Sunday, July 5, 2009

Letter To The Editor From Shawn Stevens

On July 22, 2009 the Democratic Party of Collin County Executive Committee will elect a new chairperson. In light of the July 22nd special election, as a public service, this blog has extended an offer to each of the of Collin County Democratic Party Chair Candidates to submit a letter to the editor of this blog. The following letter is from Party Chair Candidate Shawn Stevens:

Letter To The Editor
by Shawn Stevens
As someone who has been active in the Democratic Party for over two decades, I am offering myself as a candidate to be County Chair of the Democratic Party of Collin County, to bring our party together and move forward.

Together we can, as Collin County Democrats, become more of a force in local, state, and national politics, and together we can encourage strong Democratic candidates to run in Collin County.

Though we have already improved a great deal as a local party (and we owe a debt of gratitude to those that have helped us get to this level), one of the most important ways we can accomplish those goals is by having an even more highly functioning County Party that serves even more than it has been in an assistance and force multiplier role to the candidates at all levels.

Together we can hit that mark by having a County Party that brings people together and utilizes the broad range of skills and expertise that the precinct chairs and the volunteer activists are willing to contribute, finding a meaningful role for each person that wants to help pull the wagon. We are composed of volunteers and we are only as strong as our volunteers, and we need to make sure that when a volunteer chooses to spend their time helping us, that his or her time is well utilized for meaningful tasks.

We have some very active and committed Democratic Clubs such as the Texas Democratic Women of Collin County, Obama Collin County, the Stonewall Democrats of Collin County, the Democratic Campaign Development Committee, the Democratic Mens Club, the new Collin County chapter of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats, and other groups, and together we need to do everything we can to encourage, appreciate, and help facilitate their efforts. Additionally, together we need to reach out more to our Latino/Latina and Asian citizens in Collin County, as they will also be an important part of our growth as a party.

Another critical component to our success will be to better utilize technology to organize and publicize our activities, and we absolutely must build from a foundation of accurate, well-managed voter and activist data that can be used to support our candidates.

Among other things, just as Obama's campaign has shown can be done, we can ramp up how we make use of social networking technologies to generate interest and enthusiasm for our local efforts, and as the Texas Democratic Women of Collin County has done, we can implement professionally developed public relations strategies freely available for our use to help in a broader strategy to raise our public profile.

One of the biggest tasks for a County Chair to accomplish with a team focus is raising the money necessary to have the technology and gain the maximum exposure possible through various means, including paid political advertising, for the party to have the functionality and visibility it needs to provide as much support as possible to the candidates. If I am selected, I intend to make our financial strength one of the major areas of focus of my administration.

If I am chosen to be County Chair, I also intend to strongly encourage our local Party to work together as much as possible with President Obama's Organizing for America grassroots efforts, the Democratic National Committee, and the Texas Democratic Party.

I have had conversations about Collin County recently with DNC Chair Tim Kaine and TDP Chair Boyd Richie, and they both understand the importance of Collin County, a suburban county with nearly 800,000 people. We are the 6th most populous county out of 254 in Texas, with about as many residents as the State of South Dakota, and more residents than Washington D.C., or the states of Alaska, Vermont, North Dakota or Wyoming. Gov. Kaine sees Texas as a state with the potential to go Democratic as Virginia has recently, and he said it was by making gains in the suburban counties like Collin that they were able to turn Virgina blue.

One of the things I talked with Gov. Kaine about was for the President to record a short video vignette we can show at our local events, and promote via You Tube, etc., to encourage local activists to help organize and promote their local parties and local candidates, in the interest of helping the President effect the change we need after years of Republican mismanagement.

Democrats have been making great progress in Collin County, and together we can do even better by welcoming all Democrats that want to help the effort. Comparing 2008 to 2004, there were 20,000 more straight ticket Democratic voters in 2008, while the Republicans’ straight ticket votes were virtually unchanged. Also, the raw Democratic vote in Collin County went up by 40,000 votes, while the raw Republican vote went up by only 10,000, a 30,000 net gain for the Democrats, reducing the vote gap between the Democratic and Republican vote by around 17.5 points

Another fact is that the 2008 Democratic Collin County Convention was attended by about 4,000 people and is the most well attended event in the history of the Frisco Conference Center, the largest publicly available indoor venue in Collin County. Before that, 20,000 people took the time to show up at Democratic precinct conventions in neighborhoods across the county!

The number I have been hearing that we need to reach in Collin County to help Democrats win statewide is 43%. We are now at about 37% in Collin County, and we’ve been ratcheting up the Democratic vote about 4 -8 points a cycle. (And if Collin County Dems notch up only slightly, there will be Democrats on the 5th District Court of Appeals, an important appeals court just below the Texas Supreme Court).

Working together, we will start winning some local races soon. Our best shot will probably be in some County races, such as Justice of the Peace races, and seats on the County Commissioner's Court, like the seat for which Jean Power ran. She ran a great race in a short period of time, and I hope we can get her to run again next time with a normal campaign time frame.

We will have more opportunities in 2012, possibly including a local legislative seat that may be available and competitive when Collin County gains at least one additional State Representative slot due to redistricting.

Of course, we want to do everything we can to help turn Texas blue, both in the statewide elections in 2010 for races like Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General, and in the next Presidential election in 2012. If there is a special election for Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat in the near future, I will encourage Collin County Democrats to be fully engaged, as Collin County voters could be the deciding factor in a race with numerous candidates, putting a greater spotlight on Collin County Democrats, and increasing our momentum.

The Republican era of domination of Collin County is beginning to come to a close. There are huge numbers of Democrats in Collin County, and we have a real opportunity to re-engage our local Democrats to effect change, especially including the 20,000 citizens that made the effort to come out to precinct conventions last March.

I have been active in Democratic politics for over 20 years, but the turnout that night was one of the most encouraging things I have ever seen in politics besides the coming together of our national party last year and the election of Barack Obama as President, because it made it clear once and for all that everyone had more Democrats in their neighborhoods in Collin County than folks had realized before. I can not think of any other event in the history of Collin County where there were more citizens participating together all at one time, and in the process meeting and talking to their neighbors, and what happened was a Democratic event!

Together we can be a significant force in Collin County, the broader DFW region, and the entire state of Texas, ultimately having an impact on national politics!

I would be honored to have the opportunity to lead our efforts, and I ask for your support.

Together we can!

Shawn Stevens
Mr. Stevens, a fifth generation Texan and attorney at law, has been active in the Democratic Party for approximately two decades.

Mr. Stevens was the senior legislative assistant for State Representative Glen Maxey over two regular Texas legislative sessions and numerous special sessions during the early 1990's. During the fall of 2008 he was appointed by the Obama campaign to organize and provide support to election pollwatchers working in Collin County for the Obama and Rick Noriega campaigns.

Mr. Stevens served as Vice-Chair (Asst. County Chair) of the Democratic Party of Collin County for five years, from 2003 until mid-November 2008 and was also the county party's General Counsel. Mr. Stevens currently serves as Precinct Chair for precinct 115.

This blog is not affiliated with the Democratic Party of Collin County or any of the candidates standing for election to the Democratic Party of Collin County Chair. Letters to the editor of this blog have only been edited for format suitable to this blog.

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