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Tuesday, June 6, 2006 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | NEXT: "The United States is Terrified"–Noam...
2006-06-06

Antiwar Candidates Challenge Incumbent Democrats in House and Senate Races

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The 2006 mid-term elections are just five months away. In the Senate, close to three-dozen seats are up for grabs, while all 435 seats are open in the House. Democrats hope growing public discontent with the Bush administration will help them win control of Congress from the Republicans. But some of this year’s most heated races won’t just come down to Republicans vs. Democrats–or Independents–in November. Rather, in primaries this week and continuing through the summer, some of the country’s closely-watched races will pit Democrats–against Democrats. And there’s one main issue that’s creating the fault line: the war in Iraq.

Across the country, a handful of challengers are taking some of the leading Democratic figures to task for voting to send US troops to Iraq and refusing now to bring them home. On this issue and others like government wiretapping, these candidates say many elected Democrats have betrayed core party values and provided political cover for the Bush administration.

We hear from four of these candidates that are shaking up races across the country: Jonathan Tasini in New York, Marcy Winograd in California, Ned Lamont in Connecticut and John Bonifaz in Massachusetts. [includes rush transcript]

We begin here in New York with Jonathan Tasini. He is a union leader and organizer, and former president of the National Writers Union. He is running against incumbent New York Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

Joining him here in our Firehouse studio is Cindy Sheehan. Since the death of her son Casey in Iraq in April 2004, she has emerged as one of the leading figures of the anti-war movement in the United States. She is the co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. She has called on Democrats to vote against their pro-war incumbents. Welcome to Democracy Now!

We invited Senator Clinton to come on the program but her office declined our request.

  • Cindy Sheehan, her son Casey was killed in Iraq in April 2004. She is the co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace and a member of Voters For Peace.
  • Jonathan Tasini, union leader and organizer. He is the former president of the National Writers Union.

Joining us from a studio in Los Angeles is Marcy Winograd. She’s a teacher and longtime activist. She’s running against incumbent California Congressmember Jane Harman for the Democratic nomination in California’s 36th Congressional District. The primary vote in that race is today.

  • Marcy Winograd, teacher and longtime activist..

We turn back to the Senate for one of the most-watched races of the primary season. Joe Lieberman, the three-term Democratic Senator from Connecticut, is facing his first major challenge to re-election since he won his seat eighteen years ago. Senator Lieberman has been one of the most vocal Democratic supporters of the Iraq war. Anti-war sentiment is growing in Connecticut. A recent poll showed more than 60 percent of the state’s voters believe the war in Iraq is wrong.

Disenchantment with Lieberman within his own party has grown so vocal he recently refused to rule out leaving the Democratic ticket and running as an Independent. His opponent joins us now in our firehouse studio. Ned Lamont is a former telecommunications executive. He won a third of the delegate vote at the Democratic Party’s state convention last month to put him on the ballot in the primary on August 8th. We invited Senator Lieberman on the program but he was unavailable to join us.

  • Ned Lamont, former telecommunications executive.

As we continue our coverage of the candidates looking to unseat key fellow Democrats this year. We go now to Boston to join John Bonifaz. He is a Boston-based attorney and the founder of the National Voting Rights Institute. He is running against incumbent William F. Galvin for the Democratic nomination for Massachusetts Secretary of State. John Bonifaz is the only Massachusetts Democrat to challenge an incumbent from his own party in this year’s primary.

As we continue our coverage of the candidates looking to unseat key fellow Democrats this year. We go now to Boston to join John Bonifaz. He is a Boston-based attorney and the founder of the National Voting Rights Institute. He is running against incumbent William F. Galvin for the Democratic nomination for Massachusetts Secretary of State. John Bonifaz is the only Massachusetts Democrat to challenge an incumbent from his own party in this year’s primary.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: For today’s broadcast, we’ll hear from four of the candidates that are shaking up races around the country: Jonathan Tasini in New York, Marcy Winograd in California, Ned Lamont in Connecticut and John Bonifaz in Massachusetts. We begin here in New York with Jonathan Tasini, union leader and organizer, former president of the National Writers Union. He’s running against the incumbent New York senator, Hillary Clinton, for the Democratic nomination. Joining him in the Firehouse studio is Cindy Sheehan. Since the death of her son Casey in Iraq in April 2004, she’s emerged as one of the leading figures of the antiwar movement in the United States, co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace. She’s called on Democrats to vote against their pro-war incumbents. Welcome to Democracy Now!, both.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Hi, Amy.

JONATHAN TASINI: It’s good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to start with Cindy Sheehan. Tell us about this nationwide movement, where you have Democrats not only taking on President Bush, but taking on their own party.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, I think it’s imperative. We have basically right now in Congress a one-party system. We have very few Democrats who are speaking to our core values as progressive liberal Democrats. And they are rubber-stamping and bobble-heading everything that this administration wants to do. And it’s so urgent right now that we have an opposition party. And I believe if Democrats courageously spoke out to their core values saying, "This war is wrong; if we voted for it, we shouldn’t have," and to call for an end to the occupation of Iraq, I believe that we could have a government that is run with integrity, and the Democrats could have a landslide victory in November, if they would act different from the Republicans. And I’m supporting these candidates who are saying that this war is wrong, we need to bring our troops home, and we are not going to support the Republicans who are corrupt and who are leading our country down this path of destruction.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re here in New York. You have personally spoken to Hillary Rodham Clinton. What did that conversation consist of?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, I was talking about the personal cost of war, about how her policies and her support of George Bush and this war, even though she says it’s a mistake, you know, the war is being fought incompetently. There’s no such thing as a competent war. And I told her about the pain of being a mother who lost a son. We talked about other mothers who have their children in harm’s way, who are worried beyond anything they can imagine. And at the end, she said, "Well, we have to complete the mission to honor the sacrifice of your son." And I think and have been calling for an end to the killing, that the killing has to stop sometime. How much killing is enough killing for these people? And there is no mission. She can’t define the mission. George Bush can’t define the mission. And to just keep them there because they’re there is not a good mission.

AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Tasini, you were head of the National Writers Guild. What made you decide become a candidate for the U.S. Senate?

JONATHAN TASINI: Well, about a year and a half ago, several people who I know in the political movement in New York approached me to discuss the idea that somebody had to run against the incumbent senator, because her position in Iraq was appalling. And beyond Iraq, actually, we have lots of difference, but if we focus on the war, "How could it be," they ask, "that in New York state, one of the most Democratic states in the nation, that we have an incumbent senator who voted for the war, has been a great advocate for the war, and as Bob Herbert put in a recent Times column, her position is no different really than Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice?" And I gave it a lot of thought over many months. Mainly, I thought that somebody had do it. I was involved in many other union organizing projects that I didn’t want to put aside, but ultimately last summer I decided that I would do it.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, both the Republican Party of New York and the Democratic Party had their meetings. Tell us what happened at yours? Nominating conventions.

JONATHAN TASINI: Well, you know, it was a — I’m not a naive person. I’ve been around politics for a while. But it was shocking to go to the Democratic state convention and find out that they would not have spoken the two words, "Iraq war," had I not been there. The Clinton campaign did everything possible to make sure that the Iraq war was not debated, for obvious reasons, because if the Iraq war is debated and Democratic primary voters find out what her position is — and many of them still vague about it — then I think a lot of people will vote against her.

And I pushed a resolution that was finally debated — not my resolution, something quite weaker — but the fact that we finally got them to focus on the Iraq war and talk about it for a few minutes — it wasn’t a real debate — but to focus on it a few minutes and not just have receptions and parties and coronations was, I think, a major step forward. But it was an eye opener that our own state Democratic Party refused to debate the Iraq war, the most important issue in this election.

AMY GOODMAN: What does it take to get on the ballot? Cindy Sheehan is here with you today, because you’re headed up to Union Square to begin a search for how many signatures?

JONATHAN TASINI: You need 15,000 throughout the state of New York, and they have to be — you also have to get a hundred in at least half of the congressional districts. There are 29 congressional districts. We have to get a hundred in at least 15. So we have to get about 15,000, but you probably have to get at least two or three times that, because our signatures will probably be challenged by our opponents. But we have this amazing network of volunteers all across the state that have come into the campaign over the last six months. People can volunteer actually at tasinifornewyork.org. That’s our website, tasinifornewyork.org. And we have this amazing group of people, so they’re going to be out in the streets. Cindy is going to join us up in Union Square for the kick off. Today is the first day that you’re legally allowed to collect signatures.

AMY GOODMAN: And how long do you have?

JONATHAN TASINI: You have about six weeks — five weeks 'til about July 13. That's the final day, when all of the signatures have to be in. But realistically, we have to have it done by July 6.

AMY GOODMAN: We should say, of course, we put in calls to Senator Clinton’s office. They did not get back to us about coming on the program today, as the other candidates, the incumbents, also did not agree to come on the program today. Here we are in New York. We’re talking with Jonathan Tasini and Cindy Sheehan. Of course, talking about Hillary Rodham Clinton is not just talking about the next possible senator of New York or the — you know, Hillary Clinton being re-elected as senator, but possibly president of the United States. So what happens in this country, in this state, really matters, what kind of debate or questions that are raised in New York.

JONATHAN TASINI: Well, I think that there’s no question that because of who I’m taking on, there’s an enormous amount of spotlight and attention to this race. And I think that’s important for a couple of reasons. One is we have to send a message to the Democratic Party that we will not support Democratic candidates who support illegal and immoral wars. We also will not support and should not support Democratic candidates, incumbents who are for the death penalty, who believe that NAFTA is a good thing, who sat on the board of Wal-Mart for six years, whose best friend now is Rupert Murdoch who is going to hold a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. She is out of step with the Democratic primary voters in New York.

So I believe that separate from what might happen after 2006, she does not deserve re-election, simply because of her record in the first term. I believe that, you know, 2008 is 50 political lifetimes away. We’re focusing on her record now. Voting for an illegal and immoral war, simply on that, she doesn’t deserve re-election.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, what do you say to those who say if you do this, support candidates against Democratic candidates, that you are ultimately supporting the man in the White House who declared the war that took your son?

CINDY SHEEHAN: Well, I think the candidates who — I’m supporting Jonathan, I’m supporting Marcy in Los Angeles, I’m supporting John Bonifaz, and they are running against people who support George Bush. And I believe that we are not going to get leaders of integrity and honesty and courage until we start voting with our integrity. It’s time for us to stop holding our nose and voting for the lesser of two evils, because that person might be just a little less evil, but they’re still supporting the evil policies of the Bush administration. So we have to stand up and have courage. If we all have the courage we need to vote for people who do have integrity, then we’ll get leaders of integrity. And that’s the only time we will.

JONATHAN TASINI: And it goes even beyond — I think Cindy is absolutely right. Cindy and I work very closely with something called the Progressive Democrats of America, pdamerica.org. We see a long-term vision of what we’re trying to do, which is to build a progressive movement throughout the state and throughout the country.

We’re also very much in favor of pushing the idea of impeachment. I mean, you have two leaders who deserve to be impeached and removed from office. And I’ve been saying this from the beginning of the campaign. Certainly if I was in the United States Senate — I could say that certainly about Marcy in the House — if I was in the U.S. Senate, I would be supporting Russ Feingold’s attempt to censure Bush. We have a Democratic Party that’s running for cover and not supporting immediate impeachment in the House and not supporting censure in the Senate. We can’t have a Democratic Party that has no spine.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined in Los Angeles studio by Marcy Winograd. She’s teacher and longtime activist running against the incumbent California congress member, Jane Harman, for the Democratic nomination in California’s 36th Congressional District. The primary vote in that race is today. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

MARCY WINOGRAD: Thank you, Amy. Great to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: It is good to have you with us. Why have you taken on Congressmember Jane Harman?

MARCY WINOGRAD: Amy, it was time for somebody to challenge the leadership of this party that has been all too willing to acquiesce to the Bush agenda of eternal war. I happened to see my opponent on Meet the Press on February 12, at which time she said that she kept quiet for a year and a half while being briefed on the massive illegal wiretaps being conducted by Bush and Cheney, because frankly she didn’t know the law. She is a lawyer, but she didn’t know the law. Besides, she said, she deplored the fact that the leak had been revealed, that the wiretaps had been revealed, that people now knew the truth. And when I heard that, what raced through my mind is, "Wow! We have a Democrat who is surrendering the Constitution. She championed the war in Iraq, took to the floor of Congress to sell this war, refused to join 133 other members of Congress who said no. And now, what will happen if George Bush decides to invade or conduct air strikes over Iran? What will she say? What will the Democratic leadership do?" And I knew that at that point somebody had to challenge her.

AMY GOODMAN: What did it take for you to run in this primary, since each state has different requirements?

MARCY WINOGRAD: Actually, it was not a very rigorous bar. I had to collect about 40 signatures and pay $1,600. Listening to Jonathan talk, I thought, "Wow! I really got off easy on this one." But besides that, it did take a great sense of urgency. I would not have done this had I not felt that we were on the precipice of losing any semblance of democracy and plunging ourselves into yet another war.

AMY GOODMAN: And how hard is it to take on the Democratic Party? How much criticism is there within that this is an absolutely key time for people within the party to come together, and to open up the debate in a primary like this will only weaken the Democratic candidate?

MARCY WINOGRAD: Well, I have to tell you, it is tough. I mean, initially people would say to me, "Wow, Marcy, you really have a lot of courage. You’re really gutsy to do this." And my response was, "No, I’m just passionate about peace." I really do believe that that is the course for our future, not preemptive war. I have a great sense of urgency. But as we continue to campaign throughout the 36 District, which is a 30-mile-long district that stretches from the Port of Los Angeles on up through the heartland of defense contractor territory into Venice and West L.A. progressive areas. I saw that I was meeting with some pretty intense resistance from those inside the party, even those who you might consider progressive in the Democratic Party, that there is a club and it’s called incumbency, and a challenge to one is a challenge to all.

AMY GOODMAN: You are running against a congress member, Jane Harman, who was the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. She’s gotten the support of the United Farm Workers, United Auto Workers, as well. Your response?

MARCY WINOGRAD: Yes, the United Farm Workers Union and the United Auto Workers, they have both endorsed my candidacy, as has the United Teachers of Los Angeles. I’ve been a union member of the teachers’ union for 12 years, and initially they had endorsed Jane Harman. But through tremendous grassroots lobbying, we were able to overturn that, and they in the end rescinded their endorsement and endorsed me instead. We are seeing a lot of support from rank-and-file union members, regardless of what the leadership is doing in those individual organizations.

AMY GOODMAN: Jonathan Tasini, what kind of support have you gotten? It seems that the major organizations have not gone yet to supporting your candidacy, that Hillary Rodham Clinton has it pretty locked up.

JONATHAN TASINI: First let me wish my friend Marcy really good luck in the election today. Both Cindy and I are really pulling for her and hope she wins.

Look, it’s obvious that Clinton is a very big, big power in the Democratic Party. People fear her. Most of the, I think, union organizations, the heads of the unions, will probably end up supporting her. And like Marcy, I think we’ll have a lot of support from the rank-and-file on the issue of the war, on the fact that my opponent says NAFTA was a good thing. And I think — I can’t wait to talk about that in the places that have been devastated by NAFTA. When they hear that she sat on the board of Wal-Mart for six years, I think there are many union members who have been working to defeat Wal-Mart will be shocked by that connection to corporate power. So I’m pretty confident that we’ll get the rank-and-file support.

At the same time, we’ve gotten great support from P.D.A., Progressive Democrats of America, from Village Independent Democrats. There are many Democratic clubs in New York City who rejected the incumbent and supported me and many who took no position, no endorsement, which is again a rejection of the incumbent. When we talk about where she stands, when we talk about what she really stands for and what her positions are, Democratic primary voters reject her. Zogby just did a poll that showed that if there was a contest between Clinton and an antiwar candidate, Clinton would get 38%, the antiwar candidate would get 32%, and the rest aren’t sure. So there’s a great vulnerability there, and I think that we’re going to shock the political establishment.

AMY GOODMAN: Cindy Sheehan, do you see pushing third parties now? In 2004, John Kerry, John Edwards, they authorized the invasion. They voted to authorize. Hillary Clinton, Joseph Lieberman — we’ll be speaking with a candidate against him in a minute, as well. The major leaders of the Democratic Party.

CINDY SHEEHAN: Right. I think that now that I’ve been a world traveler, I see how governments can be held accountable if there’s more than one party, more than two parties. And like I said, we have to start putting up candidates, electing candidates that go with our beatitudes. Martin Luther King, Jr. said we can’t make our leaders change their beatitudes. We have to make them conform to our beatitudes if we are going have a world where we can bring up our children and our grandchildren.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think you would run?

CINDY SHEEHAN: I got to get our kids home first from Iraq, and then we’ll see.

AMY GOODMAN: Marcy Winograd, do you support impeachment of the President of the United States?

MARCY WINOGRAD: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I do want to say that I am the president of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, which is a chapter of Progressive Democrats of America. There’s been a lot of talk about impeachment within this organization. I am now running ads on Air America. I’m part of an impeach team with Charles Coleman and Bob McCloskey, two other challengers to incumbent Democrats, and we are calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney and asking everyone to join us in calling on members of Congress to sign onto this, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both very much here in New York for joining us, Jonathan Tasini and Cindy Sheehan. I know you’re headed up to Union Square right now to kick off your petition drive. Marcy Winograd, I’d like to ask you to stay with us for a moment after break. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. Jonathan Tasini, running against Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, and Cindy Sheehan, peace mom.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Marcy Winograd in the Los Angeles studio. She’s running against Jane Harman. The Democratic primary is today. We’ve heard something, though not verified, about a last-minute issue that has been raised, a last-minute election eve complaint that’s been filed with the Los Angeles courtroom calling on L.A. County’s Registrar of Voters to immediately remove Diebold electronic voting machine tabulations. Do you know anything about this, Marcy?

MARCY WINOGRAD: Yes. A number of people went to court yesterday to seek an injunction against the use of Diebold GEMS, which is a tabulator. The county, as far as I know, has been using sort of a hybrid system that combines a micro-tally tabulation, which the county created. It’s a voting system the county created along with the Diebold system, and this group had gone to court. We have formed an election protection team as part of my campaign. I’ve been very involved in the election protection movement. And we have been sending letters. My husband is the honorary lawyer who’s heading up this team, and we’ve been sending letters to the County Registrar Recorder’s office asking for assurances that there will be no internet hookups, no modems attached to these tabulation machines.

AMY GOODMAN: We are also joined in the studio by Ned Lamont. We turn back to the Senate for one of the most watched races of the primary season. Joseph Lieberman, the three-term Democratic senator from Connecticut, is facing his first major challenge to re-election since he won his seat 18 years ago. Senator Lieberman has been one of the most vocal Democratic supporters of the Iraq war. Antiwar sentiment is growing in Connecticut. A recent poll showed more than 60% of Connecticut’s voters believe the war in Iraq is wrong. Disenchantment with Lieberman within his own party has grown so vocal he recently refused to rule out leaving the Democratic ticket and running as an independent.

His opponent joins us now in the Firehouse studio. Ned Lamont is a former telecommunications executive, won a third of the delegate vote at the Democratic Party state convention last month to put him on the ballot in the primary on August 8. We did invite Senator Lieberman on the program, but was unavailable to join us.

And, Marcy Winograd, we want to also thank you very much for having spent this time on this primary day. Thank you for being with us from Los Angeles.

Ned Lamont, can you talk about why you’ve taken on Joseph Lieberman? He is a powerhouse in the Senate.

NED LAMONT: He’s a powerhouse in the Senate, but he hasn’t been in Connecticut for a long time, and he hasn’t been listening to the people of Connecticut and what they think. And I think, in particular, we have a Democratic primary that’s coming up on August 8th, and the Democrats want Democrats to stand up and be bold and clear about where we stand. We want to hold President Bush accountable for the mistakes that he’s made. And Senator Lieberman is too likely to worry about undermining the credibility of the President. And I worry about a president that’s fundamentally undermining a lot of the basic values of our country. I see a president that’s trying to privatize Social Security. I see a president that’s trying to replace Medicare, Medicaid and universal healthcare with health savings accounts. I see a president that’s just plain wrong on the war in Iraq. And if Senator Lieberman won’t challenge the President on those mistakes, I will.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you want to see President Bush impeached?

NED LAMONT: You know, I don’t. I can’t bear the thought of a President Dick Cheney. But I was surprised by the Democrats, you know, when Russ Feingold stood up a few months ago. And it seems to me that the American Bar Association, Senator Lieberman and others have said that the illegal wiretaps were illegal. There’s little question about that, and we should hold the President accountable. And I agree with Feingold, that I thought censure was an appropriate remedy there. And I was surprised that more Democrats didn’t step up and support him on that.

AMY GOODMAN: You were a telecommunications executive. Who did you work for? What company?

NED LAMONT: We started up a little company of my own. It’s called Campus Televideo. And I’m pleased to say that we took Free Speech TV and Link Media to about 200 college campuses around the country. So, hopefully some of them are watching this show today.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think about the telecoms that have been working with the government voluntarily, without subpoena, offering up their databases, their information, e-mails, phone logs to the government?

NED LAMONT: Well, I think it was wrong, and I think it was stupid. And I can tell you as a telecom person that the folks that we provide service for care very strongly about their privacy and their security out there. And if there’s a sense that the ISPs and the telecom companies are just handing over their private information to government authorities, you know, with no judicial oversight at all, that’s bad for business, and it’s bad for the American Constitution.

AMY GOODMAN: Joseph Lieberman ran for president, very much now has supported the war. What is your sense of people in Connecticut around this issue? Who is he representing, if these polls indicate most people in Connecticut are opposed to the war?

NED LAMONT: I think he’s representing himself. I think that the people of Connecticut have it right. They know that "stay the course" is not a winning strategy. It’s time for us to change course, time for us to get our troops out of harm’s way and start bringing them home. And I don’t think the Senator has been in the state. He hasn’t listened. And I think he’s wrong on that.

AMY GOODMAN: How much pressure was there on you not to run, not to weaken a Democratic candidate in this midterm time when the Democrats could take the House and Senate?

NED LAMONT: There was some of the party brass in state central there in Hartford, Connecticut, didn’t like the idea of a primary. They thought we might be rocking the boat. Don’t jeopardize the safe seat. But by the same token, I can tell you that the grassroots support was overwhelming. And that’s at the town committee level, the delegates of the convention, as you pointed out, where we far exceeded anybody’s expectations. And I think going forward, people realize that this is good for the Democratic Party. We’re having an old-fashioned kitchen table debate about what type of a party we are. What do we stand for? It’s for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. And on August 9, we get together again and we go forward. And so I think it’s going to be good for the Democrats, and I think the party brass will eventually come around to that.

AMY GOODMAN: As I travel around, it’s bloggers I’ve been meeting from Connecticut who are mentioning you. What is the blogosphere doing in Connecticut?

NED LAMONT: Well, I’m new to the blog world, but I’m a big fan of the blog world. I got to tell you that when I started talking about getting into this race early this year and the establishment media came in, it was all about polls and all about money and all about process. It was the blogs that said, "Look, we understand that Senator Lieberman is wrong on these big issues. We don’t exactly know who Ned Lamont is all about. But go to see him at Naples Pizza up in New Haven and hear what he has to say." And all of a sudden, instead of having 20 well-wishers, we had 120 or 150 people showing up. And it was Connecticut Blog and myleftnutmeg.com and others that were generating an awful lot of interest in this campaign.

And we went up there. We started talking about healthcare for everybody. We started talking about clean energy, investing in our country again, rather than spending $250 million a day in Iraq, and the numbers started growing. And I thank the blogs for focusing on the issues and getting us off to a great start.

AMY GOODMAN: What exactly, Ned Lamont, happened at the Democratic state convention in Connecticut, and where was the issue of war?

NED LAMONT: At the convention, which was a couple weeks ago now, we had to get 15% of the delegates in order to qualify for the primary. And it’s a public ballot. You have the party chairs and the district chairs all looking at their delegates and trying to round up support, generally behind the incumbent. That’s the way they think. And I’ve got to tell you that we had twice the number. More than twice the number of people stuck out their neck, showed an awful lot of courage and said, "We want this debate to go forward, we want fundamental change in Washington." So we ended up with over 33% of the delegates came forward. And I think the war was important. But the war was not important only because it’s a misadventure in Iraq that means nothing to American security; it was also important because it says so much about what our priorities are as a country.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Lieberman is taking you very seriously. He has already launched ads against you. Will you be taking out ads against him?

NED LAMONT: The Senator is now taking this race very seriously. For the first three months, he wouldn’t mention my name. Now in his ads all he does is talk about us. He’s not talking about his record. He’s not talking about his positions. He’s talking about Ned Lamont and, you know, who I am. We’ve done some TV advertising in response. I thought it was sort of humorous ads by Bill Hillsman that sort of hit on the issues, talked about the war, talked about our priorities. And we’re thinking now about how we respond to these very negative ads that the Senator launched about a week ago.

AMY GOODMAN: How will you deal with them?

NED LAMONT: How will we deal with it? Well, one, by dealing with the facts. We’re going out over the internet. If you go to our site, you can see each of the charges he made, and you can see what our response is, so you know clearly why his attacks are wrong.

But more importantly, what I’ve got to do is I’ve got to introduce Ned Lamont. You know, I’ve been in this race for three months now. I’ve gone flat out around the state. I’ve gone to over 50 town committees. I’ve gone to over a hundred towns. I’m introducing myself person-by-person. And what you’ve got to understand is there’s probably 400,000 Democrats in the state of Connecticut who are likely voters on an August 8th primary. If half of them turn out, that’s probably not a bad number. So we can meet people. We can get in front of them and make sure that these abusive ads are contradicted by just us standing in front of folks and saying what we’re about.

AMY GOODMAN: Ned Lamont, I want to thank you very much for being with us. At this point after the convention, is there any other requirements that you have to meet in Connecticut? I think people are very interested around the country, whatever party they’re in, how it works, how you really enter the political fray if you feel deeply about something and you feel your elected representatives are not representing you.

NED LAMONT: It’s a total grassroots effort. We’ve got tens of thousands or, you know, 10,000 people who have come to nedlamont.com. They’ve signed up as volunteers. They’ve made small money donations. I appreciate all that. Now what we need to do is mobilize that grassroots support in each of our towns — friends, family and neighbor. Tell your friends we’ve got a real credible winning alternative to Senator Lieberman. We have somebody who will stand up to President Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: Before you go, I just wanted to read a quote from Senator Lieberman, who’s been one of the leading Democrats to support the Iraq war. In November, he wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal entitled "Our Troops Must Stay." Senator Lieberman wrote, quote, "I’m disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago and Republicans who are worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November’s elections than they’re concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead." Your response?

NED LAMONT: Senator, I’m disappointed in Democrats who don’t stand up to this Bush administration, who don’t stand up to all of the false assumptions that we went to this war. You know, it was President Bush who said it would be easy, we’d be greeted as liberators, weapons of mass destruction. And Senator Lieberman cheered on the President every step of the way. That’s not the role for a constructive opposition. And I think Senator Lieberman was derelict in his role, by not challenging the President there.

AMY GOODMAN: Ned Lamont, thank you for joining us, the Democratic candidate for senator in Connecticut.

NED LAMONT: Nice to be back.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. When we return, we’re going to speak with a challenger within the Democratic Party in Massachusetts who’s taking on the Secretary of State.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: As we continue our coverage of the candidates looking to unseat key fellow Democrats this year, we go to Boston to John Bonifaz. He is a Boston-based attorney. He is the founder of the National Voting Rights Institute. He’s running against the incumbent, William Galvin, for the Democratic nomination for Massachusetts Secretary of State. John Bonifaz is the only Massachusetts Democrat to challenge an incumbent from his own party in this year’s primary. Welcome, John.

JOHN BONIFAZ: Thank you, Amy. Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, you’re well known as a voting rights activist all over the country. Why go for Secretary of State. And why run against the Democratic Secretary of State in Massachusetts?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, the Secretary of State’s office is a critical office for the country for safeguarding the integrity of our electoral process, for protecting our democracy and protecting our right to vote. Post-Florida 2000, post-Ohio 2004, we know that there are still people in this country today who dare to trample on the right to vote and dare to deny the franchise. And we need to have a proactive leader for the Secretary of State’s office here in Massachusetts for our state and for the country to take back our democracy, to safeguard our process and to stand up for the right to vote. I’ve been engaged in doing that throughout this country, including here in Massachusetts. I think it’s time that we show some leadership for Massachusetts and for the nation in what our democracy can be for all of us.

AMY GOODMAN: John Bonifaz, one of the criticisms of your candidacy is that you’re really a Green in Democrats clothing, that you are challenging the Democrat, but that this is really an unfair race, that you’re representing another party. Your response?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, look. My opponent is a go-along-get-along Democrat. He’s a 12-year incumbent. He represents entrenched power. Under his watch, the U.S. Justice Department is investigating four cities in Massachusetts — Boston, Lawrence, Springfield and Lowell —- all for violations of the Voting Rights Act. He had nothing to say while we were defending the Massachusetts Clean Elections law all the way to the State Supreme Court. He worked last fall to kill election-day registration, a Democratic bill in the legislature, and he did that working with Republican members of the state legislature. I’m a Democrat who’s going to stand up and fight. He wants to raise this -—

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by claim campaigns?

JOHN BONIFAZ: Well, Massachusetts Clean Elections law was a sweeping reform law passed by the voters in 1998 to create public funding of elections here in Massachusetts. It’s a model reform that exists already in four states: Arizona, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont. And we ought to have it here, and we ought to have it for the country. Elections should not be about how much money you have in your own bank account or how much money you can raise. They should be about what are your ideas? What is your vision for your community, your state and your country. We need to take big money out of our politics.

And so, I’m running against a go-along-get-along Democrat. I’m going to be fighting for the core values of our party and fighting to stand up for ordinary citizens and for our democracy. It’s a red herring on what he raises. I’m a registered Democrat. I voted in every Democratic primary in my life. And it’s time we have some leadership from this party for Massachusetts and for the nation to safeguard our democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: John Bonifaz, what does the Secretary of State do in Massachusetts or any state?

JOHN BONIFAZ: The most important responsibility the Secretary of State has in most states, including here in Massachusetts, is to serve as the chief elections officer to make sure that our elections are administered in a free and fair manner. It also includes oversight over the corporations division, in terms of registering and operating for corporations and make sure that public records are accessible for all citizens, and it ensures that we have government accessibility for people accessing our government. You know, the Secretary of State’s office is often the first entry point for citizens seeking access to our government. And government ought to be about us, not about those who are in entrenched power situations and don’t want to have more competition, more people participating. It ought to be about all of us and equal participation for all.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to John Bonifaz. He is running for Secretary of State in Massachusetts against the Democratic Secretary of State William Galvin. Reading from the Boston Globe — this is before the Democratic convention that took place in Massachusetts — he says that you should be denied a spot on the September primary, because you aren’t really a Democrat. "He has a long history of involvement with the Greens, asserts Galvin, referring to the Green Party, which lost its designation as an official political party in 2004 and is now called the Green Rainbow Party. He has failed to support Democratic candidates. Democrats have to scrutinize his candidacy. Is it real or a Green Trojan horse?"

JOHN BONIFAZ: You know, my opponent did everything he could, everything he could to try and stop this candidacy from getting on the Democratic primary ballot. And he lost. We doubled what we needed to get at the state party convention this weekend, on Saturday. We got nearly 30% of the vote from delegates. Over 1300 delegates heard our message and said, "Yes, we want to have this open and honest debate about the state of our democracy and the state of our right to vote, here in Massachusetts and for the nation." And I’m ready to have that open and honest debate. I’m not interested in engaging in this kind of labeling. The reality here is that I’m standing up for the core values of the Democratic Party.

And it’s time that we have people who are going to stand up and fight. We’ve seen what happens when we allow Ken Blackwells and Katherine Harrises to deny the right to vote, to deny democracy for all of us. It’s time we stand up and fight back. I went to Ohio. I fought for a full recount of the presidential vote there on behalf of presidential candidates who were willing to fight for that recount, including Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb and Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik. I’m proud that Kerry-Edwards finally came into that case, but the reality was that it was Democratic voters and it was third-party presidential candidates that really stood up and fought for that recount. We need to stand up and fight back . There are people who are going fight to deny the franchise, and we need to fight back. And that’s what this party ought to stand for.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of the piece in Rolling Stone by Robert Kennedy — "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" — saying that Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted, enough to have put John Kerry in the White House?

JOHN BONIFAZ: I think it’s a very important piece, and I think it demonstrates that we never had a full investigation, as we should have, into what happened regarding Ohio. I went to Ohio right after the election as the lead counsel in the recount case. I can tell you that the votes were never properly counted. In fact, we faced resistance throughout Ohio from election officials who refused to engage in any kind of meaningful recount.

And so, what we have here is an enormous amount of distrust, with respect to whether or not our elections can be seen as trustworthy. And we as a public need to be able to trust that our votes are being properly counted and need to know that our democracy is working. And when we don’t believe that, when we don’t believe that, then democracy at its core is under attack. Our democracy is threatened.

We cannot have people serving in public office who possibly were not really elected. That’s not democracy. And yet, we have that with the current president in the Oval Office. He was the first president ever to be selected by the United States Supreme Court, not elected. And we didn’t have any full counting of the votes in Florida. And then we have this cloud of suspicion, this cloud of fraud, in terms of what happened in Ohio. And I think it demonstrates we have to stand up.

AMY GOODMAN: John Bonifaz, I want to thank you for being with us. John Bonifaz founded the Voting Rights Institute, and he is now running for Secretary of State on the Democratic ticket in Massachusetts.

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