Friday, December 02, 2005

The 6th District Democratic Primary

After weeks and months of debate over the 6th District Democratic primary, Lynn Sweet took a look from a different perspective Friday. In her column in your Chicago Sun-Times, Sweet spoke to Democrats from the 6th District.

Democratic congressional candidate Christine Cegelis said Thursday she did not understand why Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) recruited a rival to run against her who did not live in the district.

Democratic Party of DuPage County Chairman Gayl Ferraro said the residency of Army Maj. Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth "is going to be an issue with a lot of our voters, from what I've been hearing." ***

Duckworth met with Ferraro on Wednesday afternoon at DuPage County party headquarters in Lombard. Ferraro said Duckworth told her she "has permission to start circulating petitions" even while on active duty.

On Monday, Duckworth phoned Cegelis to discuss the race. The conversation was brief, Cegelis said. "She just wanted to introduce herself to me, that's all," Cegelis said in a conference call with reporters.

"We didn't talk for very long. We talked a bit about the fact that she does not live in the district and that she does not intend to move to the district." ***

Ferraro -- who as party chairwoman said she will be neutral in the primary -- said Emanuel's undermining Cegelis has made some DuPage Democrats "very angry about the whole situation. They are looking at it as the DCCC coming in and telling them what to do.

"But I don't necessarily view it that way. It is anyone's right to run for the office," Ferraro said.

It sounds like Gayl Ferraro has been talking to some of the same people I have. But this impassioned response by the DuPage Democrats to the DCCC mechanations could only come as a surprise to those who are unfamiliar with the district.

First, DuPage Democrats are not born followers. Being a Democrat in DuPage County is just not a passive activity. Every DuPage County voter who pulls a Democratic primary ballot is a voter who has the guts to buck long odds to have their voice heard. Voting Democratic in the 6th District, "Henry Hyde's District", is always -- ALWAYS -- an act of defiance.

Anyone who has ever worked for a Democratic candidate in the district has had to repeatedly contend with people telling them that they should give it up, that they should surrender to the inevitable, that their's is a lost cause. But they weren't looking for anyone else's approval, so the naysayers just drove them to work harder. They are people who have done hard, crappy, thankless work with little help from the state party and none from the national party. DuPage Democrats have never let DuPage Republicans tell them how they should excercise their franchise and they are unlikely to let any "kingmakers" from Chicago do so now.

Remember Iowa 2004?

Second, Christine Cegelis has been campaigning in the district for the last two years. In that time she has met a whole lot of Democrats. And they agreed that our nation is heading in the wrong direction. They recognized her commitment to preserve the promise of America by honoring the dreams and hard work of Americans. They understood that her proposals to promote investment in the technologies and education that will move our country into the future will also benefit the workers of this district.

And any DuPage Democrat who has done any political work in the district has had an opportunity to rub shoulders with "the woman who took on Henry Hyde." They saw that, for the first time in recent memory, they didn't have to skip the congressional race or vote for a phantom Democratic candidate who they had never heard of before entering the voting booth. Instead, there was a real flesh and blood candidate, supported only by grassroots volunteers, with the political guts to go up against Hyde. I don't think that is easily forgotten. Outside the district, this race may be all about big-money funding and big-name P.R., but don't be mislead into discounting the face-to-face retail campaigning Christine Cegelis and her team have been doing for a couple of dozen months.

In addition, nearly every Democratic primary voter in DuPage County has already voted for Christine Cegelis. In 2004, Ms. Cegelis earned 44 percent of the vote in the district. While not everyone who voted for her was a Democrat, I'll bet damn few Democrats voted against Christine. And I'll bet no Democratic primary voters -- none, ZERO -- voted for Henry Hyde.

Let's face it, if DuPage Democrats were looking for someone "in charge" to tell them how to vote, it they were willing to blindly cast their ballots for the establishment candidate, they would be voting Republican.

P.S. One would hope that this would go without saying, but this posting is intended as a critique of the 6th District race and not as an "attack" on any candidate. It seems reasonable that we should be able to civilly question the wisdom of the DCCC's decision without being accused of attacking a disabled veteran.

Cross-posted at Illinoize

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