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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Big, Long Overdue Update

...It's been a while.

My last post over here at my very first blog was (whew) July 26th of last year. Well, a little thing called the 2006 Elections got in the way. I gladly became the campaign manager for James Walker, an Iraq War veteran who had this crazy idea that the people in State House District 24 (Marion County- Ocala, Belleview, Silver Springs Shores, Ocklawaha, Summerfield) wanted an alternative to uber right wing Dennis Baxley. I need a job that paid over the summer, and through this wonderful medium known as the blogosphere, I made a contact up at the state party, and they let me become James' campaign manager.

Needless to say, it was all quite the roller coaster ride. James was recalled to duty in Iraq days before the primary (September 2nd, I believe), as James is a part of the Instant Ready Reserve (IRR) have already done active duty in Iraq during the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation. James nonetheless decided to stay in the race. Despite overwhelming odds, James did better than any Democrat had in the district since the early 90s with 44% of the vote. The last Democrat who ran against Mr. Baxley was during Mr. Baxley's first run for state representative in 2000. The Democrat was a well-known county commissioner who managed to be within the ballpark in terms of fundraising (she raised around $120K to Mr. Baxley's $150K.) She only managed 41% of the vote in a district which was more Democratic than the one James ran in (due to the 2002 redistricting.)

Looking back, I had a lot of fun, overall. It was a tremendous learning experience which I will cherish and look back on forever. As the election was winding down, however, I noticed that the one thing which was seemingly gumming up the works when it came to getting Democrats elected in Marion County, was, you guessed it - the DEC. Now, I'm not blaming any one person, it was all of us (I was a DEC member too, after all.) We won a county commission seat back, which was fantastic, but we lost the other one by only 1,675 votes out of 98,049 cast. We were by no means organized, so I wondered with just some semblance of a better organization, we could have elected two county commissioners to the county commission, sweeping that set of races. It would have also set us up for having an easy shot at taking back the majority on the Commission by 2008.

I knew we were going to need a fresh, bold approach for the 2008 elections. There was a lot of change that needed to happen. I didn't see anyone at that time who could do this job. I knew what I had to do - I had to run for DEC chair. For the next few weeks, I put myself before the Nominating Committee and argued my case. Alas, they couldn't quite bring themselves to put a 20 year old in charge of the party. I understood their sentiment and did my best to persuade them otherwise, they still wouldn't quite budge. One member of the Nominating Committee, who is a friend of mine, knew that I wasn't going quietly, and so he called my father and asked him if he would like to be chairman. Funny, the night before the call I was talking with my Dad about the whole process and said the only person who I would want to be chair other than me would be him. Dad accepted and called me to let me know the news. I was initially miffed that I had been outmaneuvered, but glad that Dad had accepted. You see, my father is a Presbyterian minister by trade, and has worked for the past 25-30 years with churches, community groups, and overall, failing organizations. He's a tremendous orator, organizer, and a good human being.

So from now on, I'll be posting about the things we're doing in Marion County in general terms. I think you all understand why I can't be too specific.

A lot of my ideas about DECs have been tweaked a bit, while some I've changed by opinion on. However, my core beliefs remain: DECs are the key to reviving both the Democratic Party, the Progressive Movement, and civic life in this great state of ours. We must do everything we can to rebuild and reform them.