It's still early in the cycle, too early to identify many of the candidates we'll be rooting for next fall. But a couple of races are starting to take shape. And it's time to start working our combined MyDD/Swing State Project/Daily Kos Blue Majority ActBlue fundraising page for the best of them.
First up on the page are Donna Edwards in MD-04, and Charlie Brown in CA-04. I'll be writing about Brown in a few hours, but since Stoller introduced us to Edwards already, I'll start there.
With Donna Edwards we're playing in a primary, working to get rid of a terrible Democratic incumbent, Al Wynn, the kind of Democrat that a party running and winning on a message of "culture of corruption" must eject. So it's up to the voters of MD-04 to decide whether they want to clean house, and we can help his challenger have the resources to make it happen.
We've seen this again and again; it's why many of us are in politics, on the blogs. We ask ourselves the question, 'Ack, why did the Democrats vote for XYZ?!?!' Well, one reason is because of people like Al Wynn.
In the fight over the estate tax, Wynn was cited as a key figure in this strategy. The estate tax was the single most progressive tax there is, so normal criticisms from rich corporations won't work to broaden the coalition. But having a CBC member like Wynn, along with a variety of other members, helped to mask the right-wing essence of the idea. Wynn likes to talk about how the estate tax hurts small businesses in his district, which was roughly the same rationale he used to pass the bankruptcy bill, and the same rationale he uses to support energy legislation, telecom-friendly legislation, and defense contractor-friendly legislation (such as his original support for the war). You can see Wynn's allies in his PAC donations, which even after he ostensibly moved left after he 'learned his lesson' from Donna in 2006, are obviously right-wing. He's not just getting cash from your standard financial services companies, he's pulling in cash from Walmart and the US Chamber of Commerce. That's stunning. That's a brazen 'I haven't changed' moment.
Getting people like Wynn to support corporate-friendly policies has been a lynchpin of right-wing power, which means that Donna Edwards's challenge to Wynn is both critical and systemic. This is not a normal primary challenge, this is a clash of two systems of power, of influence, and of ideas. It's not a surprise that the Chamber is already weighing in on this race, for Wynn. This primary was critical in 2006, when her underfunded campaign, which was dismissed in DC because she did no polling, no TV, and only a bit of direct mail, nearly toppled Wynn, who was seen as invincible. It's even more critical now. Donna is a real, legitimate candidate. She is going to raise a lot of money, and she's going to fight for values and ideas that actually are progressive. We lost in 2006, and we see what that got us - a Democratic Party that is only responsive when it's convenient for them. We can't afford this kind of Democratic party, and we must support people like Donna in our movement to change it.
The choice here, in the primary, is so stark it's almost unbelievable. Wynn, aside from getting cash from the US Chamber and Walmart, is one of 26 signatories to the letter encouraging the Presidentials to attend the CBC Institute's Fox News debate. He's an opponent of net neutrality. And though he repudiated his Iraq vote, he is still bringing in Harold Ford Jr. to kick off his campaign, an event at which Ford said we'd need to be in Iraq for a long time, a sentiment Wynn came very close to endorsing.
Now some of you may wonder why we're starting to fundraise for candidates whose elections are still off in 2008. Well, the Chamber of Commerce and Wal-Mart know that the early money is critical in helping their bought and paid for candidate create a sense of "invincibility". You build that, you can dry up fundraising for your opponent. So we have to counter, and counter early.
I want to make three additional points:
First of all, we don't need Donna to raise as much as Wynn. Wynn is in the pocket of so many corporate interests that he's going to have more money than god. It's imperative for the Right Wing to have useful puppets like Wynn to mask their right-wing agenda. That's great for his pocketbook, but it's not great for his ground game.
In 2006, Edwards entered the primary against Wynn late in the game, just a couple of months before election day. Wynn spent nearly $1 million on the race, Edwards about $340,000. Yet despite being outspent 3-1, despite having zero name recognition, and despite only having a couple of months to campaign, the results were staggering:
Wynn 49.7 40,857
Edwards 46.4 38,126
A third candidate got the remaining 3.9%. Combined, the anti-Wynn vote carried the day.
Secondly, Edwards sort of snuck up on Wynn last time. So expect Wynn's corporate patrons to open the spigot. But Edwards didn't come this close because of money, but because she started building a grassroots army to wage the battle on the ground. Those efforts have continued the past year, and will be well advanced by Election Day. So the goal here is two-fold, help her remain financially competitive in the early going in order to encourage further dollars from deeper pockets (like the unions, who can't be thrilled at Wynn's friendliness with Wal-Mart and the Chamber). And, also help support her efforts on the ground, where this election will be won and lost.
So if you are anywhere near this district (which hugs Washington DC), it's important to lend a hand.
Finally, this is the kind of race that should really get anyone looking for a better Democratic Party excited. In many districts, the Democratic candidate may be imperfect, but the lesser of two evils compared to the Republican neanderthals they usually oppose. Yet here is a race where we really have the ability to make our party a far better one. We can get replace of one of those Democrats who undermine us from within while working for right-wing causes, with a true people-powered community activist and bona fide progressive. And given the extreme Democratic tilt of this district, the primary is the only race that matters.
This is an important race. And one in which lots of us can do something to help out.