North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Jim Neal stopped by Pam's House Blend last night to do his first forum ever on an LGBT blog. It was a whirlwind hour of Q&A with Blenders.
As liveblogging is a virtual speed session, and Jim Neal was peppered with a ton of questions on a wide range of issues -- not just LGBT ones -- I'm posting this summary (and cleaned up typos) for easy reading.
What North Carolinians are looking for in a Senator:
North Carolinians-- like the rest of the USA-- are fed up with professional [politicians. They are disillusioned-- the approval ratings for the Dem Party is below that of the President. They want leaders who offer real solutions to the war, economic security and rising health care costs.
Some Washington insiders think I should get out of the race-- but my opponents don't have the advantage I do of genuine outsider status. I'm not a politician and I'm proud of that. It's my strong suit-- but it makes me more dependent on the financial support of people just like all of you-- be it big or small dollars.
I've had to balance and draw up budgets for small and big businesses. I've worked in the private sector and not inside a political bubble. We have to spend within our means-- and this Administration and its political enablers like Mrs. Dole in the Congress don't have a clue as to how to do that.
On Don't Ask, Don't Tell:
I oppose and have always opposed "don't ask don't tell." It's ludicrous. The young servicemen and servicewomen with whom I have spoken have had one consistent response: "I don't care who serves so long as they've got my back."
On marriage equality:
If a church wants to marry people they can; if they don't they don't have to do so. I oppose all forms of discrimination-- institutional or otherwise-- by the government.
On whether homosexuality as a political wedge is losing its edge:
It has been in the past. I'm not running to lose-- and as I've said before I have faith in the good people of this State to not be fooled by non-issues such as whether a candidate is a man or a woman, gay or straight, black or white, blonde-headed or red-headed. So-- get involved and prove the fearmongerers wrong.
His view of the Senate's role in the confirmation process of Supreme Court justices, as it's likely that there will be Supreme Court retirements and the court may rule on marriage equality as cases making their way there:
Members of the Senate-- and mind you that CJ Roberts and Justice Alito were confirmed by the GOP majority at the time-- have done an abysmal job in vetting judicial candidates. We are appointing activist judges---not prudent and thoughtful jurists.
On the role of the DSCC in the primary, which worked hard with local pols to recruit a primary challenger to run against Neal after he disclosed his sexual orientation. He had been the sole candidate up until that point.
The DSCC doesn't vote in North Carolina. We have elections and primaries and not coronations. That's why it's critical to raise the funds to compete in a statewide race. I don't expect all the big DSCC supporters to write $2,300 checks but I hope you and others will help grow this movement by involving your friends, family, neighbors and coworkers.
On his plan to visit all NC counties as opposed to focusing solely on blue enclaves:
The 100 county strategy is critical to a Dem succeeding on our state. That being said, this will require small-dollar support from across this state so I can get off the phone dialing for dollars and out in those counties listening and meeting voters. But it also requires help from people like you. I'm a novice at running for office and don't have the well-connected ties of my opponents-- so I know if I earn your support me by volunteering, visting our website and signing up for the TEN SQUAD--- we can grow exponentially.
How to talk to voters about immigration, as Dems have been advised to "move right" on the issue.
Sensibly. Wedge issues divide us as a nation. And, clearly, as a nation we have to fix a legal immigration system which doesn't work. That's the job of the beltway gang-- and they didn't even debate the issues with other than to try and throw red meat to their special interest buddies.
And-- we're no closer than we were when Senator Dole was elected 6 years ago to a solution-- which starts with an honest debate about the challenges.
On the treatment of veterans, and Dole's horrible record of supporting the troops:
No doubt-- Washington is doing a shameful, repugnant job of honoring our veterans when they come home: be it underfunding the VA or not supporting expanded educational and training opportunities. That makes me damned mad-- and I won't accept it once I'm in the Senate. The people of this State and this nation deserve so much better.
Health care costs are and have been rising at an alarming rate. For instance, my health care premiums are almost $1,900/monthly!... I'm going to have to opt-in to a cheaper plan but can't do so immediately for fear of losing what I've got.
All Americans other than those with the highest incomes are dealing with this issue. I have solutions-- in a word, every single man, woman and child in this State and this country should have access to affordable health care. Health care is a RIGHT, not a PRIVILEGE!
The role of blogs and the reaction of average NC citizens to his candidacy:
The blogosphere and social networking sites are changing the face of the political process. They providce a voice and power to those often ignored b/c they didn't have the big $ to get the attention of politicians. They are the future.
Average people have been incredible-- (whatever "average" means :-) )-- I've received tons of letters and encouragement from people all across this state. They want change.
On what can be done to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels:
The states-- not the federal government-- are taking the lead on tackling in a responsible manner the threats posed by global warming. Read: the STATES are leading while Washington stands still!
Guys-- why do we elect politicians to federal office who don't get out in front of an issue like this? Why, I ask people all the time? If we want more of the same then keep sending politicians back to Washington-- and we'll get more of the same.
My son and a friend of his were ranting at me this week about the USA's failure to lead the world in a coordinated effort to save the environment. They're disillusioned-- and they should be. Remember-- this is a global issue of which we are but one of a number of major players. The solutions must be comprehensive and global. Diplomacy must occur in sync with legislation. And America's diplomatic stature has been scorched during the years in which Senator Dole and the Bush-Cheney administration have failed to lead this nation.
I realize that this is a broad response to your question. I can offer you this pledge: I will move forward with a sense of urgency in the Congress to put this issue at the front of the burner...instead of sticking my head in the sand. And here are two actions which Congress can initiate quick-time:
1. Enforcing more agressive emission standards for automobiles-- hybrids may cost more today, but like the I-Pod adoption drives lower pricing.
2. Reward- whether by tax credits or outright subsidies- the acceleration of the alternative fuels industry. Good for the environment and job growth.
Senate campaigns are no walk in the park; it could take $15 million to win, and he has to make it through a primary where the DSCC is going to try and choke off support from national donors, and the state Dem establishment will push funds to Hagan.
Neal will need support not only from North Carolinians -- he's reaching out to the blogosphere for support to change business as usual in Washington.
The archive of Pam's House Blend Jim Neal posts is here.