Monday, December 12, 2005

Ensign Is Out

Now it’s official, Margee Ensign has dropped out of the race. She confirmed this to me in an e-mail exchange earlier today. I was not sure whether I was supposed to wait for an official announcement from her before I blogged about it, but I see that Nick Juliano of the Tracy Press has an announcement about this up already on his brand-spanking-new blog. (Welcome to the blogosphere Nick, we’ll be linking to you). Given that Nick basically got everything I got out of Ensign, I figured there was no harm in putting the information up on this blog as well.

Ensign has declined to discuss her reasoning for dropping out of the race, and has instead sent me the following statement:

“So many of the challenges facing us in our community and country are related to educational performance. We must ensure that all of our students are prepared for the 21st century challenges. It is in this arena that I believe that I can have the greatest impact.”

I hope that this does not signal her desire to completely stop working to stop Pombo, but I cannot help note that she did not mention Pombo at all.

Also, Ensign has decided against endorsing any particular candidate at this time. This is perhaps the most significant piece of information aside from the fact that she’s dropping out of the race. We’ll have to see what she does later on, but my gut reaction is that the longer she waits to make an endorsement, the less of an impact her endorsement will have. Right now she has clearly energized a segment of the district to fight Pombo. Unless she continues to show leadership in the anti-Pombo effort, which she could do in a number of ways, her supporters are going to plug themselves in to other facets of the fight to oust Pombo. Once that happens, her voice will be much less likely to steer any of her erstwhile supporters towards one candidate or another.


Anonymous Nicholas said...

I applaud Margee's efforts to improve our educational system.. It's an issue that's dear to my heart. There's a major problem within the central valley with what many of us within the African American community call "the vicious circle". We need to break this vicious circle that leads so many of our young men who look to dealing drugs because it is economically more viable for them.

Jerry and I recently attended a meeting with church leaders and we all were floored with the cultural disconnect. So many within our educational system believe that diversity equals cultural understanding. Because of this disconnect many of our students problems go unheard. Many parents feel too threatened and/or intimidated to talk to teachers and faculty. The irony is that each of these groups truly do want what's best for these beautiful children. We just need communicate these common grounds.

We walked away from that meeting with many handshakes of support because Jerry understands the importance of bringing together parents/teachers/faculty so that we can address some of the cultural and economic boundaries that prevent our youth from breaking this vicious circle.

To Margee and her supporters, I personally look forward to working with you during this election (and after regardless of who wins) in improving our educational system. I say this as an uncle who has a lil brother, nephew and niece in our district's public schools. Our future demands it!!!

Richard Pombo's support of the Bush Administration's No Child Left Behind Act is proof positive that Pombo does not care about the future of our district. I sincerely hope Margee continues her fight.

6:35 PM, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous Nicholas said...

ps...please dont blame the SUSD for all my above typos and grammer errors. darn, wheres the edit function on this beast?


6:51 PM, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to whatever professional reasons Ensign has for dropping out, her statement seems to indicate that she's decided that political campaigning is just not her cup of tea and that she's better off in the education arena...

She's probably right since her campaigning style (according to your account) was much more that of a college prof than a seasoned pol...

I can't help but be disappointed, though, because I thought Ensign was the best of the bunch because of her thorough knowledge of the issues, Stockton base, and appeal to women voters...

I think her endorsement doesn't matter as much as her web guru Chacon's....

11:24 PM, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Matt said...


You may be right about Ensign removing herself from the political realm, but Ensign's e-mails to me suggested that she wasn't completely done taking on Pombo. Also, the idea of preparing children for the 21st century was a major theme of her short-lived candidacy. So it's not as apolitical as it seems.

Also, I disagree with what you said about Chacon. Respectfully, I think his technical skills far surpass his political skills. Furthermore he seems content to create websites and hope they shape the discourse instead of doing the difficult online organizing that it takes to get some netroots movement behind a candidate. I do not want to diminish what he does bring to a campaign. But Margee has supporters, donors, and volunteers. In my book, that matters a hell of a lot more than podcasts. Maybe in time this will change.

Also, I'm a bit skeptical of the power of the open source model. I don't doubt the impetus behind it. But check out this postmortem on Andrew Raisej's campaign for NYC Public Advocate. If NYC residents weren't sufficiently tech savvy to appreciate the model, how can one expect it to work in the Central Valley, with much lower internet and computer penitration?

12:02 AM, December 13, 2005  
Anonymous Scott Chacon said...

Anon, thanks for the confidence, but I agree with Matt on this for the most part. I am just starting to learn politics and only because I think electoral politics can create change for the better - not so much because I like it. That will make me stick with it, but it will never make me good at it.

I do disagree with the characterization of my motivations and drive behind the technology I employ. In my estimation, the 'netroots' are only limitedly useful right now. 'Just putting up a website' is what I did for my campaign, but only because I wanted to explore the ideas - I knew that the real work was on the ground.

In fact, in my view, the website itself is only useful to point people to for staying involved and building trust after you knock on their door and talk to them about their problems with health care coverage and their kid's education. You will never build a base of support through a website and I would never advocate doing that. The internet is mostly useful to a campaign to build trust with people looking for information and in the backend to organize offline work. Most of my interest is in the part most people don't see - the precinct captains tools and the data - the parts that connect the candidate with the people they wish to represent in the real world. The parts that let supporters collaborate and work together in new and powerful ways. Not just the blog.

I cannot bring supporters, donors and volunteers - what I can do is make it easier to make your supporters to spread the word, easier to donate and make the volunteering vastly more coordinated and focused. Podcasts/videologs are for a tiny segment of the population, but it's about building trust and honesty with the supporters that do listen in - and that ripple effect is not insignificant. It cannot take the place of the rest of a campaign, but I believe it can give you an edge in a difficult campaign.

The Open Source model does not have to be the whole campaign. We were talking to people about opening up a few days a week in Margee's schedule to be openly scheduled by the public, first come first served. People that I talked to seemed excited about that. Just giving up a little of the command and control aspect of the campaign to trust your supporters with is a good idea and can be powerful. I was able to sit down with Andrew Rasiej and Sifry to talk about their campaign a while back. It had a whole host of other problems - so few of which apply to a congressional campaign, I'm sorry to see you throw them in the same bag. I never advocated Rasiej's entire model to Ensign, nor would I expect that to work here. That does not mean there are not aspects of it that can, or that giving your supporters greater control over your campaign is a bad idea, or that giving the internet an important role in your campaign is not smart.

In the end, no matter what I do or say, my endorsement means nothing. A candidate has to want what I bring for it to be effective. They have to not be afraid to give up some control, not be afraid to be a bit more open and accountable, be excited not only about what technology can offer them, but what it can do for democracy and personal empowerment. I can only arm them, I can't make them interested in the fight.

7:18 AM, December 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott -- well said and well-defended. Your comments echo the words of Howard Dean (paraphrasing):

"I'm not much of a zen guy but I've realized that the only way to gain power is to give it away."

Your endorsement may not mean much now, but just give it a few years :-)


3:18 PM, December 14, 2005  

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