Mike Signer: Statement on DPVA Chairmanship


    October 26, 2010

    Statement on DPVA Chairmanship

    When Dick Cranwell announced his resignation as DPVA Chair, I, like thousands of Virginia Democrats, celebrated his service-not just to the Party over the last several years, but to Virginians over several decades as a historic House Majority Leader.

    A number of Democratic leaders from around the Commonwealth have recently told me they would like me to serve as our new Party Chair.  Given the demands of my small business, I’m not sure this is the right time for me to fill the position.  But the interest has been very flattering and has caused me to think deeply about our Party.

    Brian Moran has been a friend for many years, and I believe would do a fine job as chair.  Between November 3 and December 3, however, I hope the discussion will focus not only on who the Chair will be, but on what he or she will do.  At this point, I thought it might be helpful to contribute a few specific ideas to help get the conversation started.

    The Democratic Party has always been the party that helps regular people take on the systems that fail them. This is why we work for things like opportunity, justice, and reform every day in Virginia. And this is why I believe we are, by definition, the majority party. In my view, the DPVA needs to make this a reality on at least five fronts.


    Policy and ideas: This year, I served on a DPVA task force that discussed how best to promote ideas within the Party. For decades, conservative activists have invested in an infrastructure of think tanks and academic centers that has helped them create the false impression that they are a party of ideas. I’m a strong proponent of a new effort to re-take the mantle of policy leadership, possibly by setting up an internal “boiler room” on policy and ideas. We could use new infrastructure to help candidates make particular issues their own and to create better separation from Republicans in the General Assembly on issues, including economic development, education, and building a clean economy.

    Candidate recruitment: Parties are most successful when they recruit and train strong leaders. We have hundreds of community leaders across Virginia who are natural Democratic officials but who haven’t strongly considered running for office. Many emerging leaders will come up through local government-from council members to sheriffs-and they need to be fully included in the DPVA. Among others, they need fundraising training, organizing skills, and central support for research and staffing. We should have an assertive new push to recruit, train, and equip excellent candidates, especially in areas with weak or extremist Republican incumbents.

    Small donors: Much of the vitality of political movements today stems from being able to excite the sort of donors-like Barack Obama’s-who repeatedly give small donations. These potential donors need to get committed to the cause of Virginia Democrats. The new DPVA Chair should work with staff and candidates to establish a new strategy for small donor development. Methods could include a new online infrastructure for donations, local DPVA activities, and communications specifically geared toward these donors.

    A “war room” approach: Like it or not, momentum has shifted to the blogosphere and the 24 hour news cycle, which has been mastered by the Republican Party and its candidates. The DPVA needs to embrace the new environment. Every online communication should go to our central message, and we need to fully engage in persuasion and combat in the blogosphere. This will require an aggressive new “war-room” style; new communications infrastructure to drive 24/7 communications; and new outreach to blogs, bloggers, and social media.

    Helping local committees: At its core, the DPVA stands on the shoulders of its hundred-plus local volunteer chairs. Some committees are extremely strong; others need help. I think we need a new, targeted approach to help weaker committees, essentially bringing a management consulting approach to the entire array of committees. This should include recruiting talented individuals to fill open chairmanships; setting quantifiable targets for recruitment and retention; promulgating best practices for management; and providing new chairs with better training.  

    These are only a few ideas, and there are doubtless many more. Whatever the DPVA does, it should meet a three-part test: it should be decisive, it should be measurable, and it should help Democrats win office. After November 2, I look forward to taking part in the conversation about how we can help this great Party re-take every possible majority in this great Commonwealth.

    Thank you.

    Mike Signer

    • aimeefausser

      It’s a shame Signer doesn’t have the time to pursue this–but hopefully whoever ends up being chair will work to move forward with these ideas in mind.

    • kristinnsmith

      If even half of your suggestions are taken seriously and put into action, I have no doubt that Virginia will become a Democratic Oasis.

    • Scott99

      I’ve been a supporter of Mike Signer since he ran for LG. I can’t think of a better person for DVPA Chair.  

    • blackandbluedem

      I particularly love the part about stealing a page from the conservative playbook and investing in think tanks and academic centers.  That is the kind of forward-looking, grassroots approach that worked nationally in the previous two cycles and it can work in Virginia.  Well-thought out ideas, Mike.  I hope they are put to use.

    • dan

      Excellent points!

    • vlherrou

      While the DPVA has become more responsive and open in the past few years, and I have great expectations of David Mills, these ideas would really enable the DPVA to move forward and be more effective.

      Mike showed in his campaign for LG that he is an effective strategist and that he can connect with younger Democrats as well as those who have been in the trenches for a long time–which is very important for the future of the party. We need both institutional memory and forward-thinking new ideas combined with a specific strategy and clear goals to turn Virginia into a blue state.

      I think Mike would make a great chair, but obviously focusing on his new business is important… perhaps Mike could head up some sort of round-table that could be tasked with creating an actual working plan with a concrete strategy and timeline.

      At any rate, I hope we don’t all just say “wow, great ideas!” and then allow them to be forgotten. They need to be implemented.

    • pud

      Mike: Excellent points all around. I hope you accept the chair if given the opportunity so you are in a position to keep up the good work on behalf of VA dems.

    • Brian J. Moran

      I would like to join my friend, Mike Signer and the many other Democrats throughout Virginia in saluting Dick Cranwell’s service to the Commonwealth, not only as the Democratic Party Chair but as an elected member of the Virginia House of Delegates. It is important that we continue to build upon Chairman Cranwell’s legacy.  The ideas presented here by Mike are the kind of ideas that will help take our party to the next level and if I am elected as the next Chair of the Democratic Party, they will be a part of our party platform as we move forward.

      During the 2009 Primary for Governor, Democratic candidates, Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Creigh Deeds had strong ideas about how to make this Commonwealth a better place to live and work from Galax to Fairfax, and everywhere in between.  Having a “boiler room” or “ideas lab” will show that Democrats are the party of ideas.  Borrowing from these policies and past candidate positions should be a resource the party provides to all candidates, from County Supervisor to statewide office.  

      As the Democratic House Caucus Chair, candidate recruitment was one of my top priorities and it is absolutely imperative that we are able to recruit strong leaders in every House and Senate district in Virginia.  Candidates must be ready to knock on doors and win elections for Democrats in all areas of the Commonwealth.  The party should complement the recruitment efforts of our Senate and House Leadership.

      President Obama ran a historic campaign, one that relied on small donors and grassroots activism.  In order for the party to grow, we must be able to tap into this reservoir of small donors and grassroots activists, so that they have ownership of their Party.

      The message from our “war room” must utilize all mediums of communication including Twitter and Facebook as well as traditional OP-Ed’s. Many of our party’s activists have turned to the blogosphere to help organize and fight for the Party. We saw this with the election of Sen. Jim Webb in 2006 and we will work with bloggers and other online activists to broaden the conversation.

      It has been said by that “All politics is local,” and our local committee members and their leadership are the arms and legs that help the party move forward.  We have to give our Chairs and committee members the tools and resources to help recruit candidates, cultivate small donors, organize the grassroots, and develop a statewide “war room.”  

      You will be hearing more from me in the weeks ahead, but right now let’s concentrate on the next seven days and support our Democratic candidates on November 2nd.