|I remember that final fundraiser in Missoula that was standing room only, where the energy was palpable. I remember filling my car with highway signs and hitting the road to Billings for the last week to put the finishing touches on a field campaign started too late. I remember the momentum growing every night as each of our callers cranked hundreds of calls to Yellowstone Democrats.
And I remember on primary election night, waiting at the courthouse for Yellowstone results that I could phone in to HQ, but realizing after just the early returns that we had won. Sure, we were down by 11 points or so in early returns, but that was basically our goal for the final returns and we knew that we had the big mo'. Hours before, I had been ready to vomit from fear. A couple hours later, we were celebrating the biggest unanticipated landslide victory in memory.
Damn, that felt good. Didn't it?
Later, after the unity tour and the expansion of the campaign, I'll admit I was less involved. I figured we'd won you the backing of D.C. And since the D.C. cavalry was going to come out and take care of things, I figured I could turn my attention elsewhere.
But we came back when you needed us. And for that final week before Election Day, I went out on the doors religiously -- including through the rain on Election Day -- trying to turn out every warm-bodied Missoulian who we thought would vote for you.
I don't have to tell you that was a rougher election night. It sure made me glad that I was out on the doors, though.
But my point is this, Jon: My story isn't unique. I put hundreds or even thousands of hours of labor -- some paid, much of it free -- in to your campaign. I donated hundreds of dollars -- a lot of money by my standards. A lot of other people did that, too. A lot of other people who were with you in May of 2005 until November of 2006 and never had any doubt that you could do this job.
I'm writing this letter, though, because -- to be honest -- a lot of us feel pushed aside, like we're not to be trusted. It's a strange feeling when you get the impression that you can't be trusted by the campaign you gave a year-and-a-half of your life to. But that's the feeling I've been getting -- and I know, once again, that I'm not alone.
Why do I feel this way? Why do others who were among your earliest backers feel this way? Honestly, some of it is personnel decisions. It's nothing against any of them in particular, it's just that the team as a whole doesn't really share the values of the Jon I know. Early on in the campaign, we talked about fighting for the middle class and standing up on trade deals. Now your top policy person comes from a Senator who supported CAFTA, the bankruptcy bill, and full repeal of the estate tax. Last I checked, you didn't want to represent multi-national corporations, Wall Street, or the super-rich. Bridget may be wonderful. I have no idea. But I worry about anyone who spent six years with Bill Nelson.
I worry about what your team will be saying on policy. In the primary, you announced that you wanted a universal Children's Health Insurance Program. Will you be signing on to one soon? What's your big goal on energy -- you'll be on the committee and it's an issue that you care about deeply. If a bankruptcy bill comes up and we can repeal that attack on working families, will you oppose it the way we did in the campaign?
You need a staff that has people at the top who share your values and whose first concern is for you and whether they are running the office the way you would want to. That means that they share your priorities -- even if your priority isn't getting re-elected. Otherwise, on these big decisions, the fight will be non-stop between you and your staff. And while there should be disagreements on the staff and between you and the staff, I want to avoid everything being a battle for you.
You also need a staff that realizes that this race was won as much by the first 3,000 votes you got as it was by the last 3,000 votes you got. The people I know who came together early on to say you could do this are some of the smartest, hardest working people I know in this game. And, unless I'm wrong, it seemed like you enjoyed our company quite a bit, too.
You know me, Jon. I've got a lot of faith in you as a person and as a policymaker. You're now in a place I don't fully understand and that I think it'll take some adjusting to on your end. Beyond that, I hope you know that I am loyal to you -- probably to a fault. I wouldn't be writing this if I wasn't worried. And I wouldn't be writing this if I wasn't hearing from a lot of other people who worked hard for you -- making phone calls, pounding pavement -- that they are also worried.
Do right by Montana, Jon. And do right by your values.
We'll see you around,