The campaign website of Edward J. Gubics for Congress, is like most websites of candidates running for Capital Hill. It has the requisite links to the candidate’s biography, policy positions and, of course, a large button reading “Donate.”
Unlike other politicians’ pages, there is no way to contact Gubics or his campaign. No e-mail. No phone number. No office address. Although, according to the site, donation checks can be sent to Gubics for Congress 2008, P.O. Box 97, Wyandotte, MI, 48192. For those trying to reach the campaign to conduct an interview with the candidate, a home phone number accessed via White Pages for a Mr. Edward Gubics in Wyandotte appears to be the only option.
“Hi, you’ve reached the house of Edward Gubics, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, 13th district, Michigan,” states Gubic’s home answering machine. “Please leave a message at the tone.”
And such are the campaigns of long shot challengers facing deep-seated, and well-funded incumbents, where candidates’ houses double as campaign headquarters and the family car plays the part of tour bus. (For Gubics, it’s a white 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan with an “Edward J. Gubics for U.S. Congress” decal on the side windows).
Of the four long-shot congressional candidates interviewed for this story — three for the House and one for the Senate — all suffer from a similar toxic combination of a significant financial disadvantage and external factors they cannot control, like district demographics, electoral history and incumbent advantages.
State Rep. Jack Hoogendyk (R–Texas Twp.), who is running to unseat five-term Democratic Senator Carl Levin, faces an especially steep financial hole compared to his opponent.
At the end of September, Levin had 35 times as much cash on hand.
“We know it’s an uphill battle,” Hoogendyk said in an interview last week. “But the voters are very unhappy.”
Levin, the current chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, has been representing Michigan since 1979. Recent polls suggest Levin has as much as a 25 point lead.
When Gubics entered the voting booth to elect his representative for the 13th district to Congress two years ago, he was stunned. He looked at the ballot and realized the Republicans had not fielded a candidate in the race against six-term incumbent Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D–Detroit). Dismayed, Gubics wrote himself in.
Two years later, when he found out that once again nobody was going to run against Cheeks Kilpatrick, Gubics said he wanted to at least offer his like-minded neighbors an alternative.
“I thought for all the people that I know who share different values than she has, I wanted to be the other name on the ballot,” he said in a phone interview last week.
For Gubics — a chemical research technician — the road is rough to unseat Cheeks Kilpatrick, the mother of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Gubics is a white Republican running in a district that is 60 percent black and voted for both John Kerry and Al Gore for president by margins of more than 60 percent. In her 2004 re-election bid — Cheeks Kilpatrick’s last race against a major party opponent — she tallied more than 78 percent of the vote.
What the campaigns of Gubics and other long-shot candidates ultimately lack is the very life blood of politics today: money. Whether it’s phone banks or deep-pocketed donors, voter mobilization efforts or political action committee financial backing, campaigns live and die by the dollar.
As late as last week, Gubics still hadn’t taken the basic step of filing campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“It’s been going very well, surprisingly well,” Gubics said. “I’m presently preparing to file the report for the Federal Election Commission because I’m about to break the $5,000 threshold.”
Compare that number to the war chest of Cheeks Kilpatrick, who, through the end of September, had raised more than $993,000 and still had almost $260,000 on hand.
Topping Gubics’s financial disadvantage is that of John Lynch, a database manager who is running against Rep. John Dingell (D–Dearborn). Dingell, who has represented the 15th District since 1955, is currently the longest serving House representative. In 2004, the last time Republicans fielded a candidate against him, Dingell racked up more than 70 percent of the vote.
This election cycle, Dingell has raised more than $2.5 million, or more than 134 times as much money as Lynch, who has $4,431 on hand, compared to Dingell’s $1,040,267.
In a phone interview last week, Lynch said that he understood what he was up against when he entered the race.
“We knew going into this we weren’t going to get big money being a relative unknown,” he said. “And we would have to make due with rather meager resources.”
When asked why he would get in a race in which he had such a financial disadvantage, Lynch, a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, said “people should have a choice, a clear choice” when voting.
Bob Alexander, who has helped organize the last three campaigns against four-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R–Brighton) and is now running for the seat himself, said that he knows how to run a campaign facing a financial disadvantage.
On Sept. 30, Alexander had a little more than $4,500 cash on hand, while Rogers had more than $847,000 at his disposal.
Without the money to have a large door-to-door canvassing operation in previous elections, Alexander said his campaigns would attend any kind of large gathering to get the issues out. They would also call in to talk shows to get more name recognition.
“That’s how you run a low-income campaign, and usually those don’t win,” he said with a laugh. “But we’re going to show that the rule doesn’t always apply.”
In interviews, Gubics and the other long-shot candidates all expressed the sentiment that their races were in a dead heat. Maybe it was just spin for the press, but each seemed uninhibitedly optimistic that in a matter of weeks he would be representative-elect of his district.
Despite still significantly trailing in the polls, both Gubics and Lynch described their candidacies as the realization of a special purpose to represent their political ideologies.
Gubics said his run was “a calling … its something I feel deep down inside.”
When asked why he was running, Lynch said “absolutely above everything else, the feeling that I’m supposed to do it, that I’m called to do it.”
Hoogendyk — who said that he is running to once again “make government the servant of the people rather than the master” — said his chances are getting better everyday, especially after Senator Levin’s vote in favor of the Wall Street bailout package.
And Alexander said that by his numbers — a poll conducted by his campaign found that only 30 to 35 percent of respondents said they would vote to re-elect Rogers — his race is now tightening.
But other recent polls suggest the election might not be as much of a cake walk for Rogers as it once seemed, showing that even a career gadfly stands a chance.