Washblog

Let the race for Pierce County chair begin (updated)

Update [2006-12-29 10:7:39 by emmettoconnell]: I plugged in chair Jean Brooks' and Bill Harrington's responses below, which now covers all the candidates.

Pierce County is a lever on which elections in Washington are won. Geographically rural, it also contains some of the most urban sections in Washington.

This is arguably where Democrats running in the 8th CD go to die. It is a Puget Sound county with a Democratic executive, but whose county council is made up of five Republicans and four Democrats.

Which all makes the race for chair of the Pierce County Democrats interesting. The current chair,  Jean Brooks is running for reelection is is being challenged by former 2nd LD chair Bill Harrington and Nathe Lawver, vice-chair of the state Democratic Progressive caucus. The Pierce County Democrats reorganization meeting in on January 13.

I've known Nathe since I worked with his wife at a newspaper down on the Harbor a few years ago, and we've emailed back and forth about his candidacy. Here are responses from Nathe and Jean so far:

Here is Nathe's intro, three point plan:

1.  Fill and organize the precincts of Pierce County

2.  Build a democratic identity through service and stake holder/media relations

3.  Raise up new leaders from the grassroots.  See that no race goes unopposed.

In my response to "how do you know people really want change?" Nathe writes:

As I talk with the PCOs from across the county, they are asking for support and a vision to help them organize and build a party infrastructure that doesn't limp from election to election, but is a finely honed machine that works at the neighborhood and block level.  We can do this, it's just not there right now.

Candidates want change, too.  They would much rather have active precincts as well.  By the numbers:  of nearly 380 precincts in our county only 128 or so spots are currently filled with a PCO.  Our first task is to fill those spots and get our active voters in touch with their PCOs.   An effective party machine would save candidates time and money and help to lessen our volunteer burnout rate.

Jeans' "intro" (which actually was at the end of her email):

 I cannot do any of this alone - but under my watch there has been significant progress - Maria Cantwell won Pierce, we picked up a senate seat and a house seat in the 26th district, we picked up a house seat in the 28th and we picked up a house seat in the 31st.  We have hired a fundraiser and had our first major fundraiser in October where we made over $20,000.  Also, there is no part of Pierce County - incorporated or otherwise - that does not have some "rural" aspects - I truly believe that the Democratic Party supports issues from all parts of the county - affordable and accessible health care, good schools and affordable higher education, a healthy environment, well planned growth, living wage jobs, economic development and a strong defense.  Getting this message out will also work to turn the East side Blue!

To my question about IRV in Pierce County and what the party would do to anoint a nominee and protect the party label (since there wouldn't be a primary for county offices) Bill Harrington responds:

I would hold a separate endorsement convention in May, 2008, after the County Convention to adopt the platform. The Democrats invited to vote would be elected Delegates from all Precinct Caucuses. Not only would we endorse County positions covered by IRV, but we would endorse statewide Democratic candidates as well. I support a fair system to give our endorsed candidates as much time to raise money and organize for the General election as possible; ie, before absentee ballots are mailed. However, the most critical aspect of winning countywide elections for Democrats is significantly reducing the 55,000 UNDER REGISTERED voters in the 27th, 29th and 29th Legislative Districts.

Nathe responds:

At this point IRV is complicated in Pierce County.  As a party, it only makes sense to field a single candidate through a county caucus.  I would have to consult an attorney about the use of the "D" on the ballot.  Parties have been proven in the past to have the right to that label. 

Jean on IRV and the local party: 

...regarding the IRV - the county will need to have a convention whereby they select Democratic Candidates for the different positions affected by the IRV - this will be a new process for the County Party, one I will be certain to follow carefully, being certain to utilize established rules.  I am not certain what you mean by sue to prevent other candidates from using the term - I assume you mean "the Democratic" term.  I can say that to sue others is an expensive proposition and one that i certainly would consider without the advice and approval of the Executive Board of the party and I would also seek legal advice from the State Party's attorney.  In addition, the results of the convention will be published and it would difficult for others to claim to be the selected democratic candidate (s).

And to my question about the eastern part of the county and how the Democratic party can do better out there, Bill writes:

East Pierce is a real political challenge for Democrats.  First, candidates need to start early, raising money, printing literature, holding coffee sessions and doorbelling, 10,000 homes in the fall of 2007.  Secondly, the Democratic Party must communicate with voters directly, I live in a RED precinct in the 8th and our family received over 40 mailings from the Republicans alone, and at least 10 phone calls on election weekend. Democrats must organize a far more effective voter id program and GOVT effort to achieve victory. The 8th CD includes all the precincts on the 31st, most in the 2nd LD and 15 Precincts from the 25th. We are a large area and are critical to wining the 8th.  The 8th CD needs a foral CD organization which I would help organize if elected County Chair/

Nathe says:

I've talked with a few of the candidates that lost their races in the eastern party of the county.  The simplest way to put this is: when in doubt, organize!  We need to build the party infrastructure and speak Democratic values to the neighborhood and block level.  There are many ways to do this, but it starts with retail organizing.  

Jean says:

 First, there is a small portion of Pierce County which is in the 8th Congressional District and we have now had two quite good candidates - Dave Ross and Darcey Burner.  Darcy made a good run and I believe can win the next time if certain campaign strategies are followed.
 
Turning the Eastside Blue has to be done from the grassroots up starting with the recruiting of PCO's, providing training and materials for them to do their jobs, finding candidates who can win the those districts and you begin by going to folks who live in the districts and asking them what is important to them and what they want from their elected officials;  this needs to start now for 2008.  I would definitely like to see a D in the 8th congressional district but I would like to add to our legislative positions - we have a senator in the 2nd and we picked up a house seat in the 31st and I would like to see us add another seat in the 31st and the 2nd;  the 31st District has done a great job organizing and continues to build their grassroots as evidenced by the dinner they held at the Eagles and over 150 people in attendance and Maria Cantwell the main speaker. 

In general, I'd agree with Nathe on a lot of what he's talking about, short of his response to IRV. While I agree that nominating a candidate from some sort of internal process is important (like a caucus or convention) making sure that process is as open as possible (possibly some sort of online balloting?) would be my first priority. What people wanted when they voted for IRV was more choices, not fewer and more access to the political process. Shutting the doors to them through lack of access is not the solution.

Current chair Jean Brooks also has a blog here, which I will delve into later.

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Especially when the party has just gone through a bunch of fiery hoops to "protect the label".  The best way to take advantage