Of my seven election nights, this is the third that lasted many days. In the 2000 primary, I made the runoff by 300-odd votes, and waited a week to find out for sure. In the 2012 primary, I made the runoff by 719 votes out of 151,000 cast; that took a number of weeks to play out. And in this election, we closed up election night with a lead of 685 votes, with thousands more to count. So unlike my friends like Toni Atkins or Brian Maienschien (who believe me would sweat if they ever got less than 60% of the vote), I don’t get to give a victory speech to my assembled supporters on election night. So now I am giving my victory speech virtually. So grab your campaign sign and an appropriate celebratory beverage, and read this while standing up. Please applaud and laugh at the appropriate times.
Thank you! Thank you so much for being here [or there].
I just [on Friday] received a gracious call from Congressman Bilbray congratulating me on our victory in this campaign. He offered his help in making a successful transition. We had a tough battle, but that battle is over. Please join me in thanking Mr. Bilbray for his years of public service in Congress and beforehand, and in wishing him and his family well. In particular, we send our thoughts and prayers to Brianna Bilbray as she fights cancer, and we wish her the very best.
Thirteen months ago, we began a campaign to change Congress, to return to the days when listening, discussion and compromise created the road to success, not failure. When we could disagree with civility. When extreme partisanship was not the norm. We thought we could balance the budget in a way that held the line on spending but still allowed us to invest in opportunities to grow our future – infrastructure, education and scientific research -- and retained a basic safety net for the poor, for seniors and for veterans. We thought we could figure out a simpler tax code that was progressive but not punitive, that funded our government and incentivized the creation of jobs here in America.
You thought so too, and that’s why we’re here [or there] celebrating this terrific victory!
A lot of analysts will write about why and how we won this election. They will talk about blue and red, about turnout, about President Obama and Governor Romney, about money and super PACs. But we all know the real why and the real how. Why did we win? Because people want Congress to change. Duh. [pause for chuckles] How did we win? Because of you all.
I could never adequately thank everyone who has so steadfastly endorsed me in this campaign, but let me mention a few. From the beginning, we had the backing of our most prominent elected officials, including my adopted sister in politics, Toni Atkins. My future colleagues Susan Davis and Juan Vargas and our new mayor, Bob Filner. Our past and current leaders in Sacramento – Lucy Killea, Chris Kehoe, Ben Hueso, and Howard Wayne. Dede Alpert, who endorsed me even as she fought back her own concern that I don’t smile enough. [pause for chuckles as I ironically don’t smile.] And Nathan Fletcher, who has served our nation and our state so honorably and is an exemplary leader. I received wonderful good wishes and support from the folks I worked with at the City of San Diego and at the Port of San Diego, from my Port Commission colleagues like Chairman Lou Smith, and from our city council members, like David Alvarez and Marty Emerald. And how about Todd Gloria; he worked as hard on this campaign as he would have on his own if he’d had an opponent! We had the support of the labor community, environmentalists, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Coalition. Civic leaders like Irwin and Joan Jacobs and Malin Burnham. Iconic San Diegans like Bill Walton and Donna Frye. Former Chamber of Commerce chairmen Tom Wornham, Phil Blair, Mel Katz and Ted Roth. All of those great community papers from Ocean Beach to La Jolla to Rancho Bernardo and Poway! Oh, and did you hear that President Clinton endorsed me? I am grateful to all of you.
I thank my parents for the example they set for me in raising a family and contributing to the greater good. For fighting against race discrimination. For teaching me that the first shall be last and the last shall be first and about the camel trying to get though the eye of the needle. Look it up – you could learn something. And for letting me tell the story of my father the minister and my mother the part-time secretary, who worked hard and saved their money put me and my three sisters through college on a minister’s salary with help from grants, college loans and work-study pigeon cage cleaning. A lot of people related to that, and a lot of people are having a hard time doing for their family what my parents did for ours.
We had very generous financial contributors. Thanks to all of you. There is a lot of evidence every year that election victories can’t be bought, but it’s also clear that you won’t win if you don’t have the resources to get the word out. Our contributors funded what became a very expensive effort, and that’s important. But they also made a statement with their contributions. Those were investments in a better Congress and a future of promise and opportunity.
And we had wonderful volunteers. When our first volunteer (Lisa Casey) came in her by herself months and months ago to make phone calls, I worried that we had rented way too much campaign office space. Those worries were unfounded. By the time the primary rolled around, and all throughout the summer and fall, our office was sending out walkers and buzzing with phone calls. Near election days, we would send out 25 or 30 walkers to knock on doors. Every afternoon and evening, we would have dozens of people making phone calls. High school students, college students, retirees, and people who took off work to help out. It was impressive. My daughter, who came in to help when she was home from college, called me in amazement: “Dad, there are all these people in here making phone calls for you and they don’t even know you. It’s pretty cool.”
Well, it was really cool, and I thank each and every one of you for your dedication and generosity.
We also had a terrific campaign staff. They came in early and stayed late. Tracy Cambre, who hates politics but loves people, was not just the campaign glue but the campaign mom who kept our cookies coming and our spirits up. Kate Lyon ran our amazing ground game, navigating our way through the state party and managing our volunteer army. Over time, Kate was joined by Toni, Andrew, Andrea, Tom, McLean and Ryan, who is the future Prime Minister of Australia. Dan Zawitoski – Dan Z – did our research and opposition observation. Seamus Kennedy ran our fundraising operation, and he taught me a lot and put up with a lot. A warning here – Seamus knows off the top of his head who’s maxed out and how far away you are from maxing out. Later, Seamus was helped out by Brett on events, and Alan, our call time manager, who would track me down if I strayed from my call time. Thanks to all of you guys for your great work!
And two more unusual talents.
MaryAnne Pintar is a young woman with a lot of experience in government and politics here in San Diego. She was the communications director in a campaign environment where distortion was the tool of the opponent and sometimes even our local editorial page. [pause for adverse reaction to local editorial page] It was a tough job but MaryAnne was up to it. She fights for the truth and we respect her for her skill and tenacity. And you should know that many of the national consultants she dealt with concluded that MaryAnne Pintar is one of the very best communications directors in the country. Thank you, MaryAnne.
Our campaign manager, Robert Dempsey, came to us from politics in Vermont and Ohio. He brought expertise that we had not seen here before, and I am not just talking about his formidable dancing or karaoke. [pause for enthusiastic reaction from campaign staffers] Robert knows how to raise money. This may come as a surprise to no one, but although our demographics have changed, there is not a longstanding network of Democratic donors here in San Diego. Robert has helped us begin to grow one. In addition, Robert knew how to run a sophisticated field and get-out-the-vote effort that anyone who’s paid attention would honestly say was the first and best that San Diego has seen. Robert, we would not have won this campaign without you leading us and showing us how. Thank you.
And finally, I want to thank my wife of 26 years. When Lynn married me, I was a corporate tax lawyer working to become a partner in a big law firm. About 13 years ago, I started my long journey – some would say descent – into political life. But as foreign as public life is to her, she has always supported me, even as she runs a major business, cares for her parents, manages our household and watches over our two children. She had to watch as I was bashed in television commercials – one of which even mentioned her – and she had no way to fight back. It is a lot to put up with, and I am awestruck by Lynn’s character and love. So if you are happy about this election result, please take a minute to thank Lynn. Without her there would be no “Congressman Peters.”
This was a big effort and this is a big win. OK, it was not a landslide, but one of my roles is to be the candidate that the other candidates look to for drama and entertainment. [Pause as Todd Gloria laughs and nods.] Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we rest, and then we get to work. If I do my job, and if the rest of Congress gets the same message that voters in San Diego, Coronado and Poway sent, we are going to get this government back on track. It may take some time. It will take lots of work. And none of our challenges will be overcome just in Washington DC. We will need your support from home as well. We will stay in touch.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everybody! God bless you all and God Bless America!