Democrats since the victory of candidate Obama in 2008 ceded too much ground. There is a problem with laser focus in nation-wide American politics: you ignore everywhere outside of the target. The hard-and legitimate argument against nation-wide targeting is finite resources. This argument was not only sound but inarguable in the 1950’s when Congressman Lyndon Johnson was making his list of candidates the national party would and wouldn’t donate to. But, welcome to the 21st century. Grassroots groups have now been established to fill the gaps. What is “The Resistance?” Is it an 8 minute Guy Fawkes message from ex-cable news personality Keith Olbermann? Is it protest marches? Phone banks? The millions of dollars poured into the Georgia 6th for Jon Ossoff? Is it blogs or commentary sites like this one? Or is it the Democratic Party?
The answer is, of course, all of it. And the response needs to be to run Democratic candidates everywhere, and share the Democratic message in every corner of the U.S. and its territories. A big component of that should be-don’t write off losing candidates (Ronald Reagan ran for president 3 times before it stuck-he’s a deity now): 1) they had the courage to run 2) voters have now heard their names 3) learning from mistakes can be easier than learning on the fly 4) candidates lose due to a wide variety of factors i.g. under-funding, gerrymandering, voter suppression, political missteps etc. These can be addressed and overcome. That’s why I reached out to my first but not my last candidate who came up just short in a GA. race to make sure the next time she runs, she wins. I hope the DNC et. al. is paying attention:
Christine Triebsch ran for Georgia state senate in a red district, special election at the same time the whole country was fixated on the Georgia 6 (Ossoff) race. Don’t think the state senate is something to care about? Here in TN, Republican Governor Bill Haslam, an imperfect politician to say the least, is a strong advocate for education and the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. He has been blocked by a shortsighted Republican-controlled state government. Getting a Democratic majority here would mean that the Medicaid expansion would have happened and LIVES would have been saved. It matters. So I talked to Christine via email about her experience running and how it prepared her to win when the time comes.
AJ: What inspired you to run for office?
CT: Never had I ever considered running for office until October 2016. I watched the debate between candidate Trump and Hillary Clinton in October 2016. During the debate, then candidate Trump said he was going to instruct his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Hillary and her private email server while she was the Secretary of State. As an attorney, I was both shocked and frightened. In America, we DO NOT threaten to jail our political opponents. This was a wake-up call for me. In addition, the limitations he was putting on the press as well as the “us” against “them” mentality with the Press caused me concern as well. I had to get off of the sidelines and get into the game.
AJ: Did you sign on with any group like Emily’s List or Emerge America or Congresswoman Cheri Bustos’ Build the Bench program?
CT: I was endorsed and supported by Georgia’s WinList. Under the leadership of its Executive Director Melita Easters, Georgia’s WinList helps recruit, train and support Democratic Women who will serve as effective advocates regarding issues important to women and families. The support of Georgia’s Win List was an honor and it gave me confidence throughout the race.
“I had to get off of the sidelines and get into the game.”
AJ: You came up short. This is a reality of running a campaign. Would you consider running again or for a different office where you determine you could serve your community effectively?
CT: Was I disappointed, yes. Was it a likely result, yes given District 32. Will I run again, absolutely yes! It is still a little early to determine what seat I will seek during the mid-terms. But, yes, I will be running again.
AJ: What did the state Democratic Party in GA do to support your efforts? Once I was in the runoff election, the state Democratic Party was of great assistance. The party provided significant help with fundraising including its own monetary support of my campaign. To a first time candidate, they provided guidance and invaluable help in the co-ordination of volunteer efforts.
CT: There’s a great picture of you and District 6 Congressional candidate, Jon Ossoff, can you share the story behind that picture? Sure, I was at my first event with the other two Democratic District 32 candidates, a Candidate Forum sponsored by “Needles in a Haystack.” The District 32 candidates where scheduled first and then, approximately one hour later, a meet and greet was scheduled for Jon Ossoff. After my event ended, I stayed to meet potential voters who came to hear Jon and I had an opportunity to shake Jon Ossoff’s hand for the first time.
AJ: Did you do any joint appearances with the Ossoff campaign?
CT: There were a couple of scheduled candidate forums for both the State Senate District 32 as well as the Sixth Congressional District. In additional there were a few Democratic forums in which I would see Jon. But, nothing was coordinated where I was scheduled to be with Jon.
“Republicans need to be opposed in EVERY race”
AJ: South Carolina District 5 Congressional candidate Archie Parnell has a photo of a very Southern image, a booth where someone is selling boiled peanuts. How big of an issue was fundraising in your state senate race?
CT: Being a first-time candidate, I was not an experienced fundraiser. And with a special election, there is not a lot of time to raise money. My plan was to run a limited budget race and rely on grassroots support. I could not have run the race without the committed team of volunteers that stepped up. What I did not expect, was the wide financial support that I did receive from both within District 32 and out. While we were significantly out spent by the Republican candidate, this financial support allowed us to do more than originally planned. It is humbling and it is a great responsibility when people send you campaign contributions. But, it is also encouraging to know that there are others likewise committed to the same democratic principles.
AJ: Running under the Democratic brand in gerrymandered red districts can feel futile, after your experience, would you still recommend spending finite resources on red districts that can be hostile to the caricature version of the Democratic Party?
CT: YES! First of all, Republicans need to be opposed in EVERY race. They should not get a free ride, no matter how red the district. I knew my race would be difficult, but that did not stop me. Since my election, it is clear, that the Democratic voice has been heard, loud and clear in Senate District 32 in Georgia.