Thursday, February 23, 2006

Preacher, Teacher, Coach and Politician : Drinking Liberally with Angie Paccione

There is a conventional way of talking about American politics, with the Democrats on one side, Republicans at the other, and somewhere in the middle a scattering of the undecided. Maybe that's true somewhere, but that place isn't Colorado. The voters I have met do not fit any neat stereotypes, and it isn't because they are so nuanced or complex. They are straight forward basic people, not at all undecided just very independent. They take each issue and decide what makes sense to them, and if that has them fit under the tent of a particular party than so be it, if not then that's fine too. That is why I think Angie Paccione has an excellent chance to win the 4th Congressional district. She doesn't fit neatly into any of the usual boxes, but she makes a clean sort of sense and stands on her own terms.

"I was born a poor black child," she says quoting a Steve Martin movie, and she began a story about her childhood that was told with such an easy and engaging humor that the amazing challenges she had overcome did not fully hit me until I thought about them later. She grew up in the South Bronx. Her dad was Itallian and her mom was an African-American. Her family was poor, but she had a talent for basketball and she was smart. "And you know where smart basketball players go to college?", she asked. As it turns out, the answer almost was 'nowhere'. This was the '70s and smart basketball players who were also poor and female did not have much of a chance, but she graduated highschool as an All-American player on the US team in 1978. That was the year that Title 9 took effect, and so Stanford had a scholarship to offer her. She went, perfected her game, and picked up an honors degree in Political Science while she was at it.

After school she went pro, but the league shut down because, "none of you bought tickets," and she started to devote herself to spreading the word of Christ through an evangelical basketball program.

That's right, since an epiphany at nineteen she has been a "born again spirit filled evangelical," and when she says that she doesn't say it matter of factly. She says it with a lot of 'church' in her cadence, but then she adds, "I believe you should live your faith - not legislate it." In a way that falls nowhere into the middle of any spectrum she talks with equal passion about her faith,and her commitment to the seperation of Church and State. She clearly voices her determination to represent all of her district and not just those who attend her church.
It reminded me of people like Jimmy Carter who managed to hold the moral high ground and who were called to service by their faith before the religious right started using hypocritical sanctimony as a nightstick.
When asked if she felt that more Dems should be vocal about their religious beliefs she said that to call on others to do that would be mistake because to be a person of faith should never be the criteria for office.
"When the President called Dobson before nominating Myers, when the President called Robertson before putting Alito forward, that was not only unfortunate but dangerous. We are not a theocracy!"

After basketball, she became a highschool teacher, and eventually combined the two as a highschool basketball coach. There was more than a little halftime performance still showing through in her talk tonight.
In a nice demonstration of leadership, if we didn't applaud enough on a line that she felt deserved more, she would do it over until we got it right. And I found myself always agreeing. Each time she did that it was a line that I should have applauded louder. I put my pen down and clapped. My pen didn't do me much good anyhow. She spoke quickly and with fluidity. She generated a lot of energy, and she used her physical presence well; once making a short dash for the door upon discovering that none of the crowd were able to vote in her district.
Generously she returned and encouraged us to work in our districts to send a good team along with her to Washington, and to the capitol here back home. She believes strongly that there should be checks and balances, and that no single party should wield too much power, but she certainly has enjoyed being in a majority in our State House where she served as the Chair of the Democratic Majority Caucus.

After coaching she became Dr. Paccione worked for a while with troubled teens, and then took a job at CSU teaching Teacher Education and Diversity. She started a campaign in 2002 for Congress when no other Democrat was willing to take on Musgrave, but when Senate President Stan Matsunaka decided to enter the race, Angie stepped aside and ran for the State seat. Now she is looking at a race that she says she will win, "not by 55% but 50.2%," and she has been defying the nay sayers by raising $200,000 in the last quarter with half of her contributions being under $100.

CD-7 candidate Herb Rubenstein asked the first question from the audience. He asked Paccione how many volunteers she had, and how she intended to use them. She has an impressive 450 volunteers, and from a house in Ft. Collins they are pushing forward a strategy that despite her denials seemed to me to be focused on motavating and turning out the 85% of voters that are in the population centers of her district. She was not ignoring or conceding the rural areas, but Weld and Larimer counties can probably expect to see more of her than the others. Mike Weissman, Field Director of the Young Dems, was in the room and by the questions he was asking I could tell he had some ideas on how she could have her message reach the more rural areas of her district. I hope the two of them get together on making that happen.

Most of the other questions went to flesh out what she meant when she said that we needed to provide, "a compelling alternative, not just an alternative." When Coloradolib asked what the first piece of legislation she would put forward would be she said she would fight for full funding of No Child Left Behind, and if she could not get full funding she would at least ensure that special education programs were funded. This fit in consistantly with one of her pillar philosophies that seems to support the more specific answers she gave. She feels that we should protect the most vulnerable people in our society. This showed up in comments I heard her make throughout the evening about health care and other issues.

Marshal Collins asked her about the war in Iraq. She said it was a mistake to go in, we should get out as fast as we can, and that the administration drew us in on false pretenses. Going in to bring security to the region we just poured fuel on the fire. She summed her position up in two words; "exit strategy."

Asked if she would support impeachment she said she would if only we could impeach for incompetence, but still she would if she was certain that a crime could be proven. Personally, I would love to hear a candidate say they had the articles written up already, but perhaps that is just me.

Asked about the situation with farmers in her district, she pointed to the very high rate of foreclosures and the fact that ranchers have been borrowing off their equity. Saying that more needed to be done for them, she proposed something that really drew my interest. She said she had a vision for Colorado wherein we were energy independent and we showed the rest of the country how it was done. Harnessing the wind across the Southeast and the Eastern Plains, drawing on the high solar potential, and converting Agriwaste into biofuel sources, we could simultaneously create an energy independent Colorado and add energy revenues to the cash flows of the people engaged in food production.

On Superslab she implied that a deal has been struck that may have removed the issue from consideration, and that while she had originally thought it might be a good idea she grew to be against it as the truth of the project was made clear.

On Alito she said she would never have voted the nomination out of committee.

Asked about abortion law she said, "I am more than Pro-Choice, I am Pro-Privacy." Adding another examplpe, she took on the topic of 'the defense of marriage'.

Marriage is not a threat to marriage. Divorce is a threat to marriage. Infidelity is a threat to marriage. Domestic violence is a threat. Losing your job is a threat.

Asked about lobby reform she proposed that lobbyists be barred from contributing to campaigns, and she supported public campaign funding saying that, "it opens the door for everybody to participate." She wanted the 'aristocracy' to have to share access with the people who had "too much month, and not enough money."

When asked where the money for her social programs was going to be found, she said a place to start was by not making the Bush tax cuts permanent, and by targeting earmarks. This has been a common answer amongst the candidates that have spoken at Drinking Liberally. I think it might underestimate the financial trouble this country is in.

The one place where I was disappointed tonight was when Angie was asked about the War on Terror. Her answer was about the War in Iraq. I think that equivalence does a lot of harm to the truth and plays into the Republican narrative. As far as an answer about Iraq goes, her answer was solid. She said we needed leadership and that she supported the Murtha plan. She said that we needed to be rebuilding the respect that our country enjoyed prior to Bush taking office.

Then the birthday cake arrived. Yesterday was Angie's birthday and Johne made her a cake with a number 4 candle on it. Falling off the side of the cake was a pink marshmallow bunny. Johne said it was a woman in a pink suit being kicked out. Angie said, "I don't care about a pink suit. Let's just send her a pink slip."

I may write more later about the rest of the room, but I wanted to mention two quick things before I log off for the night.

The first was to share something that Herb Rubenstien pointed out to me. Just after Watergate, Jimmy Carter tried to clean up our government by establishing an oversight group called the Office of Government Ethics. Even now, under GWB, the office performs a vital job... or at least it might, if he bothered to appoint a Director or an Assistant Director. Turns out the jobs are both vacant.

The final thing I wanted to share was an invitation to the 10th anniversary of All American Vogue at 18 S. Broadway. Ronnie is holding the party on Fri. March 3rd, and is using it as a fundraiser for CD6 Congressional candidate Bill Winter. It is a great chance to get out and join the 'First Friday' art crowd and mobilize people in the fight against Tancredo.


Blogger sevenpointman said...

What if we had ended sanctions after we fully knew in early 1996, that their were no weapons of mass destruction ?
What if we had stopped bank-rolling muhjadeen
thugs to carry arms to Afganistan to overthrow
the Taliban, and secure the oil-pipeline for our interests, in 1999 ?
What if we had listened to Saddam and the forty-or fifty experts who told us that Islamic fascism is the greatest threat to us ?
What if we had cut a deal-based on insisting on regular and random inspections and some movement toward democratic reforms for an aid package that could have offered enough profit
and immunity, so we could go after those indivdual miltary officiers and secret police,who were the one's most guility of acts of terrorism against the iraqi people? This would have avoided this insane oil-war and put a permanent clamp on the jihadists.
What if we stopped supporting the desert totalitarian theocracies that repress their
people ?
What if would have been a little more even handed in the Israel-Palestinian situtaion, instead of following a knee-jerk pro-zionist policy, in catering to a nuclear
threat ?
What if we had used at least one half of our three-quarters of a trillion defense-security
budget on the needs of our people ?

No Islamic terrorism.
No 9-11.
No Taliban.
No nuclear blackmail.
No more poverty.

This was our future-if we would have taken control of our past.

10:22 AM  

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