Monday, January 29, 2007

Democratic Party of Georgia Elections

Saturday was a very long day. Those of us on the State Committee of the Democratic Party of Georgia met at the IBEW auditorium in Atlanta for 7 hours of fellowship, speeches, and good ol' fashioned voting! Below are the results of the Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG) leadership elections. Turnout was over 70%, and I was thankful to be under an air vent with my fellow 5th District members.

Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Officers:

Jane V. Kidd (Clarke)

First Vice-Chair
Michael Thurmond (Clarke)

Congressional District/County Liaison Vice-Chair
Sally Rosser (Fulton)

Constituency Group Vice-Chair
Virgilio Perez Pascoe (Forsyth)

Candidate Recruitment Vice-Chair
Winfred Dukes (Dougherty)

Stephen R. Leeds (Fulton)

Rex Templeton, Jr. (Chatham)

The elections were exhausting. The last couple of weeks featured plenty of behind-the-scenes intrigue as the elected officials and old guard of the party worked overtime to make sure Mike Berlon did not get elected chair. It took 4 ballots, but Mike was defeated. His vision for the party was probably too radical in the end, the changes too great.

That's fine, really. It is in the great American tradition to vote for change, but not radical change. But make no mistake, the DPG of our fathers and grandfathers is gone. For the first time ever, we have had truly democratic elections for the party leadership. A real debate of ideas was forced, and the conversation moved the party forward. The ideas that Young Democrats need to be embraced by the party, and that grassroots is the way to fight our way back into the majority have gained real traction.

From a Young Democrat viewpoint, the election was definitely positive. At least three of the executive officers have made an explicit point of valuing the Young Democrats and the benefits we can bring to the party as we move into the future. This includes the new chair, Jane Kidd. Jane has been a friend of Young Democrats for a while, and she has been especially close to the UGA chapter, which has worked heavily on her state house and senate races. The state GOP felt threatened enough by Jane Kidd to redistrict her senate district to add enough GOP voters to prevent her election. That decision is one they will come to rue. I guarantee you that the GOP will one day wish they had just left well enough alone, because dealing with Chairwoman Kidd will be much more of a painful experience than dealing with State Senator Kidd would have been. I look forward to helping Jane put the hurt on.

We have an Hispanic businessman from Forsyth County whose campaign almost gave the exact talking points that the Young Democrats of Georgia has been promoting for our own future. Plus, with Hispanics being a crucial electoral block in the future, having DPG with a major Vice Chair who is Hispanic will only help us reach out to that community which is currently under attack by the GOP.

The best part of Mr. Pascoe's election was the defeat of an anti-gay, anti-choice candidate for the office. Mr. Pascoe was unapologetic about his past as someone who worked very closely with the LGBT group at Coors. He is thoughtful and business oriented. One of his opponents was a key turncoat vote in 2004 to force a vote on the gay marriage amendment. Not only did he advocate openly in the Democratic caucus against gay people, his actions led directly to the loss of at least 5-6 seats in the GA House that we might have kept had Rep. Smyre been allowed to sit on the amendment in the House Rules Committee. This man's followers claimed he was a preacher, and had to vote and advocate against gay people, and against abortion rights. That's fine, and if his constitutents don't care, that's fine too. But bigots don't need to apply for major office in the Democratic Party. That DPG said "NO" to this individual warms my heart and makes me proud to be a Southern Democrat!

Mike Thurmond is not only Commissioner of Labor, but our 1st Vice Chair. He will have the support of elected officials not only in GA but also in DC. Steve Leeds and Sally Rosser provide crucial leadership, and a perspective of what has and has not worked in the past. They are also forward thinking people whose talents promise to be unleashed under Chairwoman Kidd.

In two crucial contested elections, Young Democrats came out on top. In my own 5th District, home of Representative John Lewis, my good friend Will Curry was elected chair of the the 5th Congressional District by a vote of 17-10. He unseated the incumbent who happened to be his own state representative. Will is a fine addition to the DPG Executive Committee, and Congressman Lewis will find that he has a fine, dynamic young leader as the focal point for his party in his district.

In the 13th Congressional District, home of Representative David Scott, another good friend, Nikema Williams survived a nasty campaign to defeat the incumbent District Chair 8-5. The incumbent used every trick at her disposal to force Nikema out of the race, and then to intimidate the committee members voting in her district. If looks could kill, Nikema would have been gutted like a fish during her speech. But poise, and actions, spoke louder than words and nasty looks. Nikema, unlike her predecessor, will work WITH her congressman, not against him. She certainly won't run against him for office! David Scott will have a true Democratic partner in his district now, and everyone will be better for it.

So, while the day was exhausting, the elections were a good thing. I have great hopes that the new leadership will move us forward, and chip away at the GOP machine that has arisen since 2002. Georgia is rightfully a purple state, and if our leadership is as bold as I hope they will be in enacting their campaign promises, we will finally become a swing state.

No comments: