November 22, 2009
A group of twenty-seven Democratic Party activists met on Saturday morning at the Shaler Township library to discuss their shared disappointment with 4th CD Blue Dog Congressman Jason Altmire. Activists attended the November 21st meeting from Sewickley, Murrysville, Avalon, Ohio Township, Indiana Township, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Ross, Westview, Shaler, McCandless, Franklin Park, and Plum.
Ms. Terry Hartnett of Avalon Borough, and a Democratic Committee member, started the meeting with a welcome and briefly described a smaller previous meeting at which activists discussed the possibility of running a progressive against Altmire in the upcoming primary election.
Folks took turns introducing themselves and briefly touched on both their personal and political disappointment with Altmire. There was a mix of Democratic Committee members, local Democratic chairpersons, and activists who had hosted parties and raised funds for Altmire’s two previous races.
The overwhelming majority pointed to Altmire’s vote against healthcare reform as the primary reason for withdrawing their support. Many had waited for him to come through at the end of the process and support reform. This was based on Altmire’s many public pronouncements that he was for reforming healthcare. It has become clear to those assembled that these were false promises.
“Bought and paid for by the healthcare industry” said one attendee. Another attendee played an audio tape from Altmire’s debate with Melissa Hart in which he advocated a “public buy-in to Medicare.” Noting that this was the same as the “public option” in the current healthcare bill, another attendee described Altmire as a “liar.”
Several people also brought up Cong. Altmire’s opposition to the climate change bill that the Obama administration is supporting. There was also discussion of his change from an open and communicative candidate to a remote and unresponsive elected official.
Tina Shannon from the PA 4th CD Chapter of Progressive Democrats of America touched on the importance of coalition building with other progressive organizations in the 4th Congressional District.
Democratic committee members from Sewickley and from Murrysville reported that local party meetings last week were nearly unanimous on replacing Altmire with a real Democrat. Terry Harnett reported that a recent telephone poll and a survey of political blogs showed strong opposition to Altmire’s candidacy in 2010. She also reported that national organizations that want to hold Democrats accountable to their campaign promises are interested in the 4th CD race for Congress.
The meeting ended with decisions to begin a search for a viable candidate who will articulate a progressive position on the important issues of healthcare reform and climate change. The group will build a network to discuss important issues in the district and to pressure Altmire on critical legislation. The next meeting will hear from a representative of the Accountability Now Project, which was formed to pressure Democratic elected officials to support the Democratic Party Platform. About half the people present signed a letter to Altmire pledging not to help circulate nominating petitions or to raise money for his campaign. There was agreement that everyone at the meeting would call Altmire’s office and inform him of their participation in the day’s meeting.