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December 29, 2005

The Unity Coalition

. . . or how about we get smarter about how we select the next Democratic Party State Chair.  A Unity Coalition of several different Party caucuses, including the African American, Agriculture Rural, Asian Pacific, Disability, Federation of Democratic Women, Hispanic/Latino, Jewish, Labor, Progressive, Stonewall, Veterans and Young Democratic caucuses, is planning to hold a Candidate’s forum and try to get the people running for Chair to come and talk with the Coalition and answer some questions. 

“I wanted someone I could trust,” said Luis Moscoso, the organizer of the event and the State Secretary of the Washington State Democrats.   

I had the opportunity to sit and talk with Luis and several other folks after a meeting last week and hear about the Unity Coalition he is trying to build quickly to exert some impact on the recently announced upcoming election for Party Chair, created unexpectedly by Paul Berendt’s announcement that he’d be stepping down.  One of the folks at the table, Noemie Maxwell, had recently written an interesting posting on this Unity Coalition that Luis was putting together to have an impact on selecting the new Chair.  We all wanted to hear more. 

Luis was elected last January by a pretty wide margin for someone who knew at most five people out of the 178 people voting prior to the election.  He says he thinks they were ready for some change on some part of the ticket and they liked his message.  State Secretary is an unpaid position and there has not been a lot of call for him to do much.  So he’s getting to create what he wants in the position and has chosen to focus on strengthening the various Party caucuses and building coalitions between them.

Luis realized quickly that he didn’t really like the process used in the elections and wanted to see if he could make some changes in the next election cycle.  Well, a piece of that election arrived early.  So he went into action. 

His idea is that the caucuses that participate in the forum will not endorse any particular candidate.  They will talk about what they want the new Chair to do and they will ask a series of questions to each of the candidates.  The questions will have to do with internal Party protocols as well as specific issues.

The Candidate Forum will be held on Sunday, January 8th at 2:00 at the Carpenters Hall Local 1797 at 231 Burnett Ave. North in Renton and interested Democrats are welcome to attend. Click through for Download UnityCoalition.doc flyers to distribute.

Pretty cool.  I’ll be talking to some of the individual caucus leaders between now and then to hear from them on what they can say ahead about what they will be looking for.  Then I’ll cover the Forum as well when it comes up.  Others might find it interesting as well.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on December 29, 2005 at 02:38 PM in Inside Baseball | Permalink


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As I've said before, the *only* considerations for state chair have to be fundraising and personnel management ability. And arguably, the latter is almost irrelevant too.

Whether the next chair is a Deaniac or a DLCer means nothing only inassofar that it means they'll bring an extra $X.Y million to the table in fundraising. Remember, a state chair doesn't set policy; only the state committee does that.

>>Carpenters Hall Local 1797 at 231 Burnett Ave. North in Renton<<

Interesting. Was Unity Coalition the group Paul Berendt sent that e-mail out about last week?

Posted by: FFAristocrat | Dec 29, 2005 9:50:47 PM

Regarding the remarks by FFAristocrat that "a state chair doesn't set policy; only the state committee does that" perhaps you are overlooking the group dynamics common to non-profit corporations, schools and even political parties. Management style is instrumental in fostering the culture of a group.

Some people in management genuinely respect the people who elect them and are facilitative of a group process where participants are encouraged to contribute to the best of their abilities and which fosters growth for everyone. Some individuals pay lip service to listening to the lay members of the group which elect them but use information and procedures- even parliamentary procedures, to control issues, information and people. Often people in management positions do not have the skills or awareness of what a health group process can be.

I am very thankful that Luis Moscoso is committed to a process wherein everyone has access to information -real knowledge of how the candidates approach a variety of issues and concerns -because there is lot of gossip and innuendo out in the ether - now, as always.

Many people have pointed out that only state committeemen and state committeewomen have a vote in the election of state chair. I am fortunate that my state committee man and woman recognize that they are elected to represent me (and every other Democrat in my legislative district). The Unity Forum scheduled for January 8th is open to any Democrat - not only to caucus members and not only to state committeemen and state committeewomen. If your representative is not attending the forum in Renton you may want to ask yourself what information they will base their vote on.

Some candidates may prefer to call or meet individually with those voting members of the state central committee but I reserve my respect and support for candidates who are willing to speak with all Democrats and who allow their answers to be known by all who are represented by their state committeeman and women. As a member of a caucus in the Democratic Party I am proud to ask our questions before my fellow Democrats and not in private meetings.

Fundraising is a critical skill for a party leader, but it is not the only selection criteria to evaluate during this selection process. This is not a game of poker; the candidates are not evaluated by the ante or by the pile of chips which they and their supporters have garnered.

Individual elections are often won by the party which spends the most - but if we did not learn anything from the last presidential election fundraising then maybe we should go back to school and consider what implications the "new games" movement has for politics.

If we are to retain the energy which new participants brought to the caucuses and to the campaign last year we need a leader who is inclusive and will steward the party's growth - both at the grassroots and at all levels of leadership.

And to paraphrase the words of my sage legislative district chair "If you keep playing by the old rules you end up with Republican Lite." I prefer to hope that we are writing a new playbook and that we will in '06 and '08 with a robust and rejuvenated party.

We have an organizational structure quite different from those in the non-profit milieu. There the chair is a board member elected like any other and the Executive Director is a paid staff person who leads other staff members but serves at the pleasure of the board. If the Director begins setting policy the board may grow to feel like figureheads. Our party structure more closely resembles a for profit corporation- except that only our chair receives remuneration. One question our Executive Board as well as all lay members need to wonder about is which other changes could be made now to strengthen the role of the rest of the elected board so there is less danger of a leader building a fiefdom.

As we continue to grapple with these issues I grow more and more grateful to Paul Berendt for timing this campaign so we only have two months in which to accomplish all our machinations, so that the candidates in both the next election as well as the most recent are well served (it has not effected more than a handful of family holiday plans) and most of all for not attempting to designate a heir apparent

Posted by: Anita Latch | Dec 30, 2005 3:45:54 AM

In response to Ms. Latch's commentary, I do have to take issue, somewhat regarding one statement:

"Many people have pointed out that only state committeemen and state committeewomen have a vote in the election of state chair. I am fortunate that my state committee man and woman recognize that they are elected to represent me (and every other Democrat in my legislative district). The Unity Forum scheduled for January 8th is open to any Democrat - not only to caucus members and not only to state committeemen and state committeewomen. If your representative is not attending the forum in Renton you may want to ask yourself what information they will base their vote on."

I would LOVE to be there for this forum, however, again, or as usual, an important event is taking place on a Sunday afternoon and I CANNOT be there. When the notice was first sent out about the "Unity Coalition", I was led to believe that only 1 representative from the different caucuses would be a part of the vetting. "Whose name would you offer as a representative of the WSPC to sit on the vetting panel? (Only one member from each caucus.)"

As an Eastern Washington Vice Chair of the Washington State Progressive Caucus and a State Committee Woman for the 8th Legislative District I would have wanted to be there. But, because this is taking place on a Sunday afternoon and where I live (Tri-Cities), it would not even be possible for me to even be able to participate. Also, is this forum only taking place in Renton? Will this be taken on the road to other parts of Washington State so that other Democrats will have an opportunity to ask questions in front of other Democrats, in particular in front of their state committee people. As of this moment (12/29/05), I haven't heard of any other date/time/city.

So, I would ask Ms. Latch to consider something here,,,,, not everyone lives within an hour or two of Renton/Seattle. Some of us live 3 - 4 hours away and trying to make it to an "afternoon" event, and get back home at a decent hour because we work the next day, does not make me feel very included. I take my position very seriously and do everything I can to make sure that those who elected me have all the information they need so they can let me know where they stand and they will know where I stand.

Also, to find out that there has been some kind of meeting and we, as state committee persons, have not been told what is being discussed, we as state committee persons are not getting ALL the information as to who is even running and less than 30 days until the election, does not make me a real happy camper.

As to the statement FFAristocrat said, "Was Unity Coalition the group Paul Berendt sent that e-mail out about last week?" Hmmmmm, I am getting curiouser and curiouser about is really going on over in the Puget Sound area.

Posted by: Sandy G | Dec 30, 2005 9:43:18 PM

Correction on the "as of this moment (12/29/05)", it should have been 12/30/05. Being on vacation this week, I lose track of the date.

My apologies.

Posted by: Sandy G | Dec 30, 2005 9:45:04 PM

Those who had the vision and initiative to organize this forum -- especially within the very tight time frame of this election -- should be commended. I find it remarkable that it has taken someone who is relatively new to the Party to put together a coalition like this one -- and that he has done this so quickly in response to this need. Kudos to Luis Moscoso!

Effective action in response to need -- that is something I really like to see.

I am thankful that this forum is open to the public. I plan to attend. Not being able to vote does not diminish the educational usefulness of the forum for me. Even more important, I feel much better, as a member of my grassroots Democratic organization -- and as a member of the public who is affected by what happens in politics -- knowing that such a broad-based group is vetting these candidates.

Of course, any single forum, no matter where it is scheduled, will be inaccessible to some of the people within the state. Was there time to organize more than one forum and then to coordinate the input and votes from all the representatives attending them? It seems to me that there was barely enough time to organize even one. It seems likely to me that if an effort had been made to do several forums -- and to make them perfectly representational of and accessible to all the interested people in the state -- that nothing would have happened at all.

My hope for the Democratic party, the coalitions within it, and just in general for our political culture, is that people would be more willing to accept imperfection, to be thankful for the efforts of others, and to proactively join in those efforts when they have a stake in the outcome.

The "perfect" can indeed be the enemy of "the good." I have seen so many times where organizations are paralyzed in times of need because no one can figure out how to get something done in a way that's going to please everyone. I would hope people would remember that the Democratic Party serves the public -- that it exists to offer to the public the best candidates possible and to get those candidates elected. It does not exist to give perfect representation to every person within the party. I trust that those people from the Unity Coalition who are able to attend this and to vote will be making good decisions that will help all of us. And I expect good things from this coalition.

Posted by: Noemie Maxwell | Dec 31, 2005 10:24:47 AM

As a former candidate for the State Chair spot, I was looking forward to the Unity Forum. Luis does deserve a lot of kudos for arranging this. I am sure he would be the first to wish he could have arranged more around the state.

It is important to keep in mind why this is being done. The first reason is that least year there was not a lot of unity when it came to voting for the State Chair amongst our State Party's caucuses. Luis and the leaders of these caucuses are attempting to make sure that their respective vocies are heard and that their questions get answered by the candidates. It is unfortunate that Luis has been labeled a divider in this effort because to me and others it is clearly an attempt to unify.

Secondly, the caucuses have not really been supported in a way that makes them feel part of the process. This was especially true in the recent discussion of the affirmative action plan of the State Party. It is also true in the caucuses attempt to have more of a voice on the State Party Executive Board, which I wholeheartedly think is overdue.

What I am hoping is that some of you excellent bloggers will be able to recap what happens on the 8th so that it can be dispersed to those members state-wide who are actually voting. Keep up the great work Luis!

Posted by: Greg Rodriguez | Dec 31, 2005 4:47:56 PM

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