Add Illinois to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/can-arlen-specter-end-the_b_388604.html">Pennsylvania</a> as states where there is a contested Senate primary in which the war in Afghanistan has become an issue. The <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reports that the two leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for Barack Obama's former seat in the Senate have staked out diametrically opposed positions. A Tribune <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/elections/chi-poll-senate-14-dec14,0,5398298.story">poll</a> last month reported that Alexi Giannoulias and Cheryle Jackson were the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination. On Afghanistan, the <em>Tribune</em> reports that Cheryle Jackson wants to end the war, while Giannoulias supports it: <blockquote>"It is time to take care of America again and time to bring our troops home," said Democratic Senate contender <a href="http://www.cheryle2010.com/">Cheryle Jackson</a>, a former president of the Chicago Urban League. "Until we stop spending hundreds of billions on wars, we will not have the focus or money to solve the challenges we face at home."</blockquote>
I blogged about this earlier in the week, and sure enough, its becoming the trend. In Kentucky, Jack Conway, who is the AG running for the open Senate seat, has come out saying he "expresses reservations about President Obama's plan for troop surge" and that Obama has not adequately expressed a rationale for sending more troops.
Conway's position is in opposition to KY LG Dan Mongiardo, who stated yesterday that he was "inclined to support a troop surge in Afghanistan." Combine that with the contrast over mountaintop mountaintop removal for coal, which Conway opposes and Mongiardo supports, and it's pretty clear whom is the progressive in the primary.
So that's Kentucky.
In Ohio, Jennifer Brunner has already come out opposed to the surge of troops. I've not seen anything from her opponent, LG Lee Fisher. [edit., Lee Fisher does have a position, saying that 30,000 additional troops are not required.]
In Massachusetts, Martha Coakley joined Mike Capuano in opposition.
In Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter has stated he is opposed, and Joe Sestak is in favor, and its become a central defining issue between the two candidates.
In Illinois, one of the leading candidates, David Hoffman, has put out a statement saying: " I am skeptical that our mission in Afghanistan should be to spend years rebuilding the country with our armed forces at potentially great cost of American life."
These are all open primaries, where the candidates have their ears much closer to the ground of Democratic voters than those in DC currently do. I expect that we will see plenty of primary opportunities develop against incumbents whom are in Democratic strongholds that go along with support of the surge.
This afternoon I was able to participate in a progressive blogger conference call with Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, the (relatively) newly minted member of the Democratic caucus in the chamber.
I wasn't able to catch all of the call, but I did manage to get into a bit of a conversation with the Senator about filibusters and the judiciary. To start, I asked which Specter we would see if reelected in 2010 -- the one who was instrumental in keeping Robert Bork out of the Supreme Court, or the one who was equally instrumental in helping Clarence Thomas get there. Specter didn't come off as particularly contrite or remorseful for his role during the Thomas hearings, defending the line of questioning he pursued at the time. For the purposes of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania, where Specter will face Congressman Joe Sestak next year, the Senator might consider finessing his answer here a bit (especially considering that Justice Thomas isn't exactly the most popular jurist among Democrats or progressives).
To pivot, I asked more concretely what Specter would do to ensure that more of President Obama's nominees make it to the bench. Specter was stronger here, saying that it is time to go back to the way it was when he first arrived at the Senate when members were forced to actually speak ad infinitum if they wished to filibuster, whether on a nomination or a piece of legislation. (Specter added, too, that Republican obstructionism is one of the reasons he bolted the party earlier this year.) During the time when Howard Baker was Senate Majority Leader, Specter recalled, the Senate would be held open in all-night sessions until the business before the chamber was completed, forcing those in the opposition to actually filibuster rather than merely threaten it.
Asked whether it would be worth it to change the rules of the Senate to lower the threshold of the filibuster from 60 votes to, say, 55, Specter noted that it is more difficult to change the rules than to overcome a filibuster today (with a rule change requiring two-thirds support rather than just three-fifths). When I tried to allude to the rules change in 1975, when the Senate lowered the threshold for cloture from 67 votes to 60 on just a bare majority vote (rather than a two-thirds majority normal rules change vote), Specter did not appear to be familiar with the unorthodox tactic (which isn't unreasonable considering that it took place before he was elected to the chamber and isn't being widely discussed today).
Nevertheless, Specter does appear focused on helping get President Obama's judicial nominees through the Senate, which is an issue of concern to me as it is I'm sure for others. And he certainly can tell a story. Whether this will be enough for Pennsylvania voters next year, however remains to be seen.
The man who beat non-Democrat Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut urges you to stand with the man who will beat non-Democrat Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania.
In his 45 years as a Republican, Arlen Specter cast thousands of votes for his party and against Democratic principles. In the last eight years, he voted more than 2,000 times with the Bush Republicans. So when he claimed at Netroots Nation, "I'll stand behind my votes one by one," it makes one wonder, "Really, Arlen?"
From the War in Iraq to the economic policies that created this savage recession, many of our current problems can be ascribed to one man: George W. Bush, who Specter voted for in 2000. Given the chance to correct that vote and help put John Kerry in the White House, what did the Real Arlen Specter do? Co-Chair Bush-Cheney '04 in Pennsylvania and vote for him a second time.
Now you can chose which one of these actions by the long-time Republican Senator is most egregious. Vote in our poll on this page and check back to see which vote was the worst of the worst. We will call on Arlen to stand behind the winner.