Some of you have posed questions regarding my level of commitment to democratizing and reforming our Party. I hope this statement and sharing of ideas will be our first step together in showing you that I am unequivocally committed to democratization and party reform, and will work with you to make that happen. As I say in my 100 day plan, there is too much power in the hands of the chair, from appointments to fundraising decisions, and when that happens, people begin to feel powerless or irrelevant. I will also say that there must be other good ideas out there and I want to bring those to the surface to discover and discuss so please share your ideas.
Am I committed to reform?Again, let me get the easy part out of the way, YES, I am absolutely committed to reforming and democratizing the Party. Ask anyone who knows me -- I never commit to something I do not believe I can accomplish. I have no interest in holding all the power or the decision making in the California Democratic Party. In addition, it creates a better training ground within our Party and builds credibility and understanding when there is transparency around how and why decisions are made. It also creates better decision making bodies when those bodies are diverse -- not just in ethnicity and gender, but in age, political views and interests. Bonus - it is how we learn to effectively agree and disagree and come to consensus.
I agree with CDP Vice Chair Daraka Larimore-Hall’s comment that “organizational power should be wielded by an accountable, elected collective, not an individual”. I support a task force to recreate the governance of the party, with a defined timeline for making recommendations that also should include the Officers of the Party and a diverse group of delegates. I am open to looking at the options Larimore-Hall suggests of Co-chairs or elevating the role of the two Vice-Chairs, as long as there is a clear definition of responsibilities and a strong collaboration between/among them. I actually think no one person should be in charge of appointments; it creates the risk of undue influence and/or a narrowing of outlook. I do not believe it is a burden to have more than one person making these decisions: the process would be enhanced by having a group looking at appointments and financial decisions. This would build trust and foster accountability and transparency. Hiring decisions within the Party should be considered by the team and should follow an open, accessible process of identifying candidates for hire; it is traditional to have candidates interview with other staff to get buy-in, build early relationships and get multiple reflections on a candidate. It appears from the suggestions that this is not always being done now although that may have changed.
I agree with Daraka’s suggestions that young activists should have a role in committees; in fact we need a range of ages in addition to other diversity reflecting the multifaceted panoply of people in our state; that’s how we get better decisions that reflect diverse voices.
That’s the easy part. But HOW to divest the power? As a former agency executive officer, I would get consensus on our goals and create a project plan to implement those goals -- this should not be a long, drawn out process as there will be a transition in the early days when I am elected and this will be part of that transition. That process will increase buy-in to the solutions and thus increase their likelihood of success. Of course I appreciate that any changes proposed will need to be changed in the by-laws to make them well understood and not easily changeable.
This transition will require frequent check-ins with the leadership team to assess effectiveness, not just from the other officers but from committees and other delegates.
We must ask ourselves, “Is it working? Is this what we envisioned?” We must be nimble enough to adapt and work through the challenges of the transition. Each new process (committee appointments, contributions process, etc) will be going through its first iteration and documenting and adapting will be critical.
I cannot do any of this if I cannot get elected. And as we saw with the last two races for Chair, it is very difficult to elect a woman who wants to democratize the party, even one with the experience and success I had in the Assembly and in statewide office running, winning and serving. I and my team have had conversations with delegates regarding the pressure on them to vote for the incumbent, with threats that special interests will withhold campaign support or job prospects or other economic or political opportunities. This is not the California Democratic Party I will lead, but we are where we are.
Should I be fortunate enough to be elected, I can promise you the door will be open to all. I need you to vote for me, on the assumption that I will be the next chair, and dismiss efforts to undermine me. Unless we work together to get me elected, we will end up with what we have had the last two years -- internal friction and frustration unless you are an insider, mismanagement, congressional losses, poorly run elections and unforced errors (e.g. ‘California coup’). We must do better. Past performance is indicative of future performance. Check my record.
This is a work in progress meant to address concerns received by me and my team from some delegates regarding my commitment and my strategy. I promise you, I am committed.
Thank you for your work on behalf of our Party and our state! Together, let us put democracy back in the Democratic party.