Michael: Moveon Ruffles Shachter Over CD8 NomninationsMoveOn.org sponsored a nomination contest when Kolbe announced his retirement. Asking for members to nominate their favored candidates, they narrowed the field to 4 candidates. Unfortunately, two of them - Tom Volgy and Mary Judge Ryan - have not announced, and may never announce, their candidacies. Two of them - Gabrielle Giffords and Jeff Latas - have. But at least two announced candidates - Francine Shachter and Alex Rodriguez - did not make the cut. And one candidate who is widely expected to run - Eva Bacal - apparently didn't make the cut either.
The validity and the method by which influence and money may be directed to certain campaigns by Moveon's process concerns at least one candidate; and I wouldn't be surprised if her opinion reflected the feelings of some of the others who haven't been put on Moveon's short list (especially since two of the slots are taken by person's who haven't made the plunge).
Francine Shacter wrote the following open letter, and I decided to share it in full:
My name is Francine Shacter and on November 7, I declared my candidacy for Congress in the 8th Congressional District of Arizona. I have just received your email listing the four top candidates nominated by your mailing list to run for this seat. I was sorry to see that my name is not among them.
I was interested in your comment that “crucial decisions are being made every day right now, as potential candidates decide whether to run and the Parties decide which candidates they'll support. Usually this happens behind closed doors and you only have a say when you are presented with one, or a couple, candidates on the primary ballot.” You are, in effect, doing the same thing. Your request for nominees went to your mailing list which may not be behind closed doors but is limited to your membership. I am a long time liberal, progressive Democrat. I have worked to elect progressive Democrats since before that term “progressive Democrat” was coined.
You have come up with four people who got the most votes. Speaking as a retired statistician, I think you should state the universe from which these nominations came. Otherwise you are in the same category as the folks behind closed doors that you inveigh against in your emails. By intruding yourself in the political process in CD 8, you are creating another “closed door” group.
The way candidates get on the ballot is by running a campaign and getting enough signatures to a nominating petition to meet the requirements of the State. Anyone who can meet these requirements can run for public office. Therefore, your comment that “the Parties decide which candidates they’ll support and you [the voter] only have a say when you are presented with one, or a couple, candidates on the primary ballot” is not accurate. In fact, a truly open primary is the best way for the electorate to select the best candidate.
With the exception of Jeff Latas, who decided to run and announced his candidacy on November 11, the three persons on your list had no intention of running against an incumbent because of the difficulties inherent in that process. Francine Shacter (announced November 7) and Jeff Latas (announced November 11) were the only ones willing to run in a primary and let the electorate decide which of us should face Kolbe, the incumbent. That should tell the world one thing about Shacter and Latas: these are people who have the courage of their convictions and the guts to put themselves and their positions on the issues before the voters.
Is Shachter's concern just sour grapes?
I don't think so. She raises a very valid concern regarding the mindless piling-on of early money and support - very little of it informed by much beyond a certain credibility, name recognition, and momentum. Is that really how we want to be selecting our candidates? Do we really do our party or our democracy a service by winnowing our choices down to a 'managable' field of choices so as not to confuse the 'consumer'?
Our instinct is that the earlier a nominee is annointed, the stronger that candidate will be in the general election. But just the opposite may be true, in fact. The testing of a hard-fought and substantive primary season with diverse candidates is the best proving ground for a party's nominee. Short-circuiting that process by limiting certain candidates' access to the voters by starving 'marginal' or 'dark-horse' candidates of money, media, and manpower may only serve to further narrow the range of debate with-in the party and weaken the resulting candidate's appeal to a wider electorate.
The GOP has, I believe, fallen hostage to a small and powerfully mobilized cadre of primary voters that have driven GOP nominees ever-further to the right. I think this will eventually destroy the GOP as a national coalition party. We do not want to emulate the 'catastrophic success' of the GOP's model of primary competition. What appears to be strength and cohesion may in fact be only careful stage management and the suppression of dissenting voices.
Early money may be like yeast, but it would behoove us to remember that some strains of yeast can cause a virulent infection