Thursday, September 21, 2006

Exclusive! Interview with Sharon Renier (MI-07)

Sharon Renier is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Michigan's 7th Congressional District. I had the opportunity to speak with her at the "Women on the Road to Victory" rally in Ann Arbor this past Sunday. Among other things, we talked about the recent Republican primary in the 7th, her ground game, Tim Walberg, the Iraq war, and her prospects for victory. Read on, folks!

Nirmal: So what motivated you to jump into the race?

Sharon: Well, I ran for Congress two years ago and two years before that I ran for the State House, so its not like I'm just jumping into politics fresh. I've been very political my whole life, so this is the next step -- to actually serve your country.

Nirmal: Were you expecting Tim Walberg to win the primary?

Sharon: Yes, it was a sure thing. I told people two years ago that if you look at the numbers, 80 percent of the people voted against Joe Schwartz because it was a six way primary. Based on the numbers it was very obvious that Tim Walberg would win with just one really strong pro-life candidate in the race.

Nirmal: So do you feel that in winning the primary, Walberg is out of step with his district?

Sharon: Yes, absolutely.

Nirmal: In what ways?

Sharon: He's pro-war, we're anti-war (which is different than being pro-soldier and supporting our troops). We're on different sides of issues such as gay marriage, and other governmental intrusions. As a Reverend he should realize that these people are the children of God.

Nirmal: Do you feel that you have a chance at taking this seat because his views do not reflect the district?

Sharon: Yes. After telling people what Walberg is really about, we can mobilize support and get people out to vote. In sixteen years, he did nothing for his million dollars that he is going to get from the people of the state for his pension. No legislation passed that he offered or wrote. I think he alluded to something called the Walberg strobe lights on school buses. Which is fine, as a safety issue, but the point is he says he's never raised taxes on people. Well that cost the school districts and the people a lot of money. Again, if it's a good issue, that's fine, but don't tell me he doesn't spend the people's money.

The other thing is that he's a very ineffective legislator: I believe that 93% of the votes that he was in on, he refused to vote at all. So how do you legislate when you can't make up your mind about a piece of legislation? You're not effective. He was a lobbyist. He's all what's wrong with Washington. He ties himself to Bush and thinks that the war is okay. He thinks that its okay to discriminate against people. What do we do next -- people with blue eyes don't get to vote or something? So that's what we're up against.

Nirmal: What would it take for Democrats or Democratic organizations at the national level to get involved with this race?

Sharon: Just letting them know that we have a tremendous amount of support and that the numbers are of the last election and not reflective of what the sentiment here is in the district. Also, the fact that the Republicans don't even like this guy.

Nirmal: So there was disproportionate turnout by the extremists of the party in the primary?

Sharon: Well, see, the way it looked in the primary was that the Republicans got a ton of votes but you had a tremendous number of Democrats that crossed over and voted for Schwartz. So it shows that the votes were actually skewed. If you were to really look at the votes in the primary and you give me the votes from my opponent in the primary and you give me Joe Schwartz's votes, it would be a win. I'm a numbers person and if you looked at the primary and thought "Oh Schwartz is going to win because he's the incumbent," without looking at the numbers, you would have been wrong.

We're going to take the votes of moderates, independents, a lot of the Republicans with us, and all of the Democratic vote, and they're going to say "this is the person we want in office." I weigh all the issues and look at all of the facts and look at the U.S. Constitution first and foremost, and to me that's where we lie: in the truth.

A lot of times people will say to me that in politics people are really mean and ruthless. They ask "How do you keep doing this? What gives you the drive to keep going?" I use Ghandi's quote, "in the end, good will always win out over evil," and that concept is what keeps me going.

I know that we really need to hold onto our democracy here and it is very fragile, and that it is on the brink of being taken away from us by the people who are in power. I'm the person who needs to win this race. Otherwise, we're just going to get more of this hate, more war, more people who aren't willing to be diplomatic and talk about the issues. I can't go over next door and deck my neighbor without the cops coming over and throwing me in jail. So how dare we go and drop bombs on all these innocent people? Some people call it the war on Iraq, but I call it the invasion of Iraq, because we invaded another country.

Nirmal: So you feel that the Iraq war was unjustified?

Sharon: Absolutely. I mean if Saddam was such a bad guy why did we wait 25 years to take him out and in the meantime why did he get the key to the city of Detroit? Getting out is the question now, and we have a plan to get out. Its not enough to stay the course with people still getting killed. We need to get an international peacekeeping group in there and we need to secure the city of Baghdad so that the Iraqi citizens can get about the business of taking care of their own government. We need to have no permanent U.S. bases in Iraq and we also need to help rebuild their infrastructure and do it without the face of groups connected to this administration like Halliburton.

If we can get the Iraqi citizens to start their own companies, we can help to start their own economy going. We need to help them invest in their own infrastructure.

Nirmal: How about positions on some other issues?

Sharon: We want to repeal Bush's tax cuts for the rich. I want no taxes at all on anybody who makes under $20,000 a year. We want to take the cap off of Social Security. We need to not just have a line-item veto but we need to make sure we have a roll-call vote when we're spending money and that people put their names on them. When you're voting on something for the troops you can't attach a bill to it that says "Uh, we're going to build a swimming pool somewhere else." We can't be doing that; that's just wrong.

Nirmal: Given that the Republican primary earned national attention, what kind of visibility does the race have in your district?

Sharon: Actually, its huge. Everywhere we go people are talking about it, because its made national news and because people are really scared about this Walberg guy. Its a scary thought that this man has this opportunity to get in power.

Nirmal: So have you seen a surge of interest in your ground operation?

Sharon: Absolutely! Everywhere we go, people are asking, "Where can we sign up? Give us some signs! We have some neighbors that we're talking to and they don't want him either." Its really incredible, and it doesn't matter where we go. We've got the farmers behind us now and they're generally thought of as being very Republican. The national farm organization has endorsed our campaign and the farmers themselves are going door-to-door and neighbor-to-neighbor to their fellow farmers and talking about the issues. The groundswell is just incredible. Its incredible to me and its also very overwhelming for me!

Nirmal: How does this compare to your previous races?

Sharon: I ran for Congress two years ago against Joe Schwartz, and they spent a lot of money beating me. Given that we only spent $8,000-$9,000 dollars, or only about 1% of the money in the race, I thought that was pretty good. I was proud of that. But in this race, we've already raised much more than that, and we're just getting going.

The students are all getting on board, they're using the Facebook, they're blogging. Tell everybody to vote for us on what used to be Dean's website,

Nirmal: Given his resources, when do you think that Walberg will go negative?

Sharon: We're wondering how negative he's going to go and what he's going to try to do to us. He went real negative on Joe Schwartz and he told a lot of lies. For somebody who is a Reverend, he should have his mouth washed out with soap!

Nirmal: Do you think that the same kinds of factors that played into the primary will matter in November?

Sharon: I think it was well-orchestrated by Walberg and it was just a matter of who got the most people out to vote.

I think that you're really going to see the anti-administration vote coming out in November. We've had a lot of people tell us, "Well you know everybody tells us that we only had a choice between Walberg and Schwartz, but we decided we had another choice, and that was Renier." That's really good to hear. People who had the guts to do that in the primary, I want to thank them, every one of them! We're going on with our plan and working on getting us elected in November!

(end interview)

Feel free to check out her volunteer, contribute, and Facebook pages (we need to join these Facebook groups!!).

Also, visit Walberg Watch for more information about Tim Walberg and his record.

Cross-posted on Michigan Liberal, Daily Kos, and Kicking Ass Ann Arbor.


At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the first of any "substance" I have found on Sharon Renier. So far her campaign has been lackluster at best, I was hoping for much more from her, especially facing a wingnut like Walberg. He can be defeated.

Two things I find troubling. She's one of those who support our troops, but not the war. Can't have it both ways. You cannot support the troops by opposing what they are doing. It makes no sense whatsoever, liberal cliche-ism.

"Tax cuts for the rich" is another cliche out of the liberal playbook. That's simply a class warfare slogan. If she's going banter about cliches like this I have touble supporting her. Using that term signals an incredible ignorance of economics.

I think she is right on about her assessment of Walberg and the lies he told about Schwarz (no T). From her orginal statement, she doesn't seem to have much regard for Schwarz which also troubles me. If I were her, I would be getting to know him and his supporters and learn all you can about what he has done and what she can continue for our District. There is a huge population like me that cannot morally vote for Tim Walberg after what he did and who he aligned himself with in the primary.

I'm really hoping she can beat Walberg, he's a disingenous, morally corrupt, ideologue who will do nothing for our district. She needs to be smart; bantering about liberal cliches will not attract the middle. She needs to understand the center and know what is important to the district, especially economically. She needs to run a smart campaign of substance not rhetoric.

I'm an independent, but I deeply admired Schwarz and zealously supported him in the primary although I didn't always agree with him, I trusted him. I'm sickened by that happend in this primary and the outside influences that meddled in the race. But having to make a choice between both extremes isn't appealing either.

I MAY vote for Sharon, but I know I WILL NOT vote for Walberg. She needs to look at what Schwarz has done and follow his lead...if she is serious about winning.

We face serious issues as a nation, especially in the arena national security, which is undoubtedly the keystone issue in the 110th Congress.

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Jim said...

As a vetern, I find it very easy to support the troops but have been against this war and their leadership since before it began. Wars are declared by politicians and the armed forces member do what they are ordered to do. Not only can I have it both ways, I think I have the right way.

The liberal playbook to which you make reference is quite clear on taxes. We are all citizens of this society, this nation, this state, this congressional district and each of us have a responsibility to contribute to our government to the extent of our ability. When only the millionaire class receives a tax cut and those not qualifying because of income receive a pittance for the same purpose, then class warfare will soon begin. If we are all in this boat together, then each should pull his own oar, to the degree that he is able. The stronger will contribute more than the weaker. Isn't that the Christian way?



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