Blogging Blue Interview: Bryan Kennedy for Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

I forwarded nine questions to the candidates for the Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. I will share them with you this week as we get ready for the state party convention on June 2/3.

To try to be fair I am publishing these in the order they were received. Here are the responses from Bryan Kennedy!

1) Why are you running for chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin?

We cannot continue the tide of losses that have plagued us for almost a decade. We need to do things drastically differently than we have been. The BAM team (Bryan Kennedy, Amanda Stuck and Mandela Barnes) is a team of experienced organizers. We have a 20-page organizing plan for the state party and a nine-page Rural Strategies document that will guide us in building permanent infrastructure and help us win elections again, especially in red parts of the state.

2) What experience and skills do you bring to the role to insure your success as chair?

I am the only candidate running for chair that has ever won an election. Experience winning elections, recruiting candidates and helping them get elected, and building a grassroots organizing model are the primary skills required for a successful Chair. I am the only candidate that has done all of those things.

2016 was a big disappointment for Wisconsin Democrats with Donald Trump winning the state and Senator Ron Johnson’s re-election.

3) What could we have been done better in 2016?

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has relied on a model of running up vote totals in Milwaukee and Dane Counties in order to win statewide elections. That model neglects large portions of the state. It is the reason our map is sooooo RED. We have seen that model fail over the last 8 years. We lost three consecutive Governor’s races, three consecutive AG races, and a US Senate seat twice. In 2016 we lost the presidential race in the state for the first time in 32 years. The narrow margin of Trump’s victory could have been overcome if we had done significant on-the-ground organizing. We need to rebuild in rural areas, reconnect with our communities of color, and develop a message that resonates with all voters. We did not compete in 21 Assembly districts in 2016. Many of our counties did not have a single Democrat running for the many county courthouse positions. We need to fill the ballot. We also need to reach out to nonvoters and find out what would bring them to the polls, and then craft a message to make that happen.

4) What did work or what worked better than expected in 2016?

The Republicans worked better than expected. They had a seriously flawed candidate and yet still united behind him and won victories in three “Blue Wall” states that had not voted Republican since 1984—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

5) What other takeaways do you see from the 2016 election cycle?

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is in disarray. Our model is broken. Our brand is tarnished. We need new leadership to take the party in a winning direction. We need a different model. We must focus on building a larger base from among the nonvoters—give them a reason to go vote again. We need to develop localized messaging that resonates with voters in each town and neighborhood.

6) Watching social media we often see a dichotomy in the public perception on the DPW’s role in picking candidates. Some feel that the party finds candidates and foists them on the membership while others think the party doesn’t do enough to recruit qualified candidates. What do you think the party’s role is in developing candidates?

The party needs to build an infrastructure that attracts candidates. When potential candidates think that the Democratic Party cannot deliver a victory, they are going to be reluctant to step up and run. If we build an effective grassroots network of contacts in every voting ward and craft localized messaging that allows us to build a broader database of potential voters, candidates will see that party differently. When we have no candidate options, then the party must cajole someone to run and that makes it appear as if the Chair and party leaders are foisting someone upon the party and Democratic voters. I would prefer to have a built-out Democratic Party that attracts candidates into a vibrant and healthy primary process than to have to twist arms to get someone to run.

7) 2018 promises to be a tough election cycle. How do we defeat Governor Scott Walker and Speaker Paul Ryan while re-electing Senator Tammy Baldwin?

We need to be completely organized on the ground in every voting ward of the state, recruit candidates for EVERY ballot position available in every county and reach out to nonvoters and develop a message that gives them a reason to vote. Governor and Sen. Baldwin go hand-in-hand. I don’t see a scenario where we win one and lose the other. Look at 2012, Tammy won everywhere that Obama did with almost the same vote totals. Voters are locked into their team camps. We need to recruit new Democrats and build what it takes to get our voters out in 2018 so that we can re-elect Sen. Tammy Baldwin and replace Walker with a Democratic Governor.

8) Do you foresee any changes in the DPW during your chairpersonship?

Yes. Absolutely. Currently the power to make the decisions lies with a small group of people. We will be working to empower 3,600 ward captains or community coordinators in all 3,600 voting wards of the state and train them in how to lead “knock every door” canvasses. Messaging and decisions will move out to a larger group of empowered activists at the grassroots level. We will hire a Digital Media Director to help us with online branding, integration of websites and Facebook pages, and to spur additional movement in social media.

9) What other thoughts would you like share with the readers of Blogging Blue?

The most important thing we can do is to build a lasting infrastructure with contacts in every voting ward of the state. This will not only enable victories for Governor and Sen. Baldwin next year and help us start winning back seats in the state legislature, but will also provide us a network to assist in local races and in future partisan races. There is only one team that has the experience in doing all of the things that will be required for victory—Team BAM! Mayor Bryan Kennedy for State Chair, State Representative Amanda Stuck for 1st Vice Chair and former State Representative Mandela Barnes for 2nd Vice Chair.

For more info on Bryan, click here!


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