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Attention Democrats! Time for Progressive Revolution in Congress

September 11, 2006

Crotonblog: Letters to the Editor, Croton-on-Hudson, New York 10520
Or why I am voting for John Hall in the primary on Tuesday, September 12.

Where do we vote? In case you want to look up where to vote up online, check here. Polls are open 6 am to 9 pm.

The Republican Revolution is over
In the early autumn of 1994, some ambitious members of the US House of Representatives rallied their party’s Congressional candidates with a sweeping promise of radical action once elected. It was great political theater with a snappy title, “Contract with America.”

The leaders included a member of the Georgia delegation, Newt Gingrich, bolstered by Texans Dick Army and Tom DeLay. Six weeks later, the country’s voters dumped enough Democrats in that mid-term election to elevate the Republicans to sizable majorities in both House and Senate for the first time since the Eisenhower years.

Emboldened, Gingrich become Speaker of the House and immediately pursued the conservative agenda embodied in the “Contract.” The Republican Revolution was underway. History shows us that the Republican agenda of Gingrich, Army and DeLay was far more conservative than the county itself.

Colorful and distinctive, this large 1994 class of incoming Republicans in the 104th Congress was dubbed “Gingrich’s army” and became the subject of endless news articles, books, and political fodder. The 104th freshmen included a former professional football player, Steve Largent of Oklahoma, veterans of the first Gulf War such as the thoughtful Van Hilleary of Tennessee, a pop star in the late Sonny Bono from California, and the usual dose of attorneys and political aspirants. Since 1994, some members of that class have risen to key committee positions or reached higher office, such as Sam Brownback now a Senator of Kansas.

Kelly’s lack of leadership
In New York’s 19th Congressional District, a former schoolteacher, Sue Kelly, was swept into office on the Republican ticket as a member of Gingrich’s army of “true believers.” In the 12 years since 1994, Kelly has kept a low profile both at home and in Washington.

Sue Kelly has been the ultimate ‘follower,’ voting consistently with the Republican leadership without rocking the conservative boat. Recently, she has lost the Sierra Club endorsement, as well as that of the Human Rights Campaign. In other words, our district’s profile in Washington has become almost invisible and about as memorable as milk toast—a far cry form the days of Hamilton Fish. We deserve better.

Happily, this year we have a terrific pool of Democratic challengers feeding on an energized base of voters who are clamoring for more impact in Washington from our House member. I was shocked to read that independent observers consider Sue Kelly to be “among the 100th most powerful lawmakers in the 435 member House.” Then I realized almost every House member who has served 6 terms is on that same list of “most powerful.” I want someone who can command national attention representing the Hudson Valley—someone who leads.

What John Hall brings: Strong voice and great ideas I am voting for John Hall for Congress in the Democratic Primary on Tuesday, September 12, precisely because John stands the best chance becoming a leader in Congress on behalf of the Hudson Valley.

John Hall has gathered a stellar brain trust of expert advisors on matters that I think are central to our region and nation. Hall himself has long been in the vanguard of pursuing safer, more sustainable energy policies.

I recommend reading John’s energy proposals. John’s impressive proposal—unveiled in Croton in April—for a Sustainable Energy R&D Campus for Indian Point is based on existing technologies and needs only political will and action—lots of it!—to be enacted.

On one of John Hall’s stops in Croton, Charlie Kane and I had a chance to talk with John at length about a number of local issues and found John to be well-versed on topics as diverse as waste management, wind power and the dance of federal-state-local relations.

Just as important, once elected—whomever we vote in—must have the gravitas and personality—which Kelly does not—to charm, cajole, invoke and otherwise get the attention we need for matters central to our region and nation.

A person such as John Hall, who has already gained national prominence not once but twice—as musician and later as anti-nuke activist—is much more likely than milk toast to command the ear of Congressional peers.

Hall 1—Bush 0
Did you know John Hall has already done something none of the other candidates have? John stood up to Bush—by squashing Bush’s attempt at unauthorized use of a Hall tune on a Republican rally playlist.

Isn’t it time we sent a rock and roll guitarist to Congress—instead of another well-heeled attorney? Time for a guitar-driven Progressive Revolution!

Leo Wiegman
Trustee, Village of Croton-on-Hudson


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