I receive a lot of questions about which candidate we should run against Ryan next year. I’ve heard that there are 6 or 7 people interested. I’ve so far spoken to three of them, and received information on a fourth. I am not yet close to making an endorsement, although conversations will continue. I know it’s imperative to have someone in place by July of this year.
So who would my ideal candidate be? First, someone with experience. Anyone who decides to run against Ryan with no elected background is at a definite disadvantage. Remember, no Democrat has won this seat since it was created, and one of the reasons is that no Democrat has run yet who held a position at the state, county or local level. It’s potentially surmountable, but that’s the ideal. Why? Because you need to understand government, and to do so, you need to have served. The backup is someone who has been attending meetings, putting in the time with local committees and organizations, and has a known name. Further, that person needs to have run for an office before (and it doesn’t matter which office) to have had the experience of getting through a campaign, win or lose.
Second, to win, the candidate will need to have boatloads of money. Thus, someone with an existing war chest, or someone who can self-fund has a far better chance of winning than anyone who needs to raise money from scratch. It’s a sad commentary, but the DCCC will contribute funds only if the candidate looks like he/she is winning, and part of their calculation is the amount in the bank. Until Citizens United, self-funding was the kiss of death, but no longer.
Third has to do with presentation. Is the person outgoing? Does he/she dress appropriately? Haircuts matter. Being photogenic matters. This is sad but true.
Fourth, campaigning skills. Has the person been out knocking doors over the years for other candidates? If not, I won’t even consider that person because he/she has not yet learned how to talk to voters. If you can’t reach voters, they will not vote for you. How are the candidate’s public speaking skills? This is a trainable item, but some folks are poor public speakers, and Ryan is skilled in this area, and our candidate needs to be able to hold his/her own in a debate.
Fifth relates to issues and the ability to present those positions with gravitas. Does he/she know the issues? Is he/she conversant with how Ryan has voted and how he/she would vote differently and why?
Sixth, why? Why is this person running? Does he/she want to be a Congressman/Congresswoman or is this a stepping stone to a larger agenda? What does he/she know about the 6th district? How long has he/she lived here? How invested is the candidate in the electorate?
Putting this all together you’ll notice that I didn’t mention how the person’s issues align with my personal issues, because that’s secondary. Anyone running as a Democrat will have stances that mostly align — perhaps too centrist for some, perhaps too liberal for others, but definitely better than those Ryan holds. My only concern is who would have the best chance of winning, and those six markers are what I use to evaluate. I want someone to run who I can support, and when I support a candidate, I put my time in at their office, I canvass, I run phone banks, I donate money plus in-kind contributions, and when asked, provide tangible support in my kitchen (or Starbucks….). If you ask all the previous candidates going back to when Jim Gerlach first ran, I know these folks, and for some, I wish I could have done more. Our world would have been different. Finally, I want a candidate for whom I can turn out supporters and voters. Someone I can “sell” as viable and valuable.
This is in part why I’m so committed to the elections THIS YEAR in 2017. This is how we build a bench. This is where people get the practice they need to run for higher office. This is why I keep asking all of you to canvass, register voters and get out the vote in May and November.
Remember, my choice might not be your choice. If ICC endorses a candidate, it will be a vote from the membership, and my vote is worth no more than yours. But I ask that when you consider the candidates who are putting out feelers now, that you construct a list of questions, and that you consider viability and not just whether someone appeals to your issue set.
Looking forward to your comments and to seeing you for canvass training on 3 April.