Update From a Democratic Party Outsider -- A Qualified Progressive Candidate with Grassroots Support Who Won't Pander

I am a Democratic Congressional Candidate for Arizona Congressional District 1. The seat is being vacated by the Republican incumbent Rick Renzi, who has run into some legal difficulties. A couple of months ago I had the honor of blogging on FiredogLake. At the time I promised to provide some periodic updates. Since we last communicated, I helped prepare and represent a delegation of Navajo who testified in front of Congress on uranium contamination issues (the Navajo Nation is part of the Congressional District). I argued an historic case on behalf of the Navajo Nation, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the Yavapai-Apache Nation, the Havasupai Tribe, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Flagstaff Activist Network, and others, in front of an en banc court of the Ninth Circuit -- to stop the federal government from allowing the use of reclaimed sewer water on the San Francisco Peaks to make snow. The Peaks are environmentally sensitive and sacred to 13 of the tribes in the southwestern United States. I received endorsements from the Navajo Western Agency, as well as the Colorado River Indian Tribes. I was the Grand Marshall in the Western Navajo fair/parade. My float included, in part, four Navajo Code Talkers, the Attorney General for the Navajo Nation, Chapter officials, Navajo Medicine Men, members of the Native American Church, grass roots activists, and members of the band "Blackfire." I participated in a motorcycle run on the San Carlos Apache reservation (also in the District) as well as in the San Carlos parade, and had dinner with the Chairman and Tribal Council after the parade. I celebrated Shabbat at Northern Arizona University with Chabad of Northern Arizona and the Hillel at NAU. I was a guest speaker at Berkeley, Boalt Hall, published an article on "Hormesis in Toxic Tort Litigation," and made numerous campaign appearances.

My campaign is generating tremendous grassroots support from concerned citizens across the country. With wage earners and laborers digging into their pockets to donate $15-$50 during tough economic times and a holiday season. The fact is, the people need a voice in Congress. My goal is to be that voice. My only agenda is to do what is best for the Country and the District. My agenda, however, does not appear to be in line with the plans of Democratic party insiders who have "anointed" an "insider" candidate for the seat. The "anointed" candidate was a state legislator who apparently "paid her dues to the Party." I invite readers to review this former state legislator's record and compare it to my accomplishments as a private attorney. She quit mid-term to run for Congress. She has yet to provide any substantive positions on important issues -- her people are "working on her policy statements." I have clear positions posted on my website. If there is an issue not addressed call or email me and I will address it. Even without substance, however, the Party's heir apparent has raised approximately $400,000. My goal is not to bad mouth or demean my opponent. Indeed, she appears to be very pleasant. I do, however, question the very fundamentals of our Party and our processes. These times call for candidates with vision, as well as the ability and willingness to oppose the status quo. Yet we elect good fund raisers, not leaders. We complain when our elected officials pander to deep pockets. Both the Republican and the Democratic parties understand this lapse in our collective sanity and take full advantage of it to promote their own. Whether out of some misguided sense of loyalty or simply political sinecure, make no mistake, they do have "their own."

We are mired in an unjust war of our own making with no concerted effort to implement an exit strategy. As a nation, we are borrowing money from Saudi Arabia so we can buy oil from, for example, Saudi Arabia. We are faced with a national health care crises -- we don't have coverage. Our population is aging without adequate savings at the same time we have floundering Social Security and Medicare systems. Our government is rife with corruption -- already infamous for selling off essential government functions on a no bid contract basis. We do not have adequate infrastructure or services in place to meet the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Our elected officials continue to talk about global warming as if it is a political issue, rather than a scientific fact. We even have a viable presidential candidate who rejects the theory of evolution. The list goes on. The system is broken. We need people to fix it, not to be part of it.

The question is, "Do the political insiders have a strangle hold on power?" The answer is, "Only if we let them." The problems facing our country are too important to hand off to political machines whose wheels are greased by cronyism. We need leaders with vision and the ability to stand up for what is right in the face of overwhelming odds. That is what I have to offer. Help me bring democracy back to the Democratic party. If you have read all the way through this message -- Thank you. I invite you to Google me, "Howard Shanker". Even better, check out my website at www.Shanker2008.com. Please contact me with your suggestions and thoughts. I have a proven track record of standing up against the federal government and big corporate interests to protect communities, families, the environment, and the freedoms we all hold dear. Help me give the people a voice that doesn't march in lock step with party politics as usual. I hope you all have a good holiday season.