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Stonewall Democrats Chapter Re-Boots
by Andrew Davis

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Pictured Debra Shore (secretary), Tom Chaderjian (vice president), speaker Brett Smiley, Rick Ingram (president), and Jill Metz (treasurer) at the Stonewall meeting. Photo by Mel Ferrand

The man who helped engineer one of the biggest upsets in the Nov. 2 spate of elections spoke Feb. 3 at the initial meeting of the revived organization Chicago Stonewall Democrats. Brett Smiley, district director and campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill. ( who upset long-term incumbent Phil Crane ) , recounted ideas—which he stressed were not all his—and the timeline that led to the historic win.

In providing a brief overview of the race, Smiley discussed three factors that have steered practically all political victories: hard work, creativity, and luck. When Bean ran in 2002 against Crane, the most senior Republican in the House of Representatives, she got 43 percent of the vote, exceeding expectations. Encouraged by this result, Bean put her team together in late 2003. Smiley acknowledged the input of members of the LGBT community, who were there from the beginning; he not only talked about the warm reception Bean received at the Equality Illinois dinner in January 2004 but also how individuals helped Bean garner the support of the Human Rights Campaign.

Smiley then talked about the effort that members of the team put in, working incredibly long hours for little pay. Although he admitted that the Bean team made the strategic decision not to invest many resources in field work—because of larger teams ( such as Barack Obama's and John Kerry's ) —Smiley added volunteers knocked on many doors, often in unfriendly suburbs.

Sometimes, the best ideas do not generate financial profits but do bring about the right type of media exposure. Smiley discussed a prime example of this theory: the Phil Crane seat cushion. He said the campaign did not make money off of the pads—which went along with Bean's message that Crane was so out of touch with his constituents that we was just a 'seat warmer' in Congress—but the press loved them. In fact, Smiley said that the cushions were news in at least 38 outlets around the country, which led to Bean receiving financial support from across the nation. Also, it was around this time when the Bean campaign experienced more good luck. National Public Radio broke a story about free trips that Crane was taking, which fit in with Bean's message that Crane was taking the job for granted. ( In fact, the Chicago Tribune reported that Crane took more than $109,000 in sponsored trips to destinations such as Antigua and Rome. ) By this time, Smiley said that Crane's campaign was definitely in trouble—and even the political intervention of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., could not help him.

Smiley's talk was followed by a short Q&A session that dealt with, among other things, Bean's agenda. He said that the congresswoman will definitely not support the privatization of Social Security and will hopefully 'work on some type of small business healthcare proposal' in the next two years.

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