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Here's a multiple-choice question: How do you feel after eight years of Dubya? a) downtrodden b) paranoid c) penniless d) hopeless e) all of the above

U.S. President and Congress 

U.S. President

Here's a multiple-choice question: How do you feel after eight years of Dubya?

a) downtrodden b) paranoid c) penniless d) hopeless e) all of the above

Top 10 reasons to endorse Barack Obama

1. All combat troops would be withdrawn in 16 months, starting with an immediate pullout of one to two brigades. There would be no permanent U.S. bases in Iraq.

2. His plan for criminal justice reform includes expanding hate crime statutes, eliminating sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine offenses, and expanding drug courts to funnel first-time offenders into rehab programs.

3. He would amend NAFTA and fight corporate attempts to prevent workers from union organizing.

4. There would be a crackdown not only on predatory mortgage lenders, but on predatory credit card practices.

5. The federal Family Leave Act, which allows parents to take time off after the birth or adoption of a child—and keep their jobs—would expand to include businesses with 25 or more employees. The cutoff now is 50.

6. Similar to AmeriCorps, the green Job Corps would train and employ young people in clean energy jobs. Obama would also propose increasing the federal minimum wage and peg it to inflation.

7. Although his health care reform falls short of universal health care, it would provide mandatory coverage for children up to age 25, guaranteed eligibility and subsidies for the uninsured who don't qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP.

8. He unites people, rather than divides them.

9. He has a better chance of beating John McCain than Hillary Clinton does.

10. If he can implement his policies with a cooperative Congress, in four years there's a better chance that we will not be downtrodden, paranoid, penniless, hopeless or all of the above.

That said, Hillary Clinton would still be an admirable candidate. She's smart, tough and capable of tackling the range of difficult national and domestic issues. However, her recent comment during the Pennsylvania debate that if Iran attacked Israel there would be massive retaliation by the United States is troubling. And the manner in which she's conducted herself during the campaign—divisive, smug and, at times, even contradictory—gives us pause.

Click underlined candidate names to read available questionnaires.

Take-along voting guides

U.S. Senate

On the issues, there's a clear progressive choice in the Democratic primary: Chapel Hill businessman Jim Neal is our pick to take on Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole come November. And let's put it right out there: Neal is openly gay, which should no more influence whether he gets your vote than the fact that he's also openly white. What should influence it is his platform: Neal opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and supports getting our troops out now; he supports universal health care; is against capital punishment; wants to scrap No Child Left Behind, Bush's counterproductive education program; proposes making the federal tax system more progressive; and advocates an Apollo-style program to wean the country from imported oil and develop alternative-energy sources, including conservation.

Click for larger image • A moderate to conservative Democrat, Hagan is battling the progressive Neal for the right to face incumbent U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole in November. - PHOTO BY DEREK ANDERSON

On gay rights, Neal supports full equality, including marriage, as a matter of law. But he also recognizes that the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom when it comes to whether same-sex unions should be sanctioned by various faiths.

Given his background as a Wall Street investment banker and venture capitalist, Neal is at his best when dissecting the causes of the nation's widening gap between rich and poor and the erosion of middle-class jobs. He calls it "unconscionable" that corporate CEOs make 400 times as much money as the average worker. His prescription for fixing what ails us includes sweeping investments in education and our economic infrastructure, not war, and for junking free-trade policies in favor of fair-trade ones. He thinks the federal government should prepare to buy mortgages and refinance them to prevent foreclosures.

Neal is hardly a perfect candidate. He's never run for office, can be long-winded and abstract about policy, and while he grew up in North Carolina, he's lived elsewhere most of his adult life. He acknowledges that his business life has had its ups and, recently, some downs. He's not rich, and has had trouble raising money despite having been a top fundraiser for the '04 Democratic ticket of Kerry-Edwards.

That said, Neal didn't get into this race until every potential "establishment" candidate from Gov. Mike Easley on down had walked away from it. That includes state Sen. Kay Hagan, D-Guilford, who announced that she wouldn't run, but changed her mind a few weeks later—after Neal declared. Party leaders in Washington and Raleigh quickly endorsed her; the inescapable conclusion was that they feared having a gay candidate on the ticket.

Hagan is a former bank lawyer whose politics are rooted in the moderate-to-conservative side of the party. As one of the Senate's appropriations chairs, she's helped shape state budgets that do well by education but maintain a regressive tax structure. On the campaign trail, she's finally getting up to speed on national issues; for example, after not knowing what to say about Iraq, she's lately started to talk about "redeploying" out of there, though not on any timetable.

She obviously expects to be Dole's opponent and is keeping her powder dry—and away from any "liberal" influences—until the main event. She's refused to meet Neal in a televised debate on grounds that the three other, minor candidates weren't invited too. The three—Duskin Lassiter, Howard Staley and Marcus Williams—weren't invited because they aren't running serious, let alone statewide, campaigns.

In the Republican primary, we endorse neither candidate. Dole has devoted most of her first term to traveling the country—not, however, including North Carolina—as chair of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee. Her efforts in that regard were not just a failure but an embarrassment. Worse, though, is her steady support for all things Bush. The only exception is her newfound enthusiasm for harassing illegal immigrants, the tack she's used to re-introduce herself to the state she supposedly represents. Dole's primary opponent, a retired New York City cop named Pete DiLauro, is a perennial office-seeker with nothing to recommend him.

U.S. Congress District 4

In the Republican primary, the choice is between William Lawson, a former physician who, while an opponent of the National Agro and Bio Defense Facility, wants to eliminate "onerous regulations" on businesses and dispose of the federal income tax—and Augustus Cho, a retired minister whose priority is to win the war against Islamic fundamentalism and who embraces the USA PATRIOT Act.

The Independent makes no endorsement in this race.

The winner of the Republican primary will face incumbent Democrat David Price, who is unopposed in the primary, in November.

U.S. Congress District 13

click to enlarge Brad Miller
  • Brad Miller

We don't envy the 111th Congress: The economy is circling the drain, the war in Iraq seems endless, and millions of Americans can't afford health care. U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, step right up. We strongly endorse the Democrat from Raleigh to serve his fourth term.

Miller is the lead sponsor of legislation to crack down on abusive mortgage lending practices and to give bankruptcy courts the leeway to modify mortgages on home loans. Current law allows those modifications only on vacation homes and yachts. Translation: Only the rich get the breaks.

Miller's voting record is solid: He voted to expand children's health care, which President Bush vetoed, and against allowing the government to conduct domestic wiretapping without a warrant.

On the war, Miller voted to limit tours of duty beyond one year and to provide an additional $5 billion in health care for returning troops. He voted for HR 2956, which would have begun withdrawing American troops within four months of its enactment. However, the bill wasn't as strongly worded—it called for a "limited presence" of armed forces—as some war opponents would have liked.

Miller chairs the House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, which handles investigations into science, secrecy and abuse of power: a very busy body considering the current administration's record. Miller's committee investigated FEMA's and the CDC's irresponsible allocation of formaldehyde-ridden trailers to Hurricane Katrina survivors, NASA's cover up of aviation safety problems, and the sudden closure of three EPA libraries, which limits public access to environmental records.

Derald Hafner of Franklinton is running as a Democrat, but his ideology contains strains of libertarianism. Pro-life and pro-death penalty, the 63-year-old supports immediate withdrawal from Iraq, eliminating the federal income tax and warding off federally mandated health care.

The Democrat who emerges from the primary will face Hugh Webster, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

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