While the state Democratic Party convention consists of many different features and functions, the most important one is the election of new officers.
Of course, the office of party chair gets the most attention, but there are three other races state delegates will vote in. We’ll be electing a 1st, 2nd and 3rd Vice Chair, too.
I’ve already made my wholehearted support of Phil Noble
for party chair well known, but hope to remind delegates of the other races that aren’t getting the same amount of attention in emails and on blogs.
Those other races need our attention, too, though. These positions are the ones that provide representation of our state to the national party, greatly aid in fundraising, help define issues and platforms, and help us on the county level, too.
And throughout the scope of candidates we have for these three positions, you’ll find many similarities. All agree that we need to build the party up from the grassroots level, for example. Each wants county parties to get more attention and aid. We need to improve the reputation of the party in our state, they recognize. And all promise to do all they can to achieve these goals.
That’s what made it hard for me to select which candidates I’ll vote for. I either know or know much of each of them, and have a lot of respect for all. I’m also sure that all are capable. So please note that my personal selections are not meant to be divisive.
After all, we’re not choosing from opposing sides in a bitter contest. We’re picking who’ll be the captains of our team. Please keep that in mind while perusing my selections (thus “endorsements”) for the vice chair position.
According to state party rules
: “The First Vice Chair shall be of a race different from the Chair, the Second Vice Chair shall be of a gender different from the Chair, and the Third Vice Chair shall be between the ages of 18 and 30 years of age.”
All three declared candidates for chair are male, and the top two candidates are white. As a result, we can assume the 1st Vice must be non-Caucasian, while the 2nd Vice Chair position will definitely go to a woman.
There are only two declared candidates for 1st Vice
, and who are of different ethnicities. And because it seems apparent that the sole African-American candidate for state party chair is far behind his opponents in the running, it stands to reason that the 1st Vice will only be eligible to a black candidate.
That will leave out the one I know personally, Mike Evatt
. Mike represents Oconee County at the state party Executive Committee, and joined me at the 2008 Democratic National Convention as an Edwards delegate.
The points of his platform hit me right at heart, too: grass roots instead of “insiders”; expansion of state party attention to the county and rural levels; and hold the Republican incumbents accountable for the mess they’re leaving us in.
The party rules will eliminate Evatt from the slate after the election for party chair, though, and I won’t be able to vote for him either way. But given the very impressive record of the sole remaining candidate, I’m not complaining one bit.
from Jaime Harrison's facebook page
Jaime Harrison is a hero, not just to our party, but to the entire state. He grew up in rural Orangeburg, but wound up at Yale on scholarship. He continued his education at Georgetown Univ., where he received his law degree; he’s even returned education to his community, too, as a teacher in his hometown.
He developed a positive reputation on the national level while interning for Rep. Clyburn and by working as Executive Director of the U.S. House Democratic Caucus, making national news quite a few times for the impressive reputation he developed there.
He’s well adept at fundraising, as his record shows. Harrison’s declared
fundraising to be a primary goal, as well.
He has support from party members across the state, too - even from ones who are split on support for party chair, which indicates Harrison can be the super glue adhesive we need to retain unity in the state party. Harrison
is ready for the job, too, and declares strong goals on his campaign facebook page. “We must proudly and boldly promote our core beliefs and principles; we cannot become Republican-lite.”
And just like Evatt (and like our entire state party, not to mention), Harrison vows to improve representation at the county level through grassroots organizing.
In short, Harrison is a well-qualified candidate who can help rebuild pride in the South Carolina Democratic Party, and who can make sure that party unity is retained. Even though we won’t exactly have a choice in this race, we couldn’t ask for a better choice than Jaime Harrison.
When it comes to 2nd Vice Chair
, we have three declared candidates; one is well-known in the party, another semi-known in one region and through one trade, and the other is not as well-known as she should be. And it’s the latter candidate who’ll get my vote at the convention.
Melissa's official 2008 delegate photo
Melissa Watson is party chair in Berkeley County, which borders my own Dorchester. And since she’s held that spot, I see and hear from Melissa with consistent regularity – because she hasn’t stopped moving forward for one second.
Since her election at last year’s county convention, I quickly learned of the positive work she’s done, like round-the-clock voter registration. I know the many improvements she’s made, like better regularity of party functions that have greater reach throughout Berkeley. I know the consistent outreach she makes, like regularly contributing to projects and functions throughout the region, and not just in her one county alone.
And I know that she’ll continue that blazing path of accomplishment across the state as 2nd Vice.
Another key factor about Melissa that’s always impressed me very much is the selflessness she displays in her party work and duties. She’s not in this for herself or any personal goals, which she holds far down the ladder from her priorities of party accomplishment. She does all this work for everybody – not herself.
“Leadership is another word for servant,” she says in her campaign. “Leaders should serve the people and the party.”
Watson has a very defined platform detailing those selfless goals, too: messaging, effective communication, strategic planning, effective leadership and statewide communication amongst county chairs, too.
Sheila Gallagher is another candidate for 2nd Vice. She’s a fine woman who’s past president of the South Carolina Education Association, and who ran for state house last year in the Florence area she calls home. Gallagher’s been active in social and political ventures for some years.
The remaining candidate is the well-known Carol Fowler, who is currently chair of the state party, and who once held this same 2nd Vice spot some years ago. There are some who hold Fowler responsible for 2010 campaign woes, but do so in error; she applied proper control over every facet that she possibly could.
While I don’t hold Fowler responsible for the problems of the past, and I don’t discredit Gallagher for her active Democratic work, I think it’s time the state party move straight in the direction that every other office’s candidates are seeking – expanding support from new participants by building from the county level up through grassroots campaigning.
I know Melissa J. Watson is the candidate for 2nd Vice Chair who’ll successfully get us in that direction.
And then there’s that final role of 3rd Vice Chair, which I find to be the hardest selection. It’s difficult not just because of the mutual qualifications all share, but also because it’s a little fuzzy over who might actually be in this race. There are three possible candidates, but maybe only two.
Incumbent Jamarr Brown has not officially declared, I understand. He’s not replied to my inquiry; he hasn’t told anyone I know with the state executive committee, either, which I find odd – they’re all delegates, after all, and with whom he has some regular contact. But the Charleston County Democratic Party just listed him on its recent “Meet the Candidates” invitation. He’s accomplished much in his current term and works very well, but based on these factors of undeclared and undecided can I not offer Jamarr any endorsement.
Will Maxey is an officially declared candidate. A native of Loris, he currently resides in Clemson, where attends school. He was an active volunteer in some of last year’s races, and worked with a student Democratic organization at Clemson, too.
Dante "DC" Swinton, from the website of his recent campaign
While those credentials of Will’s are certain assets, there’s another credential I used as the deciding factor for my support of the remaining candidate.
Dante “DC” Swinton didn’t just volunteer with political campaigns, and didn’t just study political topics in school. He was an actual candidate last year in the race for State District 24. Running against an incumbent and well-funded Republican, Swinton pulled in a quarter of the vote
, using just a shoestring budget (and plenty of shoe soles, too).
With a fine-tuned platform on the subjects of environment, education and civil rights, Swinton learned the ropes the hard way by running his own campaign, not as a volunteer or trainee.
For one this young to have this much experience makes Dante “DC” Swinton a perfect candidate for 3rd Vice Chair. Another key point about Swinton is his Greenville home. Of all candidates in all races, only DC is from this particular part of the state (and that one county has an exceptionally large number of delegates, too). Others range from Columbia on down, with three in the northeast area. And even though direct opponent Maxie attends school in the western part of the state, his home is in Horry County. So take note, upstate Democrats; DC Swinton could be the one chance you have for representation amongst state party officers.
Now, remember folks - these are my personal choices for vice chairs, and which I hope you'll follow, too. But don't forget that we are all on the same team on this. Like I said earlier, we're not choosing from opposing candidates in a bitter contest; we're selecting captains for our team.
Let's continue to operate like a team after this convention, no matter who wins.