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July 23, 2003

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BuzzFlash Interviews Nancy Skinner, Liberal Talk Show Host Turned U.S. Senate Candidate

A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW

In general, it's not the policy of BuzzFlash.com to support candidates in non-presidential primaries or to write much about them. (We believe voters are the best people to choose primary candidates.) But in the case of Nancy Skinner, 38, we couldn't pass up an interview, because Nancy is a liberal talk show host whom we admire -- and not many of them run for office.

Nancy is now the "Ex" half of the "Ski and Skinner" WLS radio program in Chicago. She is an "Ex" co-host because WLS (ABC) radio management fired her shortly after she announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for an Illinois U.S. Senate seat. Apparently WLS officials were miffed that Nancy had launched her election bid while on the air this past Sunday.

Eric Zorn, columnist for the Chicago Tribune, however, notes that WLS was never been particularly embracing of Nancy's program: "WLS officials have always offered tepid support at best to lefty hosts, and Anderson and Skinner were no exception. Management did not promote their show, ordered them off the Hyde story [about questionable dealings with a Bank] and cut them back to one time slot a week from two, even though their ratings were respectable. In the ultimate exhibition of craven stewardship of the public airways, WLS pre-empted 'Ski and Skinner' the weekend after the bombing started in Iraq in order to replace them, temporarily, with yet another cheerleader for the war." (See: Eric Zorn)

But that's already behind Nancy, because she's already off and running for the senate. It won't be easy (she's the tenth candidate and she still is co-host of a nationally syndicated morning radio program), but she believes that with support from "Internet Democrats," she can overcome the funding advantages of many of the other Democratic primary candidates in Illinois, including a multi-millionaire who is lavishly funding his own senate run.

Because Nancy is one of a rare breed of liberal media pundits (she also regularly appears on national TV news talk programs), we thought our readers would be interested in hearing from her.

So here is the BuzzFlash.com interview with Nancy Skinner.

* * *

BUZZFLASH: You are the first liberal radio host we know of who is running for national office. Why did you decide to run for the Illinois Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate?

NANCY SKINNER: I got into radio because the left had no voice on talk radio and, and against all odds, I changed that. I decided to run for the U.S. Senate because I think that in national politics the left has lost its voice. I intend to change that. A caller actually suggested I run for the seat on the show just over a month ago and we talked about it on the air as a radio segment. I was flooded with e-mails suggesting that I really do it. I didn't actually think about it seriously until my mom called me one day, a very cautious soul indeed, and said she thought I should do it. I recalled the late Paul Wellstone's message to stop looking for the perfect candidate. If you have conviction, run yourself. Conviction I have. I'm trusting the rest will fall into place.

BUZZFLASH: You announced this in dramatic fashion on your WLS (Chicago) radio program on Sunday, July 20. How did that go?

SKINNER: It was terrific and scary all at the same time. Still, Buzz, in my gut, I felt that we progressives need to stop complaining and DO something about it. I am going to enter a race for perhaps the most critical senate seat (it's up for grabs) in the country and I am going to tell the truth about this administration, cut through the right-wing spin on every issue, and offer the voters of Illinois a real choice. Is that scary? Heck yeah, but I'm tough.

BUZZFLASH: There is a very crowded field of Democratic candidates running for the nomination for the seat being vacated by Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald. How will you make yourself stand out from the rest of the candidates, including one who is a multi-millionaire and is self-financing his campaign?

SKINNER: Here's the problem: Democrats keep sending up to bat the same honorable and well-meaning candidates who want to talk about the issues and we're getting our heads handed to us. What?s missing are effective communicators, people who can cut through the noise and right-wing spin. National politicians live and die by 30-second sound bites -- like it or not. As a veteran radio and TV host, I'm the only candidate who has lived through the crucible of the national media. As a political talk show host, I've become a professional debater. I know every weakness in Republican rhetoric, and I know how to package our message so that it makes sense to average people. I think in these times, communication skills are more valuable than money and political connections.

I see no great advantage to wealth. In fact, I think there's a backlash to it. It shouldn't be that the richest guy wins. I intend to collect small donations -- $25 and $50 -- from people just like us all over the country through our website, Nancy Skinner for Senate. It's the first-ever site where progressives from all over the country, those folks like me, who e-mail each other all the links from BuzzFlash about all the terrible things this administration is doing, have a chance to DO something about it. We can send a huge message to the conservative media that the new silent majority is mad as hell and isn't going to take it any more by winning a U.S. Senate seat with the help of progressives connected by the Internet. It's effectively an EMILY?s List (http://www.emilyslist.org/) for the Internet.

But Republicans will always be better funded than Democrats. We need a different card to play to beat their money. Name recognition and political connections do not draw out the people to vote in the general election. The rules have changed so much that even having any legislative record at all can be turned against you. There are no ?truth in advertising? laws for political campaign ads, and ugly lies are more the reality on TV ads than not.

I do see an advantage in inspiring people, average people, to get back involved in the political process, to be re-energized about correcting this course we've set upon. After all, that's what happened to me. I'm just one person who was concerned enough to do whatever I could and use whatever talents God gave me to work for a better tomorrow.

BUZZFLASH: How do you intend to raise sufficient funds to make your race competitive?

SKINNER: Buzz, if we have success at raising small donations at www.internetsenator.com or Skinner the Winner, I am confident that I will be able to secure some key endorsements from PACS and other progressive organizations. They like me, and they have told me point blank, if you can raise some money on the Internet, you're a serious candidate and we'll support you. That's why small donations (even $10) from all over the U.S. will be enough to take me to next step in this process

BUZZFLASH: Give us five reasons why an Illinois Democrat should vote for you in the primary.

SKINNER: 1) Because I can best communicate the message that Republicans are a fiscal train wreck and I wouldn't issue them a credit card, let alone let them control the Treasury. We are facing a demand-side recession and deflation, and there's a whole different prescription for that than just more tax cuts for the rich.

2) Because I can best communicate the message that this administration has taken our prized international credibility and flushed it down the toilet, and we need to turn the page and establish a "new deal" with the United Nations and our allies.

3) Because I can best communicate the message that our economic salvation comes in advancing toward the hydrogen/solar economy, ending our dependence on oil from the troubled Mid-East and creating jobs at home.

4) Because I can best communicate that our civil liberties are under attack. When this so-called conservative administration secures the power to read your e-mail, review your library reading habits, and has a plan for the cable guy to spy on you, it's a strange new Orwellian world indeed, and I will fight to get our liberties back.

5) Because I promise that I will speak my truth no matter the consequences.

BUZZFLASH: Illinois has an extraordinary tradition of liberal Democratic leaders, including Adlai Stevenson, Paul H. Douglas, Paul Simon, Carol Moseley Braun and Dick Durbin. How do you feel you would carry on their tradition?

SKINNER: In many ways, all the people you named defied the odds; they went against conventional wisdom, if you will. They didn't play it safe and say all the things the pollsters and consultants told them to. And people loved it and supported them. That's what I'm doing. I'm a passionate, progressive person, and I've always gone up against the odds. How many liberal talk hosts have succeeded for seven years as I've had? Why wouldn't we want the same fighter in the Senate for the people of Illinois?

You left one off the list -- Abraham Lincoln, a Republican who was really a Democrat. Maybe not a liberal by today's terminology, but here was a guy with nothing that they said you needed to succeed back then. Extraordinarily tall, not handsome, not charming, not successful at politics at all initially, reviled by most in the South and many in the North, but he exemplified an ideal. In fact, he knew at some point that his stance would cost him his political career, and it ended up costing him his life. His very unpopular stance on the equality of human beings was a minority view at the time. Today, it is the minority that hasn't accepted that. Wow -- what an inspiration, to make our views on tolerance and fairness and liberty the prevailing ones. I'll bet everything I have on that dream.

A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW


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