Thursday, June 17, 2004

Kimble Skeptical of the DFA Dozen

Mark Kimble, columnist for the Tucson Citizen and commentator on "Arizona Illustrated" Friday roundtable, questions Dean's chops in local Arizona elections. Kimble doesn't see that Dean, who came in 3rd in the Arizona Presidential Preference Primary after 'screaming his way out of the Democratic presidential race,' can deliver the kind of votes needed to usher his picks into office.

What Mark doesn't take account of is how helpful to a candidate early money and volunteer help can be, especially the experienced volunteer help unlocked by Dean's endorsement. He notes in his column that the day the announcement went out, Nina Trasoff had 60 people volunteering for her campaign - a campaign for Corporation Commission! That is unprecedented. Corporation Commission races don't get that sort of attention except from utility lobbyists. That attention is what is important and powerful about DFA's endorsements of state and local candidates. It demonstrates that there is power in those offices and citizens need to participate in deciding who holds them, as well as more high-profile offices. Of course, Dean's endorsement also shows candidates to the gates of the Dean grassroots fundraising garden and teaches them how to hoe the rows. Access to Dean's fundraising network is tremendously valuable in raising serious money early without having to kowtow to same large contributors on whom both parties have come to over-rely.

I don't know why Kimble, an experienced political animal himself, would discount such advantages. Dean's endorsement is not solely, or even primarily, to garner votes in the general electon on the strength of Dean's personal influence with the electorate, yet that is what Kimble implies is its only value. Ultimately, endorsements don't matter that much in any race, they can lend credibility, but candidates rise and fall primarily on their own merit and skills. Undoubtedly, Dean's endorsement will bring races and candidates to people's attention who might other not been paying attention, and if they like Dean, they may be inclined to vote for that candidate; but that's not the point. The money, the volunteers, the exposure, and the timing of all of it early in the campaign is why the Dean endorsements are useful to these local candidates, not people thinking WWDD (what would Dean do?) in the voting booth.

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