Change in a Crowded Field

Anthony Woods is a gay African-American Iraq veteran running for a California congressional seat against eight other candidates, but adversity has never stopped him before.

BY Kerry Eleveld

June 10 2009 12:00 AM ET

"John Garamendi has 80% name recognition but only gets 24% of the vote, which to me says that name recognition is not all that important," Woods says of the poll. "'Undecided' is overwhelmingly winning this race right now."

Timing of the vote is still unknown because it depends on Tauscher's confirmation, at which point Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will set a date for the primary. Though the situation is fluid at best, analysts suggest that late summer/early fall is as good a bet as any.

Beyond name recognition, one of Woods's biggest hurdles is something that dogs almost every first-time candidate: money. In order to cover a district that straddles Sacramento and San Francisco -- neither of which comes cheaply -- Stenhouse estimates the campaign needs to raise anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million.

Though he declined to get specific about numbers, Woods says his network of contacts has already given him a good start on his war chest.

"My Kennedy School classmates, they are fresh off the Obama campaign trail and they're excited about one of their own classmates running for office," Woods says of his fellow alum. "All my initial fund-raisers are people who came to me and said, 'Hey, we'd like to pull something together.'" The first official candidate filings are due at the end of June.

But Woods is also banking on employing the campaign skills he picked up working in the trenches for Obama in New Hampshire last year.

"We spent a lot of time at the California Democratic convention and we picked up a lot of volunteers from the African American caucus and from the LGBT caucus," he says. "It's exciting because it's going to be a very grassroots effort."

If Woods has it his way, he will follow in the footsteps of Barack Obama and deploy an army of foot soldiers to help him make history.

Tags: Politics

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