Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Agree With Antonio French (and mostly with the American) on Russ Carnahan's Options

Antonio French is back blogging at Pub Def for what seems like the first time in eons and offers a pretty strong argument that Russ Carnahan should not run in Missouri's First District against Democrat Representative Lacy Clay. French offers several important reasons for Carnahan to avoid a Democratic showdown including tarnishing the family name and the threat of constant primary challenges even if he pulled off a victory. But what I think is the most interesting point is this one:
Some people are encouraging Carnahan to run against Clay for very selfish reasons, such as to increase turnout in their own elections. A well-financed, racially charged Congressional primary fight is sure to bring out voters for lower profile races down ballot. Like the treasurer’s race, for instance. Carnahan shouldn’t allow himself to be a tool of self-serving people who care less about the Democratic Party and the principles it stands for (such as inclusion) than they do their own ambitions. And even if Carnahan squeaked out an Election Night win, he will have so divided the district and the city that there would be little to celebrate.
If you recall, in late December I reached a fairly similar conclusion with different arguments.

French also links to the latest Political EYE in the St. Louis American which also argues, as I did, that Carnahan should run in the slightly Republican leaning 2nd District rather than against Clay. While I agree with much of what is said in the American, some of it is a bit perplexing. First of all, the title is "The growing isolation of Russ Carnahan," which strikes me as needlessly antagonistic. Carnahan might be somewhat isolated if he decided to run against Clay, but he hasn't decided that yet, so there's no reason to use that terminology. The EYE then goes on, I guess in support of their "isolation" thesis, to say the following:
Carnahan’s increasing isolation in this legal battle was made most painfully evident when the three judges on the Supreme Court appointed by Democratic governors – Chief Judge Rick Teitelman (appointed by Gov. Bob Holden), Judge Mary Russell (Holden) and Judge George Draper (recently appointed by Nixon) – recused themselves from the case.

If the EYE were to look suspiciously for evidence of behind-the-scene power-playing by party giants, such as Nixon or U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, this is the place to look. With these recusals, the EYE would conclude, the Missouri Democratic Party abandoned Russ Carnahan and all but doomed this legal effort to failure.
This claim doesn't make much sense to me. McCaskill and Nixon, as the EYE points out elsewhere, don't want a contested primary. So why would they tinker with the courts in a way to make a contested primary more likely?

But there's one part of the EYE that I think would be an especially good lesson for Democratic activists in the St. Louis area:
Democrats, both in Missouri and nationally, who do not want to see the black base antagonized by a primary challenge to Clay have pledged Carnahan all but limitless financial support to run against Akin, the EYE is told.
We need to remember that both sticks and carrots are important. Many people are spending their time telling Russ Carnahan about all of the bad things that will happen if he runs against Clay. But it's just as important for people to be committed to making good things happen if he decides to run in the 2nd. If Carnahan makes the right decision and engages the Herculean task of trying to win in the 2nd (while leaving Lacy Clay a cakewalk, and perhaps one he really doesn't deserve given the way the redistricting fight played out), then Carnahan should be rewarded with serious energy and money from St. Louis Democratic activists. He got screwed in this mess, but if he decides to do the right thing in spite of his raw deal, people should make sure that he gets the praise and support he deserves.


  1. Absolutely correct, Adam. I'm a strong Carnahan supporter, but do not believe he should challenge Lacy Clay. I actually do BELIEVE he can take on Akin in the 2nd and victoriously ride our good President's coattails in November.

  2. I don't get it. Why is Carnahan's entrance into the race (or the pitting of white candidates against the presumption "black" candidate in the Treasurer's race) a bad thing. At some level political competition is a good thing and it will sharpen both the candidates and remove the passitivity from local electoral politics.

  3. Anonymous, I don't think it's intrinsically a bad thing for there to be competition between Democrats over congressional seats. However, I think in this case there are a lot of people who would have motivations to fan the flames of conflict and turn this into a bloody battle for their own needs.

    And anyway, from a voting perspective, it would be better to take a shot at a 40% chance of winning in the 2nd district than to have a bloody battle over a sure seat.