Thursday, July 9, 2009

Did a Chaotic Fundraiser Help a Congressional Candidate?

Last week we did a post on a fundraiser-gone-wrong for Congressional candidate Francine Busby in which donors got pepper-sprayed by the cops and the host was arrested on suspicion of battery on a peace officer.

At the end of the post, we said “we can’t even imagine the headache this story will cause the Busby campaign staff.”

Well, maybe not.

According to a new article in Politico today, “the buzz surrounding the episode has suddenly breathed life into her campaign.”

She had already run unsuccessfully three times for the San Diego-area seat held by Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), and national Democratic strategists didn’t expect this time would be any different…

…Now, for better or for worse, Busby is suddenly in the limelight again. Progressives have seized on the incident as an example of law enforcement gone wild, and Busby herself has used it to draw attention to her campaign.

The controversy surrounding the bizarre incident has sparked a liberal uproar. Keith Olbermann named the arresting officer the “Worst Person in the World” one night, and the ACLU said the episode “speaks to a serious lack of law enforcement restraint.”

LGBT activists have been one of the most supportive base groups following the incident - the host herself is a lesbian and the man who called the police on the group of donors appears to be fairly homophobic.

“What it has done is given me a lot more attention and press and media than we ever would have expected at this point in time,” Busby said in an interview with POLITICO. “I’ve met thousands of people as a result of this process. There’s a lot of personal feelings about this.”

Of course, the national spotlight won’t put her on top with the voters - and that’s what elections are all about. The purpose of a campaign is to win and there are no silver medals in American politics.

In fact, that’s what scares quite a few Democrats in southern California.

Some California Democratic operatives who believe Bilbray’s seat is highly winnable worry that Busby isn’t a Democrat who can win in the Republican-leaning 50th District — and that the image of a liberal Democrat taking on area law enforcement isn’t one that will pay political dividends for the party…

…Few would argue that the seat is out of reach for Democrats. Although George W. Bush twice carried the district comfortably, Barack Obama carried it with 51 percent of the vote in 2008 — and local Democratic voter registration rolls have surged in recent years…

…[Her primary opponent, attorney Tracey Emblem, says] “She has run before, and the voters rejected her. You’ve got to stay focused on the issues. Voters don’t want to hear about ruckuses.”

But even if she’s not directly getting votes out of this incident, it’s helping her with another important campaign necessity - money.

Aside from the media attention, Busby has found that the incident is proving to be a boon to her fundraising efforts.

Not long after [the disastrous fundraiser], she blasted an e-mail to her supporters, telling Democratic donors that her campaign “is drawing serious right-wing fire.” She portrayed the police action as a serious civil rights violation and said she was going to “fight for the truth, fight to defend our civil rights, fight to defend free speech and democracy.”

“It’s the eleventh hour to show that you have the courage and commitment to stand with me against the strong forces that are gathering against us,” Busby wrote. “I am going to fight even harder to stop this hateful intimidation. I hope that I can count on you to fight this battle with me.”

Busby said she expects to raise nearly $200,000 in the second quarter — much of it since the controversy erupted — giving her a strong head start in the Democratic primary.

Finding support all over the country will bring her the financial resources necessary to mount a successful campaign. That’s how this fiasco will help.

Yet it won’t put her over the top. Busby is still going to need to do everything necessary of her to achieve what matters most - winning.

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