Monday, October 23, 2006

NY Times on the WFP's Take Back Congress campaign

Over the weekend the New York Times covered the Working Families Party's effort to Take Back Congress. Read on:
"Nevertheless, leaders of the Working Families Party, hoping to play a small but crucial role in this fall's Congressional elections, have started an effort to swing unaffiliated voters to Democratic candidates in three tight Congressional races.

The party is focusing on unaffiliated voters in New York's 24th and 29th Congressional Districts and Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District, which all have a Democratic candidate cross-endorsed by the Working Families Party. Both New York and Connecticut allow "fusion" elections in which candidates may run on more than one party line.

In New York's 24th District, Michael A. Arcuri, a Democrat, is battling State Senator Raymond A. Meier, a Republican; and in Connecticut's 5th District, State Senator Christopher S. Murphy, a Democrat, is challenging Nancy L. Johnson, the Republican incumbent.

Working Families is financing direct mail, door-to-door canvassing and phone banks in those districts. In New York's 29th Congressional District, the party will begin a direct-mail effort on behalf of the Democratic candidate, Eric Massa, who is challenging Congressman John Randy Kuhl Jr., the incumbent Republican.

The tight focus on upstate, unaffiliated voters is something of a departure for the Working Families Party, which was founded by a coalition of labor unions and community organizations in 1998. Its supporters are most heavily concentrated in the New York City area, where the party has worked largely in support of liberal Democratic candidates. But party officials said that polling they conducted but did not release showed that a large number of independent voters in the three districts supported views traditionally associated with liberal Democrats, like being in favor of universal health care and in opposition to free trade.

According to the poll, the party said, many of those surveyed said they believed that both major parties were indifferent to such concerns, and that they might be open to voting for a Democratic candidate on a minor party line if the candidate had their values.

"People see our message about jobs and health care not as a left-wing message," said Dan Cantor, the party’s executive director. "They put it dead center in focus groups. Trade deals, universal health care. These independent voters are like incipient progressives."

Mr. Cantor also cited past efforts by the party, like its work in 2002 on behalf of Representative Tim Bishop of Suffolk County, as evidence that the party may prove able to provide candidates with crucial voters in tight races. Mr. Bishop, who ran on the Democratic and Working Families lines, beat a Republican incumbent by about 2,500 votes; he earned 2,700 votes on the Working Families line. Of those 2,700, more than half came from people who also voted to re-elect Republican Gov. George E. Pataki.

"Having that extra line, giving independents a place to go, and having them work to get out the vote, all of that was very helpful to me," Mr. Bishop said in an interview.

The party will spend at least $400,000 — a third of it donated from New York’s Democratic Congressional delegation — on the effort, a large amount for the party, though a relatively small expenditure given the millions of dollars being spent by the Democratic and Republican campaign committees and the candidates themselves."
It's a good article; in New York the 24th and 29th Congressional Districts are the focus of Take Back Congress, though the article leaves out the work we're doing to drive up turnout in every contested Congressional race. If you want more background, read about our upstate victories, including how the WFP provided the margin of victory to elect Brian Higgins to Congress from Buffalo in 2004.

As we make the final push, I can't say often enough how close we are to winning. Everyone thinking about getting involved, everyone who cares about these races and the direction of our country, should do something to help. You can make a difference.

You can make calls from home or come phonebank with other enthusiastic supporters or make a donation to Take Back Congress.

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