Looking in the Rearview Mirror

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
Hall of Fame NFL Coaching great Vince Lombardi.

“Winning isn’t everything, but losing is nothing.”
Author Frederick J. Lewis

A half century in politics has caused me to remember both of those quotes more than a few times, always in the wake of a hard fought but unsuccessful campaign.

Occasionally, in both victory and defeat, I have allowed myself a bit more latitude in my reflections, maybe just to salve the sting of a loss or temper a victory; such is my perspective as I write this in the aftermath of the November 6 election.

After having toiled essentially fulltime for 18 months trying to “Flip the 4th”, and in the past six months or so working specifically to make Jessica Morse our new Representative in Congress, I could quite easily start reciting both Lombardi and Lewis, even in my much-needed sleep.

But I don’t feel that way. Not at all.

What I do feel is a sense of amazing gratitude to the throngs of volunteers (over two thousand!) who busted their butts on Jessica’s behalf, the 30,000 or so contributors to her campaign, and the great many folks who helped steer and execute Sierra Forward’s activities over the past year.

In league with my Sierra Forward colleagues, I also feel a sense of pride in what we tried to do, and how we did it. Even a partial list tells the story:
• Commissioned two (2017 and 2018) district-wide public opinion surveys which provided the framework for and built the confidence to mount a “Replace McClintock” campaign;
• Conducted over 60 briefings on the survey results to 1,500 voters in all 10 counties;
• Organized house parties for Jessica with guests totaling nearly 1,000, which recruited hundreds of volunteers and raised thousands of dollars for the Morse campaign and Sierra Forward;
• Hosted two major events, one with Rep. Eric Swalwell and one with Rep. John Garamendi;
• Purchased an extensive voter file which allowed us to identify “soft” Democrats, persuadable independents and (a few) moderate Republicans, from which we then produced lists for house party invitations, postcards and text messages;
• Coordinated dozens of “postcard parties” throughout the district and with several Bay area groups during which 60,000 cards were messaged, addressed, stamped and mailed;
• Texted close to 20,000 registered voters in partnership with Red2Blue;
• Emailed 38 articles to a list of 6,000 people detailing McClintock’s positions and votes;
• Funded an anti-McClintock billboard on Hwy 80;
• Organized a “rural issues roundtable” for the Huff Post;
• Provided a coordination mechanism between Democratic County Central Committees, clubs and the candidate campaign;
• Commissioned a post-election districtwide voter survey to be shared in briefings around the district over the next several weeks.

Most important of all, however, I feel—and everyone associated with our collective efforts should feel— a sense of satisfaction in what we all did to alter the political landscape in the 4th CD. Sure, we came up short in the final vote tally, and that loss still stings. I won’t pretend otherwise. But look what also happened as a result of our work.
• With votes still being counted (as of 11/15/18), McClintock’s margin of victory is now less than ten percentage points (54.9 to 45.1), compared to 2016 when it was 62.7 to 37.3 (that’s a “swing” of 15.6 points, and therefore one of the largest such changes in the country);
• Voter turnout statewide is still being tabulated, and it is certain to be in the low to mid 50% range, yet in the 4th CD turnout topped 63%! And in some counties, it was over 70%!
• Total registration in the district 15 days out from Election Day was 460,000—up 60,000 from the last midterm in 2014;
• Down ballot races benefitted greatly because of our collective efforts, as candidates more reflective of Democratic or more moderate values and positions won many local offices;

Jessica Morse and those who supported her candidacy in the general election, most certainly including Sierra Forward, have launched a movement, a drive that will lead inevitably to more progressive—or at least less regressive—policies throughout the region. And we should be happy about that.

Finally, a brief note about the future—with more information to follow in the days and weeks ahead.

The leadership team of Sierra Forward, in concert with many, many people who worked with us over the past couple of years, has begun a systematic review of our efforts—we are looking at accomplishments and failures, of mistakes made and lessons learned. And from that process will come determinations about the future. But let me offer a preview of one conclusion: Sierra Forward is not going away! We’re staying in business. And we are looking to you and to others to help us pursue shared objectives. Please stay tuned for details to come!

Les Francis
Sierra Forward Co-Founder and Campaign Manager