Winning Where No Democrat has Won Before

We have less than 2 years. 2 years to contest 10 Republican held Senate seats, and defend 7. Think it’s too early to start on this? Think again.

That plan I posted yesterday is just one part of a prescription for the party that includes a seismic shift, from being the party of here and there, to EVERYWHERE in Tennessee.

In 2006 we fielded NO candidates for State Senate in Districts 3,5,7, and 9. In districts 1,11,13,17, 23 and 31 we did field candidates, but lost, despite a hotly contested and close statewide election for US Senate, and a runaway win by Governor Bredesen. In 2008 we actually did a good deal better in terms of fielding candidates, leaving only one seat uncontested (32) and two others with no Democratic challenger (4 and 8).

On the House side, we have a lot of challenges. This year we left at least 26 seats uncontested, or with no Democrat in the race to Republicans. That’s a lot of seats left on the table. Democrats have to do better at putting people out there, even if the chances are long. If we don’t compete, we can’t win.

I want to thank those candidates who chose to contest those red seats for putting yourself out there. I’m interested in your experience, what support you received from the state and local party, and some key insights about the districts and any other information that might be helpful for a campaign in 2010. If you’re interested in making a go at it again, I’d like to know about that too.

In 2010, we may not have the benefit of a sitting Governor running for office, or a Senate campaign, but we still have to work to contest all of these seats. I understand that east Tennessee is Ruby Red. I understand that there’s a very good chance we won’t win. I also know for damn sure that if you don’t play you can’t win. Tennessee Democrats have to start working now, to be able to play everywhere.

Believe it or not, there are Democrats in East Tennessee. State House District 2 used to be held by a Democrat, and Democrats hold House Districts 10 and 11. That may not seem like much, but it’s a start.

As red as East TN is, there have to be Democrats in City or County Government somewhere out there. These are the people who we need to approach to run first. Ultimately, this is a trust building exercise. The TNDP and County Parties have to put a good faith effort forward well in advance to convince our friends in the east of the state that they can compete and will be supported by the party at all levels. In some cases, the local party may be suffering from malaise or lack of leadership. While the State party can’t necessarily directly fix this problem, it can work to create conditions where the problem can fix itself by training up motivated and interested area Democrats.

Ultimately, that’s the root of my criticism for the TNDP. I understand that a state party can’t go into every county and make the local parties better, but it is the job of the state party to create conditions and opportunities where the local parties can make themselves better, involve more people, and ultimately play a role in bringing the party back to a majority in the state House, Senate, as well as in the local contests.

We can build a strong and inclusive party apparatus here in Tennessee. It may take a while in some areas, but if we focus on building from the ground up, we’ll build a foundation that can help turn all of Tennessee bluer. Ultimately that’s the goal of Democrats throughout the state. That’s what we should be working for.

I’m glad to see that one of the candidates for chair is thinking this way. I can’t wait to learn more of the details as of his and other candidates’ plans as we go forward.

4 thoughts

  1. Vib you guys won that seat in district 2 in 2002 mainly because of the situation involving the late State Rep Keith Westmoreland. As far as your other points go. There are plenty of democrats out there all over the state. But the trick is convincing them to run. Take that guy down in Chattanooga for example. His name escapes me at the moment but he worked for Clinton and Gore at the NTSB. He wanted to run for the state senate two years ago when David Fowler retired but he backed out. He had plenty of personal money and name id but for whatever reason he had second thoughts. There’s also the Jones brothers in Savannah which is another GOP area. Charlie and Clark Jones have donated tens of thousands of dollars to democrats over the last decade. Their probably the most politically active car dealers in democrat party politics between Memphis and Nashville. But from what I was told a few years ago…they have no desire to run for anything.

  2. I’m a real live East Tennessee Democrat 🙂 Yes, we exist and yes, there are more of us than folks realize. The North Counties are absolutely prime for the taking. What we lack is any party infrastructure at all and money. I do think we can build the parties at the local level *but* the money will have to come from elsewhere — we’re talking persistent poverty counties.

    And can someone tell Nashville that just because I live in the East it does not mean I want them to insult me by sponsoring an anti-abortion, ‘pro-family’ abomination wrapped in blue. If I want a repub, I’ll vote repub.

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