What Was I Doing at a Democratic Fundraiser?

It’s always fun for me to meet new people—especially Democrats—and that’s why last night I decided to attend a party for Dan Maffei, a Democrat running for Congress in Republican Rep. Jim Walsh’s Syracuse, N.Y.-based 25th District.

Maffei’s campaign manager, John Balduzzi, a friend from our days at Ithaca College, invited me to the Capitol Hill fundraiser (for which I provided no funding) to meet the candidate he’s been telling me about for more than a month.

Maffei and Balduzzi were in town for meetings as they try to raise money and secure the backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for this November’s election (after, of course, knocking off a primary opponent in September).

What I took away from Monday night’s party was genuine excitement and optimism on the part of Democrats about 2006. (Most people treated me well, by the way, but a few gave me looks when I told them I worked for HUMAN EVENTS.) While someone of Walsh’s stature won’t easily be beaten—he’s one of the sacred “cardinals” on the House Appropriations Committee—even a strong performance by Maffei would send a signal.

In some respects, Maffei could be mistaken for a conservative Republican. The former aide to Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Bill Bradley wears an American flag pin, which, when I pointed it out to one Democrat in attendance, drew a snicker. Hey, at least there were two of us in the room showing our patriotic spirit.

On the issues, Maffei outlines some of his priorities on his website:

“Economic progress that benefits other places, but somehow leaves Central New York on a slow-track. Energy policies that keep our cars running on empty, our homes cold this winter, but gives big oil even bigger profits. A Medicare drug program that’s impossible for our seniors — or their children — to understand. A Congress trapped by gridlock and scandal. And, a Federal government that we can’t count on to come through.”

I’m no political consultant (Matt Lewis should feel free to jump in here), but Maffei’s populist message doesn’t sound anything like the harsh rhetoric we’ve been hearing from two other New Yorkers: Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer.

Maffei’s message is exactly what Democrats at Restoration Weekend said they wanted to hear. The likes of Flavia Colgan, Marc Cooper and Pat Caddell said the Hillary Clintons of the party aren’t the answer for 2006. Instead, it’ll take the work of populist-sounding Democrats with fresh ideas to make the GOP the minority party.

Republicans should take note.


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