Monday, March 2, 2009

FL-Sen: Dan Gelber is the Man

The following post reflects the opinions of Kenneth Quinnell solely, and is not necessarily endorsed by other members of the Florida Progressive Coalition.

Florida currently is in the early stages of a U.S. Senate race to replace congressional waste of space Mel Martinez. Provided that Governor Charlie Crist doesn't jump in the race, the seat should be a solid pick-up opportunity for the Democrats. But we certainly don't want just any Democrat replacing Martinez, we want a progressive Democrat who will fight for our values and will work his or her ass off to make America a better place. That's why I'm personally endorsing Dan Gelber and will do what I can to help him win the primary.

Why Gelber? The reasons are many, but let's start with a big first one -- he's as progressive as legislators come. Dan is a thoughtful man who actually takes the time to understand the issues and how government actions affect people in the real world. And he's a big fan of things like logic, reason and evidence. Combining these things, he comes down on the right side of the issues about as often as anyone I can think of, particularly in the Florida legislature. Take a look at his voting record and you'll be pleased to see such a principled, liberal record from a member of the Florida legislature. And when people hit him with the same old, tired conservative Rush Limbaugh-style attacking points, he's prepared for them and can counter them as good, if not better, than the best pundits and bloggers out there.

We know how Dan thinks and feels on the issues because he doesn't shy away from taking a stand and he comes right to the people and tells us what he's doing and why. A simple look at his blog ( will show you that he's not afraid to take his case to the people. And that use of the blog is another big reason why I support Gelber -- he's on the cutting edge of online technology. As I mentioned, he's a blogger, but he's not just any blogger. Take a look at the average blog from a politician and you'll quickly be asleep. Most of them tend to be boring -- lacking in any passion or anything that might give us some insight into what the politician is thinking or feeling. There isn't anything dangerous on the average politician's blog -- nothing that could get them in trouble. Gelber, on the other hand, is a real blogger. He writes like a blogger who happens to be a politician, not the other way around. We know what he thinks and he doesn't hold back when he goes after the other side. And he does it with a personal touch -- we actually get to know Dan. The Netroots activists of Florida recognized the quality of his blog last year at our statewide awards ceremony by voting him the winner in four categories in our Annual Netroots Awards. That made him the top winner. Bloggers and online activists recognized him as one of us.

With the legislative session that starts today, Gelber is going even further with the use of new media, by livetweeting the Florida legislative session that will meet over the next 60 days. This isn't unprecedented at the national level and I some legislators in other states have done similar things, but Dan is breaking new ground here in Florida. And with the decline of our state and local media, we'll actually know more about what's going on in the capitol by reading Gelber's tweets than we will from reading our newspapers or watching the local news. Gelber has also been a repeat guest on our Florida Progressive Radio show on BlogTalkRadio and has made public appearances at our Netroots events. The point is he's a big supporter of the Netroots and shows that by participating in the things we do even more than many of our bloggers.

Maybe the biggest reason I want Dan Gelber representing me in Washington, though, is that he is a fighter. I've alluded to this a couple of times in terms of his blogging and things like that, but he doesn't just sit behind a computer and throw darts at the opposition, he gets out in the real world and mixes it up with Republicans as often as he can. He knows the legislative rules better than they do and despite being in a steep minority in the House, he was able to slow down Republican activity with procedural moves when they decided to ignore even basic rules of decorum and professionalism and prevent Democrats from even exercising their rights to free speech on the legislative floor. Gelber outmaneuvered Republican "star" Marco Rubio and forced the Republicans to back down and do the right thing. And he has a long track record of fighting the excesses of Florida Republicans, something that will serve him well when fighting Washington Republicans, who are mild compared to the subspecies we face here in Tallahassee. And it isn't just on the floor of the legislature, either, when election time comes around, we know which side Gelber is on and we don't have to worry about him using his position to help Republicans get elected.

None of this is to say that I would have any problem working to make sure that Kendrick Meek or Kevin Burns (or a number of other Democrats if they jumped into the race) won in the general election. Meek has a great voting record and it would be great to have more African-Americans in the Senate. Similarly, Burns would be the first openly-gay member of the Senate and that would be a significant step forward for America. I do question Meek's priorities, though, and I'm unconvinced that Burns could win the general election at this point. I want a proven fighter representing me. I want someone who is on the right side of the issues, knows how the system works and who believes in expanding the tools we use to change our country. I think that candidate is Dan Gelber.

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