What I expect of our Wake County Democratic Party Chair.

While I am not running for the position of Wake County Democratic Party Chair, I do have a few ideas on what is needed to lead our county party. I also feel much of this applies to county party leadership across North Carolina.

The historic election of 2008 shows the future promise and opportunity for the Democratic Party in Wake County. A massive infusion of money, staff, and enthusiastic volunteers from the Obama campaign resulted in 75% voter turnout and wins for nearly every state-wide and county-wide Democratic Candidate on the ballot. Our own county party efforts had significant impact too, with voter registration, canvassing, phone banks, distribution of voter guides, and a huge GOTV effort for early voting and Election Day. The entire Democratic team in Wake County, from each local Precinct activist up to our new President-elect, deserves great praise.

But the election exposed challenges that must be addressed if we are to progress and grow as a strong majority party in Wake County. We continued to be hampered by the “ring of fire” – precincts roughly outside the Raleigh beltline that lean Republican and have little Democratic activity, in spite of most having 35% or better Democratic registration. Massive efforts, such as the field work of the Obama campaign and my own grassroots run in Southern Wake County show that we can make large gains, even if we can’t always get majorities in those precincts…yet.

Another challenge we must rise to is attracting Obama activists to engage in our county party. I believe this will require special effort and consideration, an outreach we should start even before our April convention. We must also raise our expectations of our current activists, from Precinct Chairs to our Board members. Providing clear, challenging goals, with the resources and leadership needed to reach them must come from an activist party chair.

We also must recruit quality candidates to challenge every seat in municipal and school board races in 2009 and the legislative and county board seats in 2010.
I have often described the job of party chair as two major items: “herding cats” and fundraising – I just covered the “herding cats” part, but I want to point out we have a huge challenge in our fundraising, too.

Wake County represents over 10% of the vote in North Carolina, is the home county to our State Capitol, and to our State Democratic Party Headquarters. We take on many burdens other county parties don’t. We pay a full-time Executive Director, we often assist state-wide party initiatives, and we lead the way in areas of technology, training, communications, and community outreach. And I think we must do even more in the next two years.

Wake County also represents some of the most generous Democrats in North Carolina. But times are hard for everyone. It will take constant effort to coax the needed funds for us to both maintain the current quality of service and grow as the base of the Democratic Party grows in Wake County. The face our generous donors deserve to see everywhere, the voice they deserve to hear over the phone regularly and the signature on the frequent correspondence must be the Party Chair.

I believe strongly that political party activism is civic service of the highest caliber. For people like me, who care deeply about a wide variety of issues in their community, like the environment, education, economic opportunity, social justice, equality, and civil liberties, our mission is clear – grow our Democratic Party from the Court House and the State House, all the way to the White House.


Ed this is a wonderful analysis

I think it could be applied to the state, and to every county as well. Thanks for putting it all in words.

Well stated, Ed

If I'm reading your posting correctly, you've identified the following challenges for the WCDP Chair:

  • Putting out the "ring of fire" (or, increasing our strength outside of the Beltline)
  • Attracting the Obama activists (or other new activists) to the county party
  • Getting more from our current activists
  • Recruiting quality candidates to challenge every seat in 2009 and 2010
  • Personal communications effort by the Chair to raise money from our donors

Are you sure we can't convince you to run for Chair?

Board Members need to be active too!

Good summary Mr. B. I would add that getting all the Vice Chairs into the fight is critical too. Often, board slots are used to pad resumes rather than teaming with the chair to cover all the ground needed in any county party.

I prefer to run against Republicans, not fellow Democrats. As long as I feel there is a strong candidate for WCDP Chair, I'll look for something more constructive to do.

Ed Ridpath

Ed what about Wake County Vice Chair?

It sounds like you decided not to run for chair but your experience and vision would be valuable to the party. Would you consider running for Wake County Vice Chair?

Fundraising important

The new county party chair is going to have tuff time raising $$ this year because of the economy. Need to try doing fun events that bring fresh faces in the door. It would help if the county party moves the meeting sites from the same old locations to reach out to all areas in the county over his or her term.

Fundraising = Personal Donor Contact

Yes, fun events help, but they are really the excuse to hit someone up for money. What works best is constant and personal contact - specifically in-person and on the phone. You always need events or goals to dress each "ask" up, but getting to "yes" requires direct attention from the person who represents the party - that is the Chair.

Ed Ridpath

If not Chair, then what?


After Chair, there many vice chair positions to fill, and with the Linda Coleman seat vacant, there are several domino effects possible depending on who gets the nod there. I am not as much avoiding the question as waiting for things to settle before deciding the next move.

I will be active, and you will see me helping out somewhere, that much I can promise.

Ed Ridpath