Vic Meyers for CDP Chair — A New Colorado Democratic Party
The Democratic Party, at both the national and state levels, exists to support candidates and advance the values and ideals of the Democratic Party platform. All politics being local, one would think that the State Party would feed up to the National. But over the course of the last decade this model has been reversed, and our state-level and Congressional campaigns are run from Washington, D.C. This led to 2014, when instead of formulating a message that derived from and resonated with the grass-roots of Colorado Democrats, our campaigns adopted a national narrative, which in most cases was based on national polling and resulted in pre-conceived ideas and beliefs of “Democrats.” This disengaged CO Dems and depressed turnout, and it’s the model that that led to Republicans taking over the Colorado Senate, U.S. Senate, and expanding their U.S. House majority by a record margin. In a state where unaffiliated voters outnumber Democrats or Republicans by 100,000 voters, it is imperative that we have a robust base of Democratic activists to constantly engage voters.
We must fundamentally recognize that the backbone of our state party is the county-level party organizations, and that the role of the state party is to provide them with the resources they need to be as strong and effective as possible. We need a new model, one that is Ground-Up, not D.C.-Down. To win in 2016 and beyond, the CO Democratic Party, all over the state, needs to be engaged, organized, and supported.
I was born and raised in Beulah, Colorado where I worked my summers on the local ranches and spent my weekends trail riding. After graduating from Pueblo South High School I felt the call of duty and joined the 101st Airborne Division. I was a soldier in an aviation unit where I made E-5 (buck sergeant) in less than four years. While in the Army I also completed the Personnel Leadership Development Course.
I worked for the Colorado Dept. of Corrections for 17 years. While there, I served two years on the Board of Directors for AFSCME Local 935, until Governor Owens killed it. When Gov. Ritter made it possible for state employees’ unions to exist again I helped Colorado Wins introduce their union at my facility. I also chaired two facility employee councils and twice served on the Executive Employee Council for the entire department. As Shift Commander I supervised a staff of more than twenty, and was responsible for training, developing performance plans, and evaluations.
I also served on my local school board. It was this service that led to my placement on the Trinidad Correctional Facility Management Team. In both of these capacities I worked to develop mission statements, develop policies, received management training, and improved my understanding of organizational needs and meeting those needs. While on the school board I learned about Interest-Based problem solving. Moreover, during my tenure on the Trinidad School Board and the Trinidad Correctional Facility Management team, I successfully worked with policy experts and community leaders to balance budgets, reform programming and curricula, and reorganize staff to most effectively manage and serve the population.
In 2014 I ran for the U.S. House of Representatives against Ken Buck in Colorado´s 4th Congressional District. My goal was to provide voters a reasonable, intelligent, and moderate choice to counter my opponent´s extreme, right-wing platform. I learned much about how the state party can better support candidates, county level parties, and CDP Initiatives.
I have a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mathematics with a minor in Physics. This degree gives me the skills to see many sides of a problem and seek the best solution.
A Statewide Party
In order for our party to be successful in 2016 and beyond we must once again become a true statewide party. Whether we are engaging activists in Denver, donors on the Front Range, or voters on the western slope, a comprehensive and interconnected party is necessary to engage communities on all levels.
There are far too many CO counties without county-level leadership. And in many others we are losing experienced leaders and committed Democratic activists. During and since my congressional campaign I have spoken with many of these people and know well their reasons. They have lost trust, or feel the state party is too Denver-centric, or because of the way they were treated by the coordinated campaign. They are leaving because they don’t like losing.
The CDP needs to make better efforts to support and grow the ranks of county parties, large and small alike. Without a constant initiative of community building, our activists will continue to struggle with the demands of constant campaigning. In this way, shifting our focus to the local level will create new opportunities to engage, rather than exhaust, our base.
Getting some of these county-level Democrats to re-engage will take a Party Chair that recognizes the problem and meets with each and every county to help solve them. It will take somebody who is willing to listen and do the work to rebuild the trust. I can and will do these things.
Another significant problem we face is ensuring the ability of rural Dems to participate in party functions and committee meetings. To help address this problem I will work with the other officers to develop a regional meeting model similar to one used by the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB).
Having been on my local school board I am familiar with CASB’s struggle to keep rural school board members active and engaged in their association. To solve this problem CASB developed regional meetings where the officers would travel and present information on CASB initiatives, progress, etc. This is a very effective model for them and it, or a similar model, could be effective in keeping rural Dems active and engaged.
Resources for rural-based CO Democrats have, to say the least, been lacking over the past few years. As CDP Chair I will ensure that training, legal, and fundraising help is available to county-level parties throughout the state. This could come in the form of sending trainers to them or helping them meet the expense of traveling to us. It could come from my personally traveling to them to engage donors to help fund local efforts.
Whatever it takes, no county-level party will be left out in the cold when you elect me as CDP Chair.
An Inclusive Party
We are the big tent party. The Democratic Party is comprised of African-Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, union members, LGBTQ, students, environmentalists, and many other communities. Similar to what we have seen at the county level, many are disappointed and feel that they have not been taken seriously by the CDP in recent years.
Our Party Initiatives, which should be one of the CDP’s greatest sources of strength, are left disengaged and underutilized by the current party leadership. Some aren’t even listed on our website, and attendance by our CDP leaders at their meetings has been lacking.
As CDP Chair it will be my goal to attend every Initiative meeting. When I cannot attend I will review minutes with the Initiative Chair and/or ensure that a CDP officer or representative is in attendance.
If the CDP is to truly be an inclusive party then it must improve how it collaborates and works with the various party Initiatives and all our affiliated organizations.
From my own experience as a Congressional candidate, and from talking with Democrats around the state, I know that too many people voted Republican in the 2014 election for no other reason than they didn’t want to vote for a Democrat. Over the past few years too many elected Democrats have failed to stand behind our President. They’ve failed to put up a public fight for Democratic policies and values – and even for their own significant achievements. Where did this get us? Years of Democrats being defined by Republicans and their media machines.
As soon as I’m elected as the CDP Chair, I plan on changing this. My plan is one that communicates our successes as Democrats and reengages the voters. This marketing will come in the form of traditional media, new media and public engagement.
There will be plenty of opportunities during the upcoming legislative session and the 114th Congress to highlight individual Democratic Party accomplishments and GOP attempts to weaken America and our values. As party chair, it will be my responsibility to make sure the public at large knows about these things. For example, at the end of our state legislative session I will have a television commercial ready to tell Colorado voters about the good things our Democratic legislators accomplished and fought for. I’ll contrast it with how the GOP promoted their divisive, Tea-Party-based agenda.
I envision a 2-tier communications strategy for traditional media. Tier 1 involves news such as the passage of major legislation or extreme GOP gaffes and will be treated as top-earned media priorities. The party will activate its members to engage local, state, and national TV and news outlets to push the narrative on specific events and issues. Tier 2 news may not be garner national media attention but should generate interest at the state and local level. These events could include local political accomplishments, smaller pieces of legislation, or targeted GOP attempts to undermine legislation. These news stories will be approached in a more targeted way with the broad effect of keeping constant engagement with TV and print media as well as providing targeted coverage in interested markets.
In addition to activating members to engage the media, we’ll also have a professional marketing campaign to educate voters about what Democrats fight for.
We all know that many of us get as much news online as in print or TV. I will work hard to ensure that the CDP is using new media to its full potential.
It begins with re-vamping our CDP website, which needs a professional re-design to better grab and hold the attention of visitors. My vision is to ensure that, by 2016, voters know it to be a ‘one-stop shopping’ place to learn what they need to know about Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, state-wide.
The next step is to ensure that every county-level party has both a website and a Facebook page. Some counties already have outstanding pages; we’ll learn strategies from them, and develop templates for those who don’t have them. We’ll explore the possibility of the CDP hosting sites for those counties that cannot afford a website.
New media also provides an effective vehicle to engage individuals on a micro level. My vision for new media engagement in Colorado is interactive, collaborative, and representative of the diverse ideas, needs, and opinions of an inclusive party.
A Candidate in Every Race
In 2006 Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and gave America its first Democratic House majority in 12 years. Howard Dean’s 50-State Strategy is largely credited for this happening. It also contributed to the election of President Obama in 2008. Chairman Dean invested in every state. As CDP Chair, I will invest in every county, in every race.
By engaging the GOP in races in which they weren’t expecting to compete, Howard Dean caused them to re-direct their resources, which opened up opportunities for us to win in more places.
Another impact of the 50-State Strategy was for grass-roots Democrats to see our party fighting the good fight, engaging in and communicating about our values — something quite opposite from what we saw in 2014.
It’s time to engage this strategy in Colorado. I will work with the DNC and our state House and Senate committees to ensure that we do not let any Republican slide into office without a contest. I will raise funds specifically for a Rising Star account that will ensure every new Democratic House and Senate candidate to come out of the assembly or primary has funds to start a general election campaign.
With the county-level parties making sure their local ballots are full and the state party making sure the state ballots are full, federal candidates will have a larger base to get votes from.
Ground-Up, Not D.C.-Down
We went into the 2014 election expecting to lose some races, the conventional wisdom being that the party in the White House always loses seats in the mid-term elections.
However, this was only part of the story. It is certainly not enough to explain the loss of tremendous candidates like Senator Udall, Betsy Markey, Joe Neguse, Don Quick, and Andrew Romanoff.
What we saw was a complete collapse of our local narrative. When the party is operated with a D.C.-knows-best approach— when we rely on national consultants’ polls and focus groups that are geared towards cohesion of national message rather than the opinions of Colorado voters— we lose engagement at the grass-roots level. Resources are directed at helping the top of the ballot assuming local, down-ballot races benefit from trickle-down voting. This trickle-down approach doesn’t work in our economy and it doesn’t work in elections.
I envision a party where our strength comes from the grass-roots and is deep and wide. I see a party where the top of the ballot is winning, in part, because we are winning down-ballot races. My vision creates the kind of party that wins elections, grows and advances its goals.
This is not to say that the DNC is not central to my plan. On the contrary, the 50-State Plan originated with the DNC, and it proved that we need to work together to elect our next president and win statewide races. But I envision a relationship of mutual trust, one with two-way communications and shared experiences, not a relationship where the terms are dictated by the coordinated campaign.
All of the goals listed above will put the CDP in a position of credibility and strength and allow me, as Chair, to work with the DNC as a voice for Colorado Democrats. I will be in touch with, and listening to, local leaders so that campaign messaging is consistent with what our local leaders know the voters want. I will be able to ensure that the next coordinated campaign is a part of, and strengthens, our team instead of weakens our team.
We have many opportunities for the Democratic Party to get engaged in local communities. We can do it at the local level and we can do it at the state level.
There are many local offices up for election in 2015. The GOP will be fielding candidates in all of them. They’ll be mobilizing their base to get out and work for their candidates. They’ll be building-up their future candidates for higher office.
Some of our county-level parties do a good job of getting candidates to run for these local races. I will work to make sure more of our county-level parties have the resources to generate candidates.
Besides elected office, there will be various local ballot issues that are consistent with the values and ideals of the Democratic Party. If a county-level party votes to endorse one of these issues, the state party will help them in any way possible within the campaign election laws and desires of the local party. This can be overtly done or behind-the scenes. I can put out a call for volunteers. We can coordinate voter-registration drives. There are ways that the CDP can help so that when the issue passes, local Democrats can be proud of it and others will know that the Democratic Party helped improve their community.
As an example, the CDP should already be having voter registration drives in Denver City Council districts to help Democrats win these seats. This is an action that is independent of the campaigns and doesn’t favor one Democrat over another.
The lack of financial transparency that currently exists with our budget is a real problem. As CDP Chair I will honor the intent of the party rules. I will provide detailed budgets. I will consult with the Executive Committee on decisions that affect personnel costs in the budget. CDP rules require the Chair to administer the budget “as approved by the Executive Committee.” My interpretation of the rules is that a change in personnel expenditures is a change in the budget.
The demands of running a competitive and efficient party require us to professionalize the CDP staff. We must readjust our priorities at the leadership level and create a team that is properly equipped to design and implement a winning plan for 2015 and beyond.
The current CDP budget for 2015 has only $1000 allocated for political spending. The rest of the budget is for salaries, fundraising expenses and operational expenses of the party. This is a budget that does not do anything to grow our party in 2015. It calls for the CDP to be silent and inactive while the Colorado GOP is actively engaging their base, getting their members elected to school boards and other local elections, and keeping their base engaged and energized for the 2016 election.
We won’t win in 2016 by waiting for 2016 to happen. I will call an executive committee meeting for April 4, 2015 and submit an amended budget that helps the CDP grow at every level. It will help us have regular outreach and voter registration drives to expand our base and help Democrats get elected in 2015 and 2016. My budget will pay for the marketing plan stated above.
My plan for raising the revenues for success employs traditional methods and newer methods.
The current revenue goals for 2015 are unambitious and, coupled with unambitious electoral and programming proposals, are likely to demotivate donors. Furthermore, there is little creative thinking about how the party can grow our donor base and reduce donor fatigue.
As Chair my approach to fundraising will be to employ traditional methods, expand our donor base locally and nationally, help county-level parties raise money, and take advantage of the tremendous fundraising opportunities that exist with the internet.
By presenting to donors an ambitious, cohesive plan for the party I expect to find success in increasing our revenues. I will work with county level parties to engage local donors and increase their revenues.
Another source of increased revenues will be through expanded guest speaker/surrogate events. There is no revenue projected in our current 2015 budget for this line. As Colorado is a critical state in the 2016 presidential election I expect to be able to bring national Democrats in to help raise both revenue and excitement among Colorado voters. My amended budget will have a goal of $300,000.00 in revenue on this line.
ActBlue is an internet fundraising organization that raises money for Democrats and Democratic causes. It has averaged over $63 million a year in revenues over the last eleven years. This shows that the 2015 CDP budget is missing out on significant fundraising opportunity because there is no line for online revenue generation. My amended budget will include a goal of $300,000.00 in online revenue.
The overall revenue goals in my 2015 Amended Budget will double the goals of the current 2015 budget.
As Colorado Democrats look toward the future there is much at stake. Do we gamble on the idea that continuing to do things the way we’ve always done them will finally pay off? Or do we take a bolder course of change and fight for the future we want?
Electing or re-electing an establishment Democrat to lead us is hoping that things will change. Electing me as the new Chair means we are ready to take control of the fight for our future. The establishment choice is the status quo choice. I’m offering a vision that doesn’t wait for 2016 but puts us back into the fight today. If you’re ready to take the fight to the Republicans, elect me as the new Chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party.