What we did in 2006
Just a year has passed since Forward Together began its mission to elect forward-looking, results-oriented leaders all across America. In short, we did well.
In a full court press, we used technology, grassroots activism, dollars, and time to help transform the political map. It started when Missouri activist Nora Walcott called me a "map changer" because she thought the results-oriented approach appealed across partisan lines, regardless of geography. We created MapChanger contests for Congress, and for statehouse races in Iowa and New Hampshire, to let the activists help decide where we put our dollars--matching funds with energy, and using new tools to do it.
Meanwhile, we also did things the "old school" way, headlining 92 events in 70 trips to 28 states--helping raise money for worthy candidates in local, state and federal races.
All in all, we raised more than $9.8 million in one year to help pursue policies and elect candidates with the courage and the competence to take on the tough problems--talk straight with the people--and build consensus around sensible solutions.
* Ten of our candidates won their races for governor, including six brand new Democratic governors, three of them "pick-ups" from Republicans. Democrats now hold a majority of the governorships for the first time in a dozen years.
* Forty-eight of our candidates for the House of Representatives won their races--including 25 brand new members.
* Twelve of our Senate candidates went on to victory, including all eight new Democratic Senators.
I can't say we've had all successes, though. Our friend Harold Ford, Jr., in Tennessee, whose outstanding campaign faced an unprecedented negative onslaught from the other side, lost by a very slim margin.
I have tremendous respect for Congressman Ford, and know we have not heard the last from him.
I am most proud of our efforts right here in Virginia, where Jim Webb's terrific campaign pulled out a hard fought victory--and in a nail-biter tipped the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.
From Labor Day to Election Day, I did a total of 29 events with or for Jim Webb, reaching more than 16,000 Virginians in person, and also pitching him in radio interviews and in a TV ad in the final weeks of the campaign. Jim Webb won by 9,329 votes.
We knew we started a wave in 2001 in Virginia - a wave that helped us win seats in the state legislature...and helped Tim Kaine win the race for Governor in 2005. Jim Webb's come-from-behind victory against a powerful incumbent this year--with a lot of help from Governor Kaine too--is the latest proof that Virginians are willing to put party aside and focus on the future. Jim's going to be a great Senator--and his counsel on the War in Iraq--where his own son is fighting--will be invaluable.
In New Hampshire, Forward Together helped Democrats in a big way--and they won control of the both chambers of the state legislature--the House for the first time since 1922. Forward Together-supported Democrats Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes won both of New Hampshire's seats in Congress--the first time Dems have held both seats since 1912--and making Shea-Porter the first woman ever to represent New Hampshire in Congress. And Forward Together friend John Lynch won re-election as governor with an eye-popping 74% of the vote--the largest gubernatorial victory in the nation, and a Granite State gubernatorial record. Governor Lynch said it best in his victory speech: "People of good will can make real progress when they put partisanship aside and focus on results."
We also took the Virginians to Manchester, New Hampshire, where 27 of our volunteers knocked on 1,759 doors, made more than 450 yard signs, and did 840 absentee ballot chase calls for a total of 243 hours of campaigning.
In Iowa, we played hard too--and Democrats now control both chambers and the governor's office for the first time since 1964. My friend Chet Culver beat an eight-term congressman to make Iowa history as the first Democrat to take over the governor's office from a member of his own party, and becoming, after Governor Tom Vilsack, only the second Democrat elected Iowa governor in more than four decades. Six of our eight Iowa MapChangers helped take helped take back the state legislature in Des Moines for the first time since 1992.
And finally, because here at Forward Together we believe it's about the future versus the past--and yes, because I have an avatar in the virtual online world of Second Life, friends on Facebook, some podcasts on YouTube, and an historic text message youth voter registration contest--we were particularly proud to see this statistic: exit polls show young Americans voted in the largest numbers in at least 20 years in Congressional elections. About 24% of Americans under the age of 30, or at least 10 million young voters, cast ballots--up four percentage points from the last mid-term elections in 2002.
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My decision not to pursue the presidency at this time does not stop the work of this PAC.
In 2007, Forward Together and I will support candidates in key races across America--especially in Virginia's General Assembly races, where transportation challenges demand courageous and principled leadership.
In 2007, Forward Together will continue our efforts to work toward solutions to the dramatic challenges we face as a nation - like our failure to connect the dots between energy, global warming, national security, and the possibility of creating more American jobs in renewable energy industries.
In 2007, Forward Together will continue to develop social networking and online activism tools that have been a unique technology advantage for us thus far--and we believe are integral to victories in the future.
Thank you for your interest in and support of all that we've done this year. I look forward to seeing you soon, and outlining the next challenges we will take on.
With kindest personal regards ... and a whole lot of gratitude.
Nine months ago, I left the office of Governor in Virginia. I was immensely proud of what we had accomplished. We faced historic challenges and got real results.
Upon leaving office, I committed all my time and energy to Forward Together because we need a new direction in America.
Everywhere I’ve traveled, I found hope that we could turn this country around. That Americans are looking for leaders who at this moment of enormous challenge for our country can actually bring us together and get things done.
I’ve heard that regardless of the depth of dismay at the direction President Bush has taken our country, rank and file Democrats are energized, and want ours to be a party of hope, not of anger.
I am especially proud of the work we’ve done in supporting those kinds of candidates throughout America.
We got a lot done.
Forward Together has contributed more money this year to Democratic candidates and party organizations than any other federal leadership PAC. Our effort raised over $9 million.
I headlined 86 events in 25 states to help raise or directly donate $7.3 million to Democrats this cycle.
And our work is not done—especially at home in Virginia, where I continue to work to help Jim Webb win.
But this has also been another kind of journey—one that would lead to a decision as to whether I would seek the Democratic nomination for President.
Late last year, I said to Lisa and my girls, “Let’s go down this path and make a decision around Election Day.”
But there were hiring decisions and people who’ve put their lives on hold waiting to join this effort.
So about a month ago, I told my family and people who know me best that I would make a final decision after Columbus Day weekend, which I was spending with my family. After 67 trips to 28 states and five foreign countries, I have made that decision.
I have decided not to run for President.
This past weekend, my family and I went to Connecticut to celebrate my Dad’s 81st birthday, and then we took my oldest daughter Madison to start looking at colleges.
I know these moments are never going to come again. This weekend made clear what I’d been thinking about for many weeks—that while politically this appears to be the right time for me to take the plunge—at this point, I want to have a real life.
And while the chance may never come again, I shouldn’t move forward unless I’m willing to put everything else in my life on the back burner.
This has been a difficult decision, but for me, it’s the right decision.
It’s not a decision I have easily reached. I made it after a lot of discussion with my family and a few close friends, and ultimately a lot of reflection, prayer, and soul-searching.
Let me also tell you what were not the reasons for my decision.
This is not a choice that was made based on whether I would win or lose. I can say with complete conviction that—15 months out from the first nomination contests—I feel we would have had as good a shot to be successful as any potential candidate in the field.
As for my family, Lisa and our three girls have always had a healthy amount of skepticism, but would have been willing to buckle down and support the effort. I love them all and appreciate their faith in me.
So what’s next?
First, I know that many friends, staff and supporters who have been so generous with time, ideas, energy, and financial support will be disappointed.
My decision does not in any way diminish my desire to be active in getting our country fixed. It doesn’t mean that I won’t run for public office again.
I want to serve, whether in elective office or in some other way. I’m still excited about the possibilities for the future.
In the short-term, I am going to do everything I can do make sure Democrats win in 2006. It’s an exciting year to be a Democrat. I leave shortly to go to Iowa to support folks running for state and congressional office. Hope they are still excited to see me.
I want to thank the thousands of Americans who have donated to Forward Together, hosted me in their homes, shared their ideas, and given me encouragement.
I also want to thank all of the staff and key advisors at Forward Together who have created a great organization. If we had chosen to go forward, I know they had the skills, talent, and dedication to take us all the way.
And finally, as I have traveled the country, I have been amazed at what pent-up positive energy for change exists.
In my speeches, I always acknowledge that what disappoints me most about this administration in Washington is that with all the challenges we face . . . and the tragedies we have experienced, from 9-11 to Katrina . . . that the President has never rallied the American people to come together, to step up, to ask Americans to be part of the solution.
I think a number of our party’s potential candidates understand that. I think, in fact, we have a strong field. A field of good people. I think they’re all hearing what I heard: that Americans are ready to do their part to get our country fixed. I wish them all well.
And I want to say thanks to all who’ve been part of this effort.
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