No Newts!

If you you're sick of watching a Republican-controlled Congress attempt to destroy social services, abolish affirmative action, ban gay marriages, gut environmental-protection laws, and generally send this country on the fast track backward, there are several candidates on the West Coast that are contenders in their races -- and they could use some support.Forget Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Forget Reps. Ron Dellums and George Miller. All their seats are safe and facing little Republican opposition.But don't sit back and relax either: the House of Representatives is very much up for grabs this fall. Democrats need to shift only 20 seats to regain control -- and 10 of the most important swing races are in California or neighboring states.From West Linn, Ore., to Sonoma County, from Walnut Creek to Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, strong Democratic challengers are trying to unseat vulnerable Republicans -- and they all need volunteers and money."In all of our races, the Republicans have had financial advantage," said Tricia Primrose, spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C. "Any one of our Democratic challengers trying to win back the House could use the help."The Democratic move to take back the House comes at a time when Speaker Newt Gingrich and company are seeing their popularity take a nosedive. According to a Harris Poll conducted in January, Gingrich's national disapproval rating was 70 percent -- worse than Richard Nixon's rating in August 1974.In May of this year a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed that 55 percent of voters say they are less likely to support a Republican who backs Gingrich and his policies. Last month a poll done for Gannett News Service showed that only 36 percent of voters would vote for a Republican candidate, compared to 45 percent for a Democratic candidate. That's a 16-point loss for the Republicans since 1994, when GOP candidates received 55 percent of the Congressional vote nationwide.And traditional Democratic constituencies are organizing with near-unprecedented zeal to knock off the GOP majority. This month, in just nine days the AFL-CIO spent more than a $1,000,000 on television and radio advertising to bash Republican candidates whom union leaders consider antilabor."It's legislative, grassroots lobbying," said David Faltz, an AFL-CIO spokesperson. "We're trying to change members' votes to bring them more in line with working families' needs on issues like increasing the minimum wage, protecting against cuts in Medicare, and job safety."Faltz said that by November the AFL-CIO expects to have spent about $20 million on ad campaigns targeting about 10 districts across the country.A Democratic overthrow of the Republican majority just two years after a GOP landslide might seem unlikely -- but it has happened before. The last two times Republicans won large numbers of Democratic seats and took control of the House -- in 1946 and 1952 -- the Democrats regained the House majority in the following election cycle.After losing the chamber by 55 seats in 1946, the Democrats gained 75 seats two years later and built a commanding House majority. In fact, one party has gained 20 or more seats in 12 of the last 25 elections."All these districts are freshman. Basically, their roots are not deep in the ground," said a Los Angeles political consultant who asked not to be identified by name. "It's the pendulum effect; now it's shifting the other way. The question is, how far does it go over? Does it stop in the center?"The way Democrats in Washington see it, too many Republicans are controlling districts that traditionally have been Democratic. After the 1994 elections 28 Republicans ended up winning districts that historically have elected Democrats. Republicans currently hold 77 seats that Clinton carried in 1992. What's more, 29 of the 47 seats that Republican freshmen won with 55 percent or less of the vote are districts that Clinton carried in 1992.The 10 Congressional races listed below are among the most important in the nation. Not all of the Democratic challengers are liberal champions; many have middle-of-the-road positions on issues such as crime, welfare reform, and immigration. If elected, they're likely to cast conservative votes every now and then.But all are running against hard-core Gingrich allies -- and if the progressive agenda is to have any chance on the national level, the first order of the day must be overturning the GOP majority and ousting Speaker Newt.NINTH DISTRICT, WASHINGTON (KENT)Republican incumbent Randy Tate is facing Adam Smith, one of the youngest challengers in the country. Six years ago Smith was elected to the Washington state senate at the age of 25. Now 31, Smith is trying to unseat one of the most right-wing freshmen in the 104th Congress. Tate voted in concert with Gingrich 94.4 percent of the time and received $189,088 from a fund-raiser the House Speaker hosted.In 1993 Democrats in Washington took control of the state senate, and Smith became chair of the Law and Justice Committee. Smith is also a prosecuting attorney for the city of Seattle; he specializes in domestic-violence crimes and drunk-driving cases.Smith supports the minimum-wage increase and opposes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. He's called the cuts a sham and, according to his campaign manager, Jeff Bjornstad, "a way of getting tax breaks to the rich and wealthy corporations." Smith opposes proposals to cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency as a way to balance the federal budget. He is pro-choice and pro-union; he says welfare reform should not punish children; he says he would not repeal the assault- weapons ban; and he says illegal immigration is a "nonissue" in his district.This race is key, observers say -- it's an important part of the overall Democratic plan to win back the House of Representatives. The Ninth District is one of at least two seats that must be won in the state of Washington. Clinton carried this district in 1994; today it's one of the races the AFL-CIO is targeting with its multimillion-dollar ad campaign. At the moment it looks like a dead heat, with both candidates' approval ratings hovering somewhere in the mid-forties.27030 47th Ave.South No. 104Kent, WA 98032(206) 529-2460SECOND DISTRICT, OREGON (BEND)Mike Dugan is proud of the fact that he never strangled anybody with piano wire in the Korean War. Republican incumbent Wes Cooley never strangled anyone either; he never even served in Korea. But that didn't stop him from telling his audiences tales of his special-forces bravado. In fact, after all the lies have been removed, his resume looks more like a piece of Swiss cheese."We're definitely going to win this one," said one Washington, D.C.-based consultant who works for numerous Democrats. "We benefit from Cooley staying in the race. I don't understand why he ran in the first place, why he's lied about being in the Korean War, why he's lied about so many things." Even Republicans in Washington are expecting to lose this seat.Dugan, a district attorney in Deschutes Country, Ore., since 1987, is pro-choice, pro-education, and endorsed by the AFL- CIO and a host of other employee federations. His wife, Judy, a practicing lawyer specializing in family and juvenile law, is chair-elect of the Oregon State Board of Education.Cooley has made the Newt Gingrich's Class of '94 honor roll by voting with the Speaker of the House 90.6 percent of the time. Cooley has received some $80,000 from corporate and party political-action committees (PACs).Although Dugan hasn't taken any campaign money from Oregon's timber and logging industry, he admits he's no liberal environmentalist. "He is for the people and the state and the federal government working together on a consensus on how the land should be used," one Dugan aide said. To date, Dugan has raised $106,405.73. Because the district is not historically a Democratic district, Dugan could probably use a hand raising money and campaigning. A toll-free number is available for anyone who wants to help: (888) DUGAN96.25 NW Minnesota, Suite 5Bend, OR 97701(541) 330-9508FIFTH DISTRICT, OREGON (WEST LINN)Darlene Hooley is a classic neighborhood activist turned politician. A playground accident involving her son prompted her to seek a position on the parks district board in West Linn, Ore. Frustrated with the board's lack of power, in 1976 she successfully ran for city council. Since then she's served on the Oregon State Legislature and the Clackamas County Commission. A former educator, her main concerns in public office are public safety and education.Hooley has also spent a lot of time working on issues related to preserving open space and building family recreational facilities. She's running against Republican incumbent Jim Bunn, a former farmer and reserve sheriff's deputy whose standing in the polls is at 25 percent. In 1992 President Clinton carried Bunn's district; in 1994 Bunn narrowly squeaked in with slightly more than half the vote. In his first year Bunn voted the Gingrich way 90.2 percent of the time. This year he has strayed a little, voting according to Gingrich dogma only 78.7 percent of the time.For example, Bunn voted against H.R. 2202, a bill that beefs up border-patrol ranks by 1,000, OKs the construction of a 14- mile-long fence south of San Diego, and denies education to children of illegal immigrants. He also voted against a bill that would, among other things, replace most welfare programs with block grants to the states and deny Aid to Families with Dependent Children to unwed mothers under 18 years of age. Nevertheless, he voted to repeal the assault-weapons ban, eliminate federal funding for family-planning clinics and programs, and cut EPA enforcement powers; he was also against the minimum-wage increase.Hooley is pro-choice, supports landmark environmental- protection legislation like the Clean Water Act, and would protect the assault-weapons ban as well as the Brady bill. As for logging and timber issues, her campaign manager says that Hooley is "not somebody that's going to be horrible for them. But Bunn is really someone that's going to be a tool for the timber companies."1974 SW Willamette Falls DriveWest Linn, OR 97068(503) 657-3133FIRST DISTRICT, CALIFORNIA (NAPA)Michela Alioto's bid for Congress is a solid bet, according to numerous pundits and political consultants. The 28-year-old granddaughter of former San Francisco mayor Joe Alioto, Michela is watching Republican incumbent Frank Riggs self- destruct. His latest political error was comparing the Alioto family to that of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.Alioto has spent the last two and a half years in Washington, D.C., as a domestic-policy aide to Vice President Al Gore. She's seen the Republican revolution in Washington firsthand, and noted that she "didn't like what they were doing and the direction they were taking the country."Alioto is pro-choice. She believes in a person's right to own a gun, but she would not have voted to repeal the assault- weapons ban or the Brady bill. In her district, timber and environmental groups often clash; she offered that she would be willing to work with all parties concerned, not just pander to the timber industry the way Riggs does."It's important that environmental sustainability be taken into consideration when dealing with the timber industry," Alioto said. "Riggs has taken about $60,000 from the timber industry. He pushed for an amendment to the budget bill that would have made 37,000 acres -- of which Pacific Lumber owned 32,000 -- exempt from the Endangered Species Act." Riggs, who won in 1994 with only 53 percent of the vote, is one of 28 Republicans holding seats in districts that historically produce Democratic winners. Furthermore, Clinton carried the district in 1992 and is expected to do so again this year."With President Clinton in the forefront, Riggs is not going to do very well -- he's going to get creamed," said Bob Mullholland, political director of the California Democratic Party.Riggs's voting record shows that 92.6 percent of the time he voted along the same lines as Gingrich, who helped Riggs raise $150,000 for his campaign.1333 JeffersonNapa, CA 94559(707) 259-945010TH DISTRICT, CALIFORNIA (WALNUT CREEK)At the age of 25, Ellen Tauscher was one of the first women to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1990 she started a company called the Child Care Registry, the first preemployment screening service for the child-care profession.Although Tauscher has never run for office, most observers say that given her money and connections, she's got a pretty good chance of winning Republican incumbent Bill Baker's 10th District seat. Tauscher fits right in with the northern California Democratic clique, which includes her friends Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Rep. George Miller, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, all of whom have encouraged Tauscher to run for office.Tauscher cochaired Feinstein's 1992 and 1994 Senate campaigns; in 1994 she served as northern California chair of Delaine Easton's successful campaign for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Her husband is Bill Tauscher, a former CEO of Vanstar (previously known as Computerland Corp.), a major donor to the Democratic Party.Tauscher's long endorsement list includes the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Organization for Women, the Central Labor Council of Alameda County, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. She opposes repealing the assault-weapons ban; she's strongly pro-choice; and she says she voted against Proposition 187 two years ago, nor would she support similar measures in Congress. Tauscher says she also opposes the so-called California Civil Rights Initiative, which would ban state affirmative-action programs.Baker has been a pretty good tail-wagger for Gingrich, voting in concert with the Speaker 94.5 percent of the time. That's not surprising, considering that Gingrich raised more money for Baker during one January 1996 benefit in Walnut Creek ($166,000) than did corporate PACs in a year and a half ($136,753).1711 AlmondWalnut Creek, CA 94596(510) 945-851522ND DISTRICT, CALIFORNIA (SANTA BARBARA)Walter Capps and his wife are still recuperating from a head- on collision with a drunk driver about two months ago. Capps's bid to unseat one of Gingrich's most faithful first-timers, Andrea Seastrand, is only now starting to pick up, after he spent weeks in the hospital. According to Cathy Duvall, political director for the Capps campaign, since his accident "there's been an outpouring of support from the community. More than 300 volunteers did door-to-door in the district, delivering his message to the community."Capps, a former professor at UC Santa Barbara, needs to beat Seastrand in a district that is historically Republican. Although President Clinton carried the district in 1992, it's unclear whether he's going to carry it this year. Even so, Seastrand, who won in 1994 with only 49 percent of the vote, hasn't increased her popularity much since her election. Her allegiance clearly is to Gingrich, not to her district.Gingrich has raised $90,000 for Seastrand, while corporate and party PACs have raised about $127,000. Seastrand's may have expressed her appreciation for the cash through her congressional voting record. Among the 56 Republican freshmen who voted in concert with Gingrich 90 percent of the time or more, Seastrand ranks fourth -- her average for the last and current congressional sessions is 96 percent.Abortion is likely to be a key issue in this district, and Capps is going to have to win over pro-choice Republican women. Seastrand is strongly anti-choice, and her extreme position has offended many in her district. "Walter, on the other hand, believes that choice is best left to a woman and her doctor," Duvall said. Unlike Seastrand, who voted to abolish the Department of Education, Capps is pro-education. He supports the assault-weapons ban, the minimum-wage increase, and the preservation of environmental regulations like the Clean Water Act. He would favor increasing taxes on corporations that repeatedly violate environmental laws.P.O. Box 91429Santa Barbara, CA 93190(805) 730-760524TH DISTRICT, CALIFORNIA (SHERMAN OAKS)Democrat Brad Sherman is running for the seat being vacated by Tony Beilenson, a veteran member of the Waxman-Berman Democratic machine whose mainstream politics have served him well in a district that is 46 percent Democrat and 40 percent Republican. The 24th is considered a swing district, and Sherman's Republican challenger, businessman Richard Sybert, came within two percent of defeating Beilenson in 1994 (spending $500,000 of his own money in the process).Sherman is by no means a crusading progressive, but he's significantly further to the left than Beilenson and much more liberal than Sybert, who championed the Contract with America during his '94 challenge.Harvard-educated Sherman's expertise is tax law. He has worked as a CPA with a Big Six firm, and he served on the board of California Common Cause in the late 1980s before being elected to the state Board of Equalization (representing eight million constituents) in 1990. He served as board chair from 1991 to 1995.Sherman's accomplishments include fighting to preserve the state renters' tax credit, organizing taxpayer-information forums for small businesses, and helping overturn Governor Pete Wilson's "Snack Tax" on food.Meanwhile, Gingrich recently came to California to campaign and raise funds for Sybert, who promises to be an unwavering supporter of Newt's right-wing agenda.Both parties consider this a pivotal race in the battle to win back control of the House.5152 Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 1996Sherman Oaks, CA 91403(818) 906-033338TH DISTRICT, CALIFORNIA (LONG BEACH)Rick Zbur, an openly gay lawyer, will have a tough time winning this seat. His GOP opponent, incumbent Steve Horn, is considered a relative moderate.Zbur has accepted the troublesome task of having to prove to the voters of his district that his opponent is anything but a moderate, despite high-profile votes like the one Horn cast in favor of the minimum-wage increase. Zbur says Horn tries to hide his voting record from his constituents, then goes back to Washington and toes the Gingrich line.On important bills, including H.R. 2127 (family planning), H.R. 2099 (EPA enforcement), and H.R. 125 (assault-weapons ban repeal), Horn cast dissenting votes. But "he actually voted 97 percent of the time with Gingrich on the Contract with America," said Zbur. "He voted for all the $270 billion in Medicare cuts, the $182 billion in Medicaid cuts. He got a flat zero rating on the environment. The guy is not a moderate. It's my job to get the word out about his voting record."Zbur, a 39-year-old environmental attorney, has never run for office. Raised in a working-class rural neighborhood near Albuquerque, N.M., Zbur was one of only five kids in his high- school graduating class who went on to college. He graduated from Yale and Harvard Law School. One thing that motivated Zbur's bid for Congress was the Republicans' recent attack on education. Without student loans, Zbur says, he would not have been able to go to college.Zbur has been a pretty good fund-raiser thus far, having raised close to $600,000 over the course of his campaign, which he aggressively started about a year ago. In the last eight weeks the Zbur for Congress campaign has raised about $217,000. Horn, on the other hand, has not raised much money. Between January 1995 and May 1996 he received nothing from either GOP or corporate PACs, and Newt has thus far left him out of his fund-raising schedule.3476 E. SpringLong Beach, CA 90806(310) 426-9898SECOND DISTRICT, IDAHO (BOISE)Dan Williams's district is one where concern for the environment is routinely weighed against protecting jobs. "You can't go so far out of the way to protect the environment that you [prevent] people from making a living," said Doug Dodson, Williams's campaign manager. But Dodson said Williams differs from Republican incumbent Helen Chenoweth in that Chenoweth "is locked in one place and won't move. She goes around saying 'Earth First -- we'll log the other planets later.' "Williams says Chenoweth is so right-wing that she doesn't have the ability to deal with the issues. For Williams, those issues include protecting abortion rights, maintaining funding for Medicare, and passing a minimum-wage increase. Although Williams, if elected, would not move to repeal the assault- weapons ban, don't expect him to propose or support any kind of gun-control legislation, according to Dodson.P.O. Box 2837Boise, ID 83701(208) 336-6050FIRST DISTRICT, NEVADA (LAS VEGAS)Even though Bob Coffin is running against Rep. John Ensign, a Republican incumbent whose father owns a pretty big chunk of Las Vegas, he's optimistic that he can win this seat. Michael Ensign is the chief operating officer and largest shareholder of Circus Circus Enterprises, a megagambling operation. Ensign Sr.'s 6.5 million shares are worth between $250 and $300 million dollars, depending on the market.Coffin, a Nevada state senator, is a fifth-generation Mexican American whose family originally emigrated to California. As a member of the Nevada state assembly during the mid-'80s he served as chair of the Transportation Committee. As a state senator, he's headed the Finance, Health Care, and Taxation committees. He says he believes that the government should function efficiently but that there is no room for the kind of right-wing extremism that has dominated the House."The polling is showing that we are very strong," Coffin said, "partially based on my record and partially based on the unpopularity of the freshman Republican class."Coffin said that along with donations, he'd like to see some of the big-name Democrats come into town for him. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) went to Nevada to campaign for Coffin two weeks ago, and Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) will visit Aug. 4."I just want to get the Democratic vote out," Coffin said. "I'd be proud to have a guy like Ron Dellums out here and campaign for me."Republicans, Coffin said, are trying to tap into voters' racial fears by showing pictures of Gephardt standing next to African American congressmembers like Rangel. "It's an extremely racist tactic," he said.1139 Fifth PlaceLas Vegas, NV 89104(702) 366-9696.with research assistance from Meir Rinde and Anthony York


Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ }}

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.