Instead of driving to the Triangle for another gathering of North Carolina Democrats this morning, I'm here at home in Cumberland County, looking at the snow outside my window. Looks like winter weather has cancelled our main events today, so I thought I would take this opportunity to give BlueNC an update about last weekend's Winter Meeting of the Democratic National Committee, held in Washington, D.C.
For those who don't know me, I'm Phillip Gilfus, one of the five elected members from the North Carolina Democratic Party representing our state on the Democratic National Committee. I was elected in 2008 for a four-year term, so it's "halftime" of my freshman term.
I arrived in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Feb. 4, and was able to meet with some great Democrats from across the country. I was privileged that afternoon to attend a DNC/OFA event featuring President Obama, which can be seen online.
Friday, Feb. 5 was when the bulk of work was done, at least for me. I first joined fellow NC DNC members for a meeting of the Southern Regional Caucus. Each region has a caucus, e.g. Midwest, Western, Eastern. The chair of our caucus is state Rep. Gilda Cobbs-Hunter of South Carolina who is committed to ensuring that the caucus is a working caucus and not just a place to gather for an hour or so. The decision was made to have a regional Southern Caucus gathering more than once a year, and most likely we will meet at the same time the ASDC (Association of State Democratic Chairs) does in the South, which most likely will be Apr. 8-10 in Nashville, TN (though details will be announced). A previous issue from the last DNC meeting was that the South, despite the votes it brought in for President Obama in 2008 (especially a state like North Carolina!), was not given commensurate representation on the DNC. So that is an issue that will be further discussed among the officers of the caucus who will let DNC Chair Gov. Tim Kaine know that the votes in 2008 came from the NC, VA, FL, and others, not just from D.C.
The decision was also made to create committees so that work and discussion can be going on inside the caucus. These new committees include Finance, Communications, Labor, Faith, Veterans/Military Affairs, Program, and Youth. I volunteered my service to act as chair of the Veterans/Military Affairs committee. As a former U.S. Army captain and Iraq vet, and as a DNC Member from NC, home to Fort Bragg, Pope Air Force Base, Seymour Johnson AFB, Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point, etc., we are the most military-friendly state in the union, and I thought it appropriate that we lead on these issues. State Sen. Dr. Lester Jackson of Georgia also offered to help me on this committee, so I look forward to working on these issues and seeing what we can do. I know we are very proud of the work First Lady Obama has done for military families. Any ideas, as always, are appreciated!
Another interesting issue that was brought up by the chair was the caucus conducting a constituency study of the South. During our meeting, we heard from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, vice chair of the DCCC, about the importance of protecting our majority in the House, to include those congressional Democrats from "red" districts, where Sen. McCain won decisively in 2008. Certainly they should reflect their districts, and may be facing tough races in 2010. At the same time, a DNC Member brought up the issue that they felt their congressional member voted conservatively because maybe that representative was stereotyping their rural district as conservative when, in fact, maybe that was untrue or at least that conservatism was not one that would translate into certain stances that their congressman took. So we all agreed that we need to know where Southern folks are, and where they really stand, not just how we stereotype them. I look forward to that project and will let you know what comes out of it.
My second meeting was as a member of the DNC Youth Council, a great organization of dedicated people who are the hardest working group in the DNC (yeah...I said it!). I was acting secretary, so I have very good notes of what we did!
We first heard from Kalpen Modi from the White House Office of Public Engagement, better known for his work on the big screen, but who campaigned for the president in 2008 and now works for the White House. We also heard from DNC Chair Gov. Kaine.
The DNC Youth Council is working on a Blueprint for Change based on feedback from state parties about the involvement (or lack thereof) of young Democrats in party organizations. The DNC Youth Council will be working on a set of recommendations for better practices to promote the involvement of young people inside state party structures, ensuring that folks my age are represented. We heard committee reports from Party Outreach, Fundraising, Young Dems Abroad, New Media, Voter Protection (of which I am the co-chair), and Leadership. Our room was full because the national College Democrats organization was also having their meeting at the same time...so young people were well represented at the DNC that day!
Now, the General Meeting of the DNC was scheduled for Saturday, but the snow was coming down all day Friday, and I had one eye outside of the window. By the evening, I saw it sticking to the road, and I made the decision I needed to leave then or else be stuck in DC for who knows how many days. So I hit the road and made it safely back to Fayetteville. Therefore, I was not able to attend the Saturday portion of the DNC Meeting, where President Obama spoke to the group.
So I did survive Snowmaggedon, and it appears to have partially come to North Carolina this weekend. It's always an interesting time at the DNC, and hopefully we will have better weather for next time!
Hope everyone stayed safe today.