Stephen Smith: Together, let’s change the future of Wisconsin

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 Stephen Smith’s response.

Our DPW convention delegates face the difficult task of deciding who will lead our party for the next two years. I believe that I am the best candidate to fill this position.

I want Wisconsin Democrats to be one team, win elections and govern. I believe that serving as DPW chair will continue my involvement in making Wisconsin the best state for all to live, raise a family, work and do business. Success must be achieved in every corner of our state and with every community group to become the winning party in Wisconsin.

The new leader of the DPW needs to focus on expanding our base beyond Milwaukee and Dane Counties. Milwaukee and Madison will always be important to statewide victories, and we can’t drop the ball on them, but we have to build strong coalitions to win, not just in 2016, but 2018 and 2020.

I am the candidate who lives north of Highway 29 in Northwestern Wisconsin. I have rural roots, a business background and a knowledge of out-state issues that concern everyday working people. I have been a voice throughout Wisconsin and have a goal to elect Democrats.

I was the first candidate to link top-down leadership to trickle-down economics. Now all candidates are talking of a bottom-up style of managing our party. I was the first to call for the County Party Chairs having a bigger leadership role in order to make the strength of our party grassroots and neighborhood based. I am the candidate with goals for us to achieve together, not just talking against top down leadership while in the next breath pushing for specific plans to manage our party. Party members across Wisconsin talked of legislative candidates who were promised campaign help but received nothing. In response my goal is to raise another $550,000 every two years to invest in campaign funds, donating a minimum of $5,000 to every Democratic Assembly Primary winning candidate and at least $10,000 to every Democratic State Senate Primary winning candidate.

I have been involved in helping Democratic candidates win elections for more than four decades. Wisconsin Democrats have suffered large defeats due to the Republican exploitation of federal issues and outside interests. Our opponents have successfully branded us as wrong for Wisconsin. It is time to break free of their false labels and lead Wisconsin forward again.

The 2016 general election is only 17 months away. In Wisconsin we should have a major focus on state legislative elections. We have a good chance to capture the Wisconsin Senate and add seats in the Assembly. I know the Democratic Presidential Nominee will have an effective campaign team in Wisconsin, as will Sen. Russ Feingold in his campaign to retake his Senate Seat from Sen. Johnson. We as a party must make sure to parlay these “up ballot efforts” to win more “down ballot” elections in 2016. Now is our time to be a successful team. Now is the time to stop the conservative frenzy turning our beloved state into a place we no longer recognize. The DPW Chair election is not only about the next 17 months, but our party’s future. Winning in 2016 is meaningless if we can’t hold our gains and have more successful wins in 2018 and 2020. Our grandchildren are depending on us.

To govern, we need to be the majority party. To be the majority party, we need to win elections across Wisconsin. To win more elections, we need to change our strategy. We need to message like trial lawyers and pay close attention to audience feedback. We need to tailor the DPW message to local county populations, while staying within a unified statewide theme. We must support our local party members with the resources to produce successful campaigns. We cannot keep doing more of the same with the expectation of different results.

What are the specific actions that we should take to make our County Parties stronger?

  • Focus on April elections (this is a win win situation)
    • Elect progressive local leaders
    • Increase membership
    • Increase number of skilled, enthusiastic, confidant campaign volunteers
    • Build a strong bench of future candidates
    • Make membership in our county parties rewarding and meaningful
  • Establish and share a campaign playbook for each county (by Senate and Assembly districts)
  • Establish local county letter writing teams
    • We can dominate the editorial pages with letters from local members
  • 24 months of campaign involvement in an election cycle, this needs to be strategically paced to avoid member burn out
  • Local boards with progressive majorities will let us show how good governing works

We need to work as a team for the qualities necessary to keep Wisconsin the best place to live, raise a family, work and do business: Equal Rights, Equal Pay, Marriage Equality, Voting Rights, Reproductive Rights, Affordable High Quality Health Care, a Clean Environment, Funding for State Parks, Stewardship Lands, Public Hunting Lands, Fair Funding for Public Schools, Adequate Funding for the UW System, a Living Wage, the right of public and private employees to organize and bargain for pay and safe working conditions and protect the right of local elected leaders to make the decisions that impact their neighborhoods.

In Wisconsin today, there is a basic political tension between the power of the dollar and the power of our votes. Our foes are doing all they can to have their dollars outweigh our votes. This is a contest between the legacy of Gov. Patrick Lucey, Sen. Bill Proxmire and Sen. Gaylord Nelson and the legacy of Tail-Gunner Joe and the John Birch Society. Our side won this contest in the ‘60s and ‘70s; and we will prevail again. The answer to “divide and conquer” is “unite and prosper.”

Remember 1,1,1 – One team, One mission, One goal – Win Elections and Govern Wisconsin! I ask for your vote for DPW Chair and your continued support to make this goal a reality. I will serve with honesty, integrity and represent you with the values that make your membership in the DPW meaningful and rewarding. Together, let’s change the future of Wisconsin.

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