Sunday, November 19, 2006

About Cegelis

In his update to Johnathan's "Examining the DCCC v. Netroots Meme" Chris laments:
Did any grassroots and movement candidates lose in the House once they got out of the primary? Makes you wonder how Christine Cegelis would have done in IL-06.

As anyone who's read this blog since the primary is aware, I was a big proponent of Christine Cegelis' campaign and a big detractor of Duckworth's. How Christine would have faired in this race is anyone's guess, and I can only dream of what we could have done with the type of resources Duckworth's campaign had along with Christine's strong anti-war populist message.  However, right after a close loss is not the time, especially for the volunteers who worked their asses off for Duckworth. I remember how I felt after the primary. They can't feel much better and deserve credit for working so hard for a candidate they believed in or to just to try and regain the House for Democrats. Now is not the time to play "what if Rahm backed Christine."

Instead, this post is about what Christine Cegelis did post-primary. I think it's an and astonishing example of what one person is capable of doing for the Party even after it threw her under the bus.

Let's be clear right off the bat. I'm biased. Heavily. I got to work closely with Christine in the primary both as a volunteer and paid contractor. During the campaign, like she did with many of her volunteers, we became friends. My daughter still calls her Auntie Chris. The relationships formed in that campaign are still active and a wonderful outcome of that difficult primary. But that doesn't change what I'd like to share in this post.

After the primary, Christine Cegelis could have easily went and said "screw it" and walked away from politics, especially given the number of knives stuck in her back by the party leadership. I think many of her more "green" and independent supporters did just that unfortunately.

Instead, after the primary, she went back to her job as an IT professional; a job held for her by her employer - a Republican - who admired what she was doing. After a few short weeks of being out of the political spotlight, settling back into a normal life, she took a position with Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) as a Midwest organizer. She gave up a secure, comfortable, good paying job with benefits, took a significant pay cut, and started traveling between several states in the Midwest helping to manage field organizers working 10-plus House races.

Using her experience gained on the ground in IL-06, Christine helped field organizers in these races be more efficient, not recreate the wheel, and provided  feedback and guidance. This put her in a car on the road a good deal of the time between the May and the General. From an email:

We had 36 organizers on the ground in 7 states 11 Congressional districts and one Senate race (Brown in Ohio). We used a micro-targeted list to only contact voters that we considered swing voters.  [...]  Wisconsin is a great example.  They had over 8,000 voter contacts and the race was won by just over 6,600.  The Kissell race is another place where with 2 organizers on the ground we had close to 10,000 voter contacts.  Our goal was to have quality contacts with the voters at least 3 to 4 times.

I remember talking to her, just as I did last night, as she was on the road somewhere in Iowa. She was always upbeat and excited. She was doing something meaningful. She was working toward a Democratic House and a real change in our country. She was excited to have the opportunity, and never looked back even if she did miss her sons and her dog.

When not on the road, she was a part of forming the Greater Chicago Coalition. In light of what happened in the Sixth, where the national party essentially pushed the local party out of the way and took over, there was a realization by many local coalitions that they had to stop working as separate entities and work together for to strengthen the local party. The GCC involves a variety of smaller local caucuses, intertest groups, and activist groups, including leaders from a variety of politically active sub-groups such as Hispanics, Methodist African American ministers, the Muslim community, peace and justice groups, women's groups, etc.  The advantage of such local groups is that these communities have their own internal networks. Neighbor to neighbor involvement is often much more powerful than media buys in GOTV efforts. The goal of the GCC is to tap into this ability to get the word out about candidates through the local community directly, in person, with multiple quality contacts, not just glossy mailers.

Some of the campaigns she worked through ADA included candidates picked by Rahm/DCCC. Most did not or had the DCCC jump in once victory looked like a possibility and the groundwork was laid. In the Chicago area, this meant GCC helping out in Joe Vosicky's race for for Illinois State Rep in District 46. As of this writing, Joe's campaign is considering a recount and is within 100 votes of his longtime GOP incumbent opponent. This is an unheard of result around here.

As an ADA organizer,  Christine worked on the following races:

OH-18: Space (W)
IA-01 Braley  (W)
WI-08 Kaegan (W)
MN-06  Wetterling  (L)
PA-06 Murphy (L)
PA-10 Carney  (W)
PA-04  Altmire  (W)
NH-02  Hodes (W)
NC-08  Kissell: too close to call
WA-08 Burner: too close to call.

Christine will be the first to point out that she was just one of many people helping in these races. But to me 6-2-2 is a good record to be involved with.

IMO we're lucky that she's one of the good guys working for us. Because of her actions, and many like her, there is greater Democratic infrastructure in place in several states, and a new organization functioning in the GCC. I can't help but think that this will pay greater future dividends than the media consultants and network execs who get to buy new cars with the profits made through enormous media buys.