DNC Forum Live Blog

The DNC Forum organized by the Ohio Democratic Party is about to begin. Watch this space for highlights.

All times are Pacific Standard Time

1:00 – Opening statements.  Up first is New York Assemblyman Michael Blake, who announced his candidacy for Vice-Chair yesterday.  He noted that one third of all House Democrats come from three states, and party only has seven Secretaries of State across the country.

1:05 – Ray Buckley starts his opening comments. He is participating via Skype because of conflicting commitment with the New Hampshire Democratic Party today.  Buckley notes NHDP has all Democrat, all female congressional delegation for the first time in history, have similar electorate to many Midwestern states Hillary Clinton lost.

1:10 – Jaime Harrison begins his opening comments.
“We’ve lost our way. We’ve allowed our party to deteriorate.”
“33/50 governorships controlled by Republicans, 69/99 state houses controlled by Republicans, but we only obsess about the White House.” Harrison praises Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy from 2005-2009, notes that he had to fight with Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer (then-DCCC and DSCC chairs)
“It’s about building trust again in our communities with our party.”
Harrison gets a laugh from the crowd with a House of Cards reference.

1:24 – Keith Ellison begins his opening comments. Compares his day to the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Ellison points out that his congressional district went from having the lowest turnout in Minnesota when he was elected in 2006 to having the highest turnout now.
“We went from a squeaker for Al Franken to a blowout. We went from a squeaker for Mark Dayton to a blowout.”
Ellison acknowledges the need for a fulltime DNC Chair. Closes his opening comments with: “If you elect me, get ready to work.” #DNCForum

Q&A Begins

Q: Ellison – will you eliminate the superdelegate system?
KE: Listen to the Unity Commission. Superdelegates must follow the will of voters of their state.  You want them to be involved but you want them to represent will of the voters.  JH: Let the Unity Commission work. Agrees with KE
MB: Agree on commission, take to the next step. There needs to be changes. Think on other side, if there had been a superdelegate process, probably less likelihood of a Trump nomination.  Let’s figure out how to improve the process first rather than dramatically change it.
RB: Yes, I believe state vote at convention must reflect what vote was in primary or caucus. Last 8 years, been member of Rules and Bylaws – worked on this issue unsuccessfully.  One of the reforms on how we do business at DNC that allow people out there to trust the DNC once again.

Q: Steps to recruit candidates at state and local offices.
JH: Starts with state parties.  Some only have $50K in cash, have elections in 2 years.  25 of 33 Senate seats up in 2018 are Dems, 10 of them in states like Montana, Ohio, etc. that went for Trump.
When I became SC chair, I thought hardest part of my job would be raising money. The hardest part of the job is finding good candidates. I decided to create something to recruit and train good candidates – James Clyburn political fellowship.

Q: Ideas to keep rural Democrats competitive and feeling welcome in the party?
KE: I’m from DFL – Democratic Farm and Labor Party.  Go to rural communities, speak to them on how rural values are important to our Democratic values.  Respect individuality and personal choices.  Show up, be there. Also critical in rural America that money from DNC to rural communities has to be there.  Talking to people in WV – they don’t even have a state party office.  Go do strong listening sessions all over the country. Have to believe we can win in rural communities.
Indebted to Howard Dean for 50-state strategy, but we need a 3,141-county strategy.

Q: How do you plan to thwart right wing propaganda machine?
RB: In NH 2014, Koch brothers invested heavily here.  We reelected our governor, outspent 2-1. There’s nothing more powerful than one neighbor talking to another neighbor. Donald Trump going to be using Twitter feed, celebrity. He has no relationship to honesty when it comes to talking about issues or policies.  We can send all the mail we want, all the TV ads.  Reestablish state parties… have a permanent HQ in every congressional district across the country.  Have offices out there, so people can utilize them, year in year out.  Have to find new innovative ways of communicating.  TV ads not working, more mail isn’t working.  Get down to neighbors talking to neighbors.  NH said hell no when Brooklyn said they would do GOTV based on analytics.

Q:
MB: Make sure both campaigns sharing the data – doesn’t happen often enough.  Look at our track record. All I’ve done over 11 years is how to build organization.  We can’t just win on Election Day and leave.  Too often what we do is change staff all the time.  There are 219 counties that Obama won twice that Trump won. Counties made decision twice to elect/re-elect Obama with 50-60 percent approval.  This will be leadership not just for 2018 midterms, this will be leadership for 2020.

Q: Everyone running agree states should get data immediately?
All candidates raise their hands.

Q: How are you going to unite Democratic Party?
JH: When I was floor director in 2006, one of most diverse caucuses. 15-seat majority.  Difficult when you have issues ranging from hate crimes legislation to withdrawing from Iraq, Lilly Ledbetter. All Democrats for that… Not necessarily.  One of strengths we have as party is diversity, but sometimes comes with great challenges.
One thing I learned from Clyburn – go to people, respect them, and feel that you respect them and appreciate them, it’s amazing how far you can come and how united you can be.
It wasn’t easy. Didn’t think we would pass Matthew Sheppard bill. You have to make it real for people, have to show them, not tell them.  We passed the legislation overwhelmingly.  If you listen to people and understand, you can bring people to do that.  I’ve done that, had a united party going into the convention.

MB: We have to listen and make changes.  Have to appreciate that yes, we had very intense primary which I think was good.  8 years ago, we also had an intense primary.  Irony is I went from Iowa to South Carolina to Minnesota.  One thing we have to learn from this, are we going to make concrete changes so everyone feels they’re in power? I represent most diverse county in America.  Don’t talk about BLM and then be silent on DAPL.
I want you not just to have seat at the table, want to ensure that you have a seat and you have power at that table. Have to recognize we overcome many things.
It took 9 years for Civil Rights to happen.  This is moment for us to build. Has to be moment for us to unite. We have to be Democrats right now, because on other side you have someone doing everything possible to disrespect us as a people.
We want to go around the country to we can build together.  Cant just sit around and hope somebody will show up.  Cannot assume somebody going to vote for you when you haven’t talked to them in a year and a half.

KE: I started as a Bernie Sanders supporter. I told Bernie supporters I’ve carried bills with Hillary. After primary, I hit 7 states for Hillary Clinton.  I was in Ohio, NC, Florida, campaigning for Hillary because I believed in her candidacy.
We cannot form circular firing squad. We must unify and need the talents of every single person to do it.
Unity is something everybody is for, but achieving it is much harder.
Unity is listening, unity is talking. We can all unite around a real infrastructure plan because that puts workers to work and gives us a green economy.
There is a reason why I get elected with 70 percent of the vote. It’s not because district is very liberal. It’s because we work together to reach level of understanding.
When we fall out, I will be the chair in the room to nail us all back together.

RB: I was state party chair in 2008 and 2016. I went to ballot commission to defend Bernie’s right to be on the ballot.  When he went to file, I escorted him into the Secretary of State’s office. I did that not because I favored Bernie, but because it was fair thing to do.
2018 going to be critical election, need to make sure everyone is involved. Everyone has a place at the table.

UPDATE: The Ohio Democratic Party has posted the full video of the forum online. You can watch it here.

Author: David de Sola

Editor/Publisher Political Wilderness

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