By CD 8 Candidate Michael Muscato
Being a candidate is hard. Being a candidate in a district where you’re outnumbered is even harder. Convincing voters who aren’t members of your particular party they should vote for you is the hardest.
But raising money to run in a district where you’re outnumbered can be maddening because you have to deal with beliefs like, “it’s an unwinnable seat, so why even try,” or “our resources are better spent elsewhere.” So not only are there voter registration disadvantages, there will be challenges from the Republicans and the challenge of indifference or defeatism from my own party.
In 2016 I ran for the Arizona State Senate in LD22, CD8’s largest district in the West Valley. I ran Clean, had a staff of only two volunteers, and although the Republican attack dogs came for me, I was still able to shatter the democratic vote record by 81%. In fact, I received nearly the same number of votes from Independents and Republicans as I did Democrats. That’s what we need to win CD8 in 2020!
Making the decision to run for Congress wasn’t easy, either. It meant long discussions with my wife, family, and friends about my prospects. Putting your family on hold during a campaign has consequences. I have two small boys who want to spend time with their dad. I still have a business to run. But after considering all of these and other issues, my wife and family are fully supportive of my campaign. They know that I sincerely believe that our hometown and our future is worth fighting for. They know my love and duty to my community runs as deep as my love for my own family. They are proud of me, and their love is the only fuel I need to see this mission through Nov 2020. They know I’m the type of fighter who will do the work necessary to win and that’s exactly what I intend to do: win!
Analyzing the 2018 elections
The decision meant looking at the CD8 2018 Special and 2018 General elections to see what happened and if the Democratic loss could be overcome. I’ve had several conversations with Dr. Hiral Tipirneni about her campaign, her strategy, her approach to issues and what she’d do differently. Having access to her insights has been invaluable as I plan this campaign, and I thank her for it.
It also meant looking at the campaigns of previous primary Democrats to see if there were other, more viable candidates out there. My own assessment and those of others whose opinions I value, is that my campaign has the best chance of picking up CD8 than any of the other candidates in the race. Of course, anyone is entitled to run, but if the objective is winning, their chances are much less than mine. That begs the question of whether they have undertaken the same viability assessment I have and whether their decision is in the best interests of the people of CD8 and the party.
Concluding my due diligence, I decided to run for Congress.
My 2016 experience taught me a lot and I realized my potential to win required a solid team around me. I hired an experienced campaign manager, a field organizer who knows CD8 like the back of their hand, and fundraising team. We started implementing our aggressive strategy and promoting a hometown-borne message that focused on solving problems instead of complaining.
The great news is that it’s paying off. In the last two months, I have been published in the Arizona Capital Times and three of the district’s local newspapers several times. I have appeared on Fox 10 News, on TV 3’s “Politics Unplugged” and was recently a guest on KFNX’s “Voice of Democracy” program. My canvassing team reports that my name recognition has improved and people are starting to pay attention to my issue positions, social media posts, and opinions. Team Muscato is redefining what being a Democrat means in the West Valley: hometown values, American solutions, aggressive pursuit of our opponent.
A Republican Notices
Republican incumbent Debbie Lesko has noticed, too. The pressure we’ve been applying on social media has resulted in her being shamed into a “telephone town hall,” which allows her to pick and choose questions and avoid public accountability for her deplorable voting record. Her record includes voting against the Border Security Act of 2018, the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act, the Equality Act, the Consumers First Act, the For the People Act, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, and the MORE Health Education Act. The fact she’s spending more money on advertising is also a sign she sees a threat from my campaign.
I am convinced that with the right support, Democrats can win CD8. The incumbent really is unprepared, unwilling and unbearably ineffective at her job. The question is how badly my party and donors want to make that happen. There’s a saying that “The purpose of the minority is to become the majority.” Is “Turn AZ Blue” our purpose or a slogan? We need it to be our purpose. It’s time to bring the heat in the West Valley.
I’m not unique. There are other Democrats running for Congress in the same boat. What I need to win is the same thing all Democrats need to win. Here’s what we need to do to win.
- Boots on the ground. We need each and every precinct committee person (PC) and activist in our district to step up and help. We need them to help us compete with the Republicans in their neighborhoods. We need both to hold house parties to raise awareness, raise money and share our message. We need their help obtaining nomination signatures, distributing literature, hosting neighborhood canvasses, and helping get the vote out on election day.
- Money. I get that the presidential race is drawing all of the people’s attention and money away from local campaigns, but that has to change. Congressional seats are not eligible for Clean Elections Funding. You can’t give $5 once and think that gets us sufficient money to win an election. The best type of campaign funding comes from your hometown voters; influence is sold to outside donors. My opponent is raising $3,600/day from special interests to make sure she continues to represent their interests. I’m lucky if I raise ten percent of that a day. That’s not going to make me competitive. I and other Congressional candidates need to raise at least equal amounts if we have a chance of winning. In 2018, nearly $4 million was raised for CD8. If I had even half that, we’d be shredding this district like it never has been before. A friend of mine says “Democrats have deep pockets, but short arms.” Folks, we need to find our wallets. This election is too important.
- Organizational Support. Unions, activist organizations, social media influencers, LDs, County Parties and the State Party organizations need to promote our campaigns. Let me be clear, no one is asking for endorsements, although that would be nice. We’re asking you to tell the public we’re running. When we’re on TV, share links to the program or clips. When we’re published in the newspaper, share links to the articles. We work hard for these opportunities and all we ask is that when we earn some media, share it; celebrate it.
- Don’t Wait. Here’s the problem waiting until 2020 creates: it gives the Republican incumbents a nearly 10-month monopoly on news coverage. It means they have an unfettered and unchallenged head start to contact voters through the use of their Congressional franking privileges and the media. Anything they say will be considered newsworthy and they get written about in the papers and online. The Republican Party isn’t bashful in promoting their candidates. Stop leaving us on the sidelines. Level the playing field now.
These are a few suggestions about how Democrats can support their candidates and defeat Republican incumbents. It’s a lot to ask, but there’s a lot at stake. We can’t afford to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in 2020. If you want to bring sanity and accountability back to the government, now isn’t the time to sit down and wait, now is the time to stand up and do something about our future.
Our hometowns are always worth fighting for, but it’s not a fight if you don’t throw a punch. We know how to win, now together, let’s go do it.
Mr. Muscato’s campaign website can be accessed by clicking here.
His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured Image of Congressional District Eight Democratic Candidate Michael Muscato and his wife, Alicia, and their sons Cooper and Canton