Things all Wake Dems ought to consider when electing a new County Party Chair!

Dear Wake Dems:

I hope by now you know that big changes are taking place in the Wake County Democratic Party. Both Chairman Mack Paul and ED Tammy Brunner have resigned effective 12/31. This coming right after the 2011 elections puts us at a disadvantage in trying to build our party before the 2012 election season when we will be not so gently urged to drop everything and work for OFA.

You may have also read Mack's endorsement of current Raleigh Vice Chair Dan Blue III to be Mack's successor as the new county Party Chair. Frankly, after the way that the Wake County Democratic Party lost our "mojo" after the 2008 election - especially the fiascos of 2009 and 2010 - I was shocked to read that Mack or any outgoing Chair is endorsing someone specifically to replace him. It makes it look just like the sort of set-up that foisted the 2011 Coordinated Campaign on the current Board. And I disagree with the claims that Wake County got their "mojo" back in 2011. That "mojo" was bought and paid for by the big money donors who funded the Coordinated Campaign, and I sincerely doubt they give a damn about the long-term welfare of the Wake County Democratic Party.

Let me tell you why I feel this way. Many of you know how involved I was in the Wake Dems in general and GOTV in particular leading up to 2008, and then in 2009. The difference between the leadership of the board in general and the Chair in particular changed drastically in April 2009. And I believe that lack of open, transparent democratic leadership was a major factor in our 2009 and 2010 losses.

I have my doubts that anyone who sat on the board from 2009 to 2011 who rubber-stamped whatever former Chris Jack Nichols wanted to do deserves to be elected Chair of the Wake County Democratic Party. Whatever party building that had Jack's support seemed to be all about organizing precincts to fill vacancies in public offices at CEC meetings to fill vacancies. The members of that board sat still for Jack doing too little and too late for GOTV in 2009. Remember the "Board of Elections" mailers? He spent our money down to next to nothing for the election of and did nothing to raise more money for 2010 - thinking that taxpayer checkoff money was going to provide the funds needed to implement an expensive GOTV plan.

Then there was the April 2010 Annual meeting where we couldn't even figure out which precincts were organized and who was eligible to vote to fill the recently vacated Raleigh Vice Chair position. The election was so fouled-up that they had to create the position of co-Raleigh Vice-Chair for each of the two candidates that ran. Even though people begged Jack to resign before the April 2010 annual meeting so that a new Chair could run the Party during the crucial summer leading up to the Fall 2010 elections, Jack held on till the bitter end - and then Mack Paul came on board. Jack was touting Mack as both the champion party fundraiser for GOTV and his heir-apparent - both of which were news to Mack when I talked with Mack on the phone the day before the 2010 NCDP Convention and SEC meeting at the end of July.

Perhaps out of that near bankruptcy, or perhaps because Jack was too busy with his own campaign for County Commissioner, the Wake Dems were forced to go along with the Coordinated Campaign in 2010 - and you know how well that worked out.

After the 2010 general elections, it appears that some of the old board from 2009-2011 worked to set up a secret deal with big money donors to set up another Coordinated Campaign for 2011 - and worked hard to prevent the new board that was elected in April 2011 from working in an open and transparent manner. As a precinct chair who is responsible to the voters in my precinct, and as an SEC member who has a large responsibility to the entire state party, I had been trying to contact both my house district coordinator and Raleigh Vice Chair Dan Blue III for months before the 2011 elections about the utter lack of party building and precinct organization in my House District in particular and in Wake County as a whole. I had not gotten my phone calls or e-mails returned for months before the election.

I am shocked and appalled that we only have 94 organized precincts in Wake County right now, and I was shocked to see the almost exclusive emphasis on phone banking both this year and last year in Wake County. Can any of you show me any figures that prove phone banking (no matter how sophisticated or expensive it is) is as effective for getting out the vote as door-to-door canvassing? Certainly both phone banking and door-to-door canvassing need to be done in modern campaigning, but as a party we should not be forced to act merely as an appendage of any single or coordinated campaign. We need to build up our party by organizing ALL 200 precincts in Wake County to make sure that we have a county party that reflects all parts of Wake County!

Some would say that precinct organization and party-building is Lindy Brown's job - and that she hasn't done a good job of doing that. I say that's hogwash! Since April 2011, this party hasn't done a damned thing to provide the sort of support that a First Vice Chair needs to build the party by organizing precincts. Remember - I worked with Blaise Strenn on this in 2007 and 2008, and I know what level of support it takes. The Wake County and even the NC Democratic Party provided that support from 2005 through 2008 - but both stopped providing that support from that point on. I was told to my face by Mack in the Spring of this year that we wouldn't be doing any precinct organization or any party building till after the 2011 elections. And now with this change of leadership and the search for a new ED, I doubt we'll be doing any of that before the March 6th/10th annual precinct meetings. That means we won't be getting our full representation at District or the State Convention. The only way to get full representation is to organize ALL 200 precincts! For anyone on our board to support our County Party not having full representation is unforgivable!

You may know that Dan Blue and I are friends - we've even drunk beer together at one of my favorite watering holes. But I think that Dan and all of the rest of the board in 2009-2011 and a good chunk of those folks who are on the current board could have done the business of the Wake County Democratic Party in a much more open and transparent manner that would include both building the Party and electing Democrats that are responsible to the Party instead of big money donors - many of whom are not even party delegates! I know that some of the new Board members continue to push for a more open and transparent process, but they need a majority on the Board pushing for it. And while I know ALL the current Board members say they support a more open and transparent process, the proof is in the pudding.

After the Jack Nichols fiasco in 2009 & 2010 and the business with Bill Faison running for NCDP Chair earlier this year, I have frankly had enough with people running for a party office to use it as a stepping stone to higher elected public office. I have no problem with people seeking elected public office - in fact I encourage more Democrats to run for office. But I'd rather elect someone as our County Party Chair who had no desire for elected public office - someone who has the desire to serve on the Board as Chair to build the Party and make it stronger, not make it easier for them to run for elected public office at a later date or sell it out to the highest bidders as it appears was done with this 2011 election. Membership on multiple "boards" and "committees" don't impress me. Is your precinct organized and did you help organize it or keep it organized? Can you organize other precincts around you to help get more Democrats elected with LESS money at the same time you give more people a voice in the Democratic Party. Can you help hold our eleted officials accountable for turning our party platform into public policy?

I won't be supporting anyone for Chair who won't make the commitment to the Wake County Democratic Party that it takes to restore us to the way our party functioned and flourished under former County Chair Doris Weaver from 2007-2009 or under NCDP Chair Jerry Meek from 2005 -2009. We were poached and punked by OFA from 2008 on while the NCDP calmly stood by and watched. We ran the 2010 Coordinated Campaign right out of the OFA playbook in 2010 - and look how well that worked!

Guess what? It's only going to get worse in 2012! I do not see anything in the NCDP POO or the DNC By-Laws that requires any level of the Democratic Party to merely be an appendage of one or more campaigns. Only delegates are allowed to address the Party at official meetings - there is nothing in the POO which allows ANYONE to dictate Party policy because they are a paid political operative or because they open up their checkbook. I urge all Wake County Democrats to contact CEC members (elected precinct chairs and vice chairs, as well as SEC members) and tell them to take the responsibility of their elected Party office seriously and not rubber-stamp the outgoing Chair's choice for Wake County Chair. The position isn't appointed by the outgoing Chair. No one deserves to be "anointed" for job either. Perhaps it's time for us to find a successful Chair from the recent past and support them if they run?

We also have a vacancy for the position of the County Party Executive Director. Since I've been active in the Democratic Party, I've seen three EDs who have done what I consider to be a fantastic job for the County Party: Linda Watson, Julia Lee and Michelle Lewis. When those ED's weren't on the job, lots of details slipped through the cracks. I worked with Michelle Lewis from 2007 and 2008, and I know how well she performed in that position. She set the standard for excellence that I'd like to see in our future ED. Any new ED ought to be so detail oriented that he or she can do the same work that Michelle Lewis did on her own without needing Board members to run our officer elections so they don't get screwed up! Please contact the County Party Board members and urge them not to hire the most popular or well-connected applicant for ED - ask them to hire the best applicant who will work for the ENTIRE Wake County Democratic Party, not just for the Chair or for some campaign.

For those of you who would wish me to shut up and not talk about this stuff - I'll let you continue to bury your heads in the sand. Just don't be surprised when someone else (Art Pope, the Republicans, or even OFA) comes along and kicks you in the part of your body that sticks up out of the ground the highest!

Chris Telesca