David Lutrin has been a good friend to Blue America and has always been available and candid with us. He kept in great contact with us when he was running for Congress in FL-16 last summer, made several announcements about his campaign at Down With Tyranny and, after he withdrew from the race, he sent a note back to every single Blue America contributor– along with a check for the amount they had donated to his campaign. Today Dave is joining us here at Firedoglake to talk about the nuts and bolts of the primary race he started but never finished in south Florida.
First a little background on the district and race. FL-16 wasn't exactly a district anyone was really targeting for a Democratic take over. It's a pretty Republican, rural district cutting right across the state from coast to coast, and it was represented by a fairly popular, well-entrenched incumbent, albeit a Bush rubber stamp. When school teacher and union member Dave Lutrin decided to run, it was because of his dismay with the occupation of Iraq and his dismay about how Bush had been running our country into the ground. He wanted something better for his young daughter and, as an idealistic and progressive Democrat, he decided Foley didn't merit a free ride to re-election. Not what you'd call a political insider, and severely un-financed, Dave vowed to give incumbent Mark Foley a grassroots race based on the day's burning issues, the kind of race that swept similar Democratic outsiders like Jerry McNerney, Carol Shea-Porter, John Yarmuth, Nancy Boyda, Chris Murphy, John Hall, Jason Altmire, Chris Carney, Patrick Murphy, Bruce Braley and Paul Hodes into office in November.
Early on in the process– in mid-2005– Dave contacted Democratic Party organizations throughout the district, as well as the state party and the DCCC in Washington. Everyone was enthusiastic and encouraging. Glen Rushing, the DCCC point person for the region, told Dave he was "just the type of candidate we're looking for." He offered to introduce him to Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, the DCCC-appointed mentor for Democratic candidates in the region, who following their first phone conversation offered to help him with his race. Rushing then promised to get him in touch with Florida DCCC chief, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Emanuel's lieutenant for the Southeast.
Then something happened, something very dark and secretive, something people are just uncovering now. DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel found out something that could– and did– change the dynamics of the race in FL-16 dramatically. Emanuel became aware that Mark Foley– well-known for years Inside-The-Beltway, albeit not among his church-going constituents, as a very active (and very hypocritical) homosexual– was molesting the underage male congressional pages, and that he had been for many years. Did Emanuel call the police? Did he even call the staffers who are charged by Congress with looking out for the welfare of the pages? Doesn't look that way. What it does look like is that he called a fast-and-loose Republican businessman he knew, someone, like Emanuel, with elastic values and an even more elastic code of personal ethics. He offered him a congressional seat and all he'd have to do was switch party registration and become a Democrat. That man is freshman Congressman Tim Mahoney.
Suddenly there was a new DCCC point person, John Vogel, and he had no idea who Dave was. Rushing called and suggested Dave talk to someone named… Tim Mahoney. Dave did. And Mahoney offered him an intricate bribe to drop out of the race and run against Republican Bill Young in FL-10 instead. Dave Lutrin never had a single conversation with Rahm Emanuel. But Emanuel's
paw finger prints are all over this operation. It's the way he worked in district after district, everywhere in the country, seeking to find business-friendly, quasi-Republicans who would soft-peddle their opposition to the war in Iraq and never mention "impeachment." Many of us have experienced first hand Emanuel's tactics in CA-11, FL-13, and IL-06 to name a few. Scared of career-ending retribution, virtually no Democrats have been willing to go on the record about DCCC practices that are at variance with internal party rules. Dave has no such fears. Please help me welcome Dave Lutrin as our first Blue America guest of 2007.