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I have had a tab open for Debra Bowen's website for the past couple of weeks.  California Secretary of State Debra Bowen is, pretty much, my favorite politician in the state; I hope one day to vote for her for President.  The news of the day is this:

Secretary of State Debra Bowen Campaign Manager Dan Chavez issued the following statement regarding the May 17 Special Election:

"This has been a very spirited campaign and it remains very close. There are 9,811 ballots that still need to be processed — more than enough to make up the difference. We are confident Debra Bowen will be in the runoff."

It is premature, therefore, to say that Debra Bowen has finished 206 votes behind wealthy Rancho Palos Verdes Republican businessman Craig Huey and will not be part of the runoff.  For the purposes of this diary, it doesn't matter.

If you lose control of your car driving down a rainy freeway and spin out at high speed but somehow end up not hitting anyone or anything, but are instead facing the right way in traffic so that you can proceed driving, the proper reaction is not "well, that sure turned out all right!" but "what the hell just happened?"  It's time to pull over to the side of the road to reassess.  I hope that this reassessment comes not long before the news that Bowen will be in the runoff on July 12; either way, it needs to be done.

There are three major points to assess:

(1) Pretty much none of us saw Tea Partier Craig Huey coming.

(2) We could have helped Debra Bowen win, but most of us didn't.

(3) That we didn't do so is, this time, not so much our fault.

There's a fourth point that I'm guessing will take up much of the oxygen today; I'd like to make a vain attempt to shoot it down now.  Plenty of people will complain about Marcy Winograd having fell for Janice Hahn's trap and run against Bowen, splitting progressives and taking a little over 5000 (about 9%) of vote.

That is not for we Bowen fans to criticize today.  The sorts of voters who will prefer a Winograd to a Bowen in such an election are not going to change their minds -- or, if they are, they can speak up for themselves rather than be browbeaten.  That is their business.  They are part of the environment in which a progressive but mainstream Democrat is going to run.  Bowen has no more standing to complain about Winograd splitting the progressive vote than Republican "frontrunner" (or so we thought) Mike Gin does to complain about Craig Huey splitting the Republican vote.  Everyone gets to follow their bliss.  You never know, in a race like this, and Winograd fans were as entitled to follow their dreams that she could make the runoff as Huey's supporters were from him.  The question is what we Bowen fans should do about it.

Huey who?

First, we should recognize that, if you take Huey out of the picture, this race finished with the candidates ordered and spaced about exactly as expected.  Hahn at about 24%, Bowen at 21.5%, Gin at 10%, Winograd at 9%.  We didn't see Huey coming -- we didn't see 22% of the vote coming.  That is the news of the day.

I searched for "Huey not 'Huey Long'" on Daily Kos from March 1 through the day before election day.  Almost all of the references were still about Huey Long; second place went to the Huey helicopter.  That suggests that we had some problems with our on-the-ground intelligence from the region and we need to work on building it.  Calitics was better, noting about a half-dozen times since late March that he had a lot of money -- though no alarm bells rang beyond that.

The netroots' role

I had been meaning on writing about the Bowen campaign for weeks now, but (for reasons explained below) it seemed not to be necessary.  The situation appeared to be in control.  The "real election" was in two months.  May 18 was to be the day to begin preparing for it.  So, rather than engage in the Bowen-Winograd sniping and Hahn slapping that took up most progressive discussion on the race, I decided to wait until the storyline was more clear.  I wore her sticker at the state convention, talked her up to friends in the party (and the less-political people I knew in the area), and that's about it.  Normally, I'd be beating myself up about this right now, except for one thing: if I had done differently, it would not have mattered, because of a choice made by the Bowen campaign that should provide an object lesson to progressive candidates everywhere:

The Bowen campaign made no provision for remote phonebanking.

The loss of words

When I entitle this diary "a loss for words," I'm not talking about my ability to talk about the result; obviously, you're reading those words.  The words that I'd have liked to contribute to the Bowen race were ones I could have put in on the phone to her constituents, raising her profile, leaving personalized messages, identifying undecided voters and helping counter some (in my opinion) pretty sleazy ads and attacks from the Hahn campaign.  That is the advantage of having a statewide and even nationwide profile: people who can't contribute money can still contribute effort and enthusiasm.

This has been one of my hobbyhorses here for years, cropping up most recently in the Kloppenburger-Prosser race for Wisconsin Supreme Court  If you just passively read about that race, rather than participating in it, you missed out -- and your support was missed.  We've had some wins and losses over the years, and even a time or two where netroots calls may actually have made the difference.  The CA-36 open primary was a perfect example of how and where intervention from outside the district -- you know, the sort of thing that donors and endorsers do all the time -- could have made a difference.

That's why I kept Debra Bowen's page open.  I wanted to see if she was going to set up a remote phone bank.  If she ever did so, it was not advertised on her page.

Go to her page.  There's a section labeled "Get Involved."  You can "Join Us" (get e-mail updates), "Contribute," learn about "Upcoming Events." and "Volunteer."  Click on volunteer: it's a sign-up sheet.  It doesn't say what you're volunteering for.  That suggests that you're invited to come in -- if "call from home" is an option, a campaign generally lets you know.  (If they had a remote phonebanking system set up and didn't advertise its availability, then whyyyyyyyyyy???  But I don't think they did.)  I'm about a $10-$20 round trip drive from her campaign headquarters, depending on which car I take; if I wanted to spend that money to support her for a little while, I'd just send it to her.  But I do have time, plenty of cell phone minutes, and a willingness to bust my hump.

Progressive candidates, take advantage of that!

I don't know how much it takes nowadays to set up a remote calling system.  That Kloppenburg had one for her non-partisan Wisconsin race suggests to me that it's not prohibitively expensive; much of the cost may depend on the quality of the lists.  The technology has improved tremendously in recently years from the viewpoint of the person making the calls.

Someone in the Bowen campaign made the decision that this was not an avenue worth pursuing.  It competes against mailers and internal polls and many other things.  Some of that may be due to the spotty track record that we've had at getting people out to make calls -- and we here in the netroots can do something about that.  But this was a race where remote phonebanking could have made a real difference -- and they didn't try to take advantage of it.

I would much rather be writing a scolding diary today of how we could have done our part in what turned out to be a close race, but didn't -- I've written several in the genre before.  That is, at least, something under our control.  But this diary today is sadder than that.  We didn't have netroots champion Debra Bowen's back -- because we weren't given the tools and the opportunity to do so.  Too bad.  It was a close race.

Originally posted to Doane Spills on Wed May 18, 2011 at 05:15 AM PDT.

Also republished by California politics.


Would you have phonebanked from home for Bowen?

12%5 votes
12%5 votes
5%2 votes
7%3 votes
10%4 votes
0%0 votes
5%2 votes
28%11 votes
0%0 votes
0%0 votes
17%7 votes

| 39 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Fingertips for Debra Bowen and "calling from home" (30+ / 0-)

    I hope that the results reverse, as she hopes, and that we get a chance to do this over again, to do it right this time, this summer.

    Unplug the Koch machine! It's swallowing people's money!

    by Seneca Doane on Wed May 18, 2011 at 05:08:26 AM PDT

  •  I'm sorry but Debra Bowen not (9+ / 0-)

    featured enough on Daily Kos for me to have noticed in time to do anything about it.

    Seneca Doane--I suggest you speak to the management and the editors of DKos about finding ways not to let action items like this get drowned out by the gushing firehose of everything else here.

    •  You may be right. Thanks for the suggestion (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bronte17, camlbacker, ER Doc, ParkRanger

      I think that my position on this is already known to them.

      Dante Atkins had a great front-page interview with her two weekends ago, but there was not a constant drumbeat, perhaps because the Democratic alternatives of Hahn and Winograd both had a lot of support.  But I consider Bowen, who was made internet technology one of her things, to be a special case.  There are enough Californians here to have organized even without disturbing the rest of the country.

      Unplug the Koch machine! It's swallowing people's money!

      by Seneca Doane on Wed May 18, 2011 at 05:25:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I put up two diaries on Bowen but they received (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Seneca Doane, camlbacker, ER Doc

        what I considered scant interest.

        •  I put up at least one myself (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jpmassar, ER Doc, ParkRanger

          with the same result.

          Why?  Because people read such diaries passively.  Usually they're being asked for something significant (like money) or for something trivial (like "befriend us on Facebook.")  Diaries that ask people not for money but to put in effort in their spare time -- phonebanking being the best example of this I can think of -- invite people to invest their heart and soul into the race.  We could have drummed up interest.  I've done it reasonably well for candidates who were a much harder sell than Bowen.

          Unplug the Koch machine! It's swallowing people's money!

          by Seneca Doane on Wed May 18, 2011 at 09:07:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Too much pie fight, not enough (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      There was a time when I would have been stumping door to door for Winograd or even Bowen, because I used to live in CA-36 and live now in CA-37, but my recent health and transportation problems make that too problematic.

      It would have been nice if Winograd and Bowen could have worked this out between themselves earlier on.  Winograd was the superior candidate, but she dithered when Bowen entered the race.  

  •  Congrats to Hahn (5+ / 0-)

    I am satisfied with Hahn, though I greatly preferred Bowen. Been a Bowen supporter since she first ran for SoS.

    For me, with the Wisconsin mess happening, I felt that Hahn vs. Bowen wasn't a big enough difference to focus on above the Wisconsin Assembly race and the recalls. So I did endorse Bowen and do some diaries here and on other websites, but I probably could have done more. It was just not as high on my priority list as perhaps it should have been.

    I think Hahn will be okay. It is a missed opportunity, not electing Bowen, but unfortunately there are too many other things demanding our attention.

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. Read the PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRAT Newsletter

    by mole333 on Wed May 18, 2011 at 05:28:40 AM PDT

  •  Special elections are special (5+ / 0-)

    and has been demonstrated numerous times, they are a dangerous place to take anything for granted.

    Brown - Coakley, anyone?

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Wed May 18, 2011 at 05:48:05 AM PDT

  •  Hahn will be a good Dem, and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a lot better than Harman IMO. Okay, so some peoples' favorite candidates did not win this one. Oh well. The only important thing is that Hahn, a Democrat, looks good in the runoff. It's a victory, plain and simple.

    I'm in the I-fucking-love-this-guy wing of the Democratic Party!

    by doc2 on Wed May 18, 2011 at 06:00:48 AM PDT

  •  At least Hahn v. Baby Huey (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Allen

    shapes up well for us.

    And while any candidate's loss is their own, if Bowen remains in third place, it would be nice if this is the capstone on Marcy Wino's descent into Cindy Sheehan-land.

    These are the demands and sayings of Lee!

    by Red Sox on Wed May 18, 2011 at 06:01:50 AM PDT

  •  I had backed Winograd (4+ / 0-)

    in the past but sent Bowen money after seeing Winograd polling below 10 percent. Contra Costa Times story here.
    Living in a corporate teabag nation is very discouraging.

    Dream, that's the thing to do (Johnny Mercer)

    by plankbob on Wed May 18, 2011 at 06:04:30 AM PDT

  •  I supported Hahn (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lams712, Aquarius40, petral

    I know her and trust her.  I like Bowen too, but prefer Hahn.  Hahn has been active in local politics, supporting Ted Lieu for state senate.  Bowen has been absent from local politics.  In addition, Hahn was an early supporter of Howard Dean in 2003 when he ran for POTUS.  Even after Dean's campaign fizzled, she continued to back and praise him.  She also was a big proponent of his election for DNC chair.  Lastly, Hahn has a distinguished environmental record.  She'll make a fine member of Congress.

    •  Reasonable people can disagree on this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Obviously, I do.  (I do like Hahn and supported her for Lt. Gov., btw.)

      If I had organized phone banks for Bowen, and you had done so for Hahn, and someone else for Winograd, that would all have been fine with me.  I think we'd have beat you, but it doesn't matter.  Huey would not be in the runoff (and maybe he still won't be.)

      Unplug the Koch machine! It's swallowing people's money!

      by Seneca Doane on Wed May 18, 2011 at 06:10:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Pardon a stupid question, but... (0+ / 0-)

    ...has anyone considered the idea that it might be better to have Bowen as the chief elections officer of the largest state in the nation, where she's been doing an excellent job, for another 2 1/2 years, than as the 435th-ranked member of Congress?

    Especially when the odds are very good of another not-great-but-not-horrible Dem taking that spot instead?

    •  Yes, many people have considered it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That's certainly the bright side: we have her until 2014 -- and then, due to term limits no longer.  My feeling is that I think that Bowen is extremely gifted and I want to see her continue to rise in politics, as far as she can go.  If she decided that this was the next step for her, I defer to her judgment.  She has more relevant expertise with judging her career path than I do.

      Unplug the Koch machine! It's swallowing people's money!

      by Seneca Doane on Wed May 18, 2011 at 06:57:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not saying it'd be better from *her* POV (0+ / 0-)

        If she decided the best thing for her was to get out of politics completely and work at McDonalds, then that's her call, and I would wish her well.

        I would've loved to have Howard Dean stay on as DNC Chair, but he made it very clear from the start that if he did it, it'd only be for one term, and I accepted that (granted, it looks like he was gonna be given the boot by Obama once he took office anyway, but you get my point).

        I'm looking at this from the selfish progressive voter POV--from our perspective, it's better to have her stay where she is (and of course this may very well have been part of her decision to run for CA-36 in the first place; it was really a no-lose situation for her, since she wasn't risking losing her other job).

        •  From the point of view of someone who wants (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          to see her advance in politics as far and as quickly as possible, her view pretty much is my view!  I hope that it does not involve work at McDonalds.

          Unplug the Koch machine! It's swallowing people's money!

          by Seneca Doane on Wed May 18, 2011 at 07:09:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  One reason no one saw Huey coming (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane

    was that there was no polling of the race after it got going. (IIRC, there was one poll done fairly early).

    DKos had PPP poll the NY-26 race recently, but didn't (for whatever reason) have them poll CA-36.

    And PPP (for whatever reason) chose not to do it themselves.  Which I find a bit odd as well.

  •  There's plenty of post-morteming to be done (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane

    whether it was Bowen getting into the race a little too late, after Hahn had sewn up all the endorsements; Winograd = Nader; or other.

    Join/follow Climate Hawks and Public Lands; @RL_Miller

    by RLMiller on Wed May 18, 2011 at 07:59:47 AM PDT

  •  From the results, I'm not having heartburn (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane

    It looks like Dem candidates pulled more than 8000 votes against the total of the Rep candidates.

    We should be able to hold this seat.

    To address your concern though: Yes, if you don't organize effectively, you can write your own death sentence on election day. We had the same situation here in AZ last year when Rodney Glassman took the Dem nomination against John McCain with a plurality - edging out the two progressives that would have probably stood a bit better of a chance.

    Good policy is good politics

    by AZ Independent on Wed May 18, 2011 at 08:02:02 AM PDT

  •  Maybe DKos needs a section on the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane, petral

    front page that contains all the real electioneering/GOTV/fundraising information in one easy to find place.  That after all is the ostensible purpose of this site and it seems to be more lost than ever in all the noise.

  •  I don't think it was a lack of phonebanking... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    petral, Seneca Doane

    As I remember, I received two robocalls and one call from a live human supporting Hahn, two calls from a live human and one robocall for Bowen, and four or five robocalls for various Republicans. One of the Bowen calls was last Sunday, which is about the right time to be making that call as far as I can tell. I wonder how many calls you think is appropriate, since after a certain point the nuisance level overwhelms the information content.
    I don't know how useful the calls are in general, save for the ones that come right  before the vote and remind people of the day of the election. I have read a few stories on DK of people who actually changed people's votes during a phone call, but I don't know how often that happens. I hate robocalls and hang up on them no matter who they are for, so anybody spending money on them is wasting it as far as I'm concerned. I knew who I was supporting (Bowen), so I didn't hang on any of the calls for long.

    •  I hate robocalls too (0+ / 0-)

      One of the things I say when I call is: "I am not a robot."

      If there are more callers than people on the list, there's also cold calling (most lists are pretty incomplete), having longer conversations, asking people their main interest (and keeping track), getting them to commit and thanking them for it, getting them to call their friends and family, and so on.  You may just be on an important (or more than one) list.

      If you look at the turnout rate you'll see that a lot of people didn't vote.

      Unplug the Koch machine! It's swallowing people's money!

      by Seneca Doane on Wed May 18, 2011 at 06:30:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  And someting else I just realized... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    daninoah, Seneca Doane

    All the calls I did receive came in on my land line, so I assume that the lists phonebankers use don't include cellphones. With an increasing number of households having no land line, I wonder if phone calls are missing the young demographic that needs the most prodding to get out and vote.

  •  Why I ran (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peace voter

    Why I Ran (0+ / 0-)

    Until I entered the race, I did not hear mainstream candidates talking (though I had hoped I would) about ending multiple wars and drone attacks, exiting Afghanistan now, challenging current middle east policy, or transitioning from a war economy to a job-rich life-affirming economy.  My past supporters urged me to run because they wanted a strong progressive in the seat.  

    I felt I had every right to run, given my near 41% of the vote last June in the 36th congressional district, and the volunteer infrastructure I had built through a great deal of work and sweat over the years.  I had supported Debra Bowen in the past in her run for SOS, and, like many of you,  appreciated the fact that she would protect our 55 electoral votes until her term ran out in 2015.

    It would be a breach of confidence to share everything that preceded or followed my decision to run, but please understand that not to run felt like a betrayal to thousands of US soldiers who have died in these senseless wars, an untold number of people who have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, the progressive base in the 36th District who longed and ached for years for a real progressive to take Harman's seat, and to my own ideals and beliefs.   I was floored when I read the pledge Hahn wrote and Bowen signed that pledged 30-billion for Israel, supported Israel's "right" to determine its capitol wherever it wanted, called for a two-state solution as long as Palestine had no defense, and condemned all anti-Israel rhetoric with a heavy-duty personal attack on me.

    Upon entering the race, the tone and content of the discourse shifted to getting out of Afghanistan and, to some extent, focusing on creating Green jobs for aerospace.  When the LA Times endorsed Hahn, the editorial staff cited no discernible policy differences between Hahn and Bowen.

    Either Hahn or Bowen, of course, would be far superior to Craig Huey, a Tea Party slate mailer no one saw coming and appeared buffoonish at forums -- calling for the elimination of all regulations and the virtual gutting of the EPA.  I will be surprised if Bowen does not make the run-off, given the thousands of ballots still to be counted and her strong base of support in the South Bay/Torrance area, where most of the absentees are cast.

    Ultimately, we have to create jobs that will end this war economy and create a new one.  I am hopeful that if this issue stays front and center, the next Democrat who takes this seat -- and it will be a Democrat -- will pursue this objective with our support.

    Marcy Winograd Progressive Democrat

    by marcy winograd on Thu May 19, 2011 at 06:46:25 AM PDT

    Marcy Winograd Progressive Democrat

    by marcy winograd on Thu May 19, 2011 at 10:08:32 AM PDT

    •  Marcy, this diary is pretty much expired (0+ / 0-)

      and I don't think many people will have seen your comment.  I encourage you to make it a diary.  If you don't, I hope you don't mind if I do so; it's "newsworthy."

      Unplug the Koch machine! It's swallowing people's money!

      by Seneca Doane on Fri May 20, 2011 at 10:52:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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