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As the first line in defense to my story presenting my entire pre-election e-mail exchange with Scott Moxley is to tell people not to read it, I realize that I’ve put anyone who was interested in my take on the SD-29 race — in which I had the third-highest share of the vote among all 20 losing State Senate candidates this year, so chew on that Jeff Miller! — in a bit of a bind: clicking on that link (where I included the information on the election as a guide to understanding the e-mail correspondence) may seem like an endorsement to the more controversial part of the post. So I’m publishing it separately here — along with my concession to my opponent Bob Huff, which I had forgotten to do prominently enough — for people to read separately. It’s only slightly revised; if you read the other one there’s no need to read this one.
The results of the 2012 general election are to be certified today at noon, so I suppose it’s past time for me to formally concede defeat to Bob Huff. (I’ve already done so on Facebook, but I don’t think it’s really official until I do so here in Orange Juice.) So: congratulations to Sen. Huff on running a good race. You should feel good about your victory. I’ll console myself with your party having lost four, rather than just the expected two, seats in the Senate. I don’t blame your leadership for that, though — then again, my opinion is not one of the ones that matters.
The campaign was a great (although wearing) experience for me, even though one very different from what I’d expected going in. I never expected to win, barring some Mike Duvall-style meltdown from my opponent — in which event I believed that I had set myself out to be a “credible alternative.” That’s one of the things that a “sacrificial lamb” — a term I don’t entirely embrace here — is supposed to do. Would I have been elected in the event of such a meltdown? I don’t know for sure — but I did get 44.9% of the vote without much campaigning. On the other hand, I didn’t get much of a campaign against me, either. I expect that I’d have had a real shot — better than any alternative candidate I knew of (of which there were none) — but that without such a meltdown Huff would have always been able to spend enough to beat me. Not pushing him too far was a way to protect other local Democrats who might have been affected by waves of mailers against me.
Most of what I wanted to do in this race was to:
(1) help to get out the Democratic vote, using my (perhaps undeserved, but so what?) “stature” as a candidate to give speeches, motivate campaign workers and raise money for a coordinated campaign (I believe that I contributed over $1500 — making the commitment early, when it mattered most — to the local Democratic headquarters that proved to be important for Sharon Quirk-Silva’s and Jan Flory’s victories.) In my case, I could also use my novel position as a candidate-blogger-politico to help publicize local races and promote Democratic positions (including, importantly this year, “Yes on 30″ and “No on 32″. I still don’t understand why FFFF didn’t go after Sharon Quirk-Silva hammer and tongs this year, but my sense is that part of it was that I kept successfully turning the topic to myself, despite the fact that the smarter people there knew exactly what I was doing and pleaded with other commenters to ignore me. It’s plausible to me that I was much more effective at that than otherwise because I wasn’t just some random dude commenting there, but an actual nominee for legislative office. Someone else would have to explain it — and they might well lie about it!) So: beyond being a “credible alternative,” that and the third item below were pretty much all that the party wanted from me.
(2) help promote Occupy Wall Street (local incarnations being Occupy Orange County, Occupy Santa Ana, and for a while Occupy Fullerton) and its philosophy to voters. That, and not “winning the election,” are what I had promised to “fight like hell” to do. I and my friends in Occupy mostly seem to be pretty happy with how it turned out, though I’m disappointed not to have become a rallying point for Occupy in a way that many candidates have become for the Tea Party. (That’s what happens when your organization really, unlike the Tea Party, really is low-budget and grass-roots.) To me, the most important thing I did was to spend $5500 of donor money to get my campaign statement into the voter guide, where 430,000 voters had a chance (and often an inclination) to read it.
(3) draw Huff’s fire — keeping him a little unsure of what I might come up with and how much money I might have on the way (either directly or through IEs.) If I did that successfully, he would not comfortably be able to donate money to other campaigns — meaning Democratic victories both statewide and locally. I was less successful here than elsewhere. Despite Democrats almost running the table of competitive Senate races, I won’t have much idea how much I helped there until I see his final expense report, but my hope was that hitting him both with online ads and especially with ads in the widely read online “insider publication” The Nooner” in the second week of September may have given him some pause. Even some delay while they waited to see what other shoes might drop is a big victory for me — especially with ads that only cost $50/day (although they took a lot of time to create.)
(I’ll tell you who one of the unsung heroes of the California Democratic Party is in this last respect, though — Jay Chen. Even though Jay lost by a 58%-42% margin to the racist campaigning of Ed Royce, he made Royce spend what will probably end up being more than $5,000,000 to beat him. That is money that Royce had been supposed to send, as he had in years past, to other competitive Republican campaigns statewide (and maybe beyond), such as Tony Strickland’s Congressional race against Julia Brownley in CD-26 (Ventura County). Brownley won by only 52.7% to 47.3%. The money that Ed Royce could have sent there — and that others could have sent there instead of sending it to Royce — might have tipped the balance to Strickland. And that’s just one race out of many that Royce could and generally would have funded! If Royce could have stomached contributing to Kiger, he’d have likely tipped the Fullerton City Council race too. Honestly, people have been made Ambassadors for less service to the party than Jay Chen demonstrated this time — the party owes him big time.)
So, overall — except for the effect on my finances (the workload for my solo legal practice picked up unexpectedly in mid-summer, leaving me less time than expected to campaign, and I had to turn away other cases at the same time, income I would have liked to have) — I consider my campaign to have been a politically useful as well as personally satisfying (although expensive in terms of lost opportunities) enterprise. That’s why I was surprised and somewhat amused to see myself referred to continually as the “worst State Senate candidate in California” by the OC Weekly and those that ape them. But that didn’t bother me — people with any actual understanding of electoral knew the truth that I was doing well for a challenger and extremely well for a “sacrificial lamb.”
I deny being a “sacrificial lamb” only because I did have a plausible (though unlikely) path to victory — Occupy Wall Street rallying behind me. This might have brought in big money donors from LA who wanted to feature me as a spokesperson for the cause (which I was doing anyway.) I did realize that it was a long shot and wasn’t too emotionally invested in the possibility.
I held out hopes until late July or so — when I swallowed hard and took an extremely unpopular activist public stand against Prop 35, including inviting public denunciation in front of the State Party and its quarterly meeting in Anaheim, followed by pretty much no one from the party hierarchy making eye contact with me for a month, which is not good for a campaign. Later my position became respectable — with the LA Times and several party leaders agreeing with my position — by I was the one who “broke the ice” with my challenge to a Democratic Party endorsement at a time when it was leading in pulls by almost 90% to less than 10%.
In the last two months of the campaign, I received a lot of thanks from people who had read the text closely in light of my critique and become convinced — but the damage was done at that point. No regrets on my part — someone had to do it — someone who wasn’t a sex worker, that is, as they were the main opposition to Prop 35, aided by the widely read article against it that I had published here. But it did make for a possible sizzling attack against me that could have caused problems for Sharon and Jay had their opponents made Prop 35 an issue. So I ratched the level of campaigning way down. (Sharon’s likely victory was infinitely more important to me than my unlikely one.)
So call me a “sacrificial lamb” if you must, but I was a lamb who was chewing through the ropes and until mid-summer had legitimate plans of escape.” Had I caught on as a cause celebre with Occupy, I would have moved fundraising into high gear; as it was, though, I was not going to call everyone I’d ever known in my life and put the squeeze on them for a campaign that I didn’t think could win. Those who had donated to me knew that they were paying for a candidate to take a loud, strong, and principled position on the issues — and they got it. Many of my close friends contributed just because they appreciated what I was doing and wanted to be part of it — and that was enough to allow me to run a campaign good enough to pick up 11.1% of the 28.1% of the independent vote. That’s good enough that I expect to see a well-funded (although probably more moderate) Democratic candidate taking a swing at SD-29 when it opens again in 2016. And that’s a real and significant accomplishment!
Overall, I am quite pleased with the race. I’m thrilled if I contributed to the success of Sharon Quirk-Silva; I’m thrilled because I have no doubt that I contributed to the victory of Jan Flory (who I believe will turn out to be a wonderful reformer on Council rather than a reanimated Don Bankhead.) I’m sorry that work keeps me from being at Sharon’s inauguration today; but I look forward to being at Jan’s tomorrow night! Life is improving for local Democrats!