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Larry Kissell is a strong progressive candidate and he is on track to take North Carolina's 8th Congressional District away from Republican Robin Hayes. Larry has tailored his issues to the voters in the district and his stance on each reflects true progressive ideals.

A couple of weeks ago I had an opportunity to meet Larry. I hadn't realized he would be at the Democratic convention in our county. I had been interested in this race from the beginning as I live on the border of his district, but not in it. I had initially thought Tim Dunn was the candidate to beat Hayes, but long before Dunn bowed out I had started to gravitate to Kissell. I wanted to meet him to see if all those qualities I felt he had - humility, integrity, compassion - were real.

Please join me below the fold.....

First, I am far from some giddy little school girl who would be impressed by a political candidate just because he's a political candidate - far, far from it. I admit, though, meeting Larry Kissell made my day. He is tall. Not imposing tall, but Mr. Smith-goes-to-Washington tall. Oh...and humble...yes, the humility is palpable, as is the honesty. This isn't some slick talking, in-your-face, self-anointed savior of the 8th District. Nope, just the opposite. Larry is real.

Don't let Larry's down-home charm fool you though, He has an edge. He may be honest and he may not be a politico, but he isn't stupid. In other words, don't let the humility disarm you because the man is smart enough to capitalize on the situation.

If you're worried about a lack of campaign experience, you can quit worrying. Larry started his campaign early enough that he is now completely at-ease with meeting and greeting and LISTENING. I stood back and watched him for a while. He was as comfortable in the crowd as the seasoned pro, Mel Watt. (My Rep.)

For those of you who haven't committed to helping Larry win in November and to helping bring a Democratic majority to the US House, I say, it's time. If you need a little more convincing, take a cue from the Fighting Dem, Tim Dunn. After ending his bid for the seat, Tim is not only endorsing Larry, but represented him at the Democratic Party convention in Fayetteville.

It is disappointing to get excited about a candidate just to find they aren't on the national radar. That isn't going to stop the Kissell campaign or North Carolina Democrats. However, it would be great if a few more voices would join with us to bring attention to this race.

With or without national attention, Larry Kissell and his supporters are doing what it takes to get elected. Larry has been endorsed by the NC AFL-CIO, the North Carolina Association of Educators and the (Char-Meck) Black Political Caucus.  The campaign is strong on grassroots efforts and has been visible on local blog communities like BlueNC, NCRumors, The Strategery of Lifeand, of course, at my blog,The Southern Dem. The May primary is right around the corner and Larry should have no problem sailing right through.

The local press has started paying attention to the race. The Charlotte Observer'spolitical coverage this year has been pretty pathetic across the board, but the smaller daily and weekly papers have been ramping up the attention. That's a good thing, because those are the markets that count in this district.

A couple of days ago Jerry Meek, Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, informed a national audience at MyDD that North Carolina Democrats would do their job to help bring a change to Washington and to take back the U.S. House of Representatives. He outlined the races in North Carolina's 8th and 11th Congressional Districts. The diary stayed on the recommended list long enough to attract some commenters and spread the word that despite what the WaPo says, NC has some districts that are in play.

This is a district with a Democratic Performance of 50.7%. That means that a Democrat can typically expect to get 50.7% of the vote against a Republican. But, as the grandson of the founder of Cannon Mills, Hayes can pretty much dump whatever cash he needs into the campaign. And he's proven that he's not averse to doing so. (By the way, Cannon Mills became Pillowtex. In 2003, Pillowtex shut down due to trade agreements that shipped jobs overseas. In the largest layoff in North Carolina history, over 4,300 hardworking people lost their jobs--most of them Hayes' constituents who worked for his old family company.)
With Robin Hayes having so much family money to pour into his campaign will it be possible for Larry to make a difference? Of course. Most candidates going up against Hayes are financial underdogs, but the last campaign showed that Hayes is vulnerable. In 2004 Beth Troutmanspent $231,000 to Hayes' $1,461,000 and received 45% of the vote. It's not a wealthy district, though, and any assistance from those outside the district is welcome. Here is a link to Larry's site with ActBlue access.

The following list of issues and positions is not complete, but the heading on each is a link to a page on Larry Kissell's web site where more information is available.

On National SecurityLarry says:

We staged our way into Iraq in one year, there is no reason we can't stage our
way out in one year.

:::snip:::

An obvious root cause of terrorism that warrants expansion is our nation's self-defeating addiction to oil. ...... With 95% of the oil we use being imported, serving only to increase our trade deficit while taking us to some of the least stable places on earth and covertly funding our enemies in the war on terrorism in the process, we must implement a dedicated mentality to secure our future with home grown, alternative, renewable energy sources rendering us both secure and the world leader in energy production.

:::snip:::

There is no rationale for a fiscally irresponsible $8.2 trillion debt making us safer....... Proponents of globalization and "free" trade may point to record corporate profit and expansion, but that's little comfort to those having lost their livelihoods as we outsource our domestic manufacturing readiness in a cynical race to the bottom.

:::snip:::

"Supporting our troops" is more than a bumper sticker to be trotted out by an administration that neither plans for their success nor provides for their needs. Our armed forces are without question the best in the world with all credit going to them for maintaining stability in the mess this administration has spread globally. As the very life blood of our national security then, it's our moral obligation to provide the best possible care for those having made the sacrifice.

On Real Family ValuesLarry says:

Real Family Values quite simply means we expect far more from our Congress than
being told how to be a family. It means having Representatives actually demonstrating values such as honesty and integrity.

:::snip:::

A commitment to Real Family Values means helping working families rise above the
poverty line instead of pushing millions more working families down the economic
ladder while giving targeted tax breaks to idle wealth.

On Less GovernmentLarry says:

A simple accounting of our government's record deficit and a review of an
administration yet to veto a single spending measure demonstrates how they have
not delivered on their promise to decrease bureaucracy. It's simply bogus
to state that there has effectively been any meaningful decrease in the size of
government except for the reduction in some programs that actually help the
working people, children, students and veterans of this nation.

:::snip:::

A hallmark of a commitment to "less government" includes a commitment
to protecting our personal freedoms and civil liberties, not the dangerous
consolidation of executive power, abusive efforts to spy on our citizens, and
intrusive legislation from a federal government treading in unchartered areas it has no business.

On Less TaxesLarry says:

I subscribe to the premise that any government action or inaction that leads to less money for my family is a tax on our livelihood. Therefore, what little actual tax "relief" as it was cynically named, real working families received through recent legislation has been more than taken away in rising energy bills, soaring medical costs and insurance premiums, increasing interest rates as a result of the rising national debt....and additional out-of-pocket expenses due to cuts in important programs like student loans and tracking down dead-beat parents.

The 8th District is comprised mostly of working class families. There are only a handful of precincts that reflect any level of wealth. Larry has the background and the demeanor to appeal to all the voters in the 8th, but especially the base. Larry spent 27 years in management in the textiles industry after earning a degree at Wake Forest University. He understands the concerns of the thousands in the district who lost their jobs to fair trade agreements. He's one of them.

While most manufacturing jobs in the district were lost after NAFTA, the fact that Robin Hayes promised to vote against CAFTA and then literally cast the deciding vote for it, has angered many who live in the district. Larry Kissell drives this point home everywhere he goes reminding the voters that before Hayes voted for it he said he was, "flat-out, horizontally opposed to CAFTA.".

Robin Hayes wasn't strong enough to stand up to his party even when he knew his vote was not in the best interest of his constituents. He broke a direct promise to the people of the 8th District. That doesn't sit well with the voters.

To add to the list of the issues outlined above, Larry also believes that there needs to be an increase in the minimum wage, a reduction in the "oil burden" on working families and a reversal of the programs implemented by the Bush administration that were planned to fail. He also believes:

The hard working families of the 8th District and our nation deserve a
commitment to education, economic opportunity, civil rights, personal freedoms, and the safe, clean environment that we all want for our families.
Larry Kissell is the strong leader the 8th District deserves. Larry can win, but more importantly, he will work for the common good and he will do it with honesty and humility and integrity.

Update:  I'm sorry to put this important information at the end of this piece, but I just finished putting together the financial information from the first quarter filings.  Larry has almost matched Robin Hayes with Larry's contributions coming in smaller amounts from fewer people.  In the first quarter Hayes received $71,655 from individuals and Larry Kissell received $64, 223.  Kissell had about triple the amount of small unitemized donations with his donations coming from over 250 people.  Hayes expenses were twice that of Kissell.  For Larry to have made such an impact while spending only $28,000 is amazing.

Hayes advantage comes from corporate PAC donations and his war chest.  This is where the netroots could put Larry over the top.   For those of you in districts with safe progressive candidates, please consider some financial support for a progressive Dem who needs your help.

Originally posted to The Southern Dem on Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 07:11 AM PDT.

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