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Daily Kos is pleased to announce that Jon Powers, Democratic candidate for New York's 26th Congressional District, is our newest addition to the Orange to Blue slate. It's my happy duty to explain why.

Growing up in Western New York in the early '80s was not necessarily a recipe for an optimistic adulthood. Kids raised in Buffalo, Rochester, Niagara Falls, and the surrounding communities during those years were bombarded from an early age with seemingly endless news of job loss, factory relocations, urban decay, and the imminent demise of their hometowns. Just days after Christmas 1982, when Jon Powers was a 4 year old kid in suburban Buffalo, Bethlehem Steel shuttered its Western New York operations with almost no notice -- putting around 10,000 folks out of work overnight.  Most of the other industrial giants that had made the Niagara Frontier and Rochester prosperous for decades soon followed suit, either laying off entire workforces, or downsizing to skeleton crews. It seemed like every day throughout the '80s and '90s, the message to kids growing up in the region was that our city, our home, was dying. It was a message that left a lot of young people cynical about politics, despairing about the American Dream, and eager to leave Western New York.  

But not Jon Powers.

Fighting with the Army's First Armored Division (the unit featured in the Iraq War documentary Gunner Palace) in Baghdad following Saddam's capitulation, and witnessing the stupendous mismanagement and corruption of the Bush cronies in charge of the occupation, could have left a soldier disillusioned about the promise of America. When Jon saw billions of dollars being wasted on contractors in an unaccountable fashion while garbage piled up in Baghdad's streets, when he saw Blackwater "security" personnel pulling down six-figure salaries while Army grunts were left without body armor . . . it would've been enough to cause a lot of patriotic Americans to give up on the hope that our government could do better.

But not Jon Powers.

And coming back home to teach high school in Western New York, after serving in Iraq and founding a charity for Iraqi kids displaced by the war, to find that fabulously sleazy Republican Tom Reynolds managed to get reelected in your Congressional district after being exposed as the ringleader in the Mark Foley page-molesting cover-up . . . well, that sure could snuff out most people's faith in the transformative nature of good government.

But not Jon Powers.

Jon Powers has earned a spot on Orange To Blue because he's the model of of a modern patriot. He's a soldier who fought in Iraq, saw the flaws of the war up close, and resolved to make it better by helping out the kids who were most affected. He's a guy who stuck with his hometown through the bad times, and who gets excited when talking about the potential for building it into something great again. He's an optimist who believes that government can be a real force for good, both at home and in the world -- and he believes that the key is empowering regular Americans to get involved. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Powers campaign is his "call to service" -- a plan that would address the critical shortages in the nursing and teaching professions, and which would foster service and volunteerism in all walks of life.  It's the product of a candidate who spends a lot of time thinking about how we can make our country work better -- not just about getting elected.

That said, Jon does need our help getting elected.  Not only is he running in a Republican-leaning district that was home to the odious Tom Reynolds, but he's got a tough primary coming up on September 9 -- in less than two months -- against Jack Davis, a self-funding millionaire ex-Republican obsessed with self-aggrandizement and beating up on immigrants.  (Davis is also responsible for the worst campaign song of the cycle.)  NY-26 is a very winnable seat -- but there's no point in winning it if Jack Davis is the "Democratic" candidate.  Jon needs our support if he's going to end Jack Davis's ego trip, free the Republican hold on NY-26, and bring his strong, progressive optimism to Washington.

It's a tough proposition, and a lot of candidates would be scared to take it on. But not Jon Powers. He's a breed apart, and that's why he's our newest Orange to Blue candidate.  

You can contribute to Jon's campaign right here.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Jul 28, 2008 at 11:39 AM PDT.

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