Want change? Get involved with your local county party.

By Alan Holland of Salem, Oregon. Alan is a retired public school teacher and the Chair of Polk County Democrats.

This is a call to action. It’s abundantly clear that we are in the midst of a historic wave of change of massive proportions in American politics. Here in Oregon, at last count, we have had over 118,000 new Democratic voter registrations since December 2007. Marion County now has a Democratic majority, and adjacent Polk county has had over 1,100 new D’s to pull within 2000 votes of the R’s and enough Independents to make up the difference. The trend is statewide and bodes well for Democratic candidates who will likely ride this wave to a new and powerful majority in the Oregon House and Senate. Additionally, Gordon Smith is seriously threatened; to have an all-Democratic pair of Senators from Oregon would be a big win.

As chair of the Polk County Central Committee, I am at once encouraged yet frustrated. There is something wrong when you look at the whole political picture of involvement because the sentiments motivating the changes are largely focused on the Presidential race. However, local involvement, measured by county precinct committee persons filing is not reflecting the same trend. We need D’s to know that in order to see change in government that most directly affects us - we must work in state, county, and municipal elections.

It is well and good to get Barack or Hillary elected so we get out of Iraq, work on affordable health care, improve energy policy, and restore constitutional balance to the federal government. But the President is only one person responsible for one branch of government and needs Executive the legislature to enact the laws.

But what about local land use practices affecting our own environment, water availability, and personal quality of life? What about our school funding and prison expenses? Collective bargaining rights and unions are under attack, too. Local officials are more influential in creating a fair and sustainable economy, while balancing growth and need for jobs while providing stable and adequate funding for all our human needs and investments. Democrats need to have volunteers and PCPs to work on local elections, inform voters, and get out the votes for local candidates and issues.

This is a call to activism for people to join and work for county parties. I extend a welcome to Democrats who want real change, who will phone, staff offices, organize fundraisers, canvass, put up signs, write letters to papers, and do the myriad of other tasks required to elect local candidates and deal appropriately with ballot measures.

The Presidential campaigns have millions of dollars and great inspiration behind them, but real change we need and can see must start at the county party level and continue after the big guys leave Oregon. Precinct Committee Persons can be elected by as few as three (3) write in votes - or even just signed up at a county party meeting.

If you're in Polk County, reach us via our site: PolkDems.org. Other counties can be found at OregonDemocrats.org.

  • Ashlander (unverified)

    Thanks! This is helpful and timely.

    Here in S. Oregon we can see visible results from such grass-roots efforts. Jackson County Democrats have gathered enough monthly donations to keep an office open year-round in Medford.

    They provide regular email updates when candidates are coming to town, when election observers are needed, etc.

    And our county is now just 3,000 registrations away from turning blue for the first time in its history.

  • Fr. John-Mark Gilhousen (unverified)

    Useful and timely indeed... especially given the unusually high number of down-ticket undervotes in last night's results. (As of 10:55 a.m. this morning, the SOS count is at 606,329 total votes cast in the Democratic primary statewide, but only 511,266 chose to vote for a Senatorial candidate, even less the further down the ballot one goes.) We have a lot of work to do to make sure that voters who have been recently been energized by this historic presidential race get the message of how important it is to support the down-ticket candidates as well.

  • Tresa (unverified)

    Thank you for this post.

    I worked on a local race in Salem and I found myself very frustrated. In a primary election surrounded by so much excitement, voters still didn't know or care about the candidates for mayor.

    We all need to work harder to eliminate the disconnect between voters and local politics.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)

    "But what about local land use practices affecting our own environment, water availability, and personal quality of life? What about our school funding and prison expenses? Collective bargaining rights and unions are under attack, too. Local officials are more influential in creating a fair and sustainable economy, while balancing growth and need for jobs while providing stable and adequate funding for all our human needs and investments. Democrats need to have volunteers and PCPs to work on local elections, inform voters, and get out the votes for local candidates and issues."

    I would like to add to that quote that people need to get involved in these issues and others, and not just at the level of elections. There are all sorts of ways that people can get involved at the regulatory level after/in between elections. Voting is necessary, but you also have to keep an eye on what those elected officials, and committee appointees I might add, are doing while in office and participate in government between elections too. I'll give a couple of examples of what people can do while our elected officials are in office. 1 - Policy advisory committees, task forces, etc. - A lot of what government does, that is programs, regulatory activities, etc. are preceded by a period of public involvement through PACs, taskforces, and other advisory bodies. The more locals who get involved in these, the more local control we can excert on the rules and regulations that effect us and services that are/will be available to us. If you are in a rural/unincorporated area the best way to find out about these is at the CPO/Hamlet/Village level, then the county and state levels. If you are in a city, check with the city council and departments to see what kind of public input venues you can participate in. I'm in Mulino and became involved with our Hamlet board. In Mulino, the Hamlet, formerly a CPO (Citizens Planning Organization), is the best way to get first off information on what kind of land use and other regulatory activities are going on in government that will directly impact me and the other people in my area. Through them I was able to give direct input, by seving on the Weed Taskforce, regarding Clackamas County Soils and Water Conservation District's weed program that is being developed. Through the Hamlet I was able to find out about the Urban/Rural Reserves Policy Advisory Committee which will make recomendations to Clackamas County and ultimately to the COR4 - one representative each from Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties as well as a representative from Metro - which could have an impact on land use in Clackamas County for the next 40-50 years. I have been given the opportunity to participate on that PAC as the representative for Mulino. 2 - Other government regulatory activities - People need to get involved at the local level and the state levels. Find out what's going on, contribute your input when and were ever possible. So many times I hear sentiments similar to 'I voted for so-and-so, why aren't they doing what I thought they would do?' The reason is that your elected official is often times receiving information from, and being influenced by, people who's interests are counter to yours and they wind up promulgating/implementing regulations and programs that are detrimental to you. Small scale farms are dealing with just this type of situation with implementation of the National Animal ID System (NAIS). For years small farmers have been voting for people who they thought were looking out for them, only to find out, almost too late, that those people, the elected officials and the regulators that those officials appointed, were being given information by large scale farm associations and agribusiness that make the public officials think that the NAIS will be the silver bullet that will make the world food supply safe when in fact it won't, it'll probably put us more at risk to bioterrorism, disease outbreaks, and other problems associated with a continued concentration and centralization of the food supply. Who's fault is it that tremendously burdensome regulations are being applied to a group of people who helped elect the very people who were supposed to keep them safe and look out for them? It's the fault of the elected official to be sure, it's deffinately the fault of the people who were lobbying them, but the biggest fault, in my oppinion, lies with the people who are being affected by the regulation for not keeping an eye on, and staying in touch with, those officials they elected in the first place, and we have been falling down on that job for decades.

    It's a lot of work, but we all need to get much more involved in government beyond just voting or getting people out to vote. If we don't, we all run the risk of being regulated in a way that is counter to our wishes and which may very well be detrimental to our lives and lifestyles.... BTW, if anyone wants to contribute to the Urban/Rural Reserves PAC, please come to the meetings and get involved. All meetings are open to the public, there is time allowed during each meeting for public comment - and believe me we want and need to hear from you - and you can find out first hand what's going on. The roster of PAC members and our contact info is at the website for the process as well as meeitng times, schedules and other information on the process, what the reserves are, etc.. Here's the addy of the website - Rural/Urban Reserves PAC If you live and/or own property in the Hamlet of Mulino you can visit the The Hamlet of Mulino website to find out what the Hamlet Board is up to and what I'm doing or contact me regarding any concerns you may have about the reserves, the process, or to let me know what you think. You can also come to the next Hamlet meeting, June 19th at the Mulino airport, 7:00pm Oregon Pilot's Association club house - it's located at the airport entrance gate.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    This is a call to activism for people to join and work for county parties.

    There is much to be said for this point, but too many organizations fall prey to some leaders who want to dominate and reject input from the rank and file. Sometimes the members are at fault. This human factor applies to many forms of organizations whether they be social, commercial, cultural or political (Democrat, Republican, Green, Independent). And that applies to local, state, national and international. If county party leaders want to build their parties, they might give this some thought.

    The above might help to explain why some people prefer to be independent.

  • John Mulvey (unverified)

    Thanks for your post, Alan.

    It seems, given the numbers on undervoting, that there were many new Democrats who only registered in order to participate in our historic Presidential primary. That’s fine, and now they need to be given a reason to stay and get involved.

    I don’t believe the polls about this or that group of supporters not voting for the other. We just need to effectively make our compelling case about the things at stake this November, and we’ll have a united party for our Presidential nominee.

    But your post goes to a different issue: how can we ensure that these voters stay involved, support our whole slate of candidates, and build the party for future elections?

    It seems to me that our challenge is to impress upon these new Democrats that their party isn’t some organization or “establishment”, but is a mirror of themselves. There’s a party organization that works for candidates and raises money, of course, but the direction, leadership and priorities of the organization are determined by the rank and file (i.e., us). The extent to which the organization can be used for progressive good is directly tied to the degree to which the rank and file makes it their business to get active and push it in that direction.

    For those who became Democrats to support Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, I think Democrats need to reach out and give them a reason to join for good. Having lost Oregon, her supporters could well become alienated, so now is the time to put our “big tent” rhetoric into practice. The issues she raised --the dire need for universal healthcare, the terrible economic stresses on working people today, and the need for Democrats to reach out to rural voters --are things that must be part of our strategies this summer and fall.

    With Barack Obama’s win yesterday, and his probable nomination, those new Democrats who joined to support him now have an opportunity and an obligation to be activists for their party. The reason is that they are now the party. Walk away now, without supporting your man through this election and this presidency, and without working to elect Democrats up and down the ticket, and all the “hope” and “change” becomes nothing more than sloganeering. Winning elections is hard, and governing’s even harder, and those who think they can brush their hands off, drop their registration and go back to the sidelines will quickly find out that they haven’t yet won anything.

    Fortunately, I feel good that these things can be accomplished. Clinton voters will follow her example and get back to work on the issues that matter to real people. They’ll know that the Democratic Party is their home, the place where those concerns will get heard. The new Obama Democrats will see that his vision for America is --as he often says --not about one man going to Washington, but will also have to include supporting and working for Democrats all the way down the ticket if change is going to happen.


  • John Mulvey (unverified)

    Sorry, forgot to close the ital.

  • J.Wondering (unverified)

    You may have luck in other Counties, however you don’t want to get involved in the Columbia County Democratic Party unless you follow the dictates of State Senator Betsy Johnson! As you may know she is still under FBI investigation for her shady land deals and past County Boards problems including the loss of the old St. Helens Hospital(she was on the hospital board at the time) and about a million dollars that came up missing in the deal.

    She has had a vendetta against sitting County Commissioner Joe Corsiglia for several years now and in this primary she finally ousted him by financing one of her puppets to the tune of about $35,000.00 +. Now she is poised to get the Scappoose Airport if she can get Earl Fisher elected in the general election this fall. This would explain why she was trying to get legislation passed that would benefit private airports. If Earl wins she will have in place all three-commission seats to vote to sell the airport assets from the Port of St. Helens due to their upcoming financial shortfalls also advanced by Earl Fisher and Paul Pulliam while they were on the Port Commission.

    Hopefully this will not happen if she is indicted after the Grand Jury hears evidence from the FBI investigation.

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