Democratic House Officials Recruited Wealthy Conservatives
By Matt Renner
t r u t h o u t | Report Thursday 06 September 2007
It was the day after Christmas 2005 and Christine Cegelis sat alone at her dining room table, trying to figure out how to tell her campaign volunteers that she was going to drop out of the 2006 Democratic primary.
The next evening she was to meet with friends and colleagues who had organized around her candidacy for the House of Representatives in the 6th District of Illinois. Her volunteers had walked block after block of the suburban district and spent hours making phone calls to solicit donations and promote the campaign. Many of these people had been at Cegelis’s side during her 2004 campaign and witnessed the fruits of their labor when long-time Republican Representative Henry Hyde decided to retire instead of facing Cegelis again in 2006. This was their shot to have a national impact.
But pressure coming from the national Democratic Party was too great. The Democrats had found a challenger for Cegelis, an Iraq veteran named Tammy Duckworth. Contributions were pouring into the opposing campaign and Duckworth was shuttled into the national media spotlight. Cegelis began receiving calls from Democratic members of Congress informing her that they were planning to support Duckworth.
Some of Cegelis’s own paid campaign staff implored her to drop out; and she had every reason to listen. She had only $40,000 in the bank, her campaign manager had given up on the campaign and given her office staff two weeks’ paid vacation without Cegelis’ permission, and her media coordinator had recently quit. Rumor had it that Illinois Senator Barack Obama was going to star in television commercials for Duckworth – star power the Cegelis campaign could never match.
The next day when she sat down in her campaign office with her twelve closest volunteers, Cegelis prepared herself to admit defeat. She laid out the worst-case scenario: The Democratic Party was willing to spend millions of dollars to defeat her in the primary. If she did manage to beat Duckworth, the party would not help her in the general election, leaving the campaign on its own to face a Republican candidate who was hand picked by the national Republican Party.
Instead of agreeing to quit, every one of her volunteers looked her in the eye and said, “We are here to fight.”