535.com Special Report; Part 22 of 50.
As soon as we settle down in one place, we leave again! We go back east, to one of the founders of democracy-Connecticut. The Nutmeg State's reporting isn't going to be done by an established political reporter(At least one from a newspaper). No, it's going to be done by Nina Malone, the founder and head blogger for The Provisions State Politics
, the location for anything politically related in Connecticut. The "Provisions State" is a little-known nickname for Connecticut. That being said, here's Nina.
I'd like to thank the Academy for voting for me. This means so much, and I've waited my entire life for this moment…..
Nah, just kiddin'. I'm Nina, the head blogger for The Provisions State Politics(
It's not official without the "The" in front, and yes, that is a shameless plug for my website, which can also be called TPSP
, which sort of sounds like some strange viral disease). Before you ask, my view of my blog is to provide a clear, balanced view of politics in Connecticut-I'm not a partisan hack. I'm a registered Independent, and I vote for the man-and hopefully soon, woman-over the party. I worked for Jed Bartlet in 1998 and 2002, and Arnold Vinick in 2006, and have been involved in several campaigns over the years, from both parties. So, I know the bright(And dark)spots for both parties. So let's fire up the engines, and get this show on the road!
Senior Senator, Democrat
; Elected in 1976(Elected Last in 2006)
Committee Assignments: Rules and Administration(Ranking Member); Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Finance; Governmental Affairs; Joint Congressional Library and Printing Committees.
Though it reads that Rathburn was elected in 1976, he could have equally as well been elected in 1796. He's got the look-Shorter, heavier, white-haired, with a rolling voice and a boundless brain, with a love of the classic and sense of history.
Rathburn is the official Senate historian-He has a love of the institution itself, and the people who have been elected, for good or bad, that is unsurpassed, likely in history. He's been classically educated(At Yale University, as he so often reminds people), and loves to compare the Roman Senate and the current one. However, his work on the history of the Senate(Four volumes, each as big as a thick novel), is essential for anyone wanting to know the past of what George Washington described as "the legislative saucer." One of the benefits of Rathburn being classically educated? He can speak Latin, and might break out into it on the Senate floor-Always a treat. His speeches on the whole are legendary-His voice may have started to falter, but his mind is still as sharp as ever. Rathburn was probably the first to engineer what Jed Bartlet perfected-If people think you're smart, don't play stupid; Play even smarter. Be an intellectual!
Rathburn is old-school Democrat: New Dealer, pump cash into the economy, business is bad, labor is good. He voted for the stimulus and bailout plans(Both of which helped his wealthier constituents), but had to be persuaded on the stimulus, as he thought it should have been accompanied by tax cuts for the middle class, and even more economic stimulus cash. He also voted for the Santos education plan, but not the health care one-Perhaps pressured by the insurance industry that is so powerful in Connecticut?
Rathburn has been in the Senate since '76, and has become one of the most influential leaders. His was never a Leader or Whip-style spotlight. Rather, he built coalitions in the committee rooms, the clubs and the not-so-proverbial smoke-filled rooms. In order to sometimes give an opponent cover, he would denounce him on the floor of the Senate, and then negotiate with him the next day.
Unfortunately, that time has passed. Senators still cut deals, of course, but Rathburn's style has…..well, gone out of style. Rathburn himself is going out of style-He was one of the last Senators to get E-Mail and Website, and still doesn't like to use them, preferring to answer actual letters(He signs most of the returning letters himself) and phone calls. Rathburn has taken on a sort of mentoring position in the Senate now-Senators file in for history lessons, a sign of respect for the longest-serving Democratic Senator(He's second behind only Robert Miner, an old friend and foe). Andrew Thorn is particular has made an effort to apprentice himself to Rathburn-Not out of some political agenda, but simple desire to learn, to acknowledge an old master in his twilight years.
Rathburn's still there in the Senate-He's in his 80's now, but still as hale as ever. His voice may have weakened, he needs glasses all the time, what's left of his hair is white, and after a scary fall in 2004, he's finally using a cane(Occasionally a pair of them, won't use a walker-"Makes me look old," he said with a smile)-But his mind is still as sharp as ever, his wisdom growing with every year. There's an entire generation of Connecticuters who have grown up only knowing Rathburn in the Senate, and it will be a sad, dark day when he finally leaves us.
One last thing-My first political memory was when I was 4 years old. My parents took me to a rally-To see Senator Rathburn. I'd didn't know what was going on, only that we were going to go see a Senator(Which I pronounced "Semator." Back then, I thought a Semator was like part of the circus or something). We had gotten up to the front of the stage, and my dad had me on his shoulders. We were so close to the stage you could reach out and touch it-This was before the days of barricades and Secret Service. The speech was wrapping up, and I was getting bored, so I decided to make a game-Could I jump from daddy's shoulder to the shiny stage? Well, as it turns out, I could, and did. So I landed onstage, in front of around 500 people, ran up to the Senator, and tugged on his leg. When he looked down, I waved at him and yelled as loud as I could, "Hi, Semator!" Now, a lot of things could have happened. He could have shook me off, directed my parents onto the stage and yelled at them, ignored me. But he didn't. In the middle of a speech, he bent down, picked me up and said, "Hello there little miss. Who are you?" "I'm Nina Malone, and I'm three!"(I was very proud of being three, and being able to state this fact). The Senator chuckled, and said, "I have a granddaughter who is 3." "Is her name Nina too?" "No, her name is Rosemary." "That's a pretty name!" "Yes it is. Your name is pretty too." "Thanks Semator!" The Senator, concluding this brief exchange, literally walked me over to my parents(Who were kind of freaking out), handed me down to them, patted me on the head, and said, "Don't be too hard on her. She's a bright kid," and walked back to finish his speech(I got spanked anyways). Anyways, apparently a picture got taken of me being handed back to my parents, and the Senator signed it, "To Nina, who is 3 and will go far in this world. Joseph Rathburn." That picture traveled with me all the way to college, and then to Washington, where I was hired by The Hill.
On my first day, I was supposed to get an interview with a Senator. It went okay, but as I was heading out of the Senator's office, I almost ran into Senator Rathburn-His office was right across the hall from the one I had been interviewing. After ensuring that he didn't fall(And apologizing profusely), he asked me my name. I said, "Nina Malone." And the funniest thing happened. This huge smile burst across his face, and he stood up straighter, and the years dropped away, and he said, "At one of my campaign rallies when I was just a freshman, there was a little girl who came onto the stage, and said her name was Nina Malone. Are you one and the same?" I could only nod-Speechless that he remembered that. He insisted on taking half an hour, and asking how I had been, what I had done with my life. It was like speaking to a grandparent. But he also promised me a full interview or comment if I ever needed it-A favor which came in handy, and which helped get me the recognition I need to start this blog.
So Senator, for the little girl who was 3, and the grown woman 30 plus years later, I just want to say, Thank you.
Junior Senator, Republican
; Elected in 2004(1st Term, Retiring).
Committee Assignments: Armed Services; Commerce, Science and Transportation; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions(HELP); Veteran's Affairs.
A lot of people were surprised when Senator Niering announced that he was retiring after only one term as Senator. I wasn't one of them.
Nieiring doesn't have the psychological makeup to be a Senator long-term, as he's much more of an executive, take-charge man. He likes to be running the show, making decisions-Doing something
. And that not what Senators do.
To his credit, Niering did his job efficiently. He ran his office like it was an executive, and did everything possible to help his constituents. He was holding meetings, working on legislation-Being a Governor in a Senators job.
Niering was the Governor from 1990 to 2002, before running for the Senate in 2004. He only ran because the Republican Party had literally no one else to turn to. Niering, still popular, won big.
Niering's focus was mainly based on helping his constituents. He did do a lot of work on the education bill(For all the good that did), and added to the armed forces and veteran's affairs appropriations, but other than that, not a lot.
In a Walken Administration(Or a Santos Administration as a matter of fact), Niering would be a good choice for the Cabinet, most likely as Secretary of Education or Labor Secretary(Niering has always been a big supporter of unions, but is still friendly toward businesses). He's a strong executive, and would be great at running a department. He'd also have the experience of working with the Senate on his resume, so he should definitely be considered. Now, I'm probably biased, but I do have to say that I was surprised when Niering wasn't picked for VP. A friend fairly high up in the Walken campaign said that Niering was in the top 4, along with Michael Jack, Evan Drake and Liz Clark. Niering made the best sense-Compelling story, former Governor with executive experience(Which Walken, 3 days of Presidency aside, lacked), good communicator, young and good-looking and healthy, would bring the Northeast into play. Niering looked like he had it all. Oh well.
Niering's replacement is going to be the man who replaced him-Governor Chris Casey. And I say that with near-certainty. Casey's operation is strong, he's got a positive message and great story, his body of work as Governor was successful and controversy-free, he's an excellent fundraiser, and as a former Congressman, he knows how to work with Congress. Ruth McAdams has plenty of cash on-hand, but nowhere near the experience or skills needed to take Casey down. Unless something awful is revealed, Casey is the next Senator from Connecticut.
Congressman, 1st District, Democrat
Committee Assignment: Transportation and Infrastructure.
The First District: The 1st is sort of a misshapen C, encompassing Hartford and the surrounding areas, as well as Bristol(Home of ESPN, and aside from the Worldwide Leader, a total shithole).
Wick was elected in 1998, and hasn't really done anything in his 12 years in Congress.He's a major sports fan(As befits the man who represents Bristol), and has a talent with fundraising, but that's about it.
Wick is more notable for the friends he keeps. Wick went to college with Josh Lyman, who reportedly "got" him his seat. Wick was considered a Bartlet-lackey throughout his Congressional tenure, which is not an unfair assessment. Wick's voted the Democratic line through most of his tenure. He wins reelection on a consistent, 55% of the vote basis. Wick's a guy who could be in Congress 20 years or 12, and wouldn't be missed.
Due to how the district is structured and Wick's cash, he's going to win reelection.
Congressman, 2nd District, Republican
Committee Assignments: Permanent Select Intelligence; Ways and Means.
The Second District: Bordering Connecticut to the East, the 2nd has a strong naval tradition, and includes the sub base at Groton. It tends to be a swing district, though with a more Democratic preference.
Herbert Walker is the Representative from the 2nd District, and has been since 1996.
Walker's had an interesting, legendary career-He was a naval aviator in World War II, before returning to Connecticut to attend Yale. After graduation, he entered the insurance business, and made a fortune. He also became involved in Republican politics, rising to county chair of the local party. He then ran for Congress in 1970, and served there until 1980, where he displayed a great understanding of foreign policy and taxes. President Reagan considered him for Vice President(Needing a moderate with Congressional skills), but instead named him Director of the CIA. Walker would serve in this position until 1986, when he was replaced by Lewis Berryhill-Who would go on to become Secretary of State. Walker would become the Chairman of the Republican National Committee during this point, and also chair the Republican National Convention that nominated Owen Lassiter for President. Lassiter was impressed with Walker(He called him "Herbie"), and named him Ambassador to China for his efforts. Walker would begin the slow process of opening talks with China, which culminated in an appearance between President Lassiter and President Zhao in San Francisco.
Walker retired from his position in 1994, after Lassiter won reelection. But he reentered politics in 1996, running for his old seat. His stature, combined with the fact that he hadn't lost a political step, brought him a landslide victory, and he's been reelected comfortably ever since.
Walker's image has always been one of stiff wonkiness. Nobody doubts his intelligence and ability, but they do doubt his personality. He only comes off stiff in front of the cameras. In the few personal encounters I've had with him(And from what everyone tells me), Walker is better in person than he is in front of the camera. He and his wife Barb have 4 children, and one of them, George, is a Congressman from Oklahoma.
Walker's personal regard and legend are the only thing keeping this seat from going Democratic. Walker's been facing stiff challenges the past few years, and this year looks to be his most difficult yet. He's facing former submarine commander and Groton City Councilman Captain Robby Kelly. Kelly's fairly moderate, and has been fundraising well($2 million on-hand at the moment). The DCCC has declared that the 2nd is a "Blue Zone" pickup opportunity, and the DNC has guaranteed that Kelly's campaign will have whatever it needs(Josh Lyman wants to make a clean sweep). But the RNC and NRCC have also made full commitments to Walker, and GlenAllen Walken has been scheduled for a visit. This is going to be a heavyweight contest without a doubt.
Congressman, 3rd District, Democrat.
Committee Assignments: Financial Services.
The 3rd borders the Long Island Sound, and contains my alma mater, Yale University(Go Bulldogs, and Harvard Sucks!) It has a distinct Democratic bent, but can go Republican.
Daniels is insane
. Undoubtedly one of the more liberal members of the House, he calls himself the most liberal(By voting record, that's actually Diane Frost of Maine), and says he's one of the few men standing for "a truly liberal, progressive America, not the fakeness masquerading as liberalism we see in the Democratic Party we see today!" Daniels decided to challenge Matt Santos for the Presidency, but his campaign died out after only a few weeks.
The Congressman voted against the bailout plan and the stimulus-The first because "the corporate fat cats deserve to burn"-His exact phrasing-and the second because it "didn't do enough to relieve the suffering of Americans below the poverty line."
Fortunately or not, the Congressman will not be returning to Washington. He was defeated in the primary by Linda Raynes, a professor of sociology at Yale and a local Democratic activist, with support from Washington(The DCCC backed Raynes, and the DNC sent her plenty of cash-Josh Lyman's influence again!) Raynes won, not just because of the national support, but also because people were tired of Daniels' erratic, kooky behavior and general standoffishness. Daniels didn't take it well, and is now running as an "Independent Liberal." While Republicans usually don't win here, they nominated Eric Zell, New Haven County Clerk. Zell is popular, moderate and a good guy, meaning he makes an excellent candidate. Zell is currently polling at 42%, Raynes at 38%, and Daniels at 20%. This looks like it could be an unexpected pickup for the Republican Party-If Daniels and Raynes split vote, Zell could easily win the seat, which could put egg on quite a few faces.
A funny story-I tried to interview all of the members of the Connecticut Delegation for one of my first major articles here on TPSP
. I was moderately successful-I got both Senators, Congresswoman Allen, and Congressmen Brennan and Walker(According to his staff, Wick was on vacation at the time of the interview). When I called Congressman Daniels' office, they agreed that I could speak to him. But when I showed up, the Congressman was leaving. I literally had to run (In heels!) to catch the guy, and when I did, he asked where I was from. I told him it was a nonpartisan blog based on Connecticut politics-And his hand flashed into the air, to stop me. He looked down his nose at me (Hard to do when he's 5'5 and I'm 5'9 in heels), and said, "Young lady, I don't know who you are, or who you think you are, but I don't speak to the conservative
press!" He then turned on his heel, and walked off.
So, I'm going to get a bit personal, and say-Goodbye, Congressman Daniels, you jackass(Editor's Note: This segment has been edited for language and briefness
), you were in office way too long anyways!
Congresswoman, 4th District, Independent
(Currently Caucuses with Democrats
Committee Assignments: Education and Labor; International Relations; Appropriations.
Only one word is needed to describe this woman-AWESOME!
She's powerful, intelligent, decisive, capable, attractive-She's the perfect candidate, perfect Congresswoman, and if she ever ran for President, I would be the first one to sign up. I would walk over fire for MacKenzie Allen.
Okay, okay. Tone it down girl!
My love for MacKenzie Allen is a fierce and obvious thing. But it's all based in the fact that the real thing is a rare find in politics, and Congresswoman Allen is the real thing.
DISCLAIMER: I've worked on every one of Congresswoman Allen's campaigns since her first.
Anyways, Allen has a unique backstory.
She first rose to prominence as the Chancellor of Richmond University, here in Connecticut. Richmond was a small, underfunded college, with little national attention. Allen changed all that-She turned Richmond into one of the nation's premier post-graduate institutions, as nearly all of Richmond's students are working on a post-graduate degree of some kind. Richmond would play host to 5 Nobel Prize Winners(2 in Medicine, 1 in Chemistry, 1 in Literature and 1 in Physics), and with Richmonds' innovative Global Conflicts Resolution Center, it only seems a matter of time before they add another in peace(Or any other category).
Allen is an acknowledged expert in foreign policy. She speaks 3 languages-Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese-and has consulted with several world leaders. She played a crucial role in the extraction of a woman from Pakistan who was going to be stoned to death under Sharia law for the crime of adultery; and has been on CODELs to Israel to see the peacekeeping, Kazakhstan to see the intervention, as well as South America, the European Union and Africa.
Personally, Allen is one of the smarter(And at least for the moment) more important members of Congress. She's got good relationships with both sides of the aisle(Her husband Rod, formerly the Attorney General of Connecticut, is a Republican), and is close friends with Michigan Congresswoman Becky Reeseman. Allen has reportedly become one of Speaker Carol Gelsey's closest advisors(And as a reward for throwing the House to Gelsey, she was rewarded with a spot on Appropriations, in addition to keeping her old assignments). She does have a strange relationship with South Carolina Congressman and Independent Democrat Nathan Templeton-Sometimes adversarial, sometimes friendly. She's also made friends with former California Governor Theodore "Teddy" Bridges.
Reelection has been tough for a few reasons-Allen doesn't fall within either party, so doesn't have a natural base to build on. But this election at least, she won't be facing any Democratic opposition(Rumor has it that all candidates were ordered to not challenge her as part of the agreement to win the House).
Allen's been talked about for a couple of positions in a couple of administrations, but nobody is quite sure of where she fits. But she's got a strong grasp of the issues, and a sense of the national focus-Instead of being in the Cabinet, how about she runs it?
I'm serious-MacKenzie Allen could be the nation's first woman President, and she would be a great one. And again, I would be the first one to volunteer.
Congressman, 5th District, Democrat.
Committee Assignment: Rules.
Brennan is another legend in the state. He's made a career of finding young, talented people, and bringing them to work for him. Connecticut and Washington are filled with Brennan alumnus, including DNC Chair Josh Lyman(He's shown up for the 3rd time already).
Brennan has done a lot of good work for the country and the party. He was a major sponsor of President Bartlet's first crime bill, and was a key vote in deciding the budget this year. He's a former soldier(Fought in Korea) and a lawyer, so he's spoken out on crime and military issues throughout his career.
Brennan's been called the Oracle of Connecticut for his ability to scout talent. But that also extends to other issues-Brennan has consistently picked well on the stock market, endorsed every eventual Democratic Presidential candidate since Newman, and is said to have called 9 of the last 10 Super Bowl winners correctly. When asked about it, Brennan always just grins, and says, "It's a minor talent."
Brennan's moderate-In a sense. His personal views are quite liberal, but his policies reflect a moderate approach, a sense of taking what he can get, growing the debate. He is pro-choice, but it's a balanced view.
Brennan had considered retiring in 2005, but decided to stay on. However, many believe that his time in Congress is limited, and Brennan will make his retirement official very soon.
Brennan is one of the few Congressman nobody can speak ill about. He lost his wife 14 years ago, an extremely sad passing. The Congressman still sends flowers to her grave every week, and wears his wedding ring. He's a very nice man, who likes to see people succeed, to help them. In short, he's the perfect guy for a nasty, dirty game like politics.
So, the Connecticut scene is shifting. Niering's out(Of the Senate seat anyways), and Casey's likely in. Daniels is gone, but the Democrats could lose the seat. Democrats could gain Walker's seat, though it's a longshot. Of all the seats, Allen's looks the most stable(Unless she runs for President-Fingers crossed!)
This last note isn't Congressionally-related, but it is political. It's about Josh Lyman.
I've known Josh for close to 10 years now, on a professional and personal level, and he's not the guy he's been portrayed as in the press. Can he be overbearing? Yes. Childish, arrogant, aggressive-All are words that can apply. But I've never known Josh to be as mean-spirited as he has been portrayed in the press lately. At heart, he's a good guy, who only wants to see the best for his country. I think that people should look at the whole of Josh Lyman, and they'll see that he's a good man.
Well, sappy sentimentality aside, thanks for reading. I always get a kick out of people telling me they read my stuff(And it's even better when they say they liked it), so send me your comments, e-mails etcetera. Sayonara!