Deschutes Democrats?

Over at The Source - an alt-weekly in Bend - they wondered last week what happened to the Democrats in Deschutes County:

Okay, it’s not easy being a Democrat in these parts. The Republicans have a big edge in registration (although the Democrats have cut into it a bit in recent years) and most of the money. The area’s biggest newspaper pretty much toes the Republican Party line on its editorial page.

But all this is no excuse for the somnambulistic performance the party has put on this year. We’ve seen next to nothing in the way of lawn signs or other candidate advertising. Most of the candidates themselves appear to have gone into early hibernation. Communication with the media from party headquarters has been spotty to nonexistent.

What’s even worse for the long-term outlook is the scarcity of young faces among local party activists. Go to any party gathering and you’ll see mostly gray or bald heads, with a few 20-somethings and even fewer of the 30-somethings who should be the up-and-coming generation of party leaders and candidates.

The local Democratic Party doesn’t have to be moribund, trudging along grimly from defeat to defeat. Its most recent past chairman, Pat Ackley, managed to pump a sense of energy and excitement into it – which evaporated as soon as she moved on.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • David (unverified)

    Agreed, I was surprised that about the only part of the state TK didn't do better in than 4 years ago was Deschutes.

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    Look for new Democratic energy now that our State House and Senate are controlled by Dems with a Democratic Governor! The time for re-organizing and electing new leaders at the County level is now. Contact your Deschutes Democratic Headquarters, go online, attend their re-organizational meeting. Now's the time to step up and take us to the 2008 elections.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    I'm in the next County to the NE of Deschutes (Crook County), and was in contact with Pat Ackley on and off throughout the entire campaign season.

    Frankly, the article in "The Source" is a gross exaggeration.

    Phil Philibin was the County Chair for the Democrats but had to step aside to run his own race. Pat Ackley stepped back into things to fill the void. There was some disorganization which she attempted to correct. But this was not a Presidential year. We didn't have new people coming out of the woodwork either here in Crook Co. or in Deschutes Co. to help out. It was tough, and we had almost no help from the State Party. -- The coordinated campaign never managed to deliver a single Kulongoski sign to Crook County in spite of my many attempts by email and phone. I know Deschutes County also had its struggles with logistics.

    Central Oregon, especially Deschutes and Crook Counties, are the fastest growing Counties in the State. Who is moving here? Well, a lot of the conservative voters from the valley have come here. We are seeing this area become more conservative - bucking the trend of the rest of the State and Country.

    Crook County used to be the "bellwether" County - but in Crook County Saxton won easily, Walden won easily, and well, even in a County Commission race the Republican challenger won over an incumbant Democrat. Deschutes County has similar things happening.

    "The Source" exaggerates. There was a campaign in Deschutes County, there were people working for the Democratic Party - but what that tiny liberal enclave (The Source) doesn't understand is that this is a Republican stronghold.

    -- the future --

    If we are ever going to "grow" the Democratic Party in this part of the State, the State Democratic Party is going to have to stop writing us off. It is not effective to design a campaign to harrass those "drop-off" voters who are already Democrats to push State wide campaigns, when you spend no energy growing the local party. Howard Dean promised a 50 State strategy, and support for every race. Well, the campaign did reach 50 States, but not every race. The Carol Voisin campaign was so under funded she couldn't even get past the local press to get name recognition in the Second Congressional District.

    For me, I'm done. I will not work on any more campaigns, as I am tired beyond measure of being the Democratic Party's happy face in this part of the State, with no Party support at all.

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    I'm Phil Philiben Chair of the Deschutes County Democrats and I was extremely P.O.d when I read the article espescially when no reporter from the Source showed up or reported on the numerous Events of the past year. Plus no one from the Source ever interviewed any of us about what the party was up to during the past year. I have lost all respect for the Source mostly because of their silly, childish cutesy endorsement page. It's bad enough we have to deal with the Bulliten and their right wing slant on just about everything, now the only chance for a prosgressive to get a fair shot has resorted misinformation and idle chatter.

    Here are a few of my thoughts on the article:

    1) We raised more money during for a mid-term election than ever before. 2) We had the most precinct committee persons on the ballot than the Deschutes Democrats have ever had. 3) We had dozens of events with attends from 75 to 100 people over the year with no coverage from the source (we did sent out press releases for all events) 4) We have a website that could use some young editors, and a data base program that could use a young bright computer nerd to fine tune. 5) The average voting age is 60. Maybe we're the only ones who care! 6) For the past 2 years we have had an office and a phone# listed in the phone book. Where the hell were You!

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    I won't argue with any of your comments, but I do wanna offer a different conclusion.

    Dean's doing his part. The Kidz that he sent down to state are doing their part (mostly). There are a host of committed progressives that have come forward from the grassroots in the past five years.

    We need new leadership at state. Please don't dive out of the window until we get rid of Edmonson. There are a lot of people at DPO who are totally committed to the Dean strategy, and they have proven it by their actions. Let's give them the power to implement it.

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    You got that right Pat! The DPO needs to develop a much better working relationship with the two fastest growing counties in the state, Deschutes and Jackson County. Pat Ackley deserves a Purple Heart for trying to keep Bend and the rest of the Democrats in her county engaged. It is short sighted and so obviously Portland-centric thinking that makes Democratic believers from the rest of the state crazy while they pour buckets of blood, time, and sweat to elect Democrats. I sat in Medford fuming at the lack of Kulongoski signs. Finally a wonderful guy, Brent Burton, from Kulongoski's campaign was assigned to the Jackson County Democrats..he delivered on every request and apologized when he couldn't deliver. Maybe we should rotate the DPO offices betweeen Bend, Medford and Portland. Then some of the quote leadership would get a clue.

  • Garlynn (unverified)

    I agree that the DPO needs to do a better job in Deschutes/Crook and Jackson counties. In both places, the key would seem to be retirees, though Jackson county still has a little bit of a working/middle class left.

    The trick with retirees is inspiring them to become involved in politics. Most of them probably moved (or remained) in those places precisely because of a desire to... retire. My great uncle's motto, "Tired & Retired" seems to say it all. Why should they take a break from fishing and puttering around the yard to get involved in politics? ...and yet, they are the fastest growing demographic, and they will probably swing Democratic in large numbers if their needs are catered and attended to (Preservation of Social Security benefits, expansion of health care systems, etc.)

    I like the idea of rotating personnel between DPO offices in Bend, Medford and Portland. Oregonians should know and become involved in their entire state, not just Portland. This isn't so Portlanders can tell the rest of the state what to do. It's so everybody can get to know everybody else a little better, and work more cohesively on a statewide agenda.

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    I like Pat, but I don't like his post. I was a DPO officer when Jim Edmunson was elected in 1999. The difference between what the Party was then and what it is now is like the difference between spam and steak. Don't make me tell you the horror stories from those days unless you get me drunk first. I don't agree with what the DPO does all the time, and anyone who knows me knows that I'm not bashful about those differences, but it's doing a lot more, and doing it a lot more professional, than it did in the 1990s. There is always room to improve, and our Party has plenty of it to do, but we have come a long, long way. One thing that's obvious at DNC meetings: We are one of the better functioning state parties in the U.S. That may make you wonder about some of the other state parties, but what else would you compare us with? That, of course is not enough. Election results are the key test, and in Oregon's case, the Democrats are starting to run out of targets. In 1998, the House and the Senate were Republican, and GOPers held the posts of Labor Commissioner and Education Superintendent. Guess which Party holds those offices now? How many other states, besides Massachusetts come January, do better? Is that all Edmunson's doing? Nope. Is he part of it? Yep.
    By the way, Gov. Dean is supporting Edmunson's re-election. Dean deals with all 50 state chairs, and my guess is that he knows when he's got a good one.

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    I'd like to point out that the signs were done by the Kulongoski campaign, not the DPO. And they did not order enough for the Portland metro area, let alone the entire state.

    It wasn't an issue of people ignoring other counties. It was an issue of there not being enough signs.

    Any volunteer who signed in at the volunteer desk at the DPO building could tell you there was a long list of names sitting there of people who wanted signs and never received them. Why? Because there wasn't enough signs.

    Don't blame that on the coordinated campaign. They didn't buy the signs. The gov's campaign did, and realistically they needed 10 times as many as they bought. I'd heard the first order was something around 10,000 signs, and that was all they'd planned to get. 10,000? That doesn't cover the metro area.

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    Targeting drop off voters was hugely successful. Here in Multnomah County, the last numbers we had showed that 50% of the drop-off voters who were targeted came out and voted. Those were people who do not vote in these elections, yet came out and voted.

    Compared to Governor Kulongoski's statewide win, those MC drop-off voters were 1/3 of his win margin. Drop-off voters definitely made the difference.

    Growing the party is a good thing, and I am completely in support of growing the party. However, that's hard to do in the middle of an election. Actions were begun earlier this year when the DNC hires were made. But at some point they have to switch from party growing mode to election mode.

    As soon as the election was over, party growing mode began again. We've already started here in Multnomah County, picking our first issue for the Neighbor to Neighbor program. We're going to spend the next 16 months or so growing the party. We're going to keep our volunteers informed with what is going on. We're going to keep talking to voters about things like legislative bills, city council actions, etc. We're going to show people that the party isn't irrelevant and that there is a place in it for them.

    No more of this stuff of letting volunteer lists from the election years sit for 2 years until we touch it again. We'll stay in contact, letting them know what's going on in the party and our government.

    We're also reaching out to the field staff for Dem/Progressive campaigns that covered Multnomah County. We're gathering together this week (contact me at 503-248-0826 for more details) to discuss how the campaign went, what we could do better, etc. I'd highly recommend this in every county. We're also considering regular meetings among field staffers, trainings, and more.

    Consider putting together a detailed report and giving it to your county party and the state party. Let them know your strengths and your weaknesses. Let them know where you need help. Don't do it in an accusatory or nasty way-- come at it professionally, but honest. It will help your county party, your candidates, and the Democratic Party.

    Let's work together to build the party across the state. Having a strong party in Deschutes County or Crook County or any other county in the state is a good thing. It's something that all of us who work in the Donkey Stable want. But we all have to work together and do a complete analysis as soon as possible so we can all spend the next 16 months building and growing even better county parties and an even better state party.

  • Carol Voisin (unverified)

    Wayne, you are always very informative when it comes to the history of the DPO and especially the 2nd CD. Thank you for reminding us of what the state party was like in the 1990s and how much better it is today thanks to Jim and others. Do you have to be drunk to tell us about how bad it was??

    Having just spent ten months of my life listening to and partying, praying, debating, crying, and eating with the good people of the 2nd CD, I can say that we must stop trying to find a scapegoat for our loss. We have serious problems in rural Eastern Oregon that need solutions. We don't need the empty platitudes of the Republicans. We need a united and focused Democratic party.

    We have only eighteen months to strengthen and deepen our infrastructure. I agree with Steve that we need to target the independents. They are almost a third of the registered voters. We need them to win. We need to know who they are and what their interests and concerns are. Here is where we can build the party and the Democratic movement in the 2nd CD. We also need to engage the Hispanic and the American Indian populations in the 2nd CD. But who wants to join a party that scapegoats a loss by tearing down its hard working and dedicated leadership?

    We are a grassroots party. What drives our spirit is not finding the money but having a vision. We need to share our vision and reshape it as others join us. The money will follow the vision as Howard Dean has demonstrated. We need a structure in which and through which we can do this in order to take back our district. Let's get on with it. Let the Source follow us not lead us.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    Thanks Carol, you saved me key stokes. And a big public thanks for an honorable, dedicated campaign.

    Most of the DPOs that've posted are friends of mine or at least pretty well known to me and I like them. 2 CD Dems are tired and we only got to celebrate from a distance. We run headlong into a serious headwind, perceptions based on W-side politics and prejudices about W-siders and some of the old RNC demonization that had an actual basis. DPO has gone a long ways to help rural Dems with perception and with actual support. We still have along ways to go and we'll need help for quite awhile.

    We're going to sort out where we go from here, it's nice to do it from a position of strength. It's a good idea to remember that despite any short comings everybody that's posted here or been posted about was a Part of 11/7/06 and we did good.

    The Party does need building on the E-side, our avg. age is entirely too grey and Indies are staying away in droves. I have a busy little article going (comments) "Independents, Take Your Place" with the object of persuading Indies. I could use some help in the discussion from dedicated Dems and any Indies that'd be interested. I'm not trying to generate hits, I'm trying to get a real discussion going. Stop by and comment.

  • Val (unverified)

    Howard Dean committed to putting money into every one of the 50 states and both locally and nationally we reaped the benefits of his hard won fight to take the money and power out of DC and into the grassroots. Howard Dean has brought the funding for 5 full time staff positions to Oregon over doubling the staff at the DPO. The Democratic Party of Oregon, under the leadership of Jim Edmunson gave the kind of support to Lane and the counties South and East of us that is usually is reserved for Portland area (no offence to my friends in Mult County). Here in Lane County we certainly benefited from that investment because we were able to rely on a paid staff person to help us coordinate our effort and also be a conduit for information to and from the DPO. I can't speak for Crook County but I can tell you that Autumn Wilburn's work in Lane and the other 14 Counties that she is responsible for, meant the difference between winning and losing key races in which we were able to take back the House, keep the Senate and keep the Gov's seat.

    I give credit for that effort to Howard Dean and the DPO because they supported the program that allowed us to have a access to someone as talented, caring and competant as Autumn Wilburn, the DPO regional organizer for Southern and Eastern Oregon. Lane is predominantly a rural county, it was so important that we had someone who understood rural organizing and who could help us build the capacity that we needed to win and win big.

    The other point that people seem to be missing is that although we got help and guidance from Autumn Wilburn, Jim Edmunson, Josh Kardon and the DPO, we had to do the outreach and footwork to bring young people, our local Hispanic community, the GLBT community, local environmentalists, peace activists, seniors, labor activists, and so many other people into the process. We kept hearing over and over again that people didn't know how to get involved and we needed to work to make them feel welcome to our group. We had the help available but we had to do the actual work and invite new people into our group. Anything worth having is worth working for and I am proud to have been able to be a small part of this win in '06 at the State and National level. We had to take responsibility for pulling in our own volunteers and for putting together the effort for these local campaigns.

    Pat Ackley has shown leadership in the 2nd Congressional district and stepped in to help Deschutes County pull in a win for Ted. I appreciate her efforts and respect her immensly. Carol Voison got support for her 2nd CD candidacy that she never would have gotten under different leadership of our State Party and because of that and the increased level of support that we saw between 2002 and now, I am planning to support Jim Edmunson and a group of DPO canidates from across the State at reorganization that can take us to a new level between now and '08.


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    And then there was the little problem of the printer delivering Wu signs instead of Kulongoski signs. That took a few extra days to sort out.

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    Wayne, Carol, et al,

    You may be correct........or it may be the case that skilled political ops keep their fingers in the breeze and know when to change the platitudes that they mouth in public to retain their positions in the extant power structure.

    As far as I'm concerned, the way that Edmunson and Pender have behaved with regard to the grassroots and the Dean strategy when they're engaged in the day-to-day party efforts for which they are responsible, speaks a hell of a lot louder than the Rah Rah speeches that they give up on the podium, when they are (predictably) taking credit for any and all successes.

    I ain't gonna be up at state dealing with this. You are.


    Why wouldn't it be a good idea to select leaders based on their record and behavior over the past several years?

    The first thing I ever heard Edmunson say from the podium was "The primary mission of the Democratic Party of Oregon is to get Democrats elected".

    Amen to that.

    You may not legitimately assume, however, that because a person holds a title during the time that good work is accomplished by party members, that person is responsible for the good work done.

    I'm arguing that obstructing the little people is his default mode and that the lip service is all the grassroots will ever get from him. I really hate the arrogance and the sucking up and frankly this kind of stuff discourages the very people that are critical to the whole neighbor-to-neighbor plan's success.


    I will have registered Independent long before the state reorg occurs.

    I'm sure that folks who are really tired of having the Dog Puke on their Wingtips will be relieved, although I'm clear that my smelly little allies and I don't merit peer consideration, we are the ones out in the greasy spoon diners around this state talking to--you know--actual people-- and some of us may have a better picture of the zeitgeist than might be imagined in the rarefied atmosphere at the top.

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    Pat, I'm guessing your favorite greasy spoon serves the best burger in Oregon. We all need to sit among our peers who hold down two jobs, have no health insurance, can't afford to pay college tuition, and haven't experienced so much as a pay raise for 4 or 5 years. Most of these are Democrats and Independents. Your intelligent take on Oregon politics, your timely challenges for Oregon Democrats to do better,and your humor is a voice that we need to hear.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    Hey Pat, I sure can use your help and input. I'm have the same argument over at "Chuck for ..." Things are improving, but it ain't over and walking away just makes it that much more difficult for those who've stuck.

  • LT (unverified)

    Wayne, and in Oregon's case, the Democrats are starting to run out of targets.

    Don't come to the Marion/ Polk area and say that! We were all thrilled that Brian Clem won and is now state rep.-elect. Matter of fact, he won by a larger % margin (at least last time I checked) than Sen. President Courtney. But those 2 were our only victories. Against an entrenched incumbent and conventional wisdom in some circles that he didn't have a chance, Paul Evans held his own in Polk County where he lives (last time I looked the margin was 15 votes) . He lost Marion County, where people have said for a long time Jackie Winters is an icon---true in some circles, although not in others.
    At an end of campaign rally in a Salem community hall Paul told a standing room only group " They said I wouldn't be able to recruit any volunteers--well look around you!".

    I would suggest analysis of election returns and talking to local Democrats around the state to hear their views on this topic. Jason Brown ran an "impossible" race against a former congressional candidate in an oddly drawn district and was mostly ignored.

    Connie Garcia in District 20 was profiled here at

    Someone from a small town and humble surroundings doesn't have a lot of rich friends who can contribute to a campaign. And although Kari was nice enough to put in that link to Act Blue as a comment, there are people who don't understand how that works, and more importantly people who don't have Internet access at home. Democrats (esp. activists and those living in big cities) who don't understand such "facts of life" are the equivalent of fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

    Pat Ryan is correct in saying I'm arguing that obstructing the little people is his default mode and that the lip service is all the grassroots will ever get from him. I really hate the arrogance and the sucking up and frankly this kind of stuff discourages the very people that are critical to the whole neighbor-to-neighbor plan's success.

    Look at how many new legislators under 35 got elected, and not that long ago it was conventional wisdom that young people don't matter because young people don't vote. Someone did something right somewhere--lots of that credit goes to the Bus Project, but they are limited logistically in how many races they can target in a year.

    Paulie said We all need to sit among our peers who hold down two jobs, have no health insurance, can't afford to pay college tuition, and haven't experienced so much as a pay raise for 4 or 5 years. Most of these are Democrats and Independents.

    Now that Kulongoski is re-elected, it would be wise for those who made sarcastic remarks about Ben Westlund this year to visit and ponder how someone overcame that stupid law passed last session (about not voting in a primary if you want to sign a nominating petition), got so many signatures (the number 50,000 comes to mind), and inspired so many people who couldn't sign but supported him anyway. If you can't look at his issues and say "agree with this one, disagree with that one, could support this other one if modified", how will you ever be able to appeal to those who support him and his ideas?

    There is a lot of merit to what Steve says. Those of us who worked on campaigns which were not targets and got precious little support from any party organization will think carefully about ever working on a campaign other than one of a personal friend.

    It makes perfect sense for the DNC chair to support re-electing an incumbent state chair. But some changes need to be made.

    There is a lot of anger and disgust (even with the wonderful election night results nationally and in controlling the legislature) among the backbone of the party--citizen volunteers in counties where Portlanders would need a map to find their way around. Some call it the "revive or leave" movement.

    I have no idea what DPO was like in 1999. I was registered NAV from 1996 after the primary until about March 2002. People in 1996 saying "if you are a Democrat you will believe ---- and campaign for all nominees without asking them any issue questions" convinced me I didn't belong in such a group.

    I was active in the party 20 years ago when it was a lot stronger than it is now---but then, the DPO office was in Salem, issues of the day were debated openly, Democrats controlled the legislature with members elected from districts where the campaigns had been run locally--no central office telling them what to do.

    I would suggest that all Democrats read this editorial: Inform yourself about the various ideas in the report:

    And then make your views known to other activists and to legislators. I have strong views which I won't get into here, but I think the best thing that can happen is for Oregonians to debate all these ideas thoroughly in public. I have great respect for all the members of the Legislative Comm. (PCOL)--in many ways they were a model for how legislators should behave: serious discussions, open public hearings, very little if any partisan sniping.

    As a former member (1985-88) of the State Central Comm., I have noticed some things in recent weeks.

    I've heard discussions of whether the problem is Edmunson or Pender. I heard from rural friends that Edmunson needed to be gone after the election.

    When I went to the Sept. State Central Comm. meeting in Salem I heard maybe half an hour discussion of the makeup of the Executive Committee but Future Pac was never mentioned. When asked, some of the people I talked with acted as if I'd made a strange request to see FP discussed at that meeting. But I saw DPO listed on the Future Pac C & E when I looked online, so there must be some connection. Even if it is only paying rent, the connection does exist and FP is not an island entire to itself. This needs to be debated openly.

    If there are secret or historical reasons for why FP is not under anyone's supervision in the party structure although they are a Democratic organization, then the folks who want to keep the FP status quo can do the volunteer work, thank you very much. Or maybe it is just organizational inertia: "we've always done it that way". FP didn't exist 20 years ago, so "always" should not be part of the discussion. How much of the success in electing the new House majority can be traced to FP and how much to quality candidates, well run campaigns, and Minnis/Scott running a very long and secretive 2005 session which offended people? Some have long said FP is a creature of vested interests. I don't know, but it seems like they should be restructured and under DPO supervision if they continue to exist.

    I've long believed that everyone in politics would do well to have some sales training. High quality sales people are able to say "this oven is better than that oven because of the quality of the element in the bottom and the way the oven racks are constructed". How many activists campaign that way for their candidate/ cause?

    Many occupations involve logistics, answering customer questions (and taking responsibility if the answers are vague or wrong), concern for details. When I was a product demostrator, some of my co-workers in a retail store had this political philosophy, " I'd like to see that public figure (politician, broadcaster, etc.) come live my life for a day and see how they survive". That isn't ideological, it is about real life. And too many who work in politics seem to think if they look hard enough at spreadsheets those will tell them what to do, as if talking to actual folks is less important.

    But no amount of number crunching can predict a personal friend of a candidate marveling how well that person is doing although that friend is a Democrat running in a Republican county. And lots of conversations go on between friends which political consultants will never hear. One such recent conversation was with a friend who said "those of us who think whoever governs best governs least will be glad to see what some call gridlock with a Republican president and a Democratic Congress because when it was all the same party they went overboard."

    Democrats now control Oregon government. Can they do a better job than the GOP did in DC? As I told that friend, if the Democrats are smart they'll do a lot of "This bill I co-sponsored aims to do the following things and please contact me if you have any questions" rather than "all good people support this bill".

    One more detail--something I noticed at that State Central Comm. meeting. It was well run in that everyone (incl. visitors) got a nametag with a colored dot: one color for delegates, another for alternates, another for visitors. Except there were some young people there who were carrying laptops and had no nametags. When asked, they said they were DPO employees and didn't need nametags. As some of my friends and I wondered, WHY NOT?

    20 years ago when I was on state Organization Committee, such issues WERE important. And as a friend said after the meeting, at the very least those people should have had nametags saying DPO STAFF. If for no other reason than security. In less than 2 years there will be Delegate Selection Conventions. There were people from the LaRouche group who tried to "crash" our delegate selection convention in 1988. They were stopped at the door but if they hadn't been the lack of nametags would have proved they were intruders. It may seem like a small thing, but at a time when many employers require nametags while on the premises, it seems smart that DPO employees show up at Democratic meetings wearing nametags.

    As fondly as I remember the party of 20 years ago and my role as National Convention Delegate and member of State Central Committee, I am very close to not working on any more campaigns unless it is a close personal friend and the Democrats get their act together organizationally. The fastest growing party is no party at all for a reason.

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