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.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

This is a long term movement

Last night Darcy Burner called Dave Reichert, and according to him (and his staff), conceded. Reichert seemed to have no trouble revealing what was said in that conversation. He could have waited for Darcy to announce it herself in her own way, as she did anyway this morning in a news conference at 11 AM - but he didn't.

Concessions are little more than a public acknowledgement that a candidate is no longer really hoping to win a race. And with the way the trends have been, it's completely reasonable that Darcy might feel that way.

Props to her for being gracious and kind in her apparent defeat. Dave Reichert, on the other hand, has acted snobbish and boastful. He doesn't appear to have been humbled even though his bid for a second term was nearly axed by a bright candidate who started out with near zero name recognition.

Even now he can't resist sniggering and trying to pin Darcy with that "inexperienced" label again. It's evidently a pathetic little maneuver that Reichert's supporters have picked up - like Eric Earling at unSoundPolitics, who stupidly keeps trying to attach it to me as well. (Apparently, we progressives are ALL inexperienced - isn't that interesting?).

We had hope that each of our three Democratic challenges might prevail this year and join in a Democratic House of Representatives. None of them did win.

But it's not a surprise. Taking out an incumbent is a tall order and a tough task. And in the end, the clock ran out. Given that she started out as a virtually unknown candidate, Darcy could have used more time to meet more voters and get her message out. If she chooses to run again in 2008 - and she should - she'll be able to build on all her accomplishments this year.

But that decision will be up to her.

No one is more disappointed than me to have to witness this. It's heartbreaking to have to see Darcy lose. I personally invested a lot in this campaign, as did everyone at NPI. We stood beside Darcy just about every day, week, and month of her campaign. And we'll stand beside her now in this difficult hour as well.

The plain and simple truth is that this is a long term movement, and you don't necessarily end up winning your first attempt at elected office.

I found this out the hard way - four years ago, when you could have justifiably said that I was not very experienced. It was 2002, and several months before Election Day (in February) I had founded Permanent Defense to oppose Tim Eyman.

I was optimistic, confident, and ready for the election to arrive at the end of October. Polls showed we were winning. I thought the NO on I-776 forces had waged a strong campaign, and I was proud of Permanent Defense's contributions.

On Election Night, I was expecting victory as I arrived at the party.

But victory didn't come. Instead, Tim Eyman's I-776 passed narrowly and we lost. At the time, there was no knowing exactly what that meant. It certainly seemed like Sound Transit's Central Link light rail line could be at worst dead - at best in some kind of trouble.

I could have given up then. I might have even contemplated it. But I knew I wasn't a quitter. And so I sent a message to the few people who had joined Permanent Defense since its founding and I said, "We're not quitting. We're going to stay in this fight no matter how many times we lose until we get rid of this threat to our communities."

Since then Tim Eyman has gotten exactly one initiative passed, and that initiative wasn't tax cuts or spending limits. It was performance audits. An overload, yes, but nowhere near as awful as his other initiatives.

I-267? Defeated. I-807? Defeated. I-864? Defeated. I-892? Defeated. R-65? Defeated. I-917? Defeated.

And Sound Transit's Central Link light rail line? Under construction, and on target to be completed in the year 2009. The agency got the federal money it needed and saw with the NO on I-776 vote that the people within Sound Transit's boundaries wanted Central Link.

So though that first battle may have been lost, just about every subsequent battle we've waged against Tim Eyman has been won.

If at first you don't succeed....try again.

That loss in 2002 helped steel and prepare me, in any case, for Kerry's defeat in 2004 (whether he really lost is a matter of some debate due to Blackwell, Diebold, & Co.'s shenanigans in Ohio).

And that loss has similiarly prepared me to handle Darcy not winning this year.

So if we assume that when the count is certified he will still be in the lead, thus having won reelection - what then for Reichert?

He will return to a Democratic Congress having lost his subcommittee chairmanship and much of his claimed influence. He will have to serve the entirety of his second term knowing that a third difficult campaign lies ahead of him in 2008.

Reichert's narrow victory didn't happen because voters really like him and wanted to return him to Congress (if they did, why didn't he win easily last week?) It happened because too many of them were unsure about Darcy Burner. Reichert has been a fixture in county politics for years; Darcy hasn't. Name recognition was the hurdle she had trouble overcoming, not "inexperience".

Conservatives and Republicans had better save any gloating for some other time. They haven't got much to cheer about this year. Their right wing initiatives failed, as did their Senate candidate, and a whole bunch of Republicans got cleared out of the state Legislature, including in NPI's own legislative district, which will now be represented only by Democratic legislators.

The Eastside is turning blue. The 48th and the 45th, at the heart of the suburbs in King County, will no longer have Republican representation in Olympia.

Sooner or later the same thing that happened to Toby Nixon and Luke Esser will happen to Dave Reichert.

Conservatives have built an infrastructure that has helped them dominate elections in this country, cycle after cycle. 2006 was the first year in a long time where we dominated all over the map. So many Democratic challengers won that we took back both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

But still, that doesn't mean we've built the kind of progressive governing majority that we want. There is a lot of work still left to do. This is a long term movement, and we have a long way to go yet.

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