by Taylor Marsh
Jack Murtha really stepped in it recently with his comments on Pennsylvanians and race. The right-wingers are making the most of it. Now even the swiftboaters are entering the fray, as Veterans for Freedom pile on. It's a full court conservative press to take Murtha down. His challenger, William Russell, is not even from Murtha's district. He's a Washington D.C. Republican.
Russell, who moved here from the Washington, D.C., area to challenge Murtha, finished 90 days of active military duty and began campaigning last week.
What does Russell know about the Pennsylvania district Murtha has served for 34 years? Absolutely nothing. He's simply running against Jack Murtha.
There are also serious questions about William Russell's candidacy. Via National Journal on Monday (subscription required):
Murtha's camp, meanwhile, "said the congressman is taking his reelection seriously." Murtha spokesperson Matthew Mazonkey: "Jack Murtha has a distinguished career of serving his country in the military and in public service, a record of creating jobs and working for Western Pennsylvania. Our opponent is someone who doesn't live in Pennsylvania, wrote himself a paycheck of $185,000 for the last three months, and is under investigation for illegal campaign work while on active duty."
When Hillary Clinton moved into New York she took the work she had to do seriously. She did a listening tour all over the state and earned the trust of the voters of New York.
This guy Russell sounds like he just walked in, sat down, without doing any homework at all, and decided to go after a decorated veteran, the first Vietnam vet to be elected, who has been serving his constituents passionately for years.
During the '04 election cycle I worked for John Kerry's group the Patriot Project. Murtha was targeted then too, but a ditz ran against him who couldn't get any traction, even with the swiftboaters helping the cause. This time there's a different candidate, Ret. Army lieutenant colonel William Russell, who is making the most of the wingnut money.
Murtha, who has served the 12th Congressional District for 34 years and beat his last opponent by 20 points, is still the favorite. But unlike most incumbents, he faces a financial deficit to his challenger, who's campaign has been spurred by national conservative commentators like Michelle Malkin and Sean Hannity.
Jack Murtha is not a progressive. Far from it. Many don't like him because of his earmarks, with other grudges against him as well. But I remember a time when Murtha standing up changed the whole ballgame.
When Murtha spoke out against the Iraq war the whole political ground war changed. When things were bleak and some of us were trying to get traction on the notion that we needed to get out of Iraq, it was Jack Murtha who gave the speech on the House floor that got things moving. He helped turn a lot of heads in the traditional press, making a real difference on the Iraq war argument. I was on the blogger calls he did about the efforts to move more Dems our way, when it got very difficult. His passion for the troops cannot be questioned.
John Murtha is in a political dogfight, with wingnuts pouring in money and resources, supporting a candidate who doesn't even know the district Murtha has represented, and who just moved there to run against Murtha. It's all about Murtha to William Russell, with the voters he says he wants to serve the last thing on his mind.