Saturday, September 23, 2006

Party Primaries

This is from a mailing list post I made on September 3rd. The question is raising its head again, and I wanted to put this somewhere I could find it quick.

I don't think it should matter whether we're talking about an Incumbent seat, a Challenged seat or an Open seat. Because what we're talking about is not specific details having to do with a specific race or a specific candidate. We need to nail our principles to the party door. And the principles that I would use to decide policy on Primary races come from the Charter of the Washington State Democratic Party.

We, the Democrats of the State of Washington, believe in the concepts expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States that all power to govern resides with the people. In accordance with the National Charter of the Democratic Party of the United States, we organized and pledge ourselves to promote a truly representative Party open to all who support its principles.

We further pledge to make every effort to encourage maximum participation in the political process and to protect individuals' rights, civil liberties, our environment and social and economic justice for all.

All power to govern resides with the people. To translate that into this discussion, all power to pick and choose candidates for office resides with the voters. And all power to decide who will best represent the principles and values of the Democratic Party reside with the grassroots activists and voters in the Primary election. Move the primary up to June, May, April, whenever we need to. My honest choice for a primary, especially when it comes to the 2008 Presidential Primaries, would be President's Day, the third Monday in February. To heck with this jockeying about who goes first, and no more influencing the grassroots with the claim "Well, they won in Iowa so they must be the best." Start the landslide nationwide with all 50 states on the same day, whether that be via Primary or Caucus.

We pledge ourselves to promote a truly representative Party open to all who support its principles. To be truly representative, the Party rules should be encouraging people to campaign, to run, to build support and campaign infrastructure. There should be standards and an instruction manual for candidates and campaign managers revised every year just as there is currently a PCO Handbook. It would explain how to file for office, what positions are partisan, and most importantly what the rules are for gaining access to whatever infrastructure the Party has available. This includes the Voter File, Endorsements, etc. The Candidate Handbook would also explain fundraising best practices, how to host a house party, how to get someone else to host a house party, and where and how to advertise. Every candidate that I've talked to outside Incumbents who have already learned these sorts of things by doing them tells me that everyone is on their own when it comes to building a campaign. This often means that people start really early, or they have to put lots of money into a campaign from their own pocket to make up the difference. Which means that if someone doesn't have a lot of money or enough time to really campaign full time, they might as well not bother.

We further pledge to make every effort to encourage maximum participation in the political process. How can we fulfill this pledge if we are from the onset telling people interested in public office that they are on their own?

Incumbent candidates automatically get extra help. They can call on the party to help them get the word out about an event, and more than likely get what they need quicker than a primary challenger seems to. If an Incumbent has screwed up somehow, by the votes they have cast or by not responding to grassroots pressure from within the party, the chair of that district or the state should be willing and able to address the concerns about that behavior to that elected official. That doesn't mean withdrawing support, it means the chair being accountable to the people that put them into office by raising concerns, and then reporting the response to the people who raised the concern.

Rodney Tom got the support of his district immediately, and the person who had already announced for that Senate seat, and had been building campaign infrastructure for several months, was asked to drop out. This was the person who had actually run against Rodney in 2004 for his House seat, with the support of her district. What's fair about that? I'm sure that he will do a great job in the Senate, but that's not the point. The point is that we drove off someone who had been building support within her district for 3 years, and probably drove off some of that support at the same time. That's in direct violation of our stated principles as a party.

About the Governor's reelection, I agree that the party should start now. And they should start with a simple question sent out to every Democrat on our mailing lists: "What do you want to see from a Washington State Governor, and will you help make sure that the Democratic Party candidate in 2008 will live up to your desires and expectations?" House parties should be happening every month at a Precinct or Area level (the 46th is divided up into 14 Areas of 10-15 precincts each). These parties don't have to be focused on the Gubernatorial race, they should be focused on the grassroots. What do we want from a Governor? What do we want from an Attourney General? What do we want from a Secretary of State? What do we want from a Lands Commissioner, a Treasurer, an Auditor, our Legislature, our county and city governments, our courts? What do the people, who are the source of everything else in this country and this party, want from our government? That is what we need from a political party wanting to be the party of the people.

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