I was chatting with Virginia Democratic Party insider earlier this week, and out of the blue the person asked me, “Are you hearing about the pending DPVA fight over local committees?” I hadn’t heard a word about it, actually, so I started asking around (as we bloggers are wont to do – lol). Here’s what I’ve found out so far.
*There’s a proposal to give local Virginia Democratic Party chairs a third year and not reorganize until after the presidential election in November 2016, instead of the end of this year, which is what the current plan calls for.
*I haven’t nailed down where this is coming from exactly, but it sounds like it’s probably from the local chairs (one source specifically mentioned “Chair of Chairs” Gene Magruder) In other words, it does NOT appear to be coming from the Clinton campaign, Gov. McAuliffe, DPVA Chair Susan Swecker (who I hear opposes this) or new DPVA Executive Directly Rebecca Slutzky (ditto).
*What is this all about? I’m not sure exactly, but one source told me, “I hear it’s about chairs, particularly in Northern Virginia, wanting to keep their positions for another year, expecting ‘bennies’ from the Hillary Clinton run.” I also heard an argument made that it’s better to have “experienced leaders in place for the presidential race.”
*Apparently, for this rule change to pass, it would need to get an “absolute majority” of the Central Committee [update: someone else tells me that it might only require a simple majority of those present).
*I’ve heard from several party folks who oppose this idea. One told me they just don’t think it makes any sense, that “the harder years for most local chairs are the odd years,” not the federal election/even-numbered years.
*One person responded, tartly: “Canceling elections? These chairs were not elected for next year… changing the rules midstream and making it effect old elections is highly questionable.”
*Another counterargument I heard was that this change “could create problems for larger committees [Lowell’s note: actually all committees have would to amend their bylaws to allow for this change],” such as in Northern Virignia, Richmond and Hampton Roads, since they “would need to change bylaws and their schedules.”
*I hear from multiple sources that there are folks in the Fairfax County Democratic Committee who are opposed to this because they don’t want current chair Sue Langley to get a third year.
*Another local party official told me, “Any DPVA member who cares about their local committee’s finances should vote it down.”
*Finally, I received the following statement from a Democratic local committee person who wanted to remain anonymous, but was concerned about the potential loss of income to their committee.
I’m a local Democratic Committee member, but not a voting DPVA member, and I’m not happy about this proposal. For one thing, our members hardly know that the proposal exists and they haven’t been given much of an opportunity to weigh in on something that will greatly affect our local organization. We elected our Chairs to serve a two-year term in early 2014. The terms of office will be extended not only for our Chair, but for the rest of the leadership and full membership as well. Some will welcome this change, and there are others who never intended to serve that long and will resign.
Additionally, a large portion of our revenue comes from membership dues. We actually budgeted for the thousands of dollars we expected to take in at the end of this year in the form of two-year memberships. Without that income, we’d have to cut back on our voter outreach programs. You can “assess” members for a year’s worth of their membership dues but that would have to be optional, and we might only get half of the membership participating (not to mention a lot of confusion). So we would recover roughly a quarter of the budgeted income in membership dues, and wait another year for the remainder.
Given all those arguments, my view is that the terms shouldn’t be changed unless there’s some overriding reason to do so, and I can’t think of any (and haven’t heard of any). Also, I see no reason for a divisive issue to come up when we have such important elections this year (for control of the State Senate) and next (for President and Congress). If I were a Central Committee member, personally I’d vote “no.”
By the way, DPVA will be meeting at 10 am at Woodson High School in Fairfax City the day after the Hillary Clinton event to vote on this. Supposedly it’s open to the public; should be interesting.