Sunday, April 20, 2008

Democratic Party Nominating Conventions in Thurston County

Questions and Answers from Thurston County Dems on our nominating conventions (via email):
Why Are We Doing This?

In a nutshell, because we have been directed to do so by the Washington State Democrats (WSD). Following the recent US Supreme Court decision on the "top two" primary, the WSD legal team determined that all Democratic county party organizations in Washington State need to consistently identify a nominee for all partisan county positions in order for the WSD to maintain its asserted rights for Democrats to select their nominees.

In Commissioner District 1, this is unlikely to pose any particular difficulty, since we are only aware of one candidate running as a Democrat, incumbent Commissioner Cathy Wolfe. However, in Commissioner District 2, we have two candidates running as Democrats, Jon Halvorson and Sandra Romero. Since we support them both, we appealed to the WSD to be allowed to nominate two candidates in cases where we have two known qualified Democrats running for one position. We lost our appeal and are now simply complying with the legal requirements.

We believe it is best for all Democrats if this is done quickly and without fanfare. To continue to argue and debate this amongst ourselves will do nothing more than divide us and create unnecessary and unhelpful media attention.

Who Decided to Do This?

Since the US Supreme Court decision March 18, there have been many discussions and meetings among local parties and the WSD to determine what to do. Our TCD Executive Committee met to determine our best course of action following the final decision of the WSD Executive Committee April 3 that instructed all local parties with contested Democratic primary races to conduct nominating conventions prior to May 23.

After lengthy discussion and consideration of various alternatives, we decided the best course of action is to convene the PCOs in District 1 and select a nominee. Were we to fail to do so, Mr. Pelz would simply pick one for us.

What Will Be the Effect of this Nomination?

Mr. Pelz will submit the names of the nominees throughout the state to Secretary of State Reed indicating that they are the candidates who are approved Democrats for the primary ballot. We already know that Secretary Reed will not identify them as such on the ballot. The WSD will then determine whether and when to file for injunctive relief based upon the denial of its rights of association (i.e., ability to determine who represents its party). I suspect this would not occur until after the results of the general election, at earliest, and that their legal team will be seeking cases where the candidate elected was clearly not a Democrat, yet the voters thought s/he was.

In our case, the nomination will have little effect, if any.

Is this an endorsement?

No, per long-standing TCD policy, the TCD does not endorse candidates prior to primaries.

What Will We Do on the 28th?

You will each receive a ballot, the value of which is weighted by the number of precinct delegates you were eligible to elect at your precinct caucus. (This is per State Party rules with the intent to represent the varying numbers of Democratic voters in different precincts. I have attached a table of those weights.)

We only know of one Democratic candidate (Cathy Wolfe). If there are not others, Cathy may be nominated by acclimation.

If candidate speeches are necessary, they will be limited 5 minutes maximum for each candidate.

You will mark your ballot indicating one choice. (Per State Party rules, there is no vote splitting -- each ballot shall be cast for one candidate only.) You will sign the back of your ballot. The ballots will be retained for 30 days in case of questions or need for review.

There will be no secondary speeches and no questions from the audience.

The votes will be tallied by a committee made up of members from other Commissioner Districts. The candidate who receives the most weighted votes, will be declared nominated and his or her name will be submitted to Mr. Pelz within 24 hours.

Will There Be Any Other Nominations on the 28th?

We will conduct a nomination for Commissioner District 2.

Legislative District 22 may also conduct nominations at a separate meeting the same night.

Again, it's best to complete this as quickly and positively as possible, with minimal fanfare. Party unity is more important than whoever's name ends up being forwarded as our nominee.
A couple of things I take from this:

1. There is a difference of opinion between the state and local organization (possibly more organizations? I'm sort of out of the loop lately) on the necessity and wisdom of these conventions.

2. At least in Thurston County, this is a foot dragging sort of thing and is only being done to be ok by the rules of the state party so the state organization can end up suing the state in December when the election violates the party's right to assembly.

Basically: look we held these nominating conventions (which aren't endorsements, btw in Thurston County) and the state still didn't tell anyone that we nominated these guys. Talk about a violation of assembly!

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