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Though the public option's current prospects for passage in Washington remain dim, the proposal appears to be turning into a new rallying cry for liberal Senate hopefuls. North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who is looking to challenge Republican Senator Richard Burr, has become one of two Democratic Senate candidates to sign onto a letter from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee urging the Senate to pass the public option through reconciliation in the current reform bill. The other is progressive favorite Bill Halter, who has issued a high-profile primary challenge to Senator Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas.
“She came out early for the public option and believes that a strong public option is probably the best way to expand coverage and keep the cost of health care from coming up,” Marshall campaign consultant Thomas Mills tells Mother Jones. “She continues to believe that this is the best way to handle reform.”
Marshall, in fact, had kicked off her campaign efforts last October by circulating a petition in support of the government-run health plan. Like Halter in Arkansas, Marshall is also something of a Democratic insurgent, having been snubbed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who chose to support another Democratic candidate—former state senator Cal Cunningham—to run in the primary instead. “At no time did the Senate leadership meet with Secretary Marshall,” said Mills, calling the moving "irresponsible."