I had the absolute pleasure managing another Kossack's U.S. congressional campaign in IL-16.
Wanda Rohl was such an inspiration—a social worker in a wheelchair who decided to take on the Republican establishment and the Koch Brothers without much more than conviction and pure heart.
We didn't win the race, but I think we scored a major victory.
Wanda may have lost the race Tuesday night, but we took nearly 40% of the vote and carried the 3rd largest county of 14 when the pundits, the party, and the partisans said we couldn't get more than 25-27%.
We managed to do this with a grassroots effort, no name recognition, no money (less than 2% of what opponent had), less than 6 months to campaign, almost no staff, no office, no direct mailers, no tv ads, and while Wanda was working full-time having never ran for office.
I'm extremely proud of what we accomplished.
No one can tell me, based on that, we didn't have the potential to be an incredibly competitive campaign. Not even former staffers who currently work for secretive superPACS that refuse to disclose donors:
I believe if we had support from the national party and groups like Emily's List we could've won. In fact we garnered a higher margin than Emily's List candidate Teresa Hensley MO-04. Wanda did make the decision, before I came on board, to take a strong stance against Citizen's United and refuse any corporate, PAC, or union money. I respected her choice but I think she realizes now that you have to play by the rules you're given in order to get in and make real change (that sound advice was given to me by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand in Charlotte).
I told Wanda to rest up for 6 months and then we are hitting it again with a ferocity. We pulled better numbers than every Democrat who ran in the former IL-16 for the last 20 years except for two. Even with redistricting, she can win this seat.
I'm proud of the campaign we ran, although we had bumps along the way, and I know exactly what we need to do differently next time. 40% is usually the magic number in politics and for all intents and purposes we hit it. We raised nearly 50K dollars in only a few months WITHOUT major fundraisers, unions, PACs, or the Democratic Party. We earned 110,000 votes that included MANY republicans.
I had the opportunity to work with and meet some incredibly talented, intelligent, and wonderful people. I've made many new friends, even other Kossacks like the very special llbear and learned much from them. I know I'll work with them again soon (or at least meet for a drink).
We proved progressives and grassroots campaigns can indeed make a tremendous impact. No one expected we would make it on the ballot. We did. No one expected we would garner much more than 25% of the vote. We far exceeded that.
Tuesday night was not a failure; it was a success. And it was just the beginning.