January 6th, 2012
Dear Texas Democrat,
When you elected me to be your Chairperson in 2006, I promised to work with all willing Democrats to move our Party forward. We’ve had setbacks to be sure, but we’ve come an awful long ways. In six years we:
- Eclipsed every previous fundraising record including our Sustaining Member Program and had unprecedented success in online fundraising;
- Created an online voter file that’s become one of the best in the country and is now virtually required for every Democratic campaign;
- Held countless trainings in person and online for staffers, activists and candidates;
- Vastly improved our earned media operations including consistently having a bilingual spokesperson on staff;
- Vigorously sought feedback via a Town Hall tour of the entire state, a large-scale activist survey and a vigilant dedication to monitoring your feedback through social media;
- Established a strong presence on social media networks that didn’t exist back then but are now essential for operating;
- We won court battles against Tom DeLay, fought redistricting maps that go against the Voting Rights Act, and worked to stop legislation that would disenfranchise eligible voters.
In my time here, we saw major metro areas turn Blue, we won countless county races and came within two seats of taking back the state house and just 19 votes short of pulling even.
Following the 2010 elections, we had to rethink everything and develop entirely new strategies and tactics. In the past year we’ve significantly ramped up our earned media efforts, adopted smarter tactics based on the latest technologies, and launched an aggressive Latino engagement project that will help towards building a Democratic majority.
Five months from now, we’ll be meeting in Houston to elect a new Chairperson. Until then, I aim to keep honoring my promise to you by vigilantly and energetically fighting every day to counter the Republican spin-machine and lay the groundwork for victories in November.
Below is a thorough overview of the work we did in 2011 and will continue to build upon over the next six months. We’re excited about going in to 2012 more prepared than ever.
Texas Democratic Party
The first filing period for the 2012 election closed on December 19, 2011. Once maps are issued, the filing period for all offices will reopen on a date to be determined in January 2012 and close on February 1, 2012 at 6PM.
The primary is expected to take place on April 3, 2012, and the general primary runoff on June 5, 2012.
This past legislative session pitted our Democratic legislators against a Republican super majority led by a Governor who was determined to become the darling of the Tea Party extremists who would decide the GOP Presidential primary.
That formula added up to a series of “emergency” items that were blatantly discriminatory and highly destructive. Which is to say nothing of a state budget that made historic cuts across the board to every vital state service, including a crippling $4 billion from public education.
Texas Democrats fought these policies every step of the way and your TDP was there every step of the way making sure Texans knew who was responsible for the drastic budget cuts headed their way and rallying public support in opposition. That included generating earned media intended to let voters back in Republican legislator’s home districts know what kind of cuts their legislator was advocating for them.
We gathered thousands of signatures on our “Don’t Mess With Texas Jobs” petition when Rick Perry was seeking approval for his job-killing state budget.
We also closely monitored election legislation during regular and special sessions, provided testimony to committees and served as a resource for Democratic members on the impact of proposed legislative changes.
Your Texas Democratic Party beat up Republicans and their misguided policy proposals in the press.
During the 82nd legislative session, we railed against Republican legislation that would adversely affect Texas families. We proactively helped derail Rick Perry’s quest for the presidency by introducing Rick Perry to the rest of the nation and we quickly responded to his many campaign blunders.
We continuously attacked Republicans for redistricting maps that would deny voters protected under the Voting Rights Act the ability to elect their candidates of choice. We exposed Hispanic Republicans for trying to pay lip-service to their Hispanic constituencies while they redistricted away their Hispanic populations and supported voter identification legislation which would disproportionally disenfranchise Latinos.
We’ve been extremely successful in gaining earned media in both English and Spanish, and we’re not slowing down.
The Texas Democratic Party and our affiliates wrote guest columns for several papers across the state including but not limited to the Longview News-Journal, News Taco, McAllen Monitor, Rio Grande Guardian, Houston Chronicle, El Paso Times.
With the start of the New Year and the coming election, we’ll only ramp up our efforts to continue to expose Republicans for what they really are: the Party that is only interested in protecting their corporate buddies and millionaires at the expense of the needs of everyday Texans.
Because of the way voters now get their news, video is an essential piece of any political operations communications strategy.
In 2011 we launched an in-house web video production program to stunning success. Last year alone we had over a quarter of a million views on our web videos. That’s more than we had in all the years between 2006 and 2010 combined! We also more than doubled the number of people subscribed to our YouTube channel.
Among the videos we produced were:
A movie trailer recounting Rick Perry’s “Texas Public Education Massacre” that was featured in the Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star Telegram, and the Texas Tribune.
Our “Dear America” ad, which apologizes to the country for some of the failed leadership hailing from Texas (Bush and Perry), was featured on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews.
A number of other videos including ones hitting party-switching legislators and the GOP U.S. Senate field. All our videos can be found here.
We also created a number of videos especially for our new Hispanic engagement program – The Promesa Project. You can view those videos at PromesaProject.com.
Two-thirds of Texas’ rapid population growth over the past decade has come from Latinos. That emerging demographic is expected to eventually result in a Democratic majority. Believing that “eventually” can’t come soon enough for Texas schools and families struggling under disastrous Republican policies, Texas Democrats announced a Latino engagement project called “The Promesa Project.” You can see a video presentation of the Promesa project here.
Promesa represents an entirely new approach that’s based on extensive research. In particular, Texas Democrats built the program around two important findings:
- Today’s young Latinos, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, are increasingly the trusted sources of political information in their families and social circles.
- A study earlier this year found that the internet had surpassed television as the main sources of political information for young people under 30.
The Promesa Project will utilize online and grassroots techniques to reach out to young Latinos and ask them to give us their promise, or “promesa”, that they will be our Democratic messengers to their families and social networks.
The project will combine online outreach with tried and true grassroots techniques like organizing college campuses, utilizing young Party Leaders and elected officials and integrating all data gathered into our voter file for use in Get-Out-The-Vote efforts.
You can read a guest column on the Promesa Project was published in the Rio Grande Guardian and News Taco here. You can also see some of the coverage it’s received on AOL Latino, KUT, the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, and NBC Latino.
In 2011 developed our Twitter and Facebook accounts to incredible heights. We surpassed the Republican Party of Texas in number of twitter followers and became the third most followed state Democratic party on Twitter. We also used new strategies and technologies to build the largest online network of activists this state party has ever seen.
This past legislative session, the Republican super-majority passed a discriminatory Voter ID law, the sole purpose of which was to suppress turnout among minorities, the elderly, young people, and low income communities. The TDP has been actively fighting Republicans to protect people’s right to vote.
We got over 7,000 signatures on our Petition to Preserve Voting Rights, which we sent along with several letters to the Department of Justice, providing proof of the discriminatory effect of the voter id legislation. You can read the letter here. Our efforts have clearly been successful, as the DOJ has not yet granted preclearance to the voter suppression legislation.
The Texas Democratic Party’s voter file (known as the VAN) is our most valuable tool in effectively organizing and running successful campaigns in Texas. The VAN includes detailed information for 20,341,338 Texans, thus allowing our Democratic Campaigns to have the most up to date information to accurately target the voters they need. We also have detailed information on more than 7.5 million Texans who are not registered to vote. Those records can be broken down by age and location, allowing Texas Democrats to run targeted voter registration drives to effectively reach out to those potential voters.
Even in an “off year,” Democrats still remain focused on winning offices at every level in the state. We had 3,564 individuals using the VAN to organize their area, to campaign for local office, or to lay the groundwork for the 2012 elections.
In a state as big as Texas, fulfilling all the requests for training on various topics requires using a variety of formats. In the past year we held three large Campaign Camps at which we provided training to candidates and potential campaign staffers in a number of skill sets they’ll need to be effective on the campaign trail. Knowing that we couldn’t personally be everywhere at once, we also held numerous webinars on various subjects for County Chairs, Precinct Chairs, SDEC members, Candidates and Campaign Staff. Finally, we certified over 50 Regional Trainers in six different subject areas so that we’re able to provide a cadre of qualified trainers to people all over the state.
We began our Delegate Selection Plan training in October 2011 in an effort to educate and involve Democrats across the state in the process. We published a How to guide for distribution and added it to the website. We held a series of training webinars to certify regional trainers to hold trainings in all 31 Senate Districts. We have held trainings in 10 districts to date and are currently scheduling trainings in the remaining areas. The goal is to involve communities identified in our Affirmative Action plan and encourage them to engage in the convention process. We will be reaching out to youth groups and Democratic clubs statewide. Additionally we will be holding webinars for the general public, beginning early next month, upon approval of the DSP and final 2012 election dates.
In January we asked Democrats across the state to participate in our 2011 Survey. The response was both overwhelming and incredibly informative.
Among the highlights of the survey were the responses we received to the question, “Why are you a Democrat?” Many were nothing short of inspirational, while others told us heartbreaking personal stories about how the policy issues being debated today affect their lives. Your responses serve as a reminder of the values and priorities that define us as Democrats, and the reasons we will never stop fighting for what is right, even when the odds seem stacked against us.
We had a number of successful fundraising events in 2011 to keep our operations going strong.
We held events large and small across the state including our annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner at which we honored Senator Royce West and former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia. At a Dallas Dinner in November we gave Senator Wendy Davis our Ann Richards Courage Award and we had numerous receptions and happy hours in between. We were honored to have tremendous support at all of our events from individuals, Party leaders, elected officials and PACs/Unions.
In addition to the funds raised from those events, our Sustaining Member program benefitted from a membership drive in which we increased membership by nearly 100 new Sustaining Members that will equate to close to $20,000 in additional recurring annual revenue.
And our online fundraising eclipsed previous records with video shorts and micro-sites like MeetRickPerry.com bringing in an average of $5,000 per month.