Chuck Pennacchio RespondsI earlier asked Chuck Pennacchio, essentially, how come no Philly activists seem to have heard of him until he decided to run for office.
And, he responds:
Thanks for the questions, Daniel
Why have you never heard of me before? And where have I been for the last 15 years? Both good questions, especially given our campaign's active presence on-line and off-line over the last several months.
Hopefully, Daniel, the following will allow you and/or your parents to identify me, if not my work on behalf of progressive organizing efforts in the Philadelphia area and beyond.
Incidentally, wearing the skin of a U.S. Senate office-seeker means I now must bring public attention to myself in a way that dramatically contrasts to my mostly behind-the-scenes organizing work of previous years.
Let me run through this briefly, laying out my bio and organizing career, and then I will be happy to go into greater detail on any activity you want me to discuss further.
I was born in Delaware County (Darby) in 1959 and lived my first five years in Springfield, PA. Our family of six (parents, two older sisters, one younger brother) then lived in Cherry Hill, NJ for one year, Norwalk, CT for three years, and Cherry Hill for four more. At age 13 we moved to San Diego.
My first immersion in progressive politics was at age 13/14 when I organized grassroots support (canvassing, tabling, leafletting) for California's "Nuclear Safety Initiative." I subsequently ran a San Diego city council candidate's campaign (Bill Bauers), and got involved on state house (Tim Coehlo-San Diego), state senate (Gary Hart--namesake of the Colorado U.S. Senator--while at UC Santa Barbara, 1977-1979)--federal house (King Golden-San Diego, Ron Dellums-Berkeley/No. Oakland) and U.S. Senate (Alan Cranston, 1974, 1980) races--all at the grassroots level.
While attending the University of California at Berkeley, 1979-1981, I worked with Congressman Ron Dellums as a military case worker; and for the year after college, 1982, I worked as Alan Cranston's personal assistant. It was there that I learned the internal workings of the Senate--something that will aid my seemless transition to U.S. Senator in January 2007.
In 1983 I took a job with SANE, aka, Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, in Washington, D.C. SANE relocated me (at my request) to Philadelphia in 1984 to open a canvass office in Germantown, where we shared space with Bob Musil (now head of Physicians for Social Responsibility in D.C.) and Steve Schick, co-hosts of "Consider the Alternatives" radio program. Within two months of launching a highly successful operation, SANE PAC put me on Tom Harkin's U.S. Senate race in Iowa, where I organized social justice activists in support of Harkin's first Senate victory.
I returned to Philly periodically throughout 1984, a time during which the office moved to Walnut Street, just off of Rittenhouse Square. In 1985 I signed on with Pennsylvania Jobs with Peace Campaign (working with George Lakey, now at American Friends Service Committee). In both 1985 (when I lived in Center City) and, again, in 1987 (when I lived in South Philly), I organized door-to-door canvassing efforts and Congressional Black Caucus (alternative) budget press conferences, while assisting with the economic conversion project for the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
Political activists I befriended at the time, and who are still active today, include Sam Durso, Lauren Townsend, and Ken Weinstein. Sam is a teaching colleague at the University of the Arts (where I've been since fall 2003); Lauren heads up Citizens for Consumer Justice; and Ken Weinstein is a community activist in and around Mt. Airy.
I spent 1986 in Colorado running the day-to-day operations of Tim Wirth's successful U.S. Senate campaign.
Following my late 1986/early 1987 return to the PA Jobs with Peace Campaign, I left in May to become Paul Simon's Iowa Caucus Field Director.
After putting in place an Iowa field campaign and an Iowa-Illinois canvassing operation, I attended the University of Colorado at Boulder from January 1988-Summer 1996, where I earned my M.A. and Ph.D. in history (diplomacy, U.S., and Europe). Even more proudly, I lead-organized and, for two years, presided over the establishment of the United Government of Graduate Students. From scratch--along with the fellow grads, undergrads, staff, faculty, and administrators recruited to help--I created an autonomous government, a constitution and by-laws, and a community spirit and purpose previously lacking on our Balkanized campus. Within three years, 1989-1992, part-time and full-time graduate student employees of the University had matching (50-50) health benefits, guaranteed teaching and research assistantships, and a place at the table with admnistrators charged with budgetary responsibilities.
I married in 1990, had a daughter in 1996, and a son in 1998. We now live in rural Bucks County (Plumsteadville), only 200 yards from the Plumsteadville Grange building that houses our U.S. Senate campaign operation.
In 1997 I took a history/political science teaching job at Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture in Doylestown, Bucks County, PA. While at Del Val I joined the American Association of university Professors and succesfully organized junior faculty members for better work conditions (across the board).
Soon after gaining tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at Del Val in 2003, I took my current Associate Professor/History Program Director position at the University of the Arts on South Broad Street. At UArts I have been very active with my colleagues on service committees and in the larger community with, among others, the Human Rights Campaign.
Returning to conventional politics and organizing, I worked the GOTV campaigns for Gore/Lieberman 2000 and Rendell 2002 (primary and general) in Bucks County. In 2004, I poured 1200 volunteer hours into the Kerry/Edwards campaign in Southeast Pennsylvania. At precisely the same moment, I joined DFA/Philly for Change. From mid-March to mid-May, I was the point person for Kerry's campaign in the region, as I personally recruited 1400 people into the effort. From mid-May to Election Day, as paid Kerry staffers moved into the state, I combined campaign training (out of the Grange office in Bucks), hands-on organizing (throughout the region), and surrogate speaking (Southeast PA), on an as-needed basis.
Finally, following the 2004 presidential debacle, I immediately ramped up my U.S. Senate campaign. I have visited Democracy for America chapters across the state at the same time that our campaign has gained the national attention of DFA activists, as well as leaders Jim Dean and Tom Hughes, in addition to bloggers, fund raisers, and other on-line progressives.
We now have organizers in virtually every population center in Pennsylvania--coming out of DFA, the Human Rights Campaign, municipal and county Democratic organizations, and much, much more. In addition, I have done three house parties in Philly and plan to do as many as possible over the coming months. I also intend to stay deeply involved with the good work of Neighborhood Networks, among other grassroots organizations.
Daniel, again, I appreciate your questions. Please keep asking. As a citizen-candidate out of the great tradition of our early republic, I now must promote myself and the progressive values we cherish. We have no choice, given the state and national Democratic Party's embrace of conservative Bob Casey. Make no mistake. Casey's candidacy is a test for all progressives. I welcome you and all newcomers to become surrogates, bloggers, party hosts, contributors, and brain trusters. This is YOUR campaign every bit as much as it is mine.
Together, we will prevail. The bonds of growing trust are but a first step along a remarkable journey that will redefine our Party, our politics, and our nation.
Yours in solidarity,