WASHINGTON — Buoyed by the huge antiwar march a day earlier, hundreds of progressive Democrats at a “grassroots strategy” session here Sept. 25 vowed all-out struggle to break the grip of the Republican ultra-right in upcoming elections.

The meeting at the University of the District of Columbia drew Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) activists who reported their work in this November’s off-year elections in Ohio, California and other states.

Mervis Reissig, a PDA activist from Sonoma County, Calif., described herself as a “pissed off grandma” active in “precinct walking to defeat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his special election.”

She added, “In a weird way, this election is an opportunity to get organized early for the elections in 2006, to beat down the Republicans wanting to take California over.”

Steve Cobble, from Ohio, said next year could be a “throw the bums out” election. “It’s easy to fix the blame for a war based on lies, for an administration that can’t rescue the victims of Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “These guys are very vulnerable right now.”

PDA’s national political director, Kevin Spidell, said the goal for 2006 should be “run to win.” He assailed “Democrats who have hurt us” by “continually backing a pro-Bush agenda. We have to say: No more!”

NAACP Voter Fund Director Greg Moore said Hurricane Katrina has revived the debate about overcoming poverty and highlighted the political importance of the South. “About $200 billion is going to be spent in the South,” he said. “You can be sure the GOP is going to send its minions to make sure they don’t lose their grip on that region.”

“What we can do to win in 2006 and 2008 is rebuild the Rainbow Coalition,” Moore said. “There is not a single African American in this country who isn’t thinking: ‘What can we do to end poverty?’ We need to say: ‘Here’s our post-Katrina reconstruction plan.”

Reps. Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, both California Democrats, thanked the PDA for backing their investigation of Bush’s “fixing” of evidence to support his Iraq war, and for supporting Woolsey’s “exit strategy” hearing and Lee’s “No Permanent Military Bases in Iraq” resolution.

Patrick Carano, a Teamster UPS driver from Akron, Ohio, told the World that Ohio PDA members collected thousands of signatures to place five initiatives on the ballot, including one to establish a nonpartisan elections commission. The courts rejected a Republican lawsuit asking that the measures be ruled off the ballot. Currently, Republicans control all election procedures in Ohio. “The Ohio AFL-CIO is backing these initiatives,” he said. “Labor knows that corruption is devastating the state. And workers are the ones who are hurting. Their rights are being eroded. All our accomplishments are being stripped away. That’s the goal of the Republican right.”

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