He started out by introducing himself and how he arrived at this point. He discussed his service in the navy and ensuing experience working on alternative energy fusion programs that were ultimately cut by the government and how rewarding it was for him to work on something that could change the world. He spoke about getting deeply involved in the Dean campaign, traveling to Iowa to walk and freeze leading up to the 2004 caucus and about how he was in the room for the "Scream" speech. He explained that his experience with Howard Dean led him to be a founding member of the Black Mountain Democratic Club. Finally, he talked about searching for people who can inspire hope, and realizing at some point that you are the person you've been waiting for. You have to be the one to stand up and fight for what's right.
He discussed Brian Bilbray's vulnerability and the unfortunate overinfluence of beltway folks in Busby's campaign last year. He suggested that Bilbray's big issue was immigration, and that going after him on immigration would nullify the issue and level the playing field. Clear that issue off the table and we have an opportunity to talk about clean water, universal health care (he likes single payer, for children at minimum), Iraq, and seeking out constructive, peaceful solutions in general.
The next question asked point blank how he would have voted on Iraq funding, and he said flat out that he would not have voted to fund the war. He spoke about the U.S.'s responsibility to engage in nation-building if we'll be in the business of nation-destruction, and lamented that too much of recent foreign policy has been predicated on war being lucrative. He also encouraged more veterans to speak out for peace and against the idea of Republicans as the party that supports the troops.
After a brief break for club business and general technical malfunctions, Wray was brought back up to field more questions. He was asked about his relative youth and whether that would be an issue in the campaign which he didn't see as a concern. He spoke about poverty, health care and similar issues as being moral, not political questions. He said that there are times when serving in Congress that you have to vote for what's right even if it may mean that you lose re-election, because if you don't do what's right, then you shouldn't be there anyways.
There was concern voiced from the audience about electing Democrats who are only marginally better than Republicans, which gave Wray an opportunity to talk about his support for publicly financed elections (noting their success in Arizona), and also speak eloquently about the capacity of the grassroots to influence their representatives. A lot of pressure can be brought to bear by an active and committed group of activists, and he squarely put himself in the bottom-up change camp to fight against the entrenched interests that often undermine progressivism.
All-in-all a very well received introduction to a very savvy, very angry, and very ready-to-be-mobilized group of Democratic activists. My very unscientific sampling of crowd reactions found that people were very impressed by him. I haven't yet seen the other two Democratic candidates in person (Nick Liebham and John Lee Evans), but all three will be appearing next week at another local club and hopefully I'll be able to start drawing some distinctions between the contenders in the 50th. Brian Bilbray is very bad news and while it's an uphill fight, it's one that we can and will win.