Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Two New Democratic Congressional Candidates: Gretchen Driskell In Michigan, Shawn O'Connor in New Hampshire


Gretchen and Shawn

Late in November, WMUR reported that New Yorker Shawn O'Connor, founder and CEO of Stratus Prep, a test preparation and admissions counseling firm, had moved to New Hampshire to run for Kelly Ayotte's Senate seat. He's licensed to practice law in New York and Massachusetts, but not in New Hampshire. Before founding Stratus, O'Connor worked for Lehman Brothers and also for Republican Congressman James Greenwood (PA). Someone must have told young Shawn about Maggie Hassan because today he let it be known that he's running for Frank Guinta's House seat instead of Ayotte's Senate seat.

O'Connor, who is gay, is socially liberally but more conservative when it comes to the struggle working families have keeping up. He's part of the "Third Way" movement. "The leaders of both major parties, seeking political advantage, have presented voters with a dangerous false choice that has paralyzed our nation," he wrote. "House Republicans want to cut income taxes on the wealthiest Americans from 39.6% to 25% and turn Medicare into a voucher program which could leave some senior citizens without critical medical coverage. At the same time, Senate Democrats want to increase federal taxes by another $1 trillion dollars (when many in New York City, for example, already pay 54% of their income in federal, state and local taxes) adhering to an orthodoxy that more federal spending will automatically drive growth and job creation. America needs to return to its entrepreneurial roots so that we can grow our way out of this crisis. A rebirth of American small businesses will slash the unemployment rate while substantially increasing tax revenues without raising rates."

New Hampshire Democrats are counting on Carol Shea-Porter to run again and beat Guinta again.

Michigan's 7th district is in the southeast part of the state, from Lake Erie just north of Toldeo, Ohio, up to the suburbs of Ann Arbor and out to the suburbs of Lansing. Both Ann Arbor and Lansing were excluded from the district to make it safer for Republican incumbent Tim Walberg. The PVI is R+3 but Obama beat McCain in 2008, 177,638 (51%) to 165,747 (47%) and lost to Romney in 2012, 169,310 (51%) to 158,963 (48%). And in November Democrat Gary Peters bested Republican Terri Lynn Land district-wide, winning majorities in Monroe, Wayne, Washtenaw, Jackson, and Eaton counties.

In 2012, the DCCC recruited a tepid, mediocre candidate, Pam Brynes, and then abandoned her when it became apparent she wasn't gaining any traction with voters. Slavishly following Steve Israel's pointless messaging bromides, Byrnes was unable to make a case for replacing a pretty terrible and ineffective incumbent with herself. Walberg beat her decisively, 118,715 (53.5%) to 91,403 (41.2%). Although she hasn't ruled out running again, Democrats think think they found a better candidate for 2016: Gretchen Driskell, who announced her candidacy Monday. And remember, MI-07 a district that is very likely to go for Hillary Clinton.

State Rep. Gretchen Driskell was the first female mayor of Saline and hopes to also be the first female congressmember from the congressional district. The state House district she won was gerrymandered specifically to be safe for Republicans but she won it anyway. Her reputation has always been that she's good with persuadable voters. Walberg's shocking 2.31 lifetime ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is the most extreme right of any Republican in Michigan. A well-run campaign focused on the kinds of issues that appeal to middle and working class voters will go a long way towards ending his career. It's a moderate district; he's an extremist with an extremist record. Is Driskell the one to successfully fight that battle? She has a record too-- and it's very solution-oriented and has always dealt with issues important to families-- like education.

There's no doubt MI-07 will be a battleground district in 2016 and that Driskell is a serious contender. Its a district we'll keep watching and getting back to you about. And when we find out more information about where Driskell is likely to fall in the progressive/conservative continuum, we'll let me know about that too.

UPDATE: First Michigan Polls Shows Driskell Ahead

This came as a big surprise in late March:

A new Inside Michigan Politics/Revsix/Change Media poll has Michigan State Representative Gretchen Driskell up five points over incumbent tea party Republican Tim Walberg in the 7th District Congressional race. The pollsters polled a sample of voters that was 30% Democrats, 36% Republicans and 34% Independents and Driskell came in with 42%. Walberg had 37% and 21% were undecided. The 5-point lead was just inside the margin of error. Driskell did particularly well among independents, 46-27%, an astonishing 19-point gap.

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