When I first saw the clip of John Shadegg's recent cringe inducing "baby Maddy" stunt on the final day of the House health care debate, I had two thoughts. The first was "how did I lose to that doofus," a thought I of course had again after Shadegg’s more recent bedwetting tirade at Michael Bloomberg. The second was "I'm sure glad we have Jon Hulburd running against him this time." There's a connection, sort of, between those thoughts that involves the netroots, so I thought I'd use those thoughts to introduce Jon to the netroots. I truly believe Jon can finish the job I started last cycle, but AZ03 is a tougher seat for us than the ones in Arizona we already hold, so netroots support will be crucial.
On the "how did I lose to that doofus" thought, one thing is clear to me: It had nothing to do with the netroots community. Yes, the financial support was overwhelming, but there was more to your support than the money. As a candidate, it's critical to have your confidence and your energy levels high as consistently as humanly possible. Mood is everything. I actually read your comments to posts. They were uplifting. They kept me motivated. Most of all, your support was a balance against those "conventional wisdom" types who urged me to adopt Republican lite positions as a means of getting votes or contributions. Although I'd like to think I would not have caved to that sort of pressure anyhow, your support made it easier to think clearly in this area. And when I called to thank online contributors for helping me, one or two of them posted digests about my call. Things like that aren't lost on a candidate, or at least they weren't lost on me.
The netroots community, by the way, plays another critical role in some campaigns, although perhaps not so much in mine. Any previously untested candidate must prove his or her viability, by raising significant money and showing mettle in other ways, before getting the support of the various interest groups and the DCCC. The Democratic candidate who preceded me in AZ03 in the 2006 cycle raised virtually no money on his own, then whined when he didn’t get support from the DCCC and the Arizona Democratic Party. It was pathetic. The same viability testing applies when candidates seek netroots support, as well it should. Success in an election cycle requires smart resource allocation. We can't waste our resources on candidates who don't have what it takes to win. But taken too far the viability testing becomes self-fulfilling prophecy and, in that regard, I think the netroots community strikes the right balance, whereas some other Democratic interest groups are far too cautious. For example, in my campaign, there were Democratic interest groups that would not even allow me to answer their questionnaire at a point in the campaign when I already was established as one of the top fundraising Democratic challengers. That, to me, takes viability testing to an absurd extreme, with the implicit test being "we won’t help you unless you can show us that you can win without us." Again, I think the netroots community gets it in this area.
There are, however, other unsuccessful Democratic candidates who, when asking "how did I lose to that doofus" would, if honest, say to themselves, "because I didn't have sufficient netroots support." It's important that doesn't happen to Jon Hulburd in AZ03, for two reasons. First, Jon is a great candidate and will be a congressman we're proud to have representing us. Through a combination of work ethic, likeability, extensive contacts, and skill, he's raising money at a very respectable pace. He's honest, forthright, and has a great sense of humor (which we're all praying he can keep in check when necessary). He is exceedingly personable, yet exceedingly genuine as well, the combination most likely to give us a representative from AZ03 who succeeds as a politician but also does us proud. I will tell you straight out that Jon's views are not as progressive as mine across the board, but that shouldn't matter. On those issues, predominantly fiscal issues, where Jon's views are more centrist, he comes by his beliefs honestly, not because he's a shill of corporate America or adheres to some rigid ideology. Thus, he will be influenced less by money, and more by logic and reason, which we are more than capable of communicating to him. Thus, when tested against the age old standard of a representative we can "agree with most of the time, but respect all of the time," Jon should pass with flying colors.
Second, ousting John Shadegg would be huge. You're all aware of Shadegg's abysmal voting record, his obnoxious antics, his use of the House rules to obstruct the conduct of House business, his extreme ideology, and his eagerness to shill for any corporate interest group that throws a buck or two his way. But there's more to it than that. When you run against someone in a hard fought campaign, you learn a lot about them. Here’s what I’ve learned about Shadegg:
Above all else, Shadegg is a guy with no ability to empathize. In terms of positioning in life, you could not have been dealt a better hand of cards than he – white, male, heterosexual, a member of the majority religion, above average intelligence, affluent, well connected (his father was Goldwater's campaign manager), parents didn't divorce, good appearance, not handicapped, and no predisposition to obesity. During the Vietnam War, Shadegg was able to land a coveted commission with the Arizona Air National Guard. Very few people had as few obstacles in their path to success as John Shadegg. Yet, despite his privileged background, Shadegg uses the concept of "personal responsibility" as a club to make it as difficult as possible for those less fortunate than he. I believe it was Hubert Humphrey who said that "the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped." John Shadegg's answer to Hubert Humphrey would be that they all should show more personal responsibility. He just doesn't grasp that those less fortunate than he may need a helping hand. It's too foreign a concept for him.
Here's how far Shadegg's empathy deficiency goes. In my television ads, I went after Shadegg's voting record on veterans' issues. His rating by the Disabled American Veterans was terrible (28% I believe) and he'd voted against the 21st Century GI Bill the first time around (he switched his vote after the Bush administration gave him the green light to do so). As part of his response, Shadegg juxtaposed a picture of himself into a picture of WWII veterans who had come to ask Cheney questions about military issues at an event several years back and used the picture in a television ad. It turned out that one of the veterans, an 89 year old man who had spend 22 months as a POW, was deeply distraught to discover that Shadegg was using his picture to promote his campaign. That veteran, Con O’Neill, a Democrat, visited my campaign office, in tears over the misappropriation of his likeness by the Shadegg campaign. When he wrote a letter to Shadegg telling him how he felt, Shadegg’s response was to say he was sorry if Mr. O’Neill was upset by the use of his picture, but that he should have known when he attended the event (a non-partisan event, mind you) that his picture would be used for political purposes.
I also learned that Shadegg really has zero respect for, and a complete aversion to communicating with, those who don't share his views. I had Democratic members of the Arizona delegation tell me that he sat next to them on flights from DC to Arizona and didn't say a word. Members of at least eight different interest groups that had travelled to visit him in DC from the opposing side of an issue commented to me on how badly they were treated by Shadegg and his staff. On one such occasion, a labor leader told me how his group was told that Shadegg couldn't make a meeting because he was casting an important vote. After wasting five minutes in the hallway with a lower level staffer, the group left, but the leader realized he had left his briefcase in the vestibule of Shadegg's office and turned back. At the same time he entered the vestibule, Shadegg walked out from his office – barefoot. He hadn’t been casting a vote. He just didn’t deem a bunch of labor leaders worthy of his time.
Lastly, throughout the campaign, and afterwards, I’ve learned that Shadegg has no intellectual honesty and will irresponsibly invoke any source to support his views, no matter how questionable its reliability. Early on in the 2008 campaign, Shadegg decided that lashing out as a climate change skeptic would be a good way to raise a few bucks, so he blasted an email to his base attacking (actually, mocking) Al Gore, in which he relied entirely on a piece by Michael Fumento, a right wing hack who previously had written pieces in which he claimed that the HIV virus could not be transmitted through heterosexual intercourse, that second hand smoke did not cause cancer, and that Legionnaire’s disease was a myth. More recently, Shadegg has taken to using the works of World Net Daily contributors to substantiate his crazy views. During the 2008 campaign, Shadegg routinely told audiences that the book "America Alone" by Mark Steyn was a must read. You would think that if the lead testimonial for a book is from Michelle Malkin, and the book contains a passage in which the author explains Serbian atrocities as attributable to the high birth rate of Bosnian Muslims, a responsible Representative wouldn’t promote it. Not Shadegg. The author agreed with Shadegg’s views, and that was all that mattered. Very recently, Shadegg relied on a World Net Daily piece, The Muslim Mafia, to promote his fear that the Council on American Islamic Relations is spying on Congress. Although World Net Daily is commonly regarded as a right-wing extremist site, Shadegg wasn’t the least concerned. The author of Muslim Mafia agreed with him, and that was all that mattered to Shadegg.
When Shadegg reversed his decision to retire in February 2008, I was sure he did so at the behest of Republican leadership and that he would retire again as soon as his seat could be safely handed off to another Republican. I still believe that’s the case. But we shouldn’t wait until Shadegg goes voluntarily. We have the chance to send him packing now, and it would be a huge mistake not to take advantage of it. So, as the 2010 campaign heats up, pay attention to AZ03, and help Jon Hulburd turn this district blue.