DLCC Essential Race: Can Dan “Death Threat” Manning Dominate Downballot?

We’re going way downballot, baby. As I like to say: SSPers do it downballot.  [and yes, I would buy a t-shirt that said that]

Wait, what is the DLCC and what are their essential races?

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is the downballot counterpart to the attention-hogging DCCC (triage!) and DSCC (save the saucer!). They focus on state legislative races and are especially active this cycle with redistricting hanging in the balance. State legislatures, of course, are crucial players in the process, and swinging them our way will help prevent DeLaymanders. The DLCC party poohbahs, as it were, selected 40 races, mostly focused on redistricting and the most hotly-contested state houses. Party Picks 1-20. Party Picks 21-40. But then the DLCC did something that made me love them. Oh yes, love. The DLCC solicited right here on SSP, nominations for more of these Essential downballot races. And apparently, we nominated the hell out of our candidates, because the DLCC announced The Grassroots 15, instead of just 10. And frankly, looking at the grassroots nominees, we did good y’all.

Why should I care?

Besides being SSP’s bread and butter (well, Congressional races are probably the bread & butter…downballot is more like…the arugula?), I would posit that it is these sort of races that are truly the purest form of American democracy. The Founders, I think, both envisioned and practiced this sort of meet-your-neighbors campaigning. Downballot races are also much more dependent on candidates–almost never national forces sweep in and, say, donate $13 million to Sharron Angle when she’s running for the Nevada state legislature. But the great thing from the perspective of civic-minded citizens is that participating in races like these can yield bigger and more tangible results than say, giving Jack Conway $20 (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But when $20-$25k is enough for the entire race, even a small donation to Manning’s campaign can make a big difference. So why does the DLCC say this race matters?

Why this Race Matters: This campaign turned ugly for Democratic nominee Dan Manning a few weeks ago when he discovered a death threat laced with anti-gay slurs on his doorstep. Manning is a decorated West Point graduate who was discharged from the military because of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. If Manning wins his race, factional divisions within the state Republican Party would give him considerably more influence in the Kansas House than the GOP’s wide chamber majority would suggest.

Plus, as our own James L. pointed out in a 2006 diary:

Democratic gains in state legislatures are crucial for building the “farm team” for higher offices.

That James L. link btw, enumerates the gains made in state legislatures in the 2006 election. And James, of course, is/was right–state Rep. Raj Goyle (KS-04) and state Rep. Bryan Lentz (PA-07), for example, are now in tight races for Congress, and were among those 268 net pickups in 2006 (that was in state Houses alone).

Well, in Dan Manning, Democrats may have a candidate who could eventually go far, far beyond the mostly middle-class neighborhoods of Wichita’s 91st District. Find out why, after the jump….

Dan Manning at ArtAid BenefitTHE CANDIDATE:

Dan “Death Threat” Manning … oh yeah, I’m making that his official nickname now.

Since we last checked in on him and his campaign, as well as other top state legislative races in Kansas, Dan “Death Threat” Manning has emerged as one of the Kansas Democratic Party’s most formidable new candidates.

He’s like the new Sean Tevis, except way, way different.

Georgia-born Dan Manning is a West Point grad (’04) and Mandarin-speaking military vet booted from the Army thanks to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (timely!).

If I have the story right, Manning actually “told” via press release upon announcing the formal creation of Knights Out, the pro-LGBT, anti-DADT West Point alumni group. Manning currently sits on the Knights Out board.

UPDATE: Yeah, I was totally wrong. He was outed and kicked out before they did the whole press release thing. Still, I’ve never come out via press release, and I don’t really know of many who have.

Btw, guess who Dan Manning recruited to be spokesperson and a co-founder of Knights Out? Dan Choi.

So yes, gays, you partially have Dan Manning to thank for Dan Choi becoming the badass LGBT activist he is today.

After all, Dan Choi probably wouldn’t have been on TV talking to Rachel Maddow if he wasn’t speaking for Knights Out at the time. And thus, no springboard to national fame.  

Dan Choi Chains Himself To White HouseNo seriously, thank you for Dan Choi.

After getting his honorable discharge from the US Army, Manning put his artillery battalion skills to use in electrical engineering and business management, oh, and picked up an MBA and started work on a PhD. After almost four years in the private sector, he currently serves as a production supervisor at AGCO, which manufactures tractors and all manner of farming-related “Serious Machinery” in Hesston, KS, a little ways north of Wichita.

I honestly couldn’t have written a better profile for the first openly-gay member of the state Legislature…and I’m, like, a really good writer. As a campaigner, the West Point discipline has him canvassing and campaigning with precision, and it also neutralizes much of the potential antipathy from the D by his name and the rainbow in his heart. He works at an actual factory (Labor) but as a managerial type (Business) who is soon to have a PhD (Education/Professionals). Sure, he’s gay (LGBT) but he was a soldier first (Military). Oh, and did I mention he manufactures tractors and farming equipment (Farmers).

Let’s see…Labor, Business, Professionals, LGBT, Military, and Farmers….that’s not just a Democratic coalition that can win in Kansas, that’s a Democratic coalition that can wipe the floor with its opponents in Kansas. Basically, Dan Manning has the Kansas version of the profile Harvey Milk wished he’d had. Look, I don’t invoke the de-facto Gay MLK lightly (well, he was a politician, so maybe Milk is the…Gay Obama?). But it’s true. Manning has the profile to do really, really well in politics. And dude’s just 30, and if he wins this year, as I think he probably will in the end, he could be … is… someone good.

Brenda Landwehr - official photoTHE OPPONENT:

Dan Manning’s opponent is state Rep. Brenda Landwehr, who has been in the Legislature since 1995 and now serves as the Health & Human Services Chair. Her biggest donor? The KS Hospital Association, of course, followed immediately by Koch Industries, then the KS Bankers Association, rounded off by everyone’s favorite small business killer: Wal-Mart. Quite a Top 4, even for a hard-right Republican…

While she has a long anti-gay, anti-moderate, anti-anything-but-super-conservative record, Landwehr’s latest media buzz was as an attack dog against fellow state Rep. Raj Goyle, the well-funded Democrat making a strong bid to become Wichita’s Congressman. She made her forceful comments as a main backer of Mike Pompeo at a Republican legislator unity rally that turned out to be not-so-united when Pompeo’s primary rival, moderate state Sen. Jean Schodorf, was a no-show. Source: Wichita Eagle

Raj Goyle & Dan ManningIf moderate Republicans don’t come home to Pompeo (and his ineffectual campaign doesn’t seem to be helping), Kansas could end up electing an Indian-American Democrat to a R+14 seat.

Yes, Pompeo may yet win the KS-04 seat thanks to its ruby red nature, but he is not particularly popular outside of the Koch set. The 91st, on the other hand, the one Brenda Landwehr actually has to run in, is decidedly swingy–purple, if you will.  Let’s explore it!


Welcome to Wichita, Kansas, the biggest city in the state we all think of as “Home” (thanks Wizard of Oz!). In the 91st district, you’ve got partisan demographics that are pretty close to those statewide.

Partisan Makeup of Kansas: 43.5R/27D/28.6U

Partisan Makeup of the 91st District:  42R/31D/26.4U

As you can see on the District Map, the 91st is located in the northern reaches of the city of Wichita. Most of these areas are relatively new-ish and decidedly middle-class. They’re mostly the type of folks who are scrupulous with their yards, and picky with their political yard signs.

Finally, a note to Karl Rove wannabes: the death threat is not an effective political weapon. It will almost certainly backfire…especially when you try it on a West Point graduate who knows how to handle a gun.

Please help win this Essential Race for Kansas, America, rainbows, puppies, children, veterans and the American Way:

Donate to Dan Manning by clicking here.

Please help. Seriously. Please. Pretty please with a cherry on top. Please. Dan Manning actually has “first LGBT President of the United States” potential. Do it for America.

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4 thoughts on “DLCC Essential Race: Can Dan “Death Threat” Manning Dominate Downballot?”

  1. … is so anti-gay, why does she look like she could start on the Home Depot Softball Team.  Just sayin’ …  🙂

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