2001 Congressional Campaign: Final Report

In a special election held during the spring of 2001, Tad Daley ran for the office of US Representative for California’s 32nd (later redistricted to the 33rd) Congressional District.

Tad Daley for US Congress

Building A Better World,
One Block At A Time.


April 13, 2001

Election Day was three days ago, Tuesday, April 10th. We lost. The election was won by Diane Watson, California state legislator 1978 – 1998, and most recently President Clinton’s Ambassador to Micronesia. She’s a fine woman and will make a fine member of Congress.

We got 1316 votes — 2% of the total. It doesn’t sound like much. But in a race with 4 parties and 18 candidates vying for support, it turns out we didn’t do too badly.

The Democratic primary pitted 3 political veterans — each with a thirty-year political machine and money at their disposal — against 10 political newcomers. Some said this was like running for Congress against not one incumbent, but three. In the end, none of us newcomers were able to significantly challenge any of those three machines. They garnered the vast majority of all the votes cast.

But of 10 Democratic political newcomers, Citizen Tad Daley finished third. One of the two candidates ahead of me, Leo Terrell, is a longtime Los Angeles TV and radio lawyer. The other, Philip Lowe, spent nearly $400,000 of his own money. We haven’t figured it up yet, but on a dollar per vote calculation, we may well have finished first.

We really made some extraordinary accomplishments in 11 weeks. We did not have a single paid staff member – we were all volunteers. We did not have a campaign headquarters – we did it all out of people’s homes. We did not have a single campaign professional as part of our team (although we extracted free advice from several).

But nonetheless, look what we produced. A breathtaking radio commercial that moved people to tears. A sharp television commercial that many people told me they saw on several different cable TV stations. A beautiful mailer that we sent to 25,000 households. A kick-ass, take-no-prisoners website. Dozens of volunteers phoning voters. Five mass door-to-door walk days. The USC College Democrats working their campus intensely. The candidate speaking and walking and talking, day after day after day.

We also assembled a group of big shot endorsers — composed of actors, former public officials, scholars, and community organizers — that exceeded in stature the endorsements of all the other political newcomers put together. And we generated abundant media coverage that — similarly — exceeded the media coverage of all the other political newcomers put together.

During the last month of the campaign the mighty Los Angeles Times mentioned me in every single news article they printed on the race. The Times also did a feature piece – including a photo of me – about my “celebrity endorsers.” (They inexplicably failed to mention that I intend to pursue a post-political career as an action film star.) The renowned nationally-syndicated Times columnist Robert Scheer wrote an item about a “struggling candidate who deserves attention,” declaring that Citizen Daley “would represent a vital addition to the congressional debate on the military budget and Star Wars.” Radio personality Jon Beaupre of public station KPFK did no less than a three part series on my candidacy.

And perhaps most notable was the judgment of our leading alternative newspaper, the LA Weekly, in its March 30 – April 5th edition:

“Tad Daley … boasts the most impressive credentials and much the most thoughtful platform of all the candidates in the race. Daley, who has a doctorate in policy studies from RAND, spent the past several years working with the late Senator Alan Cranston on his campaign to abolish nuclear weapons. Currently on leave from UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations, Daley is campaigning on his opposition to Bush’s Star Wars proposals, on creating a United Nations Rapid Reaction Force that could intervene to stop genocide, on increasing the U.S. commitment to stop AIDS in Africa, and much else that is as sensible as it is unconventional.”

When I walked the precincts of the 32nd Congressional District and knocked on people’s doors, many voters told me they had been waiting for years to have a political candidate talk about these issues, to define “our community” as the community of humankind. Many of our volunteer precinct walkers had similar encounters. If there’s any single thing I learned by running for Congress, it is that the political consultants vastly underestimate the wisdom and vision of the American people.

All of this was accomplished by an incredible team of dedicated volunteers. Most notable was my friend Andrew Okun, who put everything else in his life on hold for three months while he learned how to design and execute a congressional campaign strategy – and then went out and did it. Andy is a music industry executive and publisher of the highly-regarded Entertainment Law Digest (www.entlawdigest.com). Subscribe.

In the end it was monumentally difficult to generate a name and message identification in 11 weeks that could compete with three candidates who had been doing that for 30 years. Many voters simply felt deluged by the cacophony of 18 candidates vying for their attention. Our single polished mailer probably arrived in mailboxes filled with a dozen other mailers. Our exquisite radio commercial, for many listeners, was likely lost in the din of dozens of others.

I also had many door-to-door encounters with voters who told me that they loved my background and they loved what I stood for. But they felt certain that one of the three political titans would emerge as the winner, and that they would be “wasting their vote” if they voted for me. This was clearly the logic that the LA Weekly adopted, when they endorsed Ambassador Watson despite their clear judgment that Citizen Daley was the outstanding member of the field. I was told that much of the board of the Southern California Americans for Democratic Action (SCADA), which also endorsed Ambassador Watson, reasoned similarly. There’s a powerful self-fulfilling logic to this kind of thinking. It’s also a powerful argument for the “preferential voting / instant runoff” system advocated by people like 1980 presidential candidate (and Citizen Daley endorser) John B. Anderson.

(The April 13-19th Weekly, on newsstands now or at laweekly.com, contains two eloquent letters taking the editors to task for endorsing Ambassador Watson despite their expressed preference for me.)

Several people on Tuesday night reminded me that Abraham Lincoln lost his first election badly. There’s another story about Lincoln too. It was during the darkest days of the Civil War, and the President felt he must dispatch his armies into a horrible battle if he was to have any hope of bringing an end to war and slavery on our continent. The Cabinet debated the question. In the end, said President Lincoln, “we took a vote. It came out 14 – 1. But I was the one.”

Only 1316 voters of the 32nd Congressional District last Tuesday voted to rid the world of the nuclear danger forever, to empower the United Nations to bring an end to crimes against humanity forever, to wake up our nation about the perils of global warming, to move our nation to declare war on AIDS in Africa – the great moral challenge of the opening years of the 21st Century. Only 1316 voters began to glimpse that we are all most fundamentally citizens of the human community, that our national patriotism can be enhanced by a planetary patriotism, that we can pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and also pledge our allegiance to humanity, that we can envision abolishing war and creating world peace through world law, that in this century we can unify humankind and travel to the stars. But those 1316 were right. Those 1316 were the one.

And there’s one more thing our campaign generated. Our volunteers had more fire in their bellies than those of all the other candidates put together. In recent years those who have found success in American politics have been either political veterans or political newcomers who are rich. But I am rich in my family, rich in my loved ones, rich in my friends, and rich in true believers. Over 100 citizens contributed their commitment and shoe leather and toil to our noble effort. Over 100 more contributed their treasure as well.

All of us have hopes and dreams for a better world, for a better deal for the poor and the oppressed and the voiceless, for a better vision of the destiny of humankind. All of us, I am convinced, have a primal yearning to pursue those dreams in some great collaborative enterprise. This is why H.G. Wells said that the common truth at the core of all the world’s great religions is this: that life has no meaning unless one becomes fully engaged in some cause greater than oneself.

For eleven weeks, many of you took your hopes and dreams for a better world, and deposited them in me. Like the mother of Moses, you wove a strong and mighty basket, and then you had the faith to place it on the river and let it go. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. It is the greatest privilege I have ever had. So far.

Posted in Congressional Campaign