Do Voters Matter to Progressives?

David Sirota would probably like to think his column, Measuring Electoral Success, adds to our understanding of how to advance the progressive agenda but it seems to serve basically as an apology for outside support of Tom Geoghegan's candidacy in the IL-05 special election.

Sirota writes:

There is a value in backing long shots, even if those long shots lose. In Geoghegan's case, many progressives supported someone who has been an important voice on so many issues, and who has had the courage to fight the good fight.

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Quigley, The Anti-Geoghegan?

Yesterday, the Democratic primary for IL-05 ended with the victory of Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley. Because the district has a partisan voting index of D+18, the primary was the election; Quigley will replace Rahm Emanuel in the House.

As I wrote last night, the consensus seems to be that Quigley was probably the second most progressive candidate after Tom Geoghegan, so on the face, this should be seen as a victory for the district and for our majority in Congress. Certainly he's likely to be far less cautious than Rahm Emanuel was as a legislator but standing next to Geoghegan, even a conventional progressive Democrat is somewhat of a disappointment. Take a look at these tweets from Quigley's campaign today to see what I mean.

First came:

QuigleyCampaign @tomgeoghegan Tom, congrats to you, your volunteers & supporters for proposing important ideas for the problems we face.

Then immediately following:

QuigleyCampaign @tomgeoghegan We'll fight for full access to health care & to protect Social Security.

Talk about not getting what Geoghegan was fighting for in the campaign at all. In fact, Quigley is precisely the opposite of the sort of Democrat Geoghegan promised to be. Geoghegan on multiple occasions spoke about how Democrats in Congress always talk about "saving Social Security" but in fact what we need to do is increase SS payments. In addition, while Quigley Dem boilerplate rhetoric on health care reform, Geoghegan was a fierce advocate for single payer.

As of now, I have no reason to doubt that Mike Quigley will be anything but a solid partner for Barack Obama in the House, but I sure hope he takes a long hard look at the actual ideas Tom Geoghegan was fighting for in this campaign as an example of the sort of better Democrat so many of us hope at some point will be plentiful in Congress.

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IL-05: Mike Quigley Wins

Polls closed in IL-05 at 7pm CST and The Chicago Tribune reports that Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley has opened up a small lead. Unfortunately, it looks like Tom Geoghegan won't even come close.

Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley has opened up an 1,850-vote lead in the special Democratic primary in the 5th Congressional District with about 57 percent of the voted counted tonight. Quigley had 7,441 votes to state Rep. John Fritchey's 5,593. State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz was running third with 5,220 votes and Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th) was fourth with 4,126 votes.

You can get City of Chicago results HERE and from suburban Cook County HERE.

Update [2009-3-3 21:23:0 by Todd Beeton]:AP has full results (top 7 below)

with 86% reporting

Mike Quigley 10,531
John Fritchey 8,179
Sara Feigenholtz 8,067
Pat O'Connor 5,729
Victor Forys 5,167
Charles Wheelan 3,188
Tom Geoghegan 2,857

Looks like Quigley.

Update [2009-3-3 22:7:39 by Todd Beeton]:Fritchey has conceded but for some reason AP isn't calling it for Quigley. The good news is, next to Geoghegan, Quigley's probably the best result we could have hoped for. I'm sure we'll be talking a lot about him in the coming days and weeks.

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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: 4 Days To Go

I was on a conference call with Tom Geoghegan on Wednesday to get the view from the ground and I can tell you that Geoghegan himself sounded genuinely energized and in good spirits about his chances on Tuesday.

The race is unique in that there are 12 Democrats running in this special primary, none of whom has definitive name recognition or money advantage over the others, so a sort of insurgent candidate like Tom has always had a real shot if the money, endorsements and grassroots support fell into place, which is exactly what seems to be happening.

As for money, Geoghegan has raised over $300k with an average donation of $120. They've also seen a spike in Twitter activity (follow Tom HERE) as well as volunteers in the office just this week. Also, the endorsement momentum I wrote about on Monday continued today with the endorsement of progressive online trailblazer Joe Conason, who writes:

He possesses a certain kind of plain-spoken eloquence that will quickly make him an important spokesman on substantive issues. Nobody will do a better job of explaining why we need labor law reform or single-payer healthcare reform, because he has represented workers against union-busting companies and sued the big insurance companies too. [...]

The thing about voting for Geoghegan, if you happen to live in that Chicago district, is that you can accomplish two worthwhile objectives at once. Shine up the city's political image (previous congressmen from IL-5 were named Rostenkowski and Blagojevich) by electing someone who is superior without being snobby. And send someone to Congress who was made for this historic moment, when the nation's dispossessed need as many strong voices as they can get.

Geoghegan's strategy has been to focus on the working class section of the district, taking his message of single payer health care and expanding social security, not just saving it to senior centers, L stops and Polish churches in the area. Geoghegan said that he's gotten a real education going door to door in the area. He said it's truly stunning to learn just how little people actually live on in America today.

Geoghegan explained one major reason he thinks he has a good shot: geography. His primary competition in the area of the district where he's competing hardest is State Rep. John Fritchey; over in the more affluent Lakefront section of the district, three candidates, State Senator Sara Feigenholtz, Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley and author Charlie Wheelan are fighting it out. Geoghegan expects to get a good portion of the Lakefront district vote as well since it's the more affluent better educated (and hence more web-savvy) part of the district. In fact, all over the district people are telling Tom that they haven't made their minds up yet but that they're going online to learn more. The fact that Tom has won the netroots primary hands down is no small thing. Geoghegan's campaign estimates that 40% of voters are still undecided and while they have not done any internal polling, the fact that no other candidate has released his or her own is telling.

To get a slightly more complete view of the state of play in the race, I spoke with a representative from the Feigenholtz campaign who expressed optimism as well but acknowledged that the unique nature of this election really does make it wide open. He said that they have 500 volunteers working hard for them and they've made around 100,000 voter contacts. He said that Sara is competing hard throughout the entire district and benefits from the fact that while she represents one side of the district, she actually grew up on the other, so she sort of has two home bases. As for policy, particularly one of Geoghegan's top priorities, single payer healthcare, he said that Sara believes universal healthcare is a right for every American and that if we were starting from scratch, she would have no problem supporting single payer but that since we already have an insurance system in place, it just doesn't make sense to go that route.

From what I've read about Feigenholtz and from my conversation with her campaign today, it seems rather evident that she would be a fine progressive addition to the House and an improvement over Emanuel, but seems to be approaching her run for Congress -- and I suspect would approach her tenure there -- from a fairly conventional Democratic standpoint. Which is fine for most districts, but most districts don't have an exceptional candidate like Tom Geoghegan running to represent them.

I agree with Conason that we have a true "historic moment" in front of us, one that we need to embrace. As Kathy G writes, Tom's election truly would "afflict the comfortable" and the comfortable sure could use some affliction. It will be interesting to see if the voters in the IL-05 agree on Tuesday by choosing Tom Geoghegan to represent them.

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