by Matt Stoller, Thu Dec 15, 2005 at 02:31:29 PM EST
Kos posted about the IL-06 primary fight, and Rahm Emanuel's involvement in it. I've been meaning to circle back to this issue, and I will in a bit with some firmer information. From my initial phone calls, here's what the situation on the ground seems to look like. Christine Cegelis, a Mom and a political amateur, decided out of pure civic anger to take on a 30 year incumbent in 2004, Henry Hyde. Il-06 is in the Chicago suburbs; it's a Republican district turning bluer by the day.
Cegelis was a netroots candidate. While she was not expected to do particularly well in 2004, she exceeded expecations and got 44% of the vote, though she exhibited a lot of the pitfalls a new candidate does. In particular she low fundraising numbers, though she had lots of small donors she was light on the big ones. She is progressive and grassroots oriented, and has built a substantial volunteer presence in a moderately Republican district that is turning bluer. The seat is now open since Hyde is retiring, and IL-06 is seen as a prime pickup opportunity. Prior to Cegelis, the district had almost no organization, and she seems to have had a big hand in building what exists there now. Her fundraising has been low, but not excessively so. Rahm's district is right next door at IL-5, and he has consistently tried to recruit someone else to run. Duckworth is his third choice to run in the primary, since the other two dropped out. Additionally, even though the DCCC isn't raising that much money, falling behind the RNCC, the DCCC is dropping $1 million on Duckworth to help her against Cegalis. Rahm also engineered her appearance on This Week to announce her candidacy, and he has been discouraging donors from giving to Cegalis.
What isn't clear to me is why Rahm is backing Duckworth so strongly in a primary. Is it that Rahm is pro-war, and Cegelis is not? Is it because Il-06 is right next to his district, and he wants to be a kingmaker? Is it because both Mayor Daley and Governor Rod Blagojevich are in a weakened state and there's a political opportunity to assert control over Illinois politics? Has he seen poll numbers that suggest Duckworth is a sure shot and Cegelis will lose? Or is it that Rahm made promises to other recruits around the country, and he wants to show them and other potential recruits that the DCCC will stand by them?
Is it some combination? One of the biggest challenges right now is recruiting enough candidates to run against Republicans who don't look vulnerable. It's a real challenge. On the one hand, if there's tidal wave in 2006, we need to have those candidates in races so that more Democrats will come into office as we win races we're not expecting. On the other hand, these races are clear longshots, and recruiting people on the premise that there may be a tidal wave is tough. The psychological hurdle to running for office is high; should you run you're in for 11 months of begging for money, votes, and TV time. You don't see your family. Your personal life is combed over by cynical reporters. It's tough to convince people to do it. If you sit down and say 'the numbers aren't there for you in a normal election, but if there's a tidal wave you just might be swept in and then face a horrible reelection campaign in 2008', that's not a compelling pitch. Rahm could be sweetening the pot by showing that even if you don't win, you'll still be in a position where a powerful person like Rahm Emanuel owes you a big favor, and might run you in an open seat in 2008 should you help him in 2006.
Again, I have no idea what the calculations are here. But what is pretty clear is that there are two machine models facing against each other. One of them uses local progressive money to fight a local progressive race using the internet, and the other uses national money to build a machine centered in DC. The lack of transparency in the DCCC's decision-making is also an evident characteristic of what's going on. Perhaps you believe in the '5 smart guys around the table playing with a map' model of politics; I don't know enough to suggest otherwise right now, and I'm sure as heck not on the ground.
So please, if you are from Chicago and have thoughts or experiences in local politics and in this district, please chime in below. Help me figure this one out. What's going on here?
UPDATE: I got part of this wrong. The DCCC is not directly contributing more than $5000 to Duckworth's campaign.