An Open Letter of Thanks and Best Wishes to Jim Neal

We're not a political blog here but I certainly care about politics as it relates to national science policy and social justice.

Last night, North Carolina's Jim Neal lost in his bid to fight against Sen Elizabeth Dole for her seat in the US Senate. Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend has all the details from last night's gathering at the campaign's election hub, including video of Neal's concession speech. However, he and his supporters have everything to be proud about and I wish Mr Neal all the very best in deciding next how he will continue his service to the community.

Many of us who attended the international Science Blogging Conference in North Carolina in January had a chance to meet with Mr Neal, an investment banker who blew off a Friday night to spend it with a bunch of science blogging geeks. Neal is a warm and impressive gentleman with a record of using his business background to fight for social justice, equality, and economic development of science and technology via entrepreneurship.

Mr Neal is also openly gay but in their endorsement the Independent Weekly stated:

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.

Disappointing to me was that Neal was likely to have run unopposed for the Democratic slot against Dole. But two weeks after he answered in the affirmative that he was indeed gay, Kay Hagan (last night's winner) changed her mind and decided to run against Neal - all this after US Rep Brad Miller decided to run again for his current seat instead of seeking the Senate slot. (Aside: Rep Miller (D, NC-13) is also a good friend of the science blogging community, shown here at last year's science blogging conference with Prof Steve-Steve. Rep Miller is Chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee on the House Science Committee.).

The timing of Hagan's "no, no, no, yes" flip-flop on running didn't really look too good:

State Democratic Chair Jerry Meek acknowledged, though, that the timing of the various announcements "was unfortunate and led to a misperception" that top Democrats are afraid of a gay candidate. Not so, Meek said Monday. In fact, Meek said he knew in August that Neal is gay. "All I can tell you is, the state party at no time discouraged anybody from running," Meek said.

Pam notes that Jim Neal was running neck-and-neck with Kay Hagan until DSCC ad monies kicked in:

He pulled about 20% against Hagan, and he won two counties, Yancey and McDowell, both in the western part of the state. I told campaign folks at this bash the bottom line is that, while he had a great ground operation, Jim didn't run any ads on TV, and for many low-information voters, an ad may be the only way you reach them. Kay Hagan, with all the DSCC-generated money, could cruise on ads.

Pam has a more detailed analysis especially on what Neal's run meant to the LGBT community. While I certainly don't underestimate the significance of his representation as a gay candidate, Jim Neal was simply the best, most progressive candidate in the race.

Neal and his supporters have much to be proud of this morning. As they lick their wounds, I wish to extend my personal gratitude to Jim Neal for offering his service and expertise to our citizens.

Many thanks to Pam and BlueNC for jointly liveblogging last night from Neal's election hub at Southern Rail in Carrboro. Thanks also to all the chat moderators for stepping in whenever needed.


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Aw shit. So much for progress, eh? Thanks for another kick in the nuts, Demopublican bastards.

Seriously, some days I think that wackaloon Nader was right about one thing, there really is no difference between the two parties. This country desperately needs a viable progressive party, so that sane people would have the option on whose absence the Dems rely so completely. Again and again, the so-called Left demonstrates that it doesn't give a shit about social justice and it doesn't have to. "So, yeah, we spit on the gay community again -- watcha gonna do about it? Vote Republican? Ahahahahaaahahaa!"

Mr. Neal sounds like a candidate any reasonable person could get behind. It's a shame.

I was disappointed by a state primary race last night too - there was a strong challenger to Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, noted anti-vaccine zealot and all-around embarrassment to the people of Indiana. He won by his slimmest margin ever, though - I hope his challenger, John McGoff, will take another shot They're both Republicans, but McGoff gives every impression of being sane and interested in public service, two qualities which by themselves would constitute a huge improvement over Burton.

This country desperately needs a viable progressive party, so that sane people would have the option on whose absence the Dems rely so completely.

Well-said, Bill.

isles, not a big fan of Burton here. He was also behind the establishment of NCCAM but then went so far after 9/11 to say that we needed to research alternative therapies for bioterrorism agents like anthrax and smallpox (good article by Kimball Atwood here).

Wow, just when I thought I couldn't think any less of Dan Burton. It seems he never met a stupid idea he wouldn't embrace.

For those interested, Pam has put up a link to the BlueNC post by Jim thanking his supporters - a superb comment thread there expressing the transformative nature of the Neal campaign with active participation by Jim himself.

From Jim:

Firstly, I want to again congratulate Senator Hagan on her nomination as the candidate to beat US Senator Dole in the 2008 senatorial race. I have told Kay that she has my full support and encourage you to work hard on her behalf.

To the staff, volunteers and bloggers who made our campaign so vibrant I thank you. We were a lean organization running a 21st century grass roots campaign. We took almost 20% (about 250,000) of the votes cast despite our lack of resources and the fact that nobody in NC had a clue who Jim Neal was 7 months ago. I am very proud of each and every person who volunteered their time and contributed to our campaign.

I've become a fan of this site [] and the blogosphere in general as a fantastic communications medium: the emergent Fifth Estate. Online activism is the future of politics and social change. I believe that the power of the blogosphere is only at the tip of the iceberg (and that iceberg is melting...) so keep your involvement and your voices in the debate.

Remember that the campaign was never about Jim Neal. It was about you. You are the voices of change. Change is only going to come from the bottom up.

Many of you have emailed me and asked "what's next?" Well, I've got a lot of people to thank and a campaign to wind down. Thereafter I'm taking some time, after 7 months and 35,000 miles on the road and not much sleep and too many pounds shed, to reflect. I don't know what the next chapter in my life will be. I do know, however, it will involve continuing to work for empowering the voiceless many most in need. I have heard them. They have made me a richer person. They still have my ear and I'm not about to walk away from them.

We all have a lot of work to do.

Thank you.