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Virginia Dems to Vote 6/27 on Changing Current Term for Chairs from 2 to 3 Years

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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.  

  • ir003436

    What do they do?

  • Yeah, I don’t agree with this at all and urge everyone to vote NO on Saturday.

    ———- Forwarded message ———-

    From: genemagruder@aol.com

    Date: Wed, Jun 24, 2015 at 8:52 PM

    Subject: Virginia Association of Democratic chairs and party plan change

    To: genemagruder@aol.com

    Fellow Central Committee members,

    My name is Gene E Magruder, chair of the Virginia Association of Democratic chairs and this email is concerning the proposed change in party plan, Sec. 8.1 and Sec. 8.6 that will be voted on by Central Committee on Saturday June 27th. The proposal was sent out by the state party earlier. The Virginia Association of Democratic chairs is the caucus that represents all 142 city/county and magisterial chairs in Virginia. At our last meeting the chair overwhelmingly agreed that we should pursue this party plan change.

    I would like to give you some reasons for this proposed change by the chairs of our city/county committees. The first thing you should know as Central members is that the chairs have been talking about this since the last presidential election and the problems we incurred during the time period. We finally felt that now was the time, considering all the turmoil that the state party has been going through over the last 4 years. Many chairs have reluctantly agreed to stay on for the additional year in order to give the state party the time to resolve many problems within the organization . This allows for some stability within the party until the leadership gets a real handle on what is necessary to have us up and running efficiently.

    In the last 3 years the chairs and officers of the committees have had to deal with 3 new chairs of the party, 3 new executive directors, and have been without a political director for 4 years. With the new appointments of Susan Swecker and Rebecca Slutzky we have an opportunity to finally start resolving many problems. Led by Gaylene Kanoyton the DPVA is currently holding training in many areas of the state making sure our chairs, and officers are up to speed on the presidential year approaching. Money is being spent on this training and as Central Committee members we know that we need to assure this money is well spent and not wasted. We are also training for delegate selection for the upcoming presidential primary. If this party plan change passes then the training and the delegate selection process would have been money well spent.

    I say this because of my experience, and other chairs experience with the last presidential election cycle. There was a 50 percent turnover in chairs that year and without a political director it was myself and Gaylene Kanoyton, and the existing CD chairs that basically had to help the chairs around the state, get their information for the state party, get the new chairs up on the delegate selection, and also relay that information to the Obama workers who were on the ground in January waiting for the committees to get through their reorganization so they had some contact information from the city/county committees.  Many of the new chairs and committees did not get the information to the state party till March because of not knowing the requirements. We are looking to avoid this situation this time around by having experienced, knowledgeable chairs in place when the new year comes around. We also want delegate selection to go much easier this time around.  

    There are many other reasons why the chairs wish this change however, I think it comes down to several important reasons. the committees need to be ready for the presidential year without delay and the fact that our party with all the changes has been and turmoil and the chairs wish to help the party by volunteering their service for an additional year to allow for the state party leadership to right the ship, as we say.

    I have had very little complaints about this proposal. Most have understood our reasoning after discussions and would like to give our leadership the leeway of not worrying about reorganization at the end of the year.

    The proposed party plan change will be going straight to Central because of time constraints on the Steering committee that morning. Party plan changes by rule are allowed to go straight to Central and the Virginia Association of Democratic chairs have agreed after time restraint discussions on steering to go that route.

    I would hope that the whole body will consider our reasoning and go along with the proposed party plan change submitted by the chairs.

    Gene E. Magruder

    chair, Virginia Association of Democratic Chairs

  • My Fellow DPVA Central Committee Members,

    As a member of my CD Committee, I’ve worked closely with the Chairs of my local committees to help with their reorganizations and their nominating processes for local office. I read Gene’s email with considerable surprise, because the case for this change is not nearly as clear-cut as I feel he implied. I would thus like to offer an opposing perspective.

    My main concern with moving reorganizations from federal years to non-federal years is that non-federal years have considerably higher work requirements for local Chairs. The nominating process for legislative races begins in January, when local Chairs must serve on or appoint members to the legislative district nominating committees. These nominating committees must (1) be appointed, (2) pick a Chair, and (3) decide if they want a state-run primary, all by late February. In local years, local Chairs and committees must also pick whether or not to have state-run primaries for the local partisan races by that same deadline. Then, in March through early June, they must draft Calls to Caucus for non-primary races, help recruit candidates, and then hold a Caucus if multiple Dems seek the same seat. This is complex legal paperwork where mistakes can cost candidates their ballot line (and there have been close calls in the past) or cause lawsuits. Furthermore, in local years, there’s no Coordinated Campaign to help local candidates – those committees are the primary source of infrastructure.

    This proposed Party Plan change could be hard to implement because every local committee will be forced to amend their Bylaws to match the new Party Plan. That’s a very tall order – bylaws changes on the local level can often be contentious and should only be made when absolutely necessary.

    For some committees with biennial dues, this also risks causing funding problems as expected revenue from reorganization dues either doesn’t materialize or comes in much lower than expected.

    We’re fundamentally talking about extending the terms of existing Chairs and Party members by fiat. All officers were elected to serve for two-years, and it’s inappropriate for DPVA to extend their terms without election. It may (or may not) be legal to extend these terms by fiat, but it will definitely look unethical. If we’re absolutely sure that we must make this change, committees should reorganize for a one-year term in 2016 and then do a regular two-year reorganization in 2017. That would eliminate a lot of the ethical and legal concerns, but not the practical ones mentioned above.

    Turnover among local committee Chairs means that Chairs don’t want a new term or can’t get re-elected. Either we’re talking about holding over Chairs who don’t want to do the job for another term or we’re talking about giving an extra year to Chairs who lack their committees’ support. If local Chairs only want to serve for one more year, they can either run for re-election with the understanding that they intend to resign in Dec. 2016, or they can step back into a mentoring role to help guide and train their replacement. Chairs are also free to argue at their reorganizations that they are experienced and that their committee shouldn’t “change horses mid-stream”.

    In conclusion, I would encourage you to think deeply about this change – this isn’t a minor administrative change, it has major ramifications on our local committees in 2016 and in cycles to come. I strongly oppose the change for the reasons I’ve listed above, and I hope we can have a full and productive discussion about it at the Central Committee meeting.

    Thanks for your time.

    Zach Pruckowski

    DPVA State Central Committee

  • Chris

    There are strong points on both sides of this issue.  In my opinion, the arguments for doing the reorganization in a non-presidential year are quite strong and outweigh the arguments for keeping the reorganization cycle as is.  However, people were elected to a two-year term and extending that term without an election is problematic, although it does need to be pointed out that it is just one year, one time and for the good of the organization.

    In reality though, the good chairs that wanted to serve longer would be re-elected anyway.  Someone who did not have an interest in continuing would not run again.  Someone who was not doing a good job would be voted out.  Why would we want to keep those people on anyway?  Most Chairs work hard and do a good job, and I am confident that of the current county Chairs that I interact with would be re-elected in 2016 were they to run.

    While one solution to fixing the re-organization schedule would be to have a one year term in 2016, that would create more disruption with two back to back reorganizations.  Probably the best solution is to have a one time three year term next year.  That would put the reorganizations onto the preferred schedule without extending terms or causing disruption by frequent reorganizations.  

    I would even say that a four year term going forward after 2018 would make sense so that the reorganization always falls on the least intensive mid-term year.  It would also create similar term lengths for Central Committee members and local committee members.  If someone did not wish to serve in a leadership position for four years, they can always resign and the local committee would hold new elections.  Of course a four year term could create some cash flow and membership issues for committees that charge membership dues.  Were such committees to require members to pay for four years up front, it would be a burden on some members and the committees would have to manage those funds appropriately to carry them over four years.  However, this can be dealt with though staggered payment plans – just more difficult to manage.

    A three year term would also give those committees with bylaws more time to adjust them.  In reality though, the bylaw issue has no direct impact on any of these suggestions since Party Plan is supreme.

    Christopher Ambrose