Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A win from the blue.

Today's Boston Globe has a story looking at the winning campaign of Carol Shea-Porter, a first-time candidate who managed to defeat a two-term incumbent congressman in New Hampshire's 1st District despite having little money, little attention from the media and no support from the political establishment. As the Globe's Rick Klein writes:
Shea-Porter is one of the very few people in the age of big-money campaigns who can watch "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and truly see herself. She's of a political breed that many believed was extinct: the angry citizen who decides to run for Congress - and wins.

No other newly elected representative came from as far off the national radar screen as Shea-Porter, a 53-year-old community activist who never before ran for public office. She defeated Representative Jeb Bradley last week in a race that shattered the myths of what it takes to win a congressional seat.

She had no slick ads or Washington consultants. Her campaign was run by a medieval scholar who worked alongside a nutritionist, an accident investigator, and a pair of court reporters. The Democratic establishment brushed her off as unelectable. She was outspent 5 to 1.

Yet Shea-Porter won with a grass-roots, fiery message centered on opposition to the Iraq war and the president's agenda. She spoke to crowds of as few as three, encouraged her neighbors to spread the word, dogged her opponent at town hall meetings. And she won a congressional race that few thought winnable until close to Election Day.

"We could hear the rumbling on the ground, and that's why we never, never thought we could lose," Shea-Porter said. "It's easier if you get to run those big ads or whatever. But we worked relentlessly, relentlessly, night after night after night."
Read the rest here. Whatever your political convictions, I hope you can find some inspiration in this story of an underdog who prevailed against the longest of odds to win a seat in the United States House of Representatives. Though national and local trends clearly played in Shea-Porter's favor, I still find the victory of her shoestring, word-of-mouth campaign quite remarkable. As an aside, I also like something I read about Shea-Porter in another Globe story from last week. When Carol Shea was in high school, her guidance counselor discouraged her from following her dream of going to college, advising her to enroll in secretarial school instead. Not only did Shea reject this advice but, according to the Globe, after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire she visited her old high school to tell her counselor "not to make decisions like that for young girls." In Carol Shea-Porter, we find a winning candidate who made up for her lack of resources with sheer determination and force of personality. Reading stories like hers, it's hard not to feel some pride at the realization that our system still works as it should. AMDG.


At 2/18/2007 9:50 PM, Blogger Russell said...

Why did you write such a positive commentary on a clear pro-choice candidate? I find it interesting that you lavish praise on her.

At 2/19/2007 12:06 AM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...


The Boston Globe article I comment on in this post says nothing about Shea-Porter's views on abortion. The focus of the article - and the focus of my comments - is on the way Shea-Porter managed to win a seat in the U.S. House despite meager resources, little visibility and hardly any support from her party. I chose to comment on the Globe article because it struck me that Shea-Porter's win showed that grassroots, word-of-mouth candidacies can still succeed in an electoral system in which money and media play ever-greater roles. Nowhere did I say anything one way or another about Shea-Porter's policy positions - my interest was in the way her campaign was conducted and in its success against long odds. My comments treat Shea-Porter's win as an instance of a larger phenomenon and were not meant to have been construed as offering an endorsement of her candidacy.


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