This is not going to be like other election diaries I write. Yes, I am going to ask you for money for a candidate. (That's an ActBlue link; if I've told my story well today, you may be prompted to click it.) But I am not going to make this "ask" with promises of victory (although he might win); I'm not going to ask you to give money that you would otherwise give to any other campaign in the next 2-1/2 weeks. I'm asking that any contribution you make come out of another fund -- the fund for thanking candidates who take risks and have to end up holding the bag because they want Democrats to be present and fighting wherever we can.
We argue that contesting every election is good for the party and the progressive cause. I think the case for this is strong -- but I think that puts a burden on those progressives who can afford it to help out candidates when they get left in the lurch -- as has happened in this case.
I'll describe the situation -- most of those who have run underdog campaigns will find familiar even if it is unique in its details -- after the jump.
The candidate's name is Esiquio Uballe; he's the Democratic nominee for State Assembly in the 72nd district, which covers most of northern Orange County. This is a historically Republican area -- Richard Nixon's Library is here -- but it is one that could well tilt blue. As Orange County becomes more multi-ethnic, its character is changing. Esiquio is the first Latino candidate to run for Assembly in this district. He's been walking in neighborhoods where no Assembly candidate before him has walked. Even if he doesn't win the Assembly race, the voters he brings out -- some of them first-time voters, or ones who have previously voted only in Presidential election years -- may make the difference between electing Jerry Brown over Meg Whitman, Barbara Boxer over Carly Fiorina, and the rest of our excellent slate of Democratic statewide candidates over their opponents.
Esiquio collected his signatures and entered the race at the last minute. His wife Susan is the Vice Chair of the county party for North Orange County. One of her tasks is candidate recruitment. It looked like the freshman Assemblyman, Chris Norby, was going to get a free pass in his first re-election campaign. Susan and Esiquio knew that this would depress Democratic turnout in the county -- and so they made up a budget, swallowed hard, and decided that Esiquio would run. They are both public employees and in this year of Schwarzenegger's furlough they could only put up a certain amount of money. They could have just let the chips fall as they would. But they felt that someone ought to run. They would try to be frugal but would make a race of it, trying to give local activists a rallying point.
People often think that political candidates are arrogant, narcissistic, grasping for power. That's not true of lots of longshot Democratic candidates. The Uballes knew that the party as a whole would be better off if a credible Democrat -- and especially a Latino in a district with a growing Latino population -- ran for office. They were taking on a burden for the greater good.
As I've mentioned here before -- but I think never with the detail I'll present here -- I have a volunteer position with the Jerry Brown campaign (for whom I don't speak in this diary. I also don't speak for the Uballe campaign.) Through the state party and local clubs, the Brown campaign's north Orange County field operations have been directed by Uballe campaign staff -- just as in the Irvine area supporters of Assembly Candidate Melissa Fox have been spearheading our efforts, and in Santa Ana and Westminster the county party has been working with Rep. Loretta Sanchez and Assembly candidate Phu Nguyen through what are called "Coordinated Campaigns" that derive their authority from the state party. (Other parts of the county have been aided by volunteers associated with strong local candidates in Huntington Beach and elsewhere.) You want to know how you fight someone who is outspending you by more than $100,000,000? You ride the horses that are available to you -- and in Orange County, that means riding on the backs of local campaigns.
Without the Uballes, there would be no broad campaign in northern Orange County. Meg Whitman would, for all intents and purposes, be unopposed here when it came to GOTV. People like the Uballes are not just talking politics, but they are doing something to make a difference.
Sometimes no good deed goes unpunished. Here's the story I learned while phonebanking from their home today.
They were pledged a certain amount of money from some supporters. Supporters promised to cover the main mailer costs of printing and mailing. The jobs were done, and it turned out that the money to cover them had not been raised. Let me stress that this was not done out of malice, and with every good intention. This is the worst fundraising year in memory. In politics, especially at times like this, these things happen -- even on larger and more professional campaigns than this one. A pledge sometimes remains only a pledge rather than flowering into a contribution. (And if you try to finance a campaign only on received contributions rather than relying to some extent on pledges, your campaign materials will probably be ready for you shortly after the election ends.)
So the promised money did not arrive. The printers' bills still had to be paid, though. Who pays, in such a circumstance? The campaign pays. In this case, that means that the candidate pays. Four figures worth of bills, beyond what they had figured was the maximum they could pay when they decided to step in and try to organize and motivate North Orange County for this critical election.
And so they have paid.
This, frankly, strikes me as fundamentally unjust. Esiquio Uballe is running for selfless rather than selfish reasons -- because people like you and me want him to run, want to gain the benefits of his actions. Given the Brown campaign and others benefits from their efforts, I wish that the it could cover these expenses -- but who are we kidding? The Brown campaign can't even pay those of us who have put in hundreds (or thousands) of hours on its behalf. Brown himself is running for the right reasons -- not, like Whitman, out of overweening ambition to become someone's Vice President. Those who run in this sort of race don't do it for grandiose reasons; they do it because, if we are to maximize the party's chances of success, it has to be done.
I've been involved in other campaigns and seen this happen again and again. We bask in the glory of our party being competitive in various places, without recognizing that outside of the "major league" races what we are really seeing is people who are spending huge amounts of money trying to keep the party and the movement alive, in the hope that we will get lucky, as we something do -- and as our opponents also sometimes do. As hobbies go, there are few more expensive.
It's not a thankless enterprise, of course. People say thank you. They are sincerely appreciative. And then they forget and move on. But the financial dent left by such progressive campaigns -- that lasts.
Well, if you appreciate what people like the Uballes are trying to do, and if you have the wherewithal, then this is a chance to say thank you by not leaving them holding the bag that someone else dropped.
I can't afford to give them money; I can afford to give them time. As part of my duties for the Brown campaign, I am trying to make 3000 calls to Democrats in my city this month to turn out voters for Brown and for Uballe. It won't fill the unanticipated hole in their finances, but it may ease the sting.
If you're in North Orange County, you can volunteer as well; write me and I'll set you up. If not -- and if you can reach into a source of money that is not currently earmarked for Jack Conway or Alan Grayson or Joe Sestak or Annie Kuster or someone else worth supporting -- then you can help shoulder the burden of unexpected bills when a pledge falls through.
His ActBlue page shows that, as of today, Esiquio Uballe has gotten 29 supporters donating a total of $1490 through that source. So, we'll be able to gauge our progress. I don't think that candidates should have to bear this sort of burden alone; if we let that happen, we discourage candidates from running. So, I leave the matter in your hands. There are a lot of worthy causes and a lot of worthy candidates out there -- but, to me, having the backs of our intrepid candidates when the roof falls in is among the worthy ones. So, if you will, do what you can.
(If that ActBlue number goes above $6000, you can stop! Or not.)
UPDATE: You guys are great -- but that's not exactly breaking news. I've told Esiquio to watch his ActBlue page and I was going to do a magic trick.
Update 2: OK, I can't help myself. He's now at 43 supporters and $1,795, meaning that 14 people tonight have contributed a total of $305. I think he's going to be a lot happier when I go to his house to phonebank tomorrow. Again, many thanks to all contributors and well-wishers.
Update 3: 61 supporters, total of $2260. That means 32 donors of $770 for the day. I don't know what expectations I had when posting this -- mostly just to be able to tell my friend that I was doing what I can, I guess. Your actions have exceeded any reasonable expectations I could have had. Of course, I will tell Esiquio and Susan that I guessed the total in advance. (No, I won't.)
If any of you are near Fullerton, for lunch on canvassing days Esiquio makes what is possibly the best salsa I have ever had for his crew. It is salsa that raises itself to its full height and shouts, Salsa! Just saying. If you're near on any upcoming weekend.... ;7)
UPDATE 4: <FLASHING SIREN!> UBALLE CAMPAIGN RESPONDS!
SENECA DOANE EXCLUSIVE! MUST CREDIT SENECA DOANE! OK, WHATEVER!
I just got an e-mail from Esiquio that he has asked me to share with you:
This is truly amazing. As a long time Democrat, since I was in high school even before I could vote, I have supported Democrats by doing whatever I could. I believed that Democrats were the supporters of social justice and everything good during my adolescent life. This outpouring of support has truly encouraged me. It renews my trust and hope in the people that I always knew were out there. Tomorrow -- when we go out to encourage people to vote for Democrats by knocking on doors and calling for Jerry, Barbara, myself, and the nonpartisan [my note: i.e., city council and school board] Democrats in North OC -- we will do so with renewed energy. Thanks to Seneca and to all of you. As always, the windmills that tower above you are always worth tilting at."
For context, I should tell you that Esiquio in his youth was a community organizer in the Latino community in Texas before he grew up and got his doctorate. I'll tell you more about him sometime soon.
Update 5: We're at 72 donors and $2530. That means 43 donors gave $1040 tonight. That's outstanding. Thank you all again. I'll update in the morning.
Update 6: We have now exited the realm of plausibility. 100 donors and $3566, meaning 71 donors and $2076 since last night.
Yesterday, Esiquio and I were talking about whether he could still afford to send out his targeted mailers (which by helping turn out Democrats will also help Brown and Boxer.) Today, he knows that he can.
I hope that all the donors and the well-wishers who couldn't donate but who helped keep the enthusiasm going feel properly wonderful today!
UPDATE 7: One other thing, because it's so easy to forget to do. I WANT TO THANK ACT BLUE FOR MAKING THIS POSSIBLE! Six years ago, this wouldn't have happened. Act Blue is such a fixture in the Democratic political landscape now that we forget that their existence was not inevitable, their persistence is not inevitable, and we need to keep them going strong. So enormous thanks to them, and be sure to tip them if you can!