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Liveblog with Sen. Feingold and Courage

by: Karl-Thomas Musselman

Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 00:25 PM CDT

( - promoted by Karl-Thomas Musselman)

I'm here in the Quadrangle room waiting for things to get started, chatting with the reporting crew. Until then, go enjoy the Lamar Smith protest video.

We'll be updating shortly. Turnout looks to be around 150 at this point with more trickling in.

12:40 Our guests have entered to a standing ovation and now being introduced by UDems Vice President Ali Puente.

John Courage introduces himself, and looks forward to being the next Congressmen to represent the people in this room.

Russ Feingold takes the mike. He mentions he's here because he supports a 50 State Strategy and this district (TX-21) is exactly the kind of place where we can win and we must fight.

Sen. Feingold explains his listening sessions, where he pledged to hold one per year in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties per year, a pledge he made when he was at 1 percent in the polls before he was first elected.  Now he has taken them nationwide and will complete his 1000th session later this year.

12:45 First question related to genocide in the world (missed response). Second question in regards to McCain-Feingold finance reform.

Feingold: Believes in voluntary public financing of all campaigns in America- it's the only way all Americans can feel welcome into our political system.

Courage: Agrees and mentions how he's worked in Bexar County towards this effort.  "Make sure legislation in this county is written for the public interest and as part of that I believe we should look into having public financing for campaigns."

Liveblog continued in the extended entry.

Q: Which elements are essential in immigration reform bill?

Feingold: McCain-Kennedy bill is a pretty decent bill that gets us going in the right direction.

Q: What is your stance on same-sex marriage.

Courage: "I believe this country is one where people have a sense of decency. ... I respect the right of every human being to live with dignity to be viewed the same way through the courts to live with the same legal rights as everybody in this country."

Q: Problems with the party in terms of inclusiveness?

Courage: Diversity of the party is the strength of the party. Sometimes it is like trying to herd cats. But we still have a strong core of a progressive populist backbone in the party. But I welcome a party with diverse ideas, pro-life on one side, pro-choice on the other, we're all still Democrats.

Q: What are your feelings about McCain running for President.

Feingold: I think he's going to run. Once joked with him that if we ran against each other he'd beat me even in Wisconsin. Some people in our party think Hillary will have problems winning the election, I'm not taking a position, I'm just stating that each candidate may have trouble with the nomination.

Q: Who is your political hero & favorite book?

Courage: JFK- he moved me to be involved in politics. I still remember where I was when...  I'm a fan of JRR Tolkein Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Feingold: Robert F. Kennedy and then MLK.  The people I looked up to were each assassinated. Book- The Stranger by Albert Camus

Q: About getting involved in politics.

Courage: "For years, I've worked in the trenches. Politics is the means to become a public servant."

Feingold: "I'm the least wealthy member of the Senate and still somehow I made it there." - is why "I fight so hard for finance reform to each of us has a place at the potluck table of American politics."

1:10 Q: Ideas to promote keeping American jobs in US or to create more low-skilled jobs?  Outreach to middle-lower class Democrats?

Feingold: "I was in the Senate when all the trade agreements were proposed, voted against every one of them.  One side of table is big corporations and the other are countries that don't care about labor or environmental regs. And because it's fastracked, we can't amend it in the Senate. These deals are rotten."

Courage: "We've sold out American jobs, the American manufacturing industry, to globalism."  It may mean that we have to make a bit of a sacrifice to pay more for the products that make our life a little easier.

There have been fewer and fewer Democrats stepping  up to offer a strong Democratic choice. As Jim Hightower says, "There's nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and dead armadillos."

Feingold on Courage: "I'm not being gratuitous, I've seen a lot of people come and go, but this guy would be a great Congressman.

1:20 What about censure? Some say it's not far enough, but why is the Dem caucus not getting behind you?

Feingold: Mentions Daily Show experience. Censure hasn't been used in 170 since Jackson.  Considers that the President probably has committed an impeachable offense, but worries that impeachment would not be best for the country. Respects the office, respects the man, but something should be said and the country can move on.

Courage: Speaking on the war. Was against it when it was brewing and still is.  Has served this country, wore the uniform, carried the weapon, stood at post in defense of this country from 71-75 at tail end of Vietnam war. Would like to serve on the Veterans Affairs committee.

Feingold: Mentions the 50 Democratic veterans running this year.

Q: What about Bush's new saber rattling?

Feingold: "Let me speak to Iran first, which I'm assuming you are referring to, unless the President has announced a different country today." "I think it would be irresponsible for the President to take war off the table" when it's where he should have been focusing 3 years ago instead of Iraq, where we have now ended up with a proxy government for Iran, that's how bizarre it's gotten.

There is more form here, including an amazing speech by Courage in response to one question that I can't do justice from memory. The event has been audio and video recorded and I'll link to podcasts when they are available.

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Impressive. (5.00 / 1)
To be honest I expected Feingold to be a great speaker, and he was. Relaxed, knowledgeable, down to earth.

What I didn't expect was how John Courage matched Feingold. John was very impressive and came across as a great candidate: confident/knowledgeable without being arrogant, honest, and a straight shooter.

Would have liked to hear more specific goals/plans from him, but he gave a good outline, and given that the forum was a "listening meeting", most of the time he was responding to questions from the audience. His response about student aid was particularly strong.

Courage Never Disappoints (5.00 / 1)
I have seen John Courage speak about three times now at a range of events, and I have been continually impressed with his conviction, heart, and eloquence.  However, a sad question that was asked today that needs a good answer was how he plans to win when Rep. Lamar Smith garnered 16k more votes in the Republican primary than he did in the Democratic primary.

Just as John Courage, Sen. Feingold, and others have said - to get such an AMAZING representative elected we MUST make sure that every democrat in the district votes for Courage, and we must work hard on convincing independent or moderate republicans to do the same.

16k (0.00 / 0)
Courage has just gotten better and better speaking at events, and the fundraiser (event 3 of 3) tonight was no different.

The only thing about comparing candidates based on primary vote is that it's really not a measure of much. By the same token, most every statewide Democrat including Sanchez out performed the Republicans in 2002 but we all know how they fared in the end. It's an imperfect measure because it's about primary turnout.

[ Parent ]
An in-depth look at Texas 21 (0.00 / 0)
I'll post the numbers first, and then perhaps some thoughts.

Thanks to the Texas Legislative Council and the Redistricting site, here is the historical election data for the Texas 21st.  All of the figures are based off of the current maps, meaning that the 2002 numbers are based on voters in 2002 but from the 2003 redistricted map.

Note: figures are rounded
Note: figures are specifically from Texas 21st Congressional District

Voters Registered: 452k
Turnout: 79%
Rep/Dem: 60/40
Bush/Kerry: 61/40 (statewide: 60/40)
Smith(R)/Smith(D): 63/37
Stick(R)/Strama(D): 58/42
Spanish: 13%

Voters Registered: 402k
Turnout: 53%
Rep/Dem: 64/36
Perry/Sanchez: 66/34 (statewide: 59/41)
Cornyn/Kirk: 61/39 (56/44)
Smith/Courage: 72/28 (74/26)
Spanish: 13%

[ Parent ]
small problem (0.00 / 0)
The 2002 map is waaaay not the same. And even if you are saying that the 2002 numbers are simply the current map with whatever of those voters are in it, it's only sampling some of the most republican parts of the district that were in both the new and old maps. (not to be confused with the old old map of 21 pre-2000 (and 2 rounds of redistricting) which was mosly 21 hill country counties will a little of bexar.

It should also be noted that the Democratic Smith didn't raise or spend a dime and most recently ran for Governor as a Republican against Perry in the primary. And that Smith nearly carried the Travis County portion which makes up 50% of the vote these days. And the fact that 2 years ago, we didn't even challenge HD 47 which is wholly within TX-21 and will be a priemer race this fall. Also take into account that in 2004, Kelly White was 50/50 with Baxter in HD48, also in TX-21.  This spring we say Donna Howard blow out 58/42 over Bentzin in the same seat 2 years later. Even if that is 55/45 this fall, that is a huge shift for Courage to work with.

And Patrick Rose in Blanco and Hays county will be in a better re-election position this fall and that helps run up totals for John on one of the few counties of texas that trended Blue in the last 4 years. And the face that John's Congressional seat is #1 in Texas in the terms of being most closely opposed to Proposition 2 as it includes parts of Austin that were against it (both HD 47 and 48 and central austin) as well as the #2 best county in the state Hays.

I think the fact that Bush didn't pull but 1 point better in this district than statewide also says a lot.  Wow, that ended up being a long response, I'll have to make a post on that. Thanks jw!

[ Parent ]
Note on the map...first (0.00 / 0)
From what I can gather, here is what the numbers/map are based on.

The 2004 numbers are of course based on the 2003 map, since that drew the lines for elections post October 2003.

The 2002 numbers are based on voters from the 2003 map, not the previous map that actually drew the lines for the '02 election.  As an example, in the '02 numbers, there are swaths of votes shown for other CDs as well.  Put somewhat confusingly - imagine the votes from 2002 on the 2002 map.  Now take away the '02 map, and overlay the '03 map.  There will be votes from '02 that are cut out from the '03 map, and there are votes that are added since some of the voters were not previously in the CD.

Am I making much sense?  Was there any confusion in the first place?  I'm not even sure...

[ Parent ]
Too much... (0.00 / 0)
After trying to form some opinions on the data, I realized I have more questions than answers - and questions that could only be answered with voter file data.

However, here are some more interesting figures from TX-21

VR: 405k
Rep/Dem: 67/33
Turnout: 73%
Bush/Gore: 67/33 (statewide: 61/39)

Some conclusions:
-We see a democratic trend in TX-21 from 2000 to 2006, but it tends to be more republican than the rest of the state
-There was a huge increase in registered voters from 04-06 (not sure if this is part of the data/map situation)

I also realize that this is an expensive race for a challenger since the district covers two media markets - San Antonion and Austin.

I had more to say, but as it just passed 4am my mind needs rest.

[ Parent ]
not sure (0.00 / 0)
It may just be the diffuculty in explaining what you are talking about here, but with all the redistricting I really don't think one can compare this well.

Those numbers seem to indicate to me that for 2000 you are talking about the really old map, which had myhometown and a lot of the hill country in it for 10 years during the 90s. That district included non of Travis County back then. It was mostly a rural district anchored in Bexar country, a different part than now.

[ Parent ]
the link (0.00 / 0)
Here is a link to the maps and voter numbers from the TLC website:

If you notice Plan 01374C - the approved 2003 redistricting plan - is given for each congressional data.

[ Parent ]
With redistricting.. (3.00 / 2)
..they had to cut a little bit out of what were then very strong conservative districts--primarily 22 with DeLay (and soon to be Lampson) and 21 with Smith (and soon to be Courage).

This district was 14 almost entirely rural counties in 2002. It was then 5 in 2004, when Rhett Smith, a candidate this year for governor on the ::cough:: Republican ::cough:: primary ticket this year, received 46% of the vote in Travis County's section of the district.

This same guy never did any serious field organizing, and never filed an FEC report.

You also have to take into consideration the intangeables (sp.?) like John himself being different. When he first ran for Congress, he got his feet wet. It's a good thing. He learned a ton that we are able to apply in this race, and mistakes that were made that we can try to avoid in this one as well.

Since beginning to fundraise full time (which was only the second half of this last quarter), John has made some significant progress: From his FEC reports:

A little bit here on John's fundraising--John is a full-time schoolteacher and until March 7 had not been able to fully fundraise full-time in between school hours and lesson plans, etc...

From August to December, John had raised $48,942, with $31, 899 cash on hand.

From January 1 to February 15, John kept on this basic monthly pace, raising another $7,628, which brought his totals up to $56,570 with $29,572. The reason for the drop in cash on hand was that most of the staff was hired at that time, so there were more expenses.


From the period of February 15 to March 31, John's numbers jumped to $108, 181 with $63,387 cash on hand--let me put it clearly:

-First 7 months, 2 weeks:
$56, 570 with $29,572 cash on hand

-Next 6 weeks, with only 3 of them being fulltime fundraising:
$108,181 with $63,387 cash on hand
(This means $51,611 was raised.)

John is on fire. His heart is in the right place and if you heard him yesterday, he wants to be the heart, the mind, the ideas, the voice, and the change in the district, and to represent CD21. It's unfortunate that it comes down to money, which is why John also supports campaign finance reform and public financing.

We still have a couple of D.C. items on the near horizon, and commitments from several large labor unions and such still to be presented, national figures coming down to the district, and since John is fundraising full time the numbers change each day, but he is closer to $120K with $75K in the bank, and that isn't counting any calltime.

But he needs your help. Besides, it's his birthday Friday!

ActBlue with BurntOrange.

[ Parent ]
just to address... (3.67 / 3)
Aside from the other facts that some have pointed out, ie how primary results aren't really indicative of "real voters" etc...even at that, the fact that Smith was *only* up 16k votes is not bad.

But there was also a strategy--while some may disagree with it, we have been able to get national attention. Tonight was Russ Feingold--keep your eyes peeled for more national figures coming to campaign for John.

The time spent in January and February was primarily spent with John fundraising. Another great bit of time was spent in Washington, D.C., meeting with national leaders and introducing them to the viability of the campaign, and quite frankly, of John himself.

I know field is of utmost importance, but at that point if we didn't raise funds, we wouldnt have anything to work with period. Follow? We'll be launching the field program in the next few days, our data is almost processed. But for an unopposed candidate who needs to spend every dollar wisely, it didn't seem like a great idea to spend the resources (not only financial but volunteer-wise) on getting signs up at polls that might have gotten noticed next to the 20 others, etc..believe me, we will talk to voters.

But there is a LOT of field and media to be implemented. I can think of about 100 things that the money for that possible tiny little bit of name recognition (not even assured, and with no way to stay in touch with that person) could be better spent on. People don't vote for a candidate in November because they see a corrugated sign in March.

We were unopposed, so we focused efforts where we needed to seal up. Now the campaign is rolling ahead, and we streamline and switch gears into a serious field program, 6+ months out.

So to echo JC, those 16k votes are insignificant.

Thanks a million to everybody who took part in the events today. It was a total blast.

[ Parent ]
Favourite Courage Line (3.00 / 1)
I didn't hear him say this today, as it was a listening session, but I love to hear it whenever there is the occasion:
"Bush needs a brain, Cheney needs a heart, and Congress needs Courage."

Last Post - Photos (3.00 / 2)
Here are photos from the Feingold/Courage event from today.  I had hoped to attend Sen. Obama's event as well, but the restriction on photos disappointed me so I left.

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