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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

DC Bosses Mowing the Grassroots

There are reasons why those who pay attention the closest are disgusted by the DSCC and DCCC actions this cycle.

Tobacco went out of style years ago, but the era of the smoke-filled room may be inching back to politics.

In their zeal to win control of Congress in November's elections, party leaders in Washington are picking winners and shoving aside losers in many local party nominating contests rather than staying neutral and letting the locals decide.

In one recent example, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, endorsed a candidate in Tuesday's Virginia Senate primary over a rival widely favored by local party activists.

In another, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the chief political and fund-raising operation for House Democrats, recently endorsed a candidate in a four-way primary contest for a U.S. House of Representatives seat in New Hampshire. The endorsement angered local activists and irked the state party chairwoman.

The DC machine bossing primaries not only hurts the grassroots in the short term, but hurts Democrats in the long term because more often than not the out-of-touch DC Democrats choose crappy candidates to annoint, some of the many reasons why local activists are so pissed off.

In many states, local party activists are chafing at the interference, calling it a move back toward the days when cigar-smoking party bosses picked candidates in closed-door meetings.

"They have made themselves kingmakers," said Jacalyn Cilley, a Democratic state representative from Barrington, N.H.

"It's disenfranchising the voters," said Marcia Moody, a Democrat from Newmarket, N.H. "We should pick our nominees, not them. They're afraid of grassroots candidates. It's like the backrooms are back, the smoke-filled rooms."

The days of top-down politics have passed, but it seems that Schumer and Emmanuel are going out of their way this year to try and prove that they are powerful -- regardless of the institutional damage they are doing to the DSCC and DCCC. Do you think anyone paying attention in New Hampshire will want to contribute to the DCCC in future cycles after getting burned this year?

Kathy Sullivan, the chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said she wasn't told about the DCCC endorsement until after it was announced on June 1 and it upset her party convention the following weekend. She said the DCCC "wants to take Congress back so badly that they're willing this year to take sides in races in ways they haven't in the past. ...There's such a potential to take back the majority that they're willing to do this."

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., the co-chairwoman of the DCCC's program to win Republican-held House seats, told the New Hampshire press that the committee thought that waiting until the September primary to pick the candidate could injure the party's chance of unifying and winning in November.

"We're not taking any chances waiting until Sept. 12," she told the New Hampshire Union-Leader.

The DCCC isn't taking any chances with democracy? This is an awful career development for Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz who once seemed to have a very bright future.

DCCC leader Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., and his group have taken sides elsewhere as well.

Emanuel supported Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth over businesswoman Christine Cegelis in a suburban Chicago primary - even though Cegelis had run before and come close to defeating an incumbent congressman. Duckworth won the primary.

In New York, former U.S. Public Health Service official Les Roberts said he was shut out by the DCCC in an upstate House primary after Emanuel spoke favorably in the local press of another candidate. "The DCCC stopped answering our calls," Roberts complained to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper.

In addition to New Hampshire, New York and Illinios have up-close views of why they shouldn't give to the DCCC in future cycles. Meanwhile, the DSCC decided to piss off Democrats in the key state of Ohio:

Earlier this year, Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett said he was pushed out of the Ohio race for the Democratic Senate nomination by party bosses in Washington. They favored Rep. Sherrod Brown as a stronger candidate against incumbent Republican Sen. Mike DeWine.

The DSCC denied blackballing Hackett among big Democratic donors. But at least one prominent Democrat agrees that Hackett was pushed out.

"I think there was some skullduggery in Washington that was going on, which I don't approve of," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

Without commenting on individual contests, a spokesman for Schumer and the DSCC was unapologetic.

Of course, they won't apologize for mowing the grassroots just like they didn't apologize for bossing the Pennsylvania primary to ensure that Theocon Bob Casey Jr. would be the nominee. Disgusting.

If you care about the future and health of the Democratic Party, donate directly to candidates and to the DNC -- donating to the DSCC or DCCC risks the chance that your money will be used against the candidates you care about. Even worse, there is a chance that the DSCC will back Joe Lieberman even if he bolts the Party -- the clearest signal that they care more about power for incumbents than the 'D' in their name.

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