Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Chuck Pennacchio Responds

I 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,

Chuck Pennacchio


At 12:30 AM, Blogger Tim said...

Thanks for posting the answers to your questions in full, Dan.

Maybe next you can put out a question to Bob Casey Jr. on why he feels the need to echo Republican talking points on the many issues he is out of the mainstream Democratic Party on?

It's one thing to disagree on stem cell research, and many other issues, but if I want to hear -- I don't think we should destroy life to save life -- And err on the side of life -- And this is about winning a war -- I can generally get that from Rick Santorum and George Bush.

Let me know when he responds. And I trust Ray will post updates every few hours until he gets back to you personally.



At 8:44 AM, Blogger DanielUA said...

Well, as for Casey, I did write a post titled, "Where the hell is Bobby Casey"?, which questioned methods of his strategy. And, when he gave his positions in the Inquirer on Stem Cells, etc, I called him on the hypocrisy of saying "its about science, there's a life there' or whatever he said...

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think progressives are already wary of Casey so that's why we are asking Chuck the tougher questions. It's not that we aren't asking Casey.
I do have another question for Chuck. How does he plan on reaching out to people in the center part of the state who aren't really interested in the issues that he's talking to Philadelphians about. While this state is progressive on either end, our senators need to be able to represent everyone. And I don't know if Chuck is casting a very wide net.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Ben Waxman said...

Do I sense some snarkyness there Tim?

While I think it's great that blogs are getting attention from candidates, it also speaks to a certian weakness. Bob Casey doesn't spend time talking to blogs because he doesn't have to. He can raise money and volunteers from other sources.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Tim said...


I disagree that it speaks to weaknesses--I think it speaks to candidates/campaigns/staffs that realize there are a whole host of tools out there to communicate and organize.

In this campaign, Chuck undoubtedly has disadvantages, and a tough road to hoe. For sure.

I don't think I have to remind you that Casey's team has tried to reach out to the blogs. And frankly, the response I got was that much of their message fell on deaf ears.

But to say that Chuck is only reaching out online because he is the underdog is ridiculous.

I don't think you would say Ted Kennedy is an underdog, but he is on Kos now and actually has a full-time online staffer.

Russ Feingold wasn't an underdog.

The DNC reaches out online, and has a team of people.

Same with the Senate Dem. Communications Center, and they are big-time.

It just so happens that some people understand the benefits and possiblities of using the web to get a message out there.

Some people don't.


At 1:30 PM, Blogger DanielUA said...

Yeah, I would agree with that generally. Going online, while still "neat" in some circles, is simply the next waay to communicate. People are going to use it for good and bad, whether they are a favorite or an underdog.

But, all those who are smart, are going to use it.

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Chasman said...

What about that central PA question?

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Friedman said...

Chuck - you've definitely been busy. Why not start with a smaller office where you might have a much better chance of winning, getting into the system, and have a better long-term chance of advancing positive change?

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Eric Loeb said...

Why are only the realistic campaigns useful? Even if Pennacchio doesn't stand a chance of winning the primary, shouldn't his views be treated with respect?

Personally, I think the Casey campaign is making a huge mistake here. Casey can forego having a primary, and he can forego defending his out-of-step views to his party, but then he'll lose to Santorum. Without a primary, when Santorum shouts "He's an ultra-liberal, vote for me!" Casey can't really say "No I'm not, I'm pro-life!". If Casey gets there without a primary, that exchange will suppress the hell out of Casey's vote without hurting Santorum's.

It does Casey no good to arrive at the general election by ignoring his base.

Just my $0.02

At 10:32 PM, Blogger Friedman said...

Realistic campaigns are useful because people actually win and don't spend their time chasing windmills.

At 10:32 PM, Blogger Friedman said...

Realistic campaigns are useful because people actually win and don't spend their time chasing windmills.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Eric Loeb said...

I didn't say realistic campaigns arent useful. I said unrealistic campaigns can by useful.

An unrealistic primary campaign that helped (for example) increase turnout in the general by (and here I pick a totally random possibility) engaging Democrats in public service events... that would also be useful.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Friedman said...

I believe that unrealistic campaigns are not useful; winning is really the most important thing.

At 11:56 AM, Blogger DanielUA said...


Obviously, we want to win. But, to do that, you need to build, you need to have a long term presence, you need to be devloping a coherent message. A huge reason why Dems fail nationally is that they cede 25 states off the bat; and while this may make sense in the short term, ie, distribution of resources for one electoral cycle, in the long term it is a disaster; The Democratic part must exist, even in the deepest reds of our Country.

If we just think from "win" to "win," we never really end up with long term victories.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Friedman said...

Dan - good points, but not inconsistent with my point that unrealistic campaigns are not useful. Also, I'm just thinking about the immediate context of the PA senate race and how Chuck's quixotic campaign - as admirable and well intentioned as it is - will probably not result in more than a decent e-mail distribution list. As PA Democrats, I think that our time would be better spent getting behind the guy who is going to win the primary and trying to have an impact on his campaign from the inside. Just my opion.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Charles said...

I kind of think that you both have a point. I mean unrealistic campaigns can do a lot. Look at the Dean campaign. It’s the only reason I am involved in local politics, both on this blog and at a Ward level, on a consistent basis. Although I should blog more here, and I know I will get that from Dan.

The thing about Chuck is that he doesn’t really get me excited, at all. I know I am supposed to be excited about a progressive in the race “saying all the right things”, but that’s just what he seems like, a liberal guy, without a chance, hitting all of the liberal talking points. There doesn’t seem to be much nuance there. It isn’t really something that gets me or anyone I know excited, and I would say that we would be the target audience.


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