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Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid

Wow, davesredestricting.org is a great tool, thanks for posting that!

I'll just note that according to the link you posted, OR-6 has the highest % Hispanic representation in the state by nearly 5%.

So this is a definitional issue: is it accurate to call the most Hispanic district in the 14th most Hispanic state (per Wikipedia) "not a heavily Hispanic area or anything?"

Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid

Where to even start here? Nearly every fact in this post is wrong, the interpretation of events is backwards, and the conclusion is contrarian, wrong and frankly fairly ugly.

It's not a heavily Hispanic area or anything

OR-6 contains the most populated areas of three counties in western OR with the highest Hispanic populations (map from wikipedia). It also contains towns like Woodburn, which is 57% Hispanic or Latino.

By the way, Rep. Salinas and Rep. Leon are actually both Latina, and I believe both are the children of immigrant farm workers. That's a substantial constituency in the Willamette Valley and they've always been under represented in government.

Salinas had enough money to make it a competitive race not because there is some deep-pocked anti-EA lobby that was out to get Carrick Flynn, his aspirations just collided with another agenda by coincidence.

This isn't how it was. The timeline tells a pretty clear story. Here's what happened:

First, Flynn-aligned super PACs spent a ton of money in the race and made it the country's most expensive primary.

Then, Nancy Pelosi-aligned House Majority PAC announced they were spending $1m to support Flynn, around April 10. Their first expenditure was 4/12, as you can see here.

Nearly every other candidate in the race quickly released a statement denouncing House Majority PAC for funding in a primary. They held a joint press conference and presumably candidates worked private channels as well.

It wasn't until 10 days later that BoldPAC made its first expenditure in the race, on 4/21 as you can see here.

So it's pretty easy to interpret this. BoldPAC's spending is pretty clearly reactive to House Majority PAC. House Majority tried to knock out a Latina front-runner and BoldPAC spent to counter them. Salinas was already the front-runner (or neck and neck) when BoldPAC made it's first expenditure. And they only spent in the last weeks of the race, against a ton of Flynn-aligned super PAC spending.

By the way, as an aside, the final chapter here is that Protect our Future PAC went negative in May -- perhaps a direct counter to BoldPAC's spending. (Are folks here proud of that? Is misleading negative campaigning compatible with EA values?)

So anyway, the idea that Flynn would have won if only BoldPAC hadn't made an ad buy in the last weeks of the race is pretty strained at best. Generalizing from there to say, gosh, if "it was an Anglo state legislator" leading the race Flynn might have won is totally spurious and an ugly backwards interpretation of the racial politics at play. What you saw was Congressional leadership aligned PACs having a dispute -- everything else aside, who can say in that case a different PAC wouldn't have made a counter instead.

So even though Salinas won by a pretty hefty margin, I think the counterfactual in which he wins does not require particularly large changes.

So you think a late $1.5m spend representing around 10% of total independent spending flipped the race to produce a nearly 2:1 advantage for the winner? Everyone reading Matthew Yglesias' posts in the future (here, or anywhere really) should approach whatever he says with more skepticism.

Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid

Great post, and I hope folks will consider it carefully. I was thinking of writing up my thoughts on how to field better candidates, and points 1-4 cover what I would have written. (And do it really thoroughly, nice job Daniel_Eth!)

One thing about all of those points: they're not just about optics or voter preferences. They're proxies for being prepared to do the job. You don't just need to live in the district for a while before you run so you won't get called a carpetbagger, you need it to know what's going on. You need local connections to get support, but also to know who to call on when new issues come up. Experience in local office doesn't just look good on the bio, it shows that you've got experience with committee meetings and all the other basic blocking and tackling on a local level. And so on --these are matters of substance not just optics.

It would be great to see more long-term thinking in Congress, and I think if you all back candidates that would be viable without their EA connection and also add that perspective, you could do a lot of good.

I hope Mr. Flynn also considers running for local or state office. There's been a lot of churn in the Oregon state legislature recently, and that's likely to continue. He'd be a strong candidate for state rep in the next cycle.

Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now

My friends uses similar level of sophistication for buying a used car for example.

Ouch, was I really that bad?

I’m gonna retract the parent comment and didn’t mean to raise questions about my motivations. (I think you’re suggesting I might be a McLeod-Skinner secret agent? I’m flattered, I think). For what it’s worth, I have no connection to her campaign, have never met her, and am actually not even a donor in her current race (I donated to her first campaign a few years ago).

I was simply trying to provide an alternative, since I think you all are mis-spending kind of a lot of money.

Many political races have a candidate who could be supported to move it to the left.

For the amount being spent in OR-6, you could have had a significant influence on a bunch of those.

Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now

Let me add a positive suggestion. It’s down to the last few days, but if you’re reading this and still thinking about limiting out, your dollars will be better spent in the next district over.

OR-5 is currently represented by Kurt Schrader, a centrist democrat with a long history of blocking any sort of ambitious or progressive legislation. He was one of the members behind splitting Build Back Better, and therefore killing most of the interesting stuff off (including if I’m not mistaken, a bunch of Covid response funding). But his district was just re-drawn and about half the voters have changed.

He has a strong primary challenger in Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a lawyer with city management experience who is running to his left (you can’t really run to Schrader’s right as a democrat). McLeod-Skinner seems cool, and in her previous run came closer to getting elected in a safe R district than seemed possible, basically through heroic networking and ground game.

Here is American politics right now: good ideas are not scarce, the votes to enact them are. Replacing Schrader is a slam dunk, and it’s a cheaper race. It’s a better use of your dollar. Here’s a link: https://jamiefororegon.com/

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Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now

Thanks. I agree - you can debate who would be most effective on pandemic prevention! But it is debatable and I’d love for everyone here to factor that into their back of envelope effectiveness calculations.

But I also want to convince you all that your focus is way too narrow. This is not an election for pandemic czar, it’s an open seat several decades in the making and the representation for >650k Oregonians. So it rankles to see the race turned into an experiment to see if huge amounts of money can buy it for somebody who seems disinterested in most issues facing the district.

Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now

Thanks for the replies. This is exactly what I meant: Flynn likely wouldn’t be within striking distance without the firehose of ads provided by SBF’s super pacs. A really large % of the spending in the race is being provided by a single individual.

Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now

Oregonian here, born and raised. I don’t live in OR-6 but can see it from my home. I’m by no means a member of EA but I’m aware of it and until now had a generally favorable impression of you all.

I hope that rather than donating, folks in this thread will think about what they’re doing and whether it’s a good idea. The most obvious effect of this effort has been to 5-10x the total spending in this race. It’s pretty easy to read it as an experiment to see if CEA can buy seats in congress. Thats not innovative, it’s one of the oldest impulses in politics: we’re rich, let’s put my friend in power.

Further, it sounds like your friend Carrick is a great guy, but he’s got many defects as a candidate. He’s only lived in Oregon for about 18 months since college. From the few interviews he’s given, he doesn’t seem to have much familiarity or even really care about key issues in Oregon (in particular, the few interviews he’s given show that he lacks a nuanced understanding of issues like forest policy and drug decriminalization). He does not appear to have reached out to local leaders or tried to do any of the local network building you’d expect of a good representative. According to OPB he’s only voted twice in his adult life. He has no experience in government. And, of course, if elected he will very visibly owe his win to a single ultra-wealthy individual who is almost guaranteed to have business before the next congress in financial and crypto regulation.

Even if you think pandemic response is the only issue that matters, there’s little public evidence that he’s an expert: whatever consulting he did is private as far as I can tell. What he appears to be is a policy analyst studying AI governance. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it’s not how he’s being sold. And frankly, I doubt it’s a pressing issue to most people in the district.

I also don’t see any thought about the other candidates in the race. It’s not your guy vs a potato: there are 3 credible, excellent choices. Reps Salinas and Leon are both children of immigrant ag workers who worked their way up through local politics. If you think pandemic response is the key issue, Dr. Harder is a highly experienced doctor who used to run the Oregon Medical Board. Medical and policy experience: maybe you still think your guy will be better, but by how much?

One final thought. I thought this group was supposed to be about deploying money more effectively. The amount that’s been spent here would have been more than enough to rent an office and pay a salary for Mr Flynn, an experienced lobbyist with a good Rolodex and support staff for several years. You could have had a dedicated smart pandemic response lobbying operation, not a 2% increased chance of your friend getting elected or whatever. How is your approach effective?