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.