The financially troubled American Conservative magazine can't afford to be choosy about who purchases its mailing list. I assume that I got on William T. Russell's mailing list because I subscribe to that unorthodox monthly. Russell may assume that all "conservatives" are equal, and that I am one for reading the magazine, but I doubt whether many readers will support him in his congressional campaign. Russell is a pro-war Republican running against Rep. John Murtha, one of the most hated Democrats in the House of Representatives among the pro-war crowd. The Conservative probably has little use for Murtha on domestic issues, but since the magazine itself is anti-war I doubt it'd endorse Russell. In any event, and most likely through the magazine's agency, Russell's begging letter arrived in my mailbox yesterday.
Russell challenged Murtha last year, and contends that the incumbent only beat him then because "in a desperate attempt to cling to power, he turned to the Democrat big guns and big money." Murtha received an infusion of money for advertising, and then Senator Clinton "recorded two nasty phone messages personally smearing me." Russell doesn't tell us what Clinton said in these messages or how she smeared him. He does accuse Murtha of "personally attacking my former military service" by calling him (this Russell quotes) a "God da#n ... carpetbagger!" Russell was born in Virginia, and apparently came in for criticism for campaigning while still on active duty (here is more information). He lost by the narrow margin of 58% to 42%, he asserts, because the Democrats spent $1,000,000 in the last ten days of the campaign. Analyzing his defeat, the Republican has decided that he needs a war chest to rival Murtha's. That's where I come in.
Russell isn't greedy. "The backbone of my campaign is made up of conservatives who are writing checks for $50 and even $35," he writes, even though he'd like anywhere from $100 to $2,400. These donations subsidize Russell's current itinerary. "I'm already spending part of each week going to county fairs, attending front-porch rallies, walking in parades and knocking on as many doors as possible," he explains, "And to better get my conservative message out, I'm already running radio ads."
Russell retired from active duty last July 31, and won his district's Republian primary as a write-in candidate. He and his wife escaped the attack on the Pentagon in September 2001. He went on to serve in Iraq and get pissed at Murtha's accusations against American soldiers. It became his mission to unseat "the biggest adversary our military has in the entire U.S. Congress." He calls himself a "TRUE conservative" by virtue of his positions on gun rights, border security, taxes, abortion and national security. His mailing is a bit behind the curve since it expresses no opinion on health care or the economy in general. It does include an informative clipping from Roll Call magazine describing Murtha's beneficial relationship with a defense contractor that's under investigation by the government. It shouldn't surprise me if Murtha is dirty in some way, since power does corrupt. That's why it's imperative for someone else to get into the campaign rather than leave the field to Murtha and Russell, since a warmonger with a grudge is no replacement for even a corrupt party hack.
Russell's mailing included a separate sheet marked "Breaking News," in which he describes a threat made against him by a Murtha aide. "For legal reasons I cannot get into all the details," he demurs, but the story has made the news and you can learn more here. If true, it's a nasty thing to say, but I'm not going to chuck my own principles out of sympathy for a beleagured Republican. I pity Murtha's district if these are going to be their only choices.