Former DNC chair McAuliffe stumps for book at Coffman

by Charley Bruce

He remembers the name of the alligator he wrestled 27 years later: Jumper.

By taking on the nine-footer in 1980, Terry McAuliffe raised $15,000 for President Jimmy Carter’s re-election campaign.

That’s one scene from the former Democratic National Committee chair’s new book, “What a Party! My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals.” McAuliffe spoke at the University bookstore in Coffman Union on Wednesday night.

The biography catalogues what it’s like to be chair, his experiences politicking and lessons learned through his life. McAuliffe now chairs Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

McAuliffe, whose book was released last month, said he began campaigning when he was 6 years old for political candidates. He was working for his father, a local Democratic leader.

He said he started his first business at 14 and has owned many since. He retired at 35 and has worked pro bono for the Democratic Party for the past decade and a half.

McAuliffe said the secret to his success has been his attitude.

“Go for it, the worst thing you can do is lose,” he said.

His fundraising style mirrors that mantra, but it helps that he loves to ask people for money.

“What’s the worst they can say, no?” McAuliffe said.

Mike Walters, vice president of University DFL, sounded like he wasn’t sure how the book talk would go, but found McAuliffe to be funny.

“It was better than I expected him to be,” he said.

Walters especially liked one anecdote McAuliffe told, even if he wasn’t sure if it was true.

McAuliffe said he has a law degree, but only on paper. He’s won only one case, which was argued at 2 a.m. after a few drinks.

He was at a bar, and a bouncer was charged with assault after punching a man who had hit his own girlfriend, McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe was friends with the owner, he said, who asked him to defend the bouncer. He said he didn’t want to.

He said a few more beers changed his mind.

He went to the jail, got a judge to come down, and argued for the charges to be dropped.

He won.

“I won my first and only case,”

McAuliffe said. “I’m one and O.”

Marion Blomgren, a University alumnus, said she came with her daughter and was impressed with McAuliffe’s ability to talk.

“He knows how to work a crowd and hit all his points,” she said.