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Durston for Congress and the Democratic Deciders

Why Didn’t the Democratic Party Support an Outstanding Progressive Candidate?
Dr. Bill Durston, an outstanding progressive Democratic candidate for House of Representatives in California’s 3rd Congressional District, ran a close race against the Republican incumbent, Dan Lungren, in the 2008 general election, losing by a margin of 44% to 49%, with third party candidates accounting for the remaining 6%. The 3rd CD includes portions of Sacramento and Solano counties, and all of Alpine, Amador, and Calaveras counties. Despite his impeccable progressive credentials, a poll showing that he was in a statistical dead heat with Lungren, and a well-organized grass roots campaign, Dr. Durston received little support from the State Democratic Party and no support whatsoever from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Dr. Durston has announced that he will run again in 2010. The purpose of this communication is to help ensure that Dr. Durston will get the support he needs and deserves to be victorious in 2010, and that progressive message he represents will be heard by not only the voters, but also by the state and national Democratic party leaders.

The Facts about Dr. Bill Durston and his campaign for Congress:

  • Dr. Bill Durston, an emergency physician, decorated Marine Corps combat veteran of Vietnam, and past president of the Sacramento Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, ran for Congress in California’s 3rd Congressional District in 2006 on short notice against a Republican career politician, Dan Lungren.

    • Dr. Durston was approached by a local Democratic search committee in January 2006 when no other Democratic candidate had stepped forward.

    • Dr. Durston and his wife, Diane, agreed to run in February 2006 after he tried unsuccessfully himself to find another candidate willing to challenge Lungren.

    • Dr. Durston ran a very credible grassroots campaign in 2006 on a progressive platform, but lost to Lungren by a 21% margin (38% to 59%) in the gerrymandered 3rd Congressional District. (Note: Congressman Jerry McNerney lost to Richard Pombo by exactly the same margin on McNerney’s first run for Congress in the adjacent 11th Congressional District in 2004.)

  • Dr. Durston announced on August 31, 2007, that he would run a second time against Lungren in CD 3.

  • Author Norman Solomon described Dr. Durston as “the most progressive candidate in the country.” (Go to the Durston for Congress website at and check out Bill’s background, his positions on the issues, his articles and speeches, his debates with Lungren, and the song he wrote, “War is Not a Game,” for more information.)

  • Dr. Durston built on his support and experience from the 2006 campaign to build a very credible challenge to Lungren in 2008.

    • On September 19, 2008, the California Secretary of State Office released data showing that the Republican advantage in voter registration in CD3 had slipped from 7% in 2006 to 3.6% in 2008. Additional data released just prior to the election showed the Republican advantage down to 2.2%.

    • The Durston campaign used most of its cash on hand to run powerful TV ads during the last two weeks of September, 2008, and to commission a poll by the respected polling firm, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, and Associates.

      • The Durston campaign reasoned that a poll showing that Durston was competitive would bring in money from the Democratic Party.

      • The Fairbank poll of 500 likely voters, conducted from October 4-6, 2008, showed Durston was within 3 percentage points of Lungren, with a margin of error of 4%.

    • The Durston campaign published a press release on October 7, 2008, with the results of the poll showing that he was in a virtual dead heat with Lungren, and the campaign repeatedly contacted representatives of the state and national Democratic parties.

  • The Durston for Congress campaign received no support whatsoever from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in either the 2006 or 2008 campaigns.

  • The only support that the Durston for Congress campaign received from the California Democratic Committee was a check for $2,100 which the campaign received November 3, 2008, the day before the election.

  • The Durston for Congress campaign did receive support from some state and local Democratic leaders.

    • Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi publicly endorsed Bill, made a personal contribution to the campaign, participated in two press conferences, and gave useful advice to the campaign.

    • Rep. Lynn Woolsey endorsed Bill and contributed $2,000 to the campaign.

    • Rep. Barbara Lee contributed $1,000 late in the campaign but did not publicly endorse Bill.

    • State Assemblyman and Senator-elect, Mark Leno, endorsed Bill and made significant personal contributions to his campaign.

    • Rep. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, the brother in law of Jean Pomeroy, a local Durston for Congress supporter, was Bill’s greatest advocate with the DCCC.

    • Other state and national Democratic leaders who endorsed Bill included Rep. Lois Capps, State Controller John Chiang, State Assemblyman Jared Huffman, State Assemblyman Dave Jones, State Senator Sheila Kuehl, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, State Senator Mike Machado, State Senator Darrell Steinberg, and State Assemblywoman Lois Wolk.

  • Democratic Representatives Doris Matsui, Mike Thompson, and Jerry McNerney in districts adjoining CD 3 did not publicly endorse Dr. Bill Durston for Congress.

Comparing State and National Support for other Sacramento Area Campaigns with the Lack of Support for the Durston Campaign

  • Dr. Durston made it clear that he did not want his campaign to detract from the chances of other good Democratic candidates getting elected, including state assembly candidate Allyson Huber, in the overlapping 10th Assembly District, and congressional candidate Charlie Brown, in the adjacent 4th Congressional District. Durston communicated frequently with Huber, with whom he shared an office, and with Brown, both of whom he regards as personal friends.

  • Dr. Durston’s altruism notwithstanding, the difference in state and national Democratic support for Huber and Brown as compared with the lack of support for Durston was striking.

    • The State Democratic Party committed substantial amounts of money and manpower to help Huber. Voters reported receiving as many as 10 different mailers from the Huber campaign on a single day. An official Democratic Party mailer sent to voters in the Elk Grove area failed to even list Durston as the Democratic candidate for Congress.

    • Both the state and national Democratic parties committed substantial amounts of money and manpower to the Brown campaign, in the highly Republican 4th CD.

    • Both the Huber and Brown races currently remain too close to call, with their Republican opponents slightly ahead in recounts.

    • Neither Huber nor Brown come close to Durston in terms of progressive credentials or positions.

    • According to the October 15 report from, the Durston campaign raised $556,819, with only 4% coming from PAC’s, 81% coming from individual contributions, and 14% ($77,264) coming from Bill and his wife.

Questions Raised and Directions for the Future

  • The striking lack of state and national Democratic Party support for the Durston for Congress race, despite an outstanding candidate in a competitive race, raises important questions:

    • Was Dr. Durston merely overlooked by the state and national Democratic parties, or, because of his progressive credentials and positions was he unwelcome in the delegation and the Democratic Caucus?

    • Now that it has been demonstrated that Lungren is vulnerable in the 3rd CD, will the Democratic Party put up a “centrist” candidate to run against Durston in the 2010 Democratic primary, similar to the approach it took against McNerney in the 2006 primary?

  • Suggested actions to ensure that Dr. Durston will get the support he needs and deserves to be victorious in 2010, and that the progressive message he represents will be heard by not only the voters, but also by the state and national Democratic party leaders:

    • Contribute now to the Durston for Congress campaign via the Durston for Congress website (

    • Contact state and national Democratic party leaders and demand that they give Dr. Durston the support he deserves

    • Contact fellow progressives and make them aware of the Durston for Congress campaign

    • Contact the leadership of the Progressive Caucus and ask them to launch a full scale investigation of Lungren’s ethical lapse in taking a luxury vacation to Hawaii paid for by special interests, despite House rules specifically intended to prohibit such trips.

    • Contact Democratic representatives of districts contiguous with CA-03 and ask them to show some political courage themselves in publicly endorsing Dr. Bill Durston for Congress and in giving him financial assistance.

    • Contact Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ask her to not only endorse Dr. Bill Durston for Congress, but to send him the money that she helped raise for Rep. Doris Matsui, a perennial shoo-in in the highly Democratic 5th CD, when Pelosi attended a fundraiser for Matsui in Bill’s district.

The Bottom Line

Don’t let a great progressive candidate get hung out to dry again by the state and national Democratic parties. Progressives Unite! Support Dr. Bill Durston for Congress!

Progressive Slate for DNC — election at E-Board June 13-15

From a letter sent today:

June 12, 2008

Dear E-Board Member,

We’ve appreciated the chance to speak with you on the phone or communicate

by email during the course of this short campaign for the DNC.

We are committed to the concept that DNC members should engage in ongoing

dialogue that includes regular conference-call reports and discussions

with E-Board members.

We wish to thank the many E-Board members who have encouraged our

candidacies. And we appreciate the endorsement of our slate by Rep. Lynn

Woolsey, who continues to inspire us as co-chair of the Congressional

Progressive Caucus and a visionary opponent of the Iraq war.

We thank the next senator from SD-9, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, the

mother of Clean Money, for her kind words: “It would be very helpful to

add more progressive voices to the DNC, and I am pleased to endorse these

hard-working progressives for the position.”

And we’re also gratified to receive the endorsement of Jamie Beutler,

Chair of the Rural Caucus CDP, who said: “I am pleased to endorse this

slate of six. They are grassroots activists who do what they say they will

do. They are the kind of people who make our country strong.”

As candidates for the DNC, we make solemn promises to you as constituents

and E-Board Members, and also to members of the entire DSCC and ultimately

all California Democrats.

* We will be tireless progressive voices in defense of our Democratic core

principles on the DNC committees on which we serve.

* We will conscientiously attend DNC and Regional Caucus meetings, and we

will make the most of the networking opportunities with the DNC, bringing

“best practices” from around the country for consideration by the CDP.

* We will support Chairman Dean’s 50-State Strategy and endeavor to apply

that model to California’s 58-County Strategy, and, ultimately, to

implement a “3,077-County Strategy” nationwide.

* We will report back to E-Board Members and the DSCC about the work of

the DNC and seek input about concerns and priorities. This process should

include conference calls open to all E-Board Members, a page on the CDP

website devoted to DNC business, and a conversational session to be

scheduled at each E-Board and state convention.

In this time of peril and opportunity for our country and the world,

seriousness of purpose and dedication to grassroots principles of

democracy are essential. In that spirit, we ask for your vote.


Karen Bernal

Mal Burnstein

Mayme Hubert

Barbara Lee, Member of Congress

Ralph Miller

Norman Solomon