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ELECTION BEAT California State Senator

Hilda Solis

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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A Kansas represented by the outgoing HHS secretary would tell Democrats to get over their timidity.

Shenna Bellows can’t match the millions of her opponent. But she’s dialing for activists, not dollars.

has become the first woman to receive a

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

from the JFK Library and Museum. Senator

Ted Kennedy

and

Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg

hailed Solis for battling environmental racism by winning passage of a California law that guarantees "fair treatment of people of all races, cultures and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws." Solis stood up to a Republican governor and business opposition to end haphazard enforcement of environmental laws in low-income neighborhoods. She pledges a similar fight at the federal level if elected to Congress. In March the labor-backed progressive knocked off Representative Matt Martinez in the Democratic primary.... Virginia Democrats wore "I'd rather fight than switch" stickers and nominated

National Black Farmers Association

founder

John Boyd

to challenge Representative Virgil Goode Jr., a former Democrat who now caucuses with Republicans. Boyd led the drive to stop Department of Agriculture discrimination against black farmers.... A week after Minnesota State Senator

Jerry Janezich

returned from last fall's anti-WTO protests in Seattle, he jumped into the nine-way race for the Democratic Farmer Labor Party's nod to challenge vulnerable Republican US Senator Rod Grams. In early June he won the DFL endorsement. Says Janezich: "The key question faced in Seattle, I believe, will also be the key question of this century's first decade: Who will decide our future? Global corporations, or you and I--the voters in a democratic society?"

THE BEHOLDER'S EYE Virginia photographer

Sally Mann

has earned a national reputation for intimate portraits of her three children. In May a lecture and slide show by Mann drew an enthusiastic crowd to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. But after receiving an anonymous letter complaining about Mann's nude images, conservative Republican Governor Jim Gilmore condemned the photographer's work--without seeing it--as "outrageous displays that push the envelope of decency and challenge the values of our society." Gilmore ordered the state-owned museum to initiate policies that "uphold community standards of decency in all your endeavors." Museum officials responded that they were weighing policy changes, including "warnings" to alert skittish visitors. The

Virginia Civil Liberties Union

is pushing the museum to resist self-censorship.

Kent Willis

of the ACLU had this message for the museum: "I hope we can get a place at the table to say: If you're going to address this issue, don't handcuff yourselves. If you capitulate on this you'll have to capitulate every time a governor whines." Sally Mann says she's sorry for a governor whose imagination "must have run wild conjuring up the visual horrors" described in the letter; and sorrier still "for the other artists working in a sincere and honest way for whom this threat must be chilling."

MISSILE OFFENSE As the debate heats up over whether the United States should deploy a "Star Wars Lite" missile defense system,

Peace Action

, the successor to

SANE/Freeze

, is launching six fifty-foot inflatable Trident missiles in a counterstrike--part of its campaign to put nuclear disarmament on the political agenda. Chapters of Peace Action have displayed the mock missiles outside the UN, at a George W. Bush rally in Detroit and at a Raytheon plant in Tucson. California Peace Action will deploy three missiles this summer at press conferences outside twenty-one Congressional offices. Representatives

Barbara Lee

,

Lynn Woolsey

and

Sam Farr

have agreed to participate. The missiles will be unlimbered in LA for the Democratic National Convention.... Peace Action missiles will be flying as a media and grassroots voter-mobilization campaign is geared up by the five-year-old

Peace Voter Fund

. Targeting key House and Senate races in New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, New York and California, the effort is the most sophisticated yet by the fund, whose goal is getting thousands of new "peace voters" to the polls November 7.

LAW AGAINST LOVE As if the Oscar-winning movie Boys Don't Cry--the true story of the 1993 murder of a Nebraska woman who posed as a man--hadn't cemented Nebraska's reputation for gay-bashing, now comes a campaign to enact the nation's most sweeping legislation against same-sex couples. Nebraska's Defense of Marriage Committee wants to collect 150,000 signatures by July to force a November vote on a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships and "civil unions." Thirty-two states have passed laws barring same-sex marriages. Efforts in the Nebraska legislature to enact the ban have been blocked by filibusters by State Senator

Ernie Chambers

, an Omaha independent who lists his occupation as "Defender of the Downtrodden." "I stop a lot of bad things from happening," says Chambers, who favors legalizing same-sex marriage. "It's not the kind of thing Nebraskans should want in their Constitution. A day will come when they realize such a thing brings shame upon the state." Lincoln and Omaha gay and lesbian activists have joined the anti-amendment drive.

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