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May 24, 2012 at 11:30 AM
As new American citizens, an Albanian family reflects on the journey that brought them to the United States and the rights they will never take for granted.
SEATTLE — Naim and Merita Hyseni are from Albania and they will be voting this year for the first time as American citizens.
The Hysenis are also my parents-in-law.
Last week I went to their home to talk to them about how they got to the United States and what it means to them to exercise their right to vote in their new country.
But first…we eat.
I grew up in the Southeast and I thought that was a culture of food. But I learned early in my relationship with my husband Julian that Southern hospitality has nothing on Albanian food traditions. Just when you think you’ve finished the meal, another delicious course comes out of the kitchen.
April 7, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Rick Santorum appears to have a plan for moving ahead. It involves his wife.
To squelch murmurs and questions about whether he might be dropping out of the Republican Party presidential contest, Santorum released information Saturday on some of his campaign events planned for this coming week.
He announced he will campaign in Pennsylvania, where he served 12 years as a U.S. Senator, and in Missouri. Pennsylvania holds its GOP primary on April 24 — UW Election Eye will be on the ground in the Keystone State for the 10 days leading up to the primary — and Missouri is still deciding upon candidate delegates, building on its March caucuses.
Notably, on Tuesday, Santorum will do an event with renown evangelical leader James Dobson, longtime leader of Focus on the Family. The two will appear at Lancaster Bible College. They will be joined by the candidate’s wife, Karen Santorum, in what is being billed as an “American Heartland Conversation on Faith, Family, and American Values.”
Karen Santorum has been on the campaign trail a fair amount, but she has not appeared in high-profile positions. That appears to be about to change. She will also join her husband on the agenda at a Pennsylvania event the following night, and then she will speak at the Women’s Leadership Luncheon at the National Rifle Assocation Convention in St. Louis. She will join Ann Romney and Callista Gingrich there.
Hmmm. I think the Republicans have been reading polls that show Barack Obama currently crushing them among women, and that Rick Santorum has seen the valuable role of Ann Romney for the Romney campaign.
April 7, 2012 at 6:30 AM
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum — longshot version — is in the midst of a break this weekend, stepping off the campaign trail Thursday through Sunday.
Many in the political sphere began debating what this break means for Santorum following three defeats on Tuesday in primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
On Thursday, Santorum met with a group of conservative leaders who lean religiously evangelical. CNN reports that those in attendance included Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, as well as conservative activists Gary Bauer and Richard Viguerie.
Many took the meeting as a sign that Santorum might drop out of the race. Such news would be well received by some in the GOP. A number of Republican leaders have encouraged Santorum to end his campaign to help unite the party around front-runner Mitt Romney, which would allow supporters and the Romney campaign to focus campaign funds on the general election.
But not so fast with the “Santorum in 2016″ T-shirts.
March 3, 2012 at 7:02 PM
MOUNT VERNON — Sharon Brandt came to her caucus, at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Skagit County, armed and ready to collect signatures for Initiative 1192, one of two efforts to put the fate of same-sex marriage legislation in Washington to a popular vote this autumn.
Brandt said she found out about the effort just last weekend and wanted to get involved, so she attended an organizing meeting in Everett and picked up petition forms.
“What [the legislature] voted for goes against God,” she said, “and we don’t believe you can go against God.”
Signatures stacked up slowly at first, but as caucus-goers here wrapped up their meetings, a crowd formed around the table where Brandt had laid out the petition forms. About 150 people attended the caucus overall, and by the time the last person had filed out the door of the church, Brandt said she had collected close to 100 signatures in support of Initiative 1192. (more…)
March 3, 2012 at 5:35 PM
SPOKANE — The Moran Prairie Grange caucus site brimmed with as many varied opinions about local politics as it did people. The hot topic of the day was same-sex marriage, and the attendees did not shy away from sharing.
For Dennis Beringer, a former reserve police officer and a retired real estate agent, the issue was black and white. Marriage was between a man and a woman in his view, and Beringer was passionately unhappy with Governor Christine Gregoire and the Democratic legislature for deciding otherwise.
“Why didn’t it go to the voters in the first place?” he said. He suggested a voter referendum to appreciative nods and a few exclamations from his precinct crowd.
If the people of Washington upheld the ruling, however, Beringer would abide. It would not fall in line with his values or beliefs, he said, but “the law of the land is the law of the land.”
Julie Boehrig moved to Spokane eight years ago from San Diego. It was the first caucus for the Newt Gingrich supporter, and she said immigration was her key social issue. For her, the controversies over contraception were a “dead issue” that distracted from the real problems. Gay marriage, however, was not. Specifically, when California’s courts overturned Proposition 8, she shared Beringer’s “people’s choice” reasoning.
“We voted. It was decided,” Boehrig insisted. “It shouldn’t be up to any judge. They think they’re above the law.”
Yet Boehrig said she had no problem with gay relationships. If someone has decided to spend a lifetime with another person, they each should have hospital visitation and other rights, she said. She just doesn’t agree with the term marriage: “Maybe we need a different word.”
Contrary to other attendees, social issues did not figure into the “broader picture” for Joseph Harari. The Israeli-born veterinarian was at the Grange to support Mitt Romney in order to keep America capitalist.
“[Immigrants] are coming here to rise,” he said. “That’s the beauty and the strength of this country.”
Harari’s final verdict was that abortion and gay marriage were private issues. He cautioned against voting for one-issue candidates, doubting their electability in a broad electorate.
“This country is more than one issue, you can’t let that be overemphasized,” he said.
March 3, 2012 at 11:59 AM
BREMERTON — Here is something I didn’t expect to hear at a Republican caucus at the West Sound Technical Skills Center in Bremerton: “It’s a good thing [Barack] Obama was elected.”
This unexpected statement was uttered by kindergarten teacher and long-time Bremerton resident, Veronica Moore. Moore quickly added, “Because now people are awake.”
Moore, who is originally from Florida, has not always been involved in politics. When she became a mom, her children took precedence. A proud mom of four, she said she had to do something to get involved for the sake of her children and the youth of America. “Too many children come from broken homes, and we need strong families,” she said. That is why she is supporting Rick Santorum, for his “strong family values.”
She also supports Santorum’s record. Her father was in the military and used to say, “You can’t judge someone by what they say, but by what they have done, their record.” She continued, “If someone wants to see what kind of teacher I am, they can look at my record and decide.”
Trent England, the pooled caucus leader, was also driven to the caucuses because of family values. Before voters divided into their precinct discussions, he told the crowd of about 200 that he had three reasons for being here; he then asked his three children — Lydia, Abraham, and Rachael — to stand up. He said, “We’re here to make sure our nation stays free and prosperous,” and coming to the caucus is an “expression of our liberty.”
He told a story about his time as a house parent for college interns in Washington D.C. He said an intern from Jordan told him that they had a hidden radio, built into the furniture, in her house. And that in November 1984, when the intern and her family heard the election returns rolling in, they knew that if Ronald Reagan was reelected, that everything would be okay. The crowd cheered when England concluded his comments.
The caucus started off with the unexpected comment about Obama, but the Reagan story, and the emotions it struck, we’re right on cue.
March 1, 2012 at 12:32 PM
During the last CNN debate in Arizona, the Republican presidential candidates were able to unanimously agree on one thing: their opposition to Barack Obama’s efforts to make employers cover contraception.
In the American two-party system, the Republicans and Democrats have been able to stake out partisan-based areas of “issue ownership” — meaning one party, through a history of effective handling of and attention to an issue, is seen as “owning” an issue.
The issue of contraception has become a hot button in national politics that crisscrosses party lines. Just today, a measure of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) that “would have allowed employers and insurers to opt out of portions of the president’s health care law they found morally objectionable” was defeated in the U.S. Senate on a mostly party-line vote.
Traditionally, Republicans are seen as owning family values and morality. They have heavily depended on this ownership to cast their position on this matter. During the CNN debate when the topic came up, Mitt Romney said the debate about contraception is really about one question: “Are we going to have a nation which preserves the foundation of the nation, which is the family, or are we not?” Ron Paul said, “It’s the morality of society that we have to deal with.” Both of the candidates brought the issue of insurance coverage for contraception into their wheelhouse by focusing on how it affects society’s family values and morals.
Democrats, on the other hand, are seen as owning women’s issues and rights based on their support and deep involvement with the women’s movement. According to an Associated Press article, Democrats see the contraception debate and the recent effort by Blunt as “an assault on women’s rights.” Recently, Washington State Sen. Patty Murray said Obama’s mandate is about making contraception “more affordable under the new health care law.” She continued, “Our right-wing opponents continue to launch attack after attack against women’s rights, women’s health, and women’s economic security — and we’ve got to fight back every single day.”
It is not clear yet whether voters see the issue as one of family values or women’s rights, or both. Republicans and Democrats alike are hoping voters eventually see things their way.
February 16, 2012 at 6:30 AM
Rick Santorum hits one million…on Temple Run, or how presidential candidates now embrace video games
On almost any smartphone or tablet, amid the e-mail clients and various apps, one is likely to find a mobile game or two. Look on Rick Santorum’s iPad and you will see Temple Run.
I discovered this about the presidential candidate’s gaming habits when I spoke to his eldest daughter and son, Elizabeth and John. They said that as a family they don’t have time to play a console game on Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii, so they gather around the iPad to play games while on the campaign trail.
Santorum is not alone in his fondness of the game. Temple Run was one of the 50 most-downloaded apps in the App Store in December 2011, and has over 1.8 million likes on Facebook. The game runs on Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, and, according to its creators Imangi Studios, it tests “your reflexes as you race down ancient temple walls and along sheer cliffs.”
Sounds like the perfect game for a presidential candidate.
I talked briefly with Santorum in Denver last week, and recounted my conversation with his children about Temple Run. Almost sheepishly, the presidential candidate replied, “When I go home my kids load all this junk on my iPad…I played it once and here I am….It used to be Angry Birds, now it’s Temple Run.”
His campaign manager later tugged his arm to direct him to the next interview, but Santorum wasn’t quite done yet. He asked, “Did they tell you what my high score was?” I said around one million, and he replied, “Yeah, it’s not very good.”
He’s right. Type in “highest score on Temple Run” on YouTube and one finds hundreds of videos with players getting into the multi-millions. To be fair, though, Santorum does have his hands full right now with things other than perfecting his gaming skills.
But there is a more serious aspect to all of this.
February 13, 2012 at 6:30 AM
The culture war and Rick Santorum return to Washington: Susan G. Komen, contraception, Catholics, and same-sex marriage
The culture war is back.
Actually, it never left. Ideological struggles over reproductive rights, sexuality, gender norms, evolution, and public religious expressions have continued apace, but have taken a backseat to the worst economic crisis the nation has faced since the Great Depression. National unemployment rates crested over 10% in 2009 and now reside at 8.3%, leading some conservatives to call for a “truce” on social issues in this election.
It isn’t back with the same strength as the mid-2000s, when conservative opponents of abortion rights and same-sex marriage were on the winning political side. In 2003, Congress passed legislation banning late-term abortions and the next year 11 states passed ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage. The conservative energy behind these laws helped George W. Bush secure a second term in the White House. Times have changed: political progressives are now on the offense.
So it isn’t quite a full-on culture war — yet. That could change today, however, when our own Washington state becomes the epicenter of one front of this clash: same-sex marriage.
And one thing to note: Rick Santorum has been waiting for this moment, while Mitt Romney has been dreading it.
February 11, 2012 at 6:30 AM
COLORADO SPRINGS — I didn’t expect to do this, Heidi Gutierrez said as she climbed the stage at Rick Santorum’s rally to talk to the waiting crowd. Her small frame was barely visible behind the tall podium, but her words were clear to the hushed audience.
Santorum was delayed in getting to the rally, which took place on Tuesday earlier this week. To engage the crowd at Giuseppe’s Depot Restaurant, Gutierrez spoke of her childhood. She’d grown up in Nazi Germany and spent her teens living under Communism.
“I know what it’s like to give away your freedom,” she said with a noticeable accent. “Once you do, you don’t get it back. Barack Obama is a nice man, but he’s not a ‘true patriot.’”
“I don’t know if we have four more years,” she cautioned. The room erupted in thunderous applause and Gutierrez rejoined her beaming husband, Conrad Gutierrez, in the second row of the crowd.
The two met in West Germany in the 1950s. Heidi was taking nursing classes after successfully passing through a checkpoint of the Berlin Wall. Conrad was stationed there with the United States Air Force. One day, he saw a beautiful girl sitting in a café and “the rest was history,” he said.
Some people go to Germany and bring back beer steins and souvenirs, Conrad joked, “I brought back a pregnant wife!”
The paperwork moved slowly and Heidi wasn’t granted naturalized citizenship until 1958. The couple moved to California and raised three children, but in 1984 it was time for a change. They migrated to Colorado and gradually involved themselves deeply in local politics.
Conrad served many years as precinct leader and headed up Hispanics for Bush/Cheney. He’s 81 now, but refuses to discharge his precinct until he finds capable hands.
“Some people are officials in name only,” Conrad sighed. He’s waiting for the right person to hand over the position.
Santorum’s personal message of faith, family, and freedom resonates with both of them.
“He’s not corrupted,” Heidi declared. “He speaks from the heart.”
Conrad said that Santorum wasn’t his first pick. He’d been pulling for Newt Gingrich since the beginning, but switched teams after Gingrich’s campaign “self-destructed,” Conrad said.
There was just too much baggage to go against Obama, Heidi said. “You can’t erase your background if you’re in politics.” Santorum, on the other hand, had “conducted himself properly.”
After the rally, the couple told me they trusted Santorum to “turn the country in the right direction.” By the end of the day, the former Pennsylvania senator had swept three states, and it was clear they were far from alone in their conviction.