The Orange County Democratic Party Moving Forward

Two weeks ago, I had the honor and good fortune of being elected the new chair of the Orange County Democratic Party.  This is an extremely humbling experience, as I became the youngest county chair in the North Carolina Democratic Party. However, it is my pleasure to serve my party in Orange County with the tasks ahead. With that comes the responsibility of communicating with our community and promoting greater inclusion.

What I want to do is simple: broadcast our message out to the voters of Orange County and get people talking about the issues affecting them. We have the fortune of living in one of the most Democratic and progressive counties in North Carolina. With that comes the responsibility of being one of the most active parties in the state. Additionally, this means taking a pro-active role in our community, especially when it comes to issue advocacy, as we are the very definition of grassroots.

I believe the stakes could not be higher. Next year, we will have many exciting elections on the ballot. We have the hard work ahead of re-electing Governor Perdue and President Obama and our entire Democratic ticket. In addition, we have the very serious task of taking a firm stand against the Bedroom Amendment on the May primary ballot.
I believe in strong communications and that the OCDP needs to have an open dialogue with our community. I hope the members of Orange Politics can help facilitate that dialogue, as you constitute a large portion of our activist community. We need to hear from you as we move forward in a positive direction.

Though I know not everyone here is Democratic, know that I am always available. Let us know what you think, what you want to see improved, and where you think the party should invest its energies. Together we can help set things right by influencing the rest of the state. Together we can do much good for Orange County.

Matt Hughes, Chair
Orange County Democratic Party 



As you probably know, I have some mixed feelings about the Democratic Party. But I am very glad to see you taking over the helm of our local party, Matt. Are there any plans for the OCDP to get involved in County Commissioner races or local issues in 2012, or is the focus just on state and national ballots? (If the former, should I be glad about this involvement, or will I wish the party would butt out as I sometimes did in 2011?)How about the marriage amendment on the ballot during the May primary?  Or is that what you meant by "Bedroom Amendment"?I'm glad to have you at the OCDP and to have you participating on OP. Congratulations again.

It's the policy of the party to not take positions in partisan primaries. We do,  however, provide a platform for candidates. Additionally, we don't spend party resources for or against primary candidates beyond purely education materials.Taking a greater stand in local issues is a goal of mine. We have a resolutions process in the party and several activitists take part in that, such as Sammy Slade and Jason Baker. Once they're passed by the county convention or executive committee those resolutions becomes the official policy of the county party. We always need folks to propose resolutions, help track the issues, and educate the community. The state party has taken a stand against the marriage amendment (which I called the "Bedroom Amendment"). State Chair David Parker had this to say, "In addition to the economic consequences that accompany this amendment, it is simply un-American to single out any group of law-abiding citizens to harass and torment. Every time we select a set of folks to exclude from America's dream of a better life, the results are detrimental to our nation. " I'm glad to be here and participate on OP. Our progressive and online communities are strengths for Orange County and our interconnected communities. 

And thanks for participating on OP!I'm generally a fan of the OCDP.  I did however try to go to a precinct meeting that was sent out to the OCDP listserv only to find the lights off and doors locked when I got there.  I had also left a voicemail and sent 2 e-mails (to the OCDP & to the precinct captain) and got no response to either when trying to confirm the meeting.  I'm hesistant to try again on getting involved at the precinct level because of that experience (not that I'm less interested in being a progressive activist, but luckily the triangle area offers 1001 different ways to do that).  I was excited after going to the dem county convention the year before and working with a fellow precinct member on ranking issues, and excited about getting more involved at that level because I often poll tend at my own precinct to pass out literature for the candidates I'm supporting.On the issue of what to call the amendment (since I'm seeing some confusion here between what Matt said and what Ruby heard), that came up at the recent NC Policy Watch crucial conversation earlier this week with representives from Equality NC, the national Freedom to Marry group, and some law professors as well.  One person mentioned how they were trying to have events about it, but in calling it an anti-family amenmdent they were worried that know one would show up because they wouldn't realize what it was, and on the other hand they didn't want to just call it "the marriage amendment" because that was too close to accepting the language the otherside was using.  So a couple of different ideas were thrown around, and they said it generally depends on the audience you're speaking to on what term is best to use for framing the issue, but that the marriage discrimination amendment was generally a pretty good term to use. 

Matt,In the past OCDP has been neutral on which Democrat presidential candidate it supports until after the primaries, I hope that this is still the case?   I was pleasantly surprised to find that there is a progressive challenger to Obama, his name is Darcy Richardson.

First and foremost, I'm advocating a capital levy on wealth, not unlike the proposal currently being debated in Germany and other European countries. Much of our current $15 trillion national debt should be recouped from the rich — the pampered and privileged class that hasn't paid its fair share in recent years.Though I'm still developing my platform, I also support a second stimulus package — roughly five or six times the size of Obama's meager $447 billion "Son of Stimulus" — to jump-start the U.S. economy; a Medicare-for-All health care plan; and a moratorium on home foreclosures (for primary residences only), not unlike that initiated by Minnesota's radical Farmer-Labor Party during the Great Depression. I also want an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan and am strongly opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline.The American people are hurting, and they're hurting badly.

I hope the OCDP is able to encourage people to go out to the primaries and that it does so in part by sharing information about the differences between the candidates.  If more people knew that there is a choice for Dems in the primaries a lot of both Dems and Independents would vote and concerns about the Bedroom Ammendment could be diffused ...  but even better, we might have a candidate that inspires the kind of passion that is needed in the general election! 

Jake,I lament the fact that you had the experience.Ultimately, communication has be emphasized across the board. We cannot expect Democratic victories and democratic (lower case-d) if communication is not improved upon at the grassroots level. We're certainly working on this. I agree that the Marriage Discrimination Amendment is a better phrasing. Some folks had a similar discussion about the wording and agreed that Marriage Discrimination Amendment would be the best one for the party to use in educational materials. Sammy, we remain neutral in primaries and do not work against any candidate. This is less of an OCDP policy and more of a best practices from the NCDP.

Matt,Glad for the confirmation, thanks.  I hope the OCDP is able to raise awareness that there is an alternative to Obama ... neutrally of course. --Sammy

What are the NCDP best practices in that regard?

Non-partisan races are a little different given the very nature of them. Some parties endorse, other recommend, some take no position at all beyond identifying the Democrats.

the OCDP puts out around elections, on their website, and at voting sites.  It was particularly helpful when I first moved to the area, and I imagine it continues to be a valuable resource for many people.I am also glad to hear about the new leadership.  I'll probably give going to a precinct meeting another try after all.

Based on Jake's experience it sounds like it would be good to have information on independent candidates running in non- partisan elections as well then, particularly since 30% of registered voters in Orange County are independents and 65% of new registrations in North Carolina are unafilliated -- closely representing the national trend. How about both parties agree to include information in their voter guides on independents and identify them as such -- as opposed to no information and no party affiliation (unaffiliation) information?  Or do they only want our votes -- not our candidates.

The Democratic Party has debated on numerous occasions and at multiple levels what relationship we should have with independent candidates. As Matt H mentioned, the answer can vary depending on circmstance. There are even circumstances where the OCDP and NCDP have endorsed independent candidates.But we are a political membership party. One of our major goals is to elect Democratic candidates to office. Our member candidates often request that we not support their opponents, even in the form of including them in our voter guide.While our candidates may want the votes of independents, our party wants votes for our candidates. The best way for an independent to receive our support is to join our party. 

So the answer to the almost two thirds of newly registered voters who are registering as Independents is that the Democratic party wants their votes but candidates who are registered as Independents have to join the Democratic party to get its support.  That's an understandable but perhaps unsatisfying message.  It appears that the only solution for Independents to get support in elections is to form their own organization -- something that I assume is not currently a concern to the Democratic party.

"It appears that the only solution for Independents to get support in elections is to form their own organization"

Getting organized is certainly an important tool in civic empowerment, but it does seem somewhat at odds to organize around being unaffiliated/independent.

People who register as independent aren' trying to be "one-of-a-kind" voters who are "unaffiliated" with anybody else. They simply don't identify with the Democratic or Republican parties. Given the likellihood of both of these parties to resemble each other in many ways as they serve corporate interests, that is probably a healthy response.Of course, county commissioner races should not be partisan. That is one of the traps set by the two-party system.   

"Given the likellihood of both of these parties to resemble each other in many ways as they serve corporate interests, that is probably a healthy response."

I think we are very much agreed on the negative influence of big money corporate interests.  In many ways the two parties look too similar, and are both too tied to big monied interests.  More independents should get organized to increase their civic power.  More third parties could be helpful.  More disclosure laws should be passed to shed light on the problem.  Laws for campaign finance reform and lobbying reform would help.  A constitutional amendment should be used to undo the corrupting influence of Citizens United, and in fact is probably necessary for any of the kinds of the previous laws I just mentioned to stand.  More public financing to give options other than big money influence would help.  Even with all that, new tactics to get corporate influence under control are necessary, which makes me glad for some of what I've seen at some OWS events.At the same time, at the state level, I can't help but notice under Democratic control, as far from perfect as things were, we did not have so many blatant efforts and bills to strip people's most essential voting power and we did not have the same level of attacks on education, women's rights, or LGBT equality.  And at the county level, seeing our county Democratic party refreshed under the leadership of the youngest county chair in the state party, I view the local Democratic party with optimism.


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