I have posted about my friend, Chris Owens, who is running for Congress in the NY-11 district. This race is reaching a critical point. Chris has been doing wonderfully at the grassroots level, but lags in fundraising and the local “pundits” are looking only at fundraising in their estimation of who has a chance in this race. If Chris doesn’t make a good showing in the March 31st fundraising numbers, his chances of winning will go down. Don’t get me wrong. He would still have a shot. But a nice spike in fundraising would boost his chances enormously.
I am coming begging folks! We need help and we need a nice blog effort to give Chris his boost. I don’t know how to get the attention of the big wigs at Daily Kos, or MyDD or the Netroots, but Chris Owens deserves to be listed there on the right hand side of dKos under “Netroots Endorsed” as much as any of the currently listed folks deserve it. Seeing the numbers $6660 to over $20000 that Netroots has raised for its endorsed candidates, I can only wish that Chris would get similar attention because it would make all the difference. He has already been endorsed by Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders and Maxine Waters. He needs our vocal and hopefully monetary endorsement as well. And I feel that my voice is reaching as far as it can without some help…your help, I hope.
I met Chris on the progressive meetup circuit in Brooklyn. He is a member of Democracy for NYC and of New Democratic Majority and was an early Dean supporter. He marches in anti-war protests and plays concerts to raise money to protect neighborhoods from corrupt developers. He calls for impeachment, mainly based on the illegal wiretapping scandal, and has been endorsed by ImpeachPAC. He calls for a withdrawal from Iraq. He supports marriage equality. He supports instant runoff elections. He supports campaign finance reform. Hell, there is hardly any issue I disagree with him on!
To review the race, this race is not about beating Republicans. No Republican could win in this race. I have hypothesized that the Democrats could run a sponge cake and it would still beat any Republican. This district is predominantly minority with sizable lesbian and Jewish population as well as rich but liberal whites. There are few conservative bastions in NY-11. This race is about the kind of Democrats who will be the next generation in Congress. The current Congressman in NY-11, my friend’s father, Major Owens, is one of the old guard of the Civil Rights movement. He has voted against the Iraq war every time. He has voted against the Patriot Act every time. He, along with the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus, stood against confirming the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections. He is not well liked, but he is well respected. He, the old guard, is retiring.
There are five candidates running in the Democratic Primary to replace Major Owens. They are the new guard, but these 5 represent three different sides of the Democratic Party. Two, Nick Perry and Carl Andrews represent the corrupt Brooklyn Democratic machine whose boss was recently ousted after being convicted on four corruption charges. One, Yvette Clarke, has ties with the state Republican Party and Governor Pataki and has almost no backing or funding. The fourth, David Yassky, is a bright young man who means well, but whose stated political philosophy is a philosophy of compromise. I used to think he was a triangulator, but I think he rather starts from genuine ideals and figures any concession he can get from the other side is an adequate compromise. He tends to be proud of his compromises. His grassroots, progressive supporters have not liked his compromises and have left his camp en masse to the fifth candidate, the new long-shot, grassroots candidate, my friend Chris. I have written a summary of the race on Daily Gotham focusing on all five candidates based on a candidates forum hosted by Lambda Independent Democrats.
This week I have talked to two of the candidates in this race: Chris and his rival, David Yassky. These are the only two candidates who I consider even vaguely good. Yassky presents himself as grassroots. He once was. I worked to help him get elected to city council in a long-shot race against the corrupt Brooklyn Democratic machine. He came from behind and won solidly, much to my pleasure. He has since spent much of his time disappointing. He still calls himself grassroots, but he is the candidate with the most money and is expected to spend as much as a million bucks on this race. He has lost touch with the grassroots, though he is still sentimental about those roots. Many see him as seeking Détente with the Brooklyn machine and in being too willing to compromise with wealthy developers. He has been accused of taking a large amount of developer money, but he denies this and I do not know the truth of it. I have written a comparison of David Yassky and Chris Owens on Daily Gotham, discussing both the good and bad I see in Yassky and why I choose Owens.
David Yassky has raised big bucks through his connections in the rich white community and his Chuck Schumer connections. Yassky would make a good Congressman, but he would be they type of Congressman that many here would call weak and rail against and I would have to defend because, whatever his weaknesses, he would vote well.
Chris Owens inspires and would be the kind of Congressman you would all look at and say, “Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!”
I heard Chris speak again last night. I have heard him a good dozen times. Each time I am blown away by his intelligence, his compassion, his PASSION, and his willingness to take a stand clearly and firmly without checking how the wind is blowing and without equivocating. He can speak extemporaneously more effectively than most politicians can speak after much rehearsal. He is the great grandson of a slave on his father’s side and of Eastern European Jews on his mother’s side. He is an orator who has been described by a local paper as “preacher-like.” Basically, the first time I heard him I was HIGHLY skeptical. Within 5 minutes I was a believer, and I am not easily swayed. Basically, Chris Owens ROCKS. At last night’s speech, I was struck by the racial diversity of his supporters. David Yassky appeals mainly to whites, though don’t get me wrong. He reaches out to all. Chris inspires everyone.
Chris is accused of using his father’s name and of having no experience and of having no money. He has his father’s name and he is proud of it. He admires his father and has worked for his father. But he is running on his own. His father doesn’t usually make an appearance on his son’s behalf, though he did once when he also made an appearance to push for Howard Dean as head of the DNC. Chris is running as his own man and he sees his father as not being able to market progressive ideas in the current political climate. Chris wants to push harder for more progressive ideals than his father and he feels he is better able to, as he puts it, market those ideas.
Saying that Chris has no experience is really not true. Chris has served his community in hundreds of ways, has ample experience in the private, non-profit and public sectors. He unsuccessfully ran for city council, then served on the school board. He has worked for city councilmen and has worked closely with his father and thus has seen Congress from the inside just as much as David Yassky has. The difference is that Yassky saw it during the Clinton years and not during the Bush years. Chris Owens KNOWS, watching and working with his father, that things are different now. I was struck by how David Yassky’s stated political philosophy clearly was formed partly during the Clinton years. He doesn’t seem to realize what we are now up against.
It is true that Chris doesn’t have money. He is running a strictly grassroots campaign, depending on you and me and DFA and Impeach PAC to get behind him and push him to victory. That is why I am coming begging again. I need your help, preferably between now and March 31st, to swarm the blogsphere, as Liza of the Daily Gotham likes to put it, and give Chris a much-needed boost.
One reader of my national newsletter is an 80+ year old, very progressive woman who lives in the reddest part of Tennessee. She tells me that she subscribed to my newsletter because she wants to see a new Patrick Henry or Tomas Paine whose oratory and rhetoric will reignite the passion of the people and restore heart and soul to the Democratic Party. I think her implication was that she had hoped I would be such a person but that I have not lived up to her hopes. Well, she is still and avid reader and I never imagined myself being the next Tomas Paine or Patrick Henry. But her point is that the Democratic Party lacks inspiring leaders. When I hear David Yassky speak, I do not hear a voice that would impress the 80+ year old progressive woman in Tennessee. When I hear Chris Owens speak, I hear someone who would at least raise an eyebrow of even that old veteran of so many years of America politics. Maybe Chris won’t be the great orator she is looking for, but he sure comes close. And who knows, maybe he would be the leader we all want.
Please. Whatever you can do to bring this race to the attention of the blogsphere big wigs and get Chris his much needed boost, I am begging you to do it. For those who can help, here is my Act Blue site for Chris Owens. And here are his statements on a wide range of issues. It is rare I put this much passion into a single race. But this one deserves it.