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ROUGHED JUSTICE

About the Author

John Nichols
John Nichols
John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated...

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National Education Association calls out Obama’s education secretary for focusing on high-stakes testing. Democrats should take the criticism seriously.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice

Alice Robie Resnick

's re-election campaign would have been a quiet waltz to a third six-year term were it not for the fact that the veteran jurist has stepped on powerful toes. Resnick, the second woman to serve on the state's highest bench, has frequently led a 4-to-3 court majority in writing decisions defending the rights of workers and consumers, taking on corporate abuses--particularly those of insurance companies--and forcing the state to develop fairer school-funding formulas. For her temerity, Resnick is taking a battering from corporate groups, which are expected to spend as much as $7 million to bring her down. The executive director of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce recently sent out an anti-Resnick fundraising letter asking for contributions of up to $10,000 to "turn the tide of anti-business decisions." Resnick is only the latest target of a national effort to cleanse state-court benches of jurists who defend the rights of consumers to sue corporate wrongdoers; similar attacks have toppled progressive judges in Alabama, Texas and a number of other states. In Ohio, the AFL-CIO, the Democrats and women's rights, civil rights, consumer and trial-lawyer groups have fought back with a pro-Resnick campaign that has turned her race against a Republican-backed lower court judge into the state's fiercest contest. Resnick says she's fighting hard to defend "impartial, independent justice." But, as her foes gear up for a final wave of attack ads designed to question the much-honored jurist's personal integrity, she says, "I would never want to see another judge go through what I'm going to have to go through."

INDIAN POWER

Once prevented by law from participating in elections, and long discouraged by racism and isolation from casting ballots, Native Americans have been slow to flex their political muscle. As a result, even in states such as New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Montana, where Indians make up a substantial portion of the population, their electoral influence has been limited. This year, however, it could rise, particularly in Montana, where the

Honor the Earth Tour

brought the

Indigo Girls

,

Joan Baez

,

Bonnie Raitt

and other artists to "Get Out the Indian Vote" rallies organized in conjunction with the group

Native Action

on the Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet and Flathead reservations. At concerts in several Montana cities,

Native Action

registered hundreds of new voters. Other stops on the tour, a project of the

Indigenous Women's Network

, the

Indigenous Environmental Network

and the

Indigo Girls

, featured

Jackson Browne

,

David Crosby

and the blues group

Indigenous

. Tour revenues help fund fights against the slaughter of buffalo and the use of Indian lands for storage of nuclear waste. "We are working to change the balance of power in which Native environmental struggles take place, and to tip the scales in favor of justice," says Honor the Earth program director

Winona LaDuke

, an Anishinaabe Indian who is the

Green Party

vice-presidential candidate.

OPENING THE DEBATES

While the Green Party's

Ralph Nader

wasn't allowed to participate in the three national presidential debates, some candidates in high-profile state elections have been more successful. In West Virginia,

Mountain Party

gubernatorial candidate

Denise Giardina

dispatched a supporter dressed as a chicken to shadow Democrat Bob Wise, who had refused to participate in debates that included Giardina, an award-winning novelist who is sounding social and economic justice themes in her campaign. Wise backed down and Giardina, in several appearances, earned high marks for forcing a dialogue that the major-party candidates had avoided on environmentally destructive coal-mining techniques.... Vermont

Progressive Party

gubernatorial candidate

Anthony Pollina

, a regular in debates with centrist Democrat Howard Dean and right-wing Republican Ruth Dwyer, earned kudos from the Rutland Herald, which said, "It seemed sometimes Pollina was expressing Dean's views better than Dean was."... In California, Green US Senate candidate

Medea Benjamin

debated maverick Republican Tom Campbell in Oakland and Los Angeles while Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein begged off. Benjamin says, "The fact that Dianne Feinstein refuses to participate because she is ahead in the polls is an indication of just what is so wrong with the American political system."

ON THE TRAIL

Musician

Ani DiFranco

, a high-profile Nader backer, enthusiastically urges support for him in states such as New York, where Democrat Al Gore is ahead. In an open letter to fans, however, she warns that "there's just one little hitch" in swing states where the presidential race is close: "a Green Party vote really does mean that Bush comes one vote closer to winning."... San Francisco Supervisor

Tom Ammiano

, who promised after he lost a 1999 mayoral bid that "I'm not going away," is backing a slate of progressive supervisor candidates, including Native American rights crusader

Aaron Peskin

, AIDS activist

Eileen Hansen

and tenants' rights campaigner

Marie Harrison

.

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