(Ah, the strange whims of voters. – promoted by SFBrianCL)
A week ago, I wrote a diary here asking for suggestions for starting a new blog to cover the race in CA-26. Two nights ago, I watched and reloaded, slightly disbelieving the preliminary results in the Democratic primary in CA-26, David Dreier (R-Closet)’s district. Russ Warner, endorsed by Gen. Wesley Clark, ran on a moderate platform of “protecting the middle class, promoting small business, and supporting our troops, honoring our veterans.” Clark came to the district, raised money for Warner, and even recorded a robocall for him. Warner was supposed to be the best chance in awhile to defeat Dreier, a tough prospect considering Dreier’s power as Rules Committee chairman and the Republican registration advantage in the district (46% R to 35% D).
Meanwhile, Cynthia Rodriguez Matthews, who came out of the closet during the 2004 election and challenged Dreier to do the same ran again. Matthews gave Dreier the closest margin of any reelected congressman in California in 2004 (54-42), thanks in no small part to the anti-Dreier activism of two radio hosts surrounding immigration. Yet Matthews had raised only $516 as of mid-May and $5,361 as of June 1. Her website is a nightmare. Watching the election from afar, I pretty much wrote her off.
So what were the results on election day?
Cynthia Rodriguez Matthews 12,836 47.0 Russ Warner 10,308 37.8 Hoyt Hilsman 4,172 15.2
That was, to say the least, unexpected. So now I pose the question to you: what happened?
I’m trying to decide if a comparison with CA-50 makes sense (of course that was a special election, not a primary). In assessing Busby’s loss, Matt Stoller argues that Bilbray ran to the left of Busby, who ran as a moderate and highlighted the “Culture of Corruption,” but didn’t really motivate the base. Kos sounds the same message, writing:
As I travelled the country extensively on my book tour I heard the same points over and over again, in city after city. Regular activists out in the states understand these concepts. But the DC bubble politicians and consultants simply don’t get it.
The “culture of corruption” is a nice secondary theme to weave into our broader narrative, but it can’t be the message on which we pin our 2006 hopes.”We’re better managers” won’t inspire our troops to head to battle.
This will be a base election. Inspire and motivate.
See Montana Democrats like Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Jon Tester for a taste of how that’s done. The corruption message helped MT Dems take over the governor’s mansion and legislature in 2004, but that was just a sub-thread of their broader message.
They, and others like Paul Hackett would’ve won CA-50.
Maybe Warner lost because, despite his big name endorsement, he didn’t motivate the base. Or maybe it was just the low turnout due to other factors. Or an inexperienced campaign staff. Whatever the reason, it was quite an upset, and something of a mystery.