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Foster: Summit shows Democrats are a party on the move for 2020

America’s voters are about six months away from casting their first ballots in the 2020 primary elections. While Democratic presidential candidates are jockeying for money and media exposure, the national party is working steadily to create the strategy and organization to defeat Donald Trump’s bid for a second term in office.

East Texas Democrats conducted a little publicized summit in Jacksonville last month to do more than just meet and greet. While more than 60 delegates in attendance enjoyed socializing, the agenda was all business on ways to improve Democratic turnout in rural counties that have heavily favored Republicans the past 30 years.

One of the guest speakers, David Currie from San Angelo, said he was impressed with the enthusiasm as well as the numbers attending the summit. Currie, a retire Baptist minister with a Ph.D. in Christian ethics, also is a rancher and small business owner who has published an agenda for rural Democrats.

The highlight of the summit was an inspirational speech by the state Democratic chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, who cut short a trip to New Mexico to fly in for the meeting. He said the 2018 mid-term elections gave the Democratic Party a tremendous boost toward the 2020 general election. Not only did Democrats win control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the party also gained several new governorships and control of several state legislatures.

In Texas, Democrats came close to winning a U.S. Senate seat and several state offices that Republicans won by slim margins. In the state Legislature, Democrats gained 12 seats in the House and two in the Senate. Without super-majorities, Republicans moderated their positions to gain passage of the budget and other governmental operations.

There were no crazy efforts to pass the so-called “bathroom bill” and other divisive wedge issues promoted by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who survived a close race with his Democratic opponent. Democrats also picked up two congressional seats last year and are targeting eight other seats in districts turning blue next year. Hinojosa said what keeps Republicans up at night is the population shift in Texas. Some 70 percent of the state population now resides in counties that have Democratic county judges. This has huge implications for running elections and stopping GOP efforts at voter suppression. Republicans can’t stop the demographic tide so they’re trying to intimidate Latino voters and new citizens, as with the recent effort to cull DPS driving records looking for non-citizens. A federal judge knocked down that effort and the Republican secretary of state lost his job over the fiasco.

Hinojosa explained that Beto O’Rourke lost his senate race to Ted Cruz by about 250,000 votes last year. With a major effort to get out the vote, Democrats could make up that margin in Harris County alone.

Texas Democrats, he said, are on the winning side of issues from education and health care to climate change and other important issues. The party’s goal is to work for improving the lives of all the state’s citizens, not just the rich and powerful. It would do that with efforts such as increasing the minimum wage, which remains the same as 10 years ago.

A major portion of the summit was devoted to developing and using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The state Democratic Party sent several employees from its Austin headquarters to explain ways to create and maintain websites and accessing voter registration rolls available from Austin.

Practical applications discussed included using register2vote.org to send pre-filled registration forms to voters. Voters use their drivers’ licenses or last four digits of their Social Security numbers to identify themselves. After completing the ballot, voters sign and mail it back.

Volunteer training also was stressed at the summit. Texas Democrats can access the state party’s learning management system to become trainers. They can select from online courses and gain certification by completing the courses.The national party provides volunteer training in addition to candidate training. There’s a lot more that goes into running an effective campaign than putting your name before the public and buying media advertising.

One of the most valuable tools for campaign organizations is the Voter Access Network, or VAN. It’s a list of voters by party preference, location and telephone numbers. No doubt many local readers have been contacted by email or telephone by campaigns using VAN.

— John D. Foster, a Carthage resident and former editor of the Panola Watchman, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum. Email: jandmfoster@yahoo.com

Today's Bible verse

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ”

Hebrews 13:5

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