I wanted to flag a story from The Intercept on the DCCC alienating candidates in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, in which Jeff Erdmann goes on the record to rail against the national Democratic party and his primary opponent Angie Craig.
It starts out:
“In his farewell address, President Barack Obama had some practical advice for those frustrated by his successor. “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself,” Obama implored.
“Yet across the country, the DCCC, its allied groups, or leaders within the Democratic Party are working hard against some of these new candidates for Congress, publicly backing their more established opponents, according to interviews with more than 50 candidates, party operatives, and members of Congress….In district after district, the national party is throwing its weight behind candidates who are out of step with the national mood.”
Another part of the article (below) goes into brutal detail on the vast disconnect between the Democratic establishment and progressive Minnesota voters.
That emphasis on fundraising can lead the party to make the kinds of decisions that leave ground-level activists furious. Take, for example, the case of Angie Craig, a medical device executive who ran for Congress in Minnesota’s second district in 2016 and has thrown her hat in the ring again.
The medical device industry is huge in Minnesota, and its outsized lobbying power is felt acutely in Washington. Despite spending $4.8 million, Craig lost by 2 points. That narrow defeat, though, belied the true failure of her campaign. She was, objectively, the least inspiring candidate up and down the ballot: Craig underperformed Clinton by 4,000 votes and even underperformed Democratic state Senate and House candidates by 13,000 and 2,000 votes, respectively.
Jeff Erdmann thinks he knows why Craig lost. He was a volunteer for her in 2016, phone banking and going door to door. That spring, a voter asked him a question about Craig’s position on an issue that he couldn’t answer, so when Craig held a Q&A with the volunteers, he asked her if it was OK to direct voters to the website for an answer. “No, not really,” Erdmann recalled her saying, “because we haven’t developed our website yet because we don’t want the Republicans to know where we stand, and we haven’t seen end-of-summer polling yet.”
Later, he said, he was phone banking and asked a supervisor what message he should tailor to the rural part of the district, since the script seemed aimed at city dwellers. “Just tell them the trailer-court story, they’re not big thinkers out there,” he said he was told, referring to Craig’s childhood in a trailer home.
This time around, Erdmann decided to run himself, and he has the backing of the People’s House Project, a group founded by former congressional candidate Krystal Ball to back working-class candidates. Michael Rosenow, Erdmann’s campaign manager, said he and Erdmann reached out to the D-trip but had a hard time getting through. When they learned about a gathering the organization was hosting at an adjacent congressional district, they decided to crash it.
Erdmann has the kind of charisma you’d expect from someone who has coached high school football — and has had remarkable success in that role for more than two decades in a state that cares deeply about the sport. He has also taught American government for 27 years, but all of that had not prepared him for the conversation he was about to have with Molly Ritner, the midwest political director for the DCCC, at a hotel bar in Minneapolis called Jacques.
“It’s been weird for Jeff,” said Rosenow, who was there for the July 10 meeting. “The first question out of her mouth was, ‘How much will you raise?’”
They had raised $30,000 by that point, a figure that Ritner deemed unimpressive. (By the end of December, the campaign had raised around $115,000, according to Rosenow.)
“That’s not very much,” Rosenow recalls Ritner saying. “Really all we care about is, the more money you raise, the more you can get your message out.”
“Erdmann tried to jump in, beginning to lay out his backstory, hoping to make the case that getting your message out doesn’t matter if voters don’t like the message. “He seems like he was grown in the tank for this district, but they didn’t care at all,” Rosenow said, “All she wanted to know was how much money he could raise.”
Ritner had been Midwest fundraising director at the DCCC in 2013 and 2014, before taking a break to run the campaign of the Democrat who lost the Vermont governor’s race to a Republican in 2016. She noted that Craig had ran an “amazing campaign” last cycle and asked if Erdmann had any big funders ready to get behind him. “Jeff laughed. He said, ‘I’ve been a teacher my whole life, how would I have big funders behind us?’” Rosenow recalled.
DCCC Chair Ben Ray Luján, a Democratic representative from New Mexico, was in his hotel room upstairs, Ritner told them, but he didn’t come down for the meeting.
Erdmann estimated the meeting lasted eight minutes. “She ordered a pop, got it, drank it, threw the number out that we had to hit, and left,” he said. On her way out, Ritner put $2 on the table. The check came to $2.26, before the tip. “I looked at Mike and said, ‘That is why the Democrats lose,’” concluded Erdmann.
“They don’t want to talk about the civil war in the party, but when you treat us like hill people when we come up here, what do you expect?” concluded Rosenow.
Craig, fresh off her “amazing” 2016 race, is back again. Ritner, according to Erdmann and Rosenow, said the DCCC would remain neutral in the primary, but that didn’t last long. In November, the DCCC endorsed Craig, joining EMILY’s List and End Citizens United, the trio of groups that represents the party’s central authority. Last week, she picked up the backing of the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC.
And last but not least – after End Citizens United strangely endorsed Angie Craig – Jeff Erdmann’s campaign had this to say:
“All Jeff talks about is political reform, so that was a shot to the heart,” said Rosenow, Erdmann’s campaign manager, on losing the endorsement. “If your goal is to get money out of politics….how in the hell are you backing someone who ran a corporate PAC?”
You can read the full story here.