In Memory of Yvonne Steffen:
Executive Vice President Mister Phillips opened the meeting with a tribute to the memory of ECDC member and Sierra Club member Yvonne Steffen who was a true Progressive, a true Democrat, a very caring person and who walked El Cerrito streets, tirelessly and effectively canvassing for Democratic candidates and causes. An obituary is here.
Candidates for Assembly District 15 and Nov 4 Candidate Forum:
Mister Phillips reminded everyone to Save the Date of November 4 from 11-1pm for the Black Caucus’s hosted AD15 candidates forum at Contra Costa College–and acknowledged several candidates present at the ECDC meeting : Andy Katz, Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto and Judy Appel.
Sponsoring Young Dems to attend the YD Convention in Dallas:
This is our chance to enable young Dems to participate in a Party convention. Many cannot afford the cost of airfare, a hotel and meals. Some are first generation Americans, young parents, and juggling school and work. They estimate a shortfall of $5K to send 25 Young Dems to Dallas, so a donation of $100, $250 or $500–or other amount– would be gratefully received. Checks should be made out to: California Young Dems and can be sent to Gabe Quinto, 6438 Conlon Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530.
Guest speaker: Kimberly Ellis, Candidate for California Democratic Party chair and Executive Director, Emerge California
Kimberly opened with thanks to elected officials who are making a difference in the community: Mister Phillips, Gabe Quinto, and Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto (a graduate of Emerge). She especially singled out the extraordinary help and support of Hilary Crosby, her right hand everything in the campaign.
The campaign was two years long, beginning in 2015 on a beach in Kauai when I made the decision to run for party chair. During a remarkable, two-year marathon, the campaign: reached about 743,000 Democrats via social media; raised $500,000 from about 1,700 donors; visited 68 Democratic clubs throughout the state in 50 of 58 counties; held 22 townhall meetings and engaged in 15 debates; obtained endorsements from 12 county central committees; made 5 videos (including one focused on healthcare for all); and spoke to thousands of Democratic activists.
The emphasis throughout the campaign was on rebooting the party–and it was a real opportunity to bring the Bernie and Hillary parts of the party together. We rolled out a 7-point plan that included reinvesting party funds, time and energy in people: a permanent, full-time fied team to listen to, connect with and organize Democrats. Unfortunately, the vast amount of party money is being spent on high-paid consultants and TV ads.
Once the CDP chair election results were known, we appeared to have lost by only 62 votes. Quickly, it became clear that there were concerns about the validity of the election. We asked for a preliminary review of the ballots, and a suspension of the installation of CDP officers until the review was complete. The review demonstrated that there were much bigger issues with the votes and so we called for an independent, third-party audit to restore trust in the party and the election. Our requests were denied. Moreover, recently, the CDP Compliance review commission recently re-ratified the election despite the numerous issues discovered during our ballot review. As a result, we are putting together a legal appeal. It is still our hope that an independent audit will demonstrate that we are a party of integrity and honesty.
Regardless of the outcome of our appeal, we will continue to fight for what we believe in, holding ourselves accountable and telling hard truths. Change is hard, but I think we have to be the party that tells hard truths and evolves and is relevant. This is our opportunity to define who we are and unite all Democrats. Our party schism was not just Hillary Dems vs Bernie Dems, but reflected many more divisions. I was surprised that, on the campaign trail, I experienced in-your-face racism and sexism. But I remain committed to reducing the disconnect between the party leadership and the people– and encouraging talented Democrats (especially women,. people of color, and the underrepresented) to run for office.
Question and Answer session:
How do we avoid giving away elections to the GOP if too many Democratic candidates run for one office?
Anyone who feels the call to lead should run and they should root their campaign in issues, explaining our vision and our platform to the community. There will be people uncomfortable with truths. We are not going to please everyone and we must stay true to our values. I’ve been accused of being an angry black woman, but people who know me know that that is not my disposition at all and in all honestly, the only people who could argue that I am are my kids, because you know, I make them do their homework and chores and stuff.
Our journey is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Be the person who’s not the most liked. But have the courage to call the question and facilitate the tough conversations. And have the courage to support a person who is asking the tough questions, so they do not stand alone.
How does the CDP get credibility?
With only about 3,000 votes cast in the CDP chair election, our review saw more than 200 vote issues. So, we must have the courage to look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves about what’s staring back at us – even if it’s not what we want it to be. It’s time for real honesty and transparency, and there are no shortcuts for the party in the future.
How do you see the future of the party chair?
If we don’t change with the times, the party will die. What attracted me to the chair position was the chance to connect with people in their communities and to use the power of the party to affect solutions for people in the name of the party. Those community issues should be front and center in our message.
What can we do within the party? And how do we heal?
Acknowledging that there is a problem is a first step. Then talk about solutions and demand action. Call out problem areas and bring solutions to the table. Clubs can host/facilitate conversations–and can help the party meet people where they are. This will bring more voices to the table and diversify the party.
How can we work on issues in Red counties?
During the campaign, I said we’d focus on red, blue and purple areas. We need to hold elected officials accountable. Unless ECDC and the other clubs in blue areas use their clubs and their county central committees to focus on the issues we have in common across every county in both rural and urban areas such as poverty, education, and healthcare, we will make no headway.
What were the problems with the election in November?
We lost by fewer than 78,000 votes spread across the key states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. This was so close, but nationally only 8 people (5 white men and 3 white women) made the key decisions about where and how to spend billions in campaign funds. Unlike the days of the Obama community organizers, the 8 didn’t invest enough in people and organizations that could organize communities of color (not Black, not Asian, not Latino). When this happens, as we saw, a community does not know why the Democratic candidate is worth voting for. We saw the same disparity in California races. Only a tiny fraction of the money was spent on community organizers and field operations. And both nationally and in the state races, the campaign wasn’t comfortable talking about real issues like race and jobs and poverty.
What are you doing next?
I’ll continue to fight. And continue to facilitate difficult conversations and tell hard truths. I’ll continue standing up for candidates who are qualified, people-centered and have strong messages rooted in our shared, progressive values. This is the farthest thing from identity politics. We do not need threats and bullying of candidates who are qualified to do the job.
Kimberly received a standing ovation at the end of the Q and A.