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How Many House Races Will The DCCC F-Up In Illinois?

Excerpt from the “Down with Tyranny!” Blog by Howie Klien

Monday we looked at another reason the Democratic Party needs to dismantle the DCCC and start over again. But at the same time one of the credibility-free Beltway trade magazines was running an unsigned story, Illinois House Primaries Will Be Early Testing Ground For Democrats, that I thought might be about two of the more interesting primaries, Marie Newman’s and Chuey Garcia’s very credible challenges to the corrupt Democratic machine in Chicago. as it turned out, neither of those races was even mentioned. That’s especially odd in the case of IL-03 where Newman is on the verge of beating execrable Blue Dog Dan Lipinski. Instead the article appears to have been a p.r. piece written at the direction Steny Hoyer or by whomever writes press releases for Ben Ray Lujan. The subtitle “Democrats have several pickup opportunities, but they need viable candidates first,” should have been a warning, since “viable” inside the Beltway is the world they use to describe corrupt conservatives. Pure DCCC-talk: “With early voting starting in less than a month [not really– the primary is March 20], Illinois will be a testing ground for Democrats’ ability to nominate general election candidates they think can win out of crowded primaries.” The DCCC theory, proven catastrophic for Democrats over and over and over is still the committee’s top operating strategy– force the election of Republican-lite conservatives who will play ball with Hoyer’s K Street lobbyists. (If you didn’t read that post Monday about how Hoyer is rigging the CO-06 primary in favor of a sleazy pay-day lending lawyer, you really should.)

In Illinois the DCCC has 4 crap candidates in targeted districts. The problem here is that what Roll Call refers to as “Democratic campaign veterans” describe the precise reason the Democratic Party has lost dozens and dozens of House seats since the DCCC strategy was put in place by Rahm Emanuel:

In two competitive districts– the 6th and the 13th– Democratic candidates who have won the primary before but fallen short in the general election are running again. Even though they’re not raising much money, there’s still fear among Democratic campaign veterans that they could sneak by in the primary.

In the 13th, the corrupt DCCC operatives are petrified that heroic progressive Doctor David Gill will win– you can contribute to his campaign here— over their garbage candidate who could only win in a massive anti-Trump tsunami and would then lose the seat in a non-wave year. Let’s start by going back to 2012. The DCCC conservative candidate, Matt Goetten, lost the primary (despite outspending Gill with over $300,000 in establishment cash). In the general election Republican Rodney Davis edged Gill 137,034 (46.5%) to 136,032 (46.2%). Why did Gill fall short by 1,000 votes? A left-wing independent, John Hartman acted as a spoiler and took 21,319 votes in the general (7.2%). That year was the only time the Democrats came close to beating Davis.

In 2014 the establishment persuaded Gill not to run again, appointing him assistant director of the Illinois Department of Public Health and they slipped in one of their really dreadful crap candidates, a conservative EMILY’s List Republican-lite nothing burger, Ann Callis, who lost 59% to 41%. In 2016 it was the same story: uninspiring candidate loses to Davis in a 60-40 landslide. This cycle the DCCC and EMILY’s List are working towards replicating 2014 with a pointless-but-wealthy crony of Dick Durbin, Betsy Londrigan, exactly the kind of uninspiring blecccch of a candidate Davis knows how to eviscerate.

The braindead DCCC operative who helped write the story says if Gill wins the primary– which is likely, since voters love him– the DCCC will take the district “off the table.” That’s how the DCCC plays. That’s why the DCCC should be shuttered and the Dems should start over again in a post-Hoyer/post-Pelosi era dedicated to winning, not losing. OK, ready to hear from one of the architects of Democratic congressional disaster?

“Illinois is incredibly important because you have the three kinds of districts Democrats need to compete in, plus the kinds they need to defend,” said Ian Russell, former deputy executive director and national political director at the DCCC. He’s working with two Illinois primary candidates backed by EMILY’s List.

Based on 2016 presidential performance, the 6th District looks like Democrats’ best pickup opportunity. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

“It’s one of those districts where we have to perform; it’s a part of our path,” a national Democratic strategist said.

Out of the four Illinois seats on the DCCC’s target list, it’s the only one Clinton carried– by 7 points.

But voters in this affluent suburban Chicago district also backed incumbent Republican Sen. Mark S. Kirk, who lost statewide, and easily gave Rep. Peter Roskam a sixth term.

Democrats plan to hit Roskam on the GOP tax overhaul, which the state’s Republican governor called “punishing” because of its cap on state and local tax deductions.

“It’s clear that [Roskam’s] voters wanted a conservative representative who was focused on cutting their taxes– and that’s exactly what Roskam did,” Maddie Anderson, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an email.

“I’m a little confused by the notion that following through on what voters asked for would lead to being voted out of office,” she added.

[That’s the kind of messaging revolving door walking garbage pile Ian Russell buys right into.]

…Many national Democrats [what a loaded and stupid phase; sounds like a Trumpism] see Kelly Mazeski, a former financial adviser and local elected official, as the front-runner. The breast cancer survivor announced her candidacy the day the House voted to repeal the 2010 health care law, which earned her national attention. She raised $163,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017 and loaned herself another $100,000. She ended December with $510,000 in the bank.

In addition to support from EMILY’s List, she has endorsements from Illinois Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Cheri Bustos and several of Bustos’ closest female allies in Congress, who have been politically active across the country.

But some members of the delegation prefer lawyer Carole Cheney, a former district chief of staff to Rep. Bill Foster. She has the backing of Foster and Rep. Robin Kelly. She had $90,000 at the end of the third quarter.

Clean energy entrepreneur Sean Casten raised $335,000 in the fourth quarter, including $250,000 of his own money. One national Democrat described the primary as a race between Mazeski and Casten, both of whom he thinks would be strong general election candidates.

But [Amanda] Howland’s team thinks she has the connections to take advantage of an energized electorate since she’s run before without national backing.

Russell, the former DCCC political director, is working with Mazeski [and nothing says LOSER like being a client of Russell’s]. He acknowledged that Howland probably started as the front-runner– she led seven candidates with 46 percent of the vote in her own campaign’s poll from last August.

But he’s less worried about Howland as a primary threat now since she hasn’t amassed the resources to communicate in such an expensive media market. She had $50,000 at the end of September. End of the year fundraising reports are due to the FEC at the end of January.

Having the backing of national Democratic leaders, though, doesn’t always guarantee electoral success. When Tammy Duckworth, now the state’s junior senator, first ran for Congress in 2006, she had money and the backing of EMILY’s List, then-DCCC chairman Rahm Emanuel and then-Sen. Barack Obama.

She defeated the 2004 nominee, who had strong local support, 44 percent to 40 percent in the primary. But despite outraising Roskam, Duckworth lost in the general by about 5,000 votes.

The 12th District, held by two-term GOP Rep. Mike Bost, is the only pickup opportunity in which the DCCC is showing their cards.

The committee courted St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly for years. This cycle, he finally said yes and quickly earned a spot on the committee’s Red to Blue list.

Democrats failed to land a candidate in this downstate district in 2016. “Oh god, it was awful,” Russell recalled. “We went through four or five candidates in the 12th. There was a lot of skepticism about the viability of the seat.”

Kelly’s campaign launch in July prompted Inside Elections to move the race rating from Solid Republican to Likely Republican. It’s currently rated Leans Republican.

On paper, the 12th District is trending away from Democrats. Former President Barack Obama carried it by double digits in 2008 but by less than 2 points in 2012. Trump won it by 15 points in 2016.

But Duckworth carried the seat in her 2016 Senate victory, and Democrats are optimistic that Kelly, who they see as a moderate, can compete in the general election.

“I just hope the demographics don’t overcome good candidate quality,” Russell said.

The 13th District was another recruiting miss for Democrats last cycle.

The cycle before that, in 2014, GOP Rep. Rodney Davis defeated a supposed top-tier recruit who had received DCCC support in the primary.

Obama carried the district by double digits in 2008, and lost it narrowly four years later. But in 2016, the 13th swung to Trump, who carried it by about 6 points. Davis won a third term by 19 points. This year’s race is rated Likely Republican.

As in the 6th District, there’s a Democrat running who’s won the primary before– David Gill, who beat the DCCC’s recruit in 2012. Since then, though, he’s alienated many in the local and national party establishment. He had $4,000 at the end of the third quarter.

Betsy Dirksen Londrigan has the backing of EMILY’s List, Schakowsky and Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, for whom she used to be a fundraiser. Londrigan ended the third quarter with $129,000. Erik Jones could also be competitive here; he ended the third quarter with $195,000.

Goal ThermometerDavid Gill is no shrinking rose and, although most candidates dislike the DCCC and recognize their incompetence, corruption and malfeasance as much as he does, he’s one of the few who doesn’t mind expressing it clearly and publicly. His analysis is very much worth reading. He told us that “The most ironic thing about the DCCC’s lack of support is that the progressive issues that I push for and which seem to terrify the corporate-backed DCCC– single-payer healthcare, a $15/hour minimum wage, tuition-free access to public higher education– my support for those progressive positions is the precise reason that I’m able to generate tens of thousands of more votes than the standard Republican Lite/DCCC-backed Democrat. Voters around the district, whether they consider themselves Dems, Independents, or even thoughtful Republicans seem to like the idea of being represented by a longtime care-giving doctor who actually gives a damn about their well-being. At the end of the day, ‘ironic’ is actually the wrong term; when the DCCC repeatedly gets behind candidates who present a passionless bland message that loses by 20 points, that’s pretty clear evidence that they just don’t care much about the seat in the first place. It seems they’d rather have a Republican occupying the seat than a single-payer supporting doctor.”

Trump carried the 14th District by only 4 points. The DCCC has included this exurban Chicago district on its target list, but Democratic strategists who’ve worked in the state are skeptical.

“That’s a very tough one,” Russell said. Another Democratic strategist called it “a bridge too far.” GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren won a fourth term by 19 points in 2016.

Still, national Democrats are hoping to have a candidate who makes the general election competitive. Seven Democrats are running. Nurse and former Health and Human Services official Lauren Underwood had the most cash on hand at the end of the third quarter. Engineer Matthew Brolley wasn’t far behind, with $51,000. He’s backed by Schakowsky and just secured the endorsement of the state AFL-CIO, which should boost his ground game.

But Republicans scoff at Democratic chances in the district.

“That’s Republican delight,” said one Republican from the state. “Waste your money on that one.”

In Illinois there is no party registration/affiliation other than the party ballot you pull. One of the 2 DCCC candidates, Mayor Matthew Brolley regularly pulls Republican ballots (including in 2016). Sounds like the kind of crap the DCCC always get aroused by. The front-runner in the race, despite the party establishment and the DCCC and their allies, is progressive Jim Walz, a Bernie guy and big Medicare-for-All supporter. The only way to win a district like this is to offer the voters a clear and unambiguous choice, not by muddying the water with a Republican-lite candidate that turns off the base. Walz has backing from the progressives in the district as well as from independents and even moderate Republicans who want real change. The DCCC is downplaying IL-14 but this is a winnable race– unless the DCCC gets one of their Republican-lite candidates in.

About Howie Klein:

Howie Klein (born 1950) is an American writer, concert promoter, disc jockey, music producer, record label founder, record label executive, progressive political activist, and adjunct professor of music. He is perhaps best known for his role as President of Reprise Records from 1989 to 2001. He appears occasionally as himself in music-related film documentaries and has received accolades for his stance against censorship and for his advocacy of free speech protection.

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