White House planning five regional forums on health care reform

Following up on yesterday's health care summit, the White House has announced plans to hold regional forums on health care in five states. From today's press release:

The Regional White House Forums on Health Care Reform will be hosted by the states' Governors and will include participants ranging from doctors to patients to providers to policy experts.  They will be open conversations with everyday Americans, local, state and federal elected officials - both Democrat and Republican -- and senior Obama administration officials.  The events will begin with a video recorded by the President, a summary of the findings from the Health Care Community Discussions that took place in December, and an overview of the discussion that took place at the White House Forum on Health Reform.

The meetings in California, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Vermont will take place in March and early April.  Further logistical information about the forums is forthcoming.

Presumably Iowa was chosen because both of our senators will play an important role in drafting health care legislation. Chuck Grassley is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, and Tom Harkin will be in charge of drafting the parts of the bill concerning disease prevention and public health.

Barack Obama carried all of the five states chosen for these forums, but two of them have Republican governors (Vermont and California). Does the White House have reason to believe that Jim Douglas and Arnold Schwarzenegger will generally support the president's health care reform agenda?

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Vermonters:" Healthcare is a Human Right" forum in Burlington

Human Rights Hearing: "Healthcare is a Human Right" to be held at Burlington City Hall, Contois Auditorium (149 Church St., Burlington) Thursday Oct 23 at 7:00 p.m.

Burlington - For months volunteers for the Vermont Workers' Center have been surveying Vermonters from all across the state, including many in the Burlington area. The results have been clear: Vermonters believe that healthcare should be a human right.

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Vermonters: Tell us your healthcare horror stories

Burlington - The Vermont Workers' Center's "Healthcare is a Human Right" campaign is looking to hear from Vermonters about their healthcare horror stories.

For months volunteers for the Vermont Workers' Center have been surveying Vermonters from all across the state, about their experience with the healthcare community. The results have been clear: Vermonters believe that healthcare should be a human right.

The state, however, has come up woefully short on this issue. More than 11 percent of all Vermonters are without health insurance, including more than 11,000 children. Thousands more are woefully under-insured, and cannot afford their costly premiums and co-pays, which are only rising as the cost of healthcare soars.

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I voted for Nader in 2000

This isn't a confession.  I'm not ashamed of my choice and I'm not going to apologize for it.  But things have changed, and they've changed in ways that I don't know that I can fully articulate, though I think most of us know.  If I'd lived in a swing state, I probably would have voted for Gore, but in Vermont I had the luxury of making a protest vote.   The electoral college map wasn't going to change. Vermont was going to go for Gore no matter what I did.  If I'd lived in Florida, Ohio, New Mexico or New Hampshire, I would have voted for Gore.  I didn't have to make that choice.

After the fold, I'll talk a bit about the decision processes that go into this and why they're relevant to 2008.  For those of you in Vermont, the first few paragraphs will be familiar to you.  For those of you who don't, you'll learn some very strange things about the way we choose a governor.

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Vermont Gubernatorial update SYMINGTON FOR GOV!

For months now Democrats have merely been in the speculative phase in terms of having a candidate for governor.  First "Young Dunne," former state legislator Matte Dunne who nearly took down Brian Dubie two years floated his name, but reneged.  Peter Gailbraith, a former ambassador had been floating his name, but he was a second tier candidate at best, without any legislative or executive experience to speak of.  Meanwhile, "Tony the Prog," Anthony Pollina, a perennial candidate for the progressive party announced that he was running, and hoped for a two man race. This was a rather sad state of affairs, considering how strongly democratic Vermont is, and the opportunity that a surge of democratic voters in the presidential election could bring us.  Then House Speaker Gaye Symington announced that she was going to run, challenging incumbent governor Jim Douglas.  

With four years experience as speaker of the house, and a progressive record on health care, the economy, and childcare issues, she is clearly a top tier candidate.  Speaker Symington has been a legislator for twelve years, first elected to the house in 1996.  During her freshman term as a legislator, she worked to pass Act-60, the plan that funds Vermont's education system.  After democrats lost the legislature following backlash from both the aforementioned Act 60, and civil unions, Speaker Symington helped bring the democrats back into the majority in both the house and senate, and they now enjoy a 2/3 majority in both houses.  It is because of this, I am asking the netroots to look into Speaker Symington, and contribute.  Her website http://symingtonforgovernor.com/ is a bit primitive at the moment, but should be enhanced soon (at least it better be).

Despite her qualifications, she still faces steep odds, especially in a three way race.  Under the Vermont Constitution, if none of the candidates receive a majority of the votes, then the legislature chooses the governor.  Jim Douglas was elected in 2002 with 45% of the vote to Doug Racine's 42%.  The democratic legislature chose Douglas as he was the vote leader, despite having the votes to elect Racine.  This occurred as many legislators were asked by opponents and constituents to pledge to vote for the popular vote winner.  With Anthony Pollina in the race, this will most likely happen again.  Symington however, may be planning to just keep Douglas under 50% in an attempt to get the legislature to elect her, who knows?  

Currently there are not any polls on the race, but the race will most likely become a fight for moderates.  Douglas will keep his base on the right (the 5,000 people who voted for Huckabee in the republican primary) and right of center moderates, Symington will aim for left of center moderates and Pollina will consoldate the far left progressives.  Both Scudder Parker in 2006 and Peter Clavelle in 2004 (a former independent mayor of Burlington) aimed for the far left and left of center moderates and couldn't get better than 41%.

With an expected surge in democratic votes, Symington may be able to benefit in ways former gubernatorial candidates could not.  2006 nominee Scudder Parker (his real name) only managed 41% despite the overwhelmingly democratic year. Others however, were able to capitalize on the strong democratic leanings of the elections.  Brian Dubie, the republican LT. Governor barely received a majority of votes (51%).  Had he not received a majority, the legislature could have chosen democratic nominee Matt Dunne as LT Governor.  Tom Salmon son of a former governor of the same name, managed a narrow victory over incumbent Randy Brock to become the newest auditor of accounts.  These democrats were able to utilize the strong democrats tide of 2006, and Symington can and will utilize the democratic leanings of 2008, all she needs to get elected is your support?  Will you step up?

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