The importance of a ground game – down-ballot drop off

21st Century Democrats is excited about the extraordinary amount of enthusiasm Barack Obama’s nomination has generated. The Pew Research Center is suggesting increased voter turnout in the general election bodes well for Democrats. However, some stats from the primary season show that increased turnout for the presidential election doesn’t always help down-ballot races.

In fact, assuming a strong Presidential ticket will pull Democratic candidates in the House, the Senate, and local offices to victory is dangerous. This assumption is not in line with electoral empirics or America’s personality. Splitting tickets will always occur in our nation which prides itself on having a “maverick spirit” and values competence over loyalty. More importantly, many Americans will rightfully not vote for candidates they are unfamiliar with. Why would anyone put someone they know nothing about in a tremendous position of power? In the midst of all the excitement generated by the Obama campaign, we cannot forget that voters need to have face to face contact with canvassers for all our candidates, not just our candidate for President.

Looking at this year’s primaries, there is a substantial discrepancy between the number of people who voted for Democratic Presidential Candidates and the number of people who voted for other Democrats. Across the board, significantly less people voted for other Democratic candidates than voted for Democratic Presidential Candidates.

In Pennsylvania there was a stark disparity between votes accumulated by Democratic Presidential Candidates and Democrats running for other state-wide offices. There were only two contested statewide primaries in Pennsylvania this cycle. Below are two charts comparing the number of votes for Democratic Presidential candidates in April’s Primary with votes for Democrats running for State Treasurer in PA.

Candidate Votes Percent
CLINTON, HILLARY 1,275,039 54.6%
OBAMA, BARACK 1,061,441 45.4%

Total votes for Obama and Clinton in Pennsylvania = 2,336,480

*Obama and Clinton were the only Democrats on the ballot in PA

Candidate Votes Percent
MCCORD, ROBERT 783,675 43.2%
CORDISCO, JOHN F. 472,027 26.0%
MANN, JENNIFER L. 441,745 24.3%

Total Votes for Democrats running for PA State Treasurer 1,661,549

There was a 674,931 vote or 29% disparity between Democrats who voted for our party’s candidates for State Treasurer and our parties candidates for President in Pennsylvania. That means nearly 3 out of every 10 people who voted in the presidential primary, gave the State Treasurer a pass.

In Ohio, two 21st Century Democrats’ endorsed candidates also were victims of down-ballot drop off. In the 1st Congressional District, there were a total of  115, 387 votes for Obama , Edwards and Clinton. Steve Dreihaus ran an uncontested and only got 60,454 votes, a 57,840 vote difference.  Nearly 1 out of every two voters who cast a vote for the Democratic nominee decided to not cast a vote for their Congressman.

In the 15th CD, Mary Jo Kilroy was also uncontested and received 85,840 votes. All the Presidential Candidates received 91,233 votes in total. That’s a 5, 393 vote drop off. Given Mary Jo’s 2006 election results, she can’t afford to have that sort of drop off.

Out in Oregon,  remember those Obama crowds? All that excitement generated 641, 499 total votes in the Democratic Presidential Primary. One would think that the heated primary for the Democratic Senatorial nominee would have little drop off. In spite of intense competition between two well funded campaigns less people voted for our Senatorial candidates than voted for our Presidential Candidates. In fact there was an almost 14% or 91,523 vote difference between total votes for Democratic Presidential Nominees and total votes for Democratic Senatorial Candidates in Oregon. How will Merkley beat Smith if he has to get 115% of Obama’s take in Oregon?

Why am I telling you this? Because at 21st Century Democrats, we believe that in order to have a true progressive revolution in America we’ll need a bottom up, not a top down, approach to elections and campaigns. We have been training and placing field organizers for two decades now. We know that many down-ballot races cannot depend on Obama’s team. They have a big enough task ahead.

21st Century Democrats is endorsing over fifty down-ballot candidates all over the country. For example Jim Roth is running for Corporate Commissioner in Oklahoma, and Andy Meisner is running for Oakland County Treasurer in Michigan. These candidates need resources to get field organizers hitting the doors, and cannot rely on Barack Obama’s field team to do it for them. The nation will not be changed without your help. We already have organizers in critical races across the country, but we need you to partner with us to get down-ballot candidates like Darcy Burner (WA-08), Dan Maffei (NY-25), Jim Himes (CT-4), Judy Baker (MO -9) and other progressives near you elected.


Big thanks to Corey Goldiner, 21st Century Fellow, for doing most of the legwork and tracking down all these statistics.

Training Progressive Field Organizers For The Future

Cross posted from

The 2008 election presents an incredible opportunity for Democrats to take control of our government and build the foundation for a long lasting progressive movement in our country. But to win in November, we will have to contend with a desperate Republican Party that has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to divide and deceive the American people for their own partisan gain. To cut through all of the GOP propaganda, Faux News misinformation campaigns and right-wing radio hate speech Democrats are going to have to get out and talk face-to-face with voters about our vision for America and how we will put this country back on track.

At 21st Century Democrats, we are working hard to play our role in the progressive infrastructure. We train activists in the art of field organizing and then put them on campaigns all across the country so they can go out and talk to voters about our candidates and our vision for the future. On June 4-8, we will hold our National Field Organizer Training: Major League Action at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Over four days of intensive training, we will transform up to 200 activists into prepared field organizers that can be dropped anywhere in the country and start making a difference right away.

You can learn more about our MLA training here.

Or, if you’re all ready to go and would like to reserve a spot in the training you can register here!

Our organization seeks to build a more progressive America not only by electing more progressive Democrats, but also by building human capital within the progressive community. Training a young person to be a field organizer helps us not only in the current cycle, but gives that person a skill that will be valuable in every election. Thankfully, there are a lot of great groups like The Center for Progressive Leadership, Democracy For America, The New Organizing Institute, Wellstone Action! and many others that train progressive activists, organizers and candidates.

If you want to get more involved with the election this year and build some organizing skills for the future, please consider attending our Major League Action Training and/or one of the other great trainings put on by our progressive allies. Or, if you can’t make it and would like to help pay the travel expenses and registration fees for a dedicated young progressive to attend our training you can donate to our Field Organizer Fund. The better we are at finding and talking to our neighbors about the issues that are important to them, the more successful we will be in November and the more likely we are to build a true progressive movement in this country.

Mark Lotwis is the Executive Director of 21st Century Democrats.

Take Back America and A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq

Cross posted from

As I reflect on the Take Back America 2008 conference, I’m thrilled 21st Century Democrats was a partner organization at the event.  We are proud to stand with other great groups like Campaign for America’s Future, Progressive Majority, ACORN, People for the American Way, the Center for Progressive Leadership, and many others who are working hard to change the direction of this country from the disastrous policies of George W. Bush.

For me, one of the highlights of the conference was the roll out of “A Responsible Plan To End The War In Iraq” by Darcy Burner, Chellie Pingree and several other Congressional candidates. Darcy explained how a the Bush Administration’s top down approach to ending the war in Iraq has failed to stem the violence and that’s why she drafted the plan and organized fellow Congressional candidates to take a bottom’s up approach by putting forward a plan to end the war.

One of the most important points made during the rollout was the need to change the frame of the conversation about the war from whether the surge is working to what we should be doing to make our country safer.   To shift the conversation we need to get more people involved in this debate. We must talk to our neighbors, friends, family – and most importantly to the candidates where we live – and ask them to sign on to the responsible plan to end the war in Iraq.

We in the progressive community have asked for leadership on ending the war, and now have Darcy Burner, Chellie Pingree and several other candidates who have put themselves on the line by not only standing up against the war, but by providing a detailed plan of how the United States can bring our military engagement in Iraq to a responsible end and take steps to restore the checks and balances in our government to make sure we do not make the same mistake again in the future.

You can endorse the plan here. You can also show your support the candidates leading this effort by donating to Darcy Burner, Chellie Pingree or the slate of Congressional candidates who have signed onto the plan.

New Progressive Coalition Political Mutual Funds

The New Progressive Coalition recently unveiled three political “mutual funds” aimed at giving people a new way to invest in a more progressive America.

We, at Twenty-First Century Democrats are honored to be included in the NPC’s Victory in 2008 and Beyond Fund. The application process we went through was lengthy, involved, and worth every minute. Beyond the obvious benefit of being included in such a bold and creative investment model and with such a stellar group of progressive groups, the NPC PROI model provided us an opportunity to quantify all our many accomplishments over the last twenty years.

Understanding that donors have choices and want to know that their investments are wise ones – we will strive to improve upon the already high rating NPC has granted us.  Over this next year, Twenty-First Century Democrats will broaden our reach and expand our efforts to ensure we have the greatest possible impact on the November elections. We will highlight the accomplishments of many of America’s progressive leaders. We will work to elevate progressive Democrats into leadership positions within their legislative bodies. We will stand up with and for our candidates against the Republican misinformation machines. And, we will do everything we can to expand the number of strong Democrats in state houses, city councils, the US Congress and every other red, blue, purple or green corner of this country.  

The New Progressive Coalition’s independent endorsement of the quality, efficiency and value of our efforts – and by default, the financial investment our donors have made over the years –  is a testament to the determination, integrity and good old fashioned elbow grease of all the many candidates, staff, organizers, volunteers and other Twenty-First Century Democrats who came before us. And the outcome of NPC’s analysis will now serve as the baseline for our work – for me, our Board of Directors and the rest of the team at Twenty-First Century Democrats. We are committed to improving upon our successes and winning in ’08! And NPC will most certainly help us to do that.

Virginia State Senate: Crunch Time

We at Twenty-First Century Democrats won’t give up in Virginia until the last poll closes on November 6!  We already told you about how Virginia Republicans have been pulling out plays from Karl Rove’s book of dirty tricks. But we’ve been fighting back hard. Thanks to a group of dedicated progressives we’ve been on the ground making a difference in these important races.

Twenty-First Century Democrats has had teams of canvassers in several districts across Virginia.  We have knocked on 2,254 doors and talked to hundreds of voters about our candidates and their progressive goals for the state.  In addition, we made a direct contribution to the Virginia Democratic Senate Caucus on behalf of our endorsed candidates: Albert Pollard (VA-28) and Janet Oleszek (VA-37). But we are not finished yet! Election Day in Virginia is coming up on November 6th, and we’re redoubling our efforts to help Turn Virginia from RED to BLUE!

The upcoming State Senate races in Virginia are vitally important. Not only are they winnable, but they present a real opportunity to change the map in Virginia and beyond. These are the last State Senate races before the 2010 census and with a Democratic majority in the State Senate we will have a voice in the redistricting process.  Success in Virginia this year will set the stage for bigger victories in congressional races in the future – even the Presidential race in 2008. It may seem like a long way off, but winning today will help us build a lasting progressive majority tomorrow.

If you live in the Washington DC metropolitan area and would like to join us as we fight for Democrats in Virginia, please contact us at

A Critical Opportunity in Virginia

The intense focus on the presidential primaries and the 2008 elections make it easy to forget that there are places around the country with important races this year. The 2007 Virginia legislative elections are a perfect example of this phenomenon. The State Senate elected this year will vote on the creation of new congressional districts following the next census – affecting state and national politics for the next decade.  If Democrats want to expand the playing field for presidential and congressional elections, it is essential that we do not allow the Republicans to redraw the lines again in 2010.  The entire State Senate is up for election and the Democrats only need to pick up 4 seats to end the Republican majority.

Two of the best opportunities to grab seats in the Virginia Senate are Janet Oleszek (Fairfax) and Albert Pollard (Stafford County, Northern Neck).  Their campaigns are working hard to turn these critical seats blue, and judging by the dirty politics being practiced by their opponents, the Republicans are terrified.  Janet’s opponent, ultra-conservative Ken Cuccinelli, has repeatedly either misrepresented or lied about her record and positions. (Check out’s blog for a full accounting of his misbehavior.) But recently Cuccinelli sunk to a new low when he sent voters a manila envelope that read: “Notice: Your new Fairfax County income tax payment is due,” with the sender identified in bold letters as the “Fairfax County Income Tax Authority” (which does not exist).  Of course, voters who opened the letter expecting to receive a notice from the government instead found a Cuccinelli campaign flyer attacking Oleszek.

When asked about the deceptive mailer, Cuccinelli tried to say that it was a “gimmick” and part of his “marketing campaign.”  Well, Cuccinelli may think that it’s OK to play games with Virginia voters, but this type of deception is unacceptable – especially when it is used to mislead people like the elderly.

Albert’s opponent in the race for Virginia’s 28th Senate district, Republican Richard Stuart, has been telling Virginians that Albert voted to tax farmers and small businesses.  The truth is Albert introduced a bill in the Virginia House of Delegates to exempt farmers and small businesses from having to pay the estate tax.

It is critical that we do not allow Republicans to steal any more elections with this type of duplicitous behavior. We at 21st Century Democrats are committed to helping candidates like Janet and Albert combat Republican misinformation campaigns. We have launched a ‘Virginia – Red to Blue – Action Plan’ to replace dishonest Republicans with dynamic, forward-thinking Democrats committed to effecting positive change.

(If you are in the Washington, DC metropolitan area you can come knock on doors with us and help these candidates win by talking directly to voters. If interested, please contact us at

This election is critical! We simply cannot allow the Republicans to continue to win by distorting Democrats positions and playing on voters fears. Please donate some time or money over the next 22 days and let’s make sure that Virginia voters get the Democrats’ REAL records — not misleading Republican rhetoric.

We’re rallying early for a huge 2008 victory

Twenty-First Century Democrats is in the middle of our Annual Youth Leadership Speakers Series. We put on this program in order to provide a chance for the interns who flood Washington DC during the summer to hear real progressive leaders. These young people come to DC with high idealism and a desire to change the world, yet too often they only find cynicism and complacency.

At a time when bad news about the war dominates public dialogue, it has been energizing to hear from progressive leaders with integrity and courage. We encourage our speakers to talk about big ideas and their bold vision in America. One of our endorsed candidates from 2006, freshman Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT), really cut to the heart of why we don’t hear big ideas any more, why as a public we aren’t inspired. It really made me think.

“I have this feeling in general that today there are so many politicians that are so afraid to go out there and talk about big ideas, right, I mean we have become so addicted to incremental change and so scared of failure that nobody really talks about change in revolutionary terms any longer.”

Chris went on to talk about what I think is one of the major barriers to seeing real leaders talk about big ideas – money in politics.

“What is happening is that the bar to becoming a candidate for office, certainly for federal office in Congress, but also to a certain extent even to run for local office is not how hard you’re going to work, is not how many good ideas you have, is not how committed you are to public service. It’s one simple question. Can you or can you not raise the money?”

Chris first ran for public office at 24, barely older than many of the people in the room. But it is near impossible to repeat that kind of success with out deep pockets or pandering to big money. Nevertheless, hearing this freshman congressman and his colleagues in the House talk about big ideas – like Chris’ work to make fundamental changes in the way campaigns are financed and pass comprehensive ethics reform was important to me and the young people who gathered around.

More than anything, though, I am excited by what I hear from the interns that are attending the series. These are the young people making things happen right now, on the ground. They are the campaign volunteers of today and the leaders of tomorrow.

It was a great event. My only regret is that we didn’t have even more time to spend with the representatives. – Kendra Jackson (intern with Rep. Bob Filner)

Nice to have the opportunity to hear from congressmen, on leadership and other issues that affect youth today.” – Ann Shikany (Cincinnati, Ohio)

It was really encouraging to hear from current congressional leaders that were young when they first ran for office.” – Shannon Goldberg (intern with Rep. David Price)

Chris Murphy was not the only speaker in our series who connected with our group:

Rep. Brian Baird on what guides him – “Something we never talk about in politics is character… character is the embodiment of values, putting values into action. And those values would be honesty, integrity and responsibility.”

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton on her tireless effort to obtain a vote for the people of DC in Congress – “Eleanor Holmes Norton has a vision all right, it is not to make the whole world perfect but to make our country more perfect by making the citizens who live in our home capitol first class citizens.”

Rep. Henry Waxman on encouraging people to never give up on what they believe – “I hope you will leave with a renewed sense of commitment to fight for these ideas…fight for things that are more than what is in your own self interest but in the interest of all us.”

This is why Twenty-First Century Democrats does more than just endorse candidates with a “D” next to their name. We find real leaders, with big ideas and we help them get elected with boots on the ground field work, trainings, and strategic advice.

This is why we recently made Darcy  Burner our first endorsement for 2008. Within days we will announce the full list of our first round of candidate endorsements. We had an overwhelming response to our call for applications and we found outstanding candidates running for all types of office. Our goal is help them win election and provide leadership to enact bold policies rather than incremental changes.

This Thursday we have another great line up of progressive leaders: Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Jon Tester and Representative Paul Hodes.

If you haven’t lately, stop by the 21st Century Democrats web site where we’ll be adding more information about the speaker series as well as announcements about upcoming endorsements and events. I'll be at YearlyKos this week, and I look forward to seeing everyone there. We’re excited about the 2008 election and we hope to see you on the campaign trail.

21st Century Democrats Endorses Darcy Burner

Twenty-First Century Democrats is proud to endorse Darcy Burner for Congress in Washington’s 8th Congressional District.

“Leadership is seeing the big picture, knowing how to get there, and then painting that picture so vividly that the rest of the world eagerly comes along.” – Darcy Burner

Darcy Burner is a seasoned leader with bold ideas that capture the imagination of all Americans. Her work at Microsoft has given her the experience to create new paths to achieve goals worth fighting for such as health care for everyone and dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Darcy is intelligent, analytical, and has the energy, motivation and ambition to get the job done. Her commitment to the values of equality, liberty, opportunity and responsibility will make her a leader in the Democratic Party after she wins the 2008 Congressional election in Washington’s 8th Congressional District.

Darcy is running for Congress to fulfill her commitment to human rights. First, human rights include the right to end an unjust war in Iraq, let the Iraqi people decide their own destiny, and restore faith in America as a leader who solves problems with a force of argument and not the force of weapons.

Human rights include the right to be taken care of with dignity and respect when a person is ill. She will fight to make sure everyone has access to universal healthcare.

Human rights include the right to a clean and sustainable environment. She has a commitment to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases to protect the planet’s environment and the health of Washingtonians and all people around the world.

Human rights also mean equality for all. Darcy has shown courage in her conviction to treating everyone equally no matter their race, gender, age or who they fall in love with.

Darcy Burner reflects the core Democratic value of hope. She won’t appeal to fear and bigotry to gain votes. She will inspire all Americans to come together and build a community where power and wealth is evenly distributed among all people.

We endorsed Darcy during her tough and very close race in 2006 against Dave Reichert. We, along with many Americans, were outraged when the Republican attack machine launched a negative campaign of fear against Darcy. But we will not give up on Darcy.

Like many real leaders, Darcy has the courage to set aside the sting of defeat and stand up for what she believes by getting back in the ring. She is in a stronger position to win in 2008. We feel that throwing our support behind her campaign early in the race will send a strong signal to the progressive Democratic community that Darcy Burner is a candidate that everyone should get behind by volunteering and supporting her campaign.

Join us as we help Darcy Burner become the next great Washington Democrat to bring bold, progressive ideas to the halls of Congress. With your generous financial support, we can send Darcy Burner to Congress and turn Washington’s 8th Congressional district blue.

We’re Looking for the Next Jon Tester

21st Century Democrats released
our new
candidate questionnaire

Here at 21st Century Democrats, we think too many organizations endorse
candidates based on a checklist of surveys of incremental policies that won’t do
much to fix what is wrong in this country. Checklist questionnaires tell you if
a candidate supports your issue, but they don’t tell you whether a candidate is
actually going to do something about it if they get elected.

Political strategists and consultants tell our candidates to support incremental
policies which will not offend voters. The strategy is to play it safe and wait
for Republicans to fail so badly that voters will elect Democrats. This is
exactly what happened in 2006.

This strategy doesn’t inspire people to vote. When you act like a Republican,
you fail to build the political will for making the massive policy changes we
need. We believe electing a Democratic majority is not an end itself, but rather
the means to an end. Our ultimate goal is to create a real progressive society –
one that is just, fair, tolerant, and sustainable. So if you really want to get
there, you need to identify and elect candidates who want to build a progressive
society and have the leadership skills to take us there.

Leadership is about offering solutions and building the political will to
support them. That’s why we work to elect Democrats who will be leaders inside
the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill, in state Houses, counties, and cities
across the country – Democrats who will take us to the next level.

We think the best way to find visionary candidates to support is to skip the
standard checklist that a lot of DC groups use and, instead, to engage in a
conversation with candidates about their vision and bold ideas. Most candidates
find this very different and very refreshing. Filling out our
is the first part of this conversation, a way for candidates
to introduce themselves and their ideas to us. And in the process, they learn
we’re not business as usual.

In 2006, we were proud to support
a great slate of
, including
in the Senate, and
in the House. And 21st Century Dems were fighting in the trenches
of state and local races, too –
for Governor of Ohio,
for Secretary of State of Minnesota,
for the Maryland State Senate, and
for County Executive in Montgomery County, Maryland. We supported
for State Senate in Oklahoma and
for Congress in Arizona. We helped candidates all across the
country, up and down the ballot, some targeted and some who were not. And we won
9 of 11 primaries we were involved in.

We’re excited about the 2008 campaign season, and we’re looking forward to
working with more visionary candidates. Last time around, 21st Century Democrats
helped get some big wins for Democratic candidates, and this time we’re looking
to do even more.