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Cegelis: Former rival endorses Duckworth for 6th CD House seat.

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To close the loop....Democrat Christine Cegelisendorses 6th CD House Democratic candidate Tammy Duckworth.

Cegelis gives endorsement to Duckworth for Hyde seat

April 3, 2006

BY LYNN SWEET SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

Christine Cegelis, who lost a three-way Democratic House primary battle last month, said she endorses the winner, wounded Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth.

"I certainly endorse Tammy over Peter Roskam. I hope for a Demo-cratic win in November, and I wish her all the luck in the world,'' Cegelis said.

Cegelis and I talked Thursday night over the phone about the west suburban 6th Congressional District election to replace Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), whose decision not to run for another term creates a rare open seat.

Earlier in the week, Cegelis had been in Washington for an event with a group that helped her campaign, the Progressive Democrats of America. She joined the advisory board.

Earlier Thursday, I also discussed the race with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who helped recruit Duckworth to run, along with Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chief of the House Democratic political organization, because they were convinced that Cegelis could not beat Roskam.

Party calls for unity

There is some residual ill will from the primary on the part of Cegelis backers, who resented how Duckworth got in the race.

Durbin told me he is working to unify the Democrats in the district. He revealed that there was a point in the race where he warned the Duckworth campaign he thought that Cegelis would win if there was low voter turnout.

I phoned Cegelis to close a loop because she never used the magic word "endorse" in a letter she sent supporters after her March 21 defeat, in which Duckworth narrowly beat her with 44 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Cegelis and 16 percent for Wheaton College professor Lindy Scott.

Cegelis' post-primary letter to her backers wished Duckworth luck. "She's going to need it,'' Cegelis wrote, since the "full force'' of the Republican Party would be helping her November opponent, state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton).

But she never was more explicit and skipped a DuPage County Democrat unity breakfast the Saturday after the election, where a picture of Duckworth with the two rivals she beat could have been worth the proverbial thousand words.

Backers likely to stay in fold

I asked Cegelis if this was a firm endorsement, and she said "yes.''

Duckworth has appealed to Cegelis several times since her defeat and Democrats, including Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Durbin and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) have called her.

Cegelis predicted that most of her backers would stay in the fold.

"Not everybody of course, but I think the majority of them will, because they want a Democratic majority in the House.

"I think the majority of the voters who voted for me want a Democratic majority in the House. A Democratic majority is important right now. The country is going in the wrong direction.''

Cegelis said she is returning to her job at a software company and will be traveling to Florida to tend to her ill mother.

Durbin said, "We did everything we could'' to bring Cegelis to the breakfast. "I know she is probably angry and disappointed with the outcome, but we need her and her supporters and I hope they will support Tammy.''

When low turnout was predicted, Durbin said that was his "fear for weeks. I called the campaign four weeks in and I said, 'have you calculated a low turnout, what might happen here because we know Christine's friends are loyal and they are going to be there and they are going to knock on doors for her.

"And we are new to the district; Dec. 18 is when Tammy announced. So that was my concern. And election night we made it, but the low turnout made it a lot closer.''

A week ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Duckworth started hitting Roskam for his opposition to stem cell research.

In the end, Roskam is the opponent, and issues such as stem cell research will dramatize the differences between Duckworth and Roskam, differences that ultimately may serve to unite most Democrats.

4 Comments

There are other Democrats running for Congress besides Duckworth!

I fully expect Christine's supporters to vote for Duckworth in November. But as to who they should knock themselves out working for, there are other choices. My guess is even if they wanted to work for Duckworth the way they did for Christine, Tammy's top-down campaign would not fully welcome the help.

Just to the north, IL-10 has a wonderful, attractive Democratic candidate in Dan Seals who has the full support of local grassroots organizations, and who WOULD welcome the help. Since Rahm Emanuel and Mark Kirk are pals, I don't think Seals can expect the kind of largesse from the DCCC and its friends that Duckworth will continue to enjoy, so grassroots efforts could make a real difference in IL-10 (a district which also has very few union members to do that kind of campaign work).

Rahm, Durbin, et al have their candidate in IL-6. Let them worry about getting her elected. If activists converge on IL-10 (which voted 55% for Kerry) and get the word out that for all his pretend "moderation" Kirk is just another Rubber Stamp Republican, Seals can win that race. Then if Rahm is right about IL-6, the Democrats will take 2 seats from the Republicans (and if he's wrong, we'll at least flip one).

For more about Dan Seals, click here: http://www.dansealsforcongress.com

Those preferring not to work directly with the Seals campaign can also work through local organziations such as these: http://www.tenthdems.org http://www.ntdo.org

Though it is a long way till November, I don't see Duckworth winning this thing unless she cuts the strings to Durkin/Emanuel and declares her independence.(and I don't see that happening).

Even though the Democratic congressional primary had a hot, contested 3 way race, it drew less voters than the uncontested Republican congressional primary.

Two Comments:

First, I'm glad you got Christine to formally endorse Tammy Duckworth. I had urged her to do so but I also said she needs to recommend that her supporters do so as well. That's her responsibility as a leader. It's not enough just to guess that most will support Tammy. Even if she asks many won't, not because of anything Tammy has done but because of the outside forces that created Tammy's candidacy.

Second, and much more important for the long run, is to realize that Duckworth got significantly less than half of the total votes, 44 percent. That means that the biggest forces the Democratic establishment could mount got outvoted by two candidates with local feet on the street. A media campaign with no ground troops was outvoted by grass roots candidates. Emanuel, Durbin, Obama, John Kerry and Hilary Clinton with unlimited funds and a brilliant media campaign by David Axelrod would have lost except for the presence of Lindy Scott who took voters almost exclusively from Cegelis.

THIS IS AN EXTENSION OF THE MESSAGE THE POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT OF BOTH PARTIES SHOULD HAVE LEARNED FROM THE HOWARD DEAN PHENOMENON: GRASS ROOTS VOTERS MAKING SMALL CONTRIBUTIONS BUT GOING FACE TO FACE WITH VOTERS AND FACILITATED BY THE INTERNET IS THE WAY OF FUTURE POLITICS.

A TRUE POLITICAL MAJORITY WILL HAVE TO BE MOLDED FROM THE BOTTOM UP. IT CAN'T BE IMPOSED FROM THE TOP DOWN.

PAY ATTENTION TO HOWARD DEAN'S FIFTY STATE STRATEGY. THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY AS A BIG CITY PARTY BASED ON PATRONAGE, UNIONS AND DONATIONS (READ BRIBES) FROM GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS MUST AND WILL YIELD OVER TIME TO THE GRASS ROOTS.

The recent 6th District race is a harbinger of things to come.

The 6th District is a lost cause. Duckworth will be clobbered. Cegelis might have pulled it off against Roskam.

In the 10th, Dan Seals may be able to do an upset against Mark Kirk if he gets DCCC support. That seems unlikely as was stated to to the Kirk and Emanuel close friendship. The DCCC is more of an incumbent protection committee anyway. Too bad the incumbent they are protecting is a Republican.

In the 8th district, you have a far-right lunatic David McSweeney matched against a moderate Republican Melissa Bean running as a Democrat. The inclusion of a progressive independent Bill Schuerer should make things interesting.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 3, 2006 7:15 AM.

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Obama energy speech: Says president is not making a ``serious effort'' on curing U.S. oil addiction. is the next entry in this blog.

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