Global, Identity, Politics

My Kind of Democrat: Barbara Ann Radnofsky

bardkeli.jpgIn the off chance than any of you are dissatisfied with the current U.S. political topography, I would like to refer you to a critical contest in Texas. Not Kinky Friedman, but the Democratic challenger to U.S. Senator and Bush crony, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R), Barbara Ann Radnofsky (D).
It may seem a long shot, (pessimists have termed it “suicidal”) but Democrats have won important positions in Texas not so long ago, and in the Senate race, the Texas Republicans can’t do what they do best — gerrymander. And unfortunately, Texas is a mess. Voters are not in a pro-incumbent mood. And Hutchison has not had a real fight on her hands in a long time, perhaps ever.
There is a misconception among many blue state folks I know that somehow our cultural divisions are something to emphasize politically. In fact, we need allies, and government representatives that care about the needs of the country as a whole, even as they are also committed to benefiting the specific state they represent.
More specifically, Barbara Ann is a nuanced Democrat, who focuses on the issues that affect so many of us, such as the health care system. One of the biggest problems for many uninsured is the lack of preventative health care, which costs an individual and his/her family; the work force; and when debilitating to the point of Medicaid, the government; exponentially, compared to early treatment.
In her interview with the Texas Jewish Post, Barbara pointed to her own family background as her inspiration for championing Veterans’ rights,

“I’m the daughter of a WWII veteran, and the granddaughter of a WWI veteran. When my father was in POW camp in Germany and the Nazis visited the camp and told all the Jews to step forward, to a man every prisoner stepped forward. I’m here because of the service, risk-taking, and sacrifice of our veterans, and they deserve the treatment they were promised.”

At her fundraising breakfast last month (Purim morning – I was a little out of it) in New York, I asked Barbara Ann what the difference was between herself and Hutchinson in terms of environmental issues. After a lengthy explanation of respective policy spread specifics, Radnofsky summed up their difference on environmental issues as one “between good and evil.” Privately, I spoke to Barbara Ann about the role of mass transit as part of any substantial energy reform, but it was clear she already understands this, unlike most Democrats and Republicans outside of the northeast corridor.
Sometimes the best Democrats and Republicans are forged in states where their respective parties are not the dominant party. This is partially because they must hone their ideas carefully, and thoroughly examine the implications of each policy in order to sell it to those constituents outside of their party. It is also true that in these settings which require swing voters and voters from the other party, the best and brightest can more easily emerge as the party’s candidate, instead of the preferred clubhouse partisans (like say, Hutchison). The party has to take a chance on talent and nuance, instead of party line. Regardless of the outcome of the race, Democrats would be wise to learn from Barbara Ann.
This April 11th is the run-off election. Barbara Ann won the primary in March, but it was a three way race, and she did not receive the required 50%. She faces a perennial loser, Gene Kelly, with a name eponymous with a famous actor. You can be sure the Republicans are hoping he beats Radnofsky, which one newspaper, despite its endorsement, acknowledged was perhaps not the best name for a political contest in Texas.
I am not going to claim this is going to be an easy election for Barbara Ann to win. But the Forward explained why it is a critical contest for everyone to the left (or just fiscally more responsible) than Karl Rove.

In strongly Republican Texas, Hutchison, a popular incumbent, has amassed an $8 million war chest to Radnofsky’s $400,000. But Radnofsky’s campaign manager, Seth Davidson, said that out-of-state Democrats are eager to support Radnofsky in order to inflict damage in President Bush’s and Karl Rove’s backyard.
“Barbara’s the first Democratic woman to win a statewide election since [Governor] Ann Richards” in 1990, Davidson said. Bush unseated Richards to become governor in 1994.
“In the last election, unopposed Republican candidates put $63 million into contested races” elsewhere, Davidson said. “People in New York are savvy to the fact that supporting Barbara means Kay Bailey’s $8 million stays in Texas.”

Full Disclosure: Barbara Ann Radnofsky is literally “my kind” of Democrat. She is my mom’s second cousin.
It has been about a hundred and twenty-five years since my great-great aunt (Barbara’s great-aunt) was sick with a deadly plague in Pinsk, and the czar’s henchmen scoured the city and its surrounding areas to find anyone stricken with the illness, and take them to a quarantined area. The problem is this was no hospital, but a place where no one ever returned from. Our common ancestor, the little girl’s father, made a terrible gamble, and greeted the inspecting soldier at the door brandishing a weapon. If the soldier went back to his superiors and informed them of the confrontation, not only would he lose a daughter, but his wife and numerous other children would lose a father, a most precarious situation for any family in Eastern Europe during that period, or anywhere, anytime, really. He was banking on the possibility that the man wouldn’t want to bother navigating such a return trip. The terrible gamble paid off, the child survived, and all the children learned that you can confront the injustice your society attempts to impose on you; you can make a difference. And you can make a difference to those around you.
All of my great-great-grandparents’ children came to this country, and his descendants are all very, very grateful for the refuge and opportunity this country offers. This is a nation that over time, bows to the will of the people. We have made some wrong turns. Horrible turns. Many prefer to frame these mistakes in terms of differing ideologies, but Barbara Ann calls it what it is, at least some of the time. She calls out “corruption.”
Barbara Ann and her campaign manager, Seth Davidson, stayed at my place on their recent trip to New York. One night we went to lobby my Zionist friends for their support, and I do hope she receives it. As you can see by the picture above, even Jewschool’s cynical EV was blown away by Barbara Ann’s knowledge of the issues and her vision for this country.
Barbara Ann and Seth stayed with me because of their own fiscal conservatism. Every dollar is spent cautiously and wisely, something both Barbara Ann and Seth insist is appropriate training for a future Senator. Never the less, I was concerned that Barbara Ann, a very successful lawyer, would be horrified by my tenement walk-up, but she obviously liked it, and adores New York generally, where she came right before 9/11 on a family trip. At the breakfast in Rockefeller Center with unbelievable views of the City, she noted “it’s amazing how comfortable I am here.” Quite frankly, I think Barbara is comfortable anywhere in this country, and maybe that’s something we all can learn from.
Anyway, please spread the word, and watch what happens on April 11th. Kinky will bring out a lot of independent voters in the November election who wouldn’t normally bother to vote when it isn’t a presidential election, and they are not going to be voting for another senate term for Hutchinson.
The stakes are high. This race matters.

4 thoughts on “My Kind of Democrat: Barbara Ann Radnofsky

  1. Nah, I was just trying to cop a feel.
    Okay, so I was impressed. Happy? And I think we hit it off. As I told her, if it doesn’t work out in Texas, she got a man in NYC.

  2. Boys, please –we are talking about a future U.S. Senator and my cousin — stop those types of jokes. A little menschkeit?

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