Recently Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chair Mike Tate (pictured, left) announced he will be seeking a third term as Chair of the DPW.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with Tate about his campaign for a third term as DPW Chair, and the obvious first question I asked was why he decided to run for a third term as DPW Chair. Explaining his decision to run for a third term, Tate said that while he believes the Democratic Party of Wisconsin “is on a good path,” he knows there’s still a lot more work to do. Tate added that he believes Democrats are at the cusp of turning back losses sustained in 2010 and 2012 (State Senate), and he stated he wants to be a part of turning things around.
In announcing his decision to seek a third term as DPW Chair, Tate touted the successes the DPW has had during his time as Chair, with Party membership passing 15,000, the highest mark in more than 20 years, being one example. Tate also noted successes in grassroots organizing in 2012 that resulted in over 27,000 volunteers across the state knocking on 1.7 million doors and making 4.2 million phone calls to help reelect President Barack Obama and elect Tammy Baldwin to the United States Senate.
Looking ahead to a third term, Tate outlined four areas he wants to focus on if reelected: Organizing, Membership, Training, and Fundraising/Operations.
While each of those areas of focus merit discussion, I’m particularly interested in Tate’s “72 County Strategy” focused on on winning back critical State Assembly and Senate districts and defeating Scott Walker in 2014. The “72 County Strategy” would focus on building the Party’s statewide infrastructure, setting ambitious goals, and keeping grassroots leaders engaged, and to that end the DPW will be placing Regional Political Directors throughout the state, with the first Regional Political Directors based in Eau Claire, La Crosse, and Green Bay. “We have to be a 72 county party,” Tate said, adding that he believes the state party still has work to do to get smarter and better at using the data available to the party and to organize earlier across the state. “We still believe our message beats theirs, as long as we can communicate it effectively,” Tate added. Tate also made a point to note that if he’s reelected as Chair, he wants to see the party knocking on doors in off-years to talk to voters who may not be Democrats but who still may be open-minded on an issue-by-issue basis. Tate’s “72 County Strategy” reminds me a lot of the “50 State Strategy” employed by Howard Dean during his time as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and while some may argue that it’s foolish to spend money in red counties, I’d beg to differ.
Tate’s “72 County Strategy” has an advocate in former Congressman Dave Obey, who lauded Tate’s willingness to travel to all parts of Wisconsin to spread the DPW’s message, noting, “Mike recognizes that there’s more to the Democratic Party in Wisconsin than the southeastern triangle of the state.” Obey went on to add that few Party Chairs have hit the road to make Northwoods counties feel like a party of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and he said he believes the party should be focusing on counties where votes have fallen off and find out what issues voters in those counties care about and then to engage voters on those issues.
Elaborating on why he supports Mike Tate for a third term as DPW Chair, Obey noted that anyone who’s been in the party for any length of time remembers how frustrating the party could be, with some in party leadership focusing too much on which resolutions to pass at the party’s annual convention rather than focusing on organizing the party and raising money. “There was a time candidates used to have to help the party financially, rather than the party helping candidates financially,” Obey said, pointing out that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin under Mike Tate is more financially secure than ever.
While there are many withing the Democratic Party of Wisconsin who believe Mike Tate has earned another term as DPW Chair, Tate has also started winning over some of his harshest critics. Doug Cvetkovich, a grassroots activist and blogger at FDLFVR, has been a frequent (and very vocal) critic of Mike Tate, but in recent weeks Cvetkovich announced his plans to support Mike Tate for another term as DPW Chair. Asked to share his thoughts on how he’s gone from being a critic to a supporter of Mike Tate, Cvetkovich said, “I didn’t like the direction our party was going in this State for a long time, and Mike Tate, being the State Party Chair, was the one person who I blamed for the failures. He heard and read the views I had and invited me to take some time and talk with him in person, and I did. Twice. After those discussions, I felt that, although there were mistakes made in the past, things such as the DPW’S 72 County strategy are in place to help us win our state back.” Cvetkovich went on to add that be believes Mike Tate is the person who can help make sure Democrats win back control in Wisconsin.