Huffington Post DNC Chair Debate Liveblog

The seven DNC candidates are participating in a debate organized by the Huffington Post hosted at George Washington University being streamed live online.  Read the live blog below the break…

Tom Perez: Donald Trump is what we call “a target rich environment.”
“You can’t meet him tweet for tweet.”
“You can’t go to a knifefight with a spoon.”

Q: Historically, DNC has not organized protests. Does the DNC role need to evolve?
Jehmu Greene: “Heck yes.”
At 22, the DNC taught me to be an organizer. We need to partner with our labor unions… rebuild those bonds.  Need to train the next generation of messengers. Need an army of millennials out there talking about the Democratic message.

Q: Who agrees DNC needs to take part in street fights and organize direct actions?
All seven candidates raised their hands.

Q: What would you do to bolster parties in states where Dems losing seats?
Pete Buttigieg: Had we won presidency, would be challenged because if you look at state offices, Republicans patiently built majority that allows them to jerk around mayors like me.
We were able to get first African American elected city clerk in history of South Bend.
I didn’t get elected with 80 percent of the vote in my city by walking away from my progressive values.
Either the pothole got filled, or it didn’t. It’s not like proving I wasn’t born in Kenya.

Q: What is biggest mistake DNC made in 2016?
Sally Boynton Brown: Not just in 2016, but biggest mistake DNC has made is not having an overarching message.
Come together and have a values message. Can’t attack Republicans and not talk about amazing work Democrats do.
Running to make sure we bring a values message back.
If we walked away from this election with one thing, it’s that facts don’t matter anymore. We have to start connecting with people’s emotions and their pocketbooks.

Jaime Harrison: I agree with Sally. Problem is we abandoned 50-state strategy Howard Dean started.
In 2008, we controlled majority of governorships and state houses, had complete control of White House, House, and Senate. And we lost all that.
Need to focus on state parties. In 2006, I was exec director of House Dem caucus. We won a seat in Kansas. That wasn’t on Rahm Emanuel’s target list. We have to go back to investing in all of our states.

Q: HRC lost election to man with 40 percent approval right now. Why should someone from that admin be part of rebuilding?
Tom Perez: Believe in analytics, but not at expense of house calls.
We got to make those house calls 12 months a year.
Ted Kennedy speech in 1980 – he talked about two pillars of Dem party: jobs and economic opportunity.  Focus on that message, we lost that message. That’s what we learned in Ohio: the job focus wasn’t there.
Voter suppression: this is part of Republican playbook.  We got to play offense and defense. In Ohio, saw purging of voters, of Democrats Abroad. In NC, voter ID law worked.
We can’t go to a knifefight with a spoon.

Ray Buckley: Challenge is bigger than that question.
We are unified on 99 percent. Question is who has the record of doing this.
When I was growing up, NH was red state. Now it’s a purple state. Won 11 out of 13 statewide elections.
Look at election time: you work hard. This week, I’ve never been so proud to be a NH Democrat. Maggie Hassan has been taking on every one of Trump nominees.
Entire congressional delegation is all female, all fighters.

Q: Haim Saban said Keith Ellison is “antisemite.” Raise your hand if you think Saban should apologize?
Ray Buckley: Attack against one of us is an attack on all of us.
Stand with Ellison.

Keith Ellison: Had a phone call, going to get together. That wasn’t last word.

Jaime Harrison: I’ve known Keith longer than anyone on this stage.
Keith a great guy who works hard for his constituents. I don’t think there is an antisemitic bone in his body.

Jehmu Greene: Need to stop taking the bait from the media on these gotcha questions, divide us from our base and our donors.
We can control the conversation. That’s what Donald Trump did.

Tom Perez: If you watched Republican debate, there was chairthrowing and arguments about hand sizes.
We have 36 hours.
So many things at stake: women’s right to choose, climate change.
Among the family, voters will choose which sibling will lead, and we will move forward as a family.

Q: From Ilyse Hogue – all of you express desire to lead 50-state strategy like Howard Dean. Live in resource limited environment. How will you balance to support 50 states with priority for the party?

Jaime Harrison: We were in resource constrained enviornment in 2004 when he took over the DNC. He invested in states instead of giving blank check to DCCC.
Right now, Vermont, Massachusetts – all have Republican governors.  Republicans don’t give up. We took back House, eventually got 60 votes in Senate.
In South Carolina, it’s hard. Fighting against Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Jim DeMint.  We keep hitting ceiling, because we don’t have partner in Washington to invest in us.
Redistricting – we were gerrymandered to death. If Jesus came back and ran for Congress, he could not win as a Democrat.

Keith Ellison: Agree with everything Jaime said.
DNC should be vehicle for people to say we are your choice.
I imagine DNC can organize Dem lawyers and legal voters across country to protect the vote as Tom Perez said.

Q: You and Bernie Sanders have big lists. Will you share with DNC?
Keith Ellison: Yes. We are in emergency situation and everyone has to give up what they have.

Sally Boynton Brown: 50 percent of America didn’t show up to vote. Need to ask why.
More people involved, so more people want to invest in the DNC.

Tom Perez: Think longterm – that’s what Republicans did 20 years ago.  It pays dividends.
Need to deploy every member of the DNC and others on strategy of joint fundraising.
Mayors have told me they’ve never been asked, and I have donors who can help.
Organizing our fundraising around our initiatives.
Donors ask what’s your ROI?
They start seeing ROI and you’re going to get more.

Ray Buckley: We have a lot of money, it makes corporate media and Beltway consultants very rich.
Maggie Hassan race – $70 million spent. If we had 5 percent of that, we would have a Democratic legislature.

Pete Buttigieg: Other side figured out how to lay groundwork from courthouse to statehouse.
Rigged elections not in the way Donald Trump said they were. Politicians choosing their voters.

Q: Republicans credited with message discipline.

Ray Buckley: Our message about hope and opportunity and not his. His is negativity.

Keith Ellison: Donald Trump is Donald Trump.

Tom Perez: Opportunity is our DNA. Diversity is our greatest strength. Trump anathema to both.

Sally Boynton: Democrats only party fighting to protect our freedoms.

Jehmu Greene: We have not celebrated our victories, allowed conservatives to define what’s wrong.
Need to stop saying we are resource constrained. We had more money than Donald Trump and he won anyway. Need to invest in our states, even if impact not immediate. If we had invested in Georgia, Arizona and Texas earlier, what could we have accomplished in 2016?

Tom Perez: I had privilege of working for Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy.
Look at who has track record of getting things done.  Turnaround job at DOL and DOJ, that’s what I was able to do.
DNC hasn’t been good enough listener. Most of the stuff we accomplished at DOL and DOJ wasn’t my idea. I’ve never had an original idea in my life!

Pete Buttigieg: false choice at our feet, between one wing of the party or another.
That presentation is unfair to the candidates.

Jaime Harrison: At 29, I became first African American floor director. My job was get 218 votes to pass bills. At end of the day when I looked up at the board, all I saw was Democrats and Republicans.
One side may win the battle, but we all lose the war.

Q: Assumption Perez jumped in at Obama request.
Tom Perez: Been a fighter all my life. I’ve asked how to help the most people. My parents taught me if you want to get to heaven, you better have letters of reference.
I’m proud to have worked with Barack Obama, think he will go down as one of most consequential presidents in American history.
Have substantial rebuilding job, take fight to Donald Trump, have to change the culture of the organization. That’s what I’ve been about in every job I’ve had: changing the culture. This is a where were you” moment in our nation’s history. Everything that I fought for is at stake with Trump in the White House. That’s why I got in this race.

Q: How will you ensure all 2020 presidential candidates treated fairly by DNC?
Pete Buttigieg: If we don’t want to relive 2016, have to ensure process is fair and impartial, beyond reproach.
Make sure process is rigth, way we communicate about the process is inclusive. Idea of our party is to empower different voices.  Beauty of our process is it invites new people.
Democratic Party doesn’t take instructions from mothership, it comes from the communities.
Only question is which of us is best to do it. Experience I have and don’t have, somebody not from fed perspective…  we can and should win every time. Have to come out of it united. Have to demonstrate how those values hit home. These are personal for me.
I’m on ready reserve. A reckless president could order me back to war tomorrow.
Make sure we have cleanest, fairest nominating process we’ve ever seen.

Sally Boynton Brown: 2020 is 4 years away, we’ve got 3 elections to win before then, because municipal elections.
Also have to make sure we have policies in place at DNC, staff at DNC set up in fair way.
As soon as we start, not giving resources to candidates tomorrow so that by 2019, they have unfair advantage.

Ray Buckley: I was chair of NHDP in 2008 and 2016. There is not one whiff of thumb on the scale in either contest. I went with Bernie to ensure he was on the ballot.
Superdelegates: need to make sure delegations reflect will of voters.
Never sign joint fundraising agreement again with candidate.
I’ve shown what a fair candidate can do, I can do it in 2020.

Jaime Harrison: I’ve spent lot of time with Ray. NH is first primary, and we’re next state.
A lot of frustration out of this primary is people didn’t understand rules, how it should be conducted. Need to do better job to educate populace how the process works.

Keith Ellison: DNC chair must set cultural tone respectful of everyone who is running. Communicate to every staff member that what you write in an email could be a headline.
You may not think someone is watching, but they might.

Q: Who believes DNC unfairly put thumb on the scale?
Jehmu Greene: Gotcha question, not going to answer. (No hands go up)

Tom Perez: When there is not transparency, potentially there were violations or breaches, or perceptions. When you don’t have transparency, you run into problems.
I’ve heard this in my outreach to members – it’s a cabal, I don’t know what’s going on.
These are fixable problems, but require relentless attention at the top.
When you have that transparency you rebuild that trust.

Q: How do you feel about caucuses?
Ray Buckley: Issue with caucuses is lack of uniformity.  In some states have to be registered Dem for month and a half, Sometimes it’s 10-minute process. In Texas, the Texas Two-Step process. DNC going to look at streamlining.
Have to ensure that more people participate.
I called DNC for more help – some parties had two or three staffers at best. I was told by DNC “not our problem.”
Working with caucuses to make sure everyone can participate, and rules are understood by voters and the media.

Keith Ellison: I come from caucus state, folks like their caucus. I agree there has to be some standardization.  It is role of DNC chair to pull people together who want to have caucuses, ask how can we make more fair?
Caucus resolutions have way of shaping platform.

Jaime Harrison: Civics lesson.  DNC doesn’t have power to change it, has to be up to the states.  SC used to be caucus state, and changed to primary.
Sometimes DNC doesn’t have control to make determination of what happens in this state or that.
That is part of civics lesson for how this process works.

Jehmu Greene: Many Dems don’t have capacity to be in room for hours late at night.
Have to look at ways to innovate how we elect our nominees.
Who are communities that cannot participate in caucuses?

Tom Perez: some workers couldn’t go caucus because it was at same time as their shift.

Sally Boynton Brown: Reality is caucuses, especially in red rural states are some of only times Democrats come together to see each other.
Need to look at access.  Rules – spend time trying to guide state through this.

Superdelegates – what’s the point of them?

Jehmu Greene: If caucus only time Dems get together, something is broken and needs to be fixed.

We are the party of innovation. It is way past time.
How many people in audience understand what is happening in the Unity Commission and who is on it?
We need to recognize activists who put blood sweat and tears into the party.
Way past time, like many people in this room, that we made tough decision on superdelegates.
Find a way to recognized leadership of elected officials, lifelong activists..

Sally Boynton Brown: there are people in our community who only come out during presidential years.  That’s really tough.
Unity commission put together during convention.
So many people wanted rules change at convention, wasn’t going to happen.
We need to expand scope of their work. They were crafted specifically to work on superdelegate issue, not some of the issues we’ve been talking about.

Keith Ellison: go back to primaries, watch TV show and see delegate count, sometimes higher or lower based on superdelegates.
People came together in unity to come up with solution. Proposal is something to recognize people who work hard for party, but should not determine outcome of presidential primary.
After this race is over, Unity Commission’s work is going to begin.

Ray Buckley: I tackled this eight years ago.
Superdelegates – half of them are DNC members.
Concept out there that I think will work: superdelegates don’t have power to veto will of the people. Superdelegates put in and counted as regular delegate.
In no situation should superdelegates be able to veto the vote of the people.

Q: 2016 was first election without full protections of Voting Rights Act. What will you do to encourage registration, and fight voter suppression?

Keith Ellison: We defeated photo ID at the polls in Minnesota, starting in 5th CD. Was polling 80 percent at the time it was introduced.
Democrats have to understand voter expansion. We win when people vote, they win when people don’t.
We have to fight voter suppression in the courts and at the ballot box. We’ve done it in Minnesota.

Jaime Harrison: History of voter suppression in South Carolina.
One of things that killed me was when we had 60 votes in the Senate, we didn’t take opportunity to drive down most progressive voting rights in the country.
In states we do have that, use them as laboratories for how we have real reform.
Next time we have White House and 60 votes in Senate, we haveto be ready to pass progressive voting laws

Tom Perez: one of my saddest days at DOJ was when we lost that case.
Oregon – vote by mail.
Automatic registration when you turn 18.
Ohio – their secretary of state is a full employment act for voting rights lawyers.
By the time you find voters, it’s too late.

Sally Boynton Brown: take playbook out of GOP and look at our high schools.
They’ve been forgotten on every front. Republicans start young.
Get to our high school kids.

Jehmu Greene: lot of agreement on this stage.
At Rock the Vote, I was leading organization when we took up online registration.
Registered over 1 million young people in first year.
Messaging on voter ID – American people think it’s OK. Let’s be party that moves election from Tuesday to Saturday.

Q: BDS movement… should Dems support it? If not, what nonviolent movement should they support?

Tom Perez: I don’t support BDS. They’ve said things that are destructive, torn us apart.
I think we need to make sure we have people who are organizing who are moving the ball forward.
I don’t think BDS movement is moving the ball forward.

Pete Buttigieg: things next DNC chair has to deal with, solving the Middle East peace is not one of them.
This is an organizing job.

Q: Would you reinstate ban on lobbyist contribution?

Jaime Harrison: Right now, take away lawyer and lobbyist money would leae $18 Million hole in DNC.
Right now, some parties have $50,000 and have to defend Senate seat or win a governors race.  Parties are asking us to pledge $25K a month, which all told is about $18M.
I’m told we have about $2 million debt.
If they commit to help us get majority back, in Congress and states, then bring it on. I can use those dollars to train next generation, fight back against extremists in South Carolina.
I want to increase small dollar fundraising.
Right now, we need every dollar that we can.

Keith Ellison: Article unfair to Jaime Harrison.
Real question is how do we rebuild trust relationship with voter so they feel Dem Party is their party.
If I become chair, we’re going to make decision through democratic process. If body feels we should not take corporate lobbyists money.

Tom Perez:
I know folks who are corporate lobbyists who deregistered.
I’ve talked to members, they recognize complexity.
Study doctrine of consequences, with north star of this party always being party of the people.

Pete Buttigieg:
When we had it didn’t see party win more elections or be more progressive.
Can’t unilaterally disarm.
must not stand in way we have real fundamental reform so we all play by same legislative rules to take money out of politics

Sally Boynton Brown:
Because campaign finance number one issue facing our democracy, have to take a stand as a party and has to start somewhere.

Jehmu Greene:
We cannot cut off our nose to spite our face at this time, 36 hours from this man being inaugurated.
To understand institution from inside and outside.
DNC members I talk to have diff understanding of role money plays in their life.
Start to provide opportunities in how to innovate.

Ray Buckley:
Not up to the chair to decide, and that’s where we got in so much trouble in recent years.
DNC chair or staff made decisions, without consulting state parties, DNC members.

Jaime Harrison:
We passed most progressive platform in history of the party, with corporate donors and lobbyists.
There are good people, good Democrats who lobby for great issues. They should be able to contribute to their party.
Dems get into this thing where they’re holier than thou.
It’s about doing what we need to do as a party.

Keith Ellison: I think it’s important we have the conversation, have to talk about it.
Sense in DC, the puppet masters make all the calls.

Sally Boynton Brown: how do we replace the money?
If we’re fundamentally changing the Dem party, the money will come.
Put people first, the money will come.

Q: Trump press conference said we should negotiate drug prices. Next day 13 Democrats join with Republicans to defeat drug importation. How do you stop Dems from suicidal acts?

Keith Ellison: DNC chair’s job is to get Democrats elected

Tom Perez: FDA in my district. They said it was unsafe, I asked them “show me the dead Canadians!” I’m still looking for the dead Canadians.
Have to take fight to Trump on issues of economic security.
Issues at the core of what it means to be middle class in this country.

Ray Buckley: We have to work with elected officials on these issues.
30 years ago, I was one of first openly gay elected officials in the country.
I worked behind the scenes, with Dems in House and Senate. Sat down and had conversation with governor, and he came about seeing my way.
Being good state or national party leader, when you go to legislator, they’re worried they’re going to lose. You say you will help them if they take this vote.

Jaime Harrison: Cory Booker and CBC testifying against Jeff Sessions.
In 2018, 25 Democrats up for relection in Senate, 10 of them in Trump states.
Montana and North Dakota – if they lose, Republicans are one step closer to 60 votes and armageddon in this country.

Pete Buttigieg:
Thanksgiving morning – I was in deer blind with my boyfriend’s father.
His mother showed me skin creme – chemotherapy costs $2,000 a month.
What happens to her if ACA goes away? That’s what we need to talk about.

Q: Closing statements.

Ray Buckley:
We all have record that we’re proud of.
Colleagues reelect me again and again, because I fight for grassroots. Will do that as national chair.

Jaime Harrison:
I’m a builder. When I took over SCDP, we had no bench.
Started Clyburn Fellowship, graduated our first class of 32.
Not about talking about it, but doing.
Rebuild trust between party and people .
What are we doing on inauguration day? Not watching Donald Trump. Community service.

Jehmu Greene:
I loved listening to Ellison, want him to stay in Congress.
Love Secty Perez, you would be great governor.
Mayor Pete – a Senate seat in your future.
Sally – should be exec director of the DNC.
Chairs – future members of Congress.
Embrace joy of rebuilding party from position of experience.
We are all uniquely qualified to fight Donald Trump

Tom Perez:
This is big fight, because of consequences when Donald Trump takes office on Friday.
Have to connect with every zip code in America.
Need a proven progressive who can get results and take fight to Donald Trump.
Make sure all 57 states and territories fighting on all cylinders.

Keith Ellison:
We have to protect Social Security, ACA
In order to do that, have to win elections. 954 legislators, dozens of governors we’ve lost.
Helped governor Dayton, Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar get elected.
Want to help Dems all over the country get elected.
DNC chair can’t do it without grassroots.

Sally Boynton Brown:
Rare opportunity to rebuild reenvision the Democratic Party.
So important we rebuild DNC that is resilient.
DNC is 19th century structure, losing races because of it.
I focus on power, because it is thing I hear from every day Americans they don’t have.
50 percent of Americans don’t take power given by founding fathers to vote.
That is saddest thing.
Saving our democracy

Pete Buttigieg:
I am a churchgoing, gun collecting millenial red state episcopalian mayor who is also a war veteran. Don’t fit categories comfortably.
I am someone who can turn things around. I know how to get stuff done – what I want to do for the party.
Thank you.

Author: David de Sola

Editor/Publisher Political Wilderness

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