Count Me In – Bryan Kennedy for Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

My reasons for endorsing Bryan Kennedy as the next chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin are pretty simple.

He’s obviously got an eye for talent and team building, having recruited Rep Amanda Stuck and former state Rep Mandela Barnes as first and second vice chair candidates.

He’s obviously got guts, having run twice against GOP eternalist Jim Sensenbrenner, achieving the second highest vote percentage ever against the amorphously paleolithic Sensenbrenner during his interminable 40 year stint in Congress.

He’s obviously a progressive with integrity, having cast his delegate vote for Senator Bernie Sanders at the DNC convention in Philadelphia last year.

And Kennedy obviously knows how to win, having served three terms as the elected President of Wisconsin’s American Federation of Teachers, three terms on the Glendale River Hills School Board, and most recently as Mayor of Glendale, a suburb north of Milwaukee.

But it’s Kennedy’s commitment to year round issue based organizing, including in rural areas, that really won me over. For at least ten years my wife Shelly and I have implored democrats at the local and state level to invest in a brick and mortar organizing infrastructure, infused with local people, that can do ongoing community outreach to educate voters about the DPW platform.

As both a professional and volunteer organizer I’ve knocked on many thousands of working class doors in northwest Wisconsin over a lot of years, frequently off-list, and I firmly believe that the potential to bring in new voters, and to win over large swaths of independents, is both tremendous and largely untapped. But it takes a face, and a name, some familiarity, and a consistent presence. You can’t create progressive political majorities with TV ads, glossy mailers, and well meaning out-of-state young people flown into the district three months before election day.

Yet in spite of tons of anecdotal evidence and solid research demonstrating that face to face contact is the best way to engage and mobilize people, all our words have fallen on deaf Democratic Party of Wisconsin ears. The machine grinds on of its own accord, millions of dollars continue to flow to consultants, and the losses continue to pile up.

Bryan Kennedy has a solid, concrete plan to change that. I’ve read his 20 page blueprint for change and his rural organizing plan, and I’ve talked to him at length over the phone. He’s the real deal. We had a conversation during which I actually got to talk. He actually listened. He intends to recruit ward captains in every voting ward in Wisconsin. He intends to give local people the resources to reach local voters in ways that make sense to them. He intends to grow a bench of local candidates who get support from Madison instead of marching orders. I’ve already volunteered to be one of the thousands of ward captains he intends to recruit. I’m convinced that he’s a true progressive, that he’s determined to win, and that he’s on a winning path.

So count me in, sign me up, and let’s get this thing done. I hereby endorse Bryan Kennedy as the next chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.


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14 thoughts on “Count Me In – Bryan Kennedy for Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

  1. Steve, are you sure you want to endorse an anti-“amorphously paleolithic” candidate?

  2. Do you realize there are 9 MORE full time people doing field work for the DPW than when Martha Laning was elected? She is all ready doing what you say Bryan Kennedy would do. Bryan is advocating a program that is all ready in place!!!
    I am an active grassroots person who has had numerous conversations with Martha about how to improve grassroots efforts. She has been very responsive and is completely on board. Once SHE raised the funds, the party implemented the new programs.

    1. Joe,

      I don’t know what you consider grassroots, but I’ve knocked many thousands of doors in low income neighborhoods over the last almost ten years in rural Wisconsin. In 2015 Jeff Smith ran on building a statewide organizing infrastructure. Laning stole that idea from us, and then after Jeff dropped out and endorsed her she dropped the idea until it became apparent to her early this year she was in electoral trouble. Here’s the real Martha Laning. During a conversation in 2015, maybe a month before the chair election, she told Jeff Smith, a blue collar guy born, raised and lived his whole life in rural Wisconsin, that she’d be a better chair than him because she knew how to talk to millionaires and he didn’t. Laning had her shot and blew it. And her word is no good as far as I’m concerned.

      1. I like Jeff Smith very much and consider him a friend. I think he would have made a good chair, but I TOTALLY disagree your characterization of Martha. What you describe has not my experience with her at all.

        Oregon Area Progressives, our local grassroots group, had serious issues with how we were treated by the DPW before Martha came on board, so we asked her to meet with us. She did. Then she asked us to help get together a group of grassroots organizers to talk with her and the DPW staff about what the grassroots needs and the best ways to organize. She met with us and began collecting information from states like Minnesota, where they have a robust non-election year organizing strategy.

        I’m not a big donor, nor are any of the other OAP members, but she listened to us, and has responded. Martha Laning has my vote.

      1. On the website see Sam Vorhees and Brian Evans who work with candidates not supported by the ADCC or the SSDCC. Staci OBrien just hired 6 people. (There may be only 5 hired. )Organizer Jake Spence came to the last Ozaukee County meeting. This is the first time I can recall someone from the DPW came to visit us outside of campaigning for a DPW office. As to grassroots I too knock on doors and call people who are often not home. To me, there are few new ideas. The Grassroots North Shore group spent several meetings with Martha discussing what would make better grassroots campaigning and she has delivered what she said she would do. It is not my role to assess what Martha said but I can see that she is better able to raise the dollars needed to support this outreach staff than anyone in the past. Martha and our group discussed this during 2015 and 2016. Vorhees and Evans were in place last year so you might reconsider your statement that she just got the notion this year.
        I will be at the convention and perhaps we can discuss this in person.

        1. Joe Messinger,

          These organizers are being paid mostly by money from the Baldwin campaign,and the DCCC and SDCC, according to multiple credible sources. It’s encouraging to see a coordinated campaign style operation being fielded this early in an election cycle, I’ll grant you that, but it’s not permanent, DPW infrastructure that will necessarily survive post 2018, and Martha didn’t raise the money to pay for it, Tammy Baldwin almost certainly did. So let’s all of us work with these organizers as best we can, tell them what we know about our local areas, and win back and defend as many seats as we can in 2018, and continue to advocate for a truly homegrown, year round DPW organizing network. In the meantime Laning supporters should quit touting this program as a Laning success story because doing so is, at best, a disingenous ruse and at worst, blatant bullshit spun by the desperate supporters of a failing Chair. And with all due respect, should I decide to attend the convention my dance card will be plenty full and I won’t have time to hash out the obvious with you.

  3. From my seat in NE WI there are several groups locally fighting successfully against a city bent on selling public trust land (historic lakebed) to a Scott Walker appointee to the Judicial Commission, educating the public and actually testing the water running off from domestic terrorists polluting the Bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, industrial polluters known as CAFO operations and for at least the last five years the DPW has neither acknowledged them nor spent a single dollar to help fund them. These citizen groups have a few registered Democrats in their ranks, but the “party,” continues to ignore the base and the immediate and urgent issues of education, health care and environmental protection for what purpose.

    People here, again wasting their time and money on a party that doesn’t want you in their ranks, need to get over party loyalty and focus your efforts where they will finally matter. Many of you do already, I imagine. This lame argument about what the party needs to do is a continuing waste of precious time. Get off your asses and attend a town or county meeting and start raising your voice against whatever you are hearing that is bothering you, bring a couple of friends. That’s where it starts. The party is there to support their own continued existence and salaries and, “positions” and nothing else.

  4. Grassroots NorthShore has endorsed Martha Laning. We have never before taken a stand of this nature but we consider a second term for Martha Laning as vital to the future of Progressive Politics in Wisconsin. Our enthusiasm comes from working with her. After a disastrous November (that even Nate Silver couldn’t predict) Martha listened, brainstormed and implemented the changes that we and others suggested. It took her only five months to raise enough money for seven additional full-time organizers who are now out in the field.

    I know Kennedy says that plan was his. Why then, when he was on the Executive Committee under Mike Tate, did he never propose it?

    I have been part of Laning’s process. I helped write the suggestions from our group on improving the process. Martha met with us to introduce Staci O’Brian who leads the grassroots engagement team. I listened to the interviews for the local organizer positions and got to weigh in on each of those interviews.

    Most important: I know that Grassroots NorthShore did the right thing when we endorsed Martha Laning for a second term.

    1. Eilene Stevens,

      Laning didn’t have a plan until she claimed as her own what I helped Jeff Smith write back in early 2015. I can understand how she appeals to suburban, materially comfortable Clinton democrats. But that’s not what’s needed to win elections in Wisconsin going forward. What’s the plan to win back those 2012 Obama voters who went for Trump across rural Wisconsin? Call them a basket of deplorables?

    2. I’ve never had a compliment for the DPW, didn’t think much of Mike Tate’s leadership, but he did personally answer phone when I called the advertised party office number, twice in early 2012.

      Never even an email response to a message put to Laning, the DPW leadership or any of the listed staff in the last election cycle.

  5. Overview Opinion: Fundamental standards that made this country a beacon and standard to the world have been beat down or ignored from the GOP and a capitulating Centrist Democratic Party that ignored its real economic base. If we lose with our standards still a beacon, that would be honorable. If we’ve lost by capitulation as centrists with standards in the dirt, that is NOT honorable. Now put it back where it belongs. Although one should not discount the value of “democracy messengers” actually “talking to (balanced) millionaires”, the “fund raising gamers” must also return to true basic principles and standards that once BECAME actual beacons of hope, real standards, to the masses…in message and in more reality! So, all kinds of Democrats need to pay MORE attention and perform with BOTH sides of the paradox sword of truth if they want to win basic issues and elections for the people. (Also, further reaching social platform issues should not dominate essential basic issues; that proves fatal.)

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