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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

The Case for Boyd Richie

Throughout the primary season, the Texas Blue did not endorse. We wanted badly to remain neutral while still bringing you news and analysis throughout the primary season and then, later, throughout the extended presidential primary process as well. Yesterday the Democratic primary officially ended and Barack Obama became the Democratic Party's nominee. Today it is a point of pride for me to personally endorse Boyd Richie for Texas Democratic Party chair.

I am setting aside my journalist hat, as it were, and writing strictly from an activist’s perspective. I am taking sides in the race for TDP Chair, but I am doing so on a personal level rather than speaking on behalf of The Texas Blue. I feel that this is fair enough to say and do because, as a progressive journalist and a progressive publication, we can write about whoever the chair is and whatever the chair does, and reporting on those things is not directly affected by who holds the position, save for a few obvious exceptions. As an activist, the person at the head of the party directly affects me a great deal, as it does every other Texas Democrat, and I see no reason why I should not write in support of a man that I voted for in 2006 and will gladly vote for again later this week.

Boyd Richie has accomplished a great deal during his time as TDP Chair, and his leadership has changed the landscape of Texas politics in favor of Democrats in remarkable, tangible ways. Chief among those positive changes are developments in the areas of finance, field organization, technology, and staff.

I have often argued that money in politics is neither good nor evil but absolutely necessary, and the Texas Democratic Party's fundraising has surged over the last two years. The party has increased the number of donors a great deal, taken in significant money on the internet, and initiated a monthly Democracy-Bond-esque small donor program called Majority Builders. The Majority Builder program is precisely the kind of revolving continual revenue system a political party requires to not only keep the lights on but reach for new highs in communications and organizing capabilities. For the TDP this has already proven to be a great success.

Field organizing and the TDP's connection to and engagement of grassroots Democrats all across Texas has also been an arena of extraordinary advance in the last two years, and much of this is directly attributable to Boyd Richie. His marathon tour across Texas last summer, during which he held 18 Town Hall meetings with grassroots progressive activists and party organizations at the county level and below, allowed the party to bridge the somewhat overhyped ideological gap between grassroots activists and party officials. Through that process the party's leadership learned (in a sometimes visceral way) what Texas Democrats wanted out of their state party organization. Many of those ideas translated into real action and outreach on behalf of the party, and a more engaged and strengthened Democratic base augmented an already robust and growing infrastructure.

That infrastructure was activated to a grand degree by the VAN system during the presidential primary election and caucuses here in Texas, which saw record numbers of Democrats heading to the polls. Both presidential campaigns made use of the VAN as did down-ballot campaigns all across the state. That should tell you plenty about the efficacy of the program and why continuing to develop this and other technological tools is a critical step in continuing to build upon this year's successes. A tool that is useful enough to find a home in the tool box of the most complex political operations of our lifetimes is extraordinary. If that same tool is accessible to and can be used by much smaller campaigns for JP and County Commissioner, it borders on revolutionary.

But all of the money, the advances in field organizing, and the technological tools — indeed, the massive and ever-developing infrastructure of the Texas Democratic Party — would be of little use without a skilled and dedicated team to administer them. The staff at the Texas Democratic Party is comprised of an unbelievably talented group of people, and under Boyd’s leadership they have directly reshaped politics in Texas.

My dealings with current Communications staff headed by Hector Nieto (and former Communications staff headed by Amber Moon) always leave me feeling impressed with their professionalism and skill – they aren’t afraid to take the fight to Republicans, they know what they're doing, and they mean business. Every time Political Director Sondra Haltom is involved in any way with a field organization training (like the professional campaign camp the party had last November), I wish I could be there, because they are always good and they always work. Regional Field Directors Brian Pendleton and Terrysa Guerra are wonderful resources for all Texas Democrats. There is no doubt that Executive Director Ruben Hernandez and Finance Director Aimee Boone are immensely talented. As far as I can see, there is no weak link in the chain.

Now, to be fair, I am biased here. All of these people are my friends. But before they were my friends they earned my respect as the warriors on the front lines, fighting for Texas Democrats every day. Under Boyd Richie’s leadership, they have grown from being a group of Texas’ best and brightest (and an aggressively recruited group, at that) to being the senior staff of one of the premier political party organizations in the United States.

This came home to me as I covered the presidential debate in Austin earlier this year. The infrastructure we’ve all been hollering about and working to build would hold up remarkably well under the human wave of new Democratic primary voters a few weeks from that night, but I thought the debate would be a good practice run to see if the organization was ready, as they say, for prime time. The presidential campaigns had come to town and the onus was on the Texas Democratic Party to not only hold a successful event but also to show the rest of the country that Democrats in Texas were ready for the stage they had been thrust upon.

The debate went extremely well and it showed that the TDP is the real deal, ready to compete in any arena, period. The primary and caucuses were a little more difficult, but they were also far more complex and totally different than anything any of us had ever experienced. That the infrastructure of our state party organization was strained — heavily — but still held and performed is a testament to how far the TDP has come in not only running their own store, but in providing county and local organizations with the tools and support to run their own.

That the Texas Democratic Party has made so many enormous advances would by itself be one hell of a job review for a candidate seeking to be rehired for the same position, which is essentially what Boyd is. If one includes the fact that the Texas Democratic Party has gained seven seats in the Texas State House and picked up two Congressional seats as well since Boyd took office, the choice becomes even clearer.

Boyd Richie is a man who promised change, to change the Texas Democratic Party for the better, to develop the organization into a formidable political force that is well-prepared for the monumental battles Texas Democrats face during this election cycle and during the run-up to 2010, the last election cycle before redistricting. He has delivered on each of those promises and the fruits of that labor are plainly visible in the professionalism and success of the Texas Democratic Party. I am proud to support him for Texas Democratic Party Chair and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us in the years to come.


Josh and too all at Texas Blue,
I appreciate all of the kind words and hard work on behalf of Chairman Boyd Richie. You hit the nail on the head on what he has delivered over the past 2 years. I may be biased since he is my Uncle but I have seen all of the traveling and hard work and long hours he and Betty put in. He has the hopes and dreams of every Texan at heart and has and will continue to fight for those things that are important to us. He is always looking to find candidates that will carry that message into office and work as hard as he does for Texas. We have raised more money than any previous Chair in the past 15 years and it shows at the ballot box. Some may not always agree with the strategy that has to be used but there is only so much money to go around. His leadership and the fight he has shown have us in a good position to take back the State House this year and elect a Democratic to the U.S. Senate this fall. These wins will pay dividends in the near future with the 2010 election cycle. That is the big picture view he has and that is what we must focus on. Sure, we could throw caution to the wind and shoot our wad all at one time but that is not sound for the future. I found it ironic in the speeches from Mr. Van Os and Mrs. Brooks that their way would bring change. How would this be change when in the final analysis it is really, what we had prior to Chairman Richie?
I am very pleased and humbled that the voters at the convention selected my Uncle to another term and appreciate all the help he received.

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