Monday, May 02, 2005

A Conversation with Christine

Yesterday, I posted some of the prepared remarks from Christine Cegelis' Arbor Day event I attended at the Morton Arboretum at the south end of IL-06. I didn't have a lot of time to reflect on the event, or any of the conversations I had while at it, so I just stuck to what I felt was important: Christine's speech. One of the comments on the this post at dKos noted her willingness to meet the people she wanted to represent:
She worked incredibly hard in the last race.  I had thrown a small fundraiser for Kerry and other Democratic candidates, just a bake sale type thing in my driveway.  Christine showed up and spoke to people stopping by for over an hour.  My 80 year old father, one of the first Dems in his suburb [...] had actual hope that the district might go blue in his lifetime.  

She marched in every local parade, had tables at every summer fest, showed up wherever two or more Democrats came together in her district.
This comment got me thinking about a conversation I had with her at the event. We talked about her run for congress and what it has done for the local Democratic groundswell in the area. She really became a focal point to rally around in the area, and through her campaign mobilized more ground troops of the blue variety than I've seen in a long time. Cegelis volunteers canvassed every weekend for her, and took along not only Cegelis literature, but literature for every other Democratic candidate running for office in the specific neighborhoods they canvassed. Everyone was supporting Christine because she and her volunteers were supporting everyone else.

As we talked more, the conversation focused on what I think sets her apart: a candidate's campaigning style. I wondered if the way a candidate campaigned might be an important indicator of how they'd govern - if they would represent their constituents or their backers. We discussed how some candidates are able to campaign without really getting to know the people they were to represent - buying media spots to run on TV or radio, posting ads in papers, only showing up at large structured events where the crowds where kept at arms length. To her, the most positive aspect from her running for office was all the people she's met and friends she's made. Hearing how many of her volunteers note the same thing - that they've made life long friends through volunteering for her campaign - gave her a great deal of satisfaction.

She quit her job so she could campaign full time. To her, this meant going to not only major large Democratic events or marching in parades, but also going to small volunteer "bake sales" people were doing on their own. Still today, If you host a house party and contact the campaign in advance, she will do her best to show up for at least part of the event. You see, to Christine, meeting the people she would represent in Washington was something she viewed as valuable. She wants to know her constituents, not just represent them.

She told me a story of a volunteer who held a small house party and sheepishly requested Christine's attendance. Arrangements were made for Christine to show up at the event, and this volunteer was given her cell phone number so she could contact Christine should there be any changes related to the event. As if unworthy, the volunteer assured Christine at the event that she would never use Christine's cell number after the event, especially if she made it to Washington. Christine's response: "You better use it! If I'm in DC, I need to know what's going on back home and I want to hear it from people like you who live here!"

This story it typical of Christine and the reason for her appeal among the grassroots here. Just like Howard Dean, people relate to her and see her for the genuine person she is. And just like Howard, everyone calls her "Christine."

Someone during the Q&A yesterday asked her if it was realistic to think she might achieve all the goals on her agenda should she be elected. Her response was that it may not be realistic to think all these goals will be achieved overnight, and certainly not without a great deal of help. But she would be a very loud and squeaky wheel on our behalf to give voice to our concerns.

That's the type of representation I want in Washington.