The New DPVA Agenda
We ran a strong, issue-oriented campaign for DPVA Chair, drawing support from all over the Commonwealth. Although I was not elected DPVA Chair in December 2010, my campaign set an agenda for DPVA that was widely praised and not seriously questioned.
I believe DPVA ought to adopt that agenda.
DPVA ought to concentrate on statewide Democratic strategies—i.e., DPVA’s focus should be on maximizing the ability of Democratic candidates to win statewide races in Virginia. Statewide races captivate and motivate our base, meaning that by focusing statewide, DPVA also will be maximizing opportunities to win in Virginia Senate, House of Delegates, and local races.
DPVA exists to help elect Democratic candidates in Virginia—from the school house to the White House. But, DPVA should never be tied too closely to any single Democratic elected official or candidate. Instead, DPVA should be an independent force for building the Democratic Party in Virginia, drawing on the wisdom and experience of all Democrats from our Democratic elected officials to the grassroots.
MAJOR AGENDA ITEMS FOR DPVA
These are among the major items from my campaign agenda that DPVA ought to adopt:
Pursue a 134-local committee strategy
DPVA’s official grassroots organizations are its local Democratic committees in each of Virginia’s 134 localities. DPVA’s Central Committee is not meant to be a substitute for a local Democratic Committee, nor can it be effective in such a role. Many of our local Democratic committees are doing a great job mobilizing Democratic grass roots activists and reaching out to voters. However, many others could do a lot better.
DPVA’s next Chair should take a personal and pro-active role to help maximize the performance of ALL local Democratic committees in Virginia by leading in the development of committee-specific plans to move each local committee to “the next level.” DPVA ought to have a 134 city/county committee strategy to cover all localities in Virginia. In implementing this strategy, the Chair should work with DPVA’s Political Director and a series of regional organizers hired and paid for by DPVA.
Unless and until DPVA can raise the money to hire the regional organizers, the DPVA Chair should begin immediately on his own to do the outreach required to understand what the unique needs are in each locality, and to develop strategies to meet them. In doing this, the DPVA Chair ought to work in close consultation and collaboration with the existing Virginia Association of Democratic Chairs (VADC) organization.
Here are some examples of the kinds of activities the DPVA Chair should pursue:
- Conduct a general assessment in each locality of the most important things that could be done in that locality to improve Democratic electoral performance, and make recommendations regarding how best to implement the changes needed.
- Assist local committees with fundraising ideas and facilitate cooperative fundraising efforts among committees. To the maximum feasible extent, the DPVA Chair personally should headline local committee fundraising events.
- Organize training sessions for local committees and activists with technical assistance and support from DPVA.
- Facilitate information sharing in a secure place on the DPVA website regarding “best local Democratic committee practices”.
Contest all 140 VA Senate and HOD seats
It’s great to have a fair process to choose certain races for special attention and targeting. But, in the past, DPVA has left Virginia Democrats in all the other races to fend for themselves, sink or swim.
DPVA does have to set priorities and allocate its resources accordingly. Right now, until it raises a lot more money, neither DPVA nor the Democratic Senate or House caucus leadership can provide significant financial assistance to candidates in non-targeted races.
But here’s what DPVA can and should do for all official Democratic Senate and HOD candidates:
Before the primary date:
- Loudly and publicly declare that Democrats should contest every Senate and HOD race. Provide technical advice to prospective Democratic candidates.
- Work with the House and Senate Democratic Caucus leadership to take a look at the criteria currently used to target races, and revise the criteria as appropriate.
After the primary date:
- Arrange one high-profile fundraising or political event with a prominent statewide or regional Democratic leader as the “draw”.
- Ensure that any “Coordinated Campaign” effort in the candidate’s district will include her or him in Voter ID, Voter Persuasion and GOTV.
- Drastically cut the current voter database access fee for all Democratic candidates in races with an incumbent Republican or an open seat, and make up the lost revenue by improved DPVA fundraising.
- Provide pre-packaged technical help so candidates can have their campaigns using DPVA’s online resources effectively, as quickly as possible.
In order to qualify for DPVA’s help, Senate or HOD candidates must commit to the following:
- Support publicly DPVA’s Party Plan;
- Provide a written political and fundraising campaign plan;
- Obtain Local and Congressional Democratic Committee approval;
- Hire a Professional Campaign Manager
Spread the Democratic Message
The DPVA Chair personally must speak out continuously and relentlessly in support of Democratic priorities and against the far-right-wing agenda of Cuccinelli, McDonnell, Marshall and the RPVA.
To maximize the prospects of fully energizing the Virginia Democratic base, these positive and negative messages need to have both a national and a state component. Virginia Democrats need to have a clear and concise set of motivating principles for which they stand, and those principles and messages need to be highly visible and promoted throughout the Commonwealth.
DPVA should take effective steps to insure that DPVA’s message points are being provided to Congressional District Democratic Committees and to local Democratic Committees. These committees are our boots on the ground, and a coordinated message will not be effective unless these committees have the tools they need to communicate DPVA’s message.
Recruit and Train Local Candidates
DPVA should play a leadership role in recruiting and training candidates for local offices: boards of supervisors, school boards, and constitutional officers. These local offices represent the best grassroots sources of candidates for higher offices.
DPVA can help local Democratic committees by providing technical expertise and ideas for recruitment and training of prospective candidates for these offices. These plans would also be implemented as an integral part of the 134 city/county strategy.
Revamp Electronic Communications
DPVA’s electronic communications strategies need to be completely revamped and upgraded to make the best possible use of all the available political organizing tools.
DPVA recently undertook a revamping of its own website, but there are several other ways in which DPVA ought to be playing a leadership role in helping Congressional District and local Democratic committees and Democratic candidates. For example, DPVA ought to be more pro-active in helping these other committees upgrade their own websites and communications strategies. DPVA also should be pro-active in helping Democratic candidates with important technical advice on topics like Search Engine Optimization (SEO). [SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a web site or a web page in search engineslike Google. For more details, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_optimization ]
“Houston, we have a problem.” DPVA needs to repair its relationships with the Democratic netroots. Like most relationships in trouble, this relationship has suffered from erroneous expectations on both sides. From DPVA’s side, the erroneous expectations have centered on excessive fears of public criticism and too great a passion for secrecy. From the netroots side, this relationship has suffered from misunderstandings by some netroots activists about the relative roles of local Democratic Committees and the DPVA Central Committee in making certain kinds of decisions.
DPVA should continue to look for ways in which DPVA and the netroots can work together to advance our Democratic goals, understanding that agreement will not always be possible, but that the relationship is too valuable to remain in disrepair.
Change the Format and Content of DPVA Central Committee meetings
Central Committee members want to have our meetings conducted so that it is clear that the Central Committee is not a rubber stamp for higher-ups in the DPVA hierarchy. Many of us have to travel several hours to attend these meetings, and often have to pay for a hotel room the night before in order to make it feasible for us to attend. It is very demoralizing when we find that the meetings are conducted in a way that leaves us with the impression that our opinions are not being given enough weight.
It is also very inappropriate to waste the valuable time of Central Committee members on trivial matters that ought to be handled by sub-groups or by the Chair and that do not need the approval of the Central Committee. The DPVA Chair should take the lead in completely changing the format and content of Central Committee meetings.
Coordinate Work of Major Stakeholders
DPVA should play a leadership role in being sure that we are maximizing the resources of various critical Democratic groups with agendas and operations in Virginia, and minimizing the risks that these groups might inadvertently be doing things that are undercutting one another. These groups include the staffs of Senators Warner and Webb, our Democratic representatives in Congress, the Democratic National Committee, Organizing for America (OFA), and the Virginia Senate and House Democratic caucuses.
Raise More Money
DPVA needs to raise more money, and that is more challenging with a Republican as Governor in Richmond. By adopting the strategic priorities described above, the next DPVA Chair will build a dynamic and successful organization in which small and large donors alike will want to invest, paving the way for Democratic victories in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The next DPVA Chair should work with the DPVA Finance Chair and our Democratic elected officials to develop a finance strategy for the next three years that capitalizes on our substantial growth prospects.