Friday, September 29, 2006

Things Heat Up in the 8th Congressional District

Things Heat up In the 8th Congressional District

By Erin Hartnett

With just over a month until Election Day (November 7, 2006), congressional campaigns have gone into overdrive with their fundraising efforts while spending the big bucks. At the forefront of this extreme cash flow is Illinois’ very own 8th Congressional District. Although the House of Representatives seat is currently held by first-term Democrat Melissa Bean, the Republican Party is sparing no efforts in having its candidate of choice, David McSweeney reclaim a district it held for the three decades prior to 2004. But what is an election without an independent running? Alongside Bean and McSweeney is independent Moderate candidate Bill Scheurer.


Melissa Bean
First elected in 2004, Representative Melissa Bean considers herself a moderate Democrat, often voting against party lines. Although she has gained immense support from the business community (most recently endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), the Congresswoman’s vote in favor of the 2005 CAFTA Implementation Bill isolated her labor constituents (a group that largely contributed to her success in 2004).

Although she has not received a number of her previous union endorsements many have withheld their condemnations—in an attempt to keep the seat Democratic. Unopposed in the primary, Bean had $1.75 million left from 2004 to jumpstart her fundraising efforts, along with the backing of DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (IL-5).

David McSweeney
This is investment banker David McSweeney’s second attempt at the seat (he ran in 1998), and his political experience includes five years as a Palatine Township Trustee (1995-2000) and an internship with the Reagan-Bush Campaign (1984). He won March’s 6-way Republican primary, but at a great cost—spending almost $1.7 million of his own money for the nomination.

Although largely self-financed, McSweeney has gotten a substantial hand from many of the Republican Party’s heavy-hitters, with fundraising appearances from Vice President Dick Cheney, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani, and Arizona Senator (and likely 2008 presidential candidate) John McCain.

Bill Scheurer
Running as a Moderate is entrepreneur Bill Scheurer. Despite running for a State House seat in 2004, he lacks political experience (he was previously an attorney and a CEO).

With two children serving in the military, Scheurer has focused his attention upon the war in Iraq, calling for troop withdrawal and increased benefits for members of the armed forces. He has received endorsements from a number of unions, including the Teamsters, Unite Here, and the Service Employees International Union. His candidacy has been welcomed by McSweeney (who invited Scheurer to take part in all three of the debates), as he has the potential to divert needed support from Bean’s liberal base.


Both Bean and McSweeney have embraced controversial views on current hot-button issues such as immigration and national security, while Scheurer has taken a more ‘liberal’ position.

While in office, Bean voted in favor of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (HR 6061), Border Security Bill (HR 4437), and Real ID Act of 2005 (HR 418), all against her party’s position. She also voted in favor of the Patriot Act Reauthorization bill, which was strongly opposed by Democrats.

McSweeney has supported an increase in caps for legal immigration, but staunchly opposes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Specifically, he has voiced support for the Sensenbrenner bill but feels that there should be exemptions made for religious organizations.

Scheurer supports a guest worker program, along with citizenship tracked opportunities for undocumented immigrants. He has opposed the Real ID Act and the Sensenbrenner bill, but supports efforts to make hiring an illegal immigrant a felony.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Dose of Politics: How it Really Works

They were able to pass anti-immigration legislation in the House last week, quite sneakily to add and now they're facing a "standoff" with the Senate.

That's right, Illinois' own, Dennis Hastert (R-14) has vowed to keep a defense policy bill from coming onto the floor if the Senate does not add the anti-immigration provisions that have divided so many.

The anti-immigration bills were added on to a DHS Appropriations bill that outlined the Department of Homeland Security's budget for the following fiscal year.

House-Senate Disagreement Could Halt Defense Bill

By Jonathan Weisman

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, September 25, 2006; Page A06

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) -- in a showdown with Senate Republicans -- has vowed he will not bring a major defense policy bill to the chamber floor this week unless Senate negotiators add a federal court security bill and a controversial House anti-illegal-immigration measure, senior House leadership aides say.

The last-minute confrontation is pitting the House's most powerful member against Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.), who has said he will not add extraneous measures to the annual defense authorization bill unless they can garner unanimous support from Democrats and Republicans alike. House leadership aides are emphasizing the court measure, which would bolster the protection of judges in the aftermath of the shooting of a judge in Atlanta and the killing of a judge's family in Chicago.

The court measure has bipartisan support and is being pushed by Hastert and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the Senate Democratic leadership's second in command. It authorizes additional funding for U.S. marshals to protect the judiciary, increases penalties for crimes against federal judges, bolsters protections for jurors, and funds security enhancements at state courthouses. Those provisions were included in the Senate's version of the defense policy bill at Democrats' insistence. But support for the measure has begun to fray after House members added a provision that would allow judges to carry concealed weapons.

The real controversy, however, lies with the immigration measure and Hastert's insistence that Warner accept both provisions as a package. The Community Protection Act passed in the House overwhelmingly last week, 328 to 95, but it has garnered opposition from Latino organizations and civil liberties groups.

It would allow the indefinite detention of some illegal immigrants who are protected from deportation by political asylum laws. That provision has garnered interest in the Washington area, with its large community from El Salvador and violence among Salvadoran gangs. The bill also would expedite the removal of immigrant criminals, denying them some court access, and would broaden the definitions of gang violence to facilitate detention and deportation.

Senate Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union have said the measure would expand such definitions so broadly that it could hurt legal immigrants, who would be whisked out of the country with little recourse. Warner has deferred to Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the Armed Services Committee's ranking Democrat, in refusing to accept the package on the defense policy bill. With only a week left before Congress recesses for the fall campaigns, a showdown could jeopardize the measure's passage.

"The speaker is not going to let the bill move until these critical security items get in," said Ron Bonjean, Hastert's spokesman.

House GOP aides are urging Durbin to bring Senate Democrats into line on the issue. But Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said the Senate minority whip is feeling no real pressure. The addition of the concealed-weapons provision has soured Durbin on the court security bill, and the immigration bill is garnering strong Democratic opposition, he said.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

House to Tackle Border Security Measures

The House wants to build the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and is going through the backdoor.

The House added enforcement only immigration provisions to a DHS Appropriations bill and they are expected to pass the House.

House to Tackle Border Security Measures

Associated Press Writer
Published September 21, 2006,
8:33 AM CDT

WASHINGTON -- While the Senate considers a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border, the House is going underground, working on legislation to crack down on those who would smuggle illegal immigrants and drugs through cross-border tunnels.

The tunnel bill was one of three border security measures the House was taking up Thursday as part of the pre-election effort by congressional Republicans to show they are serious about stopping the flow of illegal immigrants across the nation's porous borders.

"Securing our borders is a major step forward in addressing comprehensive immigration reform," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said as he urged Congress to act to close the borders before moving to broader immigration reform.

The Senate in May gave strong support to legislation that would set up a guest worker program and outline a path by which the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already in the country could work toward legal status and eventual citizenship.

But there's been little progress in reaching a compromise with the House, which last December passed a bill that tightens the border and cracks down on undocumented workers but says nothing about opening a course for citizenship, which many House Republicans consider tantamount to amnesty.President Bush supports a broader approach including guest worker and citizenship provisions. In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, Bush said he would sign a fencebuilding bill as part of efforts to strengthen the border. "I would view this as an interim step," he said. "I don't view this as the final product. And I will keep urging people to have a comprehensive reform.

"On Wednesday the House passed, on a partisan 228-196 vote, legislation that would eventually require voters to show proof of citizenship. Republican supporters said it would stop immigrants from voting illegally. Democrats said it would disenfranchise legal voters, particularly minorities, the poor and the elderly who would have difficulty coming up with documents to prove citizenship.

But with the midterm elections only seven weeks away and Congress slated to recess next week, GOP leaders have made border security, along with security-related bills on terrorist detainees and wiretapping, their most pressing business.The House last week approved the bill, now before the Senate, that would build a 700-mile fence along one-third of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The three bills before the House on Thursday contain many of the same provisions of the larger border security bill passed last December. One possible strategy is to include these smaller bills in a 2007 Homeland Security spending bill the House and Senate are now negotiating.The tunnel bill would criminalize the construction or use of unauthorized passageways under the border with a prison term of up to 20 years.

The other bills would make it easier to detain and deport noncitizen gang members and criminals, and clarify the authority of state and local law enforcement officials who volunteer to help in detaining illegal immigrants.The bill the House passed Wednesday, meanwhile, would require everyone to present a photo ID before voting in federal elections by 2008. By 2010, voters would have to have photo IDs that certified they were citizens. In response to criticism that this would be a burden for the poor, the bill stipulates that states must provide the identification cards free of charge to those who can't afford them.

"Supporters of this Republican voter suppression bill will claim this bill is about preventing noncitizens from voting," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. "It's just the opposite. It's a bill designed to prevent citizens from voting.

"Republicans said photo IDs are already common practice in cashing checks, buying alcohol or boarding planes, and there was no intent to keep voters from the polls. "We want everyone to participate, to vote, and to know that their vote counts," said Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said he was initially denied a voter ID required under a Missouri state law because he doesn't have a driver's license and couldn't immediately produce a passport or birth certificate. His congressional ID card was not accepted.

A Missouri court earlier this month struck down the state law, and on Tuesday a state superior court judge in Georgia ruled that that state's law requiring a photo ID was an unconstitutional condition for voting.It was uncertain whether the Senate would take up the voter ID bill this year.The voter ID bill is H.R. 4844.The fence bill is H.R. 6061.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Between the Lines

As election coverage continues to heat up, newspapers and websites are full of reporters articulating their political views and party loyalties. However, many have chosen to express their opinions more subtly through word choice and style.

In "Democrat Could Be 1st Muslim Congressman," Martiga Lohn chooses to include colloquial and grammatically-incorrect quotes ("We are with you. We do these things together, y'all, and we don't let nobody break us apart.") and unrelated information (late parking tickets, etc.) to make Minnesota State Representative and Congressional Candidate Keith Ellison appear uneducated and unqualified.

This is far from reality, as Ellison has a BA in Economics from Wayne State University, a JD from the University of Minnesota Law School, and has served in the Minnesota State House of Representatives since 2002.

His popularity has been attributed solely to his minority status ("others clearly relished the chance to elect a minority to Congress from Minnesota for the first time"), without mention of his voting record or progressive issue positions.

With November 7th rapidly approaching, these media mischaracterizations are bound to become stronger and more prevalent--making it increasingly necessary to separate fact from fiction.

Democrat Could Be 1st Muslim Congressman

The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 13, 2006; 12:44 PM

MINNEAPOLIS -- State lawmaker Keith Ellison didn't let questions about his past slow down his campaign to become the first Muslim in Congress. On Tuesday, voters responded to his liberal message calling for peace, withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and universal health care. He beat three contenders in the Democratic primary in a Minneapolis-area district long dominated by his party.

"You're not on your own," Ellison told supporters at an Egyptian restaurant in a speech that had the call-and-response of a revival meeting. "We are with you. We do these things together, y'all, and we don't let nobody break us apart."

Ellison, a 43-year-old criminal defense lawyer who converted to Islam as a college student, overcame questions about late parking tickets, overdue taxes and his past ties to the Nation of Islam. He has since denounced black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan and was endorsed by a Minneapolis Jewish newspaper. He has also pledged to improve his personal record-keeping.

Ellison courted the liberal wing of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party by comparing himself to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone _ and many voters responded. Others clearly relished the chance to elect a minority to Congress from Minnesota for the first time; Ellison is black.

Somali voters _ many voting for the first time _ appeared energized by Ellison's candidacy. Election official Hashi Abdi said he had to tell several people to leave their Ellison signs outside the polling area.

"A lot of the Muslim community have a lot of sympathy for this guy," Abdi said.
Though Ellison was the party's endorsed candidate, the lure of the safely Democratic seat drew plenty of challengers willing to test him. In the end, though, he handily beat his closest rival, Mike Erlandson, by about 10 points. Erlandson is a former chief of staff to the incumbent, retiring U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, and had Sabo's support.

Ellison will be a heavy favorite in the November election, when he will face Republican Alan Fine and the Independence Party's Tammy Lee. In the 2004 election, about seven in 10 voters backed Sabo and Democrat John Kerry for president.

© 2006 The Associated Press

Voters painting state blue

Illinois has been a “blue” state for as long as most of us can remember. What does being a blue state mean? It means it’s a solid Democrat state and usually candidates are confident they will win when running on the Democratic ticket.

Now, voters are identifying themselves even more as true blues. Illinois voters are making it a point to show their discontentment with the current administration by aligning themselves even more with the Democrats.

With several increasingly heated races, such as the Gubernatorial race, it will probably have an impact on both party alignment and possible voter turnout in this midterm election.

Voters painting state blue
More choose Democrat over Republican label, survey saysBy Rick Pearson

Tribune political reporter

Published September 13, 2006
The percentage of Illinois voters who call themselves Democrats is at its highest pre-election level in more than a decade, posing a problem for Republicans trying to win the governor's mansion and key congressional seats, a Tribune/WGN-TV poll shows.

The poll found 43 percent of voters identified themselves as Democrats while a little more than a quarter of the voters identified themselves as Republicans. The 17 percentage point difference ranks among the most polarized partisan spreads in more than 16 years of Tribune surveys taken prior to an election day.

The results of the poll echo surveys taken nationally that show an increase in voters lining up in the Democratic column, a factor attributed to dissatisfaction with the Republican White House and GOP-led Congress on issues ranging from the war in Iraq to economic uncertainties.

The findings of the Tribune poll indicate the potential for trouble in Illinois for Republicans trying to revitalize a political party beset by scandal and infighting. The survey was conducted in the days following the sentencing of former Gov. George Ryan, whose corruption-tainted tenure helped end a quarter century of Republican administrations.

Because Illinois has no true partisan registration procedure, survey respondents were asked if they "considered themselves" to be a Democrat, a Republican or an independent/middle-of-the-road voter.

The findings largely represent the mood of the voter, which can fluctuate greatly due to a variety of political or news events. The survey of 600 registered voters likely to vote Nov. 7 has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. The results are considered very fluid and could change closer to the election.

Yet the findings of the poll, conducted Thursday through Sunday, could be problematic for Republican governor candidate Judy Baar Topinka (who faces a 12 percentage-point deficit in her challenge to Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich), for GOP candidates in the suburban congressional races and for Republicans in down-ballot races.

Chris Mooney, professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said the poll findings reflected recent dissatisfaction with President Bush's administration and anti-war sentiment on top of the state's longer-term demographic trend toward the Democrats.

"The population has become more and more urban, it's become more and more non-white," Mooney said. "This [national] short-term bump toward Democrats is exacerbating the long-term trend."

Previous Tribune polling conducted during the last 16 years by Market Shares Corp. of Mt. Prospect, covering seven previous general elections, found nearly the same trend toward Democrats in the 1996 presidential election year. That year, President Bill Clinton was seeking re-election against a backdrop of investigation and criticism.

In 1996, 42 percent of Illinois voters identified themselves as Democrats in the October preceding the election while 27 percent aligned with Republicans--a 15 percentage point spread. Clinton ended up winning Illinois in 1996 with 54 percent of the vote and Democrats retook control of the Illinois House from Republicans after a two-year hiatus.

Traditionally, Democrats have enjoyed a plurality of the state's voters, meaning Republicans need to capture the support of their party faithful as well as a healthy majority of self-described independents to win. In 1994, when the GOP kept the governor's chair and swept all statewide offices and control of the General Assembly, the percentage of voters who identified themselves as Democrats fell to 33 percent while Republicans were at 31 percent and independents were at 33 percent.

But the most recent Tribune poll found that even in longtime Republican-leaning regions, the GOP no longer might have the upper hand. In the collar counties, 31 percent of voters aligned themselves with Republicans while 29 percent identified with Democrats. Outside the Chicago metropolitan region, voters split equally at 36 percent between Democrats and Republicans.

"Here in Illinois, the Republicans are doing nothing to stop the bleeding so people will move more toward Democrats and the Democratic label to reaffirm their concerns at the national level," said Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, the veteran Southwest Side lawmaker who also chairs the state Democratic Party.

Andy McKenna, the state's Republican chairman, acknowledged the GOP in Illinois suffered "tough years" in 2002 and 2004. But, he said, with Democrats in control of the state, "they're going to be judged by their leadership and I think the deficiencies in their leadership are beginning to show up" in the form of investigations into the Blagojevich administration.

Mooney, the U. of I. at Springfield professor, said he believed the party identification among voters might not be a significant factor in high profile races such as governor, where the candidates and their positions are well known.

"The partisan effect is the default when [the voters] don't have anything else to judge a candidate by," Mooney said. "You don't get that at the gubernatorial level. People know who Rod Blagojevich is and who Judy Baar Topinka is and more people will know by Election Day."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

In a Pivotal Year, GOP Plans to Get Personal

With the election around the corner (November 7th), the Republican Party is taking a different approach on campaigning. Most mailings are no longer about the Republican candidate running in that district. Rather, they are mailers designed to catch the reader's eye.

Vibrant mailings that accuse Democrat candidates of sitting on ‘piles’ of money, giving away social security benefits to ‘illegal immigrants’, and opening borders to help with illegal immigration are becoming plentiful in heavily contested races. Illinois’ own sixth congressional district, where Tammy Duckworth (D) and Peter Roskam (R) are fighting tooth and nail for the vacant House of Representatives seat, is one of those areas where such mailings are making an appearance.

Will the Democrats come back and fight fire with fire? Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL), Chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee, certainly seems to be doing his homework and digging up dirt on Republican candidates.

In a Pivotal Year, GOP Plans to Get Personal
Millions to Go to Digging Up Dirt on Democrats

By Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza

Washington Post Staff Writers

Sunday, September 10, 2006; Page A01

Republicans are planning to spend the vast majority of their sizable financial war chest over the final 60 days of the campaign attacking Democratic House and Senate candidates over personal issues and local controversies, GOP officials said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which this year dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates, plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads.

The hope is that a vigorous effort to "define" opponents, in the parlance of GOP operatives, can help Republicans shift the midterm debate away from Iraq and limit losses this fall. The first round of attacks includes an ad that labeled a Democratic candidate in Wisconsin "Dr. Millionaire" and noted that he has sued 80 patients.

"Opposition research is power," said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), the NRCC chairman.

"Opposition research is the key to defining untested opponents."

The Republican National Committee, meanwhile, has enlisted veteran party strategist Terry Nelson to run a campaign that will coordinate with Senate Republicans on ads that similarly will rely on the best of the worst that researchers have dug up on Democrats. The first ad run by the new RNC effort criticizes Ohio Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) for voting against proposals designed to toughen border protection and deport illegal immigrants.

Because challengers tend to be little-known compared with incumbents, they are more vulnerable to having their public image framed by the opposition through attacks and unflattering personal revelations.

And with polls showing the Republicans' House and Senate majorities in jeopardy, party strategists said they have concluded that their best chance to prevent big Democratic gains is a television and direct-mail blitz over the next eight weeks aimed at raising enough questions about Democratic candidates that voters decide they are unacceptable choices.

"When you run in an adverse political environment, you try to localize and personalize the race as much as you can," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said.

In a memo released last week, Cole, who is running to succeed Reynolds at the NRCC, expanded on that strategy. The memo recommended that vulnerable incumbents spend $20,000 on a research "package" to find damaging material about challengers and urged that they "define your opponent immediately and unrelentingly."

GOP officials said internal polling shows Republicans could limit losses to six to 10 House seats and two or three Senate seats if the strategy -- combined with the party's significant financial advantage and battled-tested turnout operation -- proves successful. Democrats need to pick up 15 seats to win control of the House and six to regain power in the Senate.

Against some less experienced and little-known opponents, said Matt Keelen, a Republican lobbyist heavily involved in House campaigns, "It will take one or two punches to fold them up like a cheap suit."

Republicans plan to attack Democratic candidates over their voting records, business dealings, and legal tussles, the GOP officials said.

John Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University and the author of a book on negative advertising, said Republicans and Democrats alike lack positive issues on which to run because of divisions over the war and economic policy. This will be a "very negative campaign and probably a more negative campaign than any in recent memory," Geer said.

As Republicans try to localize races, Democrats' hopes for the most part hinge on being able to nationalize the election and turn it into a referendum on the Iraq war, President Bush, and the performance of the Republican Congress -- all faring poorly in polls this year.

Bush will try to make terrorism the issue nationally, casting the election as a choice between two distinct approaches for protecting the nation from attack. Beyond that, however, most Republicans want to distance their elections from the national context.

That strategy is born of necessity. Republicans are alarmed by the large number of House and Senate incumbents who are trailing or tied in their internal polling. Many are attracting the support of less than 45 percent of likely voters -- a danger zone for any incumbent 60 days before an election. The political rule of thumb is that incumbents rarely draw a majority of voters who make up their minds in the days shortly before Election Day.

History shows how the combination of opposition research and negative advertising can work. In 2000, Republicans unleashed a furious attack on the spending practices of Democratic House candidate Linda Chapin, including her purchase of an $18,500 bronze frog as a legislator in Florida. Chapin, then the favorite to win an open Florida House seat, lost to Republican Ric Keller. That same election cycle, Republicans dug up a tape of state Rep. Eleanor Jordan (D-Ky.) asking to speed up a vote so she could attend a fundraiser, an image that destroyed her chances of knocking off Rep. Anne M. Northup (R).

This year, the challenge is tougher, as national polling shows voters dissatisfied with the party in power and ready for a change.

"When all [Republicans] do is launch potshots, they look like they're trying to cover up the fact that they have no solutions" said Phil Singer, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

As in past elections, the bulk of negative advertising this year probably will be delivered by party committees -- a strategy that allows the candidates to distance themselves from the trash-talking messages that turn off some voters.

Wisconsin's 8th District offers an example. Earlier this summer, the NRCC sent a young staff member to the district for one week to look through court records, government and medical documents, and local newspapers to find embarrassing information about physician Steve Kagen, one of the leading Democratic candidates in an important swing district, an NRCC aide said. The researcher discovered that Kagen's allergy clinic has sued more than 80 patients, mostly for failing to pay their bills.

A new NRCC ad airing in the Green Bay area, the district's main media market, warns: "What Dr. Millionaire doesn't want you to know is his clinic left more than 80 patients behind -- suing them. That's right, suing more than 80 patients."

In recent elections, Democratic officials have complained that Republicans are much better at opposition research. But Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who chair the Democrats' House and Senate campaign committees, have invested more heavily in research. Notably, the researchers dig not only into Republicans, but also their own candidates. This allows Democrats to anticipate what is coming and be ready to respond quickly.

One Democratic research success this year came when Emanuel's staff combed though the archives of several universities to find a copy of an article Colorado Republican candidate Rick O'Donnell wrote for an obscure publication in the mid-1990s. A researcher eventually found the article at George Washington University. In it, O'Donnell argued that Social Security should be abolished -- a revelation that was highlighted in three sharply worded DSCC mailings in the district.

Direct-mail appeals often carry the most negative and potentially damaging messages. Dan Hazelwood, a leading GOP direct mail consultant, said that if a hypothetical Democratic candidate favors the establishment of a garbage dump in a section of the district, for instance, it makes more sense to "narrow-cast" this message by mail to the people most affected rather than buying an expensive, districtwide television ad.

The RNC's expanded role in part reflects concerns that Senate Republicans may not have enough money to take the fight to Democrats. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, under Chair Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), had $15 million less to spend than the DSCC at the end of July. But, the RNC is planning to make up the difference. The committee ended July with nearly $44 million in the bank, four times what the Democratic National Committee had on hand.

In setting up a separate arm to spend money on Senate races, the RNC is altering its past practice. In the past, the RNC simply transferred a large sum of money to the House and Senate campaign committees and let the chairmen decide how to spend it. This year, Nelson -- a former top official in the Bush reelection effort and political strategist for House Republicans -- will work with consultants Tony Feather and Curt Anderson to oversee the TV and direct-mail campaign, which by law must remain independent of coordination directly with candidates.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Democrats launch Christian Web site

In an attempt to gain the religious vote, the Democrat Party has taken a different avenue and begun to appeal to voters though the internet (see the article below). Religious voters and Church-goers normally tend to side with the Republicans on social policies such as abortions. The exception to that rule is however, the African American community.

American Muslims have been split between social and moral policies. Most tend to align themselves with Democratic economic and social welfare policies, going along with tenants of social justice and charity in Islam. However, when it comes to moral issues such as abortion, the community tends to be a bit more conservative, aligning itself with Republican views.

Could an appeal like this be directed toward the American Muslim voting population in the future?

Possibly. Until then, it will be geared toward more mainstream and established communities.

image from

Democrats launch Christian Web site

Group hopes to dent advantage for GOP

By Frank James

Washington Bureau

Published September 6, 2006-- Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON -- A group of Christian Democrats seeking to compete against Republicans for the vote of religious Americans has started a Web site meant to serve as a forum for like thinkers and a political tool to raise money and volunteers for Democratic candidates who share their values.

The new site,, is partly the brainchild of David Wilhelm, a former Democratic National Committee chairman who also managed campaigns for Mayor Richard M. Daley and President Bill Clinton.

Jesse Lava, another co-founder who worked for Wilhelm at the DNC and is an Evanston native, is the site's executive director.

"The seed was planted after '04 when there was a lot of hand-wringing going on and a lot of people were wondering how on Earth Democrats failed to convey a sense of faith and values in that election," Lava told reporters in a Tuesday teleconference.

"What David and I believed was what we needed was some vehicle that would help shape the national debate on faith and politics," Lava said.

"So the main thing was to help reframe the values debate to be beyond wedge-issue politics, beyond fear and division and more focused on justice and the common good," Lava said. "So our site is explicitly a Christian community. It is explicitly a Democratic community."

Lava said the site's founders hoped it would be a place where Christian Democrats could share ideas through blogs and other features and organize efforts to boost particular candidates who reflect their values.

National surveys have repeatedly shown that the most frequent churchgoers tend to be Republicans while those who attend church less frequently are more often Democrats.The exception to that would be African-Americans, who comprise one of the strongest constituencies within the Democratic Party's base despite as a group having very high rates of church attendance.

Republicans have appealed to religious voters, particularly Christians, by prominently campaigning against abortion, gay marriage and other issues.For years, progressive Christian groups such as Sojourners have tried to swing the debate away from those wedge issues and more toward such social justice issues as poverty and health care for those without insurance.

The creators of the new site say they intend to be more overtly partisan than Sojourners, filling a niche that had gone unoccupied.

This week, the group is focusing on helping Democrat Bob Casey, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania against Republican incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum. Casey holds a substantial lead in the polls over Santorum.

The goal is to use the site to raise money and volunteers for Casey this week and other candidates in future weeks leading up to the Nov. 7 elections. While the Web site's organizers hope to have an impact on the upcoming midterm election, their focus is particularly aimed at the 2008 presidential election.

One of's leaders is a Tennessee Democrat, Roy Herron, his party's leader in the state Senate.

A folksy anti-abortion advocate, Herron is a former minister who probably would be an attractive candidate to numerous people who attend the huge, conservative-oriented churches that have provided significant support to GOP candidates.

"I'm tired of politicians and partisans and preachers spelling God G-O-P," Herron told reporters Tuesday. "Now many Americans think Jesus never rode a donkey and today only rides an elephant. The truth is God cannot be held hostage by a political party. And American Christians should not be, either."'s advisory council includes such Democratic political figures as Mike McCurry, who was Clinton's press secretary, and Minyon Moore, who advised Clinton and Jesse Jackson Sr.It also includes well-known clergymen such as Chicagoan Rev. Leon Finney, president of the Woodlawn Organization and pastor of Metropolitan Apostolic Church, and Rev. Jim Wall, an activist who also was editor of Christian Century.

Friday, September 01, 2006

More Immigration Demonstrations Planned

D.C. Rally to Draw From East Coast

Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 31, 2006; Page A12

After four months of relative quiet, immigration reform advocates are mobilizing a new round of protests in Washington and other cities to put pressure on a returning Congress and reinvigorate a Latino movement that awakened in massive demonstrations this spring.
The events will begin tomorrow in Chicago, where demonstrators plan to set out on a four-day march to the district offices of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R) in Batavia, Ill., and will continue with one-day rallies throughout next week in Phoenix, Washington and Los Angeles.

In the Washington region, activists are distributing leaflets, and Spanish-language radio is buzzing about a Sept. 7 rally that organizers hope will be the biggest yet. Organizers say their goal is 1 million protesters from up and down the East Coast for a rally on the Mall and a march to the White House.
"We want to make sure that Congress and this administration get a very clear message that the immigrant community is still paying attention to what's happening in the immigration debate and that we know that it's election time," said Jaime Contreras, chairman of the National Capital Immigration Coalition, the rally's organizer.
Local organizers said they are improving on spring rallies that were hastily planned amid a spontaneous groundswell of activism. To avoid a backlash against foreign flags, they are directing all protesters to carry U.S. flags. They are starting the rally at 4 p.m. so student demonstrators, who frustrated school administrators by walking out earlier this year, can participate. And organizers have nearly tripled their budget for portable toilets.
In media interviews and on fliers, they have simplified their focus to key demands: legalization for the unauthorized and an end to stepped-up arrests of illegal immigrants.
"We are learning," said Juan Carlos Ruiz, general coordinator of the regional coalition.
The return to street protest, a tactic that galvanized millions this spring, comes after public discord among activists over a May 1 work boycott and a summer when their focus turned to immigrant voter registration drives. At the same time, new immigration legislation grew even more elusive in Congress, which is deadlocked on the issue.
Some believe it could be risky. The spring protests roused supporters but also stirred fierce hostility, said Steven A. Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors lower levels of immigration. That kind of intensity might make members of Congress, which is approaching midterm elections, even less likely to touch the immigration issue.
"They want to energize the community . . . to put the issue on the agenda and make it clear that look, it's not going away," Camarota said. "By doing all that, they may also hurt the prospect of the legislation passing."
The immigrant movement is still developing. Regional coalitions are trying to figure out how to work together nationally, and no clear leader has emerged. Locally, the National Capital Immigration Coalition -- a network of about 60 organizations that has existed for four years -- is just now defining the qualifications for formal membership.
As for immigrant voter registration, national figures are not yet compiled, said Germonique R. Jones of the Center for Community Change in the District, but anecdotal evidence points to success in some areas. She said Phoenix organizers, for example, are en route to meeting a summer goal of registering 20,000 voters.
Local results have been tepid. Northern Virginia immigrant organizations had no drives. Groups in the District registered 200 voters, said Kim Propeack, advocacy director for CASA of Maryland. In Maryland, Korean organizations registered 350, while CASA of Maryland registered 425 and quadrupled enrollment in its citizenship workshops, Propeack said.
But organizers say the movement has not lost steam. Immigrants, they said, are enthusiastic about the coming protests, believing the demonstrations empower them and weaken support for an enforcement-only House proposal.
"If that's what we accomplished with marches, then let's keep marching," said Jorge Mujica, a rally organizer in Chicago.
Other observers are uncertain. Carlos Aragon, general manager of Radio Fiesta (1480 AM), a Woodbridge station that has been broadcasting information about the Sept. 7 rally, said the event is a hot topic among listeners -- but they now sound more cautious.
"Nothing happened in regard to immigration in Congress," Aragon said. "People are just not sure if it will help."
This week's Chicago march will be followed by protests Sept. 4 in Phoenix and Sept. 9 in Los Angeles.
Unlike previous rallies that drew people from the Washington region, the Sept. 7 event will include participants from along the East Coast. Organizers said at least 100 busloads of marchers will roll in.
To encourage local turnout, organizers are intensifying the strategies they used in the spring. They are playing radio promotional spots each hour on some Spanish-language stations. Volunteers are distributing fliers at churches, soccer fields, Metro stations and construction sites.
With the responsibility of having a demonstration for out-of-towners upon them, local leaders are striving to plan a smoother -- and savvier -- event.
On a recent night, organizer Edgar Rivera led a planning meeting at the Alexandria offices of Tenants and Workers United. He listed all that will be different about this march: After rallying, demonstrators will proceed to the White House for the first time, he said.
Organizers will dispatch Spanish-speaking volunteers to Metro stations to direct demonstrators, Rivera told those gathered. And more high-profile speakers will be included -- maybe Jesse L. Jackson and a Catholic cardinal, he said -- but fewer politicians.
"It's the community that should be out there," Rivera said.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company


With the November 7th elections rapidly approaching, a number of Illinois campaigns have moved into focus, making headlines and garnering national attention. A particularly compelling race is in the 6th Congressional district, where Republican State Senator Peter J. Roskam and Democrat Major Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth are vying for retiring Representative Henry Hyde's seat. Historically, the 6th has been tagged a Republican district, with 53% voting for President Bush in the 2004 Presidential election (versus 47% voting for Democrat John Kerry). However, with a rising Hispanic population and increased discontent due to the Iraq war, there is a potential for change.

Candidate Profiles

Prevailing frustration over the Iraq war has thus far played in Duckworth's favor, as her campaign strategy has focused on foreign policy and Homeland security. Duckworth is an Iraq war veteran who lost both of her legs in a grenade attack while piloting a Black Hawk helicopter north of Baghdad. Her experiences have given her national exposure, gaining endorsements from political heavyweights such as Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, appearing in national publications such as Time, U.S. News and World Report, and The Washington Post, and announcing her candidacy on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." Duckworth has also been criticized along with her primary supporter, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Representative Rahm Emanuel, for using extensive funding to compensate for her lack of experience.

Opposing Duckworth is State Senator Roskam, who has over thirteen years of legislative experience serving in both the Illinois State House of Representatives, and as an Illinois State Senator. Currently, he is the Illinois State Senate Minority Caucus Whip. His tenure has created a substantial voting record which allows voters to identify his stance on many domestic issues pertaining to Illinois and to the 6th district. His campaign focuses on taxes, the environment, and immigration, with the National Republican Campaign Committee mailing fliers to voters in the 6th district accusing Duckworth of considering the "repeal of federal tax cuts" and "amnesty for all illegal aliens." He has been attacked for advocating a decrease in frivolous law suits while specializing in personal injury law.

Path to the Election

Roskam (who has been endorsed by Hyde) ran unopposed in the Republican Primary, which saved his campaign money but cost him name recognition. Duckworth won a scant victory over Christine Cegelis (who had a strong base and ran a grassroots campaign) in the heated Democratic Primary, causing many to wonder if her support is solid enough to take the district. The race's notoriety has encouraged the involvement of National Republican Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and as of August both candidates have raised similar levels of funding--$1,883,983.00 for Duckworth and $1,867,756.00 for Roskam. Currently, the voters in the 6th Congressional District must decide whether they are willing to elect a candidate with military experience who has never held public office, or a candidate with legislative knowledge who lacks a substantial background in foreign policy. If Duckworth is able to make a comprehensive statement on local issues, she may have a chance at an unprecedented Democratic victory in the district. However, Roskam has the advantage of experience and a strong base of party support. In either case, although the campaigns will continue to draw debate on a national level, it is the voters who will decide on November 7th.

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