This week, as SF County finishes counting the ballots, we have earned 63,356 votes – the most ever against the powerful Nancy Pelosi. We took 19.07% of the vote, more than any opponent since her first elections back in the 1987 special election when she first became Congresswoman for San Francisco (30.7%), and 1988 when she defended her new crown against a Republican in the general election (19.3%).
The previous record for most votes against Pelosi: Cindy Sheehan got 46,118 and 16% of the vote in 2008.
I am extremely proud of what we’ve done this year. We got more than 63,000 votes with a total media blackout, with very little money, with no donations over $540, with a terrifying and distracting presidential race, and all of this against one of the most powerful and wealthy establishment politicians of all time.
We did very good work. I cannot be more proud of what we have done together. And we are just getting started.
I've lost a few friends during the course of this campaign. Some because they believe so much in their position in a broken and hateful Democrat Party that they cannot condone my populist challenge as an Independent Progressive. Many so-called 'revolutionaries' have been little more than unabashed spokespeople for the Dem establishment and they cackled at any attempt at criticism of the powerful elite in the Democrat Party.
However: I gained many more friends during the course of this campaign. We hit the campaign trail about 18 months ago and as we went out in the streets with our progressive message I met hundreds of individuals who were excited about the idea of an aggressive attack on the broken Democrat Party. When Bernie Sanders declared for president, millions of people were motivated to take political action and in a few months thousands of massive events sprang up across the nation and the state of California and being at these events I met thousands and thousands of individuals with great capacity, strong values and moral judgement. These are good friends I will keep for the rest of my life.
This is what gives me hope. Losing five or six friends and gaining thousands in return gives me a belief in the credibility of the progressive revolution because political movements must be more than just esoteric engagements.
Political movements must be socially, locally, culturally unifying activities that bring together all of us who believe in affecting our situation as humans and who share similar values.
There is no political revolution without some socializing component. And today almost all socializing components will have a hint of the political.
I believe firmly in our capacity to fight the tyranny of a right wing authoritarian ideology and to simultaneously fight the tyranny of hypocritical and corrupt Democratic establishment. There are some people who do not share this belief and unfortunately most of them are in positions of power or feel like they have something to gain in the media, in the Democrat Party itself or in the business of connecting money and politicians
They will not be joining us in our political revolution. They will be focused only on securing more power for the Democrats, regardless of how it affects the other 99.99% of us.
This is the wrong path, in my opinion. The Democrat Party, and especially the powerful at the top, turned their backs on the American people. They forged alliances with the wealthy Wall Street bankers and the weapons manufacturers and the powerful oil companies and the nasty price gougers in the pharmaceutical industry. They chose profits over people, and power over politics.
Wealthy and powerful leaders in the Dem Party assured Trump’s victory by reducing our options to two, and neither very good for 99.99% of us. We wanted change and they said “to hell with you.” They said “you will vote for our wealthy and powerful leaders or you will get Trump. We’re not going to compromise.”
Their message was bankrupt and they lost.
They haven’t learned anything from their terrible corruption and stupidity. It’s clear that the wealthy and powerful in the Dem Party refuse to back down. They’re going to elevate Chuck “Wall Street” Schumer to Senate Minority Leader. They’re going to keep Nancy “Massive Wealth” Pelosi as House Minority Leader. Power Broker Podesta has control of two out of the three candidates for head of the DNC. The Bernie Sanders section of the party was ignored and ridiculed before, during and after the convention and while the powerful atop the Dem party might give a little bit of ground to hold progressives in, they certainly won't cede their power or wealth for our progressive values.
Some see shades of a battle for the soul of the Dem Party, but I believe that soul died or was killed a long time ago. There is nothing left there to fight for except power and money. And I’m much more interested in change.
For the vast majority of us, we face the reality that the Democrat Party is a broken shell of liberalism, it is the antithesis to the progress that we require for our survival and for the future of our nation.
This is why I argue that the only way forward is a new party that will take the mantle from the corrupt and deceitful Democrats and bring back the progressive power and the progressive voice that is so lacking in our current American political system
To this end: I propose a new Progressive Party in California and I will work with any and all who are interested in making this a reality. California is the perfect place to begin this party for one basic reason: we have an open, top-two primary system.
Sure we are the largest state in the nation. And yes California does have the most Congress members in the House. But at the end of the day, starting a Progressive Party and taking some of the power wrongfully held by the corrupt and deceitful Democrats requires a situation in which we do not risk further strengthening the right wing of this nation and their hold over our government.
As bad as the Democrats are, I do still believe that the Republicans are worse. Republican power brokers take the same bribe money and have the same self-interest as the powerful Dems, but they also have bad economics, they have bad ideas on social justice, they are hateful when it comes to the liberties of Americans with whom they disagree, they are destructive when they are fearful and they are almost always fearful.
Starting a Progressive Party in California we will run candidates in areas that are strongholds of the Democrat party. We will beat the Republican candidates as I beat the Republican candidate here in California’s 12th district and we will challenge the Democrats in a series of one-on-one races with no possibility of helping a Republican gain entrance into Congress.
Our first step in the process will be to get a Progressive Party on the California ballot. This will require a tremendous effort: Either 750,000 signatures must be collected, or 600,000 Californians need to change their registration to our new Progressive Party over the course of about a year.
Starting next year, I believe we can do this. We will need a big team, we will need to do some fundraising, organize across the state of California and mobilize thousands of volunteers.
Once we are on the ballot, the next step in the process will be to identify, mobilize and support candidates for a variety of positions across California. As I believe that Congress holds the power to change our nation in the shortest period of time, I argue that our focus should be finding 20 progressive, idealistic and dedicated candidates that we can run in 20 congressional districts where the Democrat won easily against a Republican. California’s 12th, 5th, 6th 11th and 14th come instantly to mind.
However we can also look to local offices, State Assembly races, State Legislator, City Councils and so on. We can look to a variety of areas to find the best places to run progressive candidates for office.
We can win elections. We can create change. We can force the Democrats into competitive races where they must work for the progressive vote rather than play for the middle and dance for their corporate sponsors.
If we run 20 Progressive Party candidates in California for Congress, I believe we will win 5-10 the first time out. Two years later we can increase our share and when we start winning in California, we can bring the Progressive Party to Louisiana, Washington and even Nebraska – all of which have top-two systems.
This is the next step in the battle. Let’s start to organize and make it happen. Let us act as though our lives depend on it, as it is the case that our lives depend on it.
For the last two weeks I’ve been thinking about how to formulate this message. We lost our election, but we did better than anyone thought we could. We had total media blackout from the corporate owned local press, we were ridiculed by the Dem faithful who don’t like elections and prefer coronations (how dare you run against Pelosi!), we were laughed at by politicos and scoffed at by power brokers and ridiculed across the board.
And we still did better than anyone ever has. And this was because of the work of a very many people. I would like to mention a few who stand out in my mind.
First, my wife, my sister Piper and my brother Mike. About two years ago I got this crazy idea to run for Congress and all three of them said “I’m with you.” We started holding these weekly meetings and we designed this entire campaign in my kitchen. They’ve been at every event, they’ve given up their evenings, their weekends, their lives for the last 18 months to do this and I will never be able to repay them for their support.
My old friend Nick Singer was next on board. He has a great mind for the legal aspect of things and he started coming to our weekly meetings. He’s given up so much time and effort, filing our paperwork, double checking our material. Without him I’m not sure where we would be.
One day I gave a speech, my first big speech, to a rather large crowd at the Enough is Enough rally and I met Gary Appell. Gary's a retired nurse, has been working in politics longer than I’ve been alive, and is one of the most motivated, action oriented humans I’ve met. We were instant friends and he’s dedicated hours and hours of his life to being on the streets of SF wearing Picus For Congress t-shirts, hats, buttons passing out fliers from before dawn to late in the evening. He’s been massive for our campaign.
Early on we interviewed quite a few folks who were interested in working with us. One of the first was Drew McDowell. During the primary he was putting about fifteen hours a day into our campaign, commuting up here and pushing the streets. He organized for us, motivated and I’m so grateful for him.
One thing we focused on in our campaign was our online design. I believed that we were going to be portrayed as illegitimate and to gain legitimacy we needed to look serious. That’s where Erickson Foster came in. He built everything for us, from the graphics on the Picus2016 to the posters to the images we used. He’s a master and I owe him.
Additionally, Joe Wesley did just about every one of our videos. Funny story: To save money I tried to convince myself that I could make our campaign videos. We got some equipment and wrote a couple of speeches and Piper and Mike spent the day filming me in various locations around SF. The videos came out terribly. We decided to hire a filmmaker, I posted for the job and we interviewed a dozen or so but Joe stuck out as someone who believes in our progressive revolution AND is a brilliant filmmaker. He travelled up from LA, twice, driving through the night and shooting all day, traveling back, editing and getting us this incredible film. To date, our campaign videos have been seen almost 250,000 times and if it weren't for Joe, that wouldn't be the case.
Another thing I didn’t understand very well is social media, and luckily I had a friend, Margie Foster, who basically ran our entire campaign. There are thousands of tricks, and Margie knows them all. I had other social media coordinators tell me we had to spend 10-20 times our budget if we wanted to have impact, but she got us into a position where we were really moving and reaching people. Couldn’t have done it without her.
In San Francisco a Bernie Sanders scene started to develop which was called “Bern Baby Bern,” and was essentially a massive bi-weekly dance party where all of the proceeds went to the Bernie Sanders campaign. Some of my folks said we should go and we met Ben Becker and Claire Lau. They put on perhaps the most organized, most productive Bernie Sanders events I’ve seen. Eventually we became friends, they came over to the house for dinner, and after Bernie Sanders was cheated out of the Dem nomination we continued our work on the progressive revolution. We’ve been friends ever since. Ben and Claire are some of the most motivated, driven, politically active and morally strong people I’ve ever met and I’m glad to be on their team.
Back in June, Ben introduced me to a wonderful woman named Susana Williams who runs a strong political consulting firm called Forward Voice. Susana came on board and immediately threw herself into the work, taking over much of our email and direct messaging campaign work. In just a few months she became an integral part of the team.
At some point last March I was asked to speak at a very nice dinner and music affair. The emcee was a man named Reid Chalker who is a very enthusiastic and entertaining political activist. We chatted at the time and after the Sanders affair he came on board and has been massively helpful since. He continues to lead the progressive revolution.
Gavin Markovics brought a lot of energy when we needed it and support from the CA Vets for Bernie, and we’ve had dozens and dozens of other folks chip in, from Stuart Schuffman who used his platform at www.brokeassstuart.com to promote our campaign when everyone else was ignoring us, to our hard working interns Nathan Ensley and Hayley Barnard who commuted to the city and pushed hard for our campaign, to Caleb Arring and Cassandra Inglesby, Felipe Ocampo, Chris Holl, Desmond O’Regan, Douglas Ricketson, Sahil Lavingia, Nate and Ralph Junius, Henry Guste, Victoria Hill, John Spady, Dan and Heather Levine, Judy Schriebman, Jason Kautz, Jeff Schriebman, Connor Stack, David Schriebman, Art Picus, Cheri and Paul Elsinga, Robin Schriebman, Andy Levine, Cletus Junius, Jason Picus-Favre and Mark Picus-Favre, Bryan Giardenelli, Bryna Brown, Donell Elingson, Iris Safar, Joanna Arrington, Rachael Flynn, Jennifer Barc, Michael Levinson, and so many more.
A big shoutout to Andrew Ko, Carrie Lynn Kessler, Julia Stiefel, Jonathon Lancaster, and Aleece Germano for going the extra mile in the primary!
Big thanks to my mother, Heidi Junius for distributing Picus For Congress buttons across the nation, my mother-in-law Joyce Schriebman for being a constant force for our campaign on facebook, Lauren Picus, my cousin, who came in town for the last week before the primary and worked her tail off, my neighbor Jared Byer who put signs up around the neighborhood and threw us an awesome event, and my father-in-law Bob Levine who helped in more ways than I can possibly list here.
A special thanks to the League of Pissed Off Voters, the SF Berniecrats, Bay Area for Bernie, Bay Area Social Events, and the radically talented individuals in those powerful groups. They are new power base in Bay Area politics and I will continue to work with them well into the future.
There are so many more, though this long essay must come to an end. We had so many early donors, old friends and family that took the leap first, total strangers who believed in what we were doing, it’s overwhelming to consider the support we’ve had, and all of it in the face of a loud, powerful minority telling us “it’s impossible” and “stop wasting your time!”
To the thousands who supported us: We are nothing without you.
And: if you're willing to come this far, I hope you'll come a little bit further.
If I’ve learned anything during this election it’s this: There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And we may have only gotten 19% of the vote this time around, but it’s our first real election, and we’re only going to become more powerful from here.
We will win, not because we want to, but because we absolutely HAVE to. Too much is at stake to turn around now.
In solidarity and gratitude,