Last week I grabbed a cup of coffee and had a chat with Democratic National Committee member Jason Rae, one of a spate of Democrats vying to succeed Mike Tate as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. I met with Jason at his request, but rather than sit and interview him, he wanted to pick my brain about the DPW Chair race and the state of the Democratic Party here in Wisconsin.
As I shared my thoughts on the DPW Chair race, I started by noting the many, many criticisms of the poor messaging efforts on the part of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin over the past five years, and Jason agreed that the Democratic Party cannot win in Wisconsin with a message that revolves largely around, “Scott Walker is eeevil” or some permutation of that message. Instead of relying on a message that Democrats are against Scott Walker and that Scott Walker is “bad,” Jason noted the DPW needs to come up with a coherent message that will appeal to a broad swath of Wisconsinites, including those voters who may have some measure of buyer’s remorse after the 2014 election. Jason said Democrats need to get back to a clear message that includes a focus on public education and a minimum wage increase, because in his words Democrats in Wisconsin need to stand for something, instead of simply standing against Scott Walker.
I also noted Jason was taking a lot of criticism from many who believe because of his status as a member of the Democratic National Committee and his strong ties to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin he would not represent a real change from the status quo. While acknowledging his strong ties to the national Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin could lead to many viewing him as the establishment candidate who wouldn’t represent much of a change from current DPW Chair Mike Tate, Rae challenged that idea. He made it clear he believed the relationships he has built thanks to his involvement in the DNC would allow him the ability – if needed – to reach out to Democrats across the nation to help rebuild the Democratic Party in Wisconsin.
I also challenged Jason regarding the lack of specificity as relates to his vision for moving the Democratic Party of Wisconsin forward, and he readily acknowledged he needs to do a better job of laying out a clear, detailed plan on how he’d build the Democratic Party of Wisconsin back up into a viable statewide party. In fact, Jason noted he has already started putting together a more detailed and comprehensive plan to address concerns that his plans aren’t specific enough.
While I understand many activists and grassroots types may remain skeptical of Jason Rae’s candidacy for DPW Chair due to his perceived close ties to the current DPW establishment, our conversation made it pretty clear to me that he’s not interested in continuing along the same path that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has been on. That being said, I’m still undecided on which candidate I’ll support for DPW Chair, because each candidate possesses strengths and weaknesses.