Dan Carol: Why I'm Running

By Dan Carol of Eugene, Oregon.

Editor's Note: Each of the four candidates for DPO Chair was invited to submit a guest column - and they're appearing in the order received. Later this week, we'll hear from Mac Prichard, Carol Voisin, and Meredith Wood Smith.

DancarolI am running for chair because I think I am the right person to help DPO win, lead, and innovate in a new era that demands a unique blend of high-touch and high-tech politics.

Having worked as the research director for both the 1992 Clinton campaign and the Packwood special election that put Gordon Smith on the defensive and Ron Wyden in the Senate, I understand what it takes to win. As chair, I would be an energetic force for coalescing early behind a great candidate and implementing a serious, grassroots-driven, winning strategy to mount this challenge. We need to engage and mobilize our Democratic base and attract Independents and Republicans of conscience.

If elected, I will make sure that the DPO stands at the center of this grassroots effort, to re-take the Senate seat, win the presidential and expand our gains in the Oregon legislature and key offices across the state. The State County partnership will serve as the cornerstone of this success.

As chair, I will make sure that DPO works closely with DNC Chairman Dean and his team, gets the attention it deserves from national organizations and funders, and strikes creative win-win partnerships with our traditional and emerging allies to ensure electoral success in 2008.

We can't deny, however, that the Democratic Party must continue to embrace change and be forward-thinking in how we structure its operations. The Party risks losing its long-term "customer base" if it doesn't re-double its efforts to deeply engage Oregonians at the local level, to offer new ways for citizens to connect to the Party through community service, and most of all, to respectfully challenge all of our candidates to give back to the Party which serves them.

The next chair inherits a solid foundation from which we as an organization must build and grow in order to win in '08. I look forward to working with you to make that happen.

I know I am unknown to many inside the DPO. Yet I think my experience working closely with Ron Brown at the DNC for 3 years, my winning track record in and outside of Oregon, my experience working with hundreds of campaigns, causes and candidates, my management and online entrepreneurial background, and my 11 years as a resident of Lane County makes me the best choice at this time to help lead the DPO.

Please contact me at [email protected] if you have any questions. Or visit DanCarolForChair.com for updates.

Dan Carol

  • Steve Barnes (unverified)

    Journalist David Sirota is spot-on in describing Dan's creds and why ODP needs Dan's leadership. See Sirota's blog:


    I've been acquainted with Dan for 20+ years. Yes, Dan's smart. Yes, he's a street fighter. And, yes, he can convene groups to win, as he's done with the Apollo Alliance. www.apolloalliance.org

    This is Oregon's opportunity---and Oregon Dems can win with Dan at the helm.

  • (Show?)

    C'mon BlueOregonians... ask yer questions.

    I'm pretty sure Dan is the least well-known of all the candidates. So fire away...

  • (Show?)

    OK, I have a few:

    Some folks in the Party feel that the party's sole responsibility is to elect Democrats. Others feel that the Party has an advocacy role. What do you think?

    What role do you think the Party has in asking for accountability from elected Democrats?

    What specific things would you do to improve relationships between the DPO and elected Democrats?

  • Bert S, (unverified)

    OK here's some questions:

    Which particular rural areas in Oregon will you focus on to make Oregon more blue? (e.g. are there swing areas with more potential?)

    Do you think the D party makes sense for rural Oregonians?

    How will you go about communicating (I do not mean hide) core D party values to rural Oregonians in a persuasive ways.

  • frank carper (unverified)

    Here's two specific questions for Dan Carol:

    What was your role in the Apollo Alliance effort here in Oregon, why did it fail in 2006, and what did you learn from that?

    The DNC under Ron Brown (while you were there) was a place that catered to corporate donors - and thus Ron later became Secretary of Commerce. Was that strategy right, then? Would it be right today? How should the DNC (and by extension, the DPO) be different now?

  • Matt (unverified)

    Mr. Carol -

    First of all, thanks for running. I think it is great to see such interest in the position of chair. Now some questions:

    1. What would you say to a new precinct committee person about their role in the party?

    2. What advice would you give a county central committee about their role during election time? During non-election time?

    3. What do you think the party does well? What does it need to improve on here in Oregon?

  • Dan Carol (unverified)

    Here are a few responses, in reverse order.

    Frank Carper:

    I think your criticisms of Ron Brown's tenure at Department of Commerce are valid. While he ran the DNC, however, he was hands off in all respects about what we did and said and in fact led the charge on challenging Bush 41's proposed capital gains tax cuts and challenging Hill Democrats to do the same. On DNC/DPO funding, creating small and sustainable funding bases are key and I am a long-time proponent of that and my greatest disppointment in Bill Clinton was when he declined to go for serious campaign funding reform in 1993 when we had control of the House and the Senate.

    Apollo: I tried to push a clean energy/jobs ballot measure here in 2005 and 2006 but pulled the plug on it in March 2006 when it was clear we couldn't raise enough money I (and I didn't want to risk a repeat of the GMO labelling measure of years before). $50 million flowed to the Prop 87 measure in California (unfortunately) which dried up the well on fundraising for our effort, although lots of folks give us credit for pushing the conversation on clean energy with the Governor and others to a new level.

    That's essentially what I want to do again with challenging Gordon Smith, so be nice. :)

  • Dan Carol (unverified)

    Jenny: Your question on candidates and accountability is a critical one.

    My view is that, like it or not, our candidates are the message carriers for the democratic "brand", for our issues and for our values. That doesn't mean I don't care about issues (I do) or think that the Democratic platform doesn't matter.

    But to get candidates to be accountable and take notice of the Party (like they do in parlimentary democracies), let alone run on an official Democraic platform, first the Party must develop the winning apparatus and track record so that candidates understand exactly who helped elect them, and from there will flow more accountability and candidates who run for and with the Party.

    Great strides have been taken already by the current leadership, but more work is needed over several cycles to broaden the "customer base" of the Party -- and doing that will take win-win partnerships with our traditional and non-traditional allies, and communities like Blue Oregon.

  • Dan Carol (unverified)

    Bert: We had some discussion here last week about rural outreach, I would point you to take a look there. On "hiding" our core values, I don't advocate that or think we need to. Tolerance, privacy, creating oportunity and starting gate equality sell anywhere I think. On rural electoral targets, I am happy to go offline sometime with this kind of conversation -- but am uncomfortable posting any "secret plans" online. :)

    Matt: My advice to all PCP and central committee folk now would be very focused on 2008. If I am elected chair, I will be pushing hard publicly and privately for an early coalescing process around mounting an effective challenge to Gordon Smith, while encouraging all DPO officials and counties to come together around core program priorities they need, want and we can resource and fundraise for that maintain our gains in the House etc.

    We can't be planning for 2008 in 2008. We need to have set clear goals, up and down, east and west, staff and chairs, PCPs and local candidates, for building a winning apparatus and growing long-term capacity along the way. If we don't do that it becomes petty easy for the "nominee's people" to make local lives miserable in 2008 rather than add value to what we have built.

    In other words, we all need to take a professional approach to our jobs.

  • (Show?)

    I am looking forward to all four candidates statements. Thank you Dan for taking the plunge.

    Please help me understand, "high touch-high tech" "customer-base" "online entrepreneurial background"

    Thank you.

  • Dan Carol (unverified)

    Paulie: I am at times guilty of something that my friends call Danspeak. My mother in law says I need to use more verbs as well. :)

    So apologies and an attempted translation.

    High tech/high touch: High tech of course is leveraging the power of online tools, fundraising and so forth. For example, my old company was proud to build the house party tool for MoveOn and others groups to use to fight the FCC on key issues. That said, you need "high touch," old fashioned people-to-people passion, eye contact and organizing to really engage citizens, voters and volunteers. For example, you need an Anna Gallant doing Building Blocks, Building Votes with the Bus project. You need a PCP walking the block. You need a Mac Pritchard to drive the house parties. And so on.

    Customer base: there are lots of places people and citizens can do community service, politics, help good causes they care about....so DPO must essentially compete against these groups for members and contributors. Finding ways to grow the audience for this work, with our partners, is key. This can't be a zero sum game where we fight over the engaged citizens who vote and care. We need to reach the 40% who don't vote, and deepen their involvement with DPO and our allied partners, online and off.

    Online entrepreneurial background: I started a company after the 1992 election, focused on strategy, issues, politics and the Internet and consider myself an accidental entrepreneur. Stuff just happened. We built the first US Senate web site in 1994 in Mosaic because it seemed smart to do in a Calfornia political race where the Internet was exploding, and over time we ended up growing into a 65 person firm (CTSG) that specialized in online advocacy and fundraising. Because alot of this was new ground for progressive and Democratic groups, I sometimes joked (with love) we were running a rehabilitation center for paleoliberal groups and causes. CTSG had great, great people and I am proud of the work we did to catalyze, evangelize and demonstrate new forms of online engagement and technology. I left the firm in 2005.

  • (Show?)


    What role do you believe online communications technology plays in Oregon politics, both now and in the future? Are there any specific technical initiatives you'd seek to implement within DPO, if elected?

    Leo Schuman

  • JohnH (unverified)

    Sirota's endorsement is important to me. However, I continue to suspect that Big Money and Big Labor will dominate the selection of any candidate that determined before the first vote. That is why I keep advocating for a primary, activating the grassroots early, and overwhelming the monied interests at the ballot box when the activist base is most likely to dominate. What do you think?

    If this isn't possible, I'll probably just keep contributing to MoveOn, not Democrats.

  • Dan Carol (unverified)

    Leo: The DPO just launched a snappy new web site so the first thing I would want to do is to see what all the folks who worked on that have in mind, as I suspect there are several phases, a strategic plan etc. and before reinventing any wheels, I would rather glide along under them. :)

    That said, I think how online technology can strengthen internal party communication in a state as big as Oregon seems like one obvious opportunity -- both in promoting more cohesion among county chairs and in cutting costs in this new era of Skype, voice over IP and so on.

    John H: if I understand your suggestion, it would be for the next Party chair election to be more open, such as through a primary. This is not a bad idea, but before responding I think it would help to clarify how things work now. Whether at the state party or at the level of the national DNC, there are a set of sometimes arcane rules that have grown up since the days of Thomas Jefferson that provide for big decisions to be made by a small group of electors. One can surely make a case that this system is inside baseball, but right now if one wanted to be eligible to vote in the next DPO chair electon there are a set of rules, posted on the web site, and open meetings, where one could go and dive in to what might be a long slog.

    I don't mean to sound snarky in any way, but right now I don't believe one can do that at MoveOn quite that way. I know and respect Eli, Wes and Joan, and hasten to point out that MoveOn has set the HIGH BAR bar for getting input from its members and then reflecting back member preference in real action, but it is still at an earier stage of development where if someone wanted the top job there isn't a set of rules for how to go abut succeeding Eli (and if there are, please correct me). The same is true for many of our best progressive groups; if you are not on the board of directors.

    That's not to say that the current rules for the DPO are perfect. Or that the right representation across all factors, from progressive beleif to race and gender and sexual preference, is perfect in the DPO. Or that more work doesn't need to be done to open up the process before and after elections. But there have been alot of hard fought battles in the Democratic Party, many before my time, about delegate selection and rules that has this much going for it: whatever you think of the Democratic Party, it sure does look more like America when the cameras pan at the convention.

    So here's to slow, steady progress towards more a more open process, and a thanks to Blue Oregon for facilitating a great step in that direction through this forum.

  • JohnH (unverified)

    Sorry that I didn't make myself clear, Dan. I'm really referring to the '08 election. I'm rabidly pro-choice--I want a real choice in the primary election. I don't want to be asked to bless yet another candidate selected by money-corrupted insiders concerned more with preserving their perks than serving the public. If the grass roots gets organized early, are actually given a choice, their momentum may well prevail in the General Election. Think Paul Wellstone...

  • Dan Carol (unverified)

    Ah, gotcha John. I fully agree that the DPO, the grassroots and yes, even the grasstops need to coalesce early if we are to mount a serious challenge to Gordon Smith -- doing that well, and doing that in a way that effectively INTEGRATES all the pieces in the campaign puzzle while building long-term grassroots infrastructure, is the reason I decided to jump into this race.

    But enough of me for today...I am signing off this virtual microphone for now until the next set of Kari questions come my way. Good luck to all the other candidates and goodnight to Blue Oregon.

  • (Show?)

    What about the Young Democrats?

    Many in the party get excited about recruiting younger party members, but in my year trying to reorganize the Young Democrats of Oregon no one had any realistic input.

    How will you recruit <35 year olds?

    How will you retain <35 year olds?

    How much time and attention will you give to the Young Democrats?

  • Bert S. (unverified)

    Dan thank you for your response ... I took a look at your website, and I am impressed with your experience and activism. I am not trying to pester you or split hairs. Please don't take the following questions that way.

    you said:

    Tolerance, privacy, creating oportunity and starting gate equality sell anywhere I think.

    Those concepts do "sell anywhere" and, indeed, are sold by most all politicians. To the extent that rural Oregonians trust politicians, my guess is that rural Oregonians think that they are getting those particular goods from Republicans candidates. After all, while Republicans haven't funded schools as much as D's might like and are hostile to organized teachers, they have a track record of pushing for funding equality. Hence, they can argue that they are for "starting gate equality."

    I looked at the previous dicussion about the DPO, and your post about clean energy. You noted that this could be the glue for alliances (farm-labor).

    But, again, I suspect that rural landowners will think that their Republican representatives will go to bat for them on aspects of energy policy that will help them find new sources of revenue (e.g. subsidies for wind power or biofuels).

    I am skeptical that other rural voters will find clean energy policy compelling enough to make changes in their voting patterns.

    So the question remains, how will you communicate persuasively that rural Oregonians should switch their party alignment?

    If you would like to comment on these questions, I would appreciate it.

  • Bert S. (unverified)

    Oops. On the above post ...

    "(e.g. subsidies for wind power or biofuels)"

    was not pejorative ... I meant that subsidies would help farmers make investments that would then lead to new sources of revenue for farmers and then indirectly for communities.

  • Dan Carol (unverified)

    Wow, night owl comments. After this I am really packing it in for this day/this round.

    Bert: Your comments are smart, not hair splitting. Honestly, I think we will make progress on rural races, candidate by compelling candidate.

    The Democratic "brand" has been tarnished for a generation by all kinds of negative associations like tax and spend and anti-rural, and no single marketing plan, issue, platform etc can overcome some of these that in a single "splash". Moreover, what sells is always the passion that comes from the heart -- be it Ronald Reagan or Paul Wellstone, the issues are less important than the man or woman's convictions.

    So how the DPO can recruit and support great candidates who can voice the concerns of their districts is certainly tops in my book. The example of Ben Westlund and various Iraq veteran candidates are rays of this trend I hope. In the long run, I also think we Democrats need to keep pushing arguments that explain to voters to "do all the math" when they evaluate the promises and policies of all parties -- the fact is that Democrats are ofen the most "conservative" about a range of issues, we just haven't gotten the credit we deserve.

    Jenson: as someone who just had his last birthday in his 40s, I am sympathetic to anything about Young-ness. :)

    Seriously, I am not sure how to address your question in a few phrases. Youth vote was THE biggest area of Demcratic performance gain in the last two elections, and how we keep up that momentum in engaging youth, as well as deepen our gains with such growing communities as Latino and Asian is how we grow this Party and frankly, strengthen the American community.

    Your question could be addressed around issues of organizing tactics that work well in engaging 20-30 yr olds, and there one could point to the Bus Project of course and a number of other groups' work that has been documented by Deborah Rappaport's Foundation, Pew Foundation and others.

    Or we could discuss how best to engage younger folks into the traditional party, and there I must admit I have my doubts about whether (especially in smaller communities) it is good to divide Young Democrats from older ones. I might argue against it if we end up with meetings that don't have enough folks who together all probably like soem good Motown music.

    Again, I'd want to understand your own experiences, so let me give a plug for folks to come by the DPO web site and contact me (and the other candidates) more directly. I'm told my profile goes live there tomorrow.


  • (Show?)

    Dan, these are questions that I plan to ask every candidate who is running for this position.

    How many state or county-level DPO meetings have you attended in the last 5 years?

    Have you ever held an officer's position at any level of the Democratic Party of Oregon (county, cd, et al)?

    Are you now, or have you ever been, a Democratic precinct committee person? If yes, how many years have you been a PCP?

    If yescto either of the above questions, what did you learn your roles as a PCP and/or as an officer? If not, why not?

    What is one thing that you think the DPO needs to do a better job at? Please be specific.

    Do you believe that any portion of the DPO's limited campaign budget should be spent on field work in counties and/or legislative districts that are considered to be non-competitive? If so, what percentage?

    In terms of campaign expenditures for the DPO, what percentage of the campaign budget should be allocated to field(offices, personnel, operations) versus media (lit, tv, paid phone bank, etc)?

  • (Show?)

    If yescto either of the above questions, what did you learn your roles as a PCP and/or as an officer? If not, why not?

    That was a bad edit. That should've read:

    If yes to either of the above questions, what did you learn in your roles as a PCP and/or as an officer? If you have never been a PCP or officer, why not?

  • Val (unverified)

    My experience with Dan may be a bit different than others as we have the good fortune of having him as a Card Carrying Member of the Democratic Party of Lane County.

    Dan has been one of our Party's our most ardent supporters and is someone who has always been there when I needed someone to back me up, give me guidance or help with local Party strategy.

    Dan first hit my radar during the Kerry election but I came to really know and respect him when we had a joint canvass with the Bus Project and Stand for Children in HD 14 in August of 2005. HD 14 finally became a democratically controlled House District represented by Chris Edwards in this past election because so many of us came together to organize this race early. Dan was the featured speaker at the event and he talked about how important it was for use to work and organize to take back the Oregon House. He clearly stated what was at stake but more importantly he was willing to help us do the footwork to get the job done. He clearly understood that we couldn't wait until 3 months before the election to start running. Dan was one of the few key people who pitched in early to help Lane County made a sweep of every one of our targeted races. We couldn't have done it without hard work, good strategy and feet on the street. Dan was a big part of making that happen.

    I wasn't sure who I would support in this race until Dan put his hat in the ring. Dan has the most political experience, has the most to offer in terms of how much National support he can bring in to help defeat Gordon Smith, has the most experience in building up grassroots organizations and is the one person in this race who has made a significant difference in the Lane County Party. I like and respect the other candidates but I will be supporting Dan Carol for Chair of the DPO.

    Val Chair Democratic Party of Lane County

    P.S. Dan had the opportunity to come to our last DPLC meeting to talk about his candidacy but he was unable to attend because he had a prior commitment to a group of 14 years old children who were interested in Apollo Project and alternative energy. As a Democrat looking for future candidates and a bonafide Mini Van Driving Soccer Mom, I was more than happy to give him a pass for upholding his obligation to our local Youth.

  • Mari Anne Gest (unverified)

    Wow...Dan Carol...wisdom, vision and ability all rolled into one. Our party would do well with Dan at the helm. It will definitely force us out of our comfort zone. which is good to do occasionally since "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

    What I particularly like is the energy that comes from change. I look forward to hearing from all of the candidates. Thanks Dan for running - as most can tell you, it is a thankless job but well worth the effort.

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