Saturday, October 14, 2006

2006 Endorsement of John Russell for Florida's Fifth Congressional District

I am writing to urge your editorial endorsement of Congressional candidate John Russell. As a fourth-generation resident of Florida’s fifth Congressional district, I have observed a lot of changes in our region; and as someone who only came into legal voting age a few political cycles ago, I have witnessed some dramatic changes in our political landscape as well. I was not a big fan of Bill Clinton, but one thing I appreciated about the Clinton years was that there was at least a significant array of opposition (from a wide ideological spectrum) that held his feet to the fire and challenged many aspects of his agenda. Throughout most of Clinton’s presidency, for instance, we had a Republican-controlled Congress that was anything but concessional.

A primary rationale for having different branches of government is so that we can maintain a system of checks and balances and no one branch becomes too powerful. This arrangement is one of the most crucial aspects of our democracy. Yet with a Congress controlled by Republicans like Ginny Brown-Waite, who have spent the past several years basically rubber-stamping President Bush’s agenda, our system of checks and balances has essentially been chucked. As such, many of the bad decisions President Bush has made have not been adequately scrutinized.

When we examine a wide range of issues that are important to the citizens of the fifth District—such as national security and foreign policy, health care, the economy, veterans’ issues, social security, and the environment—it becomes clear that our nation is in need of some new direction. While Brown-Waite’s opponent, John Russell, might not have a voting record that we can look to for comparison, he certainly seems to have put serious thought into the challenges facing our country and has many vibrant new ideas. Besides, any serious scrutiny of Brown-Waite’s record tells us it would be hard to do worse.

A thoughtful, informed candidate, John Russell is unfortunately currently the underdog in this race. Not only is he taking on an incumbent in what is considered by some political analysts a “safe” district for Republicans, he is also seriously outspent by Brown-Waite by a margin of nearly 10-1. In today’s political environment, too often the issues take a backseat to “the money race.” But such a vast margin begs the question: where is Brown-Waite’s funding coming from and who is she really going to be representing if we send her back to Washington? A quick look at the Federal Election Commission data displayed on the website of the Center for Responsive Politics reveals that 57% of Brown-Waite’s campaign funding derives from “Political Action Committees,” or “PACs,” versus only 2% for John Russell. Especially in light of the ever-widening Abramoff scandal, I would much rather send an idea-rich and money-poor candidate to D.C., secure in the knowledge that he would be representing the concerns of folks back home and not the big-money interests that bankrolled his campaign.

I have already written to the Russell campaign to discuss a number of issues, and each time I have gotten a personal and thoughtful response. I believe that if elected, John Russell will be a conscientious and vigilant representative of our district, not someone who is more concerned with repaying his campaign sponsors, toeing the party line, and rubber-stamping George Bush’s flawed agenda.


Jason Fults

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