Eight months ago, standing in the statehouse considering whether to run for Congress, I figured I could run a good campaign. What's amazing is that, together with thousands of you, my team ran the best campaign many have ever seen run in Idaho. Stronger, better organized, more tech savvy, more deeply rooted in communities and more issue-focused than I could have imagined.
Thirty-five percent of the vote. While that sounds dismal, it still means more than 110,000 voters chose me over Mike Simpson on Tuesday. I think that's ten thousand more votes in the east half of the state than any democrat in any congressional or statewide race has ever gotten. And in spite of how LDS enthusiasm for Mitt Romney made this one of the most difficult possible years to run as a Democrat in Idaho, it appears that our campaign brought in about 25,000 new voters to participate in this election. That's an impressive twenty-five thousand people who did not vote in the 2008 presidential race.
We engaged Idaho's powerful Hispanic community and worked so hard that Mike Simpson gained fewer than 2,000 votes from the Romney tide. In fact thousands of LDS men and women and more than 10,000 Republicans and Independents voted for me. That was the work we all did on the phones and the doors --and it mattered.
CHANGING THE DEBATE
More than anything, you all allowed me to finally have the resources to use TV and direct mail to push back on issues we so rarely get to re-define here in Idaho. I'm proud we exposed the attitudes that have led to Idaho's grim record on fair pay for women and the kind of cowardice that allowed passage of the Luna laws. We also changed the debate on budget cuts by focusing on job loss, and explained who the job creators really are in the economy and why.
And last but not least, we've put to rest the question of whether Idahoans will actually vote for a gay person.
I feel profoundly grateful to you all. From the unemployed carpenter who gave me four dollars, to the Republican mothers, fathers and working people who've crossed streets and sent email to tell me they voted for me. From the long hours and tremendous heart, hard work and intelligence of my staff and volunteers, to the sense that so many of you gave your time and money because this work is something you believe in.
This has been the most amazing experience of my life. We've made history. Idaho needs us all to keep talking to neighbors over picket fences in our communities, volunteering to organize other volunteers, raising money or using phone calls to change minds on the issues we care about -- perhaps to strengthen political organizations and non-profits, to run campaigns or, for many of you, to run for office yourselves.
I have no idea what I'm doing next but I love this state. Sadly, Idaho has failed so many families who've faced hardship these past years, those who've lost jobs and homes or small businesses; those who've waited so long for respect and dignity or legal status; those who strive for simple security or the tools for independence; those who struggle to pay for a college degree or just to put a meal on the table.
The work is not over. What you all have done is so beautiful. Many of you came to this because you care and believe Idaho and its policy makers can do better. Lives depend on all of us using our skills to motivate friends to challenge our Idaho Congressmen, state lawmakers and local officials when policies become cruel or disrespectful.
For the lives and futures of people we care about, let's carry with us what we did this year and make this congressional campaign not an end, but a beginning.