To: Members of the Democratic National Committee

From: Ray Buckley

Date: December 12, 2016


Strengthening our State Parties:

a 15 point plan


Elections are won in the towns and cities across the country – not in Washington, DC.
 
Every corner of every state would benefit from a stronger state party. Vibrant state parties are essential to winning offices from the municipal level all the way to the White House. In the coming years we have the opportunity to recapture governorships and state legislative majorities, win senate and congressional seats, and create the foundation to win back the White House.
 
I have spent most of my life working for the success of my state party and state parties across the country. I believe our party will grow only if we refocus on the grassroots in our states, and, as Chair of the Democratic National Committee, I will strengthen state parties by implementing my 15-point plan.
 
My plan provides each state party the essentials for success:


1. State Party Partnership ("57 state strategy")

At present, the State Party Partnership program (SPP) has shrunk precipitously in scope and reliability. State Parties have been left hoping that their funds are not subjected to cuts. We cannot allow this to continue. The DNC must provide a guaranteed base of $10,000 per month to every state party, including DC, the territories and Democrats Abroad, for the four-year cycle. There would be a DNC staff person assigned to serve as the organizer/point of contact for the five territories.

2. State Party Partnership Victory Grant

Each state needs different kinds of support, whether it’s for a critical municipal election, a constituency-outreach program, or a new voter registration drive. Often, state parties are left balancing critical administrative expenses with these special projects. Under my leadership, the DNC would provide up to $15,000 per month for state specific projects or programs, which could be renewed on an annual basis.

3. Staff Development

We have some of the best and brightest operatives that come up in our state parties. We need to make sure they are armed with the skill set to maintain our party and execute our campaigns. To that end, each year the DNC would host an intensive weeklong training program for up to four staff members per state at no cost to the state parties. Additional staff may be included at a cost to the state party.

4. Executive Directors

Executive Director turnover is one of the top obstacles for creating a successful, stable state party. It has been reported that the average ED lasts about 18 months. We need to do more to attract and keep top quality EDs for the entire four-year cycle and even longer. As Chair, I would ensure that the DNC establishes an incentive program that would supplement the existing salaries of state EDs with an escalating incentive over a four-year period. My goal would be to provide an additional $10,000 per year for 2017, $20,000 per year for 2018, $30,000 per year for 2019, and $40,000 for 2020. The $40,000 would continue for the length of their employment. Even with this incentive, most EDs in 2020 would still be paid less than many campaign managers or coordinated campaign directors.

5. Healthcare and Retirement Security

As the party of healthcare for all Americans, we must provide all employees with the health coverage they need. We should explore innovative measures that support the efforts of state parties to provide quality health care coverage to their staff. As the party of workers’ rights, we must provide our long-term staff who spend their lives working for the DNC, state parties, campaigns or affiliated groups with the ability to have retirement security. We should commit to the creation of a unified 401(k) plan for staff of the DNC, state parties, and affiliated organizations. This would allow staff to retain the same retirement plan when transferring to a new job within the Democratic family of organizations and retire with dignity.

6. Technology and Innovation

Democrats have made unbelievable technological leaps in the past 10 years. Much of that has come with ebbs and flows of presidential campaigns and their focus on such tools. We need to turn the DNC into the technological hub with a suite of innovative technological tools that are available to all Democratic campaigns at the most basic levels. The national committee should also devote resources to opening a satellite office in Silicon Valley so as to widen our strategic advantage by utilizing the wealth of resources, ingenuity, and human capital from the world's most cutting edge technology companies. The DNC must be a leader in efforts to make our technological tools stronger, more secure, and sustainable for the future – and we can achieve that goal with smarter investment and staff devotion.

7. Building Fund

More than one state party does not have a state office, while others are in a cramped or unworkable space. All state parties would benefit from financial aid for their state office.  We also need to have a permanent presence in the field. Watching our field offices shuttered after Election Day is hard, especially knowing Democrats’ presence in a community is critical for our long-term success.  We should utilize the DNC’s newly authorized building fund (which can accept money outside of DNC limits and restrictions) to lease every state party headquarters and rent it back at a reduced rate, as well as to open a local office (aka community center) in every congressional district, allowing for year-round political organizing and community development.

8. Joint Fundraising Agreements

JFAs with the DNC will be prohibited in any contested primaries.  Individual state parties' ability to commit to a joint fundraising agreement will be decided by the state party and cannot be taken advantage of by the DNC or a candidate.  All JFA agreements would specify that the DNC and state parties retain control of funds raised in their name. Terms and conditions of the distribution of the funds will clearly state an allocated set amount to cover administrative expenses and supplement in-state, state party-driven campaign activity.

9. Surrogates

The DNC would commit to a minimum of one top surrogate per year to each state party for a fundraising event with the confidence that we could do ever more once the program is formally established. As Chair, I would ensure that we have a full time surrogate and scheduling team to work with elected officials and state parties year round.

10. Voter File Cooperative

The DNC must commit to continue the relationship with the National Voter File Cooperative and encourage its success as a revenue stream for state parties. It is a proven source of funds for state parties and needs to be protected by the next Chair.

11. DNC Transfers

All too often funds that could be spent on community organizing and direct voter contact are wasted. As Chair, I would ensure that the DNC would not transfer money to the DSCC, DCCC, DGA or other entities for television ads. DNC funds will only be used for constituency engagement, field programs, voter protection and GOTV purposes.

12. ASDC Training Program

Since 2013, the Association of State Democratic Chairs has been the hub for state party training. Under my guidance, the ASDC has implemented a variety of programs – from staff and party leader training to activist workshops. This must grow for us to foster a new generation of Democratic grassroots activists. As Chair, I would expand funding for the ASDC training program to include a team of four on-the-road staff to provide in-state trainings for state, county and local organizations.

13. Voting Rights

At present, we have been underprepared to deal with the sweeping efforts of our opponents to suppress Democratic votes. State parties have long been building their own voter protection practices, but we need the DNC to be in a place to support and aggressively grow our efforts. The DNC voter protection department must have increased staff to support voter registration and protection and to strengthen the redistricting efforts of the DNC and state parties.

14. Community Engagement

We cannot abandon our core constituencies during this time of party reorganization. I would make sure that each constituency caucus has a permanent desk with responsibilities to staff the caucus, develop aggressive outreach programs and work with state parties to build state organizations as well.

15. DNC Staff Engagement 

Success in our states does not originate in Washington, DC and our staff needs to better understand that and have it incorporated into their daily work. To that end, all DNC staff should spend 10 days per year working out of a state party office to better understand the work of a state party.