This has been another great week for my campaign. I am humbled by the out-pouring of local support, the support I received from Labor and other groups that represent regular folks' issues in Washington, and the welcome I have received from the Daily Kos community.
Let me take you along on my magical trip below the fold.
I will be online until 8 PM tonight to answer questions.
Last Tuesday Diane Parker and I left West Virginia to visit with a group of PACs that had been arranged by Lake Research. I admit I was apprehensive- what would they think about a woman who had never run for office, from a rural state, coming to visit the corridors of power? I didn't think they would actually laugh at me (at least to my face); just pat me on the head and send me back to wherever I came from. I knew we had stunned our local politicians by bringing nearly 200 people together for my candidacy announcement, but in Washington there are more than that on a metro train during rush hour. These were consultants to nationally known candidates and I am not known outside my district.
Setting up the visit
Our first conversations were with Lake Research Partners. They had just completed an impressive, comprehensive study on mountaintop removal and had worked with several high profile "populist" candidates. They approached me because they liked my message and obvious appeal to regular folks, since I am one myself.
Renee Schaeffer of Schaeffer Strategies quickly came onboard shortly after as a consultant. She introduced us to Brett DiResta of the Maccabee Group. All three are part of Democracy Partners who work to get folks like me elected in order to protect and strengthen the middle class. They work closely with Labor and other progressive groups. The never work with Big Oil and Gas or ALEC or the Koch Brothers. Their clients embody their message of hope and prosperity for ALL Americans, not just a chosen few.
Renee and Lake Research helped set up our meetings and hosted a reception Tuesday evening which many more groups and consultants attended. I am deeply grateful for their work on my behalf.
We met with several national PACs and got the same message everywhere. For example, our first meeting was with Heather A. Tureen, Director of American Association for Justice PAC, and John R. Bowman, AAJ Director of Federal Relations.
I told them about the campaign and how we were trying to transition from a totally volunteer organization. I described how I had been recruited by people who were fed up with Democrats who voted like Republicans and haven't supported middle class Americans and how the campaign had taken off in just a few months.
They thought I was a great candidate. They needed me to get four or five of their members in my district to write letters of support emphasizing the viability of my campaign and my complete support for civil justice issues of concern to them (We have already done this). They were very pleased to see that I was in agreement with them on tort reform, the FAA Reauthorization Bill, cyber-security reform, and forced arbitration within contract clauses. To me these are all issues of basic justice.
They also asked about my primary opponent, Mike Oliverio, but said all they wanted to know was how he would impact my campaign. They had no interest in his campaign and would not support him under any circumstances.
The bottom line is that there are many national groups with money and influence who think that our campaign is going great. They want to hear from their members to confirm that I have support and they want to see that I can generate some significant donations by the end of the quarter.
The Lake Research Partners reception
Lake Research Partners had arranged a reception and representatives from many Democratic and labor groups were there. At the reception we met with representatives from the United Mine Workers of America, Alliance for Retired Americans, United Food & Commercial Workers, and USAction. These groups attended the reception because someone in WV who supports my campaign invited them- the UMWA people had come all the way from Quantico because Mike Caputo had told them about me. Everyone was supportive and wanted to help.
Teacherken from Daily Kos was there also. Ken Bernstein was very gracious, gave me his card, and promised to help if he could. (At the time I didn't know much about DK and didn't appreciate how valuable this contact would be. When I got back to West Virginia the savvier people in the campaign were flabbergasted.) See below how he helped!
Senator Jay Rockefeller
On Wednesday we paid visits to the West Virginia congressional delegation. The first stop was in Jay Rockefeller's office. Jay wasn't there, but that was ok because I know him well. We had a long discussion with his Chief of Staff, who offered to help us in any way that she could.
Senator Joe Manchin
We didn't expect that we would get to see Joe either, but to our surprise he was in the office and came out to greet us personally! He gave us some advice on campaigning in the district which we will glad to get. Joe is probably the most popular politician in West Virginia and we were happy that he was willing to spend time with us and take my campaign seriously.
Representative Nick Rahall
Nick was in, and we had a nice chat with him also. He is a very good friend of Alan Mollohan and misses Alan's help in the House. This is his first experience of not having a fellow Democrat in the WV House delegation, and he does not like it at all.
I was apprehensive going to the DCCC. They had supported Mike Oliverio after the primary last year in a very big way, and maybe they were still wedded to him. Oliverio certainly had been playing up his close connections with them and implying that he was the (wink! wink! nod! nod!) "official" candidate.
We met with Charlie Kelly. I told him who we had already talked with Tuesday and earlier Wednesday and how the campaign was going. He was visibly shocked. I don't think that he expected us to have been that well prepared or well connected.
He said that $30-40k additional to what we have already raised would be a nice year-end reporting total, given our announcement was Nov. 30. He also felt that $250K was reasonable by mid-February with a grand total of $1 -$1.5 million. He will invite me to any training and make any resources available to me.
We told him that Oliverio was telling folks he was recruited by DCCC. Charlie said they had conversations with him, but do not pick a candidate in the Primary. They would assist us as much as Oliverio. Charlie feels this is a viable race for the Democrats to reclaim, and said they will invest heavily in resources for the General Election. For the DCCC this is a “top target”.
I am thrilled the DCCC is willing to support me after I win the primary. PAC money and consultants are the way Republicans win, but I want the support of a united Democratic Party. They pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars and sent many paid staffers into Mike Oliverio's losing effort last year. I am confident that if I have that level of support I will win the general election.
Andrew Cockburn had posted several well received diaries about my campaign so I thought that it was time to introduce myself to the Daily Kos community. We contacted Ken and he gave us some useful hints and offered to help publicize it once it went up. I published it Friday evening and it went onto the rec list and made the high-impact diary list for the day. Not bad for a first try!
I stayed around for several hours answering comments. I need more online practice- questions that I would be able to toss off answers to in person were difficult for me to answer when I knew that my words would be preserved for posterity. But people were gracious and seemed to understand even when it took me longer than I anticipated to sort through the questions and answer them. I must have said something right because many of the commenters went to my web site or Act Blue page to donate.
Oliverio pulls out
About the time my diary went up I heard Mike Oliverio had decided not to run for Congress. That left me as the only declared Democratic candidate in the race. Maybe someone else will get into the race, but all I can do is to keep running as hard as I can. I intend to be the Democratic nominee in the fall, and I will win the 1st District Congressional seat back for the real Democratic Party! I don't want to spend the next twenty years apologizing for a Blue Dog congressman and being told that a real Democrat can't get elected in West Virginia.
The next stage- raising money
The message we heard repeatedly in Washington was we had done a great job of grassroots organizing, everyone thought that my message was timely, and I could win- but it was time to demonstrate that I can raise money. Grassroots campaigns eventually flounder if they can't afford to hire professional expertise and pay for advertising. Since I got back to West Virginia I have been focusing on contacting donors. We have doubled our contribution total in that time. We are halfway to our $50,000 target and I believe that we will make it.
I am telling people that a dollar donated to my campaign right now will translate into many more when the national organizations decide to back me. I pledge that this is not just a donation to Sue Thorn. It is an investment in a better Congress and a fairer America.
The campaign Facebook page. Everyone is invited to join in the conversation!
You can also donate through my web site.