Confessions of a Former Lieberman Staffer
by dannybauder, Sun Sep 02, 2007 at 10:57:38 AM EDT
This diary was originally posted at My Left Nutmeg (www.myleftnutmeg.com)
I was a regional field director for the 2nd CD for Joe Lieberman in 2006. Thanks to my new friend tparty, I've been given the opportunity to give the MLN community a behind-the-scenes look at the historic '06 primary from a new perspective.
In the spring of '06 I had decided not to return to school to pursue a career in restaurant management. That didn't last long, especially when I realized my passion was in politics. I signed up for Democratic Gain and sent my resume to just about every race I could. I interviewed for jobs in New Jersey, Missouri, Michigan, Washington and here in Pennsylvania. I was leaning toward the job in Jersey when I got a call from Lieberman's field director. We talked for about an hour, and he offered me a job. I was pretty excited, because Lieberman was a national figure, and I thought it would look great on my resume.
More in the extended entry...
I moved to CT, got my bearings, and began pouring over resumes trying to hire a field staff. I hired two guys from CT and two gals from out of state. Iwas also looking for office locations in New London. Once my staff was set-up we prepared for the convention, going to DTC meetings, talking to delegates, trying to get a hard count of supporters from our region. I remember going to the Malloy-DeStefano debate in East Hampton and talking to some DeStefano supporters about Joe, and that's when I got my first inkling of how difficult this might be.
At the convention, I was given a "kiss" button by a Lamont supporter who tried to goad me into an argument, this happened a lot, especially after DTC meetings. I interacted with Ned a lot, and he was always a class act, but some of his supporters were just ridiculous. So I'm getting our volunteers Lieberman T-Shirts and giving them things to do to set up our tent, and that's when Matt Stoller and crew came in our tent and started taking pictures. I asked them if there was anything I could do to help, they of course said no, and kept moving.
On the convention floor, I was proud of myself for pushing for our team to use "Soul Man" and "Shining Star" for our procession, and I still maintain that we had the better demonstration. But I digress. We were told going into convention day that Lamont would get his 12% or whatever the minimum was to get on the ballot. Our strategy never seemed to be to prevent Lamont from getting enough support to get on the ballot. The campaign seemed to be so sure of our standing among Connecticut Democrats that Lamont's candidacy was nothing more than the reaction of the fringe left over the war.
I was shocked how well Lamont did, especially in the 2nd CD. I was pretty demoralized, but we still chanted and waved our signs (which were stapled to the worst quality balsa wood) in front of the cameras as they went off the air and I moved us into the lobby where Ned was being interviewed by everybody. As we made our way through, the Lamont supporters began chanting "Support Joe, go to Iraq" very loudly. This really bothered me because my brother had just returned from a tour with the PA Army Nat'l Guard, and I was a former guard soldier. I certainly admired the Lamont supporters enthusiasm but I have thin skin about things related to the military. I never agreed with Joe's stance on the war, ever, but I'm not a pacifist either.
After the convention, I went out and about in Hartford with a strange mix of DeStefano supporters and Malloy staffers. I really enjoyed Hartford, it reminded me of Harrisburg, and I was able to find a nice Irish pub that served Tullamore Dew, so I felt like I was home. I didn't feel guilty going out because the campaign was taking the day off on Saturday. It wasn't till I got back to my apartment Saturday afternoon and checked MLN that I found out I missed one hell of a floor show during the gubernatorial nomination and endorsement. I also learned that the Lamont crew was able to endear themselves to the CT Dems by hanging around Saturday and assisting delegates in the melee. I felt we made a mistake by not having any presence, and that we lost ground that we had gained by securing the endorsement.
That week my faith in Lieberman as a Democratic candidate began to shake. Resources that were promised to the field program were cut, and when, in protest, I asked questions I thought rhetorical like, "Are we in this to win it in August or what?" were met with puzzled faces and non-answers. The senate staff, on loan for the convention build-up, was taking a more active role in the campaign. I started to get worried that we had already lost the primary in our minds.
In staff meetings I became more and more agitated (which coincided with the amount of MLN I was reading) and as Joe began speaking more and more evasive about running as an independent. We were told Joe was committed to the August primary, and that we weren't spending time or resources on anything else. I didn't witness anything to the contrary, so I became even more frustrated with the campaign. Finally, I burst out in a meeting, "If we're not running as an independent, why don't we just say so?" One of the senates staffers, who became a regular at our meetings had this look of shock and incredulity over her, and I just dropped the issue there, knowing that despite what the campaign was doing, the senate staff (who controlled the purse strings) was planning on doing whatever they could to hold on to the seat. I know that my staff, as well as the majority of the field staff, were very concerned about winning the primary so the general election. We were all promised raises for the fall after a successful primary.
I didn't last much longer, and about a week after I was back in PA, Joe announced that he was going to allow petitions circulated to get him on the ballot as an independent. I got my last check from Joe '06 and sent a donation to the Lamont campaign. Seemed like the right thing to do.
I started blogging in 2004 after the Presidential election. I worked for the PA Dems that year, and I thought I could maintain my political appetite. I became a community member at MyDD and haven't stopped since.