Wednesday, May 28, 2008

To Build the Party, Close the Primary!

The following is the text of an email I sent to the members of the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee today regarding changing current party rules on who gets to vote in our party primaries in the upcoming federal elections. The research on voter registration that I did for this piece led me to make this call to limit voting in our party primary to registered Democrats only.

Dear Fellow Democrat,

I am writing you today on a matter of great urgency to our party.

As you know, qualifying for the federal election cycle is early this year due in no small part to the fact that — for the first time in decades — Louisiana will use party primaries to determine the nominees of the two major parties who will face each other in the Senate and Congressional races in the November 4 presidential election.

There will be one major difference in the way Louisiana Democrats and Republicans choose our respective nominees: Republicans will choose their nominees in a party-only primary; Louisiana Democrats are going to have to compete with independents and others to determine who will represent our party in those November races.

Considering the substantial rebuilding work ahead of us, I believe it is a mistake to give people who have no allegiance to our party so much control over who represents us.

I am asking you to use your position as a member of the Democratic State Central Committee to call for the party to change its party primary participation rules before qualifying opens in July.

No laws need to be changed to change this rule. The decision to open the party primaries to non-Democrats was made last year, before you and I became officers in the Louisiana Democratic Party (I'm an elected member of the Lafayette Democratic Executive Committee).

There is no evidence that it reflects or complies with the views and wishes of the newly constituted DSCC because it has not been a matter for discussion at DSCC meetings — despite the impact it will have on our party in the upcoming federal elections.

Please call or email LDP Chairman Chris Whittington and LDP Executive Director Britton Loftin to convene the DSCC in emergency session within two to three weeks so that this topic can be thoroughly discussed, debated and decided.

This is too important a question and the stakes are too high for this to be left in the hands of the executive committee alone. It demands the attention and input of the largest organized body in the party and that is the Democratic State Central Committee.

Rebuilding our party means making being a Democrat mean something both for voters and for candidates. We saw some of that in the spring presidential primary when many non-Democrats learned that it took being a member of our party in order to vote for the most progressive candidates in the presidential field.

We have the opportunity in these federal elections (the only elections where party primaries are allowed under Louisiana law) to re-enforce that message by making clear to voters that if they want to have a chance to choose between the best candidates in the fields in the various congressional races this fall, they'll have to be members of our party in order to do so. I'm hoping there is no need for a party primary in the race for Senator Mary Landrieu's U.S. Senate seat.

Whatever benefits the party might gain by allowing others to control our federal candidate selection process is far outweighed by the costs this decision imposes on our party.

Opening our party primaries to non-Democrats dilutes the votes of our party's most reliable constituents and most ardent activists. It insults them and denigrates their loyalty to this party. Rather than dilute the impact of these party loyalists on our candidate selection process, our party should use these primaries to reward our base and our activists by giving them more — not less — influence over the processes that determine who will carry our party's standard in the general election. That's how you build a party!

I'm sure that we all sought office in the party in order to build it into the effective political operation that we have not seen in recent years. I believe that building our state party depends on building upon the efforts that we are making in our respective communities to build up our local party infrastructure.

When you signed up to run for a seat on the DSCC you were indicating your willingness and commitment to work to build this party; that you had some idea as to how that might be done. I don't believe you got elected in order to sit back and take orders out of Baton Rouge.

This is our party. This matter goes to the heart of rebuilding our party. Demand that you have your say in how this matter is decided!

Please call or email Chris Whittington and Britton Loftin today. Tell them you want Democrats to be the only voters to determine who will represent our party in the general election this fall. That can only happen if we restrict participation in our party primaries in September and October only to registered Democratic voters.

The current rule can be changed — and you can change it! This is our party!

The shortest path to rebuilding our party is to make being a Democrat matter again. That begins by letting Democrats decide who will represent us in the federal general election this fall.

Mike Stagg
At Large Member
Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee

P.S. I welcome your feedback on this issue.

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