Democrats, your voice matters. Get plugged in.

By Neel Pender of Portland, Oregon. From 1999 to 2007, Neel was the executive director of the Democratic Party of Oregon.

I had a chance to catch up with Brad Martin -- the Democratic Party of Oregon's new, veteran Executive Director. To all my Oregon politicos and any one who cares about politics, if you don't know Brad yet, take the time to get to know him and support his work. He is one of -- if not the best -- in the country and we're lucky to have him.

It's funny how far things have come.

Today's O has an op-ed about Republicans searching for relevancy and competing against the "professionalized Democrative voter turnout machine." Truth is, it wasn't so long ago that across the country Democrats were the ones getting their teeth kicked in; the complacency of being in the majority and the influx of 'soft money' to fund issue ads had in fact made our grassroots 'soft'.

One of the leaders in the trenches fighting that trend (note: not a talking head on TV or in DC) was Brad Martin -- for years in Idaho and Montana and as part of Gov. Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy. It's easy to forget in the more enlightened, tactical Obama era but it required hard work and a willingness to challenge conventions. I'm proud to have conspired with and learned from Brad back in the day for a smarter, more effective, more focused, more accountable, more results-oriented party.

The challenge today (as I see it) isn't so much to beat the rather hapless Oregon Republicans -- though the Legislature can never be taken for granted.

Rather, it is for Democrats to lead with ample urgency to solve problems -- and problems are hard, that's why they are problems. Solving them means taking risks, stepping on toes, forging compromise and shared sacrifice, leading and not being led by special interests -- friend and foe -- and educating the public and delivering results.

The 'system' has a tendency to stifle these objectives. See tax policies that have led to decades-long disinvestment in public education during a period of meteoric rises in income inequality. The point here is this: Your voice matters.

Brad is 27 days in and is here for the long term. Welcome him. Help him. Give advice and lend your support. Set aside preconceived notions and focus on new opportunities and leveraged partnerships. Waiting for Election Day for change isn't a strategy for success. If you are looking for a way to plug in, challenge Brad to make it relevant and accessible to you, and sign up at DPO.org.

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