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Howie Klein

Howie Klein

Posted: April 16, 2008 02:32 PM

Chuck Schumer Is Playing Dangerous Games In North Carolina and Kentucky


Not unlike last cycle, I've been hearing from quite a few grassroots candidates that the Inside-the-Beltway Democratic committees are surreptitiously working against them in primaries or, where there are no primaries, ignoring or even being hostile to their campaigns. Earlier today we talked about the progressive Democrat, Roger Waun, running against rubber stamp loon Mac Thornberry in northern Texas and why he is so angry at the DCCC. The DSCC likes to brag to candidates that they're not like the DCCC and that they don't play favorites. This has never been true and it certainly isn't true this year.

Jim Neal is a Blue America-endorsed candidate who wants to take on Senator Dole in North Carolina. Although DSCC head Chuck Schumer claims, rather ingenuously, that he stays neutral in hotly contested primaries, there are at least two big ones this year where he is backing Insider Establishment candidates who give every indication that they will not support core Democratic initiatives. Kentucky's Bruce Lunsford has been a consistent supporter of Republican candidates and has been judged by Kentucky Democrats in the past to have proven himself unworthy of their votes. Still, Schumer has muscled aside other candidates and brow-beaten Democratic support groups and some unions into backing the same Lunsford they have loathed and campaigned against in the past. Ironically, Kentucky has a real progressive, grassroots Democrat, Greg Fischer, in this race-- running on a platform that clearly and authentically contrasts with incumbent Mitch McConnell's.

There is a similar situation in North Carolina, where Schumer seems to feel that voters aren't sophisticated enough to elect a progressive candidate, Jim Neal, who, among other things, is openly gay. Schumer twisted the arm of a mediocre insider, Kay Hagan, to get into the race after she had bowed out. And now, he has the DSCC, which is officially "neutral," signaling Democratic donors to support her and not Jim. This is standard operating procedure for the DSCC and DCCC. Schumer got slapped down when he tried the same tactic against populist Jon Tester in the 2006 Montana primary that pitted Jon Tester against an establishment shill Schumer was backing. Schumer's shill was slaughtered in the primary and Tester, of course, went on to defeat the Republican incumbent. Rahm Emanuel tried the same tricks in the House where he attempted to ax John Hall and Jerry McNerney with establishment insiders who would never have been able to inspire the kind of grassroots support to beat the incumbents the way Hall and McNerney did.

But insiders like Schumer never learn. You can't beat a Republican with a Democrat who acts like a Republican. On issue after issue Jim Neal's positions clearly contrast to those of Elizabeth Dole's, while Kay Hagan's are pretty much... more of the same, just not as terrible. Schumer has promised to stay neutral in this race, which would be an excellent idea because polls show the two candidates in a dead heat. But this morning I got a copy of a letter from James Spencer, president of the Campaign Network which works for the Jim Neal campaign, to the executive director the DSCC. Spencer, who told me he's run up against some rough campaigns in the past 35 years of electoral work, but never as bad as this, gave me permission to reprint it.

J.B. Poersch
Executive Director,
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
120 Maryland Avenue NE
Washington, D.C. 20002

April 14, 2008

Dear Mr. Poersch:

I am writing to follow up on a phone call I placed to you regarding the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Jim Neal, Democratic candidate for the U. S. Senate in the North Carolina primary.

Mr. Neal is running a strong grassroots campaign and is tied in the polls with State Senator Kay Hagan.

However, you wouldn't know it by reading the DSCC web site.

The DSCC site includes numerous newspaper articles about Senator Hagan, but none about Mr. Neal. The Race Profile for North Carolina features a positive summary of Senator Hagan's campaign, but Mr. Neal is mentioned only in passing, lumped together with three minor candidates who have not mounted serious campaigns.

This is not an insignificant oversight and will have a serious impact on the Jim Neal campaign. As you know, would-be donors to Mr. Neal are likely to check the DSCC web site for an evaluation of the race. The inaccurate description and the fact that Mr. Neal is all but missing from the official DSCC synopsis of the Senate race serves to discourage donors from writing a check.

My staff has provided the DSCC staff with press coverage of the Neal campaign and other material to facilitate updating the DSCC site. Betsy Lin on the Regional Desk, responding to repeated phone calls by my staff member Curtis Ellis, told him that web site issues were "an internal matter" and that she had no say over what was posted. Consequently, Mr. Ellis then spoke with DSCC Political Director Martha McKenna, who told him the Neal campaign had "more important things to worry about" than what appears on the DSCC web site.

My understanding and concern is that Ms. McKenna was dismissive of the request, and repeatedly and pointedly refused to say that the DSCC site would be updated to give Mr. Neal fair and equal treatment.

This is particularly troubling in light of assurances the DSCC made to both myself and Mr. Neal.

As you recall, in our November 1, 2007 meeting at DSCC headquarters in Washington D.C., attended by Mr. Neal, myself, Ms. McKenna, and Chuck Wolfe of the Victory Fund, you assured us that Mr. Neal would receive equal access to services from the DSCC. And on February 13, Senator Schumer reassured Daily Kos readers the DSCC hasn't endorsed in the primary.

These assurances notwithstanding, I understand the DSCC has the prerogative to endorse any candidate it chooses, at any time and for any reason. If that is the case, please say so openly.

Millions of voters across the country are looking to our Democratic Party and its leaders to set an example and encourage participatory, grassroots democracy in our nation.

I would hope that the DSCC would allow the people of North Carolina to choose their Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate without interference and favoritism from Washington.

With fewer than 30 days remaining before North Carolina's primary, I look forward to your timely response. I am posting a copy of this letter which you should receive tomorrow.


There are many ways to donate to candidates these without going through the DSCC or the DCCC. ActBlue has collected over $43,000,000 for Democratic candidates. It's a much better way to donate and it cuts out the would be king makers like Schumer and Emanuel and puts the money directly into the hands of the candidates' campaigns. On the Blue America ActBlue page, for example, you can donate to Jim Neal or to Greg Fischer or, better yet, to both of them. If you do it today, add one cent as a message to Chuck Schumer to allow Democrats in North Carolina and Kentucky to pick their own nominees.


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