When HUMAN EVENTS profiled Ann Marie Buerkle’s campaign for Congress in May, the candidate of the Republican and New York Conservative Parties in the Empire State’s 25th District (Syracuse) was a long shot, to say the least.
Freshman Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei, a past spokesman for the House Ways and Means Committee, was on his way to raising $1 million. Buerkle—nurse, attorney, and mother of six (and grandmother of eleven)—had an impressive personal story, but was untested as a candidate.
In her one stint in elective office—appointed to fill a vacancy on the Syracuse City Council—Buerkle had come under fire for her strong pro-life views and lost election for a full term. In this race, Buerkle had barely raised $100,000 by May.
But that was then and this is now. When Ann Marie Buerkle dropped by our offices last week, she was brimming with confidence. In what could be called a hybrid of Cinderella and the 1969 Mets winning the World Series, a recent Whit Ayres poll showed an embattled Maffei edging Buerkle by 44% to 41%.
The once long-shot candidate has now raised more than $400,000—“almost all of it from our district”, she emphasized—and, along with her Republican and Conservative standards, Buerkle has secured the “Row C” ballot line of the Independence Party (once the New York arm of Ross Perot’s Reform Party).
Coupled with what so far appears to be a nationwide Republican tidal wave, Buerkle is now poised to become New York’s first conservative woman in Congress since Rep. Katharine St. George, who represented the Orange County area from 1946-64 and was a longtime HUMAN EVENTS subscriber.
“And HUMAN EVENTS gave me my first national coverage,” Buerkle told us, recalling the “Race of the Week” feature back in April—which could have been a galaxy away, as far as the campaign is going now.
As to how she got to this point, Buerkle cited her relentless pounding at Maffei (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 0%) for votes for “Obamacare,” TARP bailouts, and the stimulus package. As she put it, “The top concerns of the voters who have talked to me are jobs, debt, and the size and power of government. When you have an opponent who votes 97% of the time with Nancy Pelosi, you can gain a lot of ground.”
Even more dramatic is how a candidate with an exclusively volunteer campaign (“and in a storefront headquarters next to a nail salon”) and no major dollars from political action committees could be catapulted to striking distance of victory.
“It’s real old-fashioned grass-roots politics,” she explained. Recalling how she drove to all 43 towns in the 25th District and recruited volunteer chairmen and vice-chairmen in each of them, Buerkle said, “We organized as if running for town supervisor and we found people who wanted to work. Ed Maslona, one of our ‘Buerkle Brigade’ chairmen in Monroe County, is a poster child for our volunteers—he’s never been involved before.”
At a time when much politicking is done on-line and through Twitter and Facebook, Buerkle actually packs crowds in at campaign rallies. In Webster, 250 turned out to cheer her on a Sunday afternoon. On September 17, more than 400 showed up for a rally at Driver’s Village, a former mall turned auto dealership. At the “Rally for Victory,” Buerkle spoke to the wildly enthusiastic crowd about her commitment to the district and pledged support for the Constitution in Congress. She was then “nominated” in a mock convention with standards from all 43 towns, just as in a national party conclave.
Now, national Republicans as John Boehner and Mitt Romney (“I never met either before”) have come into the Syracuse-area to stump for her. The candidate has just hired a paid campaign manager and treasurer because “they are becoming full-time jobs.”
And Maffei has just agreed to four debates. Buerkle added with a smile: “I’m looking forward to each of them.”