Thursday, December 29, 2005

Story of the Year: The National Democratic Party Discovers the Illinois 6th District

When the Blogfather asks invites you to contribute to his Blogginois year-in-review, you do your best despite being hundreds of miles away and trapped behind a dial-up internet connection. Mr. Zorn asked that we narrow our focus to "state and metro-Chicago topics" and my top story of the year fits the bill.

The National Democratic Party Discovers the Illinois 6th District

For a Democrat living in the 6th District, like me for instance, the political story of the year is that the Democratic Party's leadership have focused their brilliance and cunning on our district. But while that has been big news in the district, it has been something less than good news for the district's long-time Democratic activists.

In early 2005, 6th District Dems heard rumors that the DCCC was taking a serious interest in the 6th District race. Naturally, we expected that the DCCC would get behind Christine Cegelis, the Democratic candidate that garnered 44% in the last election. But the DCCC insisted on being coy. They told the Cegelis supporters that they would have to raise $100,000 by June 30 FEC filing and then the DCCC would support Christine's ongoing grassroots campaign for the 6th District seat.

But while the DC Democratic leaders were assuring the Cegelis team that it would have their backing if it met their fundraising benchmarks, they were simultaneously undermining the Cegelis campaign by courting other potential candidates to run in the 6th District Democratic primary. The DCCC leadership was sending feelers out to multi-millionaire Democrats who would be able to self-fund their own campaigns.

And what happened when the Cegelis team met the fundraising goal set by the DCCC? The DCCC raised the fundraising target.

The Cegelis team was now told that, because the Republican's Crown Prince, Peter Roskam, had raised vast sums, they would have to prove themselves by meeting a new goal in the next fund-raising cycle. Never mind that Roskam raised so much money only because the House Republican leadership -- including Majority Leader Tom "Mugshot" Delay and Speaker Denny "Denny Boy" Hastert -- was fundraising for him. And, of course, the Republican corporate PACS raised money for Prince Pete too.

But while the GOP culture club of corruption and cronyism was lining up behind Roskam, the DC Dems were letting big donors know that they were looking at fielding another candidate for the primary. That's right true believer, just when the DCCC told the Cegelis team that they needed to raise unprecidented sums of Democratic money, they let big money donors know that they were considering fielding another candidate. Well, you know what happened next -- the big Democratic donors decided to keep their metaphorical powder dry and Christine's fundraising calls suddenly fell on deaf ears.

And the DCCC leadership then turned around and used that fundraising drought -- if you can call raising over $160, 000 by Sep. 30 a "drought" -- as their excuse reason to parachute a candidate in from outside the district.

And the 6th District will only get more attention from the national leadership of both parties in the New Year. It'll sure be interesting.

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