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But nowhere in America is the Pro-war/Anti-war battle being more fiercely fought than in Southern California, where Progressive Anti-war Democrat Marcy Winograd is uncompromisingly challenging Pro-War Democrat incumbent, Jane Harman.
Much has been written about the Winograd/Harman tussle due to its salacious Democrat on Democrat angle and surprising formidable showing by political "newcomer" Winograd. But based on my in-depth interview with Marcy Winograd, she may be a newcomer candidate, but she's irrefutably NO newcomer to the machinations of government and the needs of the constituents in "District 36".
A longtime grassroots activist, Winograd has well-honed expertise on issues ranging far beyond war and peace. Although intently focused on her campaign against Harman, she has a clearly devised plan for post election leadership, beginning the instant she lands in D.C. She's extraordinarily confident and decidedly poised to assume her Congressional role... as you will learn when you read: "My Conversation With Marcy":
[cross posted at OpEdNews.com]
LM: Marcy, you're a longtime grassroots activist. How will you reconcile your "activist" role when you take on your new role in Congress?
MW: Once an activist, always an activist at heart -- that's my belief. As a legislator, I will continue my relationship with the grassroots and seek to solve problems and mount new campaigns by engaging members of the community. One model for this is "Health Care for All", a grassroots campaign to educate the public and mobilize support for CA State Senator Sheila Kuehl's universal single-payer health care bill. I am not interested in sequestering myself in an office in Washington or becoming a member of an exclusive club or inner circle of power. The thrill of going to Congress is going to Washington to advocate for the people in the 36th District and beyond -- to protect our youth from senseless war and preserve constitutional freedoms for all Americans.
LM: As President of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles and an integral member of the grassroots community, what are the factors that helped you the most to collaborate successfully with others?
MW: I managed a coalition of grassroots Democratic Clubs that helped re-elect Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, a strong environmentalist, during the 2004 campaign. We registered 7,000 voters and had over 1,000 volunteers. Our headquarters became a hub of activism that involved swing state trips, phone banking, precinct walking, film seminars and post-Presidential debate sessions analyzing the candidates' positions on the war, nuclear proliferation, homeland security and constitutional rights.
Additionally, as President of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, I worked with a dozen grassroots Democratic Clubs to craft an anti-war resolution passed by the California Democratic Party convention in 2004. On the heels of this resolution's passage, I brought representatives from a dozen peace groups together with Congresswoman Maxine Waters to organize an Out of Iraq Forum - a thousand attendees strong.
As a teacher I developed a conflict-resolution curriculum that helped bring dozens of community leaders together to found the Coalition Against Militarism in our Schools. This organization has been instrumental in informing parents and students of their rights regarding military recruiters' access to student data.
LM: How will you use your organizational and interpersonal skills to work with your colleagues in Congress? And what are some of the principal issues you'll immediately take on?
MW: I will immediately join the Out of Iraq Caucus, headed by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and work with the Caucus on ending the US occupation of Iraq. At the same time, I plan to meet with veterans groups from around the country to work together to lobby for increased veterans' benefits. The Bush Administration sends our youth to war, then ignores their needs when they return. This is not right and we must secure both retirement and disability benefits for veterans.
Working with Congressman Dennis Kucinich, I hope to see his proposed Department of Peace become a reality. Under this proposal, 2% of the military budget would be set aside to support community-based programs focused on non-violence, gang prevention, and assistance for battered wives, etc.
I'm extremely concerned about the erosion of our Constitution and the danger facing independent media. Journalists are coming under increasing attack by those who want to limit our First Amendment rights and freedoms. I plan to work with a large coalition of groups, conservatives and progressives alike, who share my interest in safeguarding our Bill of Rights and ensuring that independent voices are heard in the media. I support Net Neutrality and will fight hard to preserve our free access to the Internet.
I'm also co-founder of the California Election Protection Network and work tirelessly for voter verified paper trails. To safeguard my own campaign, I'm organizing election protection teams. I encourage every candidate and every voter who cares about legitimate elections to actively do the same.
As a supporter of the Apollo Energy Project, I will work with others to provide corporate tax incentives for defense contractors anchored in Torrance and El Segundo to re-allocate some of their financial and scientific resources into alternative energy development. I want to make the 36th Congressional District the alternative energy capital of California, if not the United States. Dollar for dollar, we'll create more jobs investing in peace than we will when investing in war.
In the interest of safeguarding our ports... to improve working conditions and protect the air in the surrounding communities of San Pedro and Wilmington, I'll work with members of congress in other port communities to establish federal standards for container inspection, workers' rights, and dockside refueling and alternative energy development. Together, with lawmakers from other port districts, I hope to author legislation requiring Wal Mart and other large corporations who profit off the ports, to pay their fair share for inspections and environmental mitigation.
A week ago, when I was leafleting outside an ILWU hiring hall in Wilmington, a worker turned to me and in the most heartfelt tone said, "I have worked at this port for years and seen millions of dollars come in and out. Why is it we have nothing to show for it in Wilmington, nothing to do, no entertainment, only dirty air to breathe?" This man's yearning should be heard in Washington, so that one day the large corporations who profit off our ports can be expected to support the arts in the surrounding port communities.
I'm already working with Friends of the Marina to stop over-development... specifically high-rise construction that will increase the traffic snarls already confronting us on a daily basis. We need to protect our valuable marine habitat and raise awareness about the beauty of the Marina. I'm also working with citizens who want to see the noise and air pollution addressed at the Santa Monica airport. Several weeks ago I signed a pledge to immediately introduce legislation to establish federal noise and air pollution standards at airports throughout the country.
LM: How will you use your legislative skills to benefit your constituents?
MW: To be an effective legislator, you have to be a good listener and, ideally, a people person... someone who cares about the community and takes the time to listen. Unfortunately, we see a disconnect between leaders in Washington and the people they represent. Too many of our lawmakers have isolated themselves inside the Beltway and are, therefore, not in touch with the pulse of their community.
I consider myself part of the grassroots -- of and for the people. I'll keep my ear to the ground and go with my gut -- with my core beliefs in peace and justice. In addition, I'll use my communication and organizational skills to help me navigate the halls of Congress and seek out those with common interests on both sides of the aisle.
In my District, I'll organize a regional bi-annual Community Congress to engage the grassroots in setting legislative objectives and addressing challenges.
We'll focus on:
· funding and supporting community-based social service programs
· protecting the environment at our beaches, marina, and port
· minimizing air and noise pollution at our local airports
· promoting mass transit and regionalizing our airports to reduce traffic and toxic emissions
· supporting the Farmers' Markets and other efforts to promote organic farms and produce
· protecting our constitutional freedoms now under assault
· promoting quality education and non-violent conflict resolution programs
Provided we have the funds, I would like to open three field offices: one in the Venice/Marina area, one in the South Bay, and one in San Pedro/Wilmington. Each office will have Field Representatives responsible for meeting constituents' needs and engaging with leaders and rank-and-file members of organizations.
I want my career in Congress to consist of working with people to set common goals...not preaching to them about what I think they should have or need.
LM: You've obviously done lots of legislative planning. But what about your private life? What about "fun"?
MW: You have to have time for fun. I'm married to a union-side labor lawyer, who is now, as a result of my campaign, an avid political blogger. Ira "Buddy" Gottlieb. I also have a 23-year-old daughter, Gina Gardner, who inherited my mother's flare for fashion... and works in the garment industry. The fact is, they're both a lot of fun.
But I definitely have a serious side. My parents, Teddi and Sam Winograd, and my brother, Barry, influenced me tremendously growing up. My parents marched in the anti-war movement. I remember my mother joining me on the picket line at the Century Plaza Hotel when Nixon came to speak at the height of the Vietnam War. My brother's nine years older than me so I always looked up to him and admired his advocacy work. He was right there in the trenches, fighting the good fight, when I was still in middle school. He'd come home and tell me stories about the things he was doing and my whole face would light up. I loved his dedication to 'causes'. Then there was my 'literary' side as well.
As a child, my father, a former professor at New York's CCNY (the poor man's Harvard), would always ask me what I was reading. Literacy was highly valued in our home. Even when my father was ill with Parkinson's Disease, bed-ridden and struggling to stay awake, he'd suggest books for me to read. He'd say, "You're interested in international law? Go to the third shelf in the den and pick up the book that's third in from the left-hand corner." For my father, books were great friends. Because of his influence, I've been reading and writing poetry since the age of twelve. I remember as a very young child playing Debussy's "The Sea" and writing about the waves crashing on my bedroom door.
A few years ago, I started performing poetry with the Hyper Poets at the Rose Cafe in Venice. A bit Bohemian, I suppose, but the feeling of coming together with other writers and performers was inspiring. As a Congresswoman, I'd like to ask my constituents to share their own stories to support certain bills. Stories can be incredibly persuasive. As an English teacher, I always emphasized the intense power of narrative.
A-n-d... I love animals. To relax, I walk my daughter's dog... a little rescue named Sparky, who's an overly active (understatement) Jack Russell Terrier. Or... I hang out with my three cats... also rescues. I even read animal magazines. So... as you'd be right to assume, I've included an animal rights platform in my legislative agenda. It's on my web site (winogradforcongress.com). I never want to see relief organizations and government agencies abandon animals again in a disaster. I applaud the recent passage in the House of The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Act (H.R. 3858), co-authored by Tom Lantos and Christopher Shays. It definitely needed to be done.
LM: And for the hundreds of volunteers on your campaign... What would you say to them?
MW: My message is first and foremost -- THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR HARD WORK AND COMMITMENT TO PEACE. We could never have done this without launching a tremendous grassroots campaign involving hundreds of precinct walkers and phone bankers. It takes courage to challenge an entrenched incumbent, but it also takes courage to work for the challenger and believe in the dream... peace, democracy, constitutional freedoms, a sound foreign policy that rejects pre-emptive war and embraces diplomacy, and a beautiful earth for our children and their children to inherit.
And on that note... Thank you so much for speaking with me... and I'm back on the campaign trail to join them. It's time to get out the vote!
California's Primary election is June 6th. Additional information on Marcy Winograd's campaign can be found at:winogradforcongress.com