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Friday, July 30, 2004

Chris's Interview With Ginny Schrader

Posted by Chris Bowers

Photos Courtesy of Wendy Badman (photobywendy@hotmail.com).

On Tuesday, before the Kerry event in Philadelphia, I had the privilege of visiting Virginia Schrader in her home so that I could talk with her about her campaign. Although I forgot my tape recorder in her home after the interview, I went back and retrieved it on Wednesday. Several members of the DCCC were there, and Ginny informed me that for the next five weeks, with full-bore assistance from the DCCC, her campaign would be focused almost entirely on raising as much money as possible in order to put her in the strongest position possible. She also let me peek behind the curtain into their accounts to show me that the blogosphere had raised over $36,000 for her campaign. I would like to see our total rise to $50,000 as quickly as possible, so please donate today. Remember that early money is like yeast: it makes the dough rise.

Although it is not my decision to make alone, since DailyKos has already officially adopted eight congressional candidates, perhaps MyDD, combined with the Swing State Project, could fill the gap created by this incredible and unexpected opportunity and adopt Virginia Schrader for Congress in PA-08. Let me know what you think about this idea in the comments.

Schrader���s campaign also has a new and improved website that is adding new interactive content by the day, so be sure to check it out. Also, for those of you in the Philadelphia or Trenton areas, there is a Virginia Schrader Meetup that desperately needs members. Join today, and/or visit her website for more information on how to volunteer.

Typing up transcripts is very difficult.

Me: When did you first decide to run for Congress?

GS: November and December was the time period when I was trying to make the decision. I really thought this was a winnable race, even though it wasn���t going to be a profiled race, because it was an incumbent. The incumbent, Jim Greenwood, had originally been pretty much a moderate���in the terms that a Republican is a moderate���but in the last few years his voting record has been more and more and more in favor of the administration to the point where even though he is pro-choice, even though he is portrayed as a moderate, he is voting with the administration 88% of the time. So, we felt that if we could get that message out, then we could we could do something, do something big. This is an area that went very big for Clinton, went for Gore--

Me: Went for Rendell, over 60%--

GS: Went huge, huge for Rendell. So, they had added some Democratic areas in their gerrymandering into this district, so we felt those were mine. This was really a good opportunity. Anyway, those were all of the reasons why I decided to do it. I wanted to have a very serious campaign, I wanted to have a real race, really about the issues, about not having people roll over just because there is an incumbent, I think there is too much of a tendency to do that.

Me: Yes, absolutely. I agree.

GS: Other times, there are good candidates sometimes, and good candidates don���t have a snowball���s chance in hell because they are not being targeted, nobody is looking at them.

Me: When you say targeted, are you talking about the DCCC?

GS: I���m talking about any of the���there are more organizations than them who target people. I didn���t mean the Internet, because that is so brand new.

Me: Yes. Actually, on Dailykos, there is Lois Murphy in the sixth district�Ķ

GS: She is doing very well. Probably because started to notice her race even before mine.

Me: Why do you think that other people, other groups, didn���t feel that this was a district they should target?

GS: Because if you look at what has been written about Greenwood, that he was a moderate, even though he was a Republican he was a moderate Republican incumbent, the combination of those things made it feel that they wouldn���t have the energy. There was no push on other people���s part because they weren���t paying attention like we were here to the fact that he no longer was that moderate. It was a feeling that was left over. What we had to do was bring people to understand that he voted for the tax cut, voted for the war, voted for the energy bill, all of the things that the administration wanted. And he is pro-choice, since he is pro-choice, everything else is the 88% of the time that he votes for the administration.

Me: Exactly. When you say ���we��� are you talking about your campaign or Bucks county Democrats?

GS: A combination of both. After the 2000 election we really put on a push. There were so many of us who came into the party to revitalize it. Here, we able to incorporate people who had been here all along. You don���t want to toss out people who were working diligently the field, especially in this area. We were able to incorporate the people who had been here with the new people who had that energy and wanted to so more, and who wound up energizing everyone. That was really important.

Me: There was a contested primary though, right?

GS: It was a contested primary. However, it was a right-wing Republican who had run against Greenwood in the primaries over and over. What he thought he could do was hijack the Democratic primary unto himself. That didn���t work. We were running a serious campaign���thank God���so that he wasn���t able to do that. We were able to move out without much effort at all and win the primary. He was a well known, right-winger. People knew who he was from all those years of running.

Me: Closed primaries in Pennsylvania though, so as long as Democrats knew who he was they weren���t going to vote for him.

GS: The people who knew who he was���the Democrats who knew who he was were not going to get involved with him. He was pro-life, so he got a certain bit of the vote because of that. There are people who will vote that issue over everything else.

Me: What did you do before you decided to run for Congress?

GS: I went to law school when I was 39���before then I raised my family. I worked in government for a while. I got a Master���s degree in public administration while I was there.

Me: Where did you work in the government?

GS: I worked for the redevelopment authority in Philadelphia, when I came here. I am originally from South Boston.

Me: I am originally from Upstate New York myself.

GS: I came here in the very early seventies. When I was 39 I decided to go to law school. When I got out of law school I decided to go into insurance. I worked for AIG, which is one of the largest insurance companies in the world. To be a woman, and to be in that corporate environment, and to become a vice-president of one their subsidiaries, I learned a lot about higher-ups. This will all come in very handy in what I am doing now. I am used to those tough pressure kinds of situations.

Me: Are you on a leave of absence?

GS: No, I had to walk away. It was the only way to do this right, so I took early retirment.

Me: When did you decide to do that?

GS: As soon as I decided to do the race, there was no question that I was going to do that. The way my birthday fell, and the kind of retirement requirements they had, it had to be July 1st. It was just economic. I am not a rich person. I had to do the best I could with it. That did interfere with my early fundraising, since you can���t fundraise and work full-time.

Me: Now that there is no Greenwood, and now that you are campaigning full-time and the primaries are over, is this now seen as a race that groups such as the DCCC or MoveOn will target?

GS: Yep, they are already here, they have already moved in! There are two of them here now, and we are going downtown. I have been down to Washington and met with the Pennsylvania delegation���really good. The convention is this week, so you are not seeing as many people around. There was a really nice thing in the paper from T.J. Rooney, who is the head of the Democratic state party, about how supportive he is and as soon as this convention is over these guys are going to be right here working on the fundraising and helping us out. It was really exciting that guys were able to put almost $40,000 in the bank.

Me: I certainly hope that can become a lot more. Had you ever heard of the Blogosphere before?

GS: I know about it from Dean! We were working with Democracy for America and MoveOn and trying to get their attention. This is a real people, grassroots campaign. This wasn���t something being done by ���the big guys,��� it was being done by people in this district who thought we had a chance to do it. It was something that we wanted the Internet involved in���it was one of our hopes we could get them to care enough to jump in. Of course, having this happen just made it great.

Me: I imagine it is only a matter of time before Democracy for America gives you an endorsement.

GS: They were in their last stages of whether they were going to endorse us anyway. And so now, we have probably moved to the front of the line.

Me: Fabulous!

GS: Yep!

Me: When it comes to the future, now that you have all this support and you are running a big campaign, what do you plan on doing in Congress? What would be the most important issue for you, or the two or three most important issues?

GS: Oh, I know, it���s awful. This year, people ask you what are your issues, and you could right a book on your issues! The first thing you always have to worry about is international responsibility. I use those words because it encompasses more than just the war in Iraq, but also terrorism, our position in the world, and how we are viewed and respected by other countries. That is what we need to do. Honestly, I think John Kerry is going to do one hell of a job at it if he gets his chance.

Me: You opposed the war before it began, from what I understand on your website.

GS: It didn���t feel right���it just never felt right. It felt, almost like the President went on vacation, and he comes back and suddenly it was a great emergency. It���s like ���how come it wasn���t an emergency in the middle of your vacation?���

Me: Weren���t we on yellow or something? We weren���t on very high alert when supposedly we were in imminent danger.

GS: It just never felt right. And the weapons of mass destruction and all this stuff--which gee, what a surprise--none of it was true. To tell you the truth, I was surprised there was none. You know what I mean? I thought there would be something.

Andy (my ride/roommate/brother): They sold it so hard, that I thought maybe Iraq had some.

GS: I thought they were going to make a big deal out of something that was relatively minor. But to find that there was none! The trick is that had there been anything, they would have used it. The only thing that made it ���perfect��� was that there was none.

Me: But of course as we know now the intent to possibly want to make them someday is the same thing as having them, according to the administration. I would actually like to ask more about Iraq, when it comes to our troop situation. We are now calling up inactive reserves, and we are stretched pretty thin.

GS: Oh, it is devastating.

Me: Would you be in favor of an immediate scale-back, or even withdrawal of the troops?

GS: I think what has to happen is the world has to become actively involved in Iraq, and I think I new administration can do that. Once there is a new administration, as I say when I am talking to people, when you have people locked in a struggle--you know, they are negotiating, like I learned at my business--when they are negotiating and you got it so that it is personal and everyone���s got their heels dug in, you get nowhere, everyone���s locked. You take one of those away, so that it is a different person negotiating, suddenly that picture of it being impossible goes away. I think everyone wants to help, everyone knows that the situation isn���t good, what they are looking for is a way in dignity to be involved with us, and give dignity to the Iraqi people, and give dignity back to themselves. I think what is going to happen is we are going to have a multinational force that will be in there with us. We will not be with ourselves.

Me: This is actually one point where I disagree. It is hard for me to imagine that other countries are going to want to come in, even if Kerry is President, which I absolutely believe he will be.

GS: If it is a multinational���if it is seen as a world problem���if it is not just American problem. Whatever we did, it is done now. Whether it was right, whether it was wrong, it is done. We can���t walk away from there now and leave it a hotbed for every terrorist group that ever thought of us. There has to be some security for us and the Iraqi people, some safety so the kids can go to school and the hospitals can run. We just can���t walk away, but I don���t just mean the US. The world can���t just walk away. My feeling is that if we can get the entire world involved in it, we can stop the unilateralism of the administration. I think the world will want to come, I think they want to come. I think we will see less of the burning hatred that seems to be being mined there. The UN knows how to do this. We have gone into countries before, after World War Two, and built up countries and I think we can do it here.

Me: There have even been recent successes in Kosovo and East Timor.

GS: Exactly. It can be done, with all of the pain. We have to go now!

Me: You have to go? OK.

GS: I have about four or five other things���meeting with the Veterans, everybody giving me money.

Me: Well thank you for your time.

GS: Thank you!

Posted at 01:00 AM in Pennsylvania | Technorati