Please contact me with your ideas and feedback as to what direction you'd like to see our party take. E-mail me your ideas: [email protected]
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|February 19, 2005
In the few days since announcing my candidacy for the position of Utah Democratic Party Chair I have had the opportunity to hear the concerns of a number of Democrats. Discussions have ranged from the nuts and bolts operations of the state party to new approaches to leadership that might someday lead us back into the position of majority party.
Every aspect of the job of state party chair is important. To take one example, failure to raise sufficient funds to allow the party to function to its fullest potential would be disastrous for our party. But as Democrats we have had a tendency to focus on fundraising and administration at the state party level almost to the exclusion of building a coherent message that can begin bringing voters back to our party.
In recent years some attempts at a more aggressive attack on our Republican opposition have been made. But these attempts have been ad hoc and to the extent they fit into a message about larger Democratic values it has been more or less by accident. Becoming a more aggressive opposition party is essential, but doing so for its own sake without fitting our message into the context of our values will get us nowhere.
As Democratic Party Chair I would work to bring different constituencies within the party together with elected officials and party leadership in an effort to develop two or three large themes that would serve to clarify our values both within the party and to voters at large. While it is foolish to attempt to gloss over differences within the Democratic Party, it is even more so to allow our differences to overshadow the larger values that brought each of us to the Democratic Party in the first place.
What are these larger Democratic values? How do we begin to communicate them within our communities and all the way up to the state level? These are the questions we must ask as we begin down the road toward a Democratic majority in Utah.
Three themes I would bring to the table as Party Chair to initiate this discussion would be:
• Economic opportunity: Every citizen deserves an equal opportunity to rise to the level of their full potential. Too often members of our society are held back by insufficient educational opportunities, lack of health insurance coverage, or wages too low to provide for themselves or their family.
• Civil liberties: Democrats value diversity in all its forms, and have great respect for the dignity and worth of each person. Unfortunately, our opposition has pitted others against us and even at times divided our party by arguing we are about “special rights” for certain classes of people. As Democrats we must not shy away from telling our fellow citizens we are about equal human rights for all, not “special rights” for some.
In recognizing core values that most, if not all, Democrats can agree upon we must not be afraid to aggressively advocate for them. Too often our minority status has resulted in attempts to “get along” with the Republicans or to accept improvements to the Republican agenda as Democratic victories.
If the Democratic Party truly desires to become a majority party, it must act as though it already is. We need state party leadership willing to frankly address what many increasingly recognize as a defeatist mentality. How many years must we endure defeat of hate crimes legislation, prescription drug equity or gift bans? Let us ask the question, “What would we introduce if we held a two thirds majority?” and act accordingly.
If we are going to be shouted down on our bills, let the bills being defeated at least be bold enough to leave every voter more informed about our values. Why settle for birth control coverage alone when all prescription drugs should be covered by insurance and every citizen should have health care? Why argue hate crimes legislation is about providing law enforcement with more arrows in their quiver when in fact it is about human rights for every citizen regardless of ideology or other characteristic?
If elected chair in May, these are the types of questions and discussions party leaders, delegates and members will be invited to engage in. We must not let our differences over the small stuff to continue to be an excuse to avoid the big questions. We must not allow our minority status to dictate our message or dilute our values. The time has come to face the future boldly, bravely and with the integrity worthy of the party of FDR, JFK and RFK.
As was demonstrated through both the Howard Dean presidential campaign and at the national level with record numbers of small donors using the internet to contribute to the Democratic Party in 2004, the internet has become an incredibly effective outreach tool. Unfortunately, our state party has yet to utilize this tool to its fullest potential.
The top priority for any website, particularly one attempting to motivate people to become involved in politics, is easily accessible information. Through links and up to date accurate contact information our website should facilitate easy access to local county party officials, legislative district chairs and precinct chairs. In addition, county parties should be actively encouraged to develop a page that is part of the state party’s site, or develop one independently that can be linked through the state site. The state party should include as part of its outreach efforts a internet specialist that can assist both the state and county parties in developing web resources that best suit their needs.
Our website should include information regarding local community councils, organizations that share the same or similar views as we do, and contact information for representatives at all levels of government. If we want our neighbors to become involved and expand the party from the local level up, we must turn our website into a resource people can rely upon to find the information they need to connect with Democrats and liked minded organizations in their community.
Our use of the internet should not stop with providing contact information or valuable links to community and state resources. Our website must also articulate Democratic values. The newsletter distributed via the internet by the State Party should challenge Republican positions and articulate Democratic solutions to issues facing our society. For example, Bush’s proposed cuts to family farms could be the subject of a cover story, providing rural Democratic Parties with information they could use to articulate our support for small family farms in local papers or on local radio.
Obviously, merely having a well designed and informative website is not enough. A website is nothing if we are not drawing people to it. Whenever possible our public relations efforts must advertise our website. For example, in the past I have proposed billboards along I-15 featuring a deficit clock ticking away the growing national debt and asking commuters something like “Is leaving this kind of debt to your children a family value to you?” This type of outreach, attacking the Republican Party on its obvious fiscal irresponsibility, should feature our webpage. Those seeing these billboards or hearing a Democratic radio ad should be given our web address so they can learn more about our solutions to problems facing our communities, state and country and provide suggestions to help our party implement these solutions.
If you have some suggestions that would facilitate greater communication through more efficient use of the internet, please let me know. In addition, if you have other concerns or ideas you would like my campaign to address, don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected] of via telephone at (801)634-7319 (cell) or (801)485-4076 (home). Thank you.
Creating a 29 County Strategy for Utah
Taking a look at the numbers it is clear Democrats have a serious problem on their hands. Outside of Carbon County, virtually all of our elected Representatives and Senators come from the Salt Lake City area or nearby suburbs. We have a few Democrats elected to county councils or commissions outside of this island of Democrats, but otherwise the state is almost completely dominated by Republicans where partisan offices are concerned. One delegate I recently spoke to said it best, “We can no longer in all honesty even describe ourselves as underdogs any more.”
To reverse the current situation will take time. A change in party leadership or new, bolder approaches to defining our values will not lead miraculously to a new Democratic majority in Utah overnight. It took many election cycles to get to this point and it will likely take several to completely reverse.
However, the seeds are already planted to begin building a stronger, revitalized Democratic Party in rural Utah and more populated Republican areas such as Cedar City and St. George. According to a recent St. George Spectrum article, southern Utah Democrats have seen considerable growth in participation at their monthly meetings in recent years. Furthermore, the Republican Party has demonstrated a willingness to help us in this effort by offering us issues such as renewed nuclear testing in Nevada and cuts to family farms and other programs that significantly benefit rural communities.
I have already articulated a strategy for greatly expanded use of the internet as part of the state party’s outreach effort (See Greater Outreach Using the Internet above). I believe the state party should have an internet specialist available that can facilitate better internet outreach at both the state and county level. This includes, but is not limited to user friendly and informative websites, more efficient use of email to communicate with Democrats and other interested individuals around the state and in our communities, and up to date contact information the public can use to contact local Democrats from precinct chair to county chair.
In addition, the state chair needs to be available to visit counties throughout the state to hear directly from them what issues are facing their communities and to provide assistance in developing strategies that will help grow the Democratic Party within these counties. The state chair is not the chair of the Wasatch Front, he/she is chair of the Democratic Party for all of Utah. I want to hear from Democrats in every county what problems they are facing and how they think the state party can help. As Chair I intend to attend at least one county central committee or executive committee meeting in each of Utah’s county’s where the Democratic Party is organized at least once each year I am in office. Furthermore, workshops, strategy sessions, and other events need to be held around the state as time and resources allow.
The state party cannot provide equal resources to each race. It will need to continue to prioritize races by identifying specific districts where Democratic wins are most likely. However, this should not be interpreted by any county as an indication that difficult races in heavily Republican areas are not important races to run. Resources the state party can and should provide to every candidate receiving the nomination of their Democratic Party include voter lists complete with all the analysis accompanying the data in that list. As Chair I will be committed to raising sufficient resources to offer this data free of charge to our candidates regardless of what district they are running in. The same or similar data should be available to each county party as they work to build the Democratic Party in their area.
As we identify issues of importance within various counties around the state, together we should work to develop strategies that will help local leaders communicate Democratic solutions to local problems. Media contact information for local newspapers and radio stations can be made available on the party’s website or given directly to local Democratic Parties. Local leaders should have access to talking points on key issues impacting their area to better facilitate Democratic values and solutions within communities throughout Utah. Message development and media strategies should be developed through a collaborative effort between the state and county parties. The state party should facilitate, not dictate, the approach each county uses to identify issues and communicate more effectively with voters through the media.
Because the implementation of these and other ideas will require me to be a chair actively reaching out to county party’s and other Democratic organizations throughout Utah on an ongoing basis, the Utah State Democratic Party will need an active and committed vice chair that will ensure necessary work continues to get done at state headquarters when I am away. We need a vice chair willing to take the responsibility for organizing and running executive/central committee meetings and helping to implement a vision and message that will result in Democratic victories into the future.
While I will work with whomever you choose to be our next vice-chair on May 7, I am endorsing Laura Bonham to fill this role. Laura and I have worked closely together over the past few years. We share very similar visions for the future of the Democratic Party and have proven that together we can get things done through our work as co-chairs of the Utah Democratic Progressive Caucus (UDPC). Laura will do what it takes to implement this and other strategies and ideas this campaign has put forward. I urge you to offer her your support on May 7 at the state convention.
As always, I invite your feedback on this approach to building the Democratic Party in Utah. Any additional ideas you can offer to help improve this 29 county strategy is appreciated.
March 7, 2005
My approach to fundraising will include building upon existing relationships current and past party leaders have established with large donors, creating new relationships with prospective donors, and reaching out to the grassroots members of the Utah Democratic Party to aggressively expand our pool of small donors.
In order to ensure continuity of revenue to the Democratic Party, I will speak with all major party donors during my first month in office to both introduce myself and to provide them with a clear picture of the strategy I will pursue in order to grow the Democratic Party in Utah. I will not hesitate to request they continue their generous support of our party to enable us to achieve the goals of greater and more efficient internet outreach, candidate recruitment and increased public awareness of our party’s values.
To achieve the goal of greater grassroots financial support of the party, our internet outreach efforts will play an integral role (see my internet strategy above). In addition, I am committed to developing and implementing new creative fundraising ideas that offer affordable ways for smaller donors to participate in supporting our party. These include affordable events that offer grassroots Democrats an opportunity to meet with local leaders, guest speakers or just to have a good time.
The Utah State Democratic Party Chair cannot be afraid of asking all Democrats, regardless of means, to support their party with large and small contributions. We all have a stake in the future of our party and we all benefit when Democrats succeed at reshaping the debate and winning elections. As your party chair, expect me to call on you to help in this effort.
During the course of this campaign many delegates and some candidates have raised the question of the Utah State Democratic Party chair receiving a salary. For some, the issue is not whether to pay the chair, but how much. For others, there is some doubt as to whether the chair should be paid at all.
There are several reasons why I believe the chair position should be considered a paid position.
• First, running
a state party is a fulltime commitment. The state chair should expect
to put in at least 40-60 hours per week of hard work on behalf of the
party, and even more in election years.
The party deserves a state chair that understands his/her job is the day to day administration of party affairs, near constant availability to the media, and candidate recruitment. With a budget exceeding $350,000 in off years and reaching $1 million or more in election years, we simply cannot afford to trust this job to someone not committed to the party fulltime or more as necessary. We need a chair accountable to members of the Utah Democratic Party as the chair’s employer. While past chairs have done an excellent job as volunteers, the time has come for us to put the debate regarding the chair’s salary behind us. This fulltime position should be open to all qualified people regardless of means.
The chair’s salary, while important, should remain last on the priority list when it comes to meeting monthly expenses. Staff salaries, rent, and timely payment of other bills due should come first. On occasion the chair may be required to defer his/her salary in order to make sure these obligations are met.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding any aspect of my platform, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Thank you.
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