I made a brief comment yesterday that there were 900 people signed up for a CT democratic campaign kickoff event.
The weather was threatening today with the fringes of the remains of Hannah coming into the state. The event, originally scheduled for a park was moved inside to the middle school next-door.
Did the weather depress turn-out? My title says it all. Not only were the 900 signees there, but 1,000+ other people decided to come along, including my 13 year old son.
My only regret is that I forgot to bring a camera. Further details after the break.
Last night my son told me that he thought he might check out the event with me. He has been getting interested in politics, and had watched Barack's speech in Denver with rapt attention. I'm trying to bring him along at his own pace, so I hadn't suggested coming to this event where there were going to be a lot of people speaking whose names he didn't know. He made the decision on his own, and of course I was thrilled.
I had volunteered to help set up, so I was there at 8:30 for an 11:30 event. My wife agreed to bring my son later, because I thought putting him to work might be asking a little much.
It was pouring as I got to the middle school. We had rally posters to draw and decorations to hang; We set up tables with sign-up sheets, and trash and recyclable bins. I heard that the crowd was unpredictable we could expect anywhere from 400-2,000. The auditorium could hold the first 500, with the next 500 or so diverted to the cafeteria. After that, there was room in the hallway.
Luckily, the rain eased up for the people arriving for the event, so we didn't have to deal with wet coats and umbrellas. At 11:00 I got a call from my son. They were stuck in a long line of cars waiting to turn into the parking area. By 11:15, when my son got in, there was only a little room in the auditorium. I explained that they had asked volunteers stay out of the auditorium, so he could stay with me or go get a seat. He stayed with me to help greet people and give directions. From 11:00 to 11:30, there was a steady stream of arrivals. It was clear that we were way over the 1,000 mark and they were still coming.
At 11:45 the speeches began. A couple of local and state officials started things off, including Richard Blumenthal, our AG, who may well be our next Governor. The first congressional candidate to speak was Jim Himes, who is trying to unseat Chris Shays in CT-04. Chris, of course, is the sole remaining member of congress from the 6 New England States. 21/22 just sounds messy, when we may be able to say "all" on Nov 5th.
Incumbents Jim Larson (CT-01), Jim Courtney (CT-02), and Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) also spoke. Chris Murphy (CT-05) was with his wife and newborn child. There was also a 4 minute video of scenes from Denver that got a great reaction from the 500 who could see it.
I will not mangle the speeches by trying to summarize them. They were preaching to the converted and they knew it, so they were inspirational more than persuasive. They all pushed Obama Biden, of course, but the rest of the races in CT got plenty of attention. Rosa Delauro and Jim Larson are in safer-than safe seats. Freshmen Chris Murphy (defeated Nancy Johnson, a 22 year incumbent) and Joe Courtney (Defeated Rob Simmons, class of '04? by 83 votes with the final decision coming 2 weeks after election day) are also thought to be relatively safe, so all of them made notice of the importance of working for Jim Himes. Joe Courtney drew perhaps the biggest laugh of the day by remarking that he is always glad to be speaking to a crowd "larger than my margain of victory"
Chris Dodd, introduced to much cheering as "the only real Democratic Senator from CT, finished off the speaking line-up. The most memorable section of his speech was when he started saying "It's not putting your country first when you . . ." and hit 8 or 9 McBush issues, such as "have no plan for covering the uninsured," and "cut funding for the VA system as soldiers are returning home.
Of course, after the speeches, the Candidates came out of the auditorium to spend a while with the overflow crowd.
My overall impression is that it was electric. The whole crowd was psyched and the mood was festive. There werw a =n-ups were brisk for mailing lists and volunteer work for the Obama and Local campaigns, including two issue-oriented groups, one for marriage equality, and one for statewide universal healthcare. I signed up for a group called Hiltoppers, which is mobilizing canvassers for the close congressional races. I already signed up for out of state Canvassing and GOTV for the last 4 days of the campaign, and both Pennsylvainia and New Hampshire were getting their share of additional sign-ups as well.
My son had a great time. We live in a pretty white suburb, and he was thrilled by the diverse crowd. Even over crappy audio equipment, the excitement of the speeches came through, and the crowd reaction was great. He got into the clapping, chanting, and occaisional booing (the tone was mostly positive, but there were some good digs). He was amazed at the sheer number of people who came out. We had a chance to admire all of the different tee-shirts. My favorite of the day was from the NEA; it said something like "we need a president who knows that students need to be prepared to do more than take tests."
I thank Barack Obama (and George Bush, et. al. in a backhanded way) for finally getting me involved in the ground game. I have always enjoyed talking politics, both the issues and the horse-race, but this is the first year I have ever gotten involved. It feels good, and I know I am setting a good example for my son.
This, to me, is the essence of the 50 state strategy. Get people involved even where the presidential race isn't close. Work the down-ticket races, and build the party for the future. Karl Rove may just live to see a "permanent majority," if not the one he was dreaming of.
I'm out of my shell this year. Now I challenge you. Between now and Nov. 4th, do one thing more for a progressive candidate than you thought you were going to do. If we all do just a little more over the next 60 days, we will have a great election.
I invite you to use the comments section to tell the Kossack community how you are planning to get more involved.