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Monday, May 29, 2006

ISSUES: John Morrison and Jon Tester

In the June 6th Montana Senate Primary that will determine who it is that takes on Sen. Conrad Burns, it is important to keep an eye on the candidate's stands on the issues:

Chuck Johnson's Horse Sense column this week attempts to tease out the difference between Jon Tester and John Morrison. While he captures the stylistic difference well (Tester is a third-generation farmer; Morrison is a third-generation politician), he claims that the two "differ little on the major issues." A statement that is flat out untrue.

Here's how I see the policy differences:

  • Jon Tester supports health care for all. Morrison prefers our current "patchwork quilt" system.
  • Jon Tester opposes the bankruptcy bill, the energy bill, and CAFTA. John Morrison talks in Friedmanesque "earth is flat" platitudes about economic issues.
  • Jon Tester got contraceptive equity done in Montana and has a 100% from MT NARAL the last 3 legislative sessions. John Morrison campaigned on contraceptive equity then refused to act.
  • Jon Tester refused to endorse Montana's hate amendment and instructed his legislative candidates not to submit to the politics of hate and fear. John Morrison, without so much as a heads up to Montana PRIDE, didn't just endorse Montana's hate amendment, he encouraged other Democrats to do likewise, and told the press that marriage belongs to straight people.
  • Jon Tester has called for a withdrawal from Iraq and refocusing on the real enemy. John Morrison waffles on withdrawal and says simply that our policy should be encouraging the Iraqis to start a national oil company (a bit like having a health care policy of encouraging doctors to be nice to patients -- missing the mark on what really matters by such a long-shot, it ain't real).
Also, there is a great review of Montana's Senate Primary by Howie Klein:

The really stellar one is Jon Tester. (The Democratic political hack -- way better than a Republican political hack (way, way, way better), but a hack nonetheless, a DLC one at that, is Montana State Auditor John Morrison.) Tester is more than just better than the other guy. He's a transformational politician, the kind of inspiring public servant who we will be able to look to for a genuine effort to actually make our nation a better place, the way candidates like Ned Lamont in Connecticut or Rick Penberthy and Jan Schneider in Florida, or Jerry McNerney, Francine Busby and Marcy Winograd in California can be expected to do the same. Not run-of-the-mill garden variety Democrats, but men and women who have the ability, the capacity and the intention of doing far more than just going along with the political whores who rule the roost Inside the Beltway.

I want to tell you a little about Jon. But first I want to ask you to read what someone else has to say about him. John Rodwick is a guy in Montana who stumbled across Down With Tyranny a few months ago. He was cynical about the sorry state of politics-as-usual and I asked him to look into Jon's campaign and to go meet him. Last week he did and his report is here. The word that comes up in John's report -- and in any report of first-hand experience with Tester -- is "straight shooter." When I was running Reprise Records I sometimes would get so excited about an album that an artist delivered -- more often than not, something from Green Day, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Wilco, Depeche Mode, Joni Mitchell -- that I'd fantasize about going door to door with an iPod and asking people to just listen. I'm positive that if Jon Tester could just meet every one of Montana's voters...

So who is this guy? I first started writing about him last July. My excitement has grown and grown as I've seen more of him in action. A 48 year old organic wheat farmer from Big Sandy and President of the State Senate, Jon announced his populist, progressive candidacy driving his tractor-trailer rig around Montana. He's endorsed withdrawal from Iraq, a clean renewable energy policy (he actually sponsored a renewable energy standard in Montana), and is calling for expanded health care -- including government funded health care for all children. He's also endorsed a reasonable version of single-payer health insurance. Morrison (as a DLC shill) has more incommon with Burns on these issues than he has with Jon. Jon Testers stands on the issues are what I expect from every Democrat; unfortunately my expectations are shot down more than they are realized. That's why when a strong and outspoken leader like Jon comes to the fore, I feel grateful... and eager to help in any small way I can.

When I asked Jane to look this over for me, she asked me 2 questions: How is Tester on Choice and Gay issues (talk about separating the wheat from the chaff!) and what are Tester's real chances? I call these next two my Jane paragraphs. Like John Kerry, Tester is personally pro-Life. The good news is that he has a 100% pro-choice voting record in the State Senate. That's because to him it's a privacy issue between a woman and her physician (and anyone else she wants to talk about it with). He's a Montanan and he's not eager to see Big Government interfering in peoples' private lives. The gay issue is always the hardest for any politician not living in an urban area. But Tester hasn't ducked that one either. He's come out strongly against the hate and bigotry amendments the Republicans have tried passing and he's worked hard to make sure others in the State Senate understood the issue as well. The man has great instincts and we can expect him to come to progressive conclusions about important issues.

Now, can he win? The DLC has been running around trumpeting the inevitability of their puppet Morrison because he's been scooping up lots of cash from wealthy, often out-of-state, donors, while Tester's strategy has been to fund-raise from average voters inside the state. In the last month, Tester has overtaken Morrison in fundraising, a result of more people in the state getting to know him and also of Morrison's ethics problems. The momentum is clearly with Tester now and he very much looks like a winner. Polls show either Democrat beating Burns, who is so mired in corruption that people wonder what the chances of his indictment before November are, but at this point the latest polls show Tester surging and Morrison basically holding steady.

The irony, of course, is that the DLC and Inside-the-Beltway schnooks who have been propping Morrison up all during the campaign and insisting that the issue was electability against the hated Burns, are screwed. Now that every newspaper and media outlet in the state has been titillating its audience with stories of Morrison's infidelity and how that mixed with state business, he no longer looks all that savory OR electable against an incumbent who has turned off most Montanans not because he's a far right maniac but because he is widely perceived to be corrupt and dishonest. Morrison is now similarly tainted in the public eye and Tester's straight-arrow reputation makes him look far more electable. Add that to the fact that the Beltway Establishment's #1 stated reason to turn against grassroots and populist candidates -- that they can't raise big money -- has been utterly demolished by Tester and all that is left are a bunch of corporate Democrats sputtering and fuming and feeling very much hoist on their own petards.

Last weekend's fund-raiser for Jerry McNerney and Francine Busby brought in around $3,000. I was really happy about all the generosity from the readers and Jerry and Francine were thrilled. Every contributor got a Neil Young CD in the mail. I have a feeling you can figure out who I'm hoping to collect some much-needed last minute money for this weekend. I just opened a Jon Tester page at ACT BLUE so that whatever you feel you can chip in will go directly to Jon's campaign.
Go read the whole thing, this post has already raised $1,899.18 -- which will go a long way in Montana and will be a huge help during the final week of the campaign.

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