On the Ground in the NY-20

As Todd mentioned yesterday, MyDDer Adam Conner and myself are in Upstate NY this weekend volunteering for Scott Murphy, who is running to fill Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's seat in the NY-20 Congressional District, which starts in Dutchess County, a short drive north from New York City, stretches North well into the Adirondacks - bypassing Democratic Albany - and also stretches South and West towards the Catskill Mountains. It's gerrymandering at its finest.

All that cartological contortion extists to the keep the district Republican, but Kirsten Gillibrand's victory over John "the Sweenster" Sweeney has ushered in a new era in this former GOP stronghold, and now Democrat Scott Murphy is tied or ahead in the polls with the New York State Assembly Minority Leader, Republican James Tedisco.

Adam and I knocked a lot of doors in Saratoga yesterday and, although Adam had to fly back home this morning, I managed to walk two packets by myself today in beautiful Philmont, NY in the heart of Columbia County.

This is a very exciting race and I challenge the whole MyDD community to get involved. Here's why:

1. It's close. Margin of error close. I cannot leave you with a more important message than my conviction that this election is going to come down to a few hundred votes. Republicans owned this seat for a long, long time and they want it back. They will do whatever it takes to win. We can stop them.

2. Scott Murphy is a really good guy. He's also a progressive business leader who has made a career out of building innovative American businesses that create jobs and grow our economy. He gets what a successful American economy looks like and will be a valuable voice in Congress.

3. James Tedisco is best described with a word that rhymes with bassclown. He's the caricature of a hack Albany politician, with the least important job in the legislature. Assembly Majority Leader Shelly Silver rules with an iron fist inside an iron glove. He barely consults with other Democrats, let alone the minority party. A wax dummy of Tedisco could do his job just as effectively, and would have a more impressive legislative record.

Tedisco also claims to be a big labor guy, because his Dad was in a union. Of course he's opposed to EFCA (and Obama's budget, and healthcare reform, and puppies, etc) and doesn't have any union endorsements. Nice try, Jimmy.

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IL-05 Primary Roundup #5

For most campaigns, today (Friday) marks the end of the persuasion/identification phase of the campaign and begins the mobilization phase.  All the indicators available to me suggest that this race ends pretty much where it began.  There has been very little movement in the race, in part because no campaign seems to have broken out of the mold, and the short time frame was diminished by the major media's virtual black-out on the race.  (The New York Times has given more coverage of the special election in Buffalo than the local papers combined.)  So I won't be at all surprised if this race concludes just as it began where the first benchmark polls had it.

But this special election tests some prominent theories about what is effective in campaigns and elections.  Each of the major campaigns (and more than one of the second tier campaigns) have pursued a different emphasis among the basket of tactics available to campaigns.  The Feigenholtz campaign has gambled on television driving turnout (or lack thereof).  The Quigley campaign has put all it's eggs in the direct mail basket.  The Fritchey campaign has blanketed the district with signs -- and I've seen more large signs than yard signs on his behalf.  The Geoghegan campaign is counting on the netroots.  The Forys campaign is betting that microtargeting ethnics will prove decisive.  O'Connor seems to be betting that he has tight control over his ward (and a neighboring one), and that his ward organization is sufficient to pull out victory.

Because everyone has been knocking on doors and running their phone banks, these tactics seem to be what separates the campaigns in this special election.  One of them will win on Tuesday (although I'm not counting on that fact necessarily being known on Tuesday -- or even Wednesday).  What I do think is that we are going to be surprised.  I have severe doubts that the most obvious choice will wind up the winner.  That may depend on who you think is the obvious choice.

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IL-05: The (Charlie) Wheelan Interview

Charlie Wheelan was the last candidate to participate in this series.  After a little bit of confusion about schedule, I went into a very wet Chicago to talk to the author of "Naked Economics."

When I walked into their headquarters at noon, they had 15-20 young people -- I'd guess college age -- at their computers entering data into the VAN.  Other people were on the phones.  An interesting environment, a serious, almost professional.  People busy doing their work.  Here was a campaign office with volunteers almost entirely in their 20s (perhaps a few teens) and there was none of the chatter, none of the good-natured conversation going on that I could hear.  They were serious about why they were there.

Again, I would compliment the candidates I interviewed in this race.  Bright, ambitious, serious people who've given a lot of thought about why they were running for Congress and what they wanted to do if they were elected.  It's hard for me not to think that those who didn't choose to participate in this series were less so.  Everyone had the questions in advance.  They weren't difficult questions.  But I've seen in the past that there are a lot of candidates running for Congress who can't answer even these basic questions.  I look at these interviews as an opportunity for campaigns to get their message out.  But they may not all see it that way.

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IL-05: The (Jan) Donatelli Interview

One of the most interesting facets of this particular race is all the talent in the room, so to speak.  One of the female candidates, Jan Donatelli, is impressing the people she meets and when you listen to her, you can see why.

I visited campaign offices for all the candidates I've been in contact with this week (except for Paul Bryar), and they all showed signs of increased activity.  The Donatelli campaign was no different.  In fact, their office was changed around considerably, to allow more volunteers to participate in the campaign.  They have added staff, too.  What you'd expect for a campaign a week away from election day.

While doing the interview, the thing that stood out was Donatelli's passion for veterans issues.  Progressives are veterans, too, Donatelli reminds us.  "As an aside, I think veterans in Congress is a positive way to put a new face on progressive politics." 

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IL-05: The (John) Fritchey Interview

John Fritchey is one of us.  He's been blogging for at least four years now, and has been at the forefront of ethics reform in Springfield for as long as I've been in the state.  Smart, determined, he's figured out how to get things done -- without having to succumb to the seductions of the Daley political machine.  While Mayor Daley may not be endorsing anyone in the race, I am told by friends in City Hall that there is one person he doesn't want to see win.  That is John Fritchey.

I can't tell you what that means in this race -- the mayor has ample support on the northside of Chicago -- but I do know what it means to me.  Anyone the machine wants to defeat is okay in my book.  Anyone who can divide machine pols (or what we call "Regular Dems" in this part of the planet) from Mayor Daley is even better.  In the post-Harold Washington world, where the machine has learned to consolidate support among blacks and whites, reformers have to learn how to take voters from the machine in order to be successful.  Fritchey is one of the few reformers in Chicago who have been successful at doing that.

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