Editor’s Note: Last week I reached out to each of the five candidates for DPW Chair and asked each of them to send me a guest blog for Blogging Blue outlining why they were the best candidate for DPW Chair. What follows is Martha Laning’s response.
A Fresh Perspective – Martha Laning
This weekend, we have a critical decision to make about the future of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin (DPW). Over the past several election cycles we have seen devastating losses that have threatened the future of our state and the over 5 million people who call Wisconsin home. As a mother, a lifelong Democrat, and active member of my community, I am deeply concerned that the progressive Wisconsin values I grew up with are slipping away from us. Like so many of you, I am not willing to stand by and let that happen. I am running to be your DPW chair because I have the skills, passion, and commitment that our party needs in its top leader to be effective in 2016 and beyond.
What sets me apart from other candidates in this race are:
- My motivation and commitment to bring back our Wisconsin values;
- My reputation of getting things done and my management experience;
- My plan to transform the DPW; and,
- My fundraising skills to bring in the resources our team needs to win.
Motivation and Commitment
I am the person I am today because of the opportunities Wisconsin gave my family to climb out of poverty. My dad grew up poor in northern Wisconsin. He quit school to join the Merchant Marines so he could send home money to care for his family. When he returned, a public school teacher convinced him to go back to school and get his high school diploma. Later, the GI bill enabled him to go to college, become a successful chemical engineer, and raise a family of his own. These progressive values of opportunity, equality, responsibility, and a fair shake for every family have defined Wisconsin for over a century, and they are values worth fighting for.
I decided to run for DPW Chair to restore those values and create a stronger future for our party and Wisconsin as a whole. I decided to run because I owe it to Wisconsin to change the course we are on because long ago people ensured my dad had the opportunity he needed. I want our future generations to have opportunities, too.
Gets Things Done, Strong Management Experience
Throughout my career, I have been known as someone who gets things done. I have a strong background in business, non-profit management, and community organizing. My professional experiences have taught me that the most important thing a leader can do is assemble a diverse team and work together to find solutions. That’s how I helped build school playgrounds and libraries. That’s how we created school breakfast programs for children in need. And that’s how I created a coalition to build an intergenerational community center for seniors and children at the height of the recession. When I see a challenge I bring people together, I ask the right questions, and get to work solving the challenge ahead.
I believe a leader is not someone who sits in backroom meetings and tells members what is and isn’t possible; a leader identifies problems, explains the issues facing the organization, articulates a clear vision and goal, and builds a large, inclusive team to achieve those goals.
To do this, our Party needs a change of vision, a change in attitude, a change in the way we do business. We need to shift from a top down to bottom up grassroots structure. We need a readiness to listen, to be inclusive, and to share responsibility, resources, and information.
Transforming the DPW
We face serious challenges in our state and in our party and we need someone with strong organizational skills to guide the team through identifying the problems, finding the solutions and putting the resources needed in place to fix the problems. I have a plan to move our party forward and re-build the proud progressive traditions of Wisconsin.
First, we need better messaging based on our progressive values. Cookie-cutter “one size fits all” messaging isn’t working for Democrats across the state. We need to meet voters where they are, and explain why Democrats are the only party that can be trusted to fight for the issues that matter most to them. We need to empower county parties and leaders to develop these strong local messages, and give them the tools they need to connect with voters one on one.
While we strengthen our local messaging, we must also develop a new statewide narrative about what it means to be a Democrat, the values we hold, and our plan to get Wisconsin back on track. To do this I will bring together a team of Democrats from County Parties, Congressional Districts (CDs), legislators, and our Progressive partnering affiliates to develop a cohesive message for our state that will then be shared with Democrats across the state. (http://www.laningforwisconsin.com/my-plan/messaging/)
Second, we will build a strong team where all voices are valued. Our party is great because of the talented and committed Democrats in our state like you. Our party members are our messengers in our communities and the team that helps us find, and then support, great candidates. We want to strengthen our team so that we leverage our greatest asset: you!
Through new and innovative tactics like member recruitment grants, returning 70% of the first year of new party memberships back to the counties and developing a Candidates Manual for Success, we can build a strong local infrastructure that organizes Democrats year-round. (http://www.laningforwisconsin.com/my-plan/stronger-party/)
Resources to Win
I will ensure all levels of the Democratic Party have the resources they need to win. Over the past 20 years I’ve helped to raise millions of dollars for schools, educational programs, and community centers.
Raising millions of dollars isn’t something everyone can do. You have to be outgoing and able to build deep and meaningful relationships with donors of all levels. You have to value every donor, regardless of how much they give as every single dollar makes a difference. You have to anticipate and provide the information your current and potential donors want and need to build trust in the organization.
Fundraising for the DPW is a huge part of the Chair’s job, and I have the strongest fundraising skills and experience of the slate of Chair candidates. From recruiting and retaining the best staff to investing in our County Parties and campaigns, it is imperative that the DPW have a solid fundraiser at the helm who can bring in the resources to win.
My past fundraising success is the result of my ability to bring together people from all across the community, encourage both grassroots and major donor donations, and ensure that everyone had a stake in the outcome. That’s exactly what I want to do as DPW Chair: bring in new members, deepen engagement with long-standing members of all levels, and help candidates and County Parties that may be struggling to raise much needed funds.
I ask you to join me in charting a new course for our party. Together, we can restore Wisconsin’s proud progressive tradition and win in 2016 and beyond. Representative Bowen and I are looking forward to seeing you at the convention and we hope we earn your vote.
To learn more about my campaign or see a list of elected officials, local party leadership, and members who have endorsed my campaign, please visit laningforwisconsin.com.