a sharp turn left in the once "swing district" now turning increasingly blue. President Barack Obama cruised to a 60-38 win in the district last November. Just in the last three years, Democrats have jumped from a meager 4% registration advantage to a much heftier 12% advantage. And of course, Loretta had no problem crushing her GOP opponent by a gigantic 69-25 margin while Van Tran struggled to defeat a Democrat with little money in his own State Assembly district by a tinier 54-46 margin. So what is The OC Register seeing that I'm not when they say my home district will be among "the hottest races in 2010"?

I guess they see the GOP pouring money into this district and galvanizing the Vietnamese-American vote. And let's face it, they're trying hard to score a win anywhere they can find. But even if Van can build a massive campaign operation, he still needs to overcome his own controversial reputation in Little Saigon while simultaneously eroding Loretta's long history of serving this district. Oh yes, and it doesn't help Van that he's been shopping for a race, any race, to win now that he's termed out of the Assembly while Loretta's been busy preparing for just this kind of challenge.

So what should we do? Well, we shouldn't just take CA-47 for granted, even with all the good stats in our favor. Rather, we should see these good stats as encouragement to make sure Loretta Sanchez defeats Van Tran by a large enough margin to provide coattails to Democrats running to turn GOP-held "red" state & local seats (like Van's own 68th AD seat) blue. Since we need to undo the damage of both the radical right ideologues still running local governments in Orange County and the GOP minority in Sacramento that's still large enough to hold the state hostage, this can be our opportunity to not just keep the 47th Congressional District strongly "blue", but also elect more Democrats to office in OC.

And hey, Loretta deserves our support. She's been voting more progressive as the district's been turning bluer. And though she once had to tout "Blue Dog" membership to win over moderate Republicans, she's been doing a good job of listening to what we the constituents wants and voting accordingly. And more importantly, she always works hard for Orange County and delivers real results for real people. That's why all the local school districts, police departments, fire departments, and city agencies go to Loretta first to ensure our tax dollars come home to work for us.

So if you can, please make sure Loretta Sanchez goes back to Congress in 2010. But not only are we investing in Loretta's reelection, we're also investing in building a stronger Democratic majority in Central Orange County and a more progressive future for the whole county. We're turning OC bluer one new Democratic voter registration at a time, and we shouldn't let a Van Tran challenge scare us away from continuing our good work.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Marriage Equality Comes to Maine!

Hooray! Here's the release from national Stonewall Democrats:

Washington, DC - Today, the Stonewall Democrats released the following statement in response to the signing of marriage legislation in Maine:

"Stonewall Democrats loudly applauds Democratic Governor John Baldacci for signing into law legislation that extends the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. Local advocates and Democratic leaders built the support necessary to pass this bill and we congratulate them. This legislation will provide economic and legal security for families in Maine.

It is now time for New Hampshire Democratic Governor John Lynch to follow the example of his neighboring state and sign the final version of marriage legislation once it reaches his desk. Stonewall Democrats worked with local advocates in Maine and New Hampshire to add support for the freedom to marry in the platforms of the Democratic Parties of those states. Democratic support proved to be a crucial component in the broad coalition of advocates who are moving marriage equality forward in Maine and New Hampshire."

- Jon Hoadley, Executive Director, Stonewall Democrats

Earlier today, Democratic Governor John Baldacci signed LD 1020, "An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom." The Act had been sent to his desk after it received passage from the Democratically controlled Maine Senate and then the Democratically controlled Maine House of Representatives.

“In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions,” Governor Baldacci said. “I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.”

Last month in neighboring New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Senate voted to approve legislation allowing same-sex couples the freedom to marry. Similar legislation legislation had already been approved by the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Upon reconciliation, the bill will go before Democratic Governor John Lynch who has not yet indicated how he will act on the bill.

Stonewall Democrats continue to build support for the freedom to marry in addition to working on broader pro-equality issues. In Wyoming, the organization worked with the newly-forming Wyoming Stonewall Democrats earlier this year to help Democrats stop an anti0marriage ballot initiative introduced in the state legislature. In Massachusetts, the Bay State Stonewall Democrats played a key role in building Democratic support for marriage legislation enacted in 2004. Last month, two Stonewall Democrats - Kate and Trish Varnum - won a landmark decision by the Iowa Supreme Court (Varnum V. Brien) that recognized the rights of all Iowans to Marry. Stonewall Democrats is continuing its work in Iowa by aiding statewide advocates liek One Iowa to build support for the Democratic Leadership of the Iowa House and Senate who continue to stand against an onslaught of special-interest attacks from the far right. And last month in Vermont, Stonewall Democrats initiated a campaign that contributed to three Democratic lawmakers switching their previously anti-marriage votes in order to override a gubernatorial veto and enact marriage legislation in that state.

With more than 120 local chapters the Stonewall Democrats is the national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and allied Democrats. Stonewall Democrats works to elect pro-equality Democrats to public office and improve the Democratic Party on issues important to pro-equality Americans.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Progress? Finally?



Just in the last six months, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont have moved to enact marriage equality. Just today, The District of Columbia moved one step closer to full marriage equality with the city council passing 12-1 an ordinance to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. And just today, Maine is on the verge of making history as the second state to legalize marriage equality by way of legislation as the House just passed the marriage bill that recently passed the Senate. Meanwhile, Kate Kendell has changed her mind and now feels hopeful about the California Supreme Court's upcoming Prop H8 verdict as New Hampshire inches even closer to becoming the second/third state (depending on what happens in Maine) to enact marriage equality by legislation.

And wait, there's more! Marriage equality may actually come to New York some day soon. Washington state and Nevada are moving closer to establishing "everything but 'the m word'" domestic partnerships (DPs). Colorado is finally taking baby steps toward equality by allowing for domestic partner rights and benefits. And now, we're even starting to see progress on the federal level.

Wait, progress? You mean we're seeing progress on LGBT civil rights? Yes, now may finally be our time for progress.



Last week, I attended the Pride Parade/Festival in "my other hometown" of Las Vegas. And unlike past Pride events I've attended in California and Nevada, I really sensed some hope. Why? It looked like we're really making progress. Anti-discrimination and DP proposals are advancing here like never before. In a state that passed a marriage ban just seven years ago, things have turned around. Most major casinos now offer domestic partner benefits and anti-discrimination protection as more and more Nevadans are coming out and being part of a more vibrant LGBT community.

And guess what? Nevada's not a "stereotypical far left ultra-liberal state". And neither is Iowa. And neither is New Hampshire. A sea change in attitudes is happening throughout the nation, and now may finally be the time for progress.

I know there's been some tension lately on how hard our community should push President Obama to push harder for civil rights. And while I understand the President is concerned about major issues like the economy and health care, he should understand how many LGBT families are suffering in this economy precisely because they have no health care benefits, no anti-discrimination protection, and little to no benefits from the recent tax breaks passed in the stimulus. These issues are connected, and it's time for the federal government to start catching up with states across the country in making progress.

Again, this is no longer a "red state vs. blue state hot-button social issue controversy". In fact, it never really was. This is a civil rights issue and a human rights issue. Do we really believe in liberty and justice for all? Do we really believe in equal protection under the law? And if so, why are we still allowing so many people to suffer such injustice and inequity?

Now's the time for progress. Now's the time for fully-inclusive workplace protection. Now's the time to end the ban on federal spousal rights and benefits. Now's the time to end the military service ban. Now's the time to make progress for civil rights on the national level.

So what are we waiting for? The people are ready for progress. It's now up to us to make Washington make it happen.

Please support our national allies like NCLR and ACLU that are working to secure our rights nationwide. And wherever you are, please support local organizations like Courage Campaign (CA) and The LGBT Center of Southern Nevada. Make sure we see more progress so we can one day reach full equality.