Neel Pender leaving DPO (updated)

Editor's note: Originally posted yesterday, we're bumping this back to the top, since we've got a major update below.

In a statement released today by the Democratic Party of Oregon, executive director Neel Pender announced that he's leaving:

Pender will become Vice President of New Villages Group, Ltd. Led by successful Northwest entrepreneur Stan Amy, New Villages Group invests and aggregates capital to launch mission-driven organizations striving to advance the triple bottom line of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. ...

“Neel brought professionalism and energy to the Democratic Party of Oregon. It was just what we needed in 1999 to begin the long-overdue rehabilitation of our party. So much of the success we enjoy today is directly traced to Neel Pender’s vision and hard work. He will be hard to replace,” [outgoing party chair Jim] Edmunson said.

Governor Kulongoski offered the following statement upon learning of Pender’s plans:

“Neel is a friend and has led the party through one of its biggest and most successful transformations in its history, not only creating an effective network of grassroots activism, but also executing a successful road map for Oregon Democrats, which has helped us gain a majority in the state legislature and put Oregon on the map nationally."

Obviously, this raises the stakes for the DPO Chair's race. The new chair will play a key role in recruiting, keeping, and managing the next executive director and his or her team.

Update: DNC Chairman Howard Dean sent this statement to BlueOregon:

Today, I thank Neel Pender, not just for his service to Oregon Democrats, but for being such a tremendous partner with the national Democratic Party.

Due in large part to his hard work and the outstanding team he assembled with Chairman Jim Edmunson, the Democratic Party of Oregon is stronger than ever. By translating the 50 State Strategy into a true 36 county strategy, Oregon Democrats matched Republicans in voter turnout for the first time in four decades, helped reelect a strong Democratic governor and gave him a Democratic legislature to work with.

As chair of the Association of State Democratic Executive Directors, Neel was also instrumental in building a consensus around the need for all state parties to recommit to reaching out to every voter, in every part of every state. Neel played an important role in making the DNC's 50 State Strategy such a success. As he prepares to bring his tremendous talent and energy to his next challenges, I wish him and his family all the best.


  • Charlie Burr (unverified)

    By any standard, Neel has done an outstanding job building the party's infrastructure, grassroots organizing capacity, and fundraising apparatus. Individual candidates and campaigns may get much of the glory, but Neel's work -- and the efforts of his hard-working staff -- have helped Oregon Democrats win a lot of hard-fought elections.

    I wish him much luck and continued success in his new position.

  • jim Ross (Governor Kulongoski's Campaign Manager) (unverified)

    Neel’s work as the ED of the Democratic Party was instrumental in Governor Kulongoski's reelection. I was very impressed with the organization he has built and the professionalism of Neel and his staff. Neel was willing to take some real crazy ideas and run with them, when others in his position would balk at seeing them implemented. I very much appreciated his diplomacy and tact, two traits where I can be a bit lacking. I wish him the best of luck in his new job. I know these skills will serve him well.

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    When I saw the comment earlier about replacing Neel, I thought it was just a slip of the tongue. Now I see he really is leaving.

    I'm sad to see Neel go. I've enjoyed working with him since moving here in 2000 and watching his kids grow up. We haven't always agreed, but I know he's always worked very hard for the Party. I can't tell you how many times I saw him in the office on the weekend, working with kids in tow.

    I hope he enjoys his new position and that we still see him every once in a while. It's been odd not seeing Jon Isaacs around the Donkey Stable. Now things are going to seem even more strange.

    Lots of luck to Neel and to the team that will work to find a new Executive Director.

  • Lisa Changadveja (unverified)

    Even though I'm leaving this comment all the way from Atlanta, it saddens me to hear that Neel is leaving the DPO. I only had the pleasure of working in the DPO office for a few months, but I was there long enough to know the incredible influence Neel had on the election, as well as anyone that came into the office or had the pleasure of working with him. =)

    I wish him luck and good fortune in all of his future endeavors.

  • Kelly Steele (unverified)

    I've worked with Neel in both a campaign setting and as a member of his staff at the DPO. As Charlie alludes to, ED of the state party is an often-under appreciated job that is nonetheless essential to Oregon Democrats' success.

    Neel is a consummate professional who has made a substantial, lasting contribution to building the state party. Replacing him will be a tall task.

    All the best to you Pender.

  • LT (unverified)

    The new chair will play a key role in recruiting, keeping, and managing the next executive director and his or her team.

    Obviously Neel will be missed. But given the timing, this will give the new chair a chance to really clarify the roles of DPO chair and officers, Exec. Dir., State Central Comm., county parties, caucuses, volunteers, members of various campaigns, etc.

    I'm not sure everyone who was active in a downstate county last year really understood that relationship.

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    LT--I'm not sure anyone upstate really understands that relationship either!

    Neel will be sorely missed. He's made a huge difference in the state party, as well as carrying many of our ideas to the national organizations.

    It's hard to begrudge a guy with three kids the chance to have a job that doesn't require working nights and weekends, though. And I'm delighted that he's going to stay here in Oregon.

    Thanks, Neel.

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    I too want to congratulate Neel on his new positon and thank him for his excellent service to Oregon Democrats.

    Neel in many long hours and accomplished a great deal for the state party. I also appreciated his willingness to support new projects I was involved in, such as the Faith Caucus and the house party program.

    Good luck, Neel, you'll be missed!

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)

    You will be sorely missed Neel. I've enjoyed knowing you and working with you. You've done a wonders for DPO, I sincerely hope your new employers appreciate you as much as we have. ( I also hope they express it a little more often )

  • Neel Pender (unverified)

    I better jump in while I'm still ahead.

    It's funny, a reporter asked me today how I'd characterize what being the ED of the Democratic Party is like.

    I said jokingly that I learned early on that with all the demands on time and resources, most days are like taking a drink from an open fire hydrant - if you aren't careful and take too big a sip, you risk getting your head blown off. And then other's more akin to just being a human fire hydrant!

    And here you guys are with all these embarassingly nice comments doing your best to kill my punch line.

    Seriously, thank you sincerely for all the kind words. This has been the best, longest and most rewarding job that I've had...two years with a big idea quickly slipped into eight and it's folks like you that made it so fun and worth doing.

    And make no mistake, everything that we've achieved as a party has been a direct result of the selfless contributions of the individuals above and so many others like them.

    In editorial boards and pop culture, partisan politics often gets portrayed in the most unflattering terms. But I've always believed that strong parties are at the core of a healthy democracy, and I applaud everyone who not only has the courage to stand up for your beliefs but also makes the commitment to get involved and make a difference.

    I'm excited about taking on a new challenge, but I'll long cherish the good times we've shared.

    Thanks again!

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    Neel Pender and the DPO also played a key role in Oregon House Democrats' last two winning election cycles -- helping us to pick up two seats in 2004 and four seats in 2006, winning back the majority.

    Neel brought everyone together under one literal "tent" of offices, enabling closer working partnerships and coordination between the DPO, House and Senate D's, and others. He also consistently fought for all Oregon Democrats to be included in one broad "tent" regardless of ideology, gender, orientation, faith, geography, etc.

    After eight great years, Neel has earned a respite from politics. But I am confident he'll be back.

    Well done, Neel Pender, good and faithful servant.....

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    Many of us don't know the Democratic Party in Oregon without Neel and the outgoing Chair Jim Edmunson. In 2000 when I first sought to get into politics, they were both so open and welcoming and have since helped foster a whole new generation of political activists in Oregon. Neel's role in this can't be understated and he will be missed.

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    Neel has done a great job and is a hell of a good sport to boot. I share Jesse's point of view about the open and welcoming presence Neel and Jim have maintained as the face of the Democratic Party here in Oregon. I'll miss Neel and I wish him the very best.

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    Let me help you out with dealing with the surfeit of praise Neel, by quoting Michael Ironside in Total Recall:

    "It's about goddamn time"

    Since the first time I ever stumbled into your self-absorbed presence and received your sneering dismissal, you have embodied everything that's wrong with the DPO as it relates to the grassroots.

    You've always known what you know and have been the classic "suck up, kick down kind of guy". You hampered the small business efforts within the Party and delayed the release of the Small Business for Kerry efforts after we took it out of the party and joined with the campaign.

    You will no longer be required to endure the humiliation of having to pat the grassroots organizers on the head publicly while disrespecting them one on one.

    I wish the New Villages Group the best of luck, with you in the mix and hope that they only need your fund raising skills, 'cause you're damned good at sniffing out a wallet and getting your nose where it needs to be in relation to said wallet.

    There. Now you can feel some martyrdom to go with your blushing acceptance of the rose petals of a grateful party.

    Just trying to help out.

  • Oregonians Not Living in the Portland (unverified)

    Well said Pat,

    Neil Pender is a the worst kind of Ivory Tower Liberal.

    Remember the little quote in the Oregonians where he told Oregon "third parties don't matter." But if you read the rest of the complete BS above you would think Neel Pender single handedly brought the Democrats back from the dead.

    But the facts don't support this. Pender was nothing more than the continuation of the nonsense done by this predecessors: "Win Portland big and forget the rest of the state." A strategy that is only effective in electing statewide officials.

    It wasn't the Portland voters that got the House and Senate back for the Democrats or defeated bad ballot measures. It was new pockets of progressive Oregon in places like Bend, Medford, Eugene, Corvallis, Hood River, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Ashland, etc... that has created a new "Blue" majority. I will guarantee you that every democratic activist in those areas would say "Neil who?"

    No, Oregon did not turn Blue because of Neil Pender. It turned Blue in-spite of Neil Pender.

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    It's great to see that so many good people recognize all Neel has done for the party. As someone who walked in those ED shoes many moons ago, I know what a tough, thankless job that it. At least in my day, the average lifespan of a state party ED was 18 months. I would suspect it's about the same now. I lasted four years and Neel has positively crushed that record. We're all indebted to Neel for his work for the party. It's a sacrafice personally and professionally. Thanks a lot Neel and welcome to the DPO ED Alumni Association.

  • Jesse Bontecou (unverified)

    Neel gave me my first job in politics in 2004 and I am currently working for him under the 50 state partnership programs. I have been through, 2 campaign cycles, numerous events, thousands of strategy sessions, hundreds of meetings, and everything else that one can imagine. From my experience Neel is shockingly intelligent, uniquely driven, dedicated, caring, painfully sarcastic, and loyal. He has been shouldered with always having to do what is right and never being able to do what is easy. I have yet to see him falter. As for all those who are nay sayers and think that I perhaps have drinken to much Kool-Aid well all I can say is that you should try and walk in his shoes before you judge someone who has done so much with so little. Neel good luck to you and the best to you and your family. - Jesse M Bontecou

  • Oregonians Not Living in the Portland (unverified)


    You haven't "drinken" too much kool-aid. Rather you just worked in an office where you didn't see what was happening across the rest of the state.

    Pender was great at keeping the Party doing "business as usual." And that's great, but it was rural progressives and fools willing to walk in the rain going door to door for candidates that created the victories that Democrats champion as great accomplishments.

    Neil Pender could barely make time to acknowledge the existence of these people while he made his way to the bar let alone give actual help to Democrats that were fighting on the front lines.

    I'm sure Pender was a pleasure to work with blah blah blah but only for the select few that he made the time to work with.

    For a long time the doors of the DPO have said "Members Only." I truly hope that with new leadership those signs are taken down.

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    I'm not going to respond to the sniping, other than to say this:

    Ten years ago, there were many of us young activist types that would get together in various combinations in various venues to talk about how to change the world - or at least our corner of it.

    Inevitably, somebody would say something like, "You know, we should get involved in the DPO. After all, it is the state party."

    Somebody would say something like, "Yeah, it wouldn't be that hard to take over a county party or two. And then the state party. It's just a bunch of old people debating parliamentary procedure."

    And then, everyone would laugh. It was obvious, on its face, that the DPO was a prize that wasn't worth having. We'd shake our heads and say, "Take over the DPO? Sure, but then you'd have to run it. And who wants that headache?"

    Over the last eight years, Neel Pender and Jim Edmunson have turned the DPO into an organization we can all be proud of.

    They've done the hard work that so many of us walked away from. They've made it an effective fundraising and organizing operation. Sure, when you're effective you choose priorities - and people and projects that aren't priorities get upset - but as the saying goes, "You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs."

    Ten years ago, I'd have had nothing to do with the DPO. Today, I'm proud to be associated with them.

    Good luck, Neel. And when you're making the big bucks, don't forget the DPO.

  • Jesse Bontecou (unverified)

    Oregonians Not Living in the Portland - I will be brief as i said before try walking in our shoes before you cast stones, trust me i understand what is going on outside of Portland and i have put myself in the shoes of those outside of portland many many times.

  • Oregonians Not Living in the Portland (unverified)

    Jesse and Kari,

    I'm really unimpressed with your responses which amount to "Trust us it was hard and we did a great job."

    And Kari, "It was worse before" argument? I expect better from you.

    You two remind me of the Walter Reed Administrators circling the wagons screaming, "Nothing to see here, move along."

    This is not the first time people have brought up these complaints. But you instead of addressing them as valid you just write them as just sour grapes or better yet infer rural Oregonians don't know what they are talking about.

    Guess you two still have your Member's Only jackets.

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    Sure, when you're effective you choose priorities - and people and projects that aren't priorities get upset - but as the saying goes, "You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs."

    What you can do, (and what I demand of anyone in any position) is treat people with respect. If I approach you with any idea, you should engage with me, explain why you do or do not support such an idea, listen to my response and arguments, defend your own position, know like a real discussion between peers.

    You should automatically assume that an activist unknown to you is your peer until they prove otherwise. You will, of course, be forced to say "no" a lot, and that will sometimes irritate me. If, however, you are dismissive and disrespectful, I will remember you for as long as you are around.

    It's not about setting priorities, it's about arrogance, and the unwarranted assumption that only you and the people that you deem worthy of holding the levers of power, have ANY ideas that could have merit.

    Pay attention when I'm talking to you and I will return the courtesy.

    I will never make the mistake of equating your infighting skills with competence in fulfilling the mission of the organization.

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    Pat, I completely agree with everything you're saying about an appropriate approach to working with people. Certainly, that's always been the way I've done things.

    I can't speak for anyone else, nor any interactions I wasn't a party to.

    As for Ms. ONLP, I won't take your bait. As I said, I'm not going to respond to the sniping. I think "it was worse before" is a perfectly legitimate argument -- after all, nothing and no one is ever perfect. The goal is to leave a place better than when you found it.

    Neel did that. In a huge way.

    Note that we now have an active campaign with four great candidates for party chair. That hasn't always been the case.

  • Dan Carol (unverified)

    Neel will be sorely missed. But I am at least glad that the state (or is it a Commonwealth?) of Virginia is not getting him back.

  • Bad Boy Brown (unverified)

    [anonymous name-calling deleted. -editor.]

  • Patty Wentz (unverified)


    I'm not going to say a bunch of nice things about you here, because you might think someone else posted under my name. But friend, I will surely miss giving you a bad time and sharing a laugh. Good luck and please stay in touch.


  • Zak J. (unverified)

    I'd like to thank Neel for his support and assistance in founding the Gun Owners Caucus of the DPO last fall. Neel clearly doesn't agree on all points of gun policy with many of our members, but he stepped in and supported our efforts to make our own voice on the issue heard throughout the state. That seems the heart & soul of party building to me. Thanks again.

    Best of luck in your future projects.

  • Karynn & Adam (unverified)

    Congrats and good luck, Neel! :)

  • Garlynn (unverified)

    I don't know Neel. But good riddens.

    Or rather, great timing.

    After all, what better time to leave, than after having been at the helm of the party effort to deliver all three branches of government to the Dems in Oregon (OK, at least the two that are partisan)?

    I'm sure that Neel's skills will now prove useful in his new job, and that the new organization will prosper as a result.

    And now would be the perfect time for new leadership to come in and take the party in entirely new and uncharted directions, to build upon past successes.

    Perhaps new leaders could also recognize that it might make sense to allow third parties to begin to flourish in Oregon? A coalition government of the Pacific Greens and the Dems could be very fruitful for the state, as it would allow the Dems to take the middle ground more comfortably, while the more avante-garde progressive ideas could be proposed by the more-liberal third party so as not to taint the middle-of-the-roadness of the Dems...

  • (Show?)

    ...or a Working Families Party.

  • Garlynn (unverified)


    I don't think that a Working Families Party would have the effect that I described. A coalition with the (Pacific) Green Party would allow the Dems to become more centrist, because the Greens could take responsibility for issues (like, say, legalizing marijuana or making clear-cut logging illegal) that the Dems might in theory want to support, but in practice would never support for fear of abandoning the center.

    The Working Families Party, on the other hand, would be more likely (as I understand their platform) to occupy the center, and force the Dems further to the left in comparison. A WFP would gain support from unions and other groups that had very specific, centrist concerns, but were not interest in some of the more, idealistic-by-comparison, Democratic issues (such as gay rights).

    Point taken, however, that by making it easier for other parties to gain access to the system, both a Working Families Party and the Pacific Green Party could stand to benefit, along with all the other so-called "third parties."

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    i'm glad there's going to be a change at ED along with Chair; i think the time is right. i respect both Neel and Jim; i was thrilled to read Jim's words regarding Howard Dean last year in the SF Chron. but we're moving into a new era of politics, and it's crucial we have the right leadership.

    working as a near-full time volunteer in Benton County for 3 years, the lack of support we received from DPO was extremely discouraging. we had to go our own way on many things, particularly technology. i don't think Neel ever was fully on board with the Dean plan (50-states, 36-counties), or at least it didn't feel like from our neck of the woods (bend of the river). this isn't to say he was bad or wrong, just that he had a different view and approach. that he was successful in helping take back the Leg and re-electing Kulo is both great and irrelevant. it's not 2006 anymore, and 2007 is only a quick blip on the calendar before next year's election madness starts.

    i hope Mac Pritchard is elected Chair for the simple reason that i know he gets and actively supports the progressive, grassroots program now being championed, and to great success, by Dean. i'm pretty sure all 4 candidates will do so, but i know Mac will. and i hope that Neel's replacement truly has drunk that kool-aid. if we are going to maintain and build Dem majorities, and elect Barack, i mean a Democrat as president; Oregon needs an ED of DPO who will push the 36-county plan adamantly. we have great people on staff around the state, and a growing body of wonderful local volunteers. they need the full and active support of DPO, which has not been there to the extent that will be needed in the future.

    good luck, Neel; working with Stan Amy, you'll be doing good work (i'm an ex-Nature's employee). and thanks for what you did for Oregon and DPO.

  • LT (unverified)

    With all due respect, is this really about Neel or about the Democratic Party?

    Am I the only one here who remembers when Paddy McGuire was Exec. Director and the state party office was in Salem?

    (By the way, Paddy doesn't seem to be working at Sec. of State office anymore--what is he doing now?)

    One good thing about Blue Oregon is the ability to call a friend and say "read ---- on Blue Oregon and discuss it among your friends--some of us have been discussing this topic among ourselves long before blogs existed".

    Even if Neel was the great man some here say he was, the fact remains that there were those of us who didn't understand the role of DPO in elections, who saw some candidates given lots of attention and others (often from small towns without rich or well-connected friends) seemed to be ignored. Or was it the old "sorry your district has a lousy R to D ration--nothing we can do about that" message? There seemed to be lots of folks at the ground level in rural/ semi-rural counties Kari and Jesse probably don't visit on a regular basis wondering just exactly what DPO did to help elections. Was it fundraising? Was it turnout in the Metro counties? If you polled activists from all county parties, how many would say they'd had regular interaction with Neel or DPO? Maybe this is something for State Chair candidates to address.

    I got an email from a friend in a rural county thanking me for my tactful comment here and saying "I won't be commenting, because I couldn't be that tactful". This was someone once active at the county, district and state level to the point of burnout.

    Kari, are you really saying we have a contested State Chair election due to Neel?

    I am one of many Democrats who don't understand what DPO does for rural candidates. I am grateful to Jenny Greenleaf for her response to my comment saying there are others who don't understand all the relationships between various Dem. organizations.

    Dave Hunt said "Neel brought everyone together under one literal "tent" of offices, enabling closer working partnerships and coordination between the DPO, House and Senate D's, and others. He also consistently fought for all Oregon Democrats to be included in one broad "tent" regardless of ideology, gender, orientation, faith, geography, etc. "

    Perhaps at the DPO meeting this weekend, if not before, someone could explain how that "working partnerships and coordination" actively helped the Gilbertson campaign in Dist. 59, as well as campaigns in Coos, Curry, Deschutes, Crook, Linn, Marion, Polk, Douglas, Lincoln, Yamhill, and other counties. Jesse, in all your work, how often were you or Neel actually in any of those counties? Kari, how often were you actually in any of those counties?

    It seems to me the Oregon Bus Project deserves as much credit for the legislative majorities as DPO, Edmunson, and Pender.

    But what do I know? I'm one of those people Kari apparently doesn't like--a person who is glad Jim Hill carried Polk County.

    Pat and Oregonians Not Living In Portland, thank you for your remarks.

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    The DPO has been extraordinarily fortunate to have a talented and dedicated professional like Neel Pender as it's Executive Director. Neel and Jim, and the remarkable people they have recruited to the DPO for terrible pay and long hours are a large part of why our state has gone from red to blue. They moved our party from good to great and have brought about change that will benefit an entire generation of future Oregonians.

    I have worked in much larger, and more brightly blue, states than Oregon where the state party was much less well organized, less effective, and less helpful to its candidates.

    Under Neel's and Jim's leadership we have had kick-ass summits (held far from Portland I might add), the largest rallies in state history, coordinated get-out-the vote efforts across the state, better fundraising and support for candidates and county parties (including revenue sharing), better candidate recruitment and training, better coordination among candidates, and more success than we've had in decades.

    The numbers speak for themselves. Its up to us, however, to let Neel, Jim, and their families know how much we appreciate all the sacrifices they have made for us.

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    TA wrote: i don't think Neel ever was fully on board with the Dean plan (50-states, 36-counties), or at least it didn't feel like from our neck of the woods (bend of the river).

    Too bad Howard Dean disagrees with you. That, and the facts. Here's Howard's quote, from above:

    Neel was also instrumental in building a consensus around the need for all state parties to recommit to reaching out to every voter, in every part of every state. Neel played an important role in making the DNC's 50 State Strategy such a success.

    It's quite underappreciated here in Oregon how instrumental Neel was in the 50-state strategy. He was a key player in convincing his colleagues - particularly the ones from swing states that used to get 100% of the resources - that Howard's strategy was a winning one.

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    LT, I won't take your bait. I'll just ask one simple question: How many volunteers did you produce for legislative candidates in 2006? With one single project (not BlueOregon), I delivered 1750 volunteers - who averaged 3.2 campaigns apiece - to all 54 Oregon House Democratic campaigns.

    But this isn't about me. It's about the campaigns, the volunteers, and the grassroots. I don't want any credit. I get more than my share as it is.

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    One doesn't serve as the Exec. Director of the DPO for eight years and worry about the constant arm chair quarterbacking that comes with the job - especially critcism from someone who isn't willing to post a comment on a blog under their own name. The fact is Neel took an organization that was, for all intents and purposes, defunct and irrelvent and built it into one of the strongest, most effective state parties in the nation.

    Before Neel came on board, the DPO was nothing more than a dysfunctional liberal debating society (anyone remember the 1994 platform convention? Despite my best efforts to forget about it, I do.) Now, thanks to Neel, the party is a well oiled election winning machine.

    Neel is considered to be one of the best, if not THE best, party Executive Directors in the nation. In addition to his incredible work in Oregon, without asking for any credit, Neel has mentored Exec. Directors in several other states and helped dramatically improve the national party following the big losses in 2004.

    I don't think we will fully realize just how lucky we've been during Neel's eight years as Executive Director until he's gone. His replacement has huge shoes to fill.

  • Jules Kopel-Bailey (unverified)

    The Democratic Party of Oregon without Neel Pender? Say it ain't so!

    I'd like to add my own note to the praise, which Neel richly deserves. Many of you have noted Neel's strategic strengths and political acumen, as well as his organizational skills and ability to carry the Democratic message. But I will always remember Neel Pender as the Glue Guy.

    Every good sports team has a Glue Guy. The Glue Guy often works in the background and lets others take the credit - but he's rock solid and there when you need him. The Glue Guy never thumps his chest or pumps himself up after a big play - he makes sure the role of the team is understood. The Glue Guy doesn't rack up long balls, or slam dunks, he does the detail work that makes all that possible.

    But most importantly the Glue Guy holds the team together. He's a mentor, a listener, a role model, and when it's called for, a joker. On the campaign I worked for Neel, he was our Glue Guy. We didn't win, but when things were coming apart at the seams Neel kept everyone together. I was new to politics and he always took the time to listen to my ideas, good and bad, and offer advice. From everything I've seen, he ran the DPO the same way. And frankly, the proof is there. I'm proud to live in a state as blue as Oregon.

    The next chair of the DPO will be hard pressed to find a Glue Guy like Neel. He leaves big shoes to fill.

  • Jules Kopel-Bailey (unverified)

    And no, Jon and I didn't coordinate on the last lines of our posts. We must've been typing that line at the same time - so it must be true!

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    My experience with Neel has been nothing but pleasant despite the fact that I'm just a mere PCP. So I have a hard time believing that he would act dismissively towards someone unless that person was really asking for it. Quite frankly, one of the things you learn while volunteering is that not everyone you meet, even in a friendly political setting, is emotionally mature. While it comes out more in online forums, even face to face you meet petulant types who consider it their job to tell everyone what "the Democrats" should do and then, not really counting themselves as such, weasel out of volunteering themselves. If Neel's greatest flaw is that he does not suffer fools gladly, then that is high praise indeed.

    Good luck in your endeavors, Mr. Pender. Don't be a stranger.

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    I don't really know Neel Pender--I think I met him once--but I've got to say that some of the DPO-badmouthing is over-the-top.

    To say that the DPO did nothing to win in rural counties in 2006 is counterfactual and nuts. I managed Jean Cowan's race in HD 10, which includes 3 of the counties which LT says were ignored. This district is rural as hell, and I felt that our race was always a top priority for the state party. We were held to the same standard as everyone else: the candidate showed them she 1. could win and 2. was willing to do what it took to win, and the campaign became a priority for the DPO--especially for Jesse Bontecou. I am pretty sure, though, that we never allowed Jesse to wear any of Jean Cowan's shoes.

    Do you think they spent all their money in Portland?

  • Tom Markgraf (unverified)

    In the waning days of the 2000 election, we nearly lost Oregon to George Bush. And we would have if a group of us hadn’t stepped in and took control from those nice east-coast-pros running Gore’s campaign who didn’t know the state. With Neel at the helm we turned the election and won by a razor thin 6753 vote margin.

    Four years later we crushed Bush in Oregon and Neel deserves a lot of credit for the work, money raised and organization that happened. Good on you Neel. Under your leadership, we made Democrats an organized party.

    Thank you for so much.

    Tom Markgraf

  • Democrat (unverified)

    In all honesty, here's my problem as a life-long Democrat when I read at lot of what has been written here.

    Frankly, given it had reached the point of "we just can't take much more of this" by this last election, the results of the supposed party "rebuilding" effort here actually look pretty bad. Yea, the DPO leadership may have helped enough people (representative of a very narrow demographic) who call themselves "Democrats" get elected in Oregon, but they sure haven't gotten a large number of good, true, hard-fighting Democrats elected. A few examples I simply cannot overlook as a hard-core Democrat:

    Oregonians are still fighting in two wars that we are loosing, and which it was obvious we were destined to lose from the outset, because the real problems we faced would only be exacerbated by war, as they undeniably have been. Our truly ignorant governor still can't admit the principle on which he supported those wars is fundamentally wrong, and certainly is not in keeping with core Democratic Party values. Furthermore, he has betrayed our party values by doing absolutely nothing to use the power of his office to stop these two disasters of our own making. And only a true idiot believes state governors don't have significant political power to wield on matters of such immense national importance as this.

    Our poor excuse for a Democratic Senator has done exactly zero in the last six years to establish himself as credible, outspoken opponent of the war, or of how the Democratic Party has sold out working people to corporate interests. To the contrary, his solution to the health care crisis is to force us to buy private health insurance from those interests. As prelude that only makes his health insurance plan all the more outrageous, four years earlier he voted for the predatory bankruptcy bill with the full knowledge that catastrophic health care crises are one of the leading reasons that working folks end up in a state where they should declare bankruptcy without any moral qualms. (His plan at best weakly redresses this situation.)

    And in this state, so far the big compromise on the "corporate" kicker was mainly a bunch of "Democrats" in name only saying they don't have what it takes to bring something as fundamentally Democratic --- and in the interest of working people --- as this to the ballot and then wage the political fight to win.

    Before some of you get your noses out of joint, let me help you with that by pointedly reminding you it's not a two-way street: Those who would be elected as Democratic leaders need the votes of what used to be the base like me and those we've lost through our own incompetence. But sadly, since as I just illustrated the kind of folks who apparently the DPO likes to count as success stories don't represent Democratic values very well at all, in the end I don't feel that I've lost that much when they don't get elected. I'd never vote for any of the opponents we typically see, but I sometimes now find myself not voting in a particular race. And I certainly am not inspired any more to work to help get any of these betrayers and clowns elected, or to contribute money to their campaigns.

    So why the back-slapping and high-fives about the successes of the last several years?

  • LT (unverified)

    Patton, Glad to read your comments.

    However, about this:

    We were held to the same standard as everyone else: the candidate showed them she 1. could win and 2. was willing to do what it took to win, and the campaign became a priority for the DPO--especially for Jesse Bontecou.

    Jean was running for the second time. My concern is about first time candidates who do not know without being told what "showed them she could win" and "was willing to do what it took to win" mean. Does it mean starting to canvass neighborhoods in 2007? Does it mean sharing fundraising information with FP or DPO? Does it mean raising a certain amount of money by Filing Day in March of the election year? Does it mean opening an office and hiring a paid campaign manager by a certain date because those are essential and if someone is unable to raise the money or find a quality campaign manager who shares their philosophy they shouldn't be running? Does "what it takes to win" in Lincoln County translate to Douglas County or Deschutes County or Yamhill County?

    Awhile back on another topic, Sal Peralta posted an excellent long comment on what he had learned about running for state rep. If the Democratic Party were to take something like that, show it to every potential candidate and say "are you willing and able to do this?--if not, don't run" that would be fine. I know there was some sort of effort in that regard in 2006, but quality requires evaluation. Would the 54 candidates Kari talks about all say they were given excellent preparation for running in 2006?

    There are others who would agree with TA saying "working as a near-full time volunteer in Benton County for 3 years, the lack of support we received from DPO was extremely discouraging. we had to go our own way on many things", and if the folks here don't like that attitude, they should attend a Benton or Linn or Polk or Marion or Yamhill Dems meeting and say so. Of course, that would require a drive to visit those counties.

    I have heard varied reports locally about whether there was follow through on a variety of things too numerous to go into here. There were some candidates who got more support than other candidates, and the "mentor" system apparently worked better for some candidates than for others. There are stories about candidates dipping into their savings during the campaign because money was tight. Should candidates not run unless they have a certain level of savings to dip into--and should they be told as they are being recruited that such dipping into savings might be necessary? I seem to recall Peter Buckley saying at one point after the election that some things worked out better than others. Honest evaluations specify things like that.

    The Democratic Party has a decision to make about the legislative districts which currently have Republican incumbents. Will they draw up parameters of the ideal candidate (perhaps someone with political connections, or a local elected official, or someone who has fundraising experience, or someone with rich friends or organizational contacts to raise lots of money) then go looking for such a person?

    Or might the legislature and the caucus benefit from the folks from small towns who have varied experience and a great life story, but their friends are all of humble means and would have to budget anything more than a $10 contribution?

    I don't think that has been addressed here or elsewhere. Yes, Neel did some great things, but are we to believe he was the secret to Gilbertson only losing to Dallum by a couple hundred votes? Did Jesse ever visit that district? Did he ever visit Marion or Polk or Yamhill or Linn Co. Dems?

    I am very glad Jean Cowan and Brian Clem won. But I worry about recruiting for other districts in 2008 if these issues are not address in 2007. These are questions being discussed in face to face conversations, whether bloggers want to discuss them or not.

  • LT (unverified)

    Tom, you answered a question many others have not answered: "Which elections did DPO help win, and in what way?".

    I asked a question (of an individual from DPO) at the state central comm. meeting last September about the role of DPO in elections, and was told they didn't get involved in any indivudal races, just general stuff. You gave a clearer answer than I was given at the DPO meeting.

  • Democrat (unverified)

    If TA is in Morse's Senate district in Benton, he might be able to comment how much, or little, the DPO and the Benton County Democrats did to help Mario Magana, the Democrat challenger, run against the Republican incumbent Morse for the state Senate in a district which certainly could and should be won by a Democrat.

    I remember thinking at the time that the low visibility of the challenger was a head-scratcher, but I'm not in a position to know why that was.

    It's fair to say it is a lot easier for the DPO to claim success when they were selective in being active in races the candidate is situated to do well, if not outright win, without help from the DPO.

  • (Show?)

    This district is rural as hell, and I felt that our race was always a top priority for the state party...We were held to the same standard as everyone else: the candidate showed them he 1. could win and 2. was willing to do what it took to win

    That's simply not the case.

    HD10 had been targeted before Cowan ever agreed to enter the race. Before the last session even ended groups were doing field work in HD10. The level of support Cowan got in 2006 when she campaigned hard was roughly the same level of support that she had in 2004 when she didn't.

    That aside, you are correct when you say that the real issue is not PDX versus rural. The real issue is targeted versus non-targeted.

    If you are not in a targeted district, you may as well not exist for all of the support that you are going to get from the state Democratic Party, Future Pac, or other progressive orgs. It's actually worse than not existing, because those groups will try to pull money and other resources out of your district to support the key targets.

    That was good for Jean Cowan in 2006. For Jim Gilbertson? Not so much.

    And then there are people like Mike Caudle, Jason Brown, and a host of other candidates who stepped up to campaign in impossible races who could not even get a phone call returned by certain ED's and staffers.

    Caveat Emptor.

    For the record, my campaign in 2006 went from being non-targeted for 6 months to targeted 2 days after the ballots were mailed. It was as though someone turned on a faucet. People who had been ducking my calls for months started calling me with offers for support.

    I believed before the 2006 campaign, and I still believe today, that the reason why it has taken the Democrats so long to reclaim the house and senate in oregon despite the voter registration edge in many heretofore Republican districts, is that too little money is allocated to field work versus very overpriced one-off ad buys; that ED's and staff for the progressive side don't really understand voters in Oregon all that well outside of the UGB's of the major cities in a half dozen counties; that too much emphasis is placed on party affiliation when targeting voters; and that not enough resources are allocated by the DPO for long-term movement-building for campaigns and/or communities that are outside of targeted districts.

  • (Show?)

    I'll just ask one simple question: How many volunteers did you produce for legislative candidates in 2006? With one single project (not BlueOregon), I delivered 1750 volunteers - who averaged 3.2 campaigns apiece - to all 54 Oregon House Democratic campaigns.

    Kari, you're an important thought leader, and you know I love ya, but you're in dire need of a reality check if you believe that "Help Earl Decide" "delivered 1750 volunteers".

    Delivered to whom? I can count on 1 hand the number of people who signed up to help me who weren't already engaged with the campaign.

  • Democrat (unverified)

    One last thing, as one who has worked in the state headquarters for two presidential campaigns (different state, different era), this statement is more than just a little bizarre:

    And we would have if a group of us hadn’t stepped in and took control from those nice east-coast-pros running Gore’s campaign who didn’t know the state.

    A state party operation could not have "stepped in and took control" in the bragging way your sentence conveys. There was no way a state party or anyone can take control from the candidate's own campaign organization if the candidate doesn't actively invite it. That was the case when I was working in those campaigns, and if anything, knowing folks who worked in Gore and Kerry campaigns elsewhere, that was even less possible by 2000 and 2004 when Presidential campaigns became even more about controlling the message. On top of that, as a simple commonsense legal matter you can't force the candidate's campaign people to leave the state, or to stop spending money campaigning however they want to campaign.

    Now if you're saying that the Gore campaign had given up on the state, and either invited or stood aside for the DPO to come in, that's quite a different situation than as you represent it here. On the other hand, if you essentially ran a parallel operation (particularly in the end game) that is the norm, so you didn't do anything unusual at all. In that case, whether you or the candidate's own organization made the margin of difference would simply be a matter of semantics.

    As far as the 2004 Presidential race, you and the DPO are cracked in the head if you think your effort was responsible for the majority of the difference in the margin. The far more polarized political environment in 2004 compared to 2000, including two wars that had already gone on one year (Iraq) and two years (Afghanistan) longer than how they were sold, was by far and away responsible for the more of the margin than anything you could have done in your wildest dreams.

    As I noted earlier, it's this strange slant on political reality, whether it is about what Democratic values are or the role the DPO actually has played in recent elections, that is so offputting about the DPO to some of us.

  • (Show?)

    Sal, yeah - it's true that I haven't got any clue who was already engaged with your campaign. But I'm pretty sure that Larry Galizio didn't already have 700 volunteers signed up.

    Help Earl Decide was a tiny little part of the effort to take back the House -- but I raise it purely as an example to rebut LT's evidence-free assertion that major leaders in this state didn't do anything for anyone.

    I'm still interested in the premise of that question though. Why do folks assume that because they run for office they're automatically entitled to support?

    LT asked, Does it mean starting to canvass neighborhoods in 2007? ... Does it mean raising a certain amount of money by Filing Day in March of the election year?

    Yes, you're damn right it does. I did an analysis of the races from 1998 to 2002 (in advance of the '04 elections.) There is a direct and crystal-clear correlation between winning and raising your first dollar in Sept/Oct of the year previous. And a direct and crystal-clear correlation between losing and raising your first dollar around filing day. Start early and win. Start late and lose.

    People, seriously. If you want to run for office, then run. Put together a campaign, and run hard to win. No one owes you anything just because you filled out a form on filing day. Get your own education. Write your own plan. Organize your own campaign.

    Sal, you did a great job of that. You ran and ran hard. You didn't want out-of-district PAC money, and you didn't get it. Personally, I think yours was one of the great campaigns of all time -- it didn't work out as we all hoped, but you ran hard and you ran to win.

    I've seen too many candidates who won't work, won't canvass, won't raise money -- and then bitch and moan because "no one would help me". You know what? Like it or not, we don't have a strong party system in America like they do in Europe. Our politics is first and foremost about individual leaders. America is run by the people who show up.

    (And frankly, when we've had a strong party system - it's progressives like us who railed against the political machines and party bosses. Does anybody really want to go back to the age of Tammany Hall?)

  • Democrat (unverified)

    Put together a campaign, and run hard to win. No one owes you anything just because you filled out a form on filing day. Get your own education. Write your own plan. Organize your own campaign.

    What you say is a given, and the sign of an ignorant party if that is the sum, or even the core, of the party's philosophy. And I do I find this to be representative of the views of Northwestern Democratic politicos. (Republican's too, it's just that they make no pretense of having decent political values.) It's exactly this kind of smug, vacuous comment that is the reason we have sunk to electing such poor examples for Democrats in this state and region.

    The purpose of a mature and accomplished political party is to educate and develop good candidates, and also to provide some fundamental resources, to help them win. Particularly, challengers to entrenched incumbents. Spare me the juvenile take on the political equivalent of candidates pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. Every once in a while you get a gem of a leader that way, most of the time you get "leaders" who are part of the problem and not of the solution like we do here. I personally prefer upping the percentage of those who are part of the solution.

    And by the way, EMILY's - Early Money Is Like Yeast - List, already has trademarked this bit of cynical "wisdom" how to elect poor defenders of true Democratic Party values regardless of whether they really stand for anything: There is a direct and crystal-clear correlation between winning and raising your first dollar in Sept/Oct of the year previous. (or earlier). The even more cynical version, which Democrats have also fallen back on, is find someone who is rich or who is the toady of someone who is rich.

    Real inspiring and visionary politics that is.

  • Hard Working Volunteer (unverified)

    Kari wrote: "No one owes you anything just because you filled out a form on filing day ... I've seen too many candidates who won't work, won't canvass, won't raise money -- and then bitch and moan because 'no one would help me' ... Our politics is first and foremost about individual leaders. America is run by the people who show up."

    Can I get an AMEN here!?

    The sense of privilege, entitlement, and assumed power I've seen in some candidates, simply because they filed for office, has been a mind-blowing aspect of getting active in the party over the past few years. Anyone who files for office without expecting to be their own number one volunteer, fundraiser, stamp-licker, copywriter, and long-walking canvasser deserves to be thoroughly ignored by the rest of the party, as the chump they most clearly are.

    We are (virtually) all volunteers here. No candidate should dare to assume they have any right to my time, money, and volunteer labor. The money and labor generated by the party structure must be directed to enhance winnable campaigns, not create campaigns from whole cloth because someone woke up some morning and decided they want to see their name in the paper.

    We need party leaders who understand how to generate and direct our labor and money to greatest strategic advantage, not massage egos.

  • Jason Leon (unverified)

    I'm a daily reader of blue Oregon and appreciate all of the great posts and thoughtful discourse. I'm always forwarding things to my colleagues here at the DNC because the content is so good.

    I'd like to put a something to bed here though. I've seen a few comments here and there where people have questioned whether or not Neel Pender "is really on board with Governor Dean's 50 State Strategy."

    Working for Governor Dean as his Deputy Political Director directly responsible for overseeing the 50 state strategy, I can shed some light on this. Without hesitation, Neel is on board. I don't think may in Oregon understand how crucial Neel's leadership has been in building our national strategy.

    Neel was helping us even before the DNC headquarters was fully staffed after Governor Dean's election as chair. Neel was one of our team who conducted site visits into other states, meeting with state party staff, allied organization and candidates who won and those that lost(who might of had something to say about the support they did or did not get from their state party.) He then worked with us in to come up with staffing recommendations that we took to Governor Dean for approval.

    In his role as the head of the Executive Directors, he has been a driving force in our planning and implementation with state parties. We have hosted several working retreats with all of the state parties to work on phase II of the 50 State Strategy Guess who leads those work sessions? Neel.

    Funding staff in all 50 states to build infrastructure and run voter contact programs year round is the right thing to do for the health of the party and has changed the outcome of races from the top of the the ticket down all over the country. This is something we are committed to.

    The DNC staff in Oregon, Justin, Jesse, Autumn and Cyreena are easily among the best in the country and this is not only a testament to their skills and dedication but also of Neel's day-to-day guidance.

    Often before making crucial decisions, politcal and programatic we call Neel for his perspective. I know that many things in states can be done better and that coordination and communication with county parties, PCP's and the grassroots can improve, but from where I stand the DPO is one the best state parties in the country.

    If anyone has further questions about this or anything else, send me an email, [email protected].


    Jason Leon

    P.S. Good luck to all of the great candidates running for chair!

  • (Show?)

    I've seen too many candidates who won't work, won't canvass, won't raise money -- and then bitch and moan because "no one would help me".

    I agree. But there are also plenty of candidates in every election cycle who work hard, canvass, raise money, etc. who couldn't get a phone call returned in 2006 because no one who mattered thought they had a chance.

    Mike Caudle and Jim Gilbertson come to mind in that regard.

    My only real complaint is that some people came into the district and told major donors that my race wasn't a target and that their money would be better spent elsewhere.

    This isn't about people asking for handouts from the political parties, it's about a team supporting its players in the field -- especially those who are working hard at delivering a message.

    As for Galizio... I'm not surprised by the number of supporters he has. The guy knocked on 6000+ doors in 2004, the King City Dems regularly draw 100+ to their meetings, and the Washington County Dems are, in my opinion, the most effective county party organization in Oregon. Plus he's been a key target for the Bus Project and several membership organizations over the last 2 cycles.

  • (Show?)

    I'm still interested in the premise of that question though. Why do folks assume that because they run for office they're automatically entitled to support?

    I agree that people who don't campaign don't deserve support. When I was county chair for Yamhill County, we actually had candidates in 2004 who actually refused support because they didn't want to campaign.

    I'm not talking about those candidates.

    But a large number of the people who run for office, especially in the tougher districts, are committed volunteers who have put in time helping to build the Democratic Party in this state.

    In tough districts, the only rewards for filing for office lies in delivering a message and building a movement. And in districts like HD24, or some of the other tough districts, the only people promoting a progressive agenda are the state legislative candidates.

    My feeling is that although we want to win now, the party also has an obligation to take a longer range view of politics than do the house caucus committees.

    I believe that every legislative candidate who builds a real campaign and wins in the Democratic primary deserves a measure of support from the state party infrastructure regardless of what the voter registration is in their district.

    Outside of voter file access, that just isn't happening in Oregon right now.

  • Val (unverified)

    As a Democratic Party activist also not living in Portland, I have to say that my experience has been completely different than a couple of the unhappy people who have posted on this site. Here in Lane County we worked very hard to get Democrats elected and Neel Pender was an incredible asset both in terms of honest advice and support for our campaign efforts in the urban and rural areas of our districts. We won every single race that we targeted over the past two years and we wouldn't have been able to achieve those goals without the support of the DPO and Neel Pender in particular. I will miss Neel and wish him the best; he certainly is one of the most politically astute and dedicated Democrats that I have worked with in 31 years that I have been working on political campaigns.

    If you don’t like Neel or have issues with the current Chair, the fact that they are leaving should be enough for you to move on and have a happy day. Publicly posting such mean spirited personal attacks on this site is like a web based sucker punch and at the very least shows a lack of class, courage and anger management skills. Honestly, when I see that people like Howard Dean, Charlie Burr, Patty Wentz, Rep. Dave Hunt, Chuck Butcher, Dan Carol, Mac Pritchard, Kari Chisolm, Jesse Cornett and Jenny Greenleaf have (people who generally not prone to giving undeserved praise), it really puts the likes of Mr. Ryan and the anonymous non-Portlander in perspective.

    And finally to respond to two of the issues brought up by the “Oregonian not living in Portland”: If you think that we won our races in Lane County because we were miraculously bailed out by the most blue areas of Eugene, you are sadly mistaken. We won the races in Lane County by working together with all areas of Lane County and with people from all different communities, Youth, Seniors, Labor, Choice, GLBT, Peace Activists, Environmentalists, Gun Owners, Farmers, Teachers, Communities of Color, and many others. We built our outreach program on the 50 State, 36 County Strategy and we won specifically because we didn’t focus all of our efforts exclusively in South Eugene but rather because we started engaging people at their doors.

    And finally, Neel Pender is the Executive of the Democratic Party of Oregon not the “Everybody under the Sun Party of Oregon”. The reason that there are different political parties is that not all of us want the same thing. During Neel and Jim Edmunson’s tenure, we won back the Statehouse, the Senate and kept the Governor in office. We have worked closely with Pacific Greens and other interest groups on certain issues but the fact is that Neel’s job and the job of the new Chair and ED will be to help make the Democratic Party of Oregon stronger and get Democrats elected. Jim and Neel worked with us at the County level to make that happen. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have worked with both of them.


  • (Show?)

    FYI - Jason Leon's comment is getting bumped to a full post.

  • LT (unverified)

    Sal, you are wonderful and I hope you are coming to the DPO election of officers at Chemeketa this Saturday so I can finally meet you.

    Maybe people will believe things if you say them but will not believe anyone else saying them.

    Jason Brown ran in an "impossible" district, against a war veteran who had run for Congress, but how much support did he get outside of those of us who knew him in the mid-Willamette valley? Alan, the Polk Dem. Chair, did a great thing at our Salem election night party making sure no one left the room at the end of the evening before Jason had been praised from the stage and invited up to speak.

    That said, did Neel or Kari, or Jesse, or anyone else from the Portland area ever meet Jason, or even know his wife's name? And anyone who says he didn't campaign hard would hear the equivalent of "them's fighting words" from those of us who know him.

    Also, I got an email from a friend who lives in a county south of this area. He said,

    Esquivel, Nelson and Sumner were almost defeated by underfunded candidates who received no support from the DPO, FuturePAC, and the wonks Kari and Neel, and who had no choice but to rely on the old-fashioned notion long abandoned by our fearless party leaders: Having a coherent message that resonates with voters!

    Yes, we can all be proud for taking back the Legislature. But like a war, victories are won at the battlefield and seldom according to plan. Kari and Neel don’t quite get that, and for that they will always be losers. Republicans were unorganized in 2006…it would be a mistake to expect them to repeat that in 2008.

    Even if Neel and Kari have won every award in the book and have lots of praise heaped on them from those who know them, does that change the perception that in 2006 there were 2 kinds of candidates: targets and forgotten?

  • Grant Schott (unverified)

    Neel did a great job. I think some people are exaggerating the role of the DPO, though. They might be in the same building as Future PAC and the Senate Caucus fund, but those two orgs. aren't controlled by DPO, but by the caucus members and the big donors (mainly unions and trial lawyers.)

    As Jim Gilbertson's consultant/manager (This is Dist 59 against Dallum, not Jim Gilbert from Mollala), I appreciate Sal's mention of him. It is true that most phone calls were unreturned. Only SEIU and UFCW gave $ (about $250 each) One union sent their questionnaire in August with less than two weeks to respond from the mailing date, and wouldn't accept it a day late.

    It is too bad that Jim, Sal, and a few other competative candidates in rural area lost narrowly with no help while the party paid big money for a lot of landslides. That's hind site, I realize. There was no way of knowing how much of a Dem. sweep we would see and there was no way of knowing that Clem, Galzaio, etc... would win so big.

    We should rejoice at finally having the house back, but that 31 vote majority can disappear quickly. We need to continue to cultivate those winnable areas like Medford, McMinnvile, and Wasco/Jefferson counties. Those county parties need to step up. Jim carried Jefferson Co. by 10 points because he walked it heavily. He had essentially no help there.

  • Jesse Bontecou (unverified)

    To LT - I know Jason Brown, I know Lisanne Pearcy, I know Alan Holland, I know Karen Green. I have been to Polk county 6 or 7 times I have talked to thier central committe several times and i am going to continue to do so working with them is one of the best parts of my job. I hope that this next round in 2008 we are more organized with a stronger Democratic county fondation to work from and that is what i will be spending the next year and half working to do. I hope LT you will be an allie in this project and that i can count on you as we move ahead.

  • Sadie (unverified)

    Congratulations Neel! I too would like to thank you for a very difficult job well done. I can't imagine putting in the hours that you have for the past 8 years!

    As a full time mom and child care provider, who also happens to have volunteered for the House Party Team, I know for a fact that Neel has always gladly listened to the people of this state no matter where they live or what their job is.

    I also know that Neel took the 50 state strategy to heart and is a big part of the reason we have Democrats participating in every corner of this state. As volunteer coordinator for the Speakers Bureau on the House Party Team, my job wasn't to find speakers for House Parties in Portland, it was to get speakers to every party in the state whenever possible.

    I have been volunteering with the DPO for a few years now, and I've never once thought, "Gee these people don't work hard enough." You don't have to walk a mile in their shoes, you just have to volunteer - and you don't have to live in Portland to volunteer, there are things you can do right in your own community.

    Best of luck Neel!

  • Oregonian not living in Portland (unverified)


    I'm saddened all you see are people taking cheep shots at Neel on his way out the door. This is not true. The people expressing themselves have done so in the past.

    I'm glad to hear you experiences were good with the DPO. As they should have been. Jim Edmonson was from Eugene and he did not let his organization forget his roots.

    But get past the shots at Neel and try to see where these comments are coming from.

    Maybe your a part of the "Member's Only Club" of the DPO. Maybe you were given the time of day because the Gov needed Lane County to win so you got support from the state party. Maybe your just good enough, smart enough and doggoneit people like you. Who knows.

    But the people you point out "Howard Dean, Charlie Burr, Patty Wentz, Rep. Dave Hunt, Chuck Butcher, Dan Carol, Mac Pritchard, Kari Chisolm, Jesse Cornett, Jenny Greenleaf" they all be members of the club (or at least have reason enough not to take a shots at the current club ownership).

    Every person who is making comments about Neel's "Leadership" have a common theme. "The DPO is does not represent represents those in charge." In 2006 the DPO had three priorities "Get the Gov reelected" "Get the Gov reelected" and "do just enough for the Oregon House (only in places with high democrat registration) to keep them quite so we can get the Gov reelected."

    If you're cool with that strategy then great. But do me a favor and stop calling the DPO the Democratic Party of Oregon and starting calling it the Democratic Party of where Democrats live in high density.

    It will save candidates like Sal Peralta, Jim Gibertson, and democrats from eastern Oregon from making wasted phone calls.

  • Chris Matson (unverified)

    I haven't written anything here in over a year...been too busy. Besides, like it is said: "Those who do, do...those who don't, talk."

    However, I believe that the impending depatrures of Neel Pender and Jim Edmunson brings this party at a crossroads, not unlike several others I have witnessed in my 25+ years of political activity (yes Jon, I remember not only the 1994 convention, I remember the midnight raid on the 1990 platform and the fiasco that was David Dix that led to the GOP stranglehold on our legislature).

    First off, in answer to Kari's Question: "Why do folks assume that because they run for office they're automatically entitled to support?"

    Because that is the nature of political parties, to provide support to any Democrat who has the guts, or stupidity (depending on your level of cynicism) to run for partisan office. And unlike advocacy groups who can accept or reject members based upon a certain criteria or set of beliefs, all it takes to be a member of the Democratic Party is to register as a Democrat...period.

    Now obviously that level of support varies. However, at a minimum the party should provide every Democrat the technical assistance (such as targeting information and campaign finance assistance), training opportunities and access to the rank-and-file that creates the basework for any campaign to become viable if need be. Republicans do this routinely, without regard to a candidate's "viability." Unfortunately we do not.

    And if we can't do that, then get the hell out of the way and let us with the knowledge and experience do it for them (i.e. stop with the backbiting, the insults on the blogs, and the blacklisting of local consultants whom you don't like).

    As for the party under Neel and Jim's leadership, there have been good times, and there have been bad times. I believe that the overall theme of this thread is about those differences.

    On the one hand, it is true that Neel and Jim gave us a better organized party. I think the statewide elections last November proved that. I think the level of fundraising and outreach to the most active segments of our party prove that too. I believe that they have attempted to balance the needs of the relatively new urban "progressives" in our party with the needs of old-time downstate Democrats who decended from the original progressive and new-deal movememts that used to define rural Democrats such as John Kitzhaber and Bill Bradbury (and still define Peter DeFazio).

    On the other hand, the centralization of the party, particularly in urban Portland, has come at a price. Under their leadership, the fastest growing party in Oregon has become the "non-affiliated" party. While Republican registration has remained relatively flat in 25 years, not enough Democrats are registering to replace those who die or leave the party. This is particularly true in rural areas, once the bastion of Democratic strongholds. In 1999, the Republican edge in Douglas County, the home county of John Kitzhaber, was less than one half of one percent. Today, there is a 14% GOP edge. In that same time period, 5,000 Democrats left the party in Douglas County...2,000 to join the Non-Affiliates, and 3,000 to join the GOP. The same goes for Curry County, where almost 1,000 Democrats left the party in the same time-frame. In Josephine County, 1,500. In Jackson County, 2,500 Democrats left. In Lane County, former Democratic strongholds like Cottage Grove, Creswell, Coburg and Veneta have gone Republican. Even Democratic cities like Springfield, Oakridge and Westfir are loosing party members. Not enough Democrats are registering to replace them.

    The result is an ever increasing concentration of Democrats in urban srongholds such as Portland, Eugene, Corvallis and Ashland, while Republicans continue to dominate in surrounding districts where Democrats once held power. And with it comes the marginalization of our party and the driving of our philosophy farther to the left, as urban progressives exert more and more influence in party policy, further accelerating the bleeding of rural centrists and working-class families who are already leaving the party in droves (according to the voter rolls).

    We already see it in the divide between Portland and downstate Democrats. We also see the division between those of us who have been here a while and those who recently moved here from elsewhere. We also see a division between traditional liberals and the new "progressives," and we particularly see the division most of all in the very vocal minority who call themselves "progressive" but clearly do not support progress.

    For good or bad, Neel and Jim have given Oregon Democrats a well-tuned party structure. It needed to be done. And in a small way, it helped us win last November. However, it is still a structure without direction, and there is much more that remains unfinished.

    A first step would be to have a serious discussion about moving the party back to the seat of state government where it belongs (we can keep the fundraising in Portland for those of you who continue to use that as an excuse as to why the Democratic Party of Oregon should be kept 50 miles away from the pedistal of the Golden Pioneer). This would be the one clear move that would send disenfranchised Democrats (and Republicans) the message that the party of the people will no longer retreat, no longer give an inch , and no longer surrender our right to represent the working people of Oregon that Democrats have always represented.

    Will we fulfill the purpose of the party and allow ALL Democrats a seat at the table in determining our direction? Or shall we sit complacant and fighting amongst ourselves while the soul of our party drifts away?

    Party leaders, are you listening? I know the Republicans are.

  • (Show?)

    I'd like to point out that no one ever said the DPO was perfect. Yes, it has room to grow. Yes, it has areas it still needs to work on.

    Having come here in 2000 and having immediately contacted the Party about volunteering, I can tell you the Party has come a LONG way since.

    It was Neel who contacted me back in late 2000, asking for my thoughts and input on the web site (an area I work in). He, along with a few others, met with me for a long, long lunch one day while we hammered out the details. Many e-mails, phone calls, etc., later, the state party finally had a web site it could proudly publicize. And that web site has come a long ways since (and undergoing major work as we "speak").

    I've watched as the Party has grown since 2000, both from an outsider volunteer from eastern Multnomah County (which regularly feels ignored by the Party) and as someone who worked an election cycle as a staff member inside the Donkey Stable.

    I have seen huge changes, which have brought forth a more effective, professional organization. Does that mean it is perfect? No.

    That's why instead of complaining, I joined a SCC Committee. When two alternate spots in our delegation to the SCC came up, I ran. I submitted a grant proposal for a training program I'd like to see us use all over the state (training volunteers, party leaders, potential candidates, campaign staffers, etc.). I wrote up a long report showing how we did precinct-by-precinct in the county, trends I noticed, where we need to work, etc. -- and not only did I supply this to the District Leaders and officers, but also to our DNC Staff. We invited the staff of campaigns that worked here in the county to a field meeting just days after the election so we could find out what worked, what didn't, where we needed to improve, etc.

    I fully expect the 2008 election cycle to be better than 2006. That's why I have put so much time and effort into constructive ways of improving the Party-- both here at my county level as well as the state.

    With us now not only getting a new chair, but also a new executive director, I think this constructive work is even more important.

  • Jefferson Smith (unverified)

    I'm a late poster...don't have a chance to blog much.

    Neel had one of the toughest jobs to do well in Oregon. Building an organization while also working to have an impact on the political sphere is a major dual challenge -- lots of people to keep happy, and lots of work to do. And Neel helped build the DPO into a sustainable organization that dwarfs many small-state operations.

    And what a great place to go work next. Stan Amy is a class guy, and New Villages has a class mission.

    Smooth stuff. Kudos.

  • (Show?)

    So there are at least two plausible scenarios here for the intellectually honest:

    1) Heroic turn around artist manages to breathe life into moribund party, brilliantly wins the Kerry and Kulongoski campaigns, and retires to the grateful accolades of adoring apparatchiks. The manifest boorishness of his few clueless opponents only serves to increase his stature.

    2) Feckless Democratic presidential candidate and his craven minions concede the presidency to a bunch of Republican thugs in the 2000 election, causing somnolent lefties to leap out of their chairs by the millions all over the United States and demand to be put to work and asking where to send the checks. The presidential candidate is blessed the services of a really crack team led by Paige Richardson who manages to pull a few rabbits out of a hat in Oregon, while the ED of state party surfs this wave of the great unwashed to prominence and glory. Chauncey Gardener is vindicated.

    <h2>There are myriad other possibilities of course, that could encompass portions of both scenarios, or neither.</h2>
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