Tuesday, December 04, 2012

In Congressional Races, Persistence Can Mean Winning


Donna and Steny-- no longer enemies

In 2006, one of the most exciting and, ultimately successful, netroots cause célèbres was the push to replace corrupt conservative Maryland Democrat Al Wynn with a longtime and much-loved movement progressive, Donna Edwards. Pelosi, Hoyer and the whole weight of the Inside-the-Beltway Democratic Party were lined up against Donna. The grassroots stood strong for Donna both inside and outside the 4th district. The primary was September 12 and it appeared that Donna had won, narrowly. But suddenly Wynn operatives appeared with "more" ballots. In the end, the incumbent was "reelected" with 49.7% of the vote. I called Donna the next day and told her that Blue America wanted to start working on 2008 that day. She said OK. And we did. This time the primary was under heavy scrutiny and Wynn's machine wasn't able to steal the election. Although he was again supported by the Inside-the-Beltway Democratic power structure, particularly Hoyer, Donna crushed him. He had already lined up a lobbying job for himself when the vote totals came in and the 8-term incumbent wound up with 35% of the vote. Since then, Donna has won with greater support than any of the Maryland incumbents-- including Hoyer and her potential rival for the next Senate opening, Chris Van Hollen. This year Donna was reelected with 220,344 votes (77%). Hoyer got 211,816 (62%) and Van Hollen 192,711 (63%).

Friday, Markos, who was part of the coalition of grassroots supporters for Donna Edwards, pointed out how losing House races is great practice for winning them. He pointed to a few of the victories last month by candidates who had previously lost races:
AZ-01, Ann Kirkpatrick. Third race (won in 2008, lost in 2010).
CA-07, Ami Bera. Second race (lost in 2010).
CA-41, Mark Takano. Third race (lost in 1992 & 1994).
FL-09, Alan Grayson. Fourth race (lost primary in 2006, won in 2008, lost in 2010).
FL-26, Joe Garcia. Third race (lost in 2008 & 2010).
IL-08, Tammy Duckworth. Second race (lost in 2006).
IL-11, Bill Foster. Fourth race (won special & general in 2008, lost in 2010).
MN-08, Rick Nolan. Fifth race (lost in 1972, won in 1974, 1976 & 1978).
NV-03, Dina Titus. Third race (won in 2008, lost in 2010).
NH-01, Carol Shea-Porter. Fourth race (won in 2006 & 2008, lost in 2010).
NH-02, Ann McLane Kuster. Second race (lost in 2010).
NY-24, Dan Maffei. Fourth race (lost in 2006, won in 2008, lost in 2010).
WA-10, Denny Heck. Second race (lost in 2010).
While Steve Israel prepares to virtually spend all the DCCC's resources on Blue Dogs and New Dems again-- he's already encouraging 2012 reactionaries like Brendan Mullen (Blue Dog-IN) and Val Demings (New Dem-FL) to run again-- Blue America is talking with progressives who ran in 2012 about running against as well. One candidate who Donna Edwards encouraged and helped raise money for this cycle and who seems a sure bet for 2014 is Nate Shinagawa (NY-23) who-- with no help from Steve Israel at all-- managed to nearly beat far right incumbent Tom Reed. The final score was 126,519 (52%) to 117,055 (48%). In fact, Nate trounced Reed in one of the districts 3 biggest counties, Tompkins where he took 24,264 votes (70%) to Reed's 10,201 (30%). This morning Nate told us that "When you're a first time candidate, it's a constant struggle for legitimacy in the eyes of the party, donors and the media. Once you get it, the momentum builds, the organization grows and the race gets closer. A past campaign, especially if its a close loss, gives you that legitimacy immediately... Many members of Congress are independently wealthy and old enough to build a fundraising network over decades. For young progressives, we don't start with the same foundation and it takes time, and a lot of hard work, to build it."

Nate's ActBlue page is still open and although he hasn't officially decided he's running again in 2014... I'd say a contribution or two there is an excellent investment in a more progressive Congress. My guess is that Aryanna Strader will take on the abominable Joe Pitts again in the district once represented by the heroic Thaddeus Stevens and that Nick Ruiz will challenge John Mica, Rob Zerban will challenge Paul Ryan and Lee Rogers will go up against the corrupt head of the drone caucus, Buck McKeon. "Running for Congress," Aryanna told us, "certainly gives you a much deeper understanding of your community. The day-to-day contact you have with the needs of real people is an invaluable asset no matter what if you run for public office again, run a business or start a non-profit. I can't begin to describe the lessons I learned during the 2012 election."

Something all 5 incumbents-- Paul Ryan, Buck McKeon, Joe Pitts, John Mica and Tom Reed-- have in common is that they are all sticking with the Grover Norquist pledge and that they all oppose President Obama's push to keep taxes low for 98% of Americans, who they are helping Boehner hold hostage unless they can get tax breaks for the wealthiest 2%. All McKeon thinks about is how to keep federal money flowing to the Military Industrial Complex which, in turn, finances his own career. His 2012 opponent, Dr. Lee Rogers, who came closer to beating him than anyone in history is seriously considering a rematch. "They say practice makes perfect. It's true in medicine and I'm sure it's true in campaigning for office. A smart loser would spend some time in self-reflection and determine how to improve. My decision on whether or not to run again in 2014 isn't one I'm taking lightly. At the moment, I'm concentrating on being a doctor and a dad. But, I can assure you that my 'practice' run in 2012 will aid a more 'perfect' future victory."

Rob Zerban is still making up his mind about how to best serve the working families in southeast Wisconsin. But I think he'll run against Ryan again. Here's what he told us yesterday: "I certainly learned alot from my first Congressional campaign. I think that if I were to run again, we would be able to pick up a lot of the infrastructure we built right where we left off instead of recreating the wheel. I also think a lot of voters needed to see proof that a strong Democrat could go toe-to-toe with Paul Ryan-- they needed a sense of hope-- and I think by holding him below 55%, we were able to do that." 

Not all that many candidates win House seats the first time around. Progressives Beto O'Rourke (TX-16) and Matt Cartwright (PA-17) beat corrupt, reactionary incumbents in primaries and went on to win the general election in first time efforts for each. Alan Lowenthal won on his first shot for two reasons: he was well-known and admired as a state senator in the district and it was a new district with no incumbent. (Well, there was a third reason: his Republican opponent, Gary Delong, is a Climate Change denier and hopelessly out of touch with the district's voters and only managed to win 45% of the vote (and most of that in the smaller, very red Orange County part of the district).

The only Blue America candidate who I was able to reach who ready to make an on the record commitment to run again was Nick Ruiz in central Florida. He's not fooling around. "We have to keep chipping away at the largely bogus Democratic caucus-- to replace the shills with truly liberal and progressive Democrats. The current Democratic shillocracy is unimpressive edifice, and despite the Democrats that won this cycle, how many of them will actually do something we can be proud of? Not many-- and that will be the safest, surest prediction we can make all year. I lost in 2012, but I'm going to try again in 2014, because it's one way I can make a progressive difference in this world, among other things. And to the best of my ability, I'm going to do what I can to help other candidates replace as many Democratic shills as possible, nationwide."

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At 9:00 PM, Anonymous me said...

Donna and Steny-- no longer enemies

That's too bad. I'd love to see her grinding that bastard under her heel.


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