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'Omni-partisan Democrat' challenges Feinstein in CA primary

Miriam Raftery
Published: Monday May 22, 2006

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In an interview with RAW STORY, Colleen Fernald, Progressive peace activist, environmental advocate and challenger to Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in the June 6th Democratic Primary election, describes herself as an "omni-partisan Democrat."

Feinstein has drawn criticism from progressive Democrats for voting to support the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, as well as for accepting large contributions from defense contractors (including over $52,000 from the defense industry or the 2006 election cycle).

Fernald says she opposes pre-emptive military invasion. She has pledged to restore the military for defense (not offense), work to bring the National Guard home, and oppose the use of nuclear weapons. She also describes herself as an advocate of sustainability for the U.S., and supporter of a "trustworthy voting system and seeks to restore trust in government as well as adherence to the Constitution," in campaign literature.

At the California Democratic Convention, RAW STORY obtained an exclusive interview with Fernald.

Q: What made you decide to run against Diane Feinstein?

A: I for the past few years had been sending my elected representatives my wish list. My main point is to let people know that they are giving Senator Feinstein their vote without a policy course correction—with optional conflict as our military's current course of action. I'm interested in more than getting our troops out of Iraq. I'm interested in not using our military in an offensive manner. We have no right to tell other countries they can't strike first if we strike first. In addition, our military's methods add to the carbon emissions that are accelerating climate change. I don't know if anyone knows about the climate effects of using nuclear. Part of the reason I'm running also is because Cindy Sheehan said she was, then didn't.

Q: What do you see as the most important issue in this election?

A: I'm more concerned regarding climate change, which is a greater threat to our well-being than the terrorists.

Q: Tell us about your background. What qualifications and experience do you have that prepare you for public office?

A: I'm actually an Air Force brat. My parents were both in the military. My father served in Viet Nam. He was exposed to agent orange and as a result he got bone cancer and passed away…I am concerned about our troops and the Iraqi people exposed to the depleted uranium weapons. I'm not anti-military. I support a strong defense, but I'm am concerned about our methods. I am also concerned about the impact on innocent civilians in lands we have invaded, and most importantly on the environment.

Q: What else have you done before running for the Senate?

A: In 2002, I was founder and coordinator of the Sebastopol Sustainability Conference and Fesetival. I've had political experience in the past four years speaking to individuals and at public meetings. I was a lobbyist for saving clean communities, speaking as a mother. I've lobbied for environmental and social causes.

Q: How concerned are you about a possible U.S. attack on Iran?

A: Iran is a hornet's nest…Attacking them will make them more aggressive.

Q: Many women are concerned about the erosion of reproductive rights. What are your views on abortion?

A: I'm pro-life and pro-choice.

Q: Do you support a woman's right to choose?

A: My position is complex… but I'd rather keep the focus on other issues. If you're pro-life, you don't want pre-emptive invasions.

Q: What are your views on healthcare?

A: Universal healthcare is definitely on my platform, with influences of natural medicine. I also believe in the concept of sustainability, including sustainability of the U.S. economy. Globalization has devastated the U.S. economy. It's devastating the Iraq economy.

Q: What other issues are important to you?

A: I have a daughter, 10, and two sons, 18 and 19, so affordable higher education is important to me.

Q: What endorsements have you received?

A: Patrick Henry Democratic, the Sonoma County Progressive Democrats, a teachers' association and some individuals.

Q: What is your strategy for competing against Diane Feinstein, a well-financed incumbent?

A: The only way I can compete is at the grassroots level through the Internet, and it has started already.

Q: Do you have a campaign staff?

A: Judy Hess is my interim campaign manager. (Hess is president of Progressive Democrats of San Diego.)

Q: What impact do you hope to achieve through your candidacy?

A: I'm calling myself an omni-partisan Democrat. I believe our strength comes from unity. I'm the marrow that will give our Democrats backbone…I support Resolution 82 by Representative Barbara Lee, disallowing the doctrine of preemption. I'm very concerned about the mental and physical well-being of the troops who are returning. I want my campaign for peace website to have links to other peace candidates as well…. The point is to have people flood Feinstein's office with demands to end the doctrine of preemptive invasion now. Our Constitution is not being upheld by the people we elected.