Ok, so I went to this meet and greet thing with Beth Hafer this evening at the Shadow Lounge. A more than respectable number of what I assumed to be mostly eastside progressives tucked into a dark room just across the street from the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.
The room was half dark and half not - the floor-space illuminated candles on each table and the stage-space spotlighted to a warm rosy glow. Steely Dan on the sound system signing about the wonders of static-free FM.
Bram was there. So was Char.
City Councilman Bill Peduto hosted the event and before it began, I asked him about his connection to Beth Hafer's campaign. He said he was there to offer her support and to help out networking with some of the leaders of Pittsburgh's progressive community. Matt Merriman-Preston, late of Peduto's mayoral campaign, was there as was Dan Gilman, Peduto's chief-of-staff.
In his intro to the crowd, Peduto said he's looking to continue this series next month with a "meet and greet" with Rob McCord, candidate for State Treasurer. Or possibly a candidates forum for some local candidates for the State House.
After those few words by Peduto, Sadie Sterner, of the McCord campaign, spoke for a little bit about McCord. No doubt we'll learn more next month.
Peduto then introduced Beth Hafer. He said he was impressed that while she came from a political family, she wasn't all that political. She made a life for herself outside of politics. And while the 18th Congressional District isn't really all that close to East Liberty, he wants to regain that seat for the Democrats. As he supports Representative Altmire and Representative Doyle, he really wants to see a Democrat representing that district.
That's our seat, he said later.
Beth Hafer said that a year ago, she would not have would have thought of running for Congress. She had a calm life. 3rd generation in the same house in Mt Lebanon. But she realized that government had lost its way. Its representatives were more interested in the privilege of the position than in the privilege of serving their constituents (a phrase she would use twice this evening). The country, she said, is in need of a significant change.
Once elected, she promised that she'd work every single day to bring the troops home. On the state of health care in this country, the fact that 47 million Americans are without insurance is, in her words, unacceptable and immoral. As a former 7th grade science teacher, she finds fault with the Bush Administration's "No Child Left Behind". As it's test-centered, it isn't educating as well as it should be. As it's underfunded, yet mandated, it's up to the states to pick up the slack - which means higher taxes for the rest of us. In a question as to how she'd deal with her Republican opponent's "lock" on the district's pro-life voters, she pointed out her position on Abortion. She said it should be (as we've all heard many others say by now) safe, legal and rare. The emphasis should be on prevention, she added.
When I asked about her reaction last night's State of the Union Address, she said it was just "more of the same." Her favorite part was watching Speaker Pelosi's facial reactions to the speech. Bush hadn't offered any apologies for the war or the debt. No recognition that he's the one who put the country on the self-destructive path. He's the one who's presided over the outrageous spending.
It was just very frustrating for me, she said.
On the race, she said she was optimistic she could win it. There are more Democrats than Republicans in the district. And a sizeable number of independents. She's got a union endorsement: The Communications Workers Union. Going door-to-door she said she learned that even Republicans are upset with the way things are going. It's winnable, she said.
Afterwards, I asked her a few more questions. How does she set herself apart from the other 4 Democrats in the race? She said she relates to the voters better, has a broader appeal - an appeal that would be necessary to win. Since she was a former 7th grade science teacher, I had to ask her position on Evolution/Intelligent Design. She said that evolution seems the most reasonable position. It's a part of the state standards, "but I'll listen to any theory."
No static at all.