Wrap on Jim Neal, the primary, and the big picture

Folks gathering for the party.

On primary night I liveblogged from Southern Rail in Carrboro, where Jim Neal held his after-party. Here are some thoughts from the evening -- and observations about the big picture.

It was a festive atmosphere, even as results came in that made it pretty clear Kay Hagan would cross the finish line with a lot of distance between her and Jim.

Around 9:45 PM Jim Neal arrived, and he came right over to thank me for all the blogging support -- and by extension, the netroots -- all of the Blenders and great BlueNC members who supported him in this uphill historic race.

He pulled about 20% against Hagan, and he won two counties, Yancey and McDowell, both in the western part of the state. I told campaign folks at this bash the bottom line is that, while he had a great ground operation, Jim didn't run any ads on TV, and for many low-information voters, an ad may be the only way you reach them. Kay Hagan, with all the DSCC-generated money, could cruise on ads.

For those of you with shorter memories, Jim Neal was running neck and neck with Kay Hagan in the polls and was polling well against Dole up until April (see here, here and here). What happened? Kay Hagan then started running her TV ads. However, anyone who saw the televised debate (something Sen. Hagan desperately tried to avoid) knows who was the stronger candidate and who possessed better command of the issues.

Another large factor here is endorsements, particularly black PACs. There are a lot of rings to kiss, and while Jim received the endorsement of the Independent Weekly, the large progressive newspaper here, he didn't get the nod from the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and others like it, these hold a good deal of sway here. When I went to the polls on primary day, the majority of black voters going in with me had the Committee's endorsement card in hand, not the tear-out from the Indy.

And finally, as we've discussed so many times before here, Jim Neal didn't receive any kind of nod from the Beltway LGBT orgs (oh, say HRC, for an example) -- as you've seen, they focus heavily on viability, and less on advocacy. There is an imbalance when there cannot be room for supporting progress regardless of outcome in Red states -- going for the sure win (or just-miss) becomes more important. We're not talking about writing a check, but supporting candidacies that are groundbreaking. To say you've got to start off with enough $cratch to win out of the box (as in "come talk to us when you've raised a $1 million"), that's a viability issue, not an indication that it's worth moving the ball forward. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And you know there are folks in the ivory tower in DC gloating over the margin of victory, full of bravado of the "I told you so" -- well guess what -- that attitude is part of the problem you have with the grassroots. Get out of the sterile, self-stroking environment; it's not becoming.

The goals of "advocacy" (and it has to be used loosely here) and lobbying are sometimes incompatible in this regard; we do need clarity -- and we need LGBT orgs that don't have to play this balancing act with donors and insiders. And as far as the DSCC is concerned, well, there's not much more you can say about Chuck's machine.

This race was so important to the LGBT community here, and no one left downtrodden about the race Jim ran, because we know that we moved the ball forward (even without the help from those who say that they speak for us); our civil rights issues are no longer in the closet in a NC political race.

Here is Jim Neal's gracious and thoughtful post-primary speech:


Never about LGBT equality

Jim's race was never about LGBT equality. It was always about just plain old equality. Equality for the poor. Equality for Blacks and Whites, Hispanics and Asians. Plain Old Equality.

Jim ran a great race, I was proud to vote for him. I look forward to seeing Dole lose in the fall, and I pray that the US Senate becomes even just a little more concerned about equality because of Jim's campaign.

"Keep the Faith"

"Keep the Faith"

2010, here we come!

Here's to Jim kicking Burr's butt to the curb in 2010!

Thanks to Jim for an amazing campaign, and many thanks to you, Pam, for all your efforts to get the message out. You should be proud.

equality and movement forward

I won't disagree with you there, he did run on a "full equality for all" agenda. That's the general (and correct) political perspective. I was speaking from my soapbox as member of the LGBT community. Jim's race was significant because it didn't focus on his sexual orientation. Remember, he could have chosen not to run as an openly gay man. As we know, it happens all the time. Why we have already had gay representation on the Hill from inside the closet, right? We have enough self-loathing elected gay folks who have no interest in promoting equality.

Those of us in the LGBT community who supported Jim's candidacy know that visibility matters, and when in the closet, our issues tend to remain closeted, particularly in the south. The presidential Democratic candidates learned between 2004 and 2008 that they could openly discuss LGBT issues without the earth opening up and swallowing them. That's how you move the ball forward on every level. Running openly means the issues make it to the table for all the candidates running. When the issues can be discussed, it means you create a dialogue to reframe the issues for those unaccustomed to dealing with them, including Dem and GOP candidates at every level of elective office. The next race is then easier. Others can follow.

I cannot tell you how many prominent LGBT activists, loyal Dems I have heard from who were appalled at the way Jim was treated behind the scenes by HRC and LGBT beltway orgs. The HRC endorsement debacle was the last straw for many LGBT activists, because it generated honest "WTF" questions from straight progressive allies, who were perplexed as to the lack of support. It's painful to have to explain to allies that our main advocacy organization has viability in mind ahead of supporting trailblazing because of its dual role as a lobbying organization interested in reinforcing its ties to the Hill and party/DC infrastructure. Not that the latter is evil or anything (since legislative advancement is extremely important), but it ties the organization's hands in the case of true advocacy time after time.

We down here at the grassroots level need national LGBT leadership that can focus on advocacy without those ties -- and has equal gravitas as HRC, because its sheer size and presence means the ally community and the MSM automatically assume it speaks for the LGBT community at large, which of course helps it maintain and/or grow HRC's size and pre$ence. Save an advocacy counterweight, we are hampered as a movement, as we've seen, when it comes to efforts like this race.

Pam Spaulding
Durham, NC USA

Pam's House Blend

Pam Spaulding
Durham, NC USA

Pam's House Blend

Exactly. Didn't focus on, didn't shy from..

And that was a big plus, in my opinion. Being gay was no more important to his platform than someone being left handed. It just was.
Yes, the HRC non-endorsement was ridiculous. It wasn't as if Jim was someone unqualified, uneducated and unelectable. But then again, the HRC's respectability, objectivity and reputation have been in steady decline. Throwing the T*s under the bus with ENDA was simply the final straw there. In a way, I am glad Jim didn't get the HRC nod. He's better than that.

Well said, Pam

Thanks for all your work.

our main advocacy organization has viability in mind ahead of supporting trailblazing because of its dual role as a lobbying organization interested in reinforcing its ties to the Hill and party/DC infrastructure.

I think that is spot on. It is unfortunate that pandering to the establishment slants the process. We've seen that dynamic time and time again, such as in Kissell's first run.

Keep up the good fight!


Yep. Equality is reality when

being gay or black or left handed just doesn't matter. That's how Jim ran his campaign. In that regard, he's a winner. And so are we.

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry Truman

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Some people didn't even know...

Jim was gay until last night. At the party, I overheard a conversation where a young gay man pointed out Jim's partner to an older gay man. They older guy (50ish) was shocked to learn Jim was gay. I wondered how it was that he couldn't know. But more importantly, I thought it was a sign that Jim's candidacy was about much, much more than sexuality.

I enjoyed supporting Jim. I always felt proud to tell people why I supported him. Yesterday at the polls, I got a lot of smiles by telling people "If you want to get rid of Elizabeth Dole, here's a Democrat who can send her back to Kansas." I've been a part of losing campaigns before, but rarely has the candidate been someone I liked as much as Jim.

I don't know where Jim will go from here.

He has a good head on his shoulders and is right for North Carolina. I hope that Beverly Perdue will use him as some sort of advisor at the very least.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.