Hot flashes are usually a private matter. Alison Teal shares hers.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Gary Trauner

The landscape on the drive to Cheyenne, Wyoming is sprinkled only with tumbleweed and sagebrush; occasional clusters of trees seem like oases surrounded by parched brown scrub grass. “Sheep country,” said Sam, pointing to the fencing with grids of wire on the lower halves. “I thought it was just cattle, cowboys and coal.” The sheep themselves were not in evidence. Nothing was in evidence – other than a sign that said “Parking” which pointed to the side of the road. “Parking for what?” I asked.

We drove under one of those endless western skies, speeding by a huge metal profile of a buffalo high on a bluff, and past the signs warning that I 25 will be closed in the event of high winds. Enormous gates on each side of the highway indicate they mean what they say. Wyoming is the cowboy state and its residents are much prouder of their history with Buffalo Bill and Custer than they are of native son Jackson Pollock. This is a part of the country where metallic yellow ribbons abound on truck and car bumpers; the home state of Matthew Shepard and Dick Cheney.

The diagonal street parking was free, so we parked right next to the historic Plains Hotel and went in to its café to have lunch with Gary Trauner, Wyoming’s Democratic candidate for congress.

Trauner has that squeaky-clean look that comes with balding heads. He’s attractive and personable, dressed in jeans, cowboy boots and a flannel shirt; the uniform of Wyoming. Over Rueben and club sandwiches Sam and I talked to him about his campaign, his beliefs and his chances. I immediately liked him because he let me share his sweet-potato fries; something I could never order for myself.

This is conservative country but Wyoming does have a Democratic governor and the congressional incumbent, Barbara Cubin, seems to be one of the least respected members of congress. Her last campaign was vicious but the competition (a trust-funder with no real campaign) was simply not credible.

Trauner campaigns in small towns 4-7 days a week, stopping in the radio stations and local newspapers but mostly going door-to-door. He says he hasn’t spent this much time away from his wife since they met and yet, when he calls her, she’s always enthusiastic and happy. “What’s wrong with this picture?” he laughs. “But really, it’s because we both feel this is exactly what I should be doing. We’ve had some personal tragedies in our lives and, well, this may sound corny, but we both really want to make a difference.” He’s a hard and energetic worker and that comes across. He’s already knocked on nearly 15,000 doors. In his talking with people, the major issue of concern is health care, followed by the national debt, energy, public lands and immigration. A typical recent newspaper story on public land sales -- which are very unpopular among a broad cross-section of Wyoming voters -- quoted him as saying “The (Republicans) have not been fiscally conservative ... they've been fiscally irresponsible and they're looking anywhere they can to find a couple of bucks. No Wyoming family would sell their furniture to make their mortgage payment and they don't want their public lands sold to pay off the country's debt.” This common sense speaking resonates with the feel of the west.

The question he is repeatedly asked is “How do you know you’re not going to become part of them?” The “them” is Washington. The feeling in Wyoming is Washington versus us the real people. And the incumbent is often seen as “them”.

Barbara Cubin has a reputation for not showing up for votes and not being good with her constituents. One example is the Martin’s Cove issue. The Church of the Latter Day Saints, a strong constituency in southwest Wyoming, had wanted to buy Martin’s Cove, a parcel of public land. At first Cubin had supported the Mormons’ cause, but when environmentalists protested, she wavered. In the end, she just didn’t show up for the vote. It was seen as reflecting a lack of character.

Trauner says, “Basically Wyoming people believe that you ought to show up and do your job. And if you don’t, there’s no excuse. Voters say almost wistfully that they think things just aren’t working on a national level.” On social issues where some disagree with Trauner’s stands, his best argument is that the government should stay out of personal decisions and this strikes us as an approach that will play well among conservatives in the West. It allowed former Senator Alan K. Simpson to be pro-choice. On estate and dividends taxes he will be a reliable Democratic vote. On many issues he will be a moderate, which is very much reflective of his constituency.

Trauner’s button touches the Wyoming nerve:


Hard Work

Gary S. Trauner

This is a race that can be won. The candidate is a businessman and family man (wife, two children 12 and 6) smart and aggressive. He moved to Wyoming 16 years ago, and lives in Teton County where Jackson Hole is. This might have posed a problem since there is resentment about the wealth and fame of Jackson, but Trauner’s strong grass-roots approach can, we believe, overcome that. He is not a self-funder.

Trauner has attracted a strong, experienced Wyoming campaign staff. His campaign manager, Linda Stoval, was instrumental in the Democratic governor’s successful race. Whatever the controversy about the DNC 50-state strategy among political junkies, it is paying off in Wyoming, which now has a three person staff – up from one -- that will be of vital importance in this state-wide race. Although the registration heavily favors Republicans (59%) the Democratic vote in 2004 would be enough to win the race with a lower off-year turnout – if the field staff can get out the vote. Recent polls that show Trauner within four points of Cubin also show Bush and Cheney with very big positive ratings (Bush 57%, Cheney 58%) but with 55% saying the country is on the “wrong track.” So, unlike the races in many states, this is not a place where a referendum on Bush is a winning strategy. Trauner will win or lose on his head to head match up with Cubin, not on the national disgust with Bush.

PACs connected with the committees on which she serves fund the incumbent’s campaign heavily. Trauner figures he will need $1 million to run a good campaign. In the last race the Democratic nominee was outspent $360,000 to $960,000. At last report, Trauner had raised $394,000 and had $234,000 on hand, Cubin had raised $624,000 and had $173,000 on hand. Trauner out-raised his opponent in the last quarter. This is a race where a few dollars go a long ways.

Checks should be made out to:
Trauner For Congress

Please mail checks to:
Sam Brown/Alison Teal Brown
2320 Pomona Avenue
Martinez, CA 94553

Alison Teal

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Friends - You may be interested to know that in the latest ratings from Congressional Quarterly four of the candidates we have been supporting have moved in a positive way in the ratings.

Illinois 10 from Safe Republican to Republican Favored
Arizona 8 from Leans Republican to No Clear Favorite
Minnesota 6 from Leans Republican to No Clear Favorite
Wyoming At Large from Republican Favored to Leans Republican

This is a gratifying reminder that, if you help early in a campaign - particularly in overlooked races -- it can sometimes have substantial payoff in the result. I am not suggesting that our collective effort moved the ratings, but that we played a part by identifying races in a thoughtful way and then helping them at a critical time. There are several more steps to go to a victory in these decidedly difficult districts, but this a one step along that path. So congratulations to all of us.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Angie Paccione
Colorado - 4th Congressional District

We had driven more than 400 miles since 6am this morning when we turned into the driveway of a little red-brick house in a residential neighborhood just a couple of blocks off Mulberry Street in Fort Collins, Colorado. I was uncomfortably hot and sure Sam was lost.

As I approached the house, the front door opened and a fresh-faced young man came bouncing out, shouting that he was making a cool down run. “You want something,” he asked. My irritation evaporated. This little one-story house (zoned for commercial as well) was, in fact, Angie Paccione’s campaign headquarters.

The place was humming, both literally and figuratively with fans on every surface. Volunteers were answering phones, working on mailings, tripping over piles of flyers, reading newspapers and meeting in small groups in the backyard under the shade of poplar trees. The headquarters was bustling and it’s only June. There were Kerry headquarters with less action the night before the election. Paccione has over 400 volunteers on board already.

We were met by the campaign manager Gary Chandler, a totally charming man with a heavy Arkansas accent,. “Does that accent play well here?” I asked. “What accent?” he countered.

We went into what must have been a child’s bedroom at some point in the house’s history and sat amid wall-to-wall desks talking to the candidate. Dressed in a blue knit “Colorado” shirt and khakis, the curly-headed blond Paccione looks like the All-American basketball player she was. She learned basketball as a child on the streets of the South Bronx where she grew up, the child of an Italian father and African-American mother. In high school, she was a consensus All-American and a member of the national Select Team that represented the USA. She was one of the first women to receive a full athletic scholarship to Stanford University where she graduated with an honors degree in political science and then joined the Women’s American Basketball Association. In 1985 she moved to Colorado and worked with troubled youth at a residential child care facility, eventually taught high school, and later became a dean of students and coached boy’s varsity basketball. She spent 8 years with Project Promise, a graduate program for teacher preparation at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where she trained teachers and earned her own PhD in education, after which she became an assistant professor of teacher education at CSU. She has been elected twice to the Colorado legislature from a district where Democrats are the minority. In 2004, she was re-elected by the largest margin of victory by a Democrat in the recent history of Larimer County – against the Republican party chairman.

Paccione is challenging the two-term incumbent, Marilyn Musgrave, whose claim to fame in congress is her authorship of the Federal Marriage Amendment to outlaw same-sex marriages – something she also introduced at the state level in Colorado. Musgrave voted against Sen. John McCain’s anti-torture bill, is unwaveringly loyal to Tom DeLay and is ranked as the 23rd most right-wing of the 435 members of congress – in short, the kind of congressperson we live to campaign against.

But this isn’t an easy district: one of the largest in the country, it’s a blend of rural ranches and farms, college towns and suburbs. The demographics are 165,000 R, 135,000 U and 105,000 D. Musgrave has sent out nine franking pieces already, eight of which look a lot like campaign literature. Sam’s experience is that Coloradans don’t like to have their money spent carelessly. One of her pieces was titled: Marilyn Musgrave Congressional Acheivement (sic) Report.
It will be a hard race though polls show that 51% of the voters want someone new. Even as Bush is slightly creeping up in the polls, Musgrave has been sliding down -- by 7%. So far she has declined all offers to debate Paccione, probably because she does not do well when not totally scripted. She has followed the Bush pattern of only admitting supporters to meetings. The President may be able to get away with that but we suspect it will not play well in Sterling. The voters complain that she never comes back to the district and they can’t get face time with her. When Paccione hears that, she tells the voters “I’m going to be asking you for face time.” Musgrave refers to Paccione as a shrill liberal New Yorker or alternatively as an East and West coast liberal who is pro-abortion, anti 2nd Amendment and anti-family. This seems almost to play to Paccione’s strengths, since Angie has been a very public presence in Colorado for 21 years, connects easily to people, has a warm sense of humor and is an evangelical Christian who says she believes in living her faith, not legislating it.

“It’s all very simple,” Paccione says. “I didn’t have to pave new roads. It was already written. ‘We hold these truths’ [and here she emphasizes the work “truths”] to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (We laugh about the fact that really all those founding fathers meant were white, landowning males, but some things do get better with time . . .)

Musgrave seems to be invisible in the district while Paccione is campaigning with the energy of an athlete. As a State Representative, she initiated Saturday morning breakfasts open to anyone who wanted to question her. “In the beginning, maybe two people would show up. Sometimes it was just the sign and me. But by the fourth year over seventy-five people are coming for breakfast.” Her spirit is indomitable.

This summer she is planning a series of Tent Meetings, old populist style political and social gatherings complete with basketball clinics for the kids and a bit of politics thrown in. She is still looking for the right name for these and welcomes suggestions.

She believes she will need $1,500,000 to run an effective campaign, of which she has raised about $800,000. Unfortunately she will have to deal somewhat with the expensive Denver media market. John Rowley is scheduled to do her commercials. “I have the advantage,” Paccione says. “Marilyn is trying to rehabilitate an image. That costs a lot more than it does to present a new one. I’m not naïve, but I am an idealist.”

Ken Salazar is very popular in the more populated parts of the district and he will work hard for Paccione. “We’re a sort of Ken and Angie act,” says Paccione, “like Barbie dolls.”

We believe Paccione has a good chance of winning with a little help from all of you.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Angie Paccione is one of ten candidates for whom we have been raising money. Thanks to the generosity of many of you we have so far sent more than $100,000 to these candidates.

Candidate District Checks To:

Gabrielle Giffords / 8th district of Arizona / Giffords for Congress
Larry Grant / 1st District of Idaho / Grant for Congress
Paul Hodes / 2nd District of New Hampshire / Paul Hodes for Congress
Christine Jennings / 13th District of Florida / Christine Jennings for Congress
Scott Kleeb / 3rd District of Nebraska / Kleeb For Congress
Angie Paccione / 4th District Of Colorado / Angie Peccione for Congress
Dan Seals / 10th District of Illinois / Dan Seals for Congress
Gary Trauner / Wyoming (statewide race) / Trauner for Congress
Tim Walz / 1st District of Minnesota / Tim Walz for Congress
Patty Wetterling / 6th District of Minnesota / Patty Wetterling for Congress

If you can help with any or all of these candidates -- and haven't already -- please send checks plus one copy of the attached disclosure form to me at the address below. Complete only the lines marked with an asterisk on the disclosure form and then sign at the bottom. We will copy and complete the form for each committee and submit it with your check along with forms and checks from others

Send to: Alison Teal, 2320 Pomona Avenue, Martinez, CA 94553 and Sam's office will forward them to me promptly and, in turn, I will get them promptly to the campaigns. Sam and I have taken a substantial amount of the time of some of the candidates and their campaign managers and I want to be sure they know it was not wasted. If you choose to contribute by credit card on the web site please let me know so that, for this same reason, I can be sure the campaign knows where it came from.

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