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Democratic Party, Juarez v. Sattler, Money in Politics
October 20, 2019
by William P. Meyers

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local politics make a difference

Yesterday I attended an all-day campaign training in Seattle put on by the National Democratic Training Committee. Whether you are a democrat or not, you can also get the training online at www.traindemocrats.org. There were perhaps a hundred local democrats taking the training, mostly women. In addition to picking up some good tips about campaigning, I heard a fair amount of local scuttlebutt.

One bit of training involved practicing asking people to up their involvement to come to a meeting. I had a real world example I had been thinking about, and trying it on someone really helped. Right now we are in the midst of local elections in Seattle, which includes city council races. We have a top-two, non-partisan system here, and about 80% of the people in my district are Democrat (or left of democrat), so both the candidates who made it past the primary are Democrats. The incumbent is Debora Juarez, who I know and like well enough, and is a progressive on national issues. The challenger, who I am supporting, is Ann Davison Sattler. Debora was endorsed by my local grassroots democratic organization, the 46th LD Democrats. So why am I supporting the challenger, and how does that fit with asking people to come to a meeting?

Seattle has an enormous homeless problem, with perhaps 10,000 homeless of whom 5,000 sleeping in the streets at night. The other 5,000 sleep in shelters, but mostly are turned out during the day. This is not a new problem. It has gotten worse during Debora's term of office. It is not like Debora has done absolutely nothing, but:

Debora focused her energy on housing sports teams, with taxpayer subsidies.

Maybe Ann would have done that too, no way to know, but Ann (who has never held or run for office before) got into the race specifically to get the city to house the homeless (which also means less problems for the rest of us).

A few weeks back I went to a meeting Ann called. There were about 50 volunteers there. That is about as many as we have at some of our less-well attended 46th Dems meetings (a well-attended meeting has about 100). It was the best example I have seen of a spontaneously formed grassroots organization. I did not recognize anyone from the 46th Dems there.

Source: Seattle Times, October 20, 2019

Which explains why Ann might lose this election. The 46th is a very effective grassroots organization that delivers flyers with voting recommendations, door to door, every election. And the 46th endorsed Debora [who is also endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, which is in turn funded by Amazon and other local businesses]. But if those 50 volunteers had joined the 46th (paying dues, which are minimal, and waivable) and then gone to our endorsement meeting, at the very least Debora would not have been endorsed. It took her 3 ballots to pass the endorsement threshold, despite being the incumbent. At best Ann might have had the endorsement, and so she would be recommended on the flyers we (including me, for my precinct) will be delivering.

Which brings us to The Ask. My practice ask was asking one of the Ann volunteers to become an active Democrat. That means aiming to attend a monthly meeting. That would have meant showing up at the endorsement meeting.

At the training I also heard from the chair of another LD organization that they had a similar, if inverted, situation. This was in one of the satellite cities of Seattle, Redmond, where Microsoft has its headquarters. For one position (probably city council) two Democrats asked for endorsement. One, who was picked by other elected officials, gave a poor presentation. The challenger made a strong presentation. The 48th endorsed the challenger. Starting the next day the Chair started getting calls from Dem muckety-mucks wanting the endorsement overturned. Which is not democratic, and did not happen.

Which brings up the topic of power and money. As a mainly single issue activist i always had the impression that the Democratic Party is a money beast and I know others share that impression. It comes from millions of dollars, sometimes multiple millions, being spent on certain races, which makes the news.

But not just my own grassroots organization, but most of the LDs around Washington State, are dirt poor. My impression is a $10,000 to $40,000 annual budget is typical. There are no paid staff at the grassroots level. Yet these local organizations have a great deal of local influence, and can have much state and national influence. Each LD sends representatives to the State level committee, and the states in turn pick the famous Democratic National Committee that Bernie Bots like to whine so much about.

So things could change (for better or worse) if more people were more active in their local Democratic Party organizations. Candidate selection could get better, the state committees could get better, and ultimately the national committee could get better.

As one of the speakers at the training said, in encouraging people to run for office [I am misquoting someone famous], "It may be a tall stairway, but you can climb it if you just take the first step"

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