Last night was not fun.
In Illinois, progressive congressional candidate Ilya Sheyman lost to Brad Schneider by 8% -- 47% to 39% -- while other candidates got 14% of the vote. Honestly, a lot of people were scratching their heads asking, "What happened?" The best answer came this morning from someone close to the campaign: "Nobody voted."
PCCC members and many others put thousands of dollars and volunteer hours into this race in support of a true progressive champ -- and that was absolutely the right thing to do.
Ilya ran a credible race, PCCC members made his campaign even stronger, and many political insiders thought he would win. Ilya remains a progressive rising star and it's likely he will be a member of Congress someday.
But we wanted to give you the facts as we know them, run down some things we don't know yet, and share our thoughts on the future. Here's what we know...
- Voter turnout was unexpectedly low. It was predicted that as many as 60,000 people would vote. In fact, 32,866 people showed up -- throwing off models used to target key voters.
- Our polling with MoveOn -- and polls by others, not publicly released -- showed that "likely voters" supported Ilya.
- Last night's election was a success for progressive messaging. Following Ilya's lead, Ilya's opponent plastered the word "progressive" on his ads and literature, claimed he was not a Blue Dog (even though he is), and adopted much of Ilya's rhetoric about protecting Social Security and Medicare. Last night was a victory for those trying to imitate progressives.
- Ilya's main opponent used the final few days to spread things that were blatantly untrue, but possibly persuasive -- such as literature implying President Obama (the hometown favorite) endorsed him.
- The Republican presidential primary dominated the Illinois news coverage in the final days, making it less likely that media would debunk lies in the congressional race.
Ilya's campaign had by far the best grassroots volunteer operation, including 600 volunteers in the district and PCCC members nationally making over 30,000 phone calls. (See video here.)
Here's what we don't know...
- Why was voter turnout so disastrously low?
- In a low turnout environment, why didn't the superior grassroots operation win?
- Was the polling off? Our pollster offers some thoughts here. (It could also be that "likely voters" didn't show up.)
Here's what we do next...
- Learn lessons for the future. We have a great team of data analytics staff -- as does Ilya's campaign. Together, we will be scouring the election data and analyzing whether people who the campaign most expected to vote actually voted. We will share these lessons with progressive candidates in competitive races right now.
- We will redouble our efforts to elect bold progressives like Elizabeth Warren and Eric Griego. Together, we won our first big House primary in 2010, helped save progressive Rep. Raul Grijalva that year, and won two big recalls in 2011. Nothing would be more counter-productive than using last night's loss as an excuse to stop fighting for progressive candidates who run credible campaigns. The next big race is Eric Griego, a progressive state senator running for Congress in New Mexico, where voting begins in 6 weeks. And Elizabeth Warren's Senate race continues to be a top progressive priority in 2012. If you agree that we need to redouble our fight to elect progressive candidates, chip in a symbolic $2 to Elizabeth Warren and Eric Griego's campaigns today.
Thanks for reading this long post, caring deeply about our country, and being a bold progressive.
-- Adam Green, Stephanie Taylor, Neil Sroka, Amanda Johnson, Michael Snook, Ethan Jucovy, Karen Oelschlaeger, Kristiane Skolmen, Jeff Budd, Dheeraj Chand, Jordan Krueger, Forrest Brown, Jason Rosenbaum, TJ Bateman, Jake Conarck, Matt Wall, Tyler Ross, Megan Gean, Taylor Sappington, Caralyn Hamel, Andrew Mayersohn, Robyn Swirling, Conor Kennedy, Drew McConville, and James Ploeser (the PCCC team)