In our series Our Movement Monday, we talk with Texas Democrats across our state about their work and the challenges facing their communities.
On Tuesday, Texas had record-breaking voter turnout with more than 1,000,000 Democrats voting for their champions statewide. We know the fight isn’t over. The next step is attending your county/senate district (SD) convention on Saturday, March 24. Click here to register for your convention.
We sat down with former-State Representative Glen Maxey, who was the first openly-gay elected official in the Texas Legislature and currently serves as Texas Democratic Party Legislative Director and Party Affairs Director, to talk about the importance of attending your county/SD convention and how we organize to pass progressive change at our conventions. Hon. Glen Maxey is also a Democratic National Committee Member for the state of Texas and helps young Democrats run for state delegate, national delegate, and party leader positions.
Hi Glen, Thank you for taking the time to be a part of Our Movement Monday. You’ve attended numerous conventions, how many Democratic conventions have you attended?
Glen Maxey: Now keep in mind, I’ve been to 24 county conventions and 24 state conventions and 13 national conventions. So I have not missed a precinct, county, senate, or national convention in my whole political career.
What was your first convention?
Glen Maxey: My first state convention was when George McGovern was running for president in 1972. It was a presidential year and we were electing delegates to the national convention, so clearly your first one always seems to be the most exciting.
From all of the conventions you have attended, we’re sure you have some crazy stories. Which convention was the most memorable?
Glen Maxey: I think the most fun convention for all of us around was 2008. It was the presidential race and we were electing delegates based on the people who showed up at the precinct caucuses. Over 1 million people attended their precinct caucuses across the state of Texas. My precinct was in West Campus by the University of Texas campus. The voting place was 12ft by 12ft, and had a square dance club in it that night. I didn’t have a place to hold a convention and over 2,000 people showed up. So we had to hold it in the parking lot with a bullhorn. It was raucous and fun! Barack Obama supporters and Hillary Clinton supporters yelling back and forth with chants and calls. Since we were near campus, they were almost all college students and young people. We finished up at around midnight after multiple 7-Eleven runs for beer.
Every convention has a different tone. Being at conventions in the later years, I have had the most fun helping young people learn the process from being a delegate for the state convention to national convention delegates.
How are you helping young people get more involved with our Party through conventions?
Glen Maxey: In the last 3 election cycles in the presidential years when we’re electing national delegates, I have been the campaign manager for hundreds of kids between 17 and 22. I helped 36 of them get to the national conventions as a part of our delegation in 2016. So that’s sort of my passion: to help young people to go to the national convention.
Wow, that sounds amazing! We’ve seen a record number of people come out and vote this primary election. Why is it important for these folks to attend their county convention?
Glen Maxey: Well if anybody has ever said “we need to build a stronger party, need to reform the party, we need to get more people involved in the party” this is where that starts. Any of those kinds of comments, those kinds of gripes — this is ground zero in solving them.
It’s your most direct way, other than casting a ballot to select nominees, to be involved. This is your most direct way to say who our party is, what our values are, what we stand for, and your voice is not just commenting on it, but in participating: you have a direct role. You can take a resolution to a county convention and offer it; get your convention to adopt it. It then becomes something that is considered by the entire State Democratic convention; which can be put into our party platform or rules.
Would you mind sharing an example of a resolution with us?
Glen Maxey: I’m a long-term gay activist. For years, in Texas “homosexual conduct” was a criminal offense. LGBTQ people went to our conventions and wrote resolutions and got the state conventions after a number of cycles to adopt a resolution on that. It became a part of the platform with our party. LGBTQ marriage equality started as resolutions coming through our conventions that became a part of our party platform at the state level. It moved forward to be a bedrock policy.
You can see the same in environmental issues, women’s issues, pro-choice, immigration, all of the key issues that are being debated today. All these issues become defined as lead issues through our resolutions and adding them to our party platform. If a resolution passes more than 15 county or senate district conventions, it automatically must be considered by the resolutions committee at the state level and goes to the top of the list. That’s how the grassroots bring up and develop issues and bring that idea to fruition.
March 24 is an important day, not only for Democrats attending the conventions but also for the folks who will be participating in the March for Our Lives rallies. Many young people and educators will be taking actions and making a stand to oppose gun violence and stricter weapons. Can you tell us how they can take part in both their county conventions and the marches?
Glen Maxey: People who wish to participate in the local marches or events may have a conflict. Unfortunately by law, we had to have our conventions on March 24th. We can’t change that date. March 24th was selected by the high schoolers from Parkland in Florida and so scheduling problems were out of our control.
Many of our conventions are in the morning and marches are in the afternoon in the urban areas. If there’s something happening in your community just look at the time, even if yours overlaps some. You always want to come by your county convention, sign-in and then go to the march, if you want to go to the state convention. When you pre-register for the convention, you can indicate that you wish to go to the state convention, even if you can’t be at the county or SD conventions.
Glen, how do you think Parkland and the March for Our Lives will impact any future resolutions we may see?
Glen Maxey: I’m thinking that we will see soon a model resolution coming out from the March for Our Lives movement and anti-gun violence, school violence especially. We’ve put together resources for folks who want to end gun violence to take at their county conventions here, so you can take that to your convention and offer it.
What if you can’t stay for the entirety of your county convention, is there a way you can present a resolution?
Glen Maxey: When you sign up and you pre-register, one of the questions is, ‘would you like to go to state convention if there are open slots even if you aren’t at the county convention.’ So if you’re going to a march that conflicts with your county convention, pre-register.