Kesha Rogers is keeping busy. Not only is she taking on Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Olson in a heavily conservative district this fall; she’s busy waging a war against the British Empire.
“That is the number one challenge and enemy we are up against right now,” Rogers says. “Imperial Britain… has been the dominant force behind the destruction of sovereign nation states.”
As a devotee of Lyndon LaRouche, the man she calls “the world’s leading economic forecaster,” Rogers believes America is in an epic struggle against the financial forces of London. She also denies global warming, compares health care reform proposals to Hitler’s Tiergarten 4 medical killing program and calls for the impeachment of President Barack Obama.
It’s not what you’d expect from your Democratic nominee for Congress.
Rogers, 33, captured 52 percent of the primary vote on March 2, making her the party’s congressional nominee in the district with an ignominious recent history (represented by Tom DeLay, Shelley Sekula Gibbs, Nick Lampson, and Olson, from 2005 to now). But in case you haven’t noticed, she’s light years out of the party’s mainstream.
Among other LaRouchian ideas, Rogers pushes for funding to colonize Mars and calls for a re-organization of bankruptcy laws along the lines of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed by Congress in 1999. One Rogers campaign video compares the current U.S. economy to Weimar Germany.
“When we’re saying we’re going to shut down the development of nation-states through financial conglomerates, by continuing the bailout, by continuing the policy which is against creativity, against development… it’s genocide, because you’re trying to deny the abilities of nations to be able to develop their population,” Rogers said.
Her arguments — and the LaRouche platform — don’t compute for Texas Democratic Party officials. The State Democratic Executive Committee cited the LaRouche movement’s history of “illegal activities, discriminatory proclamations and thuggish behavior” in its resolution releasing party members from supporting Rogers. The party further moved to strip Rogers from recognition at party meetings or mention her on its website’s list of Democratic candidates. Rogers calls it an insult to the 7,000 voters who cast a ballot in her favor.
"The attempt to 'sanction' me for winning a primary election, fair and square, when I was the only Democrat with a real campaign in the district, is an example of the same old loser mentality that has characterized the SDEC's behavior over the last two decades, during which time the Democratic Party has been reduced to nearly minor-party status in Texas," said Rogers. She further called for an apology from party officials.
At the same time, Rogers maintains she's fighting for a larger cause. “This is not about Republicans versus Democrats. This is about American patriots versus the traitors,” she said.
How did Texas Democrats wind up here? The Texas 22nd was held for more than two decades by Republican Tom DeLay, a.k.a. The Hammer, a.k.a. former House majority leader, a.k.a. indicted on felony charges related to what prosecutors call a money-laundering scheme. DeLay resigned his post in 2006, but his specter loomed large in the next general election for the seat. Nick Lampson, a Democrat — considered a rarity in the mostly-affluent suburban Houston district — nabbed the post from Shelley Sekula Gibbs, who served for a short time after DeLay's resignation. Lampson was then sent home by voters in the 2008 general election and replaced by Olson, a Republican.
To review: In the span of four years, Democrats have gone from holding the CD-22 seat, to returning it to a Republican, to fielding Rogers, who they don’t even want to claim as their own. “LaRouche members are not Democrats,” said Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirsten Gray. “The LaRouche movement's fringe ideas, conspiracy theories and extremely disturbing Holocaust imagery have nothing in common with our party.”
A full-time volunteer organizer for the LaRouche Youth Movement, Rogers has been pushing for Democratic Party reform since at least 2006. “I represent the true meaning of the party under what Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy represented,” said Rogers. Despite her hostility toward Obama, she says she did support Lampson and former President Bill Clinton.
In her quest to return the party to the rightful standards she supports, Rogers tried — and failed — to become the state party chair in 2006. “She got creamed, because she’s a LaRouche follower,” said Democratic strategist Harold Cook.
The opposite happened in her play for this congressional nomination. Democrats in the four counties that make up the district attribute the Rogers primary win to demographics and their own negligence. Rogers trounced the traditional Democrat, Doug Blatt, who finished with 27 percent of the vote despite his establishment support.
“Keisha won on ignorance,” observes John Corbarruvias, a Democratic activist and blogger in Houston. “The clubs and party in the area did little if anything to warn voters of her insane positions. She was also at the top of the ballot, the very first person you could vote for. So statistically she had an advantage. She had no campaign. No money. No plan. No fieldwork. She was lucky. We were not.”
Rogers claims she did plenty of campaigning in advance of the primary, knocking on doors, visiting nursing homes and singing classical canons to potential constituents. “They knew that I had an 18-foot banner in the district saying ‘Save NASA, Impeach Obama’… We made ourselves visible.” But the extent of her visibility is questionable. Federal Elections Committee numbers show Rogers spent less than $5,000 on her campaign. In contrast, her Republican opponent this fall, Pete Olson, spent more than half a million dollars in the same time period.
The other races on the ballot in CD-22 could also explain the Rogers victory. A Texas House race between state Rep. Dora Olivo and challenger Ron Reynolds drew a lot of attention. So did a race for Fort Bend County chair, in which Steve Brown was challenging the party establishment. Reynolds and Brown both won, and are both black. Observers in the district say Brown and Reynolds drove excitement among African-American voters and suggest Rogers, who is also black, was a beneficiary.
“It probably is not behooving to actually belittle the voters in that way,” Rogers said, when asked about that demographic explanation for her win. Rogers says it was not “the name that looked African American” but her ideas about saving a republic gone awry that won voters over. “This fight was very much their fight for the taking,” she said.
If plays on patriotism and a fight to return America to its roots sound a little familiar, a little like the rhetoric of the Tea Party movement, Rogers doesn’t mind. She has attended a Tea Party rally, is courting disaffected voters, and her campaign carries plenty of populist anger against bank bailouts, health care reform and President Obama. The Obama administration, for its part, brushed off any broader implications of the “impeach Obama” candidate’s primary win.
“I can't read anything into the primary results in a district in Texas about the general mood of the country,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
Curiously, the Rogers web site that mercilessly attacks President Obama is packaged to look eerily similar to the Obama campaign. The “Kesha for Congress” site displays the same blue and white color scheme and the same Gotham typeface as Obama’s.
“Those colors were there before Obama came along, and they represent patriotism,” Rogers says.
It is with the Obama lookalike site that Rogers will wage a general election battle against the district’s popular incumbent, Rep. Olson. From the sound of it, Olson’s campaign isn’t feeling threatened, especially in light of progressive bloggers encouraging Houston Democrats to de-select Rogers from a straight party ticket vote.
“The Democrats are obviously not terribly happy,” said Olson’s spokesman, Chris Homan. “Anytime the core voters of the other party are working to lessen the vote and their presence in elections, how could that be anything but a benefit?"