The Most Important Anti-Obstruction Race in America: Kai Degner vs. Bob Goodlatte.

The Most Important Anti-Obstruction Race in America: Kai Degner vs. Bob Goodlatte.

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Kai Degner, author of this post, is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Virginia’s 6th congressional district (Shenandoah Valley, Roanoke, & Lynchburg). His opponent is 24-yr incumbent Bob Goodlatte, who is Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

Here is my claim: I am running in the most important anti-obstruction race in the United States. My opponent is not just one of a group of obstructionist legislators, he is personally responsible for killing bills in his Judiciary Committee related to any number of issues important to the majority of Americans.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s role as Chair of the Judiciary Committee lets him kill bills and thus block campaign finance reform, immigration reform, criminal justice reform, sensible marijuana policy, consumer protections, civil rights, voting rights, labor rights, veterans funding, equal and fair pay, and more.

But, because my opponent is a master at going unnoticed during his 24 years in office and safely getting re-elected, most Americans don’t understand Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s unique role in the dysfunctional, partisan, and out-of-touch Republican Congress.

Rather than focusing on solutions, Goodlatte serves as an adviser to the Donald Trump campaign and is leading the partisan Republican effort to bring perjury charges against Hillary Clinton. His dogged and unwavering support of Donald Trump exposes his allegiance to the Republican Party establishment, rather than to the Constitution or to his constituents.

A Selection of Bob Goodlatte’s Obstruction
Let me share just a few examples of where Bob Goodlatte is out of touch with voters and America.

He delayed and weakened 9/11 first responder funding. He stops all immigration reform policies, thus enabling the status quo that is frustrating so many of us. He does not believe there is any threat to voting rights in America. He voted yes on making the Patriot Act permanent. Of course, he voted for the Iraq War – and then continually votes to cut funding for veteran programs and benefits. He voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, partially because it would extend the protections to gays and immigrants. He voted no on ending job discrimination based on sexual orientation. He is one of the biggest recipients of NRA contributions, and blocks any reasonable attempt to mitigate gun violence.

He does not believe marijuana has ANY health benefits AT ALL and keeps cannabis a Schedule 1 Narcotic. This enforces cruel and usual punishment mainly suffered by the poor and black; fills for-profit prisons; keeps necessary medicine from children, veterans, and others; gives gangs a way to cash-flow their operations; contributes to the opioid epidemic; and keeps government in the way of business, jobs, and research. Meanwhile, the hemp economy is dormant, keeping agriculture, manufacturing, and retail sectors from capitalizing on the potential of this plant.

He killed the Marketplace Fairness Act, after it passed the Senate, and thus continues the advantage online retailers have over local retail business – and caused Virginia to raise the gas tax.

His National Environmental Scorecard in 2015 was 0%, down from 3% in 2014. Since 1993, he has consistently voted against environmental protections (think family health, clean water, and strong economies), and for fracking, fossil fuels, and pollution. He votes no on reducing carbon emissions, and has no commitment to mitigating climate change.

I could go on about issues, but let me switch to the fundamentals: campaign finance and government reform.

Bob Goodlatte is not funded by everyday voters. He is funded by PACs and large donors.
In 1992, about 80% of Bob Goodlatte’s donations came from people in the district. Now in 2016, about 80% of his donations come from outside of the district – and half come from outside Virginia. His contributors are mainly PACs – only 1-2% of his donations comes from small donors.

Bob Goodlatte does not support the government reform he campaigned for.
In 1992, Bob Goodlatte won the right to represent voters in Virginia’s 6th congressional district with a campaign based around his promise to serve only 6 terms (12 years). Now in 2016, he is seeking his 13th term (years 25 and 26). Given that the district is so reliably conservative, the argument that Goodlatte needs to protect this seat for Republicans is bogus, and proves that he’s more concerned about his own power and influence than about ensuring our officials are not career politicians bought by corporate and special interests.

Who is Kai Degner?
On June 8th, 2016, after one candidate had to discontinue his race, I unexpectedly became the Democratic candidate to run against Bob Goodlatte. I am in my 8th year on Harrisonburg’s city council, serving as mayor from 2009-10. I am a small business owner and real estate agent, having previously worked for nonprofits and as an environmental consultant out of college. My most consistent work is in the realm of community dialogue and listening skills training, and I have facilitated and convened over 300 forums, debates, and panels on a variety of issues.

At heart, I am a community organizer and entrepreneur who believes people participating in honest processes can lead to achieving the values espoused by our Constitution: justice, peace, and equal opportunity. As part of my campaign, I am hosting five citizen assemblies based on areas where there is work to do for us to become a more perfect union: justice, economy, representation, preservation, and equality.

Can I win?
I believe I can win through a multi-partisan coalition of people who are frustrated with the dysfunctional, Republican Congress and who understand that Bob Goodlatte is a unique part of the problem and must be replaced. In addition to Democrats, Trump voters, of which there are many in this district, rejected establishment career politicians in the Republican primary and are clearly frustrated with elected officials, like Bob Goodlatte, who simply toe a party line.

With funding for an advertising campaign, I can bring attention to the truth: Trump voters are frustrated with exactly what Bob Goodlatte represents. If that message can break through a generation’s habit of voting for Goodlatte, I believe I can win. But, I need the funds to communicate that message so voters in the district understand the connection between their frustrations and Goodlatte.

I am not rich. I am not funded by PACs. I am not years into preparing to run for Congress. But, I am 100% committed to this race and do believe I – WE – can win. Between early June and late August, I raised about $70,000 and will get back on the phone as soon as I publish this post. I need to quadruple my fundraising to have any chance of introducing myself to enough voters in this district.

How You Help: Donate and Share the Importance of this Race

I am proud my support is overwhelmingly coming from inside the district, but anyone in American wanting to see progress on government reform, criminal justice reform, the drug war, immigration, and civil rights should understand this race is perhaps the most important congressional race in the nation.

You can donate to this race and bring attention to its importance to these issues.

Share this race with national advocacy organizations who care about progress on these important issues.

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  • Andy Schmookler

    Excellent, Kai. This seems to me the just right way for you to go after our man, Bob Goodlatte. Particularly using those issues on which majorities of the public want something done.

    Goodlatte is a particularly apt target for this line of attack– for the reason you give, i.e. that at the helm of the House Judiciary Committee, old Bob has played an outsized role in bottling up good legislation. But every Republican incumbent in the House has participated in this purely partisan obstructionism, no matter the harm to the nation. I hope that other Democrats will look at what you’ve composed here and that his basic message can get out in other areas besides our 6th District.

    And speaking of dissemination, I hope you’ve got ways of getting this message out with this clarity and power to the wider electorate (beyond the circle of Democratic activists you’re reaching here). The first 500 words of this thing are well on the way to being something that might get published. If you could boil the message down to 150 words, while maintaining the impact, you’ve got a script for a one-minute radio ad.

    It’s good to see you coming strong heading into the home stretch.