IA-04: Vilsack (sort of) seeking support from Democracy for America

Christie Vilsack’s campaign is asking supporters to help the former Iowa first lady gain the endorsement of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America. However, the Democratic challenger to Representative Steve King in Iowa’s new fourth Congressional district has not formally applied for the group’s support.

Vilsack’s campaign manager Jessica VandenBerg sent an e-mail blast about DFA on February 8. Excerpt:

Our campaign has the great opportunity to win $20,000 and the endorsement of Democracy for America (DFA). All you have to do to help us win is cast your vote for Christie in DFA’s Grassroots All-Stars contest.

Cast your vote for Christie now!

The Grassroots All-Stars contest is run by DFA in an effort to see which Congressional candidate has the most grassroots support behind them. So far in our campaign, I’ve seen a tremendous outpouring of support by the grassroots, so I know we have what it takes to win this.

$20,000 will go a long way towards helping Christie make sure that the priorities of Iowa’s 4th District are the priorities in Washington. The first round’s voting will end on February 17th. The top ten finalists will be eligible for round 2. Help us get there!

I was a bit surprised to see Vilsack actively seeking DFA’s support. A little extra campaign cash is always helpful, and a DFA endorsement would raise Vilsack’s profile with donors all over the country. But the PAC founded by Howard Dean after his 2004 presidential campaign tends to get behind outspoken liberals, whereas Vilsack’s messaging strikes me as cautious or even conservative in some respects. For example, her campaign did not respond to my repeated requests for comment on the Stop Online Piracy Act.

I went to DFA’s grassroots all-stars page to see what kind of pitch Vilsack is making to DFA activists. As of 6 am this morning, she was doing pretty well in the voting–16th place out of more than 200 candidates who have been nominated.

Here’s what it says when you click the icon for more information on Vilsack:

This candidate has not yet applied for a DFA endorsement. You can still vote for this candidate and your vote will be recorded, but it will not be counted until the candidate applies. Contact Christie Vilsack’s campaign and ask that they apply for a DFA endorsement.

Other leading candidates in the DFA competition have filled out questionnaires describing their values and specific issues they want to work on in Congress (click here or here for a couple of examples).

If Vilsack can’t be bothered to fill out DFA’s application for support, I wonder why activists should vote for her to advance in the grassroots all-stars competition. Almost anyone would be an improvement on Steve King, who will probably embarrass Iowans again in his speech to the CPAC conference in Washington today. Democracy for America wasn’t created to back lesser-evil challengers. (We have the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for that.) DFA was designed to support candidates from what Dean and the late Paul Wellstone used to call “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

That kind of pitch probably wouldn’t help Vilsack in a district with a big Republican voter registration advantage, but if you don’t want to talk like a DFA all-star, don’t ask supporters to make you a DFA all-star.

FEBRUARY 22 UPDATE: Vilsack didn’t make the cut for the ten finalists in Democracy for America’s competition.

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