The Shelby County Democratic Party is at its cross road. They will soon be electing a new chair for the Party and this one decision will move them forward or doom them to stagnation.
Let me state that I have not decided who I will support as the new chair. We have some very good people running. Each candidate has some strong qualities but each brings their own baggage.
There are at least four serious candidates who have let it be known that they are interested in taking on the challenge of being the next SCDP Chair. They are in alphabetical order:
Lee Harris, and
Last Saturday I spent a few hours at a Jay Bailey gathering. Of all the candidates seeking to be chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party he has shown the most passion that I have seen so far. At his meeting Jay spoke about the need to engage the average citizen. He stressed that the Party had become too top down and has strayed away from its constituents. He shared his 10-Point Plan to change the Party.
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I have been a community organizer for over fifteen years. I know false sincerity when I hear it. When Jay spoke about the need to reach out to the community I could tell he was sincere. He spoke of a Party that I could be proud of.
Bottom line is that I believe Jay is sincere when he speaks of building the Party, but he must show that he can handle the more radical elements that gravitate to his team.
County Commissioner J.W. Gibson is a smart, successful businessman who is well connected and has a leadership style that could bring some order to the Party. As a County Commissioner J.W. would have little trouble in conducting meetings and developing committees. The problem is that some question if J.W. is a real Democrat. He is a former Republican, and last year he endorsed Kemp Conrad, a Republican for City Council over Democratic and longtime IBEW head Paul Shaffer. Of course it is his right to support a Republican for office, and Kemp Conrad is a good guy, but to then turn around and say you want to be the leader of the Democratic Party may be a bit too much for some to handle. J.W. is going to have to do a lot of convincing.
Lee called me the other day and we spoke for a long time. He gave solid answers to what he wanted to see happen within the Party. He stated he would focus on building SCDP's coffers and making certain that the Party finally had its own headquarters. Lee was a 2006 Congressional candidate. His campaign, though not successful, was well run. In our conversation he was frank and gave a spirit of energy and determination that was refreshing. These are qualities that could go a long way in moving the Party forward.
My concern, can he connect with the members of SCDP? Will he be able to transfer that energy into a party that has been idol for some time?
Of the previous three candidates that I have spoken about, not one is a member of SCDP, so their attendance, even as guests are rare. Van Turner not only attends but is the Parliamentarian of the Party. I can find little fault in Van. He is well spoken. Like Jay and Lee he is an attorney. I feel Van has avoided the "being in a click" label and is seen by most as someone who puts the Party first. The only real concern I may have is his lack of experience. Of the four candidates he has the least political experience. In a time when the Party is in such shambles experience can not be overlooked.
Well there you are. These are the four men that want to take the Party forward. This is an important time. While the Country is showing more blue, Tennessee is red. Democrats have lost power at the State level and now more then ever we need strong leadership.
Very soon I will make my decision on who I plan to support as the next SCDP chair. What I recommend you do if you care about the future of the Democratic Party is to:
- This Wednesday at 5:30p.m. attend the SCDP Straw Poll event at Hi-Tone Cafe - 1913 Poplar - and throw your support to one of the candidates.
- Attend the next SCDP meeting on Thursday, February 5th at 7p.m. in the IBEW Hall, 1870 Madison.
- March 7th at 9a.m. you want to attend the Shelby County Democratic Party Ward and Precinct Caucus; Airways Middle School 2601 Ketchum Ave. Registration begins at 9a.m. and closes promptly at 10:45a.m. - all those in line will be allowed to register. Voting for delegates begins at 11:30a.m.
For more information you can go to www.shelbydem.org