A Press Conference, a Statement from Howard Dean, Thoughts from Debra Bowen and Even Francine Busby(!) --- and Much Much More from the Closing Days of DemFest!
Along With Some Personal Observations out of San Diego from Brad's Past Several Days Within the Heated Belly of the Busby/Bilbray Beast...
By Brad Friedman on 7/18/2006, 1:59pm PT  

"We need honesty and openness back in American government …and that means we do not need election workers taking voting machines home," Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean said at the 3rd annual DemocracyFest at San Diego State University on Saturday, July 15th.

His remarks were met by applause and cheers from the crowd in San Diego State University’s open air theater. "I am tired of electronic voting machines we can't trust," added Dean, who also called for equal distribution of voting equipment in African-American districts and other improvements to protect citizens' voting rights. "All I'm asking the Republicans to do is count every vote!"

That's from Miriam Raftery's RAW STORY coverage of the Saturday Night events in San Diego at the DemocracyFest. But I was there, and that's what Dean said --- echoing, in part, the DNC Voting Rights Institute statement on the Busby/Bilbray election fiasco issued the day before --- to the appreciative acclaim of thousands at the open air theater concert/event Saturday night. Audience members spotted with "No Sleepovers" signs were picked up on the big video screens next to the stage.

I was just happy the night had cooled and, for me anyway, things had finally calmed down a bit after a non-stop day of speechifying, meeting, educating, rabble-rousing and other exhilirations as the sunshine at San Diego State University must have pushed the mercury towards the 100 mark.

Raftery's got a photo of yours truly at our press conference (more photos of all below) in her article, along with other details that I'm relieved she covered, because I'm still too exhausted and running behind (checking the clock, it's 4:04am right now) and playing catch up to hit everything by myself. I'm hoping we'll be able to get some of the local TV News coverage of the press conference from the local stations posted here, but I've gotta hit the road (I hope!) tomorrow and then do Mike Malloy's show from lord only knows where...I need a break. I'm gonna get one. If it kills me.

Anyway, let's play catch-up a bit. Some notes on the weekend --- that I wasn't able to log on and cover here for BRAD BLOG while I was in the very middle of it all --- including comments from Sen. Debra Bowen, Francine Busby, and other photos and personal thoughts on the last 24 to 72...

Saturday Morning with Bowen...

I'll refer you to BRAD BLOG reader and friend Steve Viele's account of the morning panel on Electoral Integrity as posted here a bit earlier this evening.

He beat me to the punch in reporting CA's Democratic Sec. of State candidate Debra Bowen's comments on the voting machine sleepovers. She echoed Yolo County Registrar-Clerk Freddie Oakley's sentiments quite directly when she said (paraphrasing, but I think I'm close) "If the machines can't be deployed securely, then perhaps they shouldn't be deployed at all."

Just prior to the panel, smartly hosted by the good Craig Elston of 1360 KLSD in San Diego, Bowen and I had a few minutes to chat --- our first chance to do so face-to-face since Election Night on June 6th. After spending post-election time collecting data on problems that occurred across the state, and planning for hearings in the state senate on all of them, it was good to hear her express her direct concerns about the CA-50 issues we've been discussing here for the past month.

I didn't get the sense that Steve did, in his account, that she "refused to state a strong position about the ongoing CA-50 Busby/Bilbray election debacle." But then again, I was running on about 3 hours sleep (yet again) that morning, and don't even remember much of what I said during the panel, much less what anybody else said. Especially with the events of the next 12 hours that followed...

My Conversations with Francine Busby...

Busby was scheduled to speak on the panel following ours on Saturday morning in "the big room" (Steve's account was correct, it seats 800 and seemed to be at least two-thirds full during our event. He also had it right that we received a rousing reception, especially for that time of the morning!) I wasn't able to attend Busby's panel since I had a few folks to meet with and, apparently, a last-minute press conference that someone dreamt up and that we had to figure out how to organize, but I was able to touch base with her just prior, introduce myself in person --- we'd only chatted live on air in the past --- and tell her I'd love a few minutes to speak privately with her later.

She was very kind. Seemed genuinely happy to meet me in person (to my pleasant surprise) and agreed without blinking to find time to meet up after the panel.

After her panel, she was scheduled to guest on "Harrison on the Edge," --- a radio show on Los Angeles' Air America affiliate which had been broadcasting live from the DemFest. Though I didn't hear her on the show either, I spoke with the producer afterwards, as well as Harrison, and they concurred with what others who had attended her panel had said. She was unabashedly in support of all of the efforts going on to demand accountability in the Busby/Bilbray CA-50 U.S. House special election.

(A quick note on Harrison. Got the chance to chat with him late-night. A very nice guy, and I couldn't be happier for him that he's now moving into the 10pm PT weeknight slot on KTLK. He does a good show. Not quite so happy that it means Air America is dumping Marc Maron yet again as he previously occupied that slot. But it's certainly not Harrison's fault. And with that, let me mention, that Maron's appearance at the Saturday Night outdoor concert event absolutely killed. He was incredibly funny. Hands-down the highlight of the night, for me at least...Why the hell Air America keeps dumping on him I couldn't tell ya. Though his strong suit is definitely live performance and this was the first time I'd had the pleasure.)

Back to Busby...We finally had our opportunity to find a private place to chat away from the crowds later that day. I had promised her the conversation would stay off the record because I wanted her to feel comfortable to tell me anything she wished, and I wanted to feel comfortable to tell her same and ask her some direct questions.

So without violating any of those assurances, I'll say that she was exceedingly gracious and complimentary towards the work that we've been doing here. She made it clear that she's learned quite a lot over the past few weeks about the entire business of electronic voting, and the pitfalls thereof, and I believe that she was genuine in her previous comments (sent via an aide through email), which she reiterated again, saying quite directly that she was enormously supportive of my efforts here and of all of the citizens who have been waging this battle.

And while I appreciated those thoughts, I made it clear that all the difference in the world is made if she --- as the candidate --- comes into this thing publicly with a statement about her concerns. I explained that, as with Kerry in '04, members of the media only tend to worry about such things if the candidate comes out on these matters. Her feelings seemed to be that it's better, and remains non-partisan, if she doesn't lead the battle. I respectfully disagree, but I believe that she believes what she was saying at least.

Further, she said that though she'd prefer to not come out specifically and issue a statement, she'd be more than happy to speak to anybody in the media who would like to ask her about it.

Hello? Anybody out there?

Since I'm hoping to get out of Dodge for a while shortly, I'll hope that others jump in to do just that. Seems like a story to me....if there are any reporters with any curiosity left out there. BRAD BLOG readers, of course, may feel free to give such reporters a nudge as they see fit.

I'll let others decide what they think of Busby's position at this point. I'm far more in the middle of the story than I feel comfortable being anyway. I'm here because somebody needs to be, I suppose. So I'll just note that I believe her sentiments --- misguided, smart, or otherwise --- are at least genuine at this point. And I believe she now, at least, understands the issues. I wish that she'd take another tack, but that's not my call to make. What she does with it from here, is, of course, up to her. I appreciate that she had the courtesy to take the time to chat with me privately and answer all of my questions. We had other opportunities to do so throughout the weekend as well.

If only San Diego County Registrar Mikel Haas was as forthcoming and honest. But he's not. Not by a long shot...

The Saturday Night Press Conference...

As mentioned, I'll defer to RAW STORY's coverage for the details. Suffice to say here that I've never held a press conference in my life. And with the few short hours we had to convene it, there were no minutes left to even get my thoughts together about the words I'd hoped to share. In the heat and exhaustion of that long day, however, I think we did okay. I trust whatever I said made some kind of sense.

A video of the Press Conference has now been posted here...

The folks who came together to make this happen were incredible. I wish I could name them all. But it was an effort of dozens of people who pulled it all off from getting the word out to the media, to finding a location, a podium, a microphone, alerting supporters to come on by, etc. etc. An impressive effort under less than ideal conditions.

The crowds were great and enthusiastic, the media present --- who didn't seem interested in giving me the time of day prior to the conference, all seemed to want one-on-one's with me afterwards --- and I believe that two local TV stations and one radio station ran stories on the conference. Though the San Diego Union-Tribune was there for Howard Dean's appearance at the concert event shortly thereafter, their reporter told me they were only interested "once a lawsuit was filed in the case." Oh, well. I'd have thought the DNC, for the first time in their history (that I know of) calling for full manual count of all ballots in a U.S. House election would be newsworthy. But I guess not.

I had essentially two points to make at the conference: 1) California Attorney General Bill Lockyer needs to immediately investigate what the hell is going on in the San Diego County Registrar's office and hold Mikel Haas accountable for allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal votes to be cast on decertified voting machines and 2) I wanted to thank the DNC for their support in their statement issued Friday, and let them know that the rag-tag group of citizen patriots that have been fighting this battle on the ground could really use some help at this point. Only the DNC, in truth, has access to the full resources that need to be brought to bear in this battle right now, and it would really be welcome if they could send in the big guns: Attorneys, Funding, etc. to fight the rest of this fight as far as it needs to be fought.

Also speaking at the conference were: Mimi Kennedy, chair of Progressive Democrats of America (who have led the way in banging the drum on this matter from Day 1!), Judy Hess, the Chapter Head of PDA - Metro San Diego (who is heroically overseeing the organization of the CA50 efforts on the ground, and tirelessly herding all the cats as such a job entails) and finally Barbara Gail Jacobson, the CA50 voter who stepped forward to file the manual hand count request which was summarily stonewalled and shut down by the duplicitous Mikel Haas.

A few last thoughts before I fall over...

Okay, so now it's 6:09am and I have to be outta here any minute.

I was honored and moved to meet loads of BRAD BLOG readers throughout the weekend, the majority of whom told me they read these pages with great frequency, but rarely (if ever) actually leave comments. Of course, I invite them to do so any time. We don't bite. Much.

I did get to hang out a bit after the heat of the day --- both literally and figuratively --- had finally cooled late Saturday evening, with frequent commenters the good Steve Viele and the erstwhile Chris Hooten (the former in his BRAD BLOG t-shirt, the latter in his ITMFA t-shirt). I can't tell you how terrific it is to meet the folks in person who frequent these pages and then turn around and help make noise with it! Great to say hello to all of you in person over the weekend! Thanks for your support, and for seeking me out to say hello!

Steve brought his daughter and her friend to the concert, and incredibly remembered my upcoming birthday and gave me a terrific, vodka-filled cake frosted in the traditional BRAD BLOG Green and Yellow. You are a tremendous and kind soul, Steve. Thank you, my friend.

I'm sure I've got more to share, details of my several chats with Jim Dean (Howard's brother and head of Democracy for America) among them, but for the moment, I'm too bleary-eyed to make much sense doing it. Forgive me in advance for whatever I didn't mention, but should have. I'll try to share those thoughts over the next few weeks as they occur to me...hopefully from the road. Hopefully, they won't occur to me at all, however. Since I could use a nice long nap...