LFT’s Austin May meetup was a well-attended rousing success with all three candidates for state party chair in attendance and openly and enthusiastically answering questions from LFT members. It really is gratifying to see regular folks engaging in politics, and for State Chair candidates to give of their time and energy over tacos and beer. So, thank you to Glen Maxey (site | Fundraiser), Boyd Richie and Charlie Urbina-Jones.
There were quite a few great questions (’what would you do if money was not a problem?’, ‘how would you connect and include the Hispanic communities?’,'who have you mentored and how?’), and the answers were telling.
I think one of the best answers was from Glen Maxey, who said, “We must mentor, teach, and create organizational systems to get people involved. I believe in the power of individuals to do amazing things. We need to empower people by giving them tools, encouragement, and training to make a difference.”
It was quite civil, and while there is lots of overlap in the candidates’ love of the Party, there are meaningful differences on which to base a choice. Both Boyd and Charlie had good things to say of Glen. Charlie offered that, “Glen Maxey is as smart as they come. He can kick ass and take names.” while Boyd Richie said, “Glen Maxey is a good man.”
Glen likewise had good words about the candidates, which was nice since sometimes in the blogosphere we read mostly sniping and disparaging commentary. What was useful about this candidate discussion was seeing for ourselves what these folks have to offer, and how they offer it.
A Broad but Useful Frame
I will go with Charlie’s general framing, which is not so far off i think: Boyd is the establishment candidate, as Boyd’s mailer’s endorsement list and the very fact he was appointed by the SDEC as interim chair seem to confirm, and that Charlie and Glen are the candidates for change in the system.
I think this is a reasonable assessment, from which follows: If you think things are going good with the Tx Dem party, stay the course and elect the establishment candidate. The party would be in caring hands, but will it move to where we need to move to win elections, and improve Texas?
Or, if you desire deeper structural change, which of the change candidates has communicated a vision of what things can be, and can show more leadership experience as both an elected official and a campaign, candidate and community organizer to get the Texas Democratic Party there? That answer is clearly Glen Maxey.
So why Glen? Vision, Communication, Experience
Glen Maxey won the caucus, i think, because he was able to present both a vision of what the Party can and should do, and strategies for doing it. His Maxeyforchair.com site has the details, and in person it really comes across that Glen believes in and understands the challenges, knows there is no one magic bullet so he comes prepared with specific experience including both cutting-edge technology and old-school in-the-field action, in blue and red and swing districts, and in rural and urban, black white and brown communities.
Glen’s answers repeated a theme we wholeheartedly endorse — rebuilding the engine(s) so that every county, every precinct, EVERY VOLUNTEER, every JP race on up drives the Democratic party. Much digital ink gets spilled over Glen’s technology strengths, which are often then held-up straw-man style as a weakness because some are willing to pretend that is his only strength — and that couldnt be further from the truth. email and onlinephonebanking didnt get 85,000 new people registered in travis county in 2004, 25,000 door hangers werent e-hung in one weekend, and thousands of activists didnt give up weekends and evenings based on technology databases. Of course, the coordinating of that activism thru technology, where it could, certainly helped.
Average people didnt get involved because Travis is blue, Travis is blue because we developed ways to get average people involved!
Glen’s answer to ‘How would you get Hispanics involved and voting?’ was also a clear winner to me. It was specific: mentor and run Hispanics everywhere we can, dont just offer symbolic seats at the table, offer guidance and support to everyone (as he did with State Rep Eddie Rodriguez) to step up to the head of the table. For those that want to serve in other ways, develop and disseminate training and tools so that everyone can be integral to the party.
Charlie Urbina-Jones’ ‘yo soy mexicano’ answer didnt do it for me. no one is voting dem because the state chair is half mexican, speaks spanish and went to a black university. i can see where he is coming from, but i gotta tell ya that a more compelling strategy to get people to vote dem is when they understand it improves their lives, via greater opportunities for their family, and they see it in the (judgeships, commissioners, state reps, etc) leadership positions.
Another excellent question was ‘what would you do if all the money was available?’
Boyd Richie had a good specific reponse: get more professional field staff. “At the state level, having such resources would mean you are able to have the professional staff you need to build infrastructure. We’ve got to rebuild the party structure in the counties. Putting more directors in the field will make a difference.”
Glen Maxey’s response was broader and more compelling, “I believe in people power, message, and sheer determination. In 2002 we had a ticket and a gubernatorial candidate that did lay the golden egg. But the golden egg just means a different set of challenges. We must build permanent infrastructure that endures at the local level. I believe intrinsically in the power of individuals and not putting money into consultants, but into tools to empower all people.”
All that said, Boyd Richie really is a personable fellow who also cares deeply for the Party and its core values, and has a lifetime of experience to prove it. My constructive criticism is that i can see he cares and that he sees a big picture, but in person and from his site and his mailers, i dont see the specific details that embody enough change i need to be swayed that he is the best candidate for this job — the unpaid, and largely thankless job. He knows the ‘what’ at the high levels, but where are the ‘how’ answers?
Yes, there is strength in unity, yes we need to win elections in red and blue areas, yes we need put out messages and candidates which resonate, but how, specifically will you approach those layered and interlocked challenges (and the many more)? By uniting, and winning elections is too circular an answer for me, and i guess the meetup attendees as well.
When labeled as the ‘establishment’ and old-school candidate by Charlie Urbina-Jones, Boyd clearly bristled a little but remained civil. Boyd later claimed that label with pride, referencing his work for Ralph Yarborough when Boyd was just 10 years old. Boyd did a commendable job and is clearly confortable in the role, and, yes, really is a good guy. i think the meetup tho was just not convinced that he would be a better chair than the other candidates.
Meanwhile, Charlie Urbina-Jones knows how to throw some bombs. I appreciate his laying it out on the line, but positioned in essentially his own words as the ‘change’ candidate, its hard to see how he trumps Glen’s experience and trackrecord.
So, what do yall think?