Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sam Bennett Announces

Image credit: Taken from ActBlue's page for Sam Bennett.

Lots of stuff has happened in the last two weeks. One of them was that Siobhan "Sam" Bennett, who is running for Congress in the 15th District of Pennsylvania, officially announced her candidacy:

A well-known Allentown businesswoman officially begins to campaign for a seat in Congress. Siobhan "Sam" Bennett held a news conference at her newly opened campaign headquarters in Allentown tonight. She's running for the Democratic nomination in the race for the 15th congressional district. Republican Congressman Charlie Dent holds the office now. On education... Bennett says she wants to get rid of what she calls the flawed "No Child Left Behind" act. She also says she wants to fight for equal health care for all Americans. "we all know that our nation and this lehigh valley have not been going in the right direction." "we're here because we absolutely know we can do better."

Allentown Businesswoman Running for Congress

I don't know why Mrs. Bennett prefers "Sam" to her given name, but it might have something to do with growing up as the daughter of a Marine. As she explained in a chat last year at FireDogLake:

I come from a military family. My father served in Vietnam, was Marine officer and pilot. My uncle is a retired Naval Base Hospital Commander — an R and strong financial supporter of my race — and he says “I didn’t leave my party, it left me”. I was in ROTC my freshman year of college and attained Ranger status at the end of that year.

When Darcy Burner Said “More And Better Democrats,” She Could Have Meant Sam Bennett In PA-15

Anyway, that's the explanation for another female Sam, and that plus her passing resemblance to Amanda Tapping certainly make her more convincing to this old Stargate fan.

Bennett's experience as part of a military family is one of the reasons she, along with Donna Edwards, Eric Massa, and six other Congressional candidates, co-sponsored Darcy Burner's "Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq" (PDF):

"It's not enough for me just to talk about, 'We need to get out of the war in Iraq,' I have to show how determined I am to make that happen," she said. "Coming from a military family, the best way that we can support our troops is end the war and bring them home."

Bennett kicks off challenge to Dent in the 15th

From her own campaign website, she adds:

One of the reasons that I am challenging Congressman Dent for his seat is that he has voted to support Bush’s war 100 percent of the time – voting over and over again to fund a war that is not working, that is endangering our own national security and bankrupting our government – including the dishonorable treatment shown to veterans.

The War In Iraq

Dent, while posing as a maverick Republican, has voted with President Bush most of the time on a number of critical issues, including the Military Commissions Act, the second Patriot Act, and against Net Neutrality. He's been no friend of freedom in any meaningful sense, and has, as Bennett observes, been supporting the Administration on Iraq at every opportunity.

Bennett is running in a strongly Democratic district. As the (Allentown) Morning Call observes:

The 15th District is made up of Lehigh and Northampton counties and parts of Montgomery and Berks counties.

The latest state voter registration numbers show Democrats in the district holding a substantial lead over Republicans. Democrats have made gains over the past weeks as thousands of voters have switched parties in advance of the April 22 primary.

Bennett kicks off challenge to Dent in the 15th

Part of the reason for that edge in registration may be that Bennett's been chairman of the Lehigh County Democrats' get out the vote committee. Her biography reads like a who's who of local activist groups:

In 1998, concerned about the direction of her city of Allentown, Sam focused on non-profit, civic and political leadership endeavors, driven by the desire to make a difference in her Lehigh Valley home. She created Good Neighbors as a parent- and community-driven advocacy organization for the Allentown School District. Key projects included the William Allen Construction Company (now the pilot program for potential programs statewide through Properties of Merit), and the founding of the Allentown Academy of the Arts non-profit at William Allen High School. In 2002, she led the regional Mayfair Festival of the Arts from a $250,000 deficit to the only black ink in its 20-year history.

In 2001 she nearly defeated long-time state Senator Roy Afflerbach in a race for mayor of Allentown, losing by just 46 votes. She also ran in 2005, and after her primary loss, helped ensure current mayor Ed PawlowskiĆ¢'s come-from-behind win by running the most effective GOTV effort in county history. Currently Sam is the elected chair of the Allentown Democratic party and vice-chair of the Lehigh County party, in charge of GOTV operations county-wide. In 2004, she was Lehigh Valley Regional Field Director for America Coming Together (ACT) and spearheaded the strongest results of any swing region in the country in that Presidential election while also helping tip the registration percentages in Lehigh County.

NPWC: Siobhan "Sam" Bennett

Bennett's current job is as CEO of Properties of Merit of PA, Inc, a non-profit corporation dedicated to improving the quality of life in neighborhoods that have become run down:

Often the power of a simple thank you is overlooked. The bulk of municipal energy goes towards punishing quality of life offenders, leaving no resources to thank those that for no other reason than personal and civic pride take the extra time to plant flowers, tend lawns, weed sidewalks, and replace street trees. As a volunteer driven 501 c 3 non-profit organization Properties of Merit ™ programs make sure the thank you is given. By delivering that thank you others are encouraged to do the same. Michele Unger, Allentown, PA member of the Old Allentown Historic District and past Properties of Merit ™ Awards Program Nominating Captain, felt the effect in her Properties of Merit ™ Nominating Area. "Three years ago, I had to really search some of the neighborhoods to find qualifying properties. Now I see a difference."

Properties Of Merit: About Us

Whether she learned it there or helped give it to this organization, it's clear that Bennett has absorbed the lesson that creativity, adaptability, and understanding of a community's needs are important things for governments to have when they're trying to address its problems.

While I no longer live in the Lehigh Valley, I grew up there. I still have roots there, and for that reason, this feels like a local election to me even though it's almost three thousand miles from home. For her choice to support Burner, et. al., on Iraq, and for being just the sort of community activist we ought to have in Congress, Sam Bennett has earned the absolutely crucial endorsement of Slobber And Spittle, plus a spot on the Slobber And Spittle Blue contributions page. Hopefully, this will turn out better than the last time SnS endorsed a candidate.

UPDATE (Apr. 14): I'm going to go out on a bit of a rhetorical limb and thank Congressman Dent's office for so many visits this morning. No fewer than eight visits came from what appears to be at least two different offices from the domain today. One started with a blogsearch for "Charlie Dent", the other office appears to have gotten the word via e-mail that there was something interesting or amusing here. I can't be sure it's Dent's office, but it seems logical given the chain of events. Looks like someone's doing a bit of oppo research on his lunch hour, eh? I've taken screenshots of the visits, in case anyone thinks I'm making this up.

UPDATE 2 (Apr. 14): Doing the same search that the office did, I found this quote from Howie Klein about Dent's voting record:

Charlie Dent voted 30 times on legislation relating to the Iraq war. Would you like to guess how many times he voted against Bush and Cheney? If you guessed zero, give yourself a pat on the back. Charlie Dent, despite representing a moderate, reasonable district (Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley), rubber stamped every single hideous proposal Bush and Cheney made regarding Iraq. Of course Dent's blind support for Bush goes way beyond Iraq. Whenever Bush needs a reliable lap dog, he knows Charlie's number. Dent is always stingy when it comes to giving a helping hand to ordinary Americans, but when it comes to subsidies for Big Corporations, Charlie Dent is the king of welfare. Since getting into Congress he's voted, for example, on 10 pieces of legislation involving corporate subsidies for big oil and gas-- and, again, he backed the Bush position (lots of taxpayers' dollars transferred to Big Oil) every single time.

What Do Tom Reynolds, Charlie Dent And Dave Reichert Have In Common?

The links are from the original. Looks like Dent's people need to come up with a few explanations in the next six months.

I also removed the quotes from around the word "maverick" above. Under the circumstances, it looks like I'm quoting Dent calling himself a maverick, which as far as I know I'm not.

UPDATE 3 (Apr. 19): Replaced the bad airbrushed version of Sam Bennett's head shot with the one from ActBlue.


Anonymous said...

Months ago I sent a contribution to Sam's campaign since I dabble in Pennsylvania politics but don't know sh*t (Pat Murphy and Joe Sestak made up a .300 batting average last time around) except that I could not believe there wasn't a posse of democrats to take on Dent. However, when I mae this contribution known on the net I was assailed by critcs of Sam who questioned the financial doings of her charitable/housing work. What is the real story?

Cujo359 said...

All I've been able to find so far is rumor and innuendo. The most specific criticism I've been able to find is here. Bennett had a salary of $110K for running a small charity. Point taken, but I'm not sure how valid it is because there's no context to draw from. Was she working 70-hour weeks? If she was, then that doesn't seem so outrageous. The rest of the article is post hoc, ergo propter hoc reasoning - i.e., her salary cut must be because she's running for Congress (as if people couldn't look that up).

Part of the problem is that the Morning Call, the principle paper in the area, charges for archived articles. I'm not a professional.

The rest looks like snide comments made by people with no specific allegations, and plenty of petty insults.

In short, I haven't seen anything yet that doesn't look like people talking shit. I saw so much of that leveled at John Edwards that I take this kind of criticism even less seriously than I used to.

If I find more, though, it will be published here. I don't take to being hoodwinked very well.