IL-14: Laesch Press Conference
by Downtowner, Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 05:39:57 PM EST
As many of you may know, John Laesch held a press conference this morning to discuss the unresolved election in IL-14. At this point Laesch still trails his primary opponent by 355 votes in the general primary, although all the absentee ballots are not counted (in fact, County Clerks must wait until February 19th for their return) and there is still an outstanding question as to whether all the provisional ballots have been counted in all nine counties.
John Laesch has conceded the special primary to his opponent, who will run against Republican nominee Jim Oberweis on March 8 to decide who will fill the remaining ten months of Hastert's term, but he has not conceded the general primary, which is still undecided until all votes are counted. This morning Laesch held a press conference to answer the many questions the campaign has been bombarded with regarding his intentions. I attended it. And since the campaign has made it clear they will make no further statements, I will share my observations and the text of his remarks below.
First I'll say that I spent election night in the Laesch for Congress office. That was Tuesday. John spoke to his supporters that night and, in response to a question from a reporter as to whether he would concede the special primary said that he would. I recall that no one, not the AP, not the Trib, not a single Chicago TV station, was willing to call the regular primary that night - nor have they yet that I can discover - with so close a margin and no idea what military, absentee, and provisional ballots might be outstanding. John certainly did not concede that race, and spoke about the need to look at those details the next day.
My interpretation of this was that Laesch was conceding the special primary and not conceding the general primary - an interpretation that the media present then seems to share. But I discovered the next day that, in an experience uncommon for me, as I have worked for the campaign in the past and have personal friends on staff - and in fact count John and Jen as personal friends by this point - that the lid, as they say, was on. I couldn't get another word out of anyone. They maintained with me that there simply wasn't anything going on beyond counting every vote, and until that was done, no decisions could be made. I also needed to look no further than out my window to realize that several of the county clerk's offices were closed, because of the rampaging blizzard going on, so there was no way anything like a normal canvass could proceed.
Heh. So I went to the press conference.
Al Nowakowski, a member of the campaign's communications team, took the mike first and surprised at least me by introducing of all people Ben Mullenbach. While some of you would readily recognize his DKos uid if I threw it out, I won't. Suffice it to say Ben spoke so eloquently and movingly of the simple fact that he was John Laesch's very first volunteer, going up to him and pledging him his help after the very first political speech John ever made, and while Ben was still a sophomore in high school that I was amazed and suspect more Kossacks than I would be hoping Ben runs for office one day if they had heard it.
I know Ben from way back in the '06 campaign, and while I always knew he was always there doing a myriad of tasks, I was amazed because he goes diligently and rather seriously about whatever work is underway and this is a side of him that was new to me. He spoke, without reference to notes or prepared text that I could see, about why John had so moved him to volunteer and it was so apparent he spoke for many of us, and moved all of us, who had, at various points in the last cycle or this, followed him in dedicating our support to John. The campaign has not posted the audio of Ben, as I am writing this, but I feel they should. I hope they do. At the end of Ben's remarks he introduced State Senator Mike Noland.
Senator Noland's first remark was to ask how he could possibly follow that! Senator Noland, himself pretty widely known throughout our area as a true grassroots candidate, compared John to, as he termed it, another Illinois politician, Obama, in that they have an uncommon ability to connect with the voters, which pretty much sent the crowd into a really wild round of applause. Noland said something to the effect that one of the things he admired about John was that he was a fighter and would not give up easily. I wish they had posted this on the campaign's website as well, because I am struggling to recall all of Noland's inspiring remarks, but suffice it to say that I approached him after the event to tell him I do not live in his district, but envy those who do. Let's just hope a video goes up on YouTube soon - there were a lot of cameras in the room. In the meantime, I'll just add that Noland introduced John, and offer the full text of John's remarks below, and a link to the audio on the campaign website.
To the best of my recollection, John meticulously followed the text of these remarks. I noted it strongly at the time, because as his media coordinator in '06, I am well aware of the -possibility- -probability- inevitability that John will set aside his remarks and begin to speak extemporaneously. Thankfully, he does that remarkably well, so I soon got over the near heart-attack it caused me the first few times he did so, but I could not fail to note that he was being uncharacteristically careful to stick to his prepared text.
"Let me begin by congratulating Bill Foster in his special election win.
We will be cheering him on in the special election.
This is what we know with respect to the regular primary election that was held on February 5th.
Currently, we know that there is a difference of 355 votes out of 75,000 votes cast in a historic Democratic turnout for this district. This is less than 1 vote per precinct.
Yesterday, February 7th was the first day when election officials could begin to count provisional ballots. As of today, there are a significant number of provisional and absentee ballots that remain uncounted.
We have been in close contact with officials in the 9 jurisdictions throughout the 14th Congressional District. And I would like to express my appreciation to all of the election judges who had to deal with the challenges that came with three elections in a very short period of time. It has been challenging for many of them and we are grateful for their continued effort to help us resolve some of the unknowns as we await the process.
By Illinois Statute, provisional and absentee ballots must be counted by February 19th. The regular primary must be certified by March 7th.
While we are awaiting the official election results, we remain committed to the Democratic process.
The next question I would like to answer is what is next for John Laesch?
I became involved in electoral politics because I disagreed with 2003 pre-emptive war policy and invasion of Iraq. I chose to run for United States Congress in 2005 after my brother received his orders to go to Baghdad. I have stated consistently that I will remain involved in electoral politics until every single U.S. soldier is safely home from Iraq.
My younger brother, Sgt. Pete Laesch voted with an absentee ballot on February 5th.
As of today, my brother's vote has not been counted.
We have no choice but to await the final results of the February 5th Primary Election."
I saw Dem County Chairs and PCPs there, and I saw volunteers I recognized and supporters I did not. There were residents as from as far away as the farthest western edge of IL-14, almost at the Iowa Border, there were labor leaders, and Latino leaders, and Dem movers and shakers of virtually every category you could imagine. They were obviously and sincerely enthusiastic in their support for this speech. At one point, the crowd of supporters even broke out in a chant of "every vote counts."
John's answers in the Q&A also struck me as very concise and controlled for John - there was not a quip to be heard and there was no back and forth chit-chat involved.
The inevitable question came up as to whether John would ask his supporters to work for his recent opponent in the special election. Laesch answered that every Democrat should support the Democrat on the ballot, then added: "I am a Democrat" which drew another round of applause.
After the speech, people just didn't want to seem to leave. I stepped out front onto the sidewalk of busy Downer Street in Aurora with a friend, so we could try to hear each other talk. As we were talking a pickup stopped in the street, stalling traffic, and the driver leaned out the window and shouted "What did he decide? What did he decide?" and I said "To wait for the votes to be counted."
"Good," he shouted, and looking over his shoulder at the backed-up traffic yelled "I gotta go" and drove on.
cross-posted to Fireside14, PrairieStateBlue, OpenLeft, SwingStateProject and DailyKos