Kevin Knuth delivered his State of the Party address. I know this is a long read but there are some interesting tidbits within it. Some are valid insights while others are a stretch of the imagination. I'll let you be the judge.My comments later in the week.
Elected officials, Precinct Officials, Democrats, welcome to the annual "State of the Allen County Democratic Party" address. This tradition was started in 1996 by Chairman Brian Stier, to report on the health of our Party, review the past year, and announce our future plans. There is nothing more crucial than an open and honest report to Party members each year. Some years, this address can be difficult. This year, however, it is with great pride and celebration that I address you.
In my 2006 address, I used the word "optimistic" ten times. I pointed out that even though we live in what is considered a "Republican" County, that even though the Governor's office and both sides of the state house were controlled by Republicans and that at the federal level, the House, Senate and Executive branches were controlled by Republicans, we had good cause to be optimistic. It turns out, I was right. While the elections of 2004 were difficult for Democrats across our country, 2006 brought cause for celebration.
At the national level, Democrats now control the House and Senate, bringing necessary balance and oversight to national politics. With the change in power in Washington, D.C., also came a change in leadership. I am elated that for the first time in our nation's history, the Speaker of the House is a woman. I am, however, disappointed that it took 231 years for our country to look beyond gender as a leadership quality. Now that we have taken the historic step of having a Woman as speaker, one can only wonder how long it will be before we have a woman President.
And even though we have made much progress at the Federal level, we clearly have much work to do. This past week, President Bush submitted a $2.9 Trillion budget to Congress. A budget that continues to fund the war in Iraq while cutting benefits to Senior citizens. Clearly, the President's priorities are not in line with the majority of Americans thinking.
Back home in Indiana, Democrats regained control of the House. Mitch Daniels and State Republicans saw the effect that their heavy-handed leadership style had on Hoosiers. After just two years of Republican leadership, Indiana's house is now back in the control of the Democratic Party. Indiana voters clearly made their concerns known, and they do not want a one-sided, lopsided, government. On November 7th voters acknowledged that the Republican agenda, which included selling off state assets and sending billions of dollars out of state in privatization dollars, did not benefit working Hoosiers. The voters were ready for a change, and their voices carried in the voting booths across this state.
Not all was perfect however. We lost some races that we really wanted to win.
I am reminded of a conversation that Brian Stier and I had back in 2001. He said that all we had to do was to get ONE Democrat elected to County office and the rest would begin to fall like dominoes. He was right.
We do owe thanks to Pat Love, who in 2002 was the first Democrat elected to County Wide office since 1974. I have no doubt that her successes as Assessor, made it easier for our candidates this year. Unfortunately, Pat was not successful in her bid for re-election. She served the citizens of Allen County well during a difficult reassessment and brought necessary change to the Assessor's office. We all owe her thanks for opening the door for more Democratic leadership in Allen County.
Mike Bynum and Nina Gaines-Newson were first time candidates that brought energy and enthusiasm to their campaigns. Though they were not successful, it is my hope they consider running again. They were great candidates, and they would both make fine public servants.
Without question, the best candidate for Allen County Sheriff was Tina Taviano. She had experience, credentials and education. I cannot explain why she was not successful, but I really feel the voters of Allen County, well, they made a mistake. Tina Taviano was an incredible candidate. I am thankful she was on our ticket. It is clear that she has a bright future ahead of her, regardless of what she decides to do.
Tom Hayhurst has served his country and community his entire life. Last year he embarked on a journey to unseat a 6 term incumbent in a heavily Republican district. His campaign energized our base, and gave hope to many residents of the 3rd district that they would soon have a representative who looked out for their interests and not the interests of the Republican elite and religious right.
Taking desperate measures, Mark Souder and the RNCC resorted to slander, mischaracterizations and lies in order to win. They should be ashamed of themselves. Though we did not win the congressional seat, the Hayhurst campaign accomplished two things:
First, the RNCC was forced to spend money in a race that, in the past, they would never have been concerned about winning. This made it possible for other Democrats to win across our country- by reducing the money the RNCC could spend in other races. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Mark Souder has been put on notice. The people of the third district are willing to vote for change and his seat is not guaranteed. In the new Congress, Mr. Souder is showing his desire to be an obstructionist. That tact will simply make it easier for a Democrat to win in 2008.
Tom was a defender of our veteran's before he entered this race. He was a founding member of "Veteran’s for Better Healthcare' when Mark Souder was walking away from the VA.
I witnessed firsthand his compassion for others when he cared for my ailing father. He is beloved by neighborhoods all across the 4th district.
In appreciation for his service to our country, our community, and our Party I would like to give this small token to him. This photo appeared in the newspaper on November 8th. It captures the Tom Hayhurst that I know-It symbolizes his patriotism, his dedication, his compassion and his honor. He is a class act. Dr. Hayhurst, thank you, on behalf of the Allen County Democratic Party.
After every election we review what we did right and what we could do better. Those reviews led to changes in strategy this past year that clearly benefitted our Party.
In 2006 we elected more Democrats in a county election year than we have in decades. With major successes in sweeping Wayne Township and electing a Democrat to County Council we have clearly signaled that the Allen County Democratic Party is on the upswing. Or, as I said on election night, "The Allen County Democratic Party is back!"
On election night, Tony Henry, Maria Parra, and Pat Turner were elected to the position of Wayne Township Advisory Board. That is a net gain of 2 seats on that board and a net gain of 1 seat for Democrats County wide.
Rick Stevenson ran a spirited campaign that catapulted him past an entrenched Republican. Just two days into his new job, Rick Stevenson showed the compassion and concern he has for all people. He cancelled a lease at Centlivre Village apartments, used for a township program, due to the deplorable conditions there. Just because someone is in need, does not mean that they should not be treated with dignity and respect. Rick's victory is a victory for all residents in Wayne Township, and brings our net gain of Democrats to 2 seats.
Our candidate for Wayne Township Assessor, Bev Zuber, showed that winning an election is about more than a name. It is about integrity, values, and hard work. She exemplifies these traits. On election night, she won with the greatest margin of victory of any of our candidates, with the exception of Win Moses who was running unopposed. She brings our net gain to 3 seats.
John Morgan could very well be the hardest working Democrat in Allen County. In addition to helping several of our candidates, he also ran for office this past year. His victory in the race for Adams Township advisory board brings our net gain to 4 seats.
Some people are born to be leaders. Maye Johnson is clearly in that category. Her ability to provide a positive impact to any issue she is involved in will serve her well on County Council. Her one voice will be heard above the Republican chatter on County Council and she will be certain to look out for those that most need our help and support. Her victory brings us to a net gain of 5 seats.
Win Moses' victory did not add to our gain of seats, but was significant for other reasons. The Allen County Republican Party claims to be the Premier Political organization in the State of Indiana, yet they were unable to find anyone to even attempt a run against Win Moses. That is a testament to the fine job Representative Moses does for his constituents every day. I thank him for his service.
Phil GiaQuinta's victory was bittersweet. While it was the beginning of one political career, it signaled the end of another. Ben GiaQuinta will be missed, but we are confident that Phil will represent his constituents with the same thoughtfulness, concern and zeal that his father showed during his time in the statehouse. He is young, energetic and smart. I have no doubt that he will be serving us well for many years to come.
A photo taken on election night symbolizes the bond between father and son, and also signifies the passing of the torch to a new State Representative. I want Phil to have this as a reminder of his first election, and the bond he shares with his father.
There was another victory this year. One that took place prior to the election. Bob Griebel was elected to the Marion Township Advisory board when the Allen County Election board removed 11 Republicans from the ballot due to forged signatures on campaign documents. This underhanded trick by the Republican Party resulted in adding to our net gain of 6 seats won in 2006.
I wish to express my thanks to our candidates, our volunteers, and the voters who made our successes possible.
While reviewing our past election strategy, I also see a need to make some changes to the Party's scheduling, our fundraising, as well as changes to the Executive Committee.
This past election season we were faced with a unique problem. With several candidates working hard at raising money, our Party fundraising efforts collided with the candidate's efforts. Too many events held closely together do not generate the type of funds we need to be successful. To that end, the Party will hold their fundraisers earlier in the election cycle, allowing candidates more opportunities to raise money without conflicts.
Additionally, we will begin a move away from sponsorships for events to the formation of a "Chairman’s Club" The club will work like sponsorships, but will allow for patrons to better budget for their donations to the Party while allowing the Party a longer period of time to secure memberships and expand our list of contributors. It should also allow us to reduce the cost of admission to fundraisers, allowing more of our members to attend.
Along financial lines, we will continue to grow the Democratic Action Fund or DAF. The DAF was formed by Brian Stier as a mechanism to allow us to fund having a headquarters. Each month, DAF contributors donate by allowing us to withdraw from their checking or savings accounts a pre-determined amount of money. Current DAF contributions range from $10 to $110 per month, and generate nearly $2200 per month for the Party. If you are currently on the DAF, thank you. If not, please consider joining.
In March, I will call for the formation of a building committee. The building we currently lease has apparently been sold. We will need to determine the new owners' intention with this space- it is unknown at this time if they intend to renew our lease. The building committee will also review if this space fits our needs for the upcoming election cycles, and what other options we may pursue.
Our Party structure is determined by State Party rules. There is the Central Committee, made up of Precinct Chairs and Vice-Chairs, and there is the Executive Committee. The executive committee includes the Chair, vice-chair, secretary and treasurer. These positions are filled by vote of the Central Committee. Upon being elected to the position of Chair, I asked and was granted the ability to add positions to the executive committee. Currently, the executive committee consists of the Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. I added four positions of advisors to the Chair. Additionally, four precinct officials that were voted on in a previous meeting currently sit on the Executive Committee. This was an attempt to improve communication between the Executive and Central committees.
I am concerned that at the local level we are not doing enough to connect with key constituencies of our Party. African Americans, Labor, Hispanics and the GLBT communities are key to our success and are not to be taken for granted. The Allen County Democratic Party is and has been committed to inclusion of all, yet, I still feel we have to do a better job of connecting with these groups.
To remedy that, we are going to make changes to the Executive committee. Our first step will be to form a Black Caucus. The Caucus will have three primary goals. First, recruit qualified black candidates for ballot positions. Second, support and train those candidates. Finally, it is imperative that they bring the concerns of the black community, as they relate to local politics and issues, directly to the Party's executive committee. The Allen County Democratic Party will not dictate what the structure of the caucus is, or requirements of membership within the caucus. Our goal is to include, not control.
Following the launch of the black caucus, we will begin to add the other groups. Each will be given a spot on the Executive committee. Final decisions on the makeup of the Executive committee will be made in the following months. These changes will take time but I am confident that they will lead to a stronger Party, with a more diverse base, one that is more representative of our community.. Those are qualities we all embrace.
In the next two weeks there will be a lot of excitement generated by our candidates filing for office in Fort Wayne, New Haven and Woodburn. The media is not happy that we are not in a rush to announce who will be running. The timeline for candidate filings will be determined by us, not the media and not the opposing Party. Rest assured, we will have qualified candidates running and there will be more victories yet to celebrate!
My message to all of you is that we are on the rise. Our Party fundraising and structure may need some tweaking, but I am happy to report that the State of the Allen County Democratic Party is good, and that the Democrats are back. Thank you all for joining me here today.
Delivered by Kevin R. Knuth, County Chair