Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Denton County's Grassroots

In the frenzy of a holiday weekend, we're betting a lot of you missed John McClelland's overview of politics in Denton County at The Texas Blue. It's a very encouraging look at the resurgence of democratic activism in an area that hasn't been associated with that in a very long time.

It should be noted that Denton County’s political offices are held entirely by the GOP. But this does not deter those who want to change a county just north of the newly blue enclave of Dallas. The official Democratic Party structure in the county includes the county chair and precinct chairs. As few as five years ago, the party only involved anywhere from 10 to 20 precinct chairs for the entire county, out of 140 voting precincts. The number of precinct chairs has steadily increased as Democrats make gains in other parts of the country and state. The current number of precinct chairs reached 50 this summer. Thanks in part to active recruitment of friends and neighbors, the Precinct Chair Leadership Committee has worked diligently to add to the party. It also held its first grassroots training class for new and existing precinct chairs in June of this year.

Committees such as Precinct Chair Leadership have made a resurgence due to active county chairs who want to make a difference. Former County Chairwoman Edra Bogle’s active involvement in groups such as Democracy for America started the grassroots push in local party politics. She stepped down in 2006 and was replaced by UNT professor Dr. John Gossett. Dr. Gossett’s vision included pushing the party into areas of the county long since neglected outside of the city of Denton. Holding meetings in Lewisville, house parties in Krum and Plano, and booths in Highland Village were all a way to show that Democrats exist in all parts of Denton County. Unfortunately, Dr. Gossett suffered health problems that led to a short tenure as Chair. A contest to replace him this past spring resulted in Issues & Policy Committee Chairman Neil Durrance becoming Chairman of the county party. Mr. Durrance has continued the policy of covering all parts of the county, and has been working actively to give Democrats a message.

While the message is prepared, others are preparing the candidates to take that message to the people. The Candidate Recruitment Committee initiated a program called Project Farm Team. Chairman Steve Southwell envisioned a system similar to that of the farm system in baseball that built potential candidates up before they hit the ground running in the big leagues. "We are all about preparing individuals to take up the battle against crime, corruption, and cronyism that currently tarnishes our public sector. We are about taking people of integrity and giving them the tools they need to make a successful campaign," Southwell said. "But Project Farm Team is also about encouraging leadership, activism, and public service outside of government. We're very excited about Project Farm Team, and we have heard from other Democrats across the state that they are anxious to see how well it works out." Potential candidates attend training sessions and listen to speakers of various experience levels, while learning about what offices could be a good fit for them. Some members are former candidates and even former office holders.

One candidate has already emerged from the system: Carrollton lawyer Karen Guerra has announced her intention to run for 16th District Court Judge. Another goal of Project Farm Team is to prepare a coordinated campaign for Denton County in 2008. The 2006 coordinated campaign in Dallas County resulted in a clean sweep of every contested judicial seat. A similar attempt may be made by Denton County in the 2008 election cycle to pool resources and make a run at taking back at least some, if not all, of the seats up for grabs.

There is much more, including an overview of some of the more active clubs in the area. Read it and be inspired.

If you live in Denton County and haven't contacted the county party or one of the local clubs (check out our sidebar), you might just be surprised at how active Democrats are in Denton County. If you're not already engaged in this effort, plan on joining us at the Donkey Fest on the evening of September 29th at the North Texas State Fairgrounds.

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