Darcy Burner is taking on freshman Republican Dave Reichert in WA-08. She will report numbers of over $300K for Q1, which is impressive. But more so than that, the Washington state blogosphere helped her raise over $90K online in the closing hours of the fundraising quarter without any national buzz. That’s not Daily Kos or Atrios, that’s the local bloggers, and $90K is more than what we “big boys” can usually raise. If that’s not a sign of the growing power and influence of the local blogs, I’m not sure what is.
I think perhaps more than any other race, WA-08 has the potential for being a true testing ground for some of the strategic rethinking Markos and co-author Jerome Armstrong propose in Crashing the Gate. We have a smart, energetic candidate in Darcy Burner, well matched to a district that should be “swing,” but which hasn’t swung into the Democratic column since, well… forever. She is also a candidate that has recognized and embraced the power of the netroots since well before declaring her candidacy.
But equally important, Washington state has quickly evolved some of the most influential and mature local netroots in the nation… a loose coalition of bloggers who have enthusiastically embraced Burner in return. Unlike the high-profile candidacy of say, Paul Hackett, where national netroots raised gobs of money for his Ohio campaign, it was local bloggers who jumped on the Burner bandwagon early, helping to push up both her fundraising totals and her profile — and with zero national support.
Andrew Villeneuve at NPI has been in the Burner camp since day one (almost from the day we first met her at Camp Wellstone,) advising her campaign and personally introducing her to his fellow bloggers. While I waited for the field to shake out before publicly endorsing her, I’d been in regular contact with the Burner campaign for months.
And the relationship has always been two-way: Burner not only actively sought our support, she also welcomed our input and advice. Burner and her staff trust us… and that trust has been returned in spades. When Burner stopped by Drinking Liberally last week to thank the netroots for helping her blow past her fundraising targets, she knew she wasn’t going to garner any new votes — hell, most of us don’t even live in her district. I’m guessing that part of the reason she stopped by was simply to share in the genuine excitement and enthusiasm of a gathering that was about as close as you can come to an election night victory party… seven months prior to the election.
Burner came to this campaign as a political outsider, a designation proven once again in yesterday’s Washington Post, which described her as a “third tier” candidate, citing the Democrats’ failure to recruit a stronger challenger. In fact, the Democrats didn’t recruit her at all. Nearly a year ago Burner told me she was running because she was absolutely convinced that, conventional wisdom be damned, she was the perfect candidate to represent the 8th District, and since then, she’s managed to convince an awful lot of other people, including me.
Would State Rep. Ross Hunter have brought more name recognition, money, and experience into the race? Absolutely. But I sincerely doubt that an establishment Democrat like Hunter could have garnered the kind of genuine grassroots excitement that Burner has generated over the past few months. Burner is for real, not because the consultants and power brokers say she’s for real, but because she has managed to prove herself to the grassroots, the netroots, and the party leadership.
Of course, with her early success comes risks. One of the things that Markos and Jerome rail against is the way the national party steps into local campaigns, bringing in their establishment consultants, and demanding the same-old losing strategies. This not only ignores and devalues the unique insight of local political talent, it stunts their development… and judging by the Democrats near permanent minority party status at the federal level, it doesn’t seem to be working.
But if the national party should respect local perspective and talent then the same should hold true for the netroots, and just as Burner has proven herself to the DCCC, so too have our local netroots proven to our national counterparts our ability to generate buzz and money beyond all expectations. We know the district. We know the candidates. We know the muck that’s going to make Reichert’s reelection a muddy row to hoe. So when we ask that Burner be “netroots edorsed” — with all the money, support, and attention that will bring — we ask the national netroots to trust our local judgement.
Burner has quickly gone from unknown, political neophyte to the cover of Roll Call, and while she and her campaign deserve most of the credit, I don’t believe she could have done it without the enthusiastic support of local bloggers. Now it’s time to help Burner move to the next level, and we simply can’t do it without a little national support.
Markos also saw fit to comment on Sen. Maria Cantwell… and it wasn’t so glowing. Tomorrow I’ll talk about the opposition Sen. Cantwell faces from local Democratic activists and what impact this could have on the entire Democratic ticket.