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Hot flashes are usually a private matter. Alison Teal shares hers.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Scott Kleeb
Nebraska – 3rd Congressional District


We never stopped in our seven-hour drive across the Nebraska sand hills and prairies. And that is a shame. We always plan to stop for lunch at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse in Paxton, a town of some 600 people. Self proclaimed as “Nebraska’s most famous watering hole,” this family eatery showcases mounts and memorabilia from worldwide hunting adventures. Two Nebraska-beef burgers, with giant helpings of cole slaw, fries and ice tea would have been less than ten dollars. However, our cappuccinos at the drive-through espresso stand just off a dirt road next to the railroad tracks were $2.75 each.

Anyway, we were hungry when we reached Kearney where we were meeting Scott Kleeb, candidate for Nebraska’s 3rd District so we agreed to have dinner together at a chain restaurant just off I80. Kleeb ordered a “neat scotch” and the waitress rushed off to get a tidy glass. You couldn’t blame her for her confusion, Kleeb is disarmingly youthful and distractingly handsome. In fact, it’s difficult even for a woman of my age to concentrate on a T-bone when he’s sitting across the table from you. He looks every bit the Marlboro man in his green flannel shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. And the look is legitimate. The 30-year-old Kleeb lives in a bunkhouse, is a fourth generation western Nebraskan, and has worked as a ranch hand and been a rodeo bull rider. For his doctoral dissertation in history at Yale, he focused on the history of American cattle ranching. Most of his research was done from the back of a pick-up, as he traveled through every state west of the Mississippi, listening to the stories of farmers, ranchers and small-town workers.

He spent his first eighteen years on military bases in Italy and when confronted by opponents with carpet-bagging accusations, he says he’s “not going to apologize for my parents teaching soldiers overseas. When I had a chance to come back, I chose to come back.” This is the heart of red U.S.A. It is the sixth most Republican district in the country and has only twice elected a Democrat since 1935. But the last time this seat was open, in 1990, the Democrat lost by only 4000 votes. It is an open seat because the incumbent, Tom Osborne, a former University of Nebraska football coach, is running for governor. As Kleeb says, “There’s God and Tom Osborne in Western Nebraska and who’s got more streets named after him?”

Kleeb knows his district and knows farming and ranching inside out. He is a prairie populist: “More than 70% of subsidies go to 10% of the largest farm operators. If we can take that 10% and redirect it, we can more than double our current investment in rural development.” He talks with deep admiration of people over 65, a considerable part of his district. It resonates when he says, “no one asks people now to give what these people gave.” And he talks with unalloyed admiration about FDR who “brought electricity to our ranch.”

Currently the issue he hears most about is immigration. On the day of the national strike, the meat packing plants were shut down. “That’s a ten billion dollar economy shutting down. Of course we have to know who’s in our country and we need stronger border security measures, it is a national security issue. But the Latinos are hard working people out here and appreciated as such.”

The second biggest issue raised with Kleeb is health care. Not only are many people in the sand hills uninsured but also co-pays and premiums are up to the level that even many people who are insured can’t afford good care. Nonetheless it is his sense that the voters don’t want single payer health insurance so he has developed a middle ground focused on preventative care, cost containment – including competitive pricing for drugs for seniors – and increases in efficiency.

The next issues are water and energy. “If we are to have renewable energy by 2525, where will that come from? The Great Plains,” says Kleeb. His opponent, Adrian Smith, also young, is a classic God, Guns and Gays Republican candidate who has raised serious money from the Club for Growth. Smith has had some trouble explaining their opposition to both farm subsidies and ethanol subsidies. Kleeb has painted a vision of new technologies for energy resting on the agricultural resources of the third district. After driving for hours with a 30-mile-an-hour wind blowing across the highway it struck us that a bit of wind power might also be available.

He will not be a vote with Murtha on the war. Best case, he would take a position more like Levin. But he has been characterized in one blog as “pro war” and that substantially understates the sophistication of his position. He has also been characterized as “pro life” and that is simply wrong. He starts an answer to any question on the subject by saying “I am against abortion.” But he then says it is not the government’s role to criminalize abortion, and “the answer is not sending women and their doctor’s to jail.” On taxes, he opposes repeal of the estate tax and extension of the dividend tax reduction.

Vice President Cheney recently held a fundraiser for Kleeb’s opponent – the first VP to visit the district in 100 years. The press on the event started with Kleeb’s call for the Smith campaign to pay for the extra police and other costs rather than the taxpayers of Grand Island and noted that Kleeb was in the same city holding an event with over 50 supporters highlighting energy independence and criticizing Cheney as the politician who “has done more to entrench the interests of Big Oil than any other politician in American history.” This strategy ended with Kleeb getting more airtime than Smith and Cheney on the day of the event. The fact that Cheney came at all suggests that Kleeb is beginning to worry them. And, it turns out, that although Smith raised $80,000 at that event, at the end of the quarter Kleeb had $278,000 on hand and Smith had only $118,000. The RNC also sent House Speaker Dennis Hastert on July 31st for a fundraiser with Smith, and Congressman Cantor (VA-7) is to appear with Smith at an event on August 15th. It’s unheard of for a Democrat to be ahead in fund-raising in western Nebraska. We need to keep him that way.

Kleeb is a smart, appealing candidate, now organizing a campaign in a district where there has not been great Democratic infrastructure and where the distances are vast. But -- as in Wyoming -- we heard how good Dean’s 50 state strategy is for these rural districts. And in the 3rd, it will mean at least five full-time grass roots organizers.

As we left our wilted salad -- about 11:30 at night -- Sam was down. The candidate and his staff seemed very young and idealistic in a place where the numbers are discouraging and the opponent well-funded. But I am convinced this is just the sort of person for whom we Democrats should be building support. We need young, energetic promising people. In the past, the Republicans have been far better at recruiting, supporting and developing candidates and we are paying the price. And Sam should not be dismissing young candidates. It is not only bad form, it is somehow denying our own history.

Kleeb is making a real splash in this nationally overlooked district. He has a chance, a real chance. And a member of the house is a member of the house.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Scott Kleeb is one of ten candidates for whom we have been raising money. Thanks to the generosity of many of you we have so far sent more than $90,000 to these candidates.

THE CANDIDATES:

Candidate / District / Checks To:

Gabrielle Giffords / 8th district of Arizona / Giffords for Congress
Larry Grant / 1st District of Idaho / Grant for Congress
Paul Hodes / 2nd District of New Hampshire / Paul Hodes for Congress
Christine Jennings / 13th District of Florida / Christine Jennings for Congress
Scott Kleeb / 3rd District of Nebraska / Kleeb For Congress
Angie Paccione / 4th District Of Colorado / Angie Peccione for Congress
Dan Seals / 10th District of Illinois / Dan Seals for Congress
Gary Trauner / Wyoming (statewide race) / Trauner for Congress
Tim Walz / 1st District of Minnesota / Tim Walz for Congress
Patty Wetterling / 6th District of Minnesota / Patty Wetterling for Congress

If you can help with any or all of these candidates -- and haven't already -- please send checks plus one copy of the attached disclosure form to me at the address below. Complete only the lines marked with an asterisk on the disclosure form and then sign at the bottom. We will copy and complete the form for each committee and submit it with your check along with forms and checks from others

Send to: Alison Teal, 2320 Pomona Avenue, Martinez, CA 94553 and Sam's office will forward them to me promptly and, in turn, I will get them promptly to the campaigns. Sam and I have taken a substantial amount of the time of some of the candidates and their campaign managers and I want to be sure they know it was not wasted. If you choose to contribute by credit card on the web site please let me know so that, for this same reason, I can be sure the campaign knows where it came from.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

As the bumper strip says, “If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention”.

Control of Congress is critical because neither we nor the world can afford more years of domestic and foreign policy blunders. Imagine a war with Iran conducted by the same people who brought you Iraq. Only a new Congress can stop it.

My husband Sam Brown and I, along with a few other friends, have decided we have to stop whining and really do something. We are committed to doing our part to help gain control of Congress. We hope you can help.

We all get numerous fundraising appeals… so we have to make decisions about where our funds and our time are best spent. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has done well in recruiting candidates and in raising money for the most competitive races, currently 22. We think these candidates identified by the DCCC will do well with or without our help.

Where we believe we can get the biggest bang for our – and your -- buck is in the next 10-15 most competitive races. These are races that: 1) may not be toss ups but are highly competitive; 2) have a good Democratic candidate who already has a good campaign team or is willing to accept help in forming one; and, 3) have local issues that either favor the Democrat or weaken the Republican. These are critical districts…ones we know the Republicans will target but ones that truly will be the difference in winning or losing control of the House. These are districts that desperately need help but will not get to the top of the list for assistance from traditional Democratic campaign organizations.

Our partner in this effort is Chuck McLean and his research firm, Denver Research Group (DRGI). Over the past four years, DRGI’s state-of-the-art trend forecasting systems have correctly projected political events from the Iraq insurgency to the Hamas win (and its scope) in the recent Palestinian elections. His work has been reported in Fortune and repeatedly by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

Chuck developed a list of approximately 45 target races based on a variety of criteria. Sam met with Rahm Emmanuel and the staff of the DCCC, reviewed this entire list and also reviewed the top DCCC targets. Rahm felt we were initially focusing on the right tier of races and that we could do many things to aid candidates, particularly those with primaries, that they could not. He was enthusiastic about our plans.

Sam and I and DRGI are willing to devote significant time and resources to this project. Chuck and his staff, on a purely voluntary basis, will maintain and update the target lists, monitoring key events, polls and other happenings in the target districts. This last month, we have visited some candidates, talked at length with others and reviewed more than 40 campaigns. We have a list of nine candidates about whom we are genuinely excited. We have begun the process of meeting with all these candidates. We will provide more in depth personal observations as we go along. The first trip report will be done early next week and I will send it to you. After this last month of work, we are more then ever convinced that there are interesting and important opportunities to help candidates who are running strong campaigns where your money would be well spent.

We have researched and written the attached rather glossy summaries – thank you PDF. These are races that both deserve support and will spend your money well.

What we are asking of you is that you commit to support each of these target candidates. Your contribution of any size, from a few dollars, if that is what is possible for you, but more – even much more -- up to the maximum of $2100 per candidate, will be helpful and greatly appreciated. In fact I know that for some of the young people on my list, any commitment at all will be hard. But not as hard as living through the next two years with a Republican Congress. I know some people to whom we are sending this letter can afford to give generously and we hope everyone will stretch to give. So, please take a look at the attachments describing each race and send checks for these candidates. Of course if there is one or more you find not to your liking we hope you will write a slightly larger check to the others than you otherwise could afford.

The candidates and the name of their campaign committees are:

Gabrielle Giffords 8th district of Arizona Giffords for Congress
Paul Hodes 2nd District of New Hampshire Paul Hodes for Congress
Christine Jennings 13th district of Florida Christine Jennings for Congress
Scott Kleeb 3rd district of Nebraska Kleeb for Congress
Angie Paccione 4th district of Colorado Angie Paccione for Congress
Dan Seals 10th District of Illinois Dan Seals for Congress
Gary Trauner Wyoming (at large) Trauner for Congress
Tim Walz 1st District of Minnesota Tim Walz for Congress
Patty Wetterling 6th district of Minnesota Patty Wetterling for Congress

Please send all checks plus one copy of the attached disclosure form to me at the address below. Complete only the lines marked with an asterisk on the disclosure form and then sign at the bottom. We will copy and complete the form for each committee and submit it with your check along with forms and checks from others

Send to: Sam Brown, 2320 Pomona Avenue, Martinez, CA 94553 and Sam’s office will forward them to me promptly and, in turn, I will get them promptly to the campaigns. Sam and I have taken a substantial amount of the time of some of the candidates and their campaign managers and I want to be sure they know it was not wasted. If you choose to contribute by credit card on the web site please let me know so that, for this same reason, I can be sure the campaign knows where it came from.

Also please pass this along to your friends. Sam and Chuck and I have and will continue to invest significant resources and time in completing our work and preparing and updating these lists. We want to be sure our investment will result in solid support for these good candidates.

As a bonus for you (as if winning control of Congress weren’t enough), we’ll be sending a regular email summarizing for you the status of these races and providing additional information on Election 2006 as a whole.

Remember what Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Together we really can make a difference.

Below is the report form you need to print out and send with your checks.
Federal Law requires us to use our best efforts to collect and report the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer for individuals whose contributions to a candidate exceed $200 for an election.

*Name_________________________________________

*Address _______________________________________

*City_____________________ State _____ Zip _________

*Employer ______________________________

*Occupation ____________________________
(If you are retired, please enter N/A under Employer and Retired under Occupation; if a homemaker, please enter N/A - Homemaker; if self-employed, please enter "Self-Employed" under Employer and describe your line of work under Occupation).

Name of Candidate Committee: _____________

Amount of contribution: _____________

¬¬¬¬I confirm that the following statements are true and accurate:
- I am not a foreign national who lacks permanent residence in the United States.
- This contribution is made from my own funds, and not those of another.
- This contribution is not made from the funds of a corporation or labor organization.
- I am at least eighteen years old.

SIGNED ____________________

*Required by Federal Law
Contributions to candidates for Federal Office are not tax deductible.

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