DNC Chair Debate Focuses on Grassroots Organizing, Party Funds and Trump

On the stage of The George Washington University’s Jack Morton Auditorium, newly appointed Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen and Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim moderated a debate that featured the seven candidates for DNC chairman. The discussion saw a continuing theme of the importance of grassroots organizing, the question of party funds, and the incoming administration of Donald J. Trump.

The seven candidates were Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown; New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray BuckleySouth Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.); South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison; Secretary of Labor Tom Perez; and Former Fox News contributor Jehmu Greene.

Two debate attendees with Sally Boynton Brown/Brigid Godfrey, MediaFile

Focusing on Grassroots Organizing

All seven candidates touted the importance of grassroots organizing with the notable champion being New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, who opened the debate by saying “we need to rebuild our grass roots and strengthen our state parties, so we can actually win elections by having neighbors talking to neighbors.”

South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison and several others mention the 50 state strategy, which focuses on progress in every state instead of conceding some states, as being unwinnable. He believes this is why so many Democratic seats were lost in the 2016 election.

“In 2008 we controlled the majority of governorships, we controlled the majority of state houses, we had complete control of the White House, Congress and the United States Senate and we lost all of that,” said Harrison.

Former Fox News Correspondent Jehmu Greene talked about the importance of involving millennials in the party and training the next generation of organizers.

“We need an army of millennials who are out there talking about the democratic message, talking about our values, talking about the progress he wants to take away from us,” said Greene. “We have to give them training and give them resources.”

Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown brought up the importance of using grassroots organizing to better understand the American public.

“50 percent of America didn’t show up to vote on election day and that means there is a ton of people out there who are not interested in what we have to say and we need to figure out why.”

How to face a Trump White House

Every candidate mentioned the next four years as a difficult time for Democrats and shared their ideas for how to best deal with the situation.

“We can’t meet him tweet for tweet,” Secretary of Labor Tom Perez said when explaining the need to move forward by pointing out the promises Trump has broken as a strategy for dealing with his administration.

Secretary Perez also talked about the importance of focusing on labor and jobs, a backbone of Trump’s campaign that he has been lacking thus far.

All of the candidates also agreed that the DNC needs to evolve to include “a street fighting force” as Greene called it. The candidates agreed that the DNC should have a more active role in protests and demonstrations.

The debate stage at Jack Morton Auditorium/Brigid Godfrey, MediaFile

Gaining Party Funds

Another major topic of conversation was the need for party funds. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) had previously stated that he would invoke a ban on lobbyist donations to the DNC if elected – but he backtracked tonight.

“We do need money to run the democratic party,” Rep. Ellison said.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley talked about the importance of proper distribution of the fund the DNC had.

“It was premised that we don’t have a lot of money. Well, the reality is that we have a lot of money.”

He went on to state that, of the 70 million dollars spent in New Hampshire by The DNC, $250,000 went toward Maggie Hassan’s 2016 campaign for junior United States Senator.

Chairman Harrison was in agreement, saying state parties don’t feel supported by the DNC.

“We don’t have a friend in Washington, D.C. that will invest in us, the time the energy, the effort the training that we need in order to break out,”  Chairman Harrison said.

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