Yesterday three of the four announced candidates for Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chair – Jason Rae, Jeff Smith, and Joe Wineke – came together at Camp Bar in Shorewood to speak to Democrats and share their ideas on how they’d move the Democratic Party of Wisconsin forward if elected to succeed Mike Tate as Chair of the DPW.
I had a chance to listen to each man share his vision for the DPW, and I also listened as each candidate answered questions from those in attendance. I’d like to share my thoughts, but before I do I’d like to preface my thoughts by noting that I do not have a preferred candidate in the race. I don’t know much about Mary Lang Sollinger, the fourth candidate in the race, but of the three candidates I do happen to know more about, each has strengths and weaknesses, leaving me torn on which candidate strikes me as most capable of moving the Democratic Party of Wisconsin forward.
Anyhow….back to my thoughts from yesterday.
Throughout his remarks and his answers to questions from attendees, one common theme of Jason’s was his desire to listen to Democrats – including grassroots activists – to hear their feedback on how best to move the Democratic Party of Wisconsin forward. Jason also noted if elected DPW Chair he would work with anyone – including his opponents in this race – to find good ideas to move the DPW forward.
I’ll also note that of the three candidates present yesterday, Jason was the most polished speaker. He was able to clearly articulate his points and engage attendees, but I would have liked a little more detail in some of his answers.
Jeff struck me as very much the “outsider” candidate in the race, despite the fact that he is a former elected official and a former employee of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Jeff talked a lot the need to build a statewide party by investing resources year-round throughout the state, instead of devoting resources in certain areas only during election cycles. Jeff cited his personal experience working with a group of committed Democrats to keep their office in Eau Claire open year-round.
While not as polished a public speaker as Joe Wineke or Jason Rae, Jeff definitely had a folksy style that seemed to engage those in attendance. Many of his answers to questions included anecdotes about his experiences as a candidate and then as a political director for the DPW.
One promise Joe made that stuck with me was his promise that he’d only serve one term as DPW Chair if the party hadn’t gained seats in the legislature in 2016. One criticism (whether fair or not) of current DPW Chair Mike Tate is that he was never held accountable for the failure of the Democratic Party to “stop the bleeding” in regards to Democrats losing the governorship, one U.S. Senate seat, two Congressional seats, and dozens of seats in the State Assembly and State Senate during his watch. Wineke’s promise to hold himself accountable if his tenure as DPW Chair doesn’t yield tangible positive results is a breath of fresh air.
I was also encouraged to hear Joe give a brief outline of his desire to devolve the Democratic Party of Wisconsin from a largely top down organization into an organization that works from the bottom up.