In less than a week, there's a special election to fill a Congressional seat in Illinois's 14th district. This one was the seat held by Dennis Hastert, former Republican Speaker of the House during the most destructive political period we may see in our lifetimes. Because of that legacy of failure, and because of the special dynamics of 2008, we might be able to turn this red district blue in a foreshadowing of the election in November. The Democrat, Bill Foster, and the Republican, Jim Oberweis, are pretty much tied in the polling. This is a race with potentially far reaching impacts, and it's one where some support from our communities can be helpful. Here's legal legend Larry Lessig, one of the coiners of the term 'net neutrality' who decided earlier this year not to run for Congress.So just off the phone with Bill Foster, a physicist from Illinois, Democrat, running in a special election to fill Dennis Hastert's seat. When I started to think about this run, Foster was a model. A former researcher at Fermilab, and entrepreneur, he is precisely the sort a changed Congress would need.
"Seven hours a day" on the phone raising money. And with a Special Election just 10 days away, they're pushing to raise a final $200,000 to run an endorsement ad from Barack Obama.
Seven hours a day. Wow.
Foster is running for Dennis Hastert's old seat, a 55% Bush 2004 voting district. Despite the redness of the district, he is running clearly on the issue of Iraq with several ads calling for the end of the war (here's ad one and ad two on Iraq), and he has on his web site 'Businessman, Scientist, Democrat'. He is against retroactive immunity for telecoms, and his opponent is for letting lawbreakers off the hook. This is no shrinking violet running a vague anti-DC message, this guy is a Democrat running as a Democrat on the Iraq war and FISA in a red district.
And now Foster needs $200k to run an endorsement ad by Barack Obama in Illinois. This is a test run of the 2008 elections, and we'll know soon if Obama has the coattails to drive increased Democratic majorities in Congress. I don't agree with Foster on everything, and I don't expect any of us to be perfectly satisfied with any member of Congress. But taking Dennis Hastert's old seat with a proud scientist and Democrat running against the war and strongly for civil liberties under the ticket of the probable Democratic nominee in 2008?
That's a great Blue Majority candidate. Give a few bucks, it's a good chance to have a meaningful impact.
We now hold Tom DeLay's seat. Imagine the symbolism of taking his right-hand buddy Hastert's seat as well -- in another solidly Republican district, no less.
The NRCC is freaking out, already dumping a full 15 percent of their paltry budget on this race. Rumors are flying that NRCC chair Tom Cole's job hinges on this thing. And while we don't really care which loser Republican runs their House committee into the ground, the internal turmoil that would cause would be well worth the cost of admission -- yet another reason for donors to sit this cycle out (along with shitty candidates, poor electoral prospects, and the FBI investigation into the committee's finances).
Not to mention this has become a low-level proxy fight between Obama and McCain. The former cut and ad that should run any day now, and the latter raised a quarter million for Republican über-wingnut Jim Oberweis -- a Gooper so noxious that his primary campaign challenger has refused to back and may be actively undermining. (And wouldn't it be nice if Obama showed up in person before the special on behalf of Foster?) McCain really wants to win this race to prove that he can help his party down-ticket. If we deny him that, we give conservatives even less reason to enthusiastically support his campaign.
So throw in a few bucks if you can. Do it to increase our House majority, with a candidate who would vote against retroactive immunity for telecom companies. Do it to mock Republicans, waving Hastert's and DeLay's blue seats in their faces. Do it to make Obama look good. Do it because it'd be nice to have more scientists in Congress, and fewer science-deniers. Do it to create further havoc and dissent within GOP ranks.
The special election is
next Tuesday Saturday.