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The New Face of the Texas Democratic Party

Katie Naranjo's picture

Last Tuesday afternoon, I sat down with the Texas Democratic Party's executive director Ruben Hernandez, communications director Amber Moon, and deputy communications director Hector Nieto to discuss the 2008 elections, the TDP's recent activities, and their plans for the future.

The TDP has answered the call to increase the presence of Democrats in Texas. Since May the Texas Democratic Party has been very busy with numerous projects, some visible and others behind the scenes. A few additions that display the TDP’s commitment to professionalism are the new office location on 505 W 12 Street in Austin, Chairman Richie’s Town Hall Tour and the new website at www.txdemocrats.org.

The Town Hall Tour
After traveling almost 10,000 miles to 18 different cities during the recent Town Hall Tour, TDP Chairman Boyd Richie compiled the comments and concerns of Texas Democrats to ensure the party serves its purpose. Texas Democrats offered many suggestions at the Town Hall meetings, including that the party increase outreach to activists; that local and county party organizations be offered even more support through tools and turnout techniques; and that the party engage in statewide candidate recruitment efforts.

TDP is working to help county parties put together plans for the 2008 general election cycle and primary to help increase voter turnout and democratic participation. Field Director Sondra Haltom will be overseeing the plans with Regional Field Directors Bill Brannon, Brian Pendleton, Terrysa Guerra, and Anthony Gutierrez helping counties to execute them. TDP will host another campaign camp in Austin during the first weeks of November this year to continue training candidates, county chairs, and Young Democrats from all over Texas. “We had a very positive response to last year's campaign camp,” says Moon.

The communications staff is putting effort into providing Democrats across the state with help on peer-to-peer communication of statewide Democratic message. Moon said her department will be providing local party leaders, candidates, and activists with the information and tools they need to help strengthen their media operations.

On turnout and mobilization, TDP is reaching out to constituencies with traditionally low voter turnout by broadening their linguistic abilities and crafting cultural literature. Nieto, the TDP's first bilingual communications staffer, says, “Most of the first time voters will come from specific constituencies. For the first time TDP can communicate in Spanish without a translator; we can increase our presence within the Hispanic community.”

Chairman Richie created the Campaign Working Group, an advisory group of SDEC and non-SDEC members that aids the chair in formulating a plan for the 2008 general election. “There is broad representation [in the working group] of people from activist groups, party officials and non-party officials,” says Ruben. Additionally, the recruitment drive is in full swing. “Chairman Richie has made it a priority to recruit candidates for local and state elections in 2008,” says Amber Moon.

The Website and Other Technology
The new website is another in a long line of tech upgrades undertaken by the TDP. The website now sports a constantly updated calendar; in addition, TDP hired Online Director James Thompson to enhance their databases and create interactive networking tools. Democrats throughout the state can now create a MyTDP account and network with Democrats all around Texas. The new website promises to be a tool that will enhance local democratic organizing in every county.

The Voter Activation Network, or VAN, is the TDP's voter file system. "It allows candidates and local Democrats to target and identify voters in a more strategic manner," says Amber Moon. "With the recent upgrade, we have made VAN faster and easier to use, and have added new tools. Precinct chairs, county chairs, and other party leaders can use VAN to run walk or call lists, generate mailings, and track voting history, with even more improvements to come."

New Party Politics
After meeting with Amber, Ruben and Hector in the new party headquarters, it is obvious that excitement and a renewed sense of activism are in the air. My hope and faith in TDP were affirmed. I am excited to see the programs that will help local county officials. I am also relieved that the party leadership is so directly involved and so focused on everyone in the party at all levels across the state. “Boyd is really hands-on; everything we have worked on is because he has been the one to give the go-ahead and to produce the idea,” said Ruben. Infrastructure and building the party remain the primary goals, and Moon makes no bones about it: “We are really focusing on the long-term health of the party. We want to create a state party entity that carries through each election cycle and is a continuous resource for our county parties.”

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