November 17, 2014

You may remember Nate Shinagawa as one of Blue America's top candidates for Republican Tom Reed's NY-23 seat southern and central New York, which stretches from Jamestown to Elmira and up to Ithaca and Geneva. The PVI is R+3 but Obama won narrowly against McCain in 2008 and lost narrowly to Romney in 2012. That year, Nate was edged out by Reed 52-48%, after Reed spent $2,006,454 to Nate's $828,811. Over $750,000 in Independent Expenditures bolstered Reed while the DCCC didn't spend a nickel to help Nate. The night he lost, DCCC chairman Steve Israel, stunned by how close he had come, called and tried to recruit him for 2014. Nate demurred. Yesterday I asked him if he thought Donna Edwards would be able to help transform the DCCC if Nancy Pelosi were to give her the appointment. This was his response:

The Democratic Party is at a critical juncture after facing shocking losses in the 2014 elections. Should we continue the status quo by hoping that elections can be won with money and innocuous candidates? Or, do we recognize that the American people yearn for values-driven leaders who will not only raise money, but raise up the spirit and morale of voters?

We don’t have to wait months to make this choice. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is in the process of choosing its new leadership. There are contenders who will blindly try the same worn and failed formula. They should be benched. We need a DCCC chair who leads with values, elevates the discourse and inspires action. That leader is Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

I know first-hand how effective, inspiring and wise Congresswoman Edwards is. In 2012, I was the Democratic nominee for United States Congress in New York’s 23rd Congressional District. I ran as a progressive Democrat in a conservative, rural district against a Republican congressman who spent $2.4 million against me. Every pundit and campaign analyzer, from left to right, said our campaign didn’t stand a chance. The DCCC listened to the pundits and wrote us off. Despite that, we received 48% of the vote, making us one of the most competitive races in the nation and out-performing the vast majority of candidates that the DCCC prioritized as “Red to Blue.”

Throughout the campaign, we showed the DCCC that we could win. We hit our targets in field and finance. We had polling that showed the race was competitive. We were told that if we kept working hard, they’d come in and help us. The help from the DCCC organization never came. I remember how demoralized my staff and supporters were the final months of the campaign. We were like soldiers surrounded by enemy forces, assured that reinforcements would come, and realizing in our final moments that we’d be left behind.

Luckily, like a hero who does what’s right instead of what’s told, Congresswoman Donna Edwards came to our rescue. She not only endorsed the campaign. In the final month, she flew to Ithaca, NY, and rallied my supporters and staff. She gave us, and especially me, the morale boost needed to push onward. What made her visit especially powerful is that she is a leader within the DCCC. It was the little signal to our team that we had a fighting chance. Even though the DCCC as a whole ignored us, she took individual initiative to help us. After she came, there was an electric feeling of hope among my team. After months of being demoralized by the DCCC, she gave us the inspiration to continue the fight.

That’s the kind of leader the DCCC needs. Yes, Congresswoman Edwards raises money and works hard. Plenty of contenders for DCCC chair do. What makes her unique, though, is her values. She’s compassionate, open-minded, and progressive. She knows how small investments in people can yield tremendous returns later on. She’s simultaneously strategic and tactical, caring and analytical. I believe she can change the course of the DCCC and the Democratic Party.

The American people today are like my campaign before her visit: increasingly demoralized and in need of hope. We need a rescue from a leader who has the heart, mind and soul to inspire change and lead us to victory. We need a progressive leader like Congresswoman Donna Edwards as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair.

The petition to Nancy Pelosi requesting that she appoint Donna Edwards has 1,500 signatures of the 2,000 they are aiming for. Please consider signing it.

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