a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

A Van Hollen/Clark “mail in debate” at Progressive Neighbors

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th October 2008

Progressive Neighbors nonendorsementBy Montgomery County standards, it qualified as a political earthquake: the respected Takoma Park/Silver Spring “Progressive Neighbors” PAC steering committee did not endorse Chris Van Hollen in his bid for re-election to Maryland’s 8th Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives.  As their election issues flier — to be distributed by volunteers before and on Election Day — states,

Progressive Neighbors is split between endorsing the incumbent Chris Van Hollen and Green Party challenger Gordon Clark.  We appreciate many of the stands Van Hollen has taken but have been disappointed by his lack of progressive leadership on issues that Clark is championing such as ending the War in Iraq and single payer, universal health care.

The organization’s web site front page adds, “The positions of both the incumbent Chris Van Hollen and Green Party challenger Gordon Clark were considered by the steering committee, and the committee came to a split decision.”

I spoke with Progressive Neighbors steering committee member and contact person Wally Malakoff, who said he agreed with the position the group took: “Van Hollen has taken good positions, but could be more aggressive” in pushing them, while Clark is a “good, articulate spokesman” for progressive positions.  He said that the steering committee solicited member opinions via email and also considered those responses — roughly evenly divided — in coming to its decision.

The two candidates submitted letters to the Progressive Neighbors steering committee — first one by Van Hollen requesting endorsement, and then a response by Clark— both of which are now posted on the Progressive Neighbors web site.*  Given that Van Hollen had to miss the only debate he was willing to schedule with Clark, the letters are perforce the only debate the voters of the 8th Congressional District will get to judge.

There are a lot of specific points made by both candidates in their letters.  Instead of dwelling on these specifics, I’ll try in the following to get across the themes of both candidate’s positions accurately.  In case it needs restating, I should make it (even more) crystal-clear that I support Clark.

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For Gordon Clark for Congress in Maryland’s 8th C.D.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 26th October 2008

The following email was sent to impeachment supporters in the Takoma Park area; I’ve added a video link to the campaign video mentioned in the second paragraph.


Dear Takoma Park Impeach Bush & Cheney supporter,

We — Thomas Nephew, Lisa Moscatiello, and Michelle Bailey — are writing to endorse Gordon Clark (Green Party) for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District seat in the House of Representatives.  We’re confident that as the kind of independent thinker who has supported impeachment, you’ll be very impressed with Mr. Clark, who is opposing incumbent Chris Van Hollen (Democratic Party).  For our part, all three of us will be voting for him on November 4th.

To learn more about Gordon Clark, visit his web site at  While you’re there, be sure to check out his latest campaign video — a great two minute summary of why Gordon Clark is running for Congress.*  There’s also a video of his recent debate with Republican Steve Hudson and Van Hollen legislative aide Bill Parsons (Van Hollen couldn’t attend because of the bailout bill vote).

The centerpiece of Clark’s campaign is a Green New Deal — an Apollo program, Manhattan Project, and Marshall Plan all rolled into one — to put America on the path to renewable energy independence.  He also supports universal health care, opposes threatening war with Iran, and wants a complete withdrawal from Iraq; as you’ll see from an issues chart comparison, Chris Van Hollen falls short on these and other counts.  There’s more, everything is well documented — and you’ll probably find yourself agreeing with Gordon Clark much more often than not.

There will be a Clark volunteer meeting today (Sunday, October 26th) from 4-6PM at 822 Gist Avenue, Silver Spring; to get in touch with the campaign, contact Sara Gilbertie at 860-233-4097 or, or visit the campaign web site at

= = = = =

What about Clark’s views on impeachment?  Here’s what he told Internet radio host Chip Gibbons earlier this year:

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I’d better see a doctor — I hallucinated a debate

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 10th October 2008

— and three candidates, for that matter.

In a profile of Republican Congressional candidate Steve Hudson, one C. Benjamin Ford of the Montgomery County Gazette informs his readers:

Van Hollen said he knew little of Hudson’s background, but that he had an impressive record of service. The two were scheduled to debate, but it was canceled by the congressional action on the economic crisis.

(Emphases added.) Thing is, I’m positive I saw that debate a week ago at the Rockville Public Library! Van Hollen couldn’t make it because of the House vote on the bailout bill, but Van Hollen’s legislative director was there — he even said “responsible, responsive, and properly prioritized,” which almost made me swoon and just isn’t something I could make up.   Hudson was there!  Write-in candidate Deborah Vollmer was there!  Looking back, I’ll grant there was a certain hallucinatory quality to Lih Young’s remarks, but everything else made sense!

Especially Green Party candidate Gordon Clark, who made a solid, persuasive impression as the Green Party candidate for Congress in Maryland’s 8th Congressional district.  Seriously, you can watch the debate online here; if you’d like to cut to the chase of any particular participant’s remarks, you can use this time chart and the slider on the video.

I’m informed that Mr. Ford will interview Gordon Clark for a coming issue of the Gazette.  That’s great — well, actually it’s the least the Gazette could do; they really ought to promise to put Clark on page 1.

But someone ought to interview Mr. Ford and his editors as well: what does it say about their reporting and standards that he’d claim (a) there were just two candidates for Congress in Maryland’s 8th District, and (b) that a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters, attended by close to a hundred people, and broadcast on TV and the Internet was “canceled”?  Are they lazy, incurious, easily misled, in the tank, or all of the above?  Hell, I found out about the debate all by myself, ran to catch two trains to make it there after work, and wrote it up within a day.  Can’t an actual newspaper and journalist be bothered to try to follow a story about a congressional election campaign in their own back yard — and try to get it right?

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Split ticket weekend

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 6th October 2008

Saturday for Barack Obama in Leesburg, Virginia; Sunday for Gordon Clark (Green) in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Marylanders — most, if not all, from Montgomery County — swamped the Loudoun County Obama headquarters in Leesburg on Saturday in two shifts.  I was on the late one, 1 p.m. from Bethesda High School (the meeting place there is now in front of the high school, not in the parking lot).  Drove over with a very interesting lady, wife of a former Republican congressman from the South.  As she explained, being progressive in the South once meant being Republican.

Loudoun County Obama HQ.
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew.

Anyhow, the briefing at Leesburg was a little chaotic — people kept interrupting the guy doing the briefing — but the upshot was that we were using data from the past few elections to contact sporadic, possibly persuadable voters, we wanted data even if it was indirect, and we wanted to make sure people were registered.  As in Dumfries two weeks ago, the questions were about who people were supporting (“not ‘voting for’ — people will close the door on you if you ask that”) for president, senator (Mark Warner (D) vs. Jim Gilmore (R) to replace outgoing Senator John Warner), or representative — Judy Feder vs. incumbent Frank Wolf (R).

Bank owned property, somewhere in
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew.

The two of us wound up in a similar neighborhood to the one I canvassed in Dumfries a couple of weeks ago — rental apartment complexville, Mr. and Ms. (Pretending They’re?) Not Home on Weekends.  Between the two of us, we knocked on about 60 doors, found 8 strong Obama supporters (2 volunteers among them), 1 leaning towards Obama, 2 McCain.  I was surprised at that, because I got both McCains, the Obama leaner and the undecided person, and just one of the strong Obamas; maybe people are likelier to open the door for an older lady than for me — even though I’m such a nice guy!

Unlike in Dumfries, this time every time I actually did speak to someone, it was the person named on the list.  The “Votebuilder” lists are quite good, but there are some glitches.  To whoever programs the software: you might as well not include “Apt 000” addresses in the printouts, OK? Also: the only “lit” (=”literature” =political fliers to stick in people’s doors if they weren’t home) they had for us to drop was a Warner/Obama flier — nothing for Judy Feder; that was a bit of a missed opportunity for that campaign.

The last observation of the day was from a birthday party Maddie went to here in Takoma Park that evening.  It must be the circles we frequent, but many of the other moms and/or dads had been out canvassing as well.  People really want this.

Today I fried my face on Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park from 10 to noon while repeating three main phrases — “Gordon Clark for Congress,” “Here he is,” and “Would you like a sticker?” — to families drifting by the Green Party booth at the Takoma Street Festival.  (See these posts — mainly this one — for why a long-time Democrat like myself is supporting Clark over Van Hollen.)  Our booth faced south, and I forgot to bring a cap.  I think I’ll pay a price tomorrow, even though I did use some sunblock.

Gordon Clark was there too, of course.  He’d been at the “Taste of Bethesda” event on Saturday, and said Chris Van Hollen came by.  The meeting was not cordial — Van Hollen told Clark to “stop lying” about him; Clark says he replied he’d be happy to debate Van Hollen whenever he liked.  I wonder what that was about — everything on the issues comparison brochure the Clark campaign has is documented.

People can be funny about political booths.  It’s their weekend, of course, and not all of us want to gather political information at a crafts, food, and music fair.  But some people pick up speed and/or veer away as they might catch something from us, while others will make a self-approving point of how much they dismiss whatever you’re doing — demonstrative handwaves of refusal, little snorts, that kind of thing.

But the people who kind of slowly walk up, looking at the signage and the table, coming to a decision — they make up for that.  I think it’s kind of fun, and kind of good, to be a part of that — encounters like that, decisions like that, they’re the little atomic units and molecule formations of politics.  I’m just there trying to help catalyze the reaction.

EDIT, 10/6: added comment about having no Judy Feder fliers.

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Congressional candidate debate: minus Van Hollen, plus Gordon Clark

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd October 2008

The Maryland 8th Congressional District candidate debate was hosted by the local League of Women Voters (LWV) in Rockville’s main public library last night.  It will be rebroadcast on “Access Montgomery” public cable channels 19 and 21 three times in the next 7 days.*

Gordon Clark (Green), Steve Hudson (R), Van Hollen (D) legislative director Bill Parsons
Gordon Clark (Green), Steve Hudson (R), Van Hollen (D)
legislative director Bill Parsons
at League of Women
Voters debate in Rockville.  Write-in candidates
Deborah Vollmer and Lih Young were also there,
but are obscured behind the photographer on the
right.  The moderator was LWV president Diane Hibino.
Originally uploaded by Thomas Nephew.

To my disappointment, but not to my surprise, my Representative, Chris Van Hollen (D) was unable to attend; he had to stay on Capitol Hill because of the “bailout” legislation.  Legislative director Bill Parsons took his place. The other candidates on the ballot — Gordon Clark (Green) and Steve Hudson (R) were on hand, as were write-in candidates Deborah Vollmer and Lih Young.

As I wrote on Monday, I’ve decided to support Gordon Clark in this election, and I saw nothing to change that decision last night.  Clark has a formidable grasp of issues from global warming and energy to foreign affairs to the financial crisis.  He also communicates that well, with a forceful, clear speaking style that contrasted well with the other challengers — and with Van Hollen’s last-minute substitute Mr. Parsons, for that matter.  I could easily picture Gordon Clark as a United States representative; none of the other challengers met that simple test, in my view.

The debate began with prepared statments by each of the speakers, followed by one minute responses to questions prepared by the moderator, by the audience , or submitted by email correspondents to the LWV.  I’ll give a thumbnail impression of each speaker in the following; an embedded video of the debate is just after the jump.

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