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MoveOn Backs Primary Challenger to Lincoln

The liberal group sends an appeal to its list asking for a fairly small amount of aid to Bill Halter, the lieutenant governor of Arkansas who just entered the primary against Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.).

Primary challenges have been among the least appreciated, most impactful stories of this Congress. In January 2009, it was not at all clear that Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) would be solid liberal votes; it was not clear how Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would vote at all. But all worked to stave off primary challenges from their parties’ respective bases — so far, only Gillibrand has succeeded — by moving away from the center and taking on big fights. Will Halter force Lincoln to the left? That’s an open question, but so is her unpopularity in a state with an incredibly popular Democratic governor.

Dear MoveOn member,

For the past year, a small handful of conservative Democrats in Congress has obstructed progress at every turn—but starting today, we’ve got a huge opportunity to stop one of the worst of them.

That’s because just this morning Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter announced that he’s challenging Senator Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic primary there.

Sen. Lincoln stood with insurance companies to kill the public option, with coal companies to roll back the Clean Air Act, and with big banks to kill legislation that would have helped families stay in their homes.

If we can replace her with progressive Bill Halter, it’ll put every conservative Democrat in Washington on notice that siding with corporate interests has a heavy political price.

But Halter needs to quickly raise enough money to compete with Lincoln, who has over $5 million in the bank, much of it raised from corporate interests.

So a major coalition of progressive groups has set a goal of raising $500,000 for Bill Halter this week. That’d make headlines, but it’ll take 314 donations from New York to meet the goal—can you chip in $300?

Just how bad is Blanche Lincoln?

She promised to filibuster any health care bill that included a public option after taking more than $866,000 from insurance and HMO interests.4 She’s the #1 recipient of campaign contributions from Big Oil in the last year, and now she’s sponsoring a bill to roll back the Clean Air Act.5 And she accepted more than $1.3 million over her career from Wall Street banks and financial interests, and then voted to kill legislation that would’ve allowed struggling homeowners to renegotiate their mortgages and stay in their homes.

Here’s how MoveOn member Jennifer P. from Little Rock put it: “Lincoln never met a special interest she didn’t like. It’s hard to express just how awful she has been as a senator. I don’t know of anyone who will vote for her if she shows up on the November ballot.” That’s why MoveOn members in Arkansas voted 92% to support Halter’s campaign to replace her.

Fortunately, we’ve got a much better alternative. Bill Halter has a progressive record as lieutenant governor and he’s willing to take on big corporations when he gets to Washington.

Click here to donate to his campaign:

In announcing his candidacy today, Halter said: “Washington is broken. Bailing out Wall Street with no strings attached while leaving middle-class Arkansas taxpayers with the bill. Protecting insurance company profits instead of protecting patients and lowering health costs. Gridlock, bickering, and partisan games while unemployment is at a 25-year high. Enough is enough.”

Halter’s well-positioned to beat Lincoln, and her approval ratings are so low that he has a much better chance of keeping the seat Democratic—but only if he can quickly raise enough money to compete. And given her unpopularity, Lincoln’s likely strategy is to flood the air immediately with attack ads to keep him from building the momentum he needs to win.

So we need to get Bill Halter’s campaign off to a huge start. Can you chip in $300 towards our goal of 314 donations from New York to his campaign this week?

Thanks for all you do.

–Adam, Wes, Nita, Michael, and the rest of the team

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