By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Our area’s largest political organization is on the record as backing a primary election instead of caucuses for determining who to support in the 2020 presidential nomination process.
The resolution vote at last night’s monthly meeting of the 34th District Democrats was not without a bit of controversy. And it’s not the only opinion from our area that will be considered – if you’re a Democrat, the state party organization wants to hear from you too.
That was the spotlight topic at the meeting. The 34th DDs’ state committeewoman and committeeman, Ann Martin and Chris Porter, explained that the state party is currently in a 30-day comment period regarding whether to use the primary or caucus for determining the state’s delegation to the national convention. It’s been caucuses in the past; while the state has had a primary, the party hasn’t used its results.
“If you feel passionately about this, please make public comments,” urged Porter.
Martin noted that the plan has to comply with a 23-page list of Democratic National Committee rules. The issue will be considered at the April 7th state party meeting, where she and Porter will represent the 34th.
Porter explained that the delegation will, among other criteria, have to meet an affirmative-actioo plan, with a goal of 7 African American members – “at least at the first round in congressional level” – 15 Hispanic/Latinx – 4 enrolled Native Americans – 13 Asian American/Pacific Islanders – 8 LGBTQ – 12 people with disabilities – 12 youth. There also will be gender considerations, including non-binary. He said 2016’s delegation “fell far below the goals” for Hispanic/Latinx and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders.
Martin says both plans are similar but “the important differences are in the first steps of the plans .. whether we will use a caucus, as has been the historical process, or a primary …”
Porter went over the procedural differences – if there’s a primary they organize delegate selection via legislative-district caucus – instead of the previous process laying things out every step along the way. Martin “at the caucus, if there’s a strong contest, you don’t know how many people are going to show up …”
“Another difference, cost,” Martin continued. Caucuses have cost LDs a lot of money, including renting venues. Venue size, too – because having an LD caucus might require one big location. Last time, for example, they spent more than $30,000, renting more than a dozen locations. The primary would be paid for “at state level, so we won’t have those costs.” The LD-level caucus could be costly too, and would require a lot of getting the word out.
DNC rules include having potentially enough ballots for everyone in the LD if they do this by caucus, Porter adds.
Martin explained a few other points:
-Day-of party ID in either format (as you vote, you have to declare yourself a Democrat), since our state has no formal registration
-Primary requires voters to choose their party and vote only for that party’s candidate
-In both cases, identity of voter will be provided to the party organizations
-Caucus could have voters either submit an affidavit saying they can’t attend but want their preference noted, OR show up on caucus day
Will there be superdelegates? someone asked. Porter replied yes, but not in the first round of voting.
-Everything comes down to implementation
-Let the state know which option you prefer, now through month’s end
-state committee will pass its draft plan in early April
Someone asked Martin and Porter about pros and cons. Martin says she likes the conversational nature of caucuses period but “I think we’re headed more to primary” because people feel they need representation that caucusing wouldn’t provide. Porter said that it seemed fairly clear to him that people supported a primary, citing 800,000 voters in the latter, compared to 250,000 caucus participants.
The ~50 attendees then got some time for table discussion and reported back to the wider group.
First table: “Primary may be more proper way to go …making sure everyone feels involved and has a voice.” He recalls bad feelings from 2016 when “Bernie won the caucus but Hillary got the state because of the superdelegates.” He suggests an informational gathering to precede the election “because that’s what people love about caucusing.”
Second table: Former 34th DD chair Ivan Weiss said that even in a well-run year he heard feedback from people, “why must we go through this, why can’t we just have a primary and be done with it?” You want to meet with your neighbors? Nothing’s stopping you – any PCO (precinct committee officer) – from doing that any day of the year.
Third table: The speaker said a primary would be suggested because “We’re the party of moe people voting, not less people voting – that [the latter]’s the other guys.” He notes that a lot of people can’t make it. Also, people who don’t speak English well enough to engage, plus there are physical accessibility considerations. And driving to caucuses is environmentally unfriendly.
Fourth table: “The primaries get more people involved.”
Fifth table: Not having a caucus doesn’t keep PCOs from going out and hosting a neighborhood conversation.
Sixth table: No consensus
Seventh table: Primary, but they acknowledged wistfulness in making the change.
Eighth table: Primary’s the way to go.
Later in the meeting, a resolution was proposed to put the 34th DD on record as recommending the primary and that Porter and Martin be directed to support that option at the upcoming state meeting. That drew some controversy, as the positions are supposed to be somewhat autonomous. So after some discussion, that part of the resolution was omitted, and the resolution passed simply saying the group recommends a primary. Again, if you have a opinion, make it known ASAP via the Washington State Democrats’ website.
Speaking of elections …
COUNTY COUNCILMEMBER JOE McDERMOTT: He told the group he’s officially running for re-election. He announced a kickoff at Click! Design That Fits (WSB sponsor) in The Junction, 5:30 pm March 28th.
CITY COUNCILMEMBER LISA HERBOLD: She also briefly took the microphone to announce her re-election kickoff, 2-4 pm March 24th at Highland Park Improvement Club. She also mentioned the first candidates’ forum coming up in D-1 (Thursday, March 21st).
CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE JESSE GREENE: He also spoke briefly, regarding Democracy Vouchers.
KING CONSERVATION DISTRICT: Chris Porter said he’s running for a seat on this organization’s board, noting that it hasn’t had “urban representation” for a long time. “We have an opportunity to capture this” now and other seats – no reason for city dwellers not to have more of a voice in this organization regarding environmental stewardship. (He is a beekeeper and is passionat about pollinators: “We cannot live without them.”) The group voted to endorse him. You’ll have to request a ballot starting March 15th to vote in this election, as explained here. Porter also announced that the King CD’s annual bare-root native-plant sale is this Saturday, 9 am, in Renton.
CLIMATE STRIKE: An attendee said local youth including his kids are working to organize afterschool picketing as part of this nationwide event this Friday (March 15th) – possibly The Junction and the West Seattle Bridge pedestrian overpass, around 5 pm.
ORGANIZATIONAL NOTES: A membership drive is planned as the group has currently 125 members and has historically been past 300. Also, there are still more than 100 PCO openings…. The annual “Garden Party” fundraiser is moving up to the first weekend of June this year.
The 34th District Democrats meet 2nd Wednesdays most months, 7 pm, at The Hall at Fauntleroy.