Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Chuck Pennacchio, the only announced Democratic candidate in the 2006 US Senate race in Pennsylvania, via email.
DS: You're a college professor, did your students try and get you to run or was it something you've been thinking of for a while?
CP: Many of my Pennsylvania students over the years have suggested I think about running for United States Senate. However, my old business party, Jim Toomey, was the first to make the suggestion into a formal proposal. We then talked about the idea over a beer and later followed up with a third friend, Julian Palmer, who has since served as my political director. Jim's role has been far less formal than in the beginning. Returning to my students, I hastily add that they-along with my children (Sophia, 8; Ben, 6) continue to inspire me forward and provide the driving force behind our citizen-based campaign.
DS: Since you have a Ph.D. in Foreign diplomacy, do you see that as an asset in the race to defeat Senator Rick Santorum?
CP: Absolutely. Not only does my 15 years of training and teaching in foreign policy and national security affairs, but my 25-year practice of citizen diplomacy based on my studies and organizing principles clearly set me apart-and above-our ideologically-challenged junior senator.
As we all know, the Bush-Santorum foreign policy approach rejects history, facts, and the model by which the United States prevailed in the Cold War.
As an American historian, Cold War specialist, and national security expert, I will shred the Bush preemptive war doctrine as illogical, reckless, and feckless. It's application in Iraq alone is a devastating indictment of the neoconservative, corporatist approach that destroys America's moral leadership, America's economic interests, American lives, American trade, and American goodwill.
For America to be become strong once again in each of these areas, we must return to a sound diplomatic-economic-military strategy based on common sense, the lessons of history, and mental toughness. The people of Pennsylvania will soon understand the need to reject the weak-kneed and ineffective Bush-Santorum policies in favor of approaches that not only work, but have a proven track record.
DS: Blogs have become something big and you have hired Tim Tagaris of the Swing State Project to deal with internet outreach and it seems that users of both the Daily Kos and MyDD.com are warming up to your candidacy, do you see that as a positive mark for your campaign?
CP: Without question, hiring Tim puts us on the Internet map, centers us in the on-line community, and places us at the heart of the pro-democracy movement. Those are all extremely positive developments for not only my candidacy and our campaign, but also for the future of our fragile democracy.
Perhaps no community comprehends better the stakes involved in this campaign-beating Santorum, electing a citizen-candidate and a new progressive, revolutionizing the netroots/grassroots organizing approach, changing the face of Pennsylvania politics, and, of course inspiring a rebirth of democracy.
While those may sound like (and they are) heady and ambitious goals, we owe ourselves, our children, and their children nothing less than a full-tilt effort to reassert our rights, duties, and obligations as American citizens.
DS: What prior candidates will influence the way that you will run your campaign?
CP: Having worked for Congressman Ron Dellums, Lieutenant Governor S.B. Woo, Sens. Alan Cranston, Tom Harkin, Tim Wirth, Paul Simon, John Kerry, and John Edwards, I will borrow the best from the best: Dellums' passion, Woo's overcoming long odds, Cranston's perseverance, Harkin's populism, Wirth's introspection, Simon's honesty, Kerry's belief in service, and Edwards clarity on the right's class war against working Americans.
DS: Do you have a campaign song yet? If yes, what is it? If not, I play guitar.
CP: We're considering Bob Marley's "Get up, Stand up."
DS: Do you expect there to be a bloody primary?
CP: No. And if one comes, it won't be by my initiation.
DS: I'm in Kentucky and have taken notice of the campaign, do you think that many Democrats across the nation will embrace your candidacy and donate because of who the incumbent is?
CP: Certainly Rick Santorum is a lightning rod for any number of constituencies, and we expect to get our fair share of support statewide and nationally from groups and individuals he is attacking: older Americans, consumer rights, workers, GLBT community, conservationists, public school educators, women, scientists...The list goes on and on.
DS: I know someone who headed up Students for Gore in 1988 named Jonathan Miller. Did you ever meet Al Gore while working for Senator Paul Simon? Congressman Gephardt?
CP: Yes, I met them all.
DS: What makes you feel qualified to be a United States Senator?
CP: I am the only 2006 U.S. Senate candidate officially in the race. There is lots of speculation about different candidates, but I am likely to be the only citizen-candidate (non-career politician); the only one with expertise in history, national security, and international diplomacy (Ph.D.,history/political science teacher at University of the Arts in Philly); the only one to have organized and managed winning U.S. Senate campaigns (Tom Harkin [IA, 1984], Tim Wirth [CO, 1986], S.B. Woo [DE, 1988 primary], as well as statewide presidential victories (Paul Simon [IL, 1988], and Kerry/Edwards[PA, 2004]); the only one with working experience on both sides of Congress (Military Caseworker for Cong. Ron Dellums, and Personal Aide to Sen. Alan Cranston); and the only one with roots in rural (live in Bucks), suburban (born in DelCo), and urban (work in Philly) Pennsylvania.
Considering that Democrats have lost the last 13 straight, full-term U.S. Senate races here in Pennsylvania--why? because candidates "run not to lose," muddle their message, fail to start early, prove unwilling (or unable) to raise the necessary resources and to build a serious statewide organization--we have launched an informed campaign to WIN back OUR Senate seat. By combining "old" (grassroots) and "new" (netroots) technologies, by forging a bold and clear message (We The People; Brilliant Past, Brighter Future) around solid progressive values (Opportunity, Unity, Responsibility, and Security, aka O.U.R.S.), and by tapping the mental toughness that characterizes my past and recent successes, we will triumph in April and November 2006.
Beyond that, however, I would add (or underscore) the fact that I have worked in, and continue to study, the institution; I am an expert on issues central to the U.S. Senate's unique constitutional role (Questions of war and peace, international law, nuclear proliferation, federal judiciary), as well as other national legislative issues (energy, environment, health care, education). As a citizen-candidate who has lived and worked in rural, suburban, and urban Pennsylvania, not only do I understand the needs of our diverse commonwealth, I can actually represent and promote those interests without having to answer to monied interests. Moreover, as a parent, historian, educator, former business owner, and lifelong community-builder, I can help restore to the Congress (Senate and House) a collegiality and bipartisan spirit that has sufferent from the divisive and partisan politics of President Bush, Senator Santorum and House Majority Leader Delay. In other words, I can remind my colleagues of, and encourage their return to, the citizen-legislator tradition central to American history and American greatness.
DS: Do you want the first national press interview you have to be with Jon Stewart of the Daily Show?
CP: Maybe, I'd like to warm up first with Leno and Letterman.
DS: Was I the first blogger from out of state to email you?
DS: First to do an interview for my blog?
DS: What are your thoughts on the current image of the national party?
CP: The prevailing images of weakness can, must, and will be overcome with campaigns and candidates such as ours, and with victories based on the same principles imbedded in ours: Trust the American people, listen to the American people, unite the American people, and then, forge great success with the American people.
DS: Have you made an endorsement for chairman or do you feel that it is being over-hyped this year?
CP: First, I'm not a big "party" guy. I'm more of an outsider. Still, I have not endorsed anyone and, yes, the choice of chairman is being over-hyped. It's certainly important that we Democrats have a unifying and smart leader, but ultimately it's on us--you and me--to make our Democracy succeed. Something that Democrats.
In this state having not seemingly figured out since 1962 (when they last won a full-term U.S. Senate Race), is that the path to victory does not tread through Harrisbirh or Washington, D.C. The path to triumph is locked up in each and every one of us. The trick is figuring out how to unlock that power in enough of our citizens to win on Election Day and every day in between.
DS: Thank you for your time and keep fighting the good fight! Also, thanks to Tim Tagaris of the Swing State Project for posting the 6 steps to netroots success on MyDD.com, otherwise, I would have never found out about Dr. Chuck Pennacchio.
You can visit Dr. Chuck Pennacchio's campaign website at http://www.chuckforsenate2006.com/.