When we compiled our Ward 3 2018 primary voters guide, we left out one thing: the candidates for Democratic State Committee positions.
If you are a registered Democrat in Ward 3 voting in the June 19th primary, you will see something like this on the ballot or touchscreen.
You are being asked to vote for DC Democratic State Committee members – seven at-large Committeemen, seven at-large Committeewomen, two Ward 3 Committeewomen, two Ward 3 Committeemen, one National Committeewoman and one National Committeemen. Most of candidates (listed here) are part of slates with such descriptive names as “Dump Trump-Dems for Action” and “Democrats Moving Forward #Resist.”
But who are these people? What do the slates mean? And what exactly does the local party do? We wanted more information, so we contacted Debby Shore, the Ward 3 Chair of the DC Democratic Party. She answered our many questions via email. (We did some editing and rearranging of responses for clarity. Any errors are most likely ours, and we hope you will tell us about them in the comments below.)
When did you first get involved in the local Democratic Party and why?
As the founder and executive director of Sasha Bruce, a nonprofit in DC which has served homeless and at-risk youth for 40 years, I was engaged in city politics as an advocate for the young people and families we serve and who are struggling in our city. I worked on numerous political campaigns, and as a result found the Ward 3 Democratic Committee to be a thoughtful and progressive group of people interested in engaging with the larger issues that the city faced. I thought I could be of service there. This also led to the opportunity to become elected to the DC Democratic State Committee as a Ward 3 representative in 2012. Since then, I have become Chair of the Ward 3 Democrats and so have continued to serve on the State Committee.
What is its relationship to the national party?
The DC State Committee represents our city/state on the Democratic National Committee. The current Chair as well as our National Committeeman and Committeewoman represent us on the DNC and handle the organization necessary for the convention. Our representatives serve on committees at the DNC and represent our interests to the national committee.
The Party exists to fulfill its mission to encourage Democratic registrants and voters and get Democrats elected in DC and around the country. It also exists to provide voter education on the issues important to our city and country in keeping with the DNC and State Committee agenda. There has been a lot of discussion within the State Committee over the past few years about how to enhance its visibility and functioning. I hope the reforms that are in draft will be put into place by both experienced and progressive delegates elected in the June 19th election.
What is the role of the Ward 3 Democrats?
The Ward 3 Democrats is one of the eight ward organizations for the DC State Committee, the official arm of the Democratic Party in DC or our state. As Chair I serve along with the four representatives from our ward, two men and two women. These positions are on the ballot on June 19th. I also serve with the seven at-large men and seven at-large women, who also are up for election to the Committee on the 19th. There are additional positions in the State Committee which are elected by its members.
For our part and during my time as Chair, the Ward 3 Democrats has been very active in fulfilling the mission by providing forums for candidate debates, and issue and policy discussions that are important to our delegates and city. We have organized into Task Forces which focus on areas that our delegates surveyed as of highest priority. These are Housing and Homelessness, Ethics in Government, Transportation and the Environment, Education, Statehood, National Issues and a special Task Force to Flip Virginia Blue.
Our National Task Force organizes phone banking in conjunction with the DNC for critical Democratic candidate races around the country. The Ward 3 Flip Virginia Blue Task Force raised dollars and organized canvassing for seven Democratic candidates for the Virginia statehouse, six of whom won! (Ward 3 Democrats were mentioned in the New York Times for being one of the groups that made the difference in the Virginia Statehouse races.)
What about the slates running citywide and for Ward 3?
The race for State Committee positions has garnered a lot of interest this year because many people feel the State Committee has not had the focus and impact we need. There have been reform efforts within the Committee to re-structure so as to create more programming and participation. There has also been an effort to organize for new people to become a part of the Committee to change the dynamic of entrenched leadership.
It is my view that we need both reform-minded people who are currently serving along with new members to move the desired reforms forward.
There are three citywide slates. Broadly, the Democrats Moving Forward #RESIST slate was organized by people who have been serving on the State Committee for many years. The organizers are people with institutional knowledge.
The DumpTrump-Dems4Action slate was organized mostly by people who have not served on the Committee but with enthusiasm for reform of the leadership.
The DemsWin2020 is a small slate with one veteran of the Committee.
In addition to these slates, there are Ward level slates that only registered Democrats in each Ward can vote for. The Ward 3 Blue Wave Democrats is such a slate of candidates.
These candidates have been active in the Ward 3 Democratic Committee and/or the DC Democratic State Committee. They have been involved internally and externally in efforts to make the DC Democratic State Committee a more transparent, participatory and issue-based organization.
Most recently in 2017, the two men and two women on the Ward 3 Blue Wave slate helped elect the six new Democrats to seats in the Virginia House of Delegates as part of the Ward 3 Democrats Special Task Force to Flip Virginia Blue.
I strongly urge folks to look at the websites of these groups, particularly in terms of the at-large positions, to learn about each of the candidates before making your decision.
How does the State Committee find candidates?
The Ward Committees have typically fielded candidates for the State Committee although any one who is a registered Democrat can be considered by garnering enough signatures to be entered on the ballot. Citywide positions require 500 petition signatures for an individual or slate, and for ward positions, 100 signatures.
How does the State Committee develop policy positions?
There is a process whereby delegates/members can create a resolution to be adopted by the body. These sometimes come through the caucuses or can be introduced from the floor. It is also a part of the responsibility of the Chair and the Executive Committee to create programs and to coordinate activities of the wards and State Committee caucuses.
Does it provide any campaign training for candidates?
This has not been something that the State Committee has provided to my knowledge.
What is the DC party’s budget? What does it fund?
The Party’s budget comes from two means. One is that there is a fundraiser called the Kennedys-King dinner which raises money for State Committee activities. Also, the Democratic Party has allocated funds to the State Committee. This year the allocation is $10,000 per month, which is being spent on two staff people.
Why do you think a candidate did not emerge from the Democratic Party to run against Mayor Bowser?
I think that many people feel that Mayor Bowser has been successful as a manager of the DC government and so has garnered support from many people and communities.
If people are interested in getting involved whom should they contact?
I would be delighted for people to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ward 3 Democrats will be having a delegate election later in the year for new delegates to the Ward 3 Democrats and would love to hear from people interested in engaging. All neighbors are welcome to come to our meetings regardless of their being a delegate. I would include anyone who reaches out onto our mailing list for future notices.
I would also be willing to talk to anyone who would like to about the State Committee.