Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Stephen Stills In Concert For Darcy Burner

Note from the Executive Director: We are pleased to welcome Jason Black to the Official Blog for this important guest post, and we hope this is merely his first posted entry here - not his last.

At the end of last month, on July 26th, Stephen Stills came to Washington State to show his support for Darcy Burner's bid to unseat Dave Reichert and represent the Washington's 8th Congressional District.

Anybody who remembers the 70s will know who Stephen Stills is. You youngsters reading this will know him better by the name of the group he was in: Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Stephen Stills was in town for a concert tour date, but graciously arrived a day early to headline a concert/fundraiser for Ms. Burner.

Darcy Burner with Stephen Stills

For anyone young or old who is as-yet unaware of this race, let me just tell you that Darcy is an amazing candidate. Given the support she needs, she is going to clean Reichert's clock on November 7th.

I've been involved with this race since last September, although I should be clear that I hold no official position in her campaign other than ardent supporter.

Darcy is warm, personal, and carries an air of trust I'm just not used to finding in politicians or candidates. She is also astonishingly smart and well-informed on darned near everything, which makes her exactly the sort of person I want representing me in Congress.

Stephen Stills got the crowd going with his take on modern day America and all her many problems, then launched into a short but very well received set of songs. Later I learned that Mr. Stills is doing several of these types of concerts this year, for progressive candidates whose message resonates with him. I wonder where else he'll show up before November?

Stephen Stills Singing

Listen (8.5MB MP3; 0:21:07)

As the evening was winding down, after most of the guests had left, Ms. Burner was kind enough to let me, and a few bystanders who were still there, interview her for a few minutes. It was an interesting conversation, touching on everything from the personal to the political.

I was particularly interested to hear Darcy's take on some of the other hot races in the nation right now, and some fascinating stuff about the WA-05 race with Peter Goldmark.

She has some particularly insightful comments about the relationship between state party organizations and races like Darcy's and Peter's, which really shows the whole "50 state strategy" from a different perspective than we usually hear it. I really hadn't ever considered donating to my local state party organization, but I have to say that I am now!

Here is the transcript of my interview, which I would encourage everyone to read (or, again, Listen; 11.3MB MP3; 0:28:26).

It's really worth the time it'll take you. This is the sort of stuff we ought to be hearing from every single person running for office, and every single person holding office: unvarnished truth, straight from the heart, without all the political double-speak. If you listen to nothing else, skip ahead to 11:10 where Darcy talks about why she's running.

You can read it in the transcript, but it's so powerful hearing her say it. You want to talk about progressive values being family values, there's the best statement you'll hear on the subject.

If you like what you hear - or if you merely want to see new leadership in the House - please send her some love. Thank you.

[Note: "JB" is me, the interviewer; "DB" is Darcy Burner; everyone else is "Bystander".]

JB: So, Darcy Burner, how's your campaign going?

DB: Really well, thank you, Jason.

JB: Good, glad to hear it. So, you must be getting a lot more name recognition, face recognition. You're not wearing your usual "Darcy Burner/I-am-the-candidate" pin.

DB: I figured this was a small enough fund raiser that everyone would figure out who I was.

JB: I think you were probably right. What have you learned about campaigning?

DB: Huge, gargantuan, vast numbers of things.

JB: Two big things?

DB: Two big things. You don't get anything you don't ask for. And so you just get over your shyness and ask if you need it. And in a campaign like this when people believe, they'll give it to you. All you have to do is ask. I think the second big important thing is that grassroots power is going to trump special interests any day. And that the trick for Democrats is really figuring out how to harness the grassroots.

JB: And what have you learned about yourself in the course of doing this?

DB: [laugh] I’m capable of asking people for money in the first 5 seconds I've met them, which is not something I would ever have done before. I think for me it is mostly about getting over my preconceived, you know, shy Midwestern I-don't-want-to-bother-anybody ideals.

JB: I have that too. I'm not from the Midwest but yeah, I have that too.

DB: Exactly. I have had to get past my tendency to not want to be a bother.

JB: Have you gotten the impression that - I mean, having gotten over it and everything, and thus, being a bother--that people are bothered?

DB: Mostly not. Occasionally. I mean I do so many phone calls so many outreach events that I will occasionally run into somebody who views me as bothering them. But that's pretty rare. Mostly people at least this year, at least in this race, are incredibly frustrated about the direction the country is going and are incredibly excited about the opportunity to participate in the process that can change the direction of this country whether that participation is by volunteering, contributing money, by posting things, right, they're incredibly exited to be participating.

JB: So what's your take on the pulse of the district?

DB: There is an unbelievable amount of energy in the district around the idea of changing the direction of the country. We're going door to door in the district, we're talking to people on the telephone, I’m talking to people at fairs and festivals and things. And huge numbers of people, huge numbers of voters, are ready to see this country change direction and are ready to act to make that happen. I’ll give you a quick anecdote. So I filed for this office on the 15th of June last year. And on the 4th of July of last year I marched on the 4th of July parade in Carnation.

JB: Right, there are pictures on your website.

DB: Right, there are pictures on my website. And in that parade, I got at best a lukewarm reception. There were some people who wouldn't shake my hand, a couple of people who shouted out that, you know, they didn't like Democrats. I had a couple of people greet me enthusiastically, but literally most people were like "eh, not interested." We marched again in that parade this year, and the experience was completely different. This year I had huge numbers of people shouting enthusiastically. As I would walk by, I would hear people shouting "That's Darcy Burner! She's the Democratic candidate for congress!" They were like "Yaaay!" I had nobody – nobody - who wouldn't shake my hand. Not a single person.

JB: That's got to make you feel good.

DB: It was terrific. and I had so many people say to me "I’m so excited. Thank you so much for running. You've got to win." And having had the experience of last year and this year to compare with each other it was a completely different feeling on the ground. The voters in this district are ready for change.

JB: So this year obviously contrasts strongly with last year. Back then, did you have doubts that this was the right thing to do or that this was winnable?

DB: Well I knew at the time that I got into the race that there were a lot of things outside my control that were going to have a huge impact on how my race specifically went and on how the year went for Democrats very generally. But I was willing to place the bet that it would be a good year for Democrats and that I could make this happen. Because the alternative was we just give up, and say the Republicans can have it all. And that was completely unacceptable to me.

[Bystander chatter, leading to the subject of late cycle attack ads]

JB: So when [Dave Reichert] runs his attack ads in the last 3 weeks of the campaign, what infrastructure do you need to have in place to have an ad the next day that rebuts it or, you know, sets the record straight?

DB: The biggest thing we need is just money. We've got one of the best media firms in the country working on the race. We've got a researcher on the campaign who's pre-assembling all the data and things we think we're likely ever to need as quick response. And the only thing we need is to make sure we've got the money to get up on the air. That's it. Money, money, money.

JB: You make it all sound so easy.

[More bystander chatting, leading to the subject of Democratic messaging]

Bystander: I mean Democrats are lame at [messaging]...

DB: But I come into this with some small advantage, which is that I spent 5 years doing strategic messaging for Microsoft, as my job - My job at Microsoft was to change the direction of the industry by convincing people they wanted to go in a different direction.

Bystander: Will you be able to play a role in shaping [your ads] then?

DB: They're my campaign ads. [laughter]

Bystander: Just remember, no Howard Dean screams.

DB: I am on best behavior. [laughter]

Bystander: The best [inaudible, probably "Stefan" of unSoundPolitics] could give you was a picture of you staring admiringly at Jim McDermott.

DB: ...Yeah, at a fundraiser with all of the Democratic congresspersons from Washington state.

Bystander: Was that the fundraiser back in February? I was there.

DB: We had the entire delegation there, as you recall, and it was just one picture [from a scene] that was cropped. That's the worst they can do. That and the fact that I got A’s in law school and that I'm a mom. Those are what they're holding against me.

Bystander: They're running on empty. The Mom thing might be tough, though.

[Bystanders having fun with some family values sarcasm.]

DB: I know, I know. Well, you know, apparently being a mom disqualifies you from everything else in the minds of at least some of them.

Bystander: That's what they're writing? They'll write anything. They'll attack you for anything.

DB: I have no actual skeletons, which frustrates them to no end. And so at the moment the best they can do is to say "Oh my goodness how can she do this to her son?" to which my response is "why do you think I'm running? Have you looked at what the Republicans are doing to this country?" I look at what kind of a life I want my son to have as he's growing up and I say it does not matter what individual choices I make as a mother, I can't give that to him unless this country changes direction. And the only way it changes direction is if the Democrats take control of the House.

Bystander: And if anybody else is a parent that has a job, they'll know it's true. You understand.

JB: The question is, can you be that blunt, right, in an ad? Can you be that blunt in the public voice? One thing that I think a lot of voters are really tired of is the fact that you have to listen really hard, to listen past the bullshit when a politician talks to get if there's any message there at all.

DB: But Jason you've known me long enough to know that I am happy to communicate clearly.

JB: I know that. I guess what I'm wondering is how much bluntness will the voters take before they get turned off?

DB: Voters actually really appreciate straightforward answers. And I do my best to give a straightforward answer to every question I can. They want to understand where it is I stand, and I want them to understand where it is I stand. And then they can make an informed decision. And right now, the vast majority of voters in this district, making an informed decision, are going to choose me over the incumbent any day.

JB: So when you fly into Washington, and you've won -

DB: [Laugh] I have an event horizon on November 7. I have no idea what happens after November 7. Then I'm going to sleep for about 36 straight hours. And then we'll see where we go from there.

JB: Well what's the first thing you want to do in Washington when you step off the plane, and here's this new city you're going to call home for the next I don't know how long?

DB: Find my office.

[Bystander chatter about the National Archives]

DB: One of my favorite days I that have ever spent in Washington D.C. I spent just in the Library of Congress. I can spend large amounts of time very happily in the Library of Congress. And I have a sister who lives just outside of DC, so I have plenty of occasion to visit and I have good moral support once I get there.

Bystander: Is this the sister you were talking about last night? The FBI agent?

Bystander: The one that had to declare bankruptcy?

DB: No, different sister. My family is a little bit complicated. And I'll go ahead and get this on tape so that we have it for posterity.

Bystander: No, that’s ok.

DB: No, no - I was adopted as a baby. My biological mother was you know, young. I was an accident, and so she gave me up for adoption. And the family I grew up in is the family that I am typically talking about when I talk about my family. But when I was 20 I met my biological mother and her family. And she has two other daughters, one of whom is an FBI agent who works on counter-terrorism and is in Washington DC.

Bystander: Don't tell me her name.

DB: No, she's not classified. It's fine.

Bystander: Just like "24."

DB: And the other of whom runs an organic bakery in the mountains of New Hampshire.

JB: That sounds like fun!

DB: And then I also have also met my biological father, who's married and has other children, and so I've got this very complicated family structure. most of the time when I'm talking about my family, I'm talking about my adoptive family. The family I grew up with. You know, who shaped a tremendous amount of who I am. Those are the siblings I fought with when I was growing up, the ones who call me to demand presents when their new babies are born. But I do have other siblings as well.

JB: So are your--the family that you grew up with, are all the children adopted?

DB: No, my oldest brother is adopted, and I was adopted. My other three siblings are biologically the children of my parents. My oldest brother was adopted, then they had my older brother. And then they were told they weren't going to be able to have any other children. And they really wanted a girl. My mom wanted a girl that she could dress in ribbons and bows, and so they adopted me. And she got over her disappointment eventually, as I was a Tonka Truck kind of kid. Tonka Truck, take things apart, pieces of tape recorders all over the house kind of kid. And two years and a day after I was born, my younger sister was born who was into ribbons and bows and Barbie dolls. So my mother got what she wanted just not quite in the way she expected. And then my youngest brother was born. The miracles of modern technology. They - it was because of medical advancements. My mother is RH- and my father is RH+, and so once they invented Rho-GAM it was much more straightforward for my parents to have more children.

Bystander: What does your husband do?

DB: He is a software architect at Microsoft.

JB: How's Henry taking all of this? [Interviewer’s note: Henry is Darcy and Mike's very blonde, very cute, three-and-a-half year old.]

DB: He loves to say "Mommy for Congress!" [laughter] No, he thinks this is great. He loves the campaign staff. We have a corner of the campaign office that's set up for him so he can come in and play. He likes the buttons, and he recognizes the logo. And events like tonight's event where it's appropriate for him to be here we're happy to bring him too and he feels like he's participating. And of course I set time aside to spend with him. I actually have scheduled time on my calendar, every week, right, it is set aside for spending with Mike and Henry. Because my family is important to me. And I'm not willing to - not willing to sacrifice them. And they're incredibly supportive of me.

JB: And we thank them for it. So are you having fun?

DB: Yeah, most days

JB: What's the most fun thing about campaigning?

DB: The most fun thing is actually the amazing shows of support that we're getting in the course of the campaign. I mean, the Democratic Party - the state Democratic Party--did a crab feed back in February, and I got up on the stage at the crab feed and there were like 1200 people in the room. They started chanting my name, and I was, I was literally almost in tears, right, because that level of support was so unexpected. I addressed the King County Democrats and had a similar just overwhelming--people are so... hungry for change. So ready to help. So excited about the possibilities. And that is incredibly fun to feel the energy in the room. I went to the state convention in Yakima, right, and there were more than 1000 - I don't know, I don't know how many. There were huge numbers, a couple thousand people, I think - filling this auditorium, right, and when you get a standing ovation from a crowd like that.. (Watch Darcy Burner enter the 2006 Democratic Convention)

Bystander: Did you think "What did you get myself into?" Did that go through your mind at all? Because now, obviously, you're in it, and I'm sure you appreciate more than anybody what it's going to take for these next few months.

DB: The point of no return for me was the moment I accepted a campaign contribution from someone else. I had made a decision very early on that once I accepted the first campaign contribution, that I was completely in this and I was in it to win it. because I wasn't going to take somebody else's money until I was ready to make that level of commitment. So, that was June of last year. I’ve been in it, you know, completely ever since. I went into this knowing that it was going to be really hard and expecting it to be really hard. I wasn't anybody's hand-picked candidate. You know I didn’t' have a huge amount of notoriety going into it. And I was running against somebody who was going to be kind of tough to beat. But truthfully, the level of support that I have gotten has been incredible both in terms of being a morale boost for me and giving the campaign momentum, and a little bit unexpected. And it's made a huge difference. There are - most of the time the campaign is easier than I thought it would be.
JB: I’ve got to tell you, the fact that you're a self-selected candidate is a huge plus in my book. You know, call me a sentimental old fool, I believe what the founding fathers wanted, about government being made up of real citizens, with real concerns.

DB: And that, I am.

Bystander: Not professional millionaires. You know, that's kind of discouraging on the national level. Seems like most people - the first qualification is how many millions of dollars do you have to your name.

JB: Can you pull a Ned Lamont, and self fund yourself till November. Not that he's doing that, but he - if nobody gave him another dollar he'd still run a well funded race, right?

DB: Well, and you know, I certainly understand all the things that are broken with our campaign finance laws. If I had not been able to raise money, I would have been dead in the water. And it was not clear for a long time whether I was going to be able to raise the kind of money it was going to take.

Bystander: Big money.

DB: Oh, it's a huge amount of money. It's a huge amount. We've raised more than a million dollars. And, you know, I have to raise another million-and-a-bit dollars in order to do what we need to do in this race. We now think we can probably do it, we've got the momentum we've got the support--

Bystander: A hundred-some days?

DB: A hundred and ... four days right now. Depends how you count it. Zero based or one-based.

JB: Well, zero-based of course!

DB: Well that's kind of my take on it. That shows that we're programmers.

JB: Yes, we are. Another big plus in my book. Because, you know, there's nothing about programming that's not reality-based.

DB: Yes, that’s true.

JB: Computers do not work on ideology.

DB: No, they do not.

[Bystander banter, as some fellow heads home.]

JB: Speaking of supporting national candidates, once we've given as much as the FEC will let us give you -

Bystander: What is that, anyway.

JB: Individually, $4200 per cycle. $8400 per couple.

DB: $8400 per couple. So, there aren't that many people who have completely maxed out. The other races I would certainly--

JB: Well, for folks elsewhere in the country who might be listening to this.

DB: And I would certainly encourage, by the way, people to consider giving money to the state party organizations. Like to the Washington State Democrats. Because they are doing a lot to help me. So for somebody who's maxed out to me, and who wants to make it possible for me to get the kind of help and support I need from the state Democrats, make sure they have the resources they need to do that. And by all means, tell them that you're doing it because you appreciate that they're helping me, but make sure they have the resources they need. There are a number of other candidates of whom I am particularly personally fond. They are some of the targeted candidates at the House level and at the senate level. Obviously Maria Cantwell locally. And she's doing a great job on fundraising but that's an important race. I think that my next favorite Senate race personally is actually Jack Carter in Nevada who I had the opportunity to meet.

JB: Big favorite of the Kossacks.

DB: Yeah, and I found him incredibly compelling. I would love to have him as a senator. I would love to have him as a senator.

JB: He grew up with a great role model for a dad, so--

DB: That he did, and he seems to have turned out pretty well. In terms of other House races, there are so many good ones to choose from. I mean, my inclination--there are probably 43, 42 or 43, House seats in play at this point. And people are divided about whether the thing they want to do is to contribute to the top tier of those races to maximize the chances that we'll take the 15 seats that we need, contribute to kind of the second or third tier of those races to increase the odds that those candidates will be viable so that if there's a big enough wave we take as many seats as we possible can, or to contribute to candidates who are even outside of that 42 or 43 race range, to see if we can't kind of boost them a little.

JB: To force the Republicans to spend money in districts they would otherwise not be spending money.

DB: Right. So in terms of the top-tier targeted candidates who are my favorites, you know, I'm fond of Phyllis Busansky in Florida, Tessa Hafen in Nevada, Jill Derby in Nevada. I, you know, think terrific things about all three of those candidates. In terms of candidates who are not in that list of 42 or 43 my favorite hands-down is Peter Goldmark, who is running in Eastern Washington.

JB: In the Washington 5th, right.

DB: Peter Goldmark would make an incredible member of congress. I mean here's somebody who's a rancher who has a PhD -

Bystander: Does he really?

DB: He does. [chatter] you know, has done pioneering work in plant genetics. When you start to talk about bio-fuels he knows that subject completely cold. You know, one of the most ethical and honest people I've ever met. He is incredible and he would make an incredible member of Congress. And he's running - the only reason, the only reason that this is not a targeted race is that that district is really tough. It's a very republican district. Cathy McMorris won it last time, against a well-funded strong Democratic candidate when it was an open seat and she won by 20 points. But it's also the district that sent Tom Foley to congress for years and years and years and years. So it is possible for them to elect a Democrat. So Peter Goldmark is my favorite dark horse, really long shot candidate.

Bystander: Well maybe I mean this cycle some of the momentum that's going on right now, he's got a shot?

DB: He may. Well, and I'll be honest, if there is any human being who can win that district this year, it's Peter Goldmark. [He] looks great in a cowboy hat!

[Bystander comments, amounting to "What are his chances?"]

DB: I haven't seen any polling in that district, but Peter's a smart guy. He wouldn't be running if it were impossible. Just because the conventional wisdom is that that district is, you know, going to be incredibly hard to win doesn't mean he can't win it. So far he seems to be doing everything right.

[More banter]

JB: Ok, one more question, and we'll let you go get some sleep. What do you look forward to changing most when you get to the House?

DB: The leadership.

JB: The House leadership?

DB: The House leadership. I mean, then there are lot of things that follow from that. But I am really looking forward to the opportunity to cast my vote for a new Democratic Speaker of the House, a new Democratic Majority Leader, and a new Democratic Whip. That would be a real pleasure. And that alone will have a huge impact on the direction of this country.

JB: All right. Well, knock 'em dead, Darcy Burner. Thank you for talking with us.

DB: Thanks, Jason.

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