September 8, 2015

Duckworth Causing Democrat Division In Illinois

The Democrat vs. Democrat dynamic roiling the Illinois senate primary has extended beyond the candidates themselves and is pitting the state’s leading liberals against each other, according to a new report from Politico:

National Democrats thought they had their candidate to unseat vulnerable GOP Sen. Mark Kirk in Illinois. But Andrea Zopp and the wealthy Chicagoans funding her campaign could be a roadblock on Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s path to the nomination…

…The primary – which is six months away – is less about ideology and electability than about competition between racial, geographical and personal power bases within the Democratic Party. The matchup is epitomized by two men who have championed the opposing candidates: Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin and former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley.

Prominent Zopp backers Daley and Rev. Jesse Jackson were particularly outraged when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) prematurely put its thumb on the scale, endorsing Duckworth without any conversation with Zopp:

The DSCC’s decision to endorse Duckworth roiled Democrats in the state especially since the committee didn’t even interview Zopp beforehand. (The DSCC said Zopp never reached out to set one up; Zopp’s campaign said they didn’t realize an endorsement was imminent.)

“It rubbed people the wrong way,” Daley said, noting it had been decades since the DSCC helped a non-incumbent win a primary in the state. Zopp said decision was “disrespectful to voters generally, and especially to black voters and to Democratic voters.”.

Rev. Jesse Jackson protested the decision in a letter to DSCC Chairman Jon Tester (Mont.). “They should not have endorsed, especially without talking to her,” he said, noting he found the group’s reasoning disappointing. “When I called them in Washington, their response was: ‘Well, [Duckworth] has a lead in the polls.’ That’s not good enough.”

The DSCC’s heavy-handed intervention was deemed largely responsible for Duckworth’s failure to lock up the coveted Cook County Democratic Party endorsement last month, widely seen as a blow to her campaign:

But while Washington Democrats are all-in on Duckworth, the Cook County Democratic Party, one of the largest local parties in the country, is torn. An endorsement meeting in August ended in a stalemate, with neither candidate able to gain a clear majority. Both Durbin and Daley worked the phones before the vote, attempting to cajole committeemen.

D.C. support for Duckworth wasn’t a selling point.

“That was not something that came up,” Jacob Kaplan, the Cook County party’s executive director, said when asked if the DSCC’s endorsement swayed any committeemen. “If anything, in Cook County, we don’t like it when national folks come in.”

With no end in sight to the dueling surrogates and other candidates considering entering the race, it’s clear Democrats have a mess on their hands in the Land of Lincoln.