by Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Kip Malinosky, finishing up four years as chair, shares some thoughts…
Chairing the Arlington County Democratic Committee for the last four years has been a great honor and extraordinary challenge. I ran for Chair because I wanted to bring the party together, recruit new Precinct Captains, continue voter registration and identification, sustain party finances, diversify the party and help beyond Arlington. Four years later, we have made significant progress on all these goals and won every election in Arlington for the last three years. With my final Chair column, I want to focus on lessons learned that Democratic Committees should embrace.
First, candidate recruitment is of the utmost importance. Democrats need to contest every office. While this has never been a problem in Arlington,it is a problem for most Democratic committees. Even in Arlington, I made it my duty to meet with anyone interested in running for office as a Democrat. I would encourage every potential candidate to think long and hard about why they want to run and to encourage them to get involved in commissions and community work, if they were not already engaged. The key is that Democratic committees should welcome and recruit a diverse array of candidates for every office.
Second, successful political parties are coalition-builders. In Arlington, we implemented instant runoff voting for our caucuses to ensure that each candidate had a strong incentive to reach beyond his or her base. Our Outreach Team worked to engage community leaders from all different backgrounds and had a presence at every community festival. Furthermore every new progressive group, (Indivisible, WoFA, Let America Vote, Mobilize, etc)should be welcomed by Democratic committees.Too often Democratic committees become small social clubs that aren’t very welcoming to newcomers. This must change,which leads me to the next point.
Third, embrace grassroots campaigning. You knew I had to write about the importance of knocking on doors and making phone calls. It is not just about using these tactics, but strategically implementing them.The most important part of this idea is that local Democratic committees must work hand-in-hand with statewide coordinated campaigns. Local committees can help statewide campaigns find volunteer leaders, staging locations and promote and publicize canvassing, calling and voter registration events.In return, coordinated campaigns should share volunteer lists, training resources and events with local committees. Not everyone needsto knock on doors or make calls, but every committee member needs to do something. Every year a few races are decided by a handful of votes.
Fourth, elections are about choices. Our candidates always have compelling stories to
tell about why they are running for office. Their stories, values and positions on the issues
must be clearly contrasted with their opponents. Our committees must make every effort to get the message across for every candidate through flyers, mailers and, now especially, online. Furthermore, committees must ensure voters are informed about every opportunity to vote. If nothing else, committees need to let voters know who the Democratic candidates are by creating sample Democratic ballots and offering them to every voter.
Democratic politics (both big and little “D”) is difficult work. Frustrations are legion. Disappointments are guaranteed. The opportunity to make a difference, however, by electing candidates who believe that government should help people rather than only rewarding the rich is deeply gratifying. I am stepping down as Chair, but my commitment to electing Democrats won’t waver an iota. And I encourage activists everywhere to get involved in your Democratic committee and make it an even better force for progressive