The Dernogalizer

December 17, 2008

Piece in Sierra Club Chesapeake Newsletter

Filed under: Dernoga,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 4:51 pm
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So I wanted to share an article I wrote for the Maryland Sierra Club’s seasonal newsletter The Chesapeake.  I worked as a summer intern(and helped into the fall) on a Congressional election in the 1st Distrct of Maryland.  The race was between Frank Kratovil and Andy Harris.  I wrote this shortly after my guy Kratovil was declared the winner after the absentee ballot count.  Check it out Here, and I’m also posting what I wrote below.

Hey Sierra Club members, as some of you may know, there was a very close contest in the 1st Congressional District of Maryland. The Sierra Club endorsed Frank Kratovil in his face off against long time environmental foe State Senator Andy Harris. At the beginning of the year and into the summer Frank Kratovil was trailing Andy Harris by double digits in the polls. The Harris campaign had lots of special interest money and resources. All of the political pundits that rank races by competitiveness all around the country labeled the seat as “safe” for Andy Harris’s taking. At one point I read that Andy Harris had said that the 1st district was one that a conservative could win every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Frank Kratovil has just been declared by the AP to be the winner after an absentee ballot count added significantly to his narrow vote lead. As Kratovil said when addressing supporters Tuesday night “this might not be a Sunday”.

What’s fantastic about this race being so close, is that I watched the Sierra Club make a difference. I oversaw, and coordinated many of our efforts over the summer, working as an intern from our College Park office. Without getting too deep into the tax code and how my number one priority was to not violate it and earn us a day in court with IRS, lets just say doing outreach was interesting. Our rules had it to where I couldn’t talk to anyone about voting for Frank besides our members and my mother. Okay I couldn’t talk to my mother either. Every action and breath I took had to be run through our national compliance office to make sure the rules were followed. I don’t like rules, but I liked the Sierra Club so I played along. I gained from this an infinite amount of respect for our Sierra Club organizers and leaders who have to do so much with so many rules, and such little money. They could teach Wall Street a thing or two.

We did a pretty good job at contacting our members and getting them involved. Throughout the summer myself and volunteers made thousands of phone calls to our members in the 1st District. We asked people a few simple things. One was whether or not they knew about the race, and who we had endorsed. The other was whether or not they would vote for Kratovil, wanted a sign in their yard, or wanted to write a letter to the editor supporting him. My reasoning behind this was that if we could get people involved on a small level, aware of the race, thinking about the race, talking about the race, following the race in the news…we could get them more involved later on when they were really needed. In the later months when the race was tight and canvassing and phone banking opportunities were everywhere, we’d know who to call. Of course, when we found very enthusiastic people, we’d try and plug them into Kratovil campaign activities(and boy were there a lot of them) right away!
I was inexperienced at a lot of this when it came to outreach for an election. I made a lot of the strategy up as I went along, and probably made some mistakes. But the key part of our strategy I was counting on came to fruition in the end. The race tightened, people got enthusiastic and pumped up, and the Sierra Club had a nice list of people to call and tap into. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’d estimate we collectively made over 1,000 phone calls and canvassed over 1,000 doors just in the last two months. It paid off.

But the real heroine in the last couple months has been the Sierra Club’s Conservation Coordinator Alana Wase. Thanks to an anonymous donor(I know who you are, thanks!), we could afford to set Alana loose right at the same time I had to go back to school, so I got to just become another volunteer assisting her. She’s really responsible for our most productive moments, and deserves far more credit than me. I’d also like to give special thanks to Janet Schollenberger for all the work she did with outreach to Baltimore County group. David Prosten for helping with Anne Arundel, and tolerating the phone scripts I gave him and his group. Betsy Johnson for making phone calls, and telling me I was doing a good job even when that may not have been entirely true. Laurel Imlay for showing me how to do things competently, and for lending me her mother for a phone banking session(best phone banker ever).

And of course, to everyone else I don’t have the space or memory to name. Those who agreed to canvass, make calls, give your time, your money, and your vote, thanks a million. We just helped Frank Kratovil pull off one of the biggest upsets in this election cycle in the country. We taught Andy Harris that if you vote against the environment, there will be consequences. It goes to show that nothing it set in stone. Nothing is a done deal. All it takes is for a group of people to believe, roll up their sleeves, and go to work. That’s what the Sierra Club is all about.

November 8, 2008

Kratovil Declared Winner

Filed under: MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 4:49 am
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http://wjz.com/local/district.absentees.2.858564.html

my guy won!

November 1, 2008

Vote for Andrew Rice

I wanted to take a moment to write a post to encourage all those who live in Oklahoma to vote for Andrew Rice as your US Senator. This is a race I have been monitoring quite intently. Andrew Rice is a terrific person, he graduated with a religious studies degree, and a masters in theologic studies. In the 1990’s, he traveled to Asia to do missionary work. Over there, he worked on constructing schools, as an AIDS hospice, and substance abuse treatment homes.

However, his brother was killed in the 9/11 attacks, and this was a game-changer for him. He decided to focus on public service to try to better his country. Andrew has been a State Senator since 2006, and has already amassed a fantastic resume, particularly in expanding health insurance for children, pushing to pass a tremendous bill called stephanie’s law, and he has a solid environmental record of pushing for energy conservation, efficiency, and cleaner burning fuels into vehicles.

I’ve paid a lot of attention to the rhetoric coming from Andrew Rice, because he is running in one of the most conservative states in the country. I wanted to see how his positions when it came to energy/environmental issues would change as the days wore on. To my pleasant surprise, he hasn’t backed down a bit. Andrew constantly talks about how climate change is a real serious, urgent problem that we must confront. He refers to the future of his children as a reason he’s running for office- so that he can work to ensure they don’t have live with the effects. He gets it when it comes to green jobs and clean energy. He understands that investing in clean alternatives isn’t only good for the economy, but creates an economic boom with millions of new good paying green jobs. The kinds of jobs that are going to put America’s economy back into contention with the rest of the world. Andrew Rice also recognizes the severe limitations that come with offshore drilling and how little it can address our energy crisis.

This is not to say Andrew and I agree on everything. Coming from a conservative states, he has staked out some moderate to right-leaning positions which you can read about on his website. Additionally, even when it comes to energy he is a strong proponent of natural gas. While I recognize natural gas is cleaner than coal and oil, to me it’s still a dirty fuel, and economically is not our best option. But I can live with that disagreement.

What makes this race even more important is the opponent Rice is facing. James Inhofe, the man who is infamously known for saying on television “global warming is the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people” back in 2003. Up until 2006 when the Democrats took over the Senate, Inhofe towered over the Senate’s Environment Committee, doing everything in his power to block any kind of legislation that would serve positively towards the environment, moving away from dirty fuels, or fight climate change. He has a 0% score from the League of Conservation Voters.

If you would like to read an interview with Andrew Rice conducted earlier in the year, go here

I am a realist, Rice is trying to defeat what has been considered a seemingly invincible opponent. The closest poll I’ve seen from this race is Inhofe leading Rice by 9% points. But there was ever a year for it to happen, this is it. Republicans are extremely unpopular, Inhofe has pretty much been lock step with Bush, and people are hungry for a change. There’s also the Obama Factor, as I call it, where it’s likely there will be a massive surge in youth and African American turnout all around the country which will affect races all down the ticket.

Regardless of the outcome, I sense Rice will be a star in American politics in the years to come. But if you live in Oklahoma, vote him into the Senate.

By the way, I just tracked down Inhofe’s contributions from Big Oil and Big Coal over the years. Sicccck

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)

Accepted $607,406 from the oil and gas industry since 2000. $300,548 of those dollars were from industry PACS. Supported the industry in 100% of selected votes.

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK)

Accepted $321,000 from the coal industry since 2000. $253,750 of those dollars were from industry PACS.

October 26, 2008

Arizona Poll Indicates Toss-up

Filed under: National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 6:55 pm
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I keep hearing from the McCain campaign and Fox News about how the race between Obama and McCain is tightening. Perhaps they’re looking at the wrong states. Recent polls in Georgia are showing that Obama is only 4 points back, and very much within striking distance.

But what really is incredible is that Arizona, which is supposed to be solid for the Republicans just had a poll come out with McCain only having a 2 point lead over Obama. Within the margin of error. Now I’m not one to take a single poll too seriously, I’d like to see more to see if this is an outlier or if there actually is a trend. However, the fact that any poll has shown Arizona within the margin of error, and that Georgia is in play.. just shows in which direction this race is actually moving.

October 18, 2008

Colin Powell

Filed under: National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 12:35 am
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I just had a funny, useless thought. I figured I’d share it. Right now on the news everyone is talking about who Collin Powell will endorse. I really don’t think it matters, but wouldn’t it be hilarious of Colin Powell came out and endorsed someone on the fringe like Bob Barr or Ralph Nader. Or how about whoever is running in the Socialist Party. Everyone would just be like *jaws hit the floor*. I think it would go over well.

October 17, 2008

Andy Harris Busted

Filed under: MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 5:36 pm
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So this is pretty amusing, in the Congressional race I worked on during the summer, and where I’m still doing some volunteering this fall, a lot has happened. The big news had really been that there have been 2 new polls out in the past few weeks. One of them had Frank Kratovil and Andy Harris tied at 36-36 with 25% undecided. This one was shocking enough, and then a later poll has Kratovil leading 43-41 with 16% undecided. A few more things seem to be indicating that this will come down to the wire. In the 3rd quarter report of $$ raised, Frank Kratovil outraised Andy Harris. Finally, Andy Harris in one of his own speeches admitted that the race was going to be extremely close based on the internal polls his campaign had been conducting.

So Andy Harris must be pretty desperate, because he just did something pretty silly and stupid. In a campaign commercial which attacked Frank Kratovil, and Harris used footage from a previous campaign commercial from back in the primary that he had used to attack Wayne Gilchrest. So the people in this video are actually referring to someone else when they make criticisms, not Frank Kratovil. A number of bloggers caught this, and the Daily Times posted this story recently exposing it: http://www.delmarvanow.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081016/NEWS01/810160408/-1/newsfront2#pluckcomments

Quite frankly, I don’t care that much, but it is pretty stupid. So stupid in fact, that anyone who is undecided should question how someone who puts out a commercial with such a display of limited intelligence should represent their district.

October 9, 2008

Healthcare and Taxes

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 2:49 am
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My Plan...(or not)

My Plan...(or not)

I ordinarily wouldn’t have much to say about Healthcare. However, the topic seemed to be a high point of contest during last night’s debate, and it got me thinking into which candidate’s plan would be more effective, and which would be more expensive. The independent Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center has looked over both candidate’s tax plans which include the healthcare programs. Here’s the link: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/UploadedPDF/411750_updated_candidates_summary.pdf

McCain’s program is estimated to cover 5 million of the uninsured and increase the deficit by 1.3 trillion dollars over 10 years. Obama’s will increase the deficit by 1.6 trillion and cover 34 million uninsured. I consider Obama’s plan under these very simple standards to be far more effective.

However, theres something else you should notice from not only the healthcare plans, but from the tax proposals of both candidates. Both tax plans put us much further into the red. Trillions of dollars further! Interestingly, for all the flack Obama gets about his plan, McCain’s plan actually puts us even further in debt. But, the point is, both tax plans are clearly wrong. Both are bad. Both will increase our debt. I’m not an expert on taxes and on all of our government spending, but I see simple glaring problems with both.

Obama’s middle class tax cut, while it sounds nice and people would like it, just isn’t affordable. All we’re doing is borrowing from our children that way, cause that’s who is paying for that “tax cut”.

It’s easy to see why McCain puts us further in debt than Obama. We’re already greatly increasing our deficit, yet McCain wants to give out more tax cuts to corporations, businesses, etc. It’s hard to fix the budget when all you’re going to do is give out taxes. His solution is to reduce the 18 billion we spend on earmarks? I don’t need to calculator to cry foul. The idea of a spending freeze, while extreme sounds interesting until McCain follows it with “except for this, this, this, and other high priorities”.

So how do you fix our gigantic deficit. A few of my ideas quite frankly are straight-talk that if either if these candidates spoke of, it would NOT go over well. But then again that’s why we’re in the hole that we’re in. Because people can’t stand to make the necessary cuts to bail us out of our problem.

So I know after my rant I should problem go back to my area of expertise, energy and environmental issues. But I’ll embarrass myself further. We can’t afford either Obama’s middle class tax cut, or McCain’s tax cuts for anything and everyone. That’s hundreds of billions of dollars that we DON’T have. Cut Iraq, really at this point, I think we’ve got Iraq in the bag, and certainly a troop draw down in 16 months is plausible. 10 billion a month in Iraq is 120 billion a year. Our economy is in ruin right now, we need that 120 billion here whether you like it or not.

And I can finally jump on stuff I know very well.

Obviously everyone by now knows we spend 700 billion dollars a year on foreign oil. Uhhh, then quit buying SUVS geniuses. But look, people who complain about our economy being tanked by dependence on foreign oil and then burning as much of it as they can are just plain hypocrites who don’t get it, or don’t want to get it. I’m not going to point fingers at anyone who has the car they have, and can’t afford to buy a new one. I’m talking about people who go and buy a new car and buy a Hummer or an F-150, or any SUV. I don’t want their poor choices bringing down my country and our economy.

So say to our automakers “okay we bailed your dumbasses out, now we mandating that you can’t make anymore SUVS or trucks”. 2009 was the last model, too bad for you. Funny thing is, we’d be doing them a favor by solving the problem that get them into their ruin in the first place. So say, from now on, all cars are either 30 mpg or higher, or you’re putting out hybrids. That right there would cut down on the money leaving our economy by billions of dollars within years. These head in the sand companies would also perform better by selling quality fuel economy cars.

Think I’m being crazy? Hell I say take some of that 700 billion dollars for our bailout, and pump it into massive tax credits for hybrids. The whole bailout involving seizing all these assets is socialist anyways, so quit crying foul. I like capitalism too, but since we’re throwing that notion out with the window with the bailout, might as well do it right. Pump billions into tax credits for hybrids and massive overhauls in energy efficiency of buildings. Especially ones owned by all these financial institutions we’re bailing out. This would significantly lower costs to business and consumer, and pump more many back into our economy because of the energy savings.

While you’re at it, impose a carbon tax, and lower the income tax accordingly. Tax what you burn not what you earn.

Okay you know what, explaining a carbon tax takes too long, so thats for another post, so forget I mentioned that. I stand by the rest of my rant. If we want to get serious about our economy, make serious investments and serious overhauls. None of the wimpy bs I’m seeing. Not with these jokes that my candidates call tax plans.

October 4, 2008

Landslide?

Filed under: National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:12 pm
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Look Out!

Look Out!

I read an interesting article “60 seats“, about how the Democrats may reach 60 seats in the Senate once you count the two independents which caucus with them. It sounds like a bit of the stretch, but the number will definately be in the high 50’s. As for the house, we’re looking at 17-21 more seats swing Dem. And right now, Obama’s prospects of taking the White House look good. Quite frankly I’d like to see this domination just because I had to put up with 6 years of Republican rule full of bullshit. I want conservatives to go through the same headache for what they put this country through. So I hope the Democrats sweep. And I hope they slam as many progressive policies as possible down the throats of conservatives.

In reality, I think we’ll own the House, have the Presidency, but only have a majority in the Senate, not 60 seats. Another point of reality, is that the Democrats better make this country look very good very fast. It’s going to be very hard to hold a lot of these seats which are in typically conservative Districts. People don’t seem to have an appetite for allowing a party to dominate every branch of government. The tough part is that Bush has left such a mess and a gigantic deficit that it will be hard for the Dems to look too good. I’m looking wayyyy too far ahead, but I think, and fear that many of the gains we make in 2008 will be lost in 2010 and 2012.

Biden/Palin Debate

Filed under: National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:22 am
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So I tuned into the VP debate Thursday night, and it went pretty much how I expected it to go. I expected that Palin would do better than the uber low expectations people had for her, and that people would make too much out of that. I hoped that Biden would not be too overbearing towards Palin and instead go after McCain. He did that.

Let me be clear, from a standpoint of substance, Biden won. He answered questions in depth and with expertise. Palin either dodged questions or answered them very broadly without specifics.

But your average American sitting down to tune into the debate hasn’t researched all of the positions of all of the candidates. They aren’t knowledgeable of the specifics. Far too many people identify with likability than a grasp of the issues. That’s how we ended up with George Bush. At least Palin is at the bottom of the ticket. My estimate is that this debate will have a similar effect that the Obama/McCain debate had. Your independent undecided voter is uncertain about Obama because of their perception of his inexperience. They are holding back because they aren’t sure whether or not Obama can be presidential, and in the Obama/McCain debate, Obama proved that he could when he went toe to toe with McCain. Some undecideds identified this, and it reflected in the polls, my estimate it boosted Obama by 3-4 points, and the economic crisis gave him another 4. These same undecideds were looking to see if Palin could fill the shoes of the presidency if necessary. In the eyes of the average independent undecided American, she proved she could. I think they are wrong, but I’m a Democrat, I live in MD, and I’m voting for Obama. Too many people don’t look at politics objectively when they’re analyzing something, I’m trying to do that.

So I expect Palin’s debate performance will negate Obama’s. I think McCain will jump 3-4 points in the national polls by next Tuesday. Ultimately though, unless there is a serious misstep by Obama, I think the economic crisis sealed the race for him. There are just too many landmines in the Electoral College for McCain to get the necessary votes to win, and not enough time to clear them all.

New Hampshire polls are showing Obama with double digit leads where McCain just led a couple weeks ago. The same with Michigan where it’s gone from a dead heat to Obama with a double digit lead, causing McCain to pull out his operations in Michigan and focus elsewhere. Obama is leading in places he shouldn’t and wasn’t expected to like Florida and North Carolina. And in the once pure toss-ups of Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Pennsylvannia, and Minnesota, Obama has assumed leads ranging from 2-7 points. It’s worth nothing with many of these states, the polls survey “likely voters” which leaves out the vast majority of the new registered voters that the Obama campaign has worked fervently to register. I’d guess that most polls underscore Obama’s performance by 1-2 points.

So still a month to go, and stranger things have happened. This election has shifted all over the place suddenly an unexpectedly. But right now, unless there is a game-changer, the race is Obama’s to lose.

Oh, and my final take on the debate, and something I think and hope people will consider on voting day. McCain selected Palin because she would make him a better candidate. Obama picked Biden because he would make him a better president.

September 28, 2008

Obama and McCain Debate

Filed under: National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 7:02 pm
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So I along with many others watched the debate between Obama and McCain and Friday, and I must say that I liked that Isaw. There are just a few observations I would like to make. The first is that in the part of the debate that focused on the economy, Obama fared very well because he mentioned numerous times tax cuts for the middle class, making sure that the average American was getting a fair shot, and quit frankly taxing the rich just sounds better to a lot of Americans right now because people are upset about the “fatcats on wallstreet” that we are bailing out. McCain bogged Obama down a little when it came to earmark spending, that was his one strongsuit, but Obama was able to work his way around that attack numerous times. McCain never mentioned the middle class or made reference to ordinary working Americans. He talked about the capital gains tax, but once again he didn’t specify anything about small businesses, he just called it “the business tax”. Right now people are not in the mood for providing tax breaks to “businesses” which really means corporations. At the end of the day, when it comes to economic policy and economic philosophy, McCain does in fact identify with the very strategy that Bush has applied during his tenure. Try telling people that all we need to do to fix our economic problems is “more of that”.

Then we move onto foreign policy. I felt that Obama held his own here, and this was exactly what he needed to do. McCain constantly tried to belittle Obama, make him seem naive and inexperienced, and unable to protect the country. In my opinion, what has made the polls so close hasn’t been Obama’s ideas or his philosophy, people are drawn to that. However, since he has limited experience on the national stage, voters are wary of his knowledge on foreign policy. By simply demonstrating that he was very coherent and confident when it came to international issues, this shored up a lot of doubt in the undecideds. That alone is what Obama has needed to do, and what he did. Believe me, Obama isn’t losing because people are more drawn to the Republican ticket, right now they want a change to more progressive policies. People are simply afraid of Obama. If he can alleviate that fear, he’ll pull away, and he did a good deal of it with the foreign policy debate.

Over the next few days we’ll see the lasting effect if any from the debate. Today however, it appears things are moving in Obama’s favor. Check out these statistics, where not only is Obama widening his margin in the national polls, but he has a larger percentage of people who think he won the debate.

Now I think that Obama is extraordinarily intelligent, has great judgement, is a good person, and has the right ideas to be President. However, in this election, he only needs to be an average Democrat. He just needs people to trust him more, and he’ll win.

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