NB Politicus

Turning Red To Blue: Charlotte Koskoff’s 2020 Congressional Campaign

Posted in 5th Congressional District, state politics, Voting Rights by nbpoliticus on October 5, 2019

By John McNamara

In 1996, Plainville Attorney Charlotte Koskoff was the upstart nominee for CT’s old 6th Congressional District against New Britain’s Nancy Johnson, the entrenched incumbent considered unbeatable by pundits, consultants and especially national Democratic Party bosses who put only a pittance into the Koskoff campaign.

By a razor-thin margin of 1,587 votes (C-Span at one point said Koskoff had won), Johnson survived amid her evasive handling of an ethics scandal involving House Speaker New Gingrich and the GOP’s vulnerabilities on weakening Medicare and global trade induced job losses.

Koskoff, who won handily in New Britain with her brand of progressive politics, credentials and genuineness, made two other attempts to oust Johnson before another upstart, Chris Murphy, came along in 2006 to end Johnson’s incumbency as one of the last of the “moderate” Republicans. Murphy, by the way, was Koskoff’s 20-something campaign manager in the tight ’96 race, demonstrating his ability to mobilize Democrats and Unaffiliateds across the district that won him the House prize in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Twenty three years later Charlotte Koskoff isn’t done with Congressional politics, not for herself, but to put progressive Democrats into Congress in districts where Democrats aren’t supposed to win or need a boost to break through.

Koskoff is the co-founder of Save Democracy 2020, an independent organization that targets races around the country where Democratic challengers are making that uphill climb. Save Democracy 2020 is not a political action committee (PAC) doling out donations for its chosen candidates. Instead it shines a light on candidates that need the help to be competitive and directs you to give directly to their campaigns and to help in other ways.  Koskoff formed the group with George Poulin, a labor leader from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) who shares Koskoff’s commitment to social and economic justice. Former State Comptroller Bill Curry, who write commentaries for Salon, The Daily Beast and other publications, is an advisor.

Fundamental to Save Democracy is  a “50-state strategy” for Democrats that says the party needs to have a presence and run in all 435 districts. You may not win everywhere but by being everywhere you broaden the base and make the right wing and GOP expend resources in their “safe” districts. Democratic candidates in red districts are “doing the heavy lifting.” They aren’t preaching to the choir but gaining converts and deserve support that pundits and inside-the-beltway, lobbyist-influenced elements of the Democratic Party ignore.

This strategy was proven right when Howard Dean became Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2005. Dean was scorned by the likes of corporate Democrat Rahm Emanuel and Clinton’s Carville-Begala team. But in 2006 Nancy Pelosi won her first Speakership as Democrats regained the House majority.

Declares Democracy 2020: “We are The National Coalition for Democratic Congressional Challengers, a small, self-funded, grass-roots group acting on our conviction that the public policy debate and political culture in this country will not fundamentally change until Democrats and progressives have a working presence in each Congressional District After years of hearing national Democratic leaders proclaim that they were now committed to a “50 State Strategy,” but do nothing, 2018 moved the needle. In 2018, we closed the gap, and turned the House Blue, only 3 Republicans ran unopposed”

Last month Save Democracy got an early start on 2020 recommending Democrats in two special elections in North Carolina, a state prone to voter suppression and GOP gerrymandering

In North Carolina’s 9th District Democrat Dan McCready narrowly lost by 1,000 votes in a district marred by the GOP campaign’s voter fraud in the 2018 general election and with district lines stacked against him.

For 2020  Save Democracy plans to choose ten candidates to promote among non-targeted Democratic Congressional challengers and campaigns. “In choosing our races we consider personal strengths of the candidates and the vibrancy of their campaigns, says Koskoff. “We are especially drawn to strong challengers from rural and agricultural districts. Family farmers and their communities have been struggling for years, and right now their crises are acute. Our strong, rural Congressional challengers tell their stories with credibility and eloquence. If elected, they could be catalysts and leaders for meaningful change in national farm policy. And they could win. Their districts used to be full of Democratic voters. It’s time to bring them back. We also look at the power, far-right activity, and rhetoric of the Republican incumbent/challenger. With regard to some of them, it’s a moral imperative, as well as a tactical one, to mount strong electoral challenges.”

In 1996 Charlotte Koskoff was a candidate with “personal strengths” and a “vibrant” campaign that came up short because she wasn’t one of the “targeted” races when a modest boost from her party’s Congressional campaign committee and the DNC would have toppled the “unbeatable” Johnson.  Groups like Save Democracy had they been around then could have been the margin of victory. Koskoff remembers. Through her grassroots, national organization, she and her associates will help 2020 challengers as they push the Democratic Party to leave no district behind in turning red to blue.

The Politics of Division: Cafero, GOP Seek To Make 5th Congressional District Less Diverse

Posted in 5th Congressional District by nbpoliticus on December 27, 2011

The impasse over the redistricting of  Connecticut’s Congressional political map is jeopardizing New Britain’s place as one of the major cities in the 5th Congressional District.

Republican Minority Leader Larry Cafero  and his GOP cohorts on the stalemated legislative commission want New Britain to vacate the new 5th to join the 1st District where Hartford and New Britain are “communities of interest” that should go together.

In their brief to the state Supreme Court,  Cafero and company are using the “communities of interest” factor cynically and falsely to tilt the 5th into a Republican-leaning Congressional District.

New Britain,  the home of 12-term Republican Nancy Johnson until 2006, provides the 5th District with the diversity and political balance it needs to be a level-playing field for politicians of all stripes and backgrounds.

Without towns such as New Britain the 5th Congressional District becomes much less diverse.  The Republicans, who sabotaged an agreement within the commission, argue for a proposal that promotes a racial and socio-economic isolation on the political map for the next decade. This strategy may serve the GOP’s short-term election agenda,  but will be divisive, diminishing the influence of New Britain voters.

Congressional districts should reflect a political and demographic balance. The 5th District should remain what it is now: a mix of urban and suburban and the wealthy and the working class voting together.

Taking New Britain out of the 5th District will create an imbalance and reduce the chances of advancing the state’s common interests by its Congressional delegation.

Bush Visit At Taxpayer Expense Raises Big Bucks For Murphy Challenger

Posted in 5th Congressional District, Chris Murphy by nbpoliticus on April 27, 2008


President Bush’s visit to Connecticut and the 5th Congressional District on Friday raised as much as $700K, according to press reports . Much of the money is supposed to benefit the presumptive opponent of first-term U.S. Rep Chris Murphy, State Senator David Cappiello.

Bush used a Hartford speech on malaria-fighting efforts to underwrite an obviously partisan journey to the Kent home of Nixon administration Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. Invitees came at $1,000 per person and got a photo with the President for $10,000.

In a bizarre twist to the trip shared with a group of 5th CD Democrats this weekend, the White House called Cong. Murphy’s office last Tuesday to invite him to accompany the President on Air Force One on his way to the Northwest Hills to shake the GOP money tree for Murphy’s opponent. No word yet on whether Murphy’s office staff has stopped laughing yet. New England’s only GOP member of Congress, Chris Shays, took the free ride.

While Cappiello needed the kind of cash that a sitting President could bring him, many Democrats and unaffiliated voters will be asking just what part of Bush’s policies does Cappiello plan to run on. There was no evidence that Cappiello engaged in any photo ops with Bush. Nary a word on the Cappiello website.

Chances are the Republican challenger will do his best to ignore George Bush completely the rest of the way. It appears his strategy is to run a stealth campaign of quietly backing the Bush agenda and painting himself a Nancy Johnson moderate. To know the real David Cappiello, however, all voters will have to do his follow the money trail back to the White House. The largess given to Cappiello is the best tip off yet of what he stands for and how he will vote: for wasteful war without security, for deficits, for the continuing economic slide of working and middle income people as the rich guys with the long driveways who live next to Henry Kissinger get a tax break.

[Photo credit: http://news.bbc.co.uk]