Just got off the phone with Paul Morel, a citizen of the Brew City and Democratic challenger to Rep. Gwen Moore, the Milwaukee Democrat who has been in Congress since 2005.
Talking to Morel was strikingly similar to talking to Republican Senate candidate Dave Westlake. Like Westlake, Morel called exactly at the arranged time. Although he does not claim adherence to the Tea Party, much of Morel's rhetoric matches up with the anti-establishment spirit that the right is trying to capitalize on.
Morel says he got into the race out of general frustration with D.C. politics, as well as irritation with some of Moore's "non-committal stances on some issues." He gave the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as examples. While Moore is an outspoken critic of the occupations, he said, she refuses to vote to defund the military occupations. He says that he would vote to withhold appropriations for the wars.
In addition, Morel says he can't understand Moore's vote against an audit of the Federal Reserve, a process he sees as a "simple requirement" for good government.
Although many of Morel's stances on economic issues seem similar to those proposed by Tea Party activists and libertarians, he generally justifies his positions in terms of fiscal sustainability rather than philosophical opposition to government or "socialism." For instance, he believes the health care reform bill was flawed because it hid costs and will inevitably cause tax hikes in the future. He said simply expanding Medicare to include the 34 million uninsured would have been a more realistic way to achieve universal coverage.
On the issue of the "public option" Morel said he believed the idea would not have been politically feasible, and that it would inevitably lead to a single-payer system. When I asked him if the Postal Service prevented private companies from competing, he pointed to Service's 6-day-a-week service, which he believes nobody needs. Once you fund one service, you can never go back, he maintains.
"But are you really a Democrat," I asked. "If I don't ask it, somebody else will." Morel responded by pointing to his position on social issues, including his support for the decriminalization of all drugs, including hard drugs such as heroin. He also supports abortion rights, repeal of the Patriot Act, and the removal of all legal distinctions between heterosexual unions and same-sex ones.
"I don't concede that Democrats are fiscally irresponsible. We have to be able to fund the programs we value," he added.
For instance, he is a strong supporter of public education, but he differs from most Democrats in opposing federal involvement. He believes all federal mandates should be repealed, and called education "hardly a state's issue," saying it is best solved at the local level. Would he join members of Congress such as Ron Paul and support abolition of the Dept. of Education? "Yes," he said.
Now on to the politics...Does he have a chance? He hopes so. Has he hired a campaign staff or campaign manager? He's working on that, and expects to bring in a professional staff soon. How is he campaigning? He plans to hold town hall meetings all over the district. Does he expect any support from local officials or other establishment figures? Absolutely not. He is not naive enough to believe anybody will support him before the primary. (Similarly, whoever wins the Dem primary in the 4th district gets the support of all local officials. Except Scott Walker.)
Morel is a smart dude. But right now he doesn't have a chance in hell. Unless he can prove that it was Gwen Moore herself who authorized her son to slash the tires of Republican cars during the 2004 election, the most he will be probably be able to do is get a few idealistic volunteers from UW-M to knock on doors. Actually, they were Republican cars. What do Dem primary voters care? I'm out of ideas.