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Sunday, April 11, 2004

Make Them Sweat

Posted by DavidNYC

As you all undoubtedly know, only a handful (maybe 50 or fewer) of House races are actually competitive every two years. What's not as well known, I think, is that a number of incumbents go without a major-party challenger altogether. Of course, these seats are invariably the safest of the safe, in places like Harlem or rural Kansas, where even a strong major-party candidate wouldn't stand a chance against the current seat-holder.

But that's not a reason not to run in those districts. We need to make them sweat.

Just because we can't win doesn't mean we can't do some damage. Imagine a district where a powerful, ten-term incumbent GOP Congressman (call him Rep. Johnson) is bound to win 80% of the vote. Johnson's going to spend his time, of course, stumping and raising money for his fellow party-members. And if he is running un-opposed, then he can spend all his time doing just that. But if we put someone up against Johnson and force him to spend just one extra weekend in his home district, then we've robbed another, more vulnerable GOoPer (Rep. Smith) of the 20 or 30 grand that he (Smith) would have made at a fundraiser the mighty Johnson would have chaired.

There are plenty of other reasons to run in tough districts as well. We can probe for weaknesses: If, say, we unexpectedly poll over 40% in a race that everyone was sure would be a total landslide, then that'll make the GOP nervous for 2006. It would also be nice to see a headline that says, "For the first time in memory, Democrats are contesting every single Congressional seat in the nation." (We've already missed some filing deadlines this year, but it'd be good to get in the habit for `06 or `08.) And I'm sure there are other reasons that I haven't yet thought of.

With all this in mind, I'd like to point you to DKos poster RBH's list (called "D-435") of races which are as yet unfilled. What can you do about this? Well, if you live in one of these districts, you can go to your local county Democratic Party (which I imagine might be a bit moribund) and say, "Let's put someone up here!" I'm certain you could help with the search for a qualified candidate, and of course you'd also have the chance to get extensively involved with the campaign, should you so desire.

Or you could run for the seat yourself. It's not as improbable as it sounds. You may have heard about the "Democratic Wings" effort: Some 100-plus folks, inspired by the Dean campaign, have decided to run for local office. At least one, Jeff Seeman, is running for Congress in Ohio. Another blogger, Brian Watkins, is running for Congress in Utah.

(By the way, I'm citing the folks above not as examples of people putting up a good fight in hopeless districts - in fact, Brian's opponent netted just 56% in a recent poll - but rather to demonstrate that the hurdles to running for office aren't as great as you might think.)

So again I say, check out RBH's list. Call your local party. Go to some meetings. Go to the DNC meetup in your area. Find someone to run for office - and if you can't find anyone, run yourself. This is a democratic republic - your participation in it isn't limited just to voting. At the very least, you'll always be able to tell your grandkids about the time you ran for Congress.

But above all, make them sweat.

UPDATE: Jerome at the newly-relaunched MyDD has a post on the same topic. He points out three races (in CO, CT and MI) where we actually do have a legit chance to win and really, really ought to be contesting the seats.

Posted at 04:30 PM in General | Technorati


What a great idea!

Posted by: steve at April 11, 2004 08:29 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

As the webmaster of http://localpols.fordean.net, which you referenced in passing above, I want to add my two cents.

Yes!!! Make them sweat! However, don't forget the other races. Even in a blue state like Connecticut, many State Rep races have Republicans running unopposed.

My wife is running for State Rep in the 149th Assembly District (http://kimhynes.smartcampaigns.com) . The Republican incumbent has been in office since 2000. She has never had a challenger. The last time a Democrat ran for the seat was in 1996. It will be a tough race, but it is a good start.

I would encourage everyone to think about running for office. Even if it is in state legislative races, Make Them Sweat.

Posted by: Aldon Hynes at April 11, 2004 09:17 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Aldon, thanks for dropping by. I fully agree: There are many, many state and local races which we should also contest. I wanted to highlight Congress because RBH had a list handy and also because those are our most visible races. But obviously, it's a lot less daunting to start out on a lower level, so we should definitely focus some attention there as well.

I'd love to register MakeThemSweat.com (it's available) and use it to track races across the country which need candidates. I bet simply having this kind of information available would encourage more people to run for office. Unfortunately, I don't have the time for such a project - but I think it would truly be worthy.

Posted by: DavidNYC at April 12, 2004 12:18 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm in the MI 6th, where Fred Upton is as yet unopposed. Several folks have taken a look at it and declined to run. I'm eager to volunteer for a candidate, but since I really don't want to serve in Congress, I can't honorably run myself. The guy who held up the standard last time does not want to go through another 70/30 whuppin, and I can't blame him.

I'm fully in favor of the MTS strategy; it's just hard to implement. There aren't that many folks eager for a chance to bang their head against a wall for six months.

Posted by: Mark at April 12, 2004 12:00 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm fully in favor of the MTS strategy; it's just hard to implement. There aren't that many folks eager for a chance to bang their head against a wall for six months.

You may be right - but then again, I think there are a lot of people out there who've never even considered the possibility. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the "Democratic Wings" candidates hadn't previously considered running before either. If I were in such a district, I'd seriously consider it myself.

Posted by: DavidNYC at April 12, 2004 02:52 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

There are actually two people running in CT-5, Robert Marconi and Paul Vance. You can read an article about the race at http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=10736986&BRD=1655&PAG=461&dept_id=13091&rfi=6 and see Marconi's website at

Posted by: Aldon Hynes at April 13, 2004 02:34 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

This is right on. Two years ago Melissa Bean jousted the Phil Crane windmill in the Illinois 8th. People are tired of his 35 years of doing absolutely nothing (except sending jobs overseas). Suddenly this year the New York Times says this is a seat we can take - even in a predominantly Republican district. Check out Melissa Bean at www.melissabean.com She can use everyone's support.

Posted by: IllinoisBirdWatcher at April 13, 2004 07:51 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Utah's First district where Brian Watkins is running for congress was gerrymandered in order to create a safe seat for a Republican.

However, in an attempt to create three Republican districts by threatening incumbent Democrat Jim Matheson, the Republicans actually took R-type voters out Utah's First district and added D-type voters. The D-type voters are hopping mad (many strongly identify with Matheson and still consider that he is really their congressman).

We are hoping that what was meant as a Republican dirty trick will turn into a set-up for a Brian">http://http://www.brianforutah.com/">Brian Watkins victory.

Helpful hint: Look for situations where Republicans are getting greedy and trying to grab too much.

Posted by: Amy at April 14, 2004 07:03 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment