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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

On Running Races and Pointing Fingers

George Nassar's picture

UPDATE: We interviewed David Van Os, where he spoke on his reaction to the 2006 campaign cycle, his race, and his response to this article. You can hear the Van Os interview here.

As Democrats, we are a big-tent party. We pride ourselves on letting a broad spectrum of opinion come to the table for discussion. We believe in Holmes' marketplace of ideas, in letting all voices be heard. So it stands to reason that one could take personal affront when they feel like their particular voice is not getting equal time in the discussion.

David Van Os wrote a letter to one of his supporters recently, which was published with his permission on the Burnt Orange Report. In it, Van Os levels the charge that the Texas Democratic Party "played favorites" with statewide Democratic candidates in the 2006 election. He makes it clear that he's not talking about the distribution of TDP money - he is talking about "the party promoting an environment of support and confidence about the candidates and their messages through its public and press communications," since "money follows excitement and hope." He does not believe the party made a "conscious and deliberate" attempt to support Democrats all the way down the ticket.

David Van Os ran for Attorney General. I ran for no position. I am sure his experience with the Texas Democratic Party is far more extensive than my own.

I had the good fortune to sit down and talk with Van Os - as I'm sure many of you have as well; he's a very personable man - when he stopped by Denton County on his "whistle-stop tour." I found his "voice of the people" style to be engaging, and his grassroots populist message resonated with my idealist side. I instantly liked the guy. I did wonder to myself exactly how he had time to raise the sort of war chest he would need to compete with someone like Greg Abbott when he was busy zooming around all 254 counties, but that concern was easily put aside - surely someone running for one of the highest positions in Texas would have that covered.

Then I started thinking about that a bit more. I hadn't heard a thing about David Van Os, other than a comment or two in a county meeting about his running, before I received his "whistle-stop tour" flyer in September. At the time I was Communications Director for the Denton County Young Democrats, so I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I would at least hear about pretty much any event or issue that a Texas candidate chose to publicize. Yet David Van Os's camp had been silent for the majority of the election, and save that one flyer, remained silent until election day.

That is not to say Van Os didn't have exposure - a group of Denton Democrats, whose affiliation to Van Os's campaign remains unclear to me to this day, raised enough money to get a billboard put up on a high-traffic area of I-35 for the last month of the campaign. The billboard was very well-done, and I was impressed that they raised that kind of money. I have no idea where it came from, since I hadn't seen the campaign put out any information on themselves before their tour appearance late in the election cycle; good job to them for rounding up some late donors without any real prior exposure. That must have been a difficult task.

Van Os notes that "money follows excitement and hope." I would note that excitement and hope imply foreknowledge of there being something to be excited and hopeful about. Where were the weekly press releases one would expect from an up-ticket candidate? Where were the reports on early fundraising efforts? Where were the per-county organization efforts? The high-profile events? Ice cream socials and hot dog suppers are fine and dandy for a Justice of the Peace candidate, but they're not the scale a state-wide operation needs to be working with to fundraise.

Van Os seems to hold the state party responsible for not encouraging "...an environment of support and confidence" in down-ticket Democratic candidates. I find that strange, because I do not remember in the twenty years I've lived here seeing an environment in Texas more filled with support and confidence for Democrats - candidates, organizations, what have you - than in 2006. And it showed, in the races of those candidates that ran a politically savvy race. Harriet Miller ran for the Texas House District 102 seat against an entrenched state representative, Tony Goolsby. She raised around $300,000, which is right about where she needed to be to really compete in that house district. And she ran a fantastic race. She didn't get a lick of money from the state party, HDCC, or anyone else Van Os made cited until the last month or so before the election, and even then, she received $8100 in in-kind contributions from the TDP and a $16000 contribution from the HDCC -- assuredly a help during the last month of her campaign, but in total only about 8% of her general election fundraising. Let me reiterate: Harriet Miller, running a race for a Texas House seat, managed to raise nearly double what Van Os raised for a state-wide campaign without resorting to the state party for help. Small wonder, then, that the HDCC would help chip in for the final push of her campaign. Do you imagine she could raise that kind of money in a hostile environment, one without the "support and confidence" Van Os was looking to get? In District 85, Joe Heflin, without significant state support, ran an underdog race in one of the reddest areas in Texas, raised real money, ran a real campaign, and won. Where was the negative environment there?

Of the five state rep seats we picked up in the general election, two were in the North Texas area, one in Corpus Christi, one in Austin, and one in West Texas. Support for the Democratic ticket was both clearly present and geographically distributed, state-wide. Unless the TDP released some "Don't Vote For Down-Ticket Candidates" flyer that I somehow didn't see, the Texas Democratic Party did as evenhanded a job as they could be expected of doing in encouraging Democrats across the board. Does Van Os really expect some broad statewide "feel-good" campaign actively marketing every candidate on the ticket? I like to think that he actually doesn't believe that "it's not about the money," that he didn't honestly expect the party to singlehandedly create "an environment of support and confidence" - because if he's not just bitter because he didn't get party financial support, and honestly thinks that a broad statewide pro-Democratic campaign is even remotely financially feasible, he has a much more deluded grasp of politics than I originally believed. You want the party's $400,000 to be used for that purpose? You'll need a couple more zeros, Mr. Van Os.

I'm hopeful that isn't the case, and that Van Os is more politically savvy than the points he presents in the letter would indicate, but some of his points would seem to indicate that he's going on a rant without really noticing what's going on. He cites, for example, that he doesn't want the party to be "promoting just Chris Bell for governor." Did he read his own letter? He earlier named Russ Tidwell as part of the "consultantocracy" that is supposedly running the Texas Democratic Party - the same Russ Tidwell that was lambasted elsewhere in the Burnt Orange Report for not supporting Chris Bell in the race, and instead directing key Democratic donors to Strayhorn! Bell didn't receive early support from the party - he only started getting party support after he proved himself a viable candidate by (surprise!) raising money. Chris Bell and Barbara Ann Radnofsky have that to their merit, which no other statewide Democratic candidate can claim - they both eventually acknowledged that they had to raise a significant amount of money to be viable in their races, they recognized that it is neither their role nor is it within the power of the state party to give them that money, and they went out and got it. If Van Os would have paid closer attention to Bell, perhaps he would have done a bit better with his own fundraising. Yes, money may "follow excitement and hope," but especially in political circles, excitement and hope themselves follow money.

And that's the bottom line lesson to be learned from Van Os's candidacy - the state party, having limited resources to support individual candidates (and far too limited to make a broad statewide push), have to select the most viable candidates to support. I'm not sure exactly how the "consultantocracy" controls the Texas Democratic Party - I guess that's supposed to be a bad thing, though I don't understand how taking the advice of people who have extensive experience in politics and choose to share that with the party is a bad thing - but if they were "controlling" the party by telling them "hey, you don't have much money, spend it where it counts," that sounds eminently reasonable to me. Van Os alleges that the $400,000 Boyd raised went to 17 legislative candidates, and that somehow that was - unwise? Unfair? I'm not sure. Let's pretend, instead, that every red cent of that went to Van Os's campaign for Attorney General. Okay, Mr. Van Os, after that influx of cash, you are now only a mere $1.5 million away from running a credible - not strong, but credible - campaign for Attorney General. Where do you plan to get that cash? $400,000 is not enough to fund two competitive legislative races, let alone 17 - split 17 ways, that money wouldn't make a dent. The Texas Democratic Party knows what they're there for - they spent their $400,000 on statewide voter contact programs in as many competitive regions as they could afford, doing mail buys and phone banking to get out the Democratic straight-ticket vote, benefitting everyone on the ticket. It is the candidates' job to do candidate campaigning, and to set up coordinated campaigns where all candidates for a region pool resources to reach their local targets. And frankly, our candidates did a poor job of that.

Second-guessing an election cycle where we made significant Democratic pickups in difficult regions of the state seems like a silly proposition to me. And assuming that a "voice of the people" can yield, through some democratic process, a wiser course of action than a small group of individuals chosen for their extensive political experience strikes me as akin to taking the scalpel out of a surgeon's hand and handing it to a committee of accountants. That sort of surgery may suit Van Os's populist principles, but it makes for pretty bad medicine. Democratic candidates made serious inroads in Texas politics 2006, and we won some really tough races, even though the statewide Democratic ticket included a number of people that had no concept of what a good campaign entails. I attribute that success to the hard work and diligence of those candidates, their willingness to raise money and run a sound "Politics 101" campaign, and to key late-game assists from the Texas Democratic Party. Decrying the 2006 elections as a failure simply due to individual losses is a childish game, and one we as a party don't have time to play.

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On the dark side of the moon

there is a place where campaigns can be made successful by will alone; where fundraising and political contributions are unnecessary...But back here on Earth, we live in a society that requires politicians to compete in those functions that are vital to the position they desire, which requires substantial funding.

When Van Os came to Denton, I too was attracted to his rhetoric of sidestepping big interests and major donors in order to connect with and properly serve the people. But as George points out here, there is simply no way to overcome the financial obstacles to implementing a constituency's demands without first winning a large monetary approval.

I agree 100% that we should not waste our time examining the individual losses for a particular flashpoint that resulted in an overall TDP failure. Van Os' bid(s), however, is a great example of how Texas Democrats should not run their campaign in 2008.

Ps. George, your article rocked! I think it should go state-wide!

5 Democratic house races

Which 5 seats did the Democrats pick up in 2006? I haven't been able to find the list.

Pickups

Garcia (District 32)
Cohen (District 134)
Pierson (District 93)
Bolton (District 47)
Vaught (District 107)

Plus we had a sixth pickup

Plus we had a sixth pickup in Donna Howard, who took the HD 48 seat in a special election in February, and whose opponent in said election ran against her again in the general, and then dropped out.

It really is about Winning

I must agree with George here. I was talking with DVO early in the primaries and he said something to me then that made my blood run cold. I asked him if he was ready to win the AG race, his response was, "It’s not about winning, it’s about the fight." Let me be the 1st to say, if you did not come to seriously try to win, go home. For those of us who are suffering the effects of bad legislation, deregulation, and rampant corruption, it is only about WINNING..

DVO makes valid points

Mr. Nassar, you act as if DVO is just sour grapes and yet he is making very valid points. I worked very hard to get the TDP to run a statewide Vote Straight Dem ticket campaign that would carry every candidate from Bell on down to local races. The TDP had produced a very mediocre flier for a VSDT campaign and it sat collecting dust mostly. There was no statewide coordinated effort and it would have made all the difference in the world for all the statewide candidates. We need to have a visible and vibrant Party to make that “D” on the ballot mean something. Instead, our state Party sat silent. We had real issues, such as coal fired power plants, voter verifiable paper ballots, education, the TTC, healthcare, Iraq, etc and they could have rallied the masses and taken advantage of the great discontent that was throughout the country and this state. Instead, we were busy rebuilding for 2010.

There is no accountability in the Party and that is an excellent point that DVO makes. SDEC members, as well as county and precinct chairs can sit back and do nothing without anyone taking notice. Many were just waiting for marching orders that never came. One SDEC member justified their lack of effort because “these were not the candidates that they would have chosen” and in 2010, he assured me that we will have candidates worthy of support. This is just unacceptable. I think they feared that if Bell won, it would spoil their plans for 2010.

The ongoing battle over Party control keeps it divided and irrelevant. It is not run as a “Big Tent” party because the grassroots have been left completely out of the process and liberals are often shun in some areas by those who are actively modeling our Party as Republican Lite. All the TDP and SDEC really seems to want from us is our sustaining membership, even though they don’t communicate what is going, share a vision, produce a game plan for winning, educate our people on the issues or create opportunities for activism. There is so much that could be done with talented volunteers and very little money. The effort alone would have raised more money than imaginable.

I believe that the Party needs voices like DVO's to help identify the problems and get the Party moving in the right direction, particularly in a Progressive direction. To treat him like he is a problem is wrong.

Peggy Walton
Conroe, TX

"Sat quietly?"

How does a party that "sat quietly" perform better than an entrenched, organized, massively funded Republican incumbency? I'm not sure that we're looking at the same election cycle.

It sounds like you have a legitimate beef with an SDEC member or two out there. Go take it to them. Deal with those individuals as individuals. But when the state party has, by Van Os's own account, enough money to run two mediocre state rep races and nothing more, saying that somehow picking up 6 seats in the House, sweeping every contested Dallas County election, having Lampson win against one of the most aggressive national-level Republican fundraising campaigns in the state, etc. etc. is not enough is just plumb silly.

I do not treat Van Os like he is a problem. Van Os is a captivating orator and incredibly likeable. He could make a *fantastic* candidate -- if in any of the three races he'd run, he had actually raised some money. I did not have the place in the article to quote the many people that have come to me saying "yeah, I asked Van Os about how his race was going, and when I asked about fundraising, he told me he doesn't have to raise money to win!" That *is* a problem. Because it is false, it is provably false, and Van Os demonstrates how false it is every time he runs his no-fundraising races. "I don't need to raise money to win!" Yeah, and how's that working out for ya?

The TDP is in the business of getting support for all candidates on the ballot, throughout the state. They did so, with mail pieces and phone support designed to get out the strong Democratic straight-ticket vote in the districts where GOTV Democratic efforts would actually bear fruit. If they didn't run robocalls in Odessa, I don't begrudge them that -- that money is better spent where there are actually Democrats to GOTV in the first place. The candidates, however, share responsibility for getting out the vote in their respective areas. Speaking of which, who got it in everybody's head that the *party* runs coordinated campaigns? Does no one understand the concept of a coordinated campaign anymore? *Candidates* run coordinated campaigns. Groups of candidates from similar areas pool their resources (usually gotten through *fundraising*) to build the sort of local infrastructure that can help all candidates in that region. Candidates from larger regions then can tap into that infrastructure, join in the pooling of resources, and get a synergistic effect where both they and the local candidates see increased Democratic turnout. (In case you're wondering why weak candidates hurt the party, there's your reason -- if they don't build infrastructure, they're hurting both their campaign and the campaigns of everyone up-ticket.)

I'd like to see some reasoning for how the "sit back and do nothing" TDP somehow managed to pull off such strong performances. But it seems much more likely that those who speak about how nothing was done simply speak only from their own perspective and that of the campaign they were supporting, and if that campaign was "sitting back and doing nothing" -- and let me assure you, in a statewide race, raising barely $150,000 and then spending the majority of your time speaking to 10 people at a time on 254 courthouse steps counts as "sitting back and doing nothing" -- then they probably saw the state party as "doing nothing" as well. Personally, I saw Vice-Chair Brooks and Brian Pendleton take a Sunday they should've had had off to come to a Denton County Party Outreach Committee meeting and speak on GOTV and voter registration. I was impressed by their hard work and willingness to take any opportunity to help out Democrats at any level. And as the DCYD Communications Director, I was decidedly UNimpressed by how the Van Os campaign made no attempt I could see to reach out to the gobs and gobs of help that was available to them, from the state all the way down to the county level. That was my perception, from my vantage point only. And maybe it's not the whole story. But viewed in the context of the unprecedented victories we saw in Texas, I think it makes markedly more sense than does the viewpoint that the party "did nothing" and we just ran into success by dumb luck. Perhaps someone can present that reasoning? Like I said, I'd love to hear it.

Well Argued, Well Responded

    I do not treat Van Os like he is a problem. Van Os is a captivating orator and incredibly likeable. He could make a *fantastic* candidate -- if in any of the three races he'd run, he had actually raised some money. I did not have the place in the article to quote the many people that have come to me saying "yeah, I asked Van Os about how his race was going, and when I asked about fundraising, he told me he doesn't have to raise money to win!" That *is* a problem. Because it is false, it is provably false, and Van Os demonstrates how false it is every time he runs his no-fundraising races. "I don't need to raise money to win!" Yeah, and how's that working out for ya?

I think you're getting at something in this article that is vital for Texas Democrats to do in order to make the best use of the resources we have available to us against an entrenched elected Republican slate: We need to have some critical discussions about organization, candidates and practices in Texas Democratic circles. These are the kinds of discussions that, inevitably, some folks are going to take personally. That's unfortunate, but I think that these discussions help all of us have a better shared understanding of what we're doing and where we want to go versus where we're actually going.

I too liked David Van Os' populist message and I just about drove off of 35E when I saw that billboard by Denton Regional Medical Center for the first time. As an interested North Texas observer outside of any executive positions in this last election cycle, I would like to add that the single biggest problem that local and statewide Democratic candidates face in North Texas is the almost total blackout D/FW media has on state politics. If there was an occasional bout of "media sunlight" shone on what some of our elected North Texas Republicans are up to, Democrats might get more traction in local and statewide races around here. As it stands, you might get a handful of stories about the gubernatorial race (and of course Presidential races) but nothing about any down ticket races; in this environment, there's no way to extend the "buzz" beyond your activist circles, i.e. the folks who are already clued in to who you are and are also going to vote for you. There's simply no way for a candidate engaging in populist campaigning to "get known" beyond activist circles by making whistlestop tours of courthouses (as noble an idea as it that is) and putting up a handful of billboards around the state.

The only ways to circumvent this that I can think of are county or community coordinated campaigns, something I've seen in action in New Hampshire but haven't seen in Texas, and something that you point to in your response. As you wrote, they're a collective effort and they're going to have to be driven by campaigns, not the TDP.

All in all, excellent points in your original article and your rebuttal; these are kinds of discussions we need to have if we want to extend our successes from '06 in 2008 and beyond.

Coordinated comes from the STATE leadership

Candidates discussed methods of maximizing their campaign dollars. They discussed inserts and shared ads but these should be spearheaded by the STATE PARTY. The party is the structure that should be in place between campaign cycles. The party should be the EXPERTS who are poised and ready to assist the nominees once they win the primaries. However the party sat on its hands, attempting to play one candidate against the other, and blowing steam out their mouths about how everything was the responsibility of the candidates.

Yes, it is the candidate's responsiblity to raise money and run an effective campaign. This year we witnessed candidates campaigning their hearts out, supporting each other, maximizing each donors dollar and the state party doing little constructive and much which was not constructive.

If it had not been for the every county campaign of David Van Os, the year long non-stop grassroots people to people campaigns of Maria Luisa Alvarado, Hank Gilbert, Fred Head, Dale Henry and Bill Moody, those who won would probably not had the turnout to win.

We need everything that is on the table plus more. The party needs to produce the CONSISTENT LEADERSHIP between campaign cycles. There is much too much emphasis on IN PARTY offices and much too little attention to the offices which really matter.

Texas is facing privitazion of social services and the TTC largest land grab ever in this state with Republican control of Gov. Lt Governor, Land Commission, RR Commission, Agriculature Commissioner and Comptroller of Public Accounts. Many want to beat their chests and claim success because six house seats changed to D's. One of those seats was occupied by the least offensive Republican (who voted most often with Dems). The new Democratic freshman has a track record of voting on the local city council 100% of the time for exercise of eminent domaine for private development. How she'll vote on the TTC is yet to be determined. Many of us question how much of a progressive or Democrat she is. Hightower-Pierson's announcement for office said she was "running as a Democrat" but was an "independent." This translates to many of us as "probable loose cannon."

Success is nothing to be celebrated this year. We have much work to do and we must be realistic. Six seats does not a victory make. The rest of the nation woke up. Texas is still in the dark and the buck rests with the PARTY's LACK of Effective Leadership.

The Party should be poised and prepared to equip the nominees with tools and infrastruture to win. They should be a CONSISTENT voice piece for the party's nominees in all instances. They should make a POSITIVE PRESENTATION Of ALL STATEWIDE CANDIDATES at State Convention as one of the highest priorities. Every delegate to State Convention should leave armed and prepared to fight for the State Ticket to win in November. Instead Boyd Ritchie and Rueben Hernandez state that hearing "candidates speeches is not the purpose of the State Convention!"

Yes, the party has business that must be conducted. Electing party officers should be only a small part of the convention. PREPARING TO WIN IN NOVEMBER should (must be) the OVERALL GOAL of the convention. Winning against Republicans and Independents is the PURPOSE of the Party. There appears to be dumbo mentality when it comes to SEEING THE MAIN THING and making the party GOAL ORIENTED.

David Van Os is 100% on target when he speaks out against the piecemeal approach of the TDP to campaigns and candidates. Many Texans are so disgusted with the State Party that we refuse to renew sustaining memberships. Trickle down political financing has failed. Many Texas based PACS spent more on maintenance and out of state candidates than in supporting Texas candidates. Money paid to the State Party appears to be a waste of dollars.

David Van Os did raise money. I doubt the accuracy of George's quote. There is a difference between raising money and being bought and paid for by special interests.

Campaign financing is something that has to be addressed in this nation. The fairness doctrine and bias of corporate controlled media syndicates erodes the system. The State Party never once spoke out against the abuse of Susan Combs of taxpayers money to promote her campaign through purchase and distribution of packets for all Texas elementary school children in September 2006. Coordinated should come from the leadership of the State Party. The TDP did not do their job. The candidates cooperated and fought as hard possible. They helped each other as much as possible and they made each campaign dollar stretch as far as possible. In most races I've examined Democrats spent 40 to 60 cents per vote v.s. apx $40 to $60 per vote for Republicans.

I know you were on Van Os's staff, but...

Faith, you live in a world where the state party is somehow funded better than all the candidates running. This situation does not exist in ANY state, let alone ours. And you prove when you say that coordinated campaigns come from state leadership that you really don't understand the meaning of the phrase "coordinated campaign."

I appreciate that you were so active in Van Os's campaign, and in Fred Head's, and a few others if I recall, but there were a number of state representatives -- who aren't even close to statewide candidates in how many people they have to reach -- who, without the state help that you're saying is so necessary, raised much more money than any of your statewide candidates did. Republicans may spend $40 to $60 per vote, as you cite, but that money comes from independent donors, and goes to individual candidates. That is a fact of life in campaigns throughout the United States. Candidates' viability is directly tied to their fundraising. And by that measure, your candidates and their staff did a poor job. I wish Van Os had learned this lesson the first or the second time he ran, as he could have been a real force. But clearly, a number of candidates and campaign managers did not grasp that simple fact.

Coordinated campaigns come from candidates from similar regions pooling their resources to create a volunteer and marketing infrastructure in that region, and candidates for bigger regions tapping into that infrastructure and themselves adding resources to it so that everyone involved gains. Often, well-funded state candidates have to create their own infrastructure in certain regions where the local candidates are not well-organized or well-funded, but in general, the process runs from the bottom up. And there is NO way that a state party -- in any state -- could coordinate that sort of organization in the entirety of the state. It is only feasible when managed on the local level.

And lastly, you can doubt the accuracy of my quotes as much as you like, but I have sources for every quote and documentation for every stated funding figure I present. You can check the state ethics committee reports yourself -- Van Os reported $150,000 from January 1 until election day. So I actually give him *more* credit than is due for fundraising during the general election push, as that would've started in March. That is an embarrassingly low figure, when we have state reps raising double that amount. There is no getting around the fact that the campaign run by a number of our downticket statewides was remarkably poor.

Correction

I must correct you, when you say that "The TDP is in the business of getting support for all candidates on the ballot, throughout the state. They did so, with mail pieces and phone support designed to get out the strong Democratic straight-ticket vote in the districts where GOTV Democratic efforts would actually bear fruit." This activity was performed by the House Democratic Committee, not the TDP. All the funding from the usual sources circumvented the TDP and went directly to a PAC that supported the handful of State Rep candidates.

Yes, the Republicans were well funded and their grassroots GOTV is spectacular, but they started with a message, some issues that they were passionate about and they helped people identify as Republicans. They knew that they didn’t have the media on their side, so they invested in direct mail. My personal fundraising experience is that we were able to raise a dollar for every mail piece we sent. If you keep reinvesting, you would be surprised how fast you can cover even a state the size of Texas. If you ask people to help pay for a letter or billboard campaign, they do it because they know where their money is going. I raised money overnight to buy VSDT robo calls. People were eager to support the entire ticket and their Party. My problem is that I don’t see activity at the state level that shows they are interested in organizing marketing campaigns or volunteers. I know that there are some wonderful people involved in the TDP and SDEC, but it has the image of being a social club when nothing meaningful gets down to the grassroots except a handful of field organizers and we have them because of Howard Dean. If you go out to GOTV, what do you say? The Party doesn’t provide you with talking points or petitions to get people to sign their name to. We have a platform, but it is not utilized to help advance issues. It is no wonder that people don’t know what we stand for. Howard Dean called for a 50 state canvass; did we participate in that effort? Was it supported by the TDP?

We had a lot of first time candidates. We all know that they have to pay a filing fee to run on the Dem ticket, but then they were forced to pay for access to VAN too. Are we so anti-candidate that we can’t give them something in return for giving us a reason to GOTV? For that filing fee, maybe we could have notified all the Dems in their district (via email) that they had a candidate running for office and how to contact them. I worked in 2006 for several candidates and I didn’t see any effort from the TDP that they were in the business of getting support for any candidate. It was literally sink or swim.

You say that my beef with the SDEC member should be personal, but this person is an insider and close to the top and every non-action I saw from the TDP/SDEC confirmed every disappointing word that I heard from him.

I saw Harris County developing coordinated campaigns and they really made a difference. It is nonsense to say that it should be restricted to candidates to organize.

Dumping all the responsibility and blame on candidates is hard to take when the Party has just as much at stake as the candidates in any election. While interest is high and we have their attention, that is our best opportunity for Party building and candidate recruitment.

Sources?

I would like to know where you get the information for your "correction", as it most definitely does not match any of the information I have, from the TDP or the HDCC. My primary sources indicate that my version is correct as stands, and that GOTV effort came from the TDP. I have heard a lot of hearsay otherwise, but have never found anyone that could support their point with evidence.

The state Republican party started with a message? What was that? Or are you citing *candidate* messages? The state parties on either side don't do that either -- message has to be locally geared to be effective, so candidates are in a much better position to present that than state parties. The Republicans did invest in direct mail -- and so did we. And our party was, from my experience, happy to help any candidate that went to them for help with advice. But what you saw as lack of "interest in organizing marketing campaigns or volunteers," you probably saw because that's not their job. There is no state party in the US with the infrastructure to handle volunteer organization on a statewide level -- the counties do that, and candidates do that. Not even the federal level parties can manage that sort of thing; they rely on local groups to do that. And any real, viable candidates in a large-scale campaign have their own pool of volunteers to draw from.

"I saw Harris County developing coordinated campaigns and they really made a difference. It is nonsense to say that it should be restricted to candidates to organize." Non sequitur, but I'd rather deal with the first point -- coordinated campaigns in Harris County? Where? The seats we held there were in areas so blue it hurts, and we didn't pick up any. If there was a coordinated campaign, where's the expected boost in Van Os's numbers in Harris? In Alvarado's? Half the problem, I'm finding, is that folks seem to have no idea what the term "coordinated campaign" means.

"Dumping all the responsibility and blame on candidates is hard to take when the Party has just as much at stake as the candidates in any election." As opposed to dumping all the responsibility on the party, as Van Os does? Or did I miss some bit in his letter where, for the first time in the three campaigns he's run, he finally admits that he had some responsibility in his failure? Whether people like it or not, performance in a campaign is directly tied to fundraising, and fundraising is primarily the candidate's responsibility, "hard to take" or not.

Good column...

George-

I enjoyed your column and agree in many respects. I've met David on numerous occasions, along with Chris, Barb, Hank and others. I also ran for Congress (TX12) back in 2000, so have some sense of what it feels like to be in the candidates' shoes. The common complaint I hear from all but the most favored candidates is that they start out from square zero, and on this they are right. I remember sitting in a Texas Observer lunch with Molly Ivin back in 1999 or 2000 at which she described the Republicans as having a "toaster," where they drop in a candidate and pop out a winner, while the Democratic candidate has to start by planting their own wheat, milling their own flour, building and stoking their own oven...you get the drill.

Right now is the time for Democrats to be doing the organizing and infrastructure work that will create a favorable environment to recruit, run and win with good candidates in 08. What do you see happening?

We did do well, better than expected I would say, this past November. Let's be real, though - this had as much or more to do with Bush's negatives and the overall Republican failures than anything we did exceptionally well on our side. David and his cohort can be a bit shrill and counterproductive, but they're not all wrong in what they say.

FYI, the three areas in which we screwed ourselves most soundly last go 'round were (A) big Dem money not getting behind Chris early enough or loud enough, (B) Big Dem money not getting behind Barbara at all, and (C) everyone ignoring Hank Gilbert, who I would argue was the best candidate on our entire statewide ticket.

Keep up the good work.

David Van Os is 100% correct in his assessment of the TDP

Other statewide candidates have told me the same things that David shared in his diary. The TDP did not support the nominees of the Democratic party for statewide office in 2006. Hank Gilbert, Bill Moody, Valinda Hathcox, Maria Luisa Alvarado and Fred Head have all told me the same things that David mentioned in his article. More than money is involved in presenting and supporting the party's candidates.

The TDP deserves a FAILING assessment on all fronts. When the party discounts the candidates privately and publically, it creates barriers that are UNNECESSARY obstacles to the success of a campaign. The staff of the TDP was consistently INSULTING to the candidates. It went far beyond the mere failure of adequate fundraising.

Unless the TDP staff is changed from top to bottom, there is little hope of turning Texas Blue.

When the TPD does not concur with the selection of the voters in the primary and get on board to do EVERYTHING humanly and legally possible to support the candidates, it fails. They did not even do the MINIMUM this year. For example, Bill Moody's Austin press conference held a few blocks from TDP headquarters was not attended by ONE TDP staff person.

Candidates were "presented" to the delegates of State Convention AFTER 90% of the delegates had left the hall.

The list is much longer. There was an attitude of insult and dismissal on the part of staffers that consistently showed the candidates that they were having to overcome the obstacles erected by party staffers. I was told by more than one statewide candidate that they were prepared for the battle with Republicans but were less prepared to face the battles from their own party.

Faith Chatham

Denying the proof you created

Your assertion is simply wrong, Faith. Money is the primary driver for "presenting and supporting the party's candidates," and the candidates you helped are living proof of that. They all raised fractions of what was necessary to run a statewide campaign, and they all did poorly.

Blaming the state party is a copout to that fact. I have never seen the TDP be publicly insulting to a candidate -- I'd love to see some proof to the contrary, but I don't buy that it exists. I'm not privy to their private communications, as you apparently claim to be, but I would bet that someone with a point of view like yours that centers around particular candidates and campaigns may take a statement like "Van Os is running a bad campaign; he needs to raise much more money to be viable" -- which, though I don't know what the TDP would say, I assure you would be something I would most definitely say -- as some sort of insult, where it simply an observation that is accurate and patently obvious to anyone who's run a winning campaign before.

Bill Moody's press conference is probably a great example. You complain that the TDP staff did not attend, as if that somehow matters. Does having a TDP staffer there get you more media? Let's hit the real issue -- how many media representatives did you get there? How many published on that press conference? It is a *press* conference, after all. Or will you also blame the state party for not doing what was necessary to get the press to appear and publish on it? A trained campaign manager -- perhaps even a member of the "consultantocracy" you guys decry -- would know how to make that happen. Your staff apparently did not.

This whole "reform the TDP" call is a pretty ugly way of passing the buck on a failed campaign, and frankly, I'm starting to get pretty tired of it.

TDP and '06 statewide candidates

In October, I was often finding voters who wanted to support Democrats who had no idea that there was a Democratic candidate for Governor. The week before the election, I had several swing voters individually comment to me that they were very impressed with Chris' debate performance but had reservations in voting for him because "even his own party is not supporting him." On November 7th, I went into a bank in Uptown Dallas wearing a Chris Bell t-shirt. The teller asked me who he was.

I personally witnessed some of the grueling schedule Chris and his team worked on less-than-minimal funds. I personally witnessed his discipline in regularly calling potential donors between events. In contrast, when I attended Campaign Camp in Austin (which was very worthwhile), Boyd Ritchie and other TDP representatives said nothing - not even names- about the campaigns of our statewide candidates. Even on a barebones budget, the party could have sent out daily emails to Democrats educating them about the candidates and ways to help their campaigns. Some good old "rah-rah!" would have helped. It is obvious that the TDP did not meet their responsibilities to Democratic candidates. Most Democratic ACTIVists I know have given up on the TDP and, instead, donate and volunteer for candidates directly.

Gangy, Dallas

Politics 101

"Most Democratic ACTIVists I know have given up on the TDP and, instead, donate and volunteer for candidates directly."

That is not because they have given up on the TDP. That is because what you observe and characterize as some sort of change is actually how the campaign finance process has worked pretty much since modern campaign financing started, and how it currently works in every state in the United States as well as on the federal level. The case against the TDP is weak precisely because those making the case repeatedly prove that they do not have an understanding of the political process in the first place.

we did good right?

the Dems did good right? i mean, compared to how they usually do?

a friend of the people

Stratagy

Its grassroots vs power politics. Dean vs. Emanuel. Its 50 states in the nation and 254 counties in Texas. Progressives organize people not money. Yes, of course we cannot ignore money, but to the degree that we place faith in the principles of democracy, we believe and act as if power comes from the people. There seems to be quite a few people claiming the moniker of populist and progressive in this state that do not understand the fundamental values contained in the most basic meaning of these words.

It is really very simple; we must organize at a precinct level. While we would like such an effort to be organized by the TDP, it seems senseless to wait for that to happen. Get Busy.

Senseless --

and unreasonable to boot. Managing 254 counties, let alone every precinct under them, is not something it is reasonable to ask from a state party that can just recently afford to pay for seven employees.

If we do not ask for that

When do you think it's going to happen?

How long do you expect a county to wait, patiently or not, until the Democrats consider it worth an effort to show up?

Approach it like a business problem. It is not their problem that the TDP is only staffed up recently. I'm not talking about divvying up equal amounts of money so nobody really gets anything done. I'm talking about your favorite thing, targeting, but with slight variation.

I'm talking about finding out the status of each of the 254 counties, and taking the next step toward a fully functioning 254 county Party-whatever that may be.

For some, it will be identifying a county chair. For others it will be asking the chair for help in identifying barriers to building a Dem presence. For those who've got an idea what needs doing, maybe it's help putting together the critical elements of the plan to fix the problems they have.

Meet the people in the grassroots where THEY are. That's going to be different in Denton County than it is in Matagorda, than it is in El Paso County, etc.

Build a partnership with those folks who are charged with organizing each county. They know their county. They're the experts. Take care of them so they can tend to their people.

Don't assume. Ask. Listen.

A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are for. Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Before you win, you have to fight.

Not what I was referring to.

I'm confused. I do not expect a county to "wait" until Democrats show up. Democrats are either in their county, or they aren't.

If you, however, mean the *state party*, which I imagine you do, then I must clarify that I most wholeheartedly do *not* mean the state party. They do not need to "show up" for a county party to be formed, to be effective, and to help build state infrastructure -- and more importantly, it would help little if they did. The strength of a county party is in its de facto membership, in the Democrats *within that county* working to advance our goals, and not in how often a party rep shows up to visit.

I'm talking about finding out the status of each of the 254 counties, and taking the next step toward a fully functioning 254 county Party-whatever that may be.

This is an untenable task. You make it sound like "taking the next step" is a one-time endeavor; it's not. You've got to take the next step, and the step after that, and after that, on a staircase that doesn't have an end. The state party -- of *any* state -- would find it a black hole of time and money to manage on the state level what must be done on the county level. Perhaps, in counties with no county Democratic party, they can help found it -- but that would be surprisingly few counties, and for the others, there's only so much you can do to put a fire under the backsides of an elected county party chair who is unpaid and doesn't have much incentive to drive around a county where your average distance between houses is 4 or 5 miles to try and identify and recruit Democrats. Which is the situation with a lot of counties.

To comprehensively manage county party development with the state party, you'd be talking about divvying up the state into regions, say, 12 or so, and assigning a full-time staff member to each roughly 20-county region -- because one person handling more than that in a 40-hour week is just plain untenable. (Honestly, even 20 per person is sort of assuming a "well, we pay you for 40, but we know you're going to work 60+" arrangement, which is never pretty.) And even that number is assuming you can get county chairs to get up and do something. So when we find a way to triple our paid statewide staff, I'm sure that sort of thing will start to be feasible. There is a reason no state does this -- those funds can best be put to use elsewhere, given that the county parties need to do their job.

Now, SDEC members are also IIRC charged with helping to organize the county parties under their purview. And they have far fewer to deal with than 20. But they still have, on average, 8 or 9, and they volunteer their time for that job -- most probably already have a 40 hour a week commitment to a paid job, and so many can't spend the additional 20-30 hours necessary per week doing the necessary organizing work. Which is probably why not many do. You could start more strictly enforcing that requirement on them, but I imagine you'd have quite a bit of attrition. Which maybe is what you're looking for; I don't know.

But you see, it's a Sysiphean venture. One can be an impetus to the organization of a county party, but if they didn't have the intrinsic drive to do it themselves, you're just going to have to keep pushing that rock back up the hill or it'll roll right back down to the bottom. We're talking about a non-trivial amount of work.

So what can we do about it? I've heard a lot of "gee, George, we may agree with you that the state party can't unilaterally create a massive statewide infrastructure, but we're trying to get the state party to bolster county party organization now, and you're basically saying that county parties are incorrigibly dependent on their constituents and any efforts we put in won't do any good. Why are you willing to just give up?" Now, that's not what I'm saying. I am simply saying that, yes, the county parties *are* directly dependent on their constituents, and that's a bottom-line fact we have to accept; the state party can help to some limited degree, but they're not going to ever be able to play a more than 10% role in the reform of a county party. BUT -- this does *not* mean that we give up. This means we find another way to strike at the problem -- preferably one that strikes at its roots, and not that tries to reform it from a more distant state- or region-wide perspective.

How do we do that? Good question. :-) And I'll answer it -- in a way that I think will be "ah-ha!" obvious to anybody who reads this site, or Kaos, or BOR. I'll have a post up on that in the next few days. (I'm concurrently working on three articles and a podcast, so I'm a little swamped -- give me some time.) ;-)

Ongoing process needs to start now

This is an untenable task. You make it sound like "taking the next step" is a one-time endeavor; it's not. You've got to take the next step, and the step after that, and after that, on a staircase that doesn't have an end. The state party -- of *any* state -- would find it a black hole of time and money to manage on the state level what must be done on the county level. Perhaps, in counties with no county Democratic party, they can help found it -- but that would be surprisingly few counties, and for the others, there's only so much you can do to put a fire under the backsides of an elected county party chair who is unpaid and doesn't have much incentive to drive around a county where your average distance between houses is 4 or 5 miles to try and identify and recruit Democrats. Which is the situation with a lot of counties.

Of course it's not a one time endeavor. But it never happens if you don't start. I'd refer you to the ideas of W.E. Deming. It's classic inverted pyramid management.

What we need to build is an organization that is responsible for constantly improving at all organizational levels. That takes a commitment from the County Chairs, the SDEC, and yes, the staff at the state level.

It's not Sisyphus I'm invoking from mythology. Could be Atlas. Possibly Odysseus, wandering around at the whim of the gods while keeping his longed-for destination in mind. Maybe even Coyote, sometimes. :)

Actually, if we're going to go with a mythological metaphor, I like Hephaestus. Even lamed, he forged some mighty works.

A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are for. Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Before you win, you have to fight.

Did you really bring up Deming?

Of course it's not a one time endeavor. But it never happens if you don't start. I'd refer you to the ideas of W.E. Deming. It's classic inverted pyramid management.

Ooh -- I *love* management theory! :-) My father did his masters in operations research, and his thesis was actually on a concept similar to (I suppose a precursor of) the inverted pyramid.

Of course, I'm sure I don't have to tell you about the counterarguments to IP, and the corrections that had to be made to to the structural incompatibility argument, the resource development argument, and the responsibility/accountability dichotomy. Just like in our discussions here, in business one can't simply "invert the pyramid" successfully. Which is why we have such lively discussions! :-)

But I totally agree with you that we need to continue our party rebuilding, especially now that we can take advantage of a "hearts and minds" swing in our favor. And it never happens if you don't start. The only question that remains is, where to start?

I think I have a pretty good start to an answer on that. At the least, I think it'll be something we'll all like. :-)

Hephastus was always one of my personal favorites. Ugly as dirt, and he *still* got all the chicks. But hopefully we won't stay lamed forever :-) Maybe a metaphor for 2006? Lamed, rebuilding party, but we still managed to get many more wins than anyone guessed. Maybe for the ramp up to 2008, we can channel Prometheus.

Fire that baby up.

No management theory is perfect, but I've found that in general the attitude of a leader who has the IP as a animating principle makes a big difference in motivating the troops.

My study of management principles has been OTJ, and informal. I'm sure you'll give me lots to think about.

I'll look forward to reading your article.

Yep, Hephastus had it going on. I always felt sorry for Prometheus of the perpetually picked at liver.

A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are for. Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Before you win, you have to fight.

From Lloyd Criss, SDEC Member, District 11

I am posting this at the request of Lloyd Criss. I completely agree with him.

The Texas Blue:

I, for one, resent the recent attacks on David Van Os. He is a person who, along with our other statewide candidates, have given much of themselves for the betterment of our state and party.

His motivation is not to bellyache about the past, it is to do better in the future. He and the others have earned their right to critique.

The truth is our statewide candidates did not win in the general election because our party failed to get out the base Democratic vote in their behalf. A negative “can’t win” attitude prevailed throughout our party and state.

Bush, Rove, DeLay and party have whipped us down and demoralized us so bad for so long that many of our major party contributors left the party and joined the Strayhorn fiasco. We heard can’t win from top to bottom.

Our party will come back and win again when we learn to believe in it the way Van Os did. We had victories in Dallas County, Galveston County, 69 state house districts and two new congressional districts because the Democrats there believed we could win.

I do not see any advancing progressive ideas coming from the Texas Blue.

Lloyd Criss, Chair

Galveston County Democratic Party

SDEC Member, District 11

Respectfully, does Mr. Criss

Respectfully, does Mr. Criss realize that the SDEC is under as much criticism from Van Os's supporters as the rest of the TDP? Odd allies to pick.

I have listened to quite a few responses to my comments on Van Os's campaign, some positive, some -- particularly the ones that call it an "attack" -- negative. There is no attack, nor would there be for a candidate that I liked enough to donate to. But I'm about sick of hearing this:

The truth is our statewide candidates did not win in the general election because our party failed to get out the base Democratic vote in their behalf. A negative “can’t win” attitude prevailed throughout our party and state.

Tell that to Hopson. Tell that to Pierson. Tell that to the large number of Democrats that won -- far more than anyone predicted -- despite this supposed "can't win" attitude that took over the state.

Your reason our statewide candidates did not win, sir, is flatly incorrect. Perhaps it would have been an issue, if they'd ever shown up to play. But most of them did not. Van Os raised $150,000 for a race that would conservatively cost $2 million to simply participate in credibly. He told a number of people, on being asked about this, that he doesn't need to be raising money, that "money doesn't win elections." That may be argued, but one thing can't -- money is required to compete in the elections in the first place, and few statewide candidates raised enough to pay the entry fee. Had this not been the case, your argument may hold some water. But as it stands, it comes across as "sour grapes" when seen in the context of the vast number of races across the state that were able to succeed where most thought they wouldn't have a chance. Our results across the state were far better than we have done, and far better than we could have expected. Success speaks for itself. And in the case of the statewide candidates, so does failure.

Van Os to Nassar: you haven't come close to walking in my shoes

Mr. Nassar,

You are so obsessed with trashing me it seems you are not capable of hearing anything that is contrary to your formula.

The state rep candidates you mention were some of the targeted races. So of course they would have a different perspective.

That is just one example of how you mix up all the metaphors and comparators to support your objective.

Another example of how you mix up contexts is trashing me because I didn't jump in everybody's face at a rally bugging them for money. Ordinary people are thoroughly turned off with politicians hitting them up for money every time they turn around. Sure, I told people who talked to me at rallies, when they said they wished they could contribute more, "that's OK, don't worry about it, I'm not here to ask you for money, I'm here to fight the robber barons for you."

And sure, when wannabe political operative snobs like you came up to me to cross-examine me about how could I expect to win without more money, I said things like, "I'd like to raise more money but I'll win without it if I have to."

And when people asked me to rate myself as to my chances to win, I declined to do so. I might have even said, it's not about winning, it's about fighting. Why would I say that?

Because you for sure can't win if you don't fight. And because, Democrats need to stop being oddsmakers in relation to themselves. Nobody ever goes into a fight knowing for sure if they're going to win or not. Worrying about winning makes you too cautious. Like a basketball team that starts watching the scoreboard instead of focusing on making the shots. You fight the fight, one move at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time. Ask any sports coach.

The culture of defeatism that you, Mr. Nassar, and the consultants and bean-counters that you aspire to be one of, keep ramming down Democrats' throats is a philosophy that is afraid to win because it is afraid to fight unless you think you can control the outcome in advance with your bean counting. Trust me, Mr. Nassar, the ordinary people out there, outside the tiny little political operative box that you operate in, are fed up and disgusted with that whole attitude of elitist control. They see and they know the political world is run as an insiders private clique. I've been out there, Mr. Nassar; I've listened and I've heard. Have you? I don't think so.

Buddy, you haven't come close to walking in my moccasins, and I have earned the right to be heard. You have come nowhere near earning the chips to put me down. Not even close.

The real deal is this. You don't like me because I reject the formulae and scripts of the political operatives that you aspire to be one of someday when you grow up. It threatens your career ladder plans. Admit it.

Admit it, or come out from behind your keyboard and debate me publicly. I'll come to Denton to do it. Well, are you ready?

David Van Os

suck it up

Seriously. You lost; you're upset, it's understandable. But don't go around blaming others for a failed campaign. And you shouldn't blame yourself either. Money matters in politics- it does- and anyone who says it doesn't should wonder why so much money is spent on politics. Do you need a good message and good people? Of course, but the point of Mr. Nassar's article was not to piss on the efforts of individuals, and it wasn't designed to piss you off Mr. Van Os. it was a response to the notion that the Texas State Democratic Party is responsible for your loss. Could the statewide organization be better? Yes, and it's getting better with every election cycle. But the Democratic network in Texas is only improving because Texans are beginning to listen to the Democratic platform. And you, Mr. Van Os, are a big part of that. We all are, as stewards of the Democratic Party in Texas. But we cannot go around pointing fingers at one another when we lose. All Democrats lost when you lost, Mr. Van Os, and we hope that's not the case next election cycle. But calling the state party out for not being more active in your race is not going to win elections. And that should be your goal as a Democratic candidate- winning election for the Democratic Party- not bashing Mr. Nassar. The original article was an attempt to put a positive light on the state party by contradicting your condemning assessment. it wasn't personal. Suck it up Mr. Van Os and let it go. You lost- no one is to blame for that. We just have to keep "fighting" for those hearts and minds with a solid party platform, with good candidates conveying that message, and yes, with money and political hot shots to tell us what to do with that money. So stop complaining- winners don't complain, they just win. Lets all be winners and stop complaining.

a friend of the people

Van Os to Nassar: let’s try this again, without flame

No flame this time. The anger I previously expressed over your earlier postings has been set aside, in order to move forward in discussion, hopefully without rancor or hostility.

I think I may possibly have finally understood at least some of what you have been trying to get at.

It seems to me, boiled down to the essence, that one of the things you are criticizing is my lack of greater in-depth campaign staff.

It is a perfectly valid critique. I agree with your criticism. But I think you have made a factual error, and that is in an apparent assumption that I didn't have more in-depth staff because I didn't want it. That's, pardon the colloquialism, nuts. Of course I would have loved to have a comprehensive campaign staff.

If you think I enjoyed the frenetic daily experience of doing too many things myself because I didn't have enough staff help, while at the same time going through the minute-by-minute mental discipline to be ready to give the next speech, also while supervising from long-distance the work of the lawyers who are my younger law-firm associates, think again. If you think that my one semi-employee and my many volunteers enjoyed having the same experience themselves, think again. None of us were sufficiently masochistic to relish hitting the brink of exhaustion on a daily basis. But we all did it because we believed so much in the cause of putting a different kind of lawyer in the Attorney General’s office from the corporate shill and political hack who is presently using the office to cheat the people of Texas.

I would have given practically anything I had for a more comprehensive campaign staff, definitely to include a press secretary. But I didn't have anything left to give. And thanks to what I have tenderly called the "culture of defeatism" that affected the community of Democrats who used to regularly donate larger contributions at the levels of $250 and up to statewide Democratic nominees, the ability to hire comprehensive staff did not exist.

(Note: I am not saying the grassroots Democrats and county chairs were part of the culture of defeatism. They weren't. I think you have misunderstood me about this. The grassroots Democrats and county chairs, at least most of them to my observation, were enthusiastic as hell and marvelously active in 2006. The culture of defeatism comes from elitists higher up the food chain, whose defeatism betrays the grassroots Democrats and county-level Democratic leadership. I did not ever intend to suggest that local county chairs, local clubs like Denton County YDs, or grassroots Democratic activists were purveyors of the culture of defeatism. The full responsibility for your misunderstanding rests with my less than perfect communicating.)

I think also it is a possibility that you have not personally experienced the mental and emotional discipline required of all political candidates who do a lot of stump speaking in their campaigns, day in and day out, several times a day to different groups of strangers. I am certainly not complaining or playing martyr here - I love the stimulation and challenge of a continuous stump-speech campaign. It is an opportunity to connect at deep levels with fellow human beings by pouring out one's heart and one's deepest convictions to them, exposing one's soul to strangers, putting oneself out there at the highest levels of personal vulnerability, sharing with strangers all day long one's core beliefs and one's greatest hopes for the kind of world we should be living in and leaving to future generations.

It requires constant focus and mental discipline to do this. Everyone who has ever run hard for political office has experienced at least some level of it. Your posts seemed to me to display an unseemly minimizing of these things on your part toward any hard-working Democratic candidate who doesn't meet your judgmental criteria for candidate-worthiness.

To the extent that you may think I did not attempt to press hard on the metropolitan journalists about their disregard of the statewide candidates, such an assumption would not be accurate. I badgered and battered the hell out of them about their obstinate and arrogant dismissal of the statewide Democratic nominees' candidacies, in phone calls, emails, letters, person-to-person meetings, speeches (in my Convention address I criticized the journalists’ disregard of our candidates), you name it. You might have enjoyed being a fly on the wall at my editorial board interviews where I jumped on them about it. It could have made a meaningful difference if the TDP had also pressed the newspapers about their dismissive attitude toward the statewide nominees. The top political columnist for one of the big 5 metropolitan papers finally told me, "I appreciate what you're saying, but the people at TDP keep giving us signals that they do not think you statewide guys have a chance in hell to win." Then he/she immediately swore me to confidentiality on his remark. I agreed to honor his/her request for confidentiality. Having made that agreement I won't break it, though I would love to be able to tell you the columnist’s name.

I think maybe, George, that the culture of defeatism that all the statewide nominees experienced was so crazy, so unusual, so beyond the pale, that your assumptions may not have been equipped to take it into account, simply because normally one would never assume that such a pervasive defeatist attitude would ever happen at the state-party level. I've been active in Democratic Party politics for 35 years, year in and year out. I've run on the statewide ticket three times now. And I have never seen such a pervasive "we can't win so let's not try" attitude applied to the top levels of our Democratic ticket in Texas. It's been pretty bad before, but never as bad as in 2006.

Hell, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Jim Dunnam, openly said to the Houston Chronicle, "There was a decision made in 2005 that we were not going to attempt to be a state-level party in 2006." Trial lawyers who are friends of mine and who heard, "we're all agreed not to help the statewides because we don't think they have a chance," have told me about it. A Democratic State Senator who is a friend of mine told me late in the season, in mid October, that the decision everybody had bought into to, to abandon the statewide candidates made him/her sick. It wasn't any dad-gum secret within the aristocracy of the Democratic political community, George, not a secret at all. But they didn't tell the grassroots activists and county chairs about it (or at least not most of them) because they didn't want to dampen any enthusiasm that existed among the activists.

I think maybe you're also applying a somewhat unrealistic belief that a statewide candidate's campaign organization is not credible if the ideal model of a campaign organization doesn't exist in every county. Good lord man, there are 254 counties. And, with the obstacle of the upper-echelon culture of defeatism, reinforced day in and day out by the big newspapers, it was almost a miracle to have the levels of organization that we did.

Using your county as an example, the level of organization and discipline of the wonderful grassroots support organization for my campaign in Denton County was indeed a miracle for me, and they pulled off miracles. And as for the 254-county tour, developing a comprehensive series of routes and schedules so as to make the whole state fit together in an almost perfect set of jigsaw puzzle pieces of five counties per day, mapped so as to be timed to reach five county seat towns per day in almost perfect map order, starting at the first stop of each day no earlier than 8:00 a.m, and ending at the fifth stop of each day no later than 4:30 p.m., and making it all fit together across the state without doubling back through counties, wasn't just almost a miracle, it was a miracle, thanks to the incredibly dedicated and talented volunteers who put it all together.

I think also maybe you've been trying to say that you think I ignored independent media. Hardly! My volunteers and I intensely cultivated the independent media. Some of the volunteers who routed and scheduled the tour also worked extraordinarily hard at getting the independent media - the small-town and rural newspapers and radio stations - to cover the tour. My volunteers who worked on this aspect were extraordinarily successful. The small-town and rural press covered my tour extensively. Over 120 newspaper stories resulted, the overwhelming majority with decidedly favorable tones. Didn't and doesn't matter to me whether they call themselves "liberal", "conservative", or "progressive"; they were important to us, they covered, and covered in a friendly manner. One of the most rewarding aspects of the tour for me was getting to know so many dedicated, idealistic, hard-working, and talented small town and rural journalists.

You might like to know that some of my volunteers who worked so hard at all those activities and pulled off those miracles have read your posts on the Blogs. I am not trying to throw any more personalized flame your way and hope not to get started down that road again; I just think you ought to know this. They are human beings too, and they matter a lot. People like them are the heart and soul of every Democratic Party effort. They are the heart and soul of the political process. They are the heart and soul of democracy itself. I won't tell you what specific comments they have made to me, but if you would stop and consider it you might imagine how your postings might have made them feel. Let's just say they are not exactly in love with you.

Finally, I infer from a few of your comments a possibility that you may have - I'm not drawing a conclusion, I'm saying “infer a possibility” and "may have" - offered some help to my campaign and not received a response. If that is the case, I apologize. Believe me please, to ignore someone who wanted to help would definitely not be something I wanted to happen. If such is the case, I would appreciate your contacting me directly at david@vanoslaw.com and telling me about it specifically.

Perhaps some might question, why did David Van Os respond in such an angry fashion to George Nassar's original comments about his campaign on The Texas Blue? George, you publicly wrote some things in a journalistic format that described the functioning of my campaign organization in a highly negative light in a widely distributed publication to my fellow Democrats. In so doing you placed not only me, but also my wonderful, hard-working, dedicated campaign volunteers in a highly unfavorable light concerning something very important to us all, i.e., the legitimacy and meaningfulness of our efforts.

What made me truly angry was that you did it on the basis of assumptions that factually were way off base (how do I know they were off base? - simple: I had first-hand knowledge of things you spoke of, and you didn't), and were sourced on very little first-hand knowledge and virtually zero attempt to investigate the factual bases of those assumptions.

I'm willing to apologize, and I do hereby apologize to you, for displaying my anger toward you in such an inflammatory manner on the public Blogs without trying to talk with you first. I should have contacted you personally, pointed out the problems, and tried to resolve your factual misunderstandings. Having it to do over, that is what I would have done. It was poor judgment on my part not to do so. It was wrong.

I wish I had a penny for every time in my life I’ve made a mistake, exercised poor judgment, or wished I had done something in a different way; I would be able to contribute all the philanthropy and charity I’ve ever wished I could contribute.

One of the things I am asking my fellow Democrats to do with respect to political campaign theory is simply, to listen a little more to their hearts and little less to bean-counting. I respectfully submit it is the path to the successes the people need from our party in order to obtain relief from robber barony and anti-Constitutionalism.

Though you may disagree, I ask you at least to respect. Thank you for your courteous attention.

Sincerely,

David Van Os

P.S. You and your colleagues at The Texas Blue are turning out a very impressive product. I extend my congratulations and I wish you the best.

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