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Posts published in “Day: March 7, 2018”

Paratrooper candidate


Richard Ojeda, a former Army paratrooper and now a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in West Virginia, oftens hears crowds chanting this as he campaigns around his district:

“Oh-jed-ah! Oh-jed-ah!”

His district, by the by, voted in 2016 for Donald Trump by a 49-point margin.

In a season that has generated a lot of unusual candidates, Ojeda has to rank as one of the most distinctive. He is unmistakably an Army vet, a former paratrooper with a hard-core approach. A Politico article that is the best profile of him so far (better may yet come) calls him "JFK With Tattoos and a Bench Press", and that's not bad shorthand.

There's nothing remotely weepy or whiny or sob-story about him. He was one of the prime pushers behind the remarkable West Virginia teachers strike - the tens of thousands of people involved in that seem to love him - and his message to them goes something like this: “You keep making that noise, ladies and gentlemen! This is what union is right here! Hey! Shoulder to shoulder! Don’t take a step back! Y’all deserve it!”

He has a number of things in common with many other Democrats - that's clearly the party for him. Socially conservative in some ways, he is also pro-choice, pro-Dreamer and has backed a measure moving toward marijuana legalization.

But that's far from the whole story.

Ojeda apparently gets along well enough with West Virginia's one major remaining Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, b8ut they are nothing alike. Manchin has been described, fairly (and he wouldn't want to argue) as maybe the most conservative Democrat in the Senate. Ojeda is quite different, openly and delightedly at war with - for example - the energy companies who run so much of the state. Here's a quote from him about the coal industry: "We are on the next Saudi Arabia! They’ve said that — the energy people said that! So, if we’re on the next Saudi Arabia, obviously they want it to be just like Saudi Arabia, where you have about 10 people driving around in Lamborghinis and everybody else eatin’ sand sandwiches! That’s what they want. Guess what? No!"

Manchin may have personal loyalty built up over many years, and that may be enough to see him through to re-election this year. Or it may not. But his style of getting along with the powers that be is hardly energizing West Virginians, and Ojeda's approach is.

That shouldn't come as a surprise, even in the heart of Trump country - in fact, especially in the heart of Trump country. Ojeda is talking revolt. That's talking the language of a lot of people in an area like this.

People in places far from West Virginia, but sharing some of the points of view so widespread there, might be wise to pay attention.


Another billionaire?


There is another billionaire that appears to be laying the groundwork to run for President in 2020. Only this one intends run as a Democrat and he has hired one of the best in the business to put together the pieces and devise the strategic game plan - someone who just happens to be a native of Idaho.

You may have seen his television ads, especially if you watch CNN. The ads are well done and effective. The first flight made a clear cut case for beginning impeachment proceedings against President Trump. If you agree with Tom Steyer he gives you a website to go to and sign a petition which calls on Congress to begin the impeachment process.

Apparently over one million people have done so.

The second flight of ads are set in Philadelphia where Steyer speaks eloquently about the Constitution and the fact the President has done nothing about the unprecedented cyber attack on America’s voting system.

Both ad flights feature the tall¸ lanky, thoughtful Tom Steyer, an almost cowboy-like figure, who speaks softly but carries the big stick of someone who knows he is national player and has bought himself a place at the table.

Steyer made a fortune as a hedge fund manager who specialized in more risky investments than many of his peers. The return on investment was commensurate with the risk and his approach of risky investments in unstable spots around the world.

He was easily the biggest contributor to Democratic candidates around the nation last election cycle, doling out $187 million. He and his wife also give generously to charities and foundations and they’ve taken the “Bill Gates” pledge to give most of their wealth away.

Steyer made no secret last year that he was actively exploring running for governor of California or for the U.S. Senate against five-term incumbent Diane Feinstein. In mid-December he announced he would do neither.

So what does a ga-zillionaire who has spent hundreds of millions developing high name recognition do next? This is pure speculation - I have no inside track into his mind but I doubt he spent all those millions simply out of the goodness in his heart.

The logical conclusion is he has decided he would do a hell ‘uv a lot better job than the President and he is going after the ultimate prize in politics.

The clincher is that it is fact he has hired Idaho’s own Bruce Reed and is probably paying Reed a seven figure sum to put it altogether. For those of you who don’t know who Reed is, don’t feel bad. He studiously remains behind the scenes, but insiders consider him to be one of the best.

His resume is golden. The son of former Idaho state senator Mary Lou Reed and the late super lawyer, Scott, he attended Princeton following graduation from Coeur d’Alene High. (He was born in Boise 57 years ago.) Next to Cecil Andrus and Frank Church he is probably the most influential Idaho Democrat in the last half of the 20th century.

Reed received his M.A. from Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship then went to work as a speech writer for Al Gore. He helped found the middle-road Democratic Leadership Council, wrote speeches for Bill Clinton, and was his domestic policy director when Clinton was president. For President Obama, he staffed the Simpson-Bowles Commission and then served several years as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff.

This latter job could prove problematic for Reed if Biden, as rumored, also runs. It is a reasonable guess that Reed, however, will stick with Steyer and help implement a game plan largely crafted by him.

Bottom line is keep your eye on Bruce Reed and don’t be surprised when Tom Steyer carries the D standard into battle in the fall of 2020.