Friday, November 12, 2010

Will Ed Potosnak Be The First Blue America Candidate To Agree To Run In 2012? A Guest Post


Across the country Democratic candidates in winnable races were left out to dry by the DCCC. Instead of investing reasonably to defeat vulnerable Republicans they funneled tens of millions of dollars into defending Blue Dog and other conservative Democrats with voting records that by any measure would afford them the distinction of being called Republicans.

In the case of Blue America endorsed candidate Ed Potosnak who challenged Wall Street shill Rep. Leonard Lance in NJ's 7th District he pushed back against the Red Tide mightily to match the Democratic performance in 2008. Ed spent less than 10% of what Democrats dumped into the race during the last cycle with approximately the same results. What could his campaign have accomplished with 20% of '08? Simple: a victory. His campaign was a winning campaign: well run, consistently on message, grass roots, and energized. As a candidate, Ed was articulate [View his first debate here], knowledgeable, engaging, and hard working. Equally important, he was on the right side of the issues that matter most: jobs and the economy, healthcare, education, financial reform, and improving America's competitiveness.

The lack of engagement by the DNC and DCCC in Ed's race and races like his across the country, may have cost us control of the House of Representatives. They turned their backs on true progressives to support losers (literally) who ran campaigns (and ads) promising to fire Speaker Pelosi and who have been trashing the Democratic brand for years. Good job DCCC; your strategy sucked! Here at Blue America we have not only been critical of their model we stepped up and worked actively to support the right candidates.

Blue America raised over $900,000, made thousands of calls, ran dozens of TV ads, posted 2 giant billboards down the road from John Boehner's house, volunteered hundreds of hours, and wrote countless blog posts, comments, tweets, letters, and status updates.

Ed Potosnak ran a great campaign, spending about $350K against Lance's $1.5 million. Ed is a science teacher and small business owner, not a politician who ran in a year where newcomers were highly appealing to voters. He was able to combine his unique background with a tightly run grass roots campaign to earn 41% of the vote.

To give you a sense of the enormous lift Ed accomplished with our help you need not look far to other races in New Jersey. Ed received over 70,000 votes, this is nearly the same number of votes as his 11th term incumbent Democratic neighbor, Congressman Frank Pallone in NJ's 6th. In 2008 Rep. Pallone pulled 67% and this year that dropped more than 10 points to 55%. Rush Holt's performance was also significantly diminished by 13%. Further down state, Rep. Adler (a very conservatove Democrat who voted no on Heathcare) went down by 3% and lost to Tea Party candidate John Runyan.

What about his performance in comparison to another openly gay candidate, Steve Pougnet in CA's 45th district. Ed and Steve have very similar districts, Obama won both in '08 and are held by “moderate” Republicans. Both incumbents were known to be generally supportive of gay rights, and both voted against the repeal of DADT. Steve Pougnet was backed by the Victory Fund, HRC and was an early addition to the DCCC's Red to Blue Program; Ed was not. Steve raised $1.7 million and as you know California elected a Democratic governor and senator. Steve still lost. Ed and Steve got the same percent of the vote.

We have an opportunity to hear from Ed directly about how he was able to fend off the Republican surge with minimal resources. This is a guest post he wrote for us yesterday:

I want to take this opportunity to thank all my supporters for believing in my ability to win in spite of the punditry to the contrary. I am extremely proud of the campaign I ran and while I was not victorious in this cycle I am pleased by the positive response I received from voters in my district. I am extremely pleased with our results in the wake of the tidal wave that swept across our country.

The endorsement of Blue America, DFA, Stonewall Democrats and PCCC in addition to many other organizations and progressive groups, helped to push me into the red zone and I wish I had the additional resources I needed to cross the goal line to victory.

I conducted a poll at the end of June after my opponent spent nearly $750,000 communicating with voters and fending off three tea party challengers in the Republican primary that showed me 13 points behind. It also showed that when voters learned about me I came within 4%, a statistical tie. The more I communicated my message and my opponent's the better I did, coming out 10 points ahead at the close of the poll, a 23 point swing.

The take away from the poll was my opponent was vulnerable and when voters learn about me they want me as their Congressman. As you are aware, communication is a key component in political races but getting elected requires a winning message, which I had. I communicated the old fashioned and new fashioned way: facebook, twitter, youtube, knocking on thousands of doors, calling tens of thousands of homes, mailing many more. In addition I hit countless diners, Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks, train stations, street fairs, community events, and supermarkets.

I ran a people powered campaign focused on the issues. I developed and distributed plans to create jobs, improve mass transportation, increase transparency and eliminate political influence in earmarks, and to save taxpayers millions of dollars in wasteful Congressional spending. As New Jersey's first openly gay congressional candidate, I held firm in my commitment to equality and called out my opponent for supporting discriminatory policies. New Jersyans did not make an issue of my sexual orientation. As I expected they rejected any attempts to shift the focus of this election away from the issues that matter to their families and businesses.

To accomplish our goals, I needed to be strategic in deploying our limited resources. We targeted particular Electoral Districts to boost performance and others to get out our voters on election day. As you may be aware I am a scientist, so in the wake of the election I conducted an analysis of our efforts to assess the effectiveness of my campaign and it is clear that in the towns and electoral districts we focused on we met and often outperformed our goal.

Throughout my district there are signs that where I applied resources, my message carried. Examples of this can be found in each of the four counties that make up New Jersey’s 7th District. In Somerset County, in the battleground town of Hillsborough voters cast ballots for me and not other Democrats by as much as 4%. In Flemington Borough-- in my opponent’s home county of Hunterdon and where we enjoyed a large volunteer base boosted by DFA-- my vote get was 10% higher than other Democrats. Westfield in Union county came out bigger for me than most county candidates in every single precinct. And, in Middlesex County’s township of Edison, three key precincts targeted by my field department-- districts 5, 54 and 69-- my campaign outperformed county and town candidates and won large margins in places where other Democrats lost outright. With expanded resources, the amount of persuasion and turnout would have been increased which could have meant a complete reversal of the November 2nd outcome.

When voters learned about me and my message I did win. Unfortunately, I did not have the resources to spread that message more widely to further solidify support to win the race. I am not writing this post to excuse away my loss, but to provide information to readers so that moving forward we can learn and adjust strategies for our next elections.

This year's election was tough and there is much to be proud of. My campaign remained positive and focused on the issues and concerns of the families and businesses whom I hoped to represent-- a great accomplishment in today’s environment of “tear down politics.” In addition, we made great strides in leading a grassroots effort to encourage participation in our political process. We had hundreds of volunteers making tens of thousands of calls to friends and neighbors to encourage them to support our campaign. Many political leaders around the State were very encouraged by my campaign and were somewhat surprised that being a first-time candidate with only a fraction of the resources available two years ago, we were able to produce approximately the same percentage of vote. I was pleased that our efforts (more than 71,000 votes) produced genuine grassroots excitement and a solid base from which to build upon.

Again, many thanks for your support-- we must stay committed to our working families, children, businesses, women's rights, equality, and competitiveness.

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