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On Tuesday, there was an unheralded 5-way Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin.  Bush got 51% and 53% in the district, so it's an area where we should at least be running a serious candidate.  The results of the primary, however, represented a truly spectacular failure, which is no doubt repeated (if in a less bizarre way) in many districts across the country:

Thomas, Jeff    Dem    7,278    25.35%
    Hebert, Mike    Dem    6,324    22.02%
    Santa Cruz Bradley, Ruth    Dem    5,435    18.93%
    Herr, Steven    Dem    5,302    18.47%
    Hall, Don    Dem    4,374    15.23%

So what's the problem?  Read on...

Jeff Thomas is a perennial candidate (this is his 4th nomination in 7 tries) so odious that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin passed a rule allowing county parties to endorse or dis-endorse candidates in primaries specifically because of him.  He didn't get over 35% in his 3 previous general election matchups, and probably got help from Republican crossover voters.  Any yet, he is the Democratic Party standard-bearer yet again against Bush rubberstamper Paul Ryan.  Worse, I'm sure the failure here is repeated in many other districts in less spectacular fashion.

The other candidates:
Mike Hebert had a campaign which consisted almost entirely of him and his brother making lots of hand-made plywood campaign signs - he never had a website or registered with the FEC.  Ruth Bradley campaigned almost entirely by passing out fliers at conservative churches.  Steven Herr had a professional website, joined DailyKos, was very strong on the issues, worked every fair, festival, and crowded downtown in the district each weekend, had a strong presence at the State Democratic Convention, had standard issue union print shop yard signs out, targeted mailings and doorhangers to likely Democratic primary voters, and the endorsement of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  Don Hall, like Steven Herr, ran an issues oriented campaign, but lacked the time and resources Herr had.

As a conservative blogger in the district put it, Seriously, I have no idea why they do what they do.  So why didn't Steven Herr win?  Part of it is his fault: in a low budget campaign, he didn't have the gimmick to draw in voters who would know nothing about him and he wasn't able to make maximum use of the volunteers he had.  Still, you'd think his advantages would still be plenty to get the nomination in this motley crowd, and on paper he'd easily be the strongest general election candidate of the bunch.

The biggest problem is the reason why Democrats aren't ready to win back this district and no doubt many others across the country: no effective organization.

- The 1st CD Coordinator hired by the State Party did nothing to recruit or promote strong candidates
- None of the counties invoked the "Jeff Thomas Rule" to dis-endorse him, nor did they even pass watered down resolutions condemning his candidacy
- The Party in the largest county in the district is so divided, they have official and unofficial websites.
- No elected officials or party leaders endorsed or dis-endorsed any candidate in the race
- No elected officials or party leaders gave tacit support to any of the candidates
- Unions either gave tacit support to Hebert, a thoroughly unviable general election candidate, or gave no tacit support at all
- There is no 1st CD Democratic blogger
- There are basically no liberal political bloggers in the district
- There is no organized Democracy for America chapter in the district
- When Herr diaried here under the title Putting One More Seat in Play, he just missed the recommended list because of several meta-diaries discussing the DailyKos community already on the list.

Obviously, even a very strong candidate, like an elected official or self-financed candidate, would have a difficult time winning a general election here because there is very little support and coordination.  In short, anyone with a prayer of winning a general election would be crazy to try in this district.  As Chairman Dean points out, we need to rebuild our Party before we can take back our country.

/rant

Originally posted to CA Pol Junkie on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 01:28 PM PDT.

Poll

How's your local C.D.?

23%7 votes
10%3 votes
13%4 votes
20%6 votes
33%10 votes

| 30 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Got a rant about your own district? (5+ / 0-)

    I was backing Steven Herr, but nominating anyone besides Jeff Thomas would have been a giant leap forward here.  When we're in the minority, we can't afford to punt on any opportunities.

    If you want to trust somebody with your taxpayer dollars, you'd better elect a Democrat because the Republicans can't manage money. - Howard Dean

    by CA Pol Junkie on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 01:15:29 PM PDT

    •  As a former (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      esquimaux, greenearth

      Badger state resident, thanks for taking the time to put together this analysis and calling attention to the disorganization.

      Someone needs to be knocking some heads around within the WI Democratic party.  

      •  Trouble (0+ / 0-)

        Someone needs to be knocking some heads
        around within the WI Democratic party

        Someone, you say? Someone who?

        A certain Senator from Wisconsin
        has many fans here. You could get
        in trouble for suggesting that
        he could have let a House seat in
        his home state slip from our grasp.

        Leadership includes leading a party
        in the nuts and bolts of contesting
        every seat with the strongest effort
        our party can make.

  •  I Want to Rant about WI - 1 as Well (4+ / 0-)

    Way back in January, I went to a Democratic house party in Racine, even though I live in Oak Creek, simply because I wanted the Dems to put forward a strong candidate in the 1st District.  At that time we all agreed that we needed to beat Jeff Thomas in the primary.  

    I suggested we get a straw man, like Jeff Thomas essentially, to run against Ryan in the Repub primary just to force the Repugs to stay in their party and not vote for Thomas.  

    Needless to say, nothing happened on that end.  Five names are on the ballot, only 2 or 3 are partially serious, and Thomas wins with name recognition and Repub crossovers making up barely 25% of the vote.  Safe to say most voters in the primary wanted ANYBODY but Jeff Thomas, but just did not know who.  

    So here we are, forced to vote for a pathetic loser like Thomas, who will get about 30% of the vote, and a right wing nut job like Paul Ryan will be praised in the media for his popularity in what should be a swing district.  

    I share your pain.  Something, anything, needs to be done to prevent this from happening again.

    •  1st CD coordinator's job (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, greenearth

      The 1st CD coordinator's job should have been to do exactly what you said: recruit a token Republican to run against Paul Ryan in the primary and help them gather signatures, recruit and support a strong Democratic candidate, and railroad Jeff Thomas.  I've spoken with Steve Herr, and right now he is disinclined to run again, but he's considering getting involved to rebuild the local party.

      If you want to trust somebody with your taxpayer dollars, you'd better elect a Democrat because the Republicans can't manage money. - Howard Dean

      by CA Pol Junkie on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 01:36:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  have you tried to start DFA (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenearth

    group in your area?  I know it doesn't work everywhere, believe me.  But has anyone tried?

    •  sort of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greenearth

      There are people in the area who are part of DfA, but there isn't critical mass to have something that amounts to organization.  The Herr campaign didn't have the time or the money to build party infrastructure like that, but now would be a good time to rebuild so that things are in place for whoever is running in 2008.

      If you want to trust somebody with your taxpayer dollars, you'd better elect a Democrat because the Republicans can't manage money. - Howard Dean

      by CA Pol Junkie on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 01:38:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Slightly related topic -- WI 47th Assembly Dist. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenearth

    Eugene Hahn is our representative.  He is Republican.  He has been in there for years.

    For the last two elections we have had the same Democratic candidate run against Hahn -- Meagan Yost.  I really like Meagan Yost!  She is an environmentalist and a consensus builder and I think she would make a fine Assemblywoman!  Problem is, she doesn't seem to have the organization or the "fight" or whatever to win.

    I met her when she came to my door before the 2004 election.  That's right, she came right to my door.  I was very impressed with that fact and with her.  After she left, I checked out her website.  I filled out a volunteer form, including my email address and phone number, indicating the ways in which I would be willing to help.  I never heard from them.  Several weeks ago, I learned she was running again and filled out the form again.  Still nothing.

    I was pretty concerned that they couldn't even contact the people who want to help.  I ended up voting for her opponent in the primary because he seems like a good guy and I even got a phone call from him the day before the election, already indicating he has way more organization than the Yost campain.  Well Yost won by 8 votes.  I really hope that her campaign can get it's act together and soon.

  •  Our beleaguered Netroots candidate in TX (0+ / 0-)

    Our own adopted favorite in Texas,
    John Courage
    , is running against
    the (R) trooper Lamar Smith.

    And -- in an open field (due to the
    Supreme Court decision reversing part
    of Tom DeLay's corrupt redistricting /
    gerrymandering, because it violated
    the Voting Rights Act) --
    another candidate on the November ballot
    will be the ever popular Gene Kelly.

    Oh, no. Not THAT Gene Kelly. No, he's
    singing and dancing in the hereafter.

    But his namesake runs for office
    time after time. He forced Barbara
    Ann Radnofsky, now our Senatorial
    candidate, into a runoff in the
    spring primary. Thus wasting her
    valuable time and money, distracting
    and detracting
    from her fight against
    the fading Prom Queen, the Senior
    Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison,
    another reliable (R) trooper.

    But what you gonna do? Higher filing
    fees might help, or requiring a token
    number of petitioners, say 500 names.
    Something, anything, to show seriousness
    and weed out frivolous candidates
    without barring emerging insurgents.

    •  Only 500 names? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greenearth

      500 seems very, very low for a U.S. Senate race.  In Wisconsin, there are no filing fees, but you need to get 1,000 signatures just to run for Congress.

      If you want to trust somebody with your taxpayer dollars, you'd better elect a Democrat because the Republicans can't manage money. - Howard Dean

      by CA Pol Junkie on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 02:16:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Competent Campaigns (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody

    The WI dem party needs to raise the overall competence level of its campaign operatives.

    For example, the winning Dem primary candidate in my assembly district did a campaign lit "knock and drop" on election day. This is just plain nuts.

    On election day, the effort has to be on GOTV, not doing a lit drop.

    Although this candidate won, it wasn't bc her campaign staff was on the ball. Her opponent was weak.

    If she fails to win the general election it will be in large part due to the incompetent paid campaign staff the state party has working for her.

    "Conservatives hate Pooh because he reminds children to 'think, think, think.'"

    by dicta on Thu Sep 14, 2006 at 02:21:24 PM PDT

  •  Could Diebold have been a factor? (0+ / 0-)

    In my own CD we don't even have a Republican running. If I want to vote against the incumbent I have to vote for a Libertarian.

  •  Used to reside in WI-01 (0+ / 0-)

    Organization is the key.  Steve should have built his own organization in the mean time like most canidates do.  That is the problem with the Democratic Party.  The Canidate does everything.  The republican party is ultra organized.  Alls they have to do is decide what canidates they want to support and the organization is there to rally for them.  In the absence of the party it falls on the individuals!

    A United States Marine, still fighting for our Constitution and our country!

    by DemMarineVet on Sat Sep 16, 2006 at 11:45:43 AM PDT

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