SA Mayoral and Council candidate forum

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SAN ANTONIO – Time is winding down leading to the General Election in May.

A candidate forum was held on the West Side Monday night to allow people to get to know the top candidates who could soon lead the city of San Antonio.

Questions from the audience were at times tough and often rooted in personal experiences.

Texas Organizing Project hosted the forum.

The group identified four key areas important to voters; including wages, immigration rights, criminal justice reform, and improving neighborhoods.

Organizer Laquita Garcia with TOP said, “We encourage people to vote on issues that affect their families and everyday lives and it’s important when they go to the polls they remember who are champions two issues that affect the most.”

Candidates were asked to sign an agreement that if elected they would honor campaign promises.

The group that hosted the forum plans to announce endorsements Tuesday.

This story originally aired 4/10/2017 on News4SA.

Let’s give everyone a fair shot

Victoria Advocate Pat

Up until the last few years, politics had little place in my day to day life. I was a news junkie, raised on TIME magazine, “Meet the Press” and dinner table discussions of world affairs; but the only thing political I did was vote. Politics meant Democrat or Republican, how everyone voted and who won.

The presidential election of 2016 blasted away my complacency and, apparently, that of millions of other Americans. Our belief that the power of the traditional two-party institutions would prevail proved untrue for both parties. 2017 opened the doors to a new political reality, resistance, the power of individuals motivated by inspiration.

The resistance movement was embraced by most Democrats but also by the unaffiliated, the nonpartisans, nonvoters and the anti-party. Callers, letter writers, tweeters and marchers are taking time out of their busy schedules to be heard – not as party members but as individuals who feel unheard and overlooked.

A whole industry of apps and programs related to political activism have blossomed on our smartphones and iPads. Check out apps like 5 Calls, Political Tracker, BuyPartisan and Congress.

In this new way, politics is becoming part of many people’s everyday lives. Even Facebook has a Town Hall button now that connects the individual to his or, more frequently, her representatives.

Inspirational politics has led to the formation of a myriad of groups that mobilize online first and face-to-face second. Groups like Indivisible, #resistance, Texas Pantsuit Republic, Planned Parenthood Votes, Our Revolution Texas, Voto Latino, Texas Organizing Project, Emerge USA and scores more.

Annie’s List, promoting progressive women in Texas politics, held a luncheon March 31 in Houston, attended by some 2,500 supporters.

In August, Dallas will host the national conference of the Young Democrats of America. Yes, in Texas. Monthly meetings of the Victoria County Democrats Club have been standing room only.

All this new energy will either water down or enrich the power of the party as an institution. Party leaders must learn new ways to identify and reach out to these passionate voices, many of which are critical and others whose truths make us uncomfortable. If the Democratic Party cannot come together with a meaningful agenda that reaches across geography, race, age and gender, then we are doomed to remain out of step with our own future.

Many feel the ugliness that the Trump presidency represents may be the shock it takes to get us to face up to the social and economic problems that we have allowed to fester for decades. Racism, sexism, xenophobia and intolerance have been given a place at the table, and the invitation needs to be rescinded.

That’s what the resistance is about. It’s not about what party won or lost. It’s about every American having a fair shot at the “Blessings of Liberty” as enumerated in our Constitution.

Pat Tally is the chairwoman of the Victoria County Democratic Party. Before retiring to Victoria, she was the director of a clinical social work department in a large Dallas hospital system for 22 years. She may be emailed at pattally@outlook.com.

This story originally appeared 4/9/2017 in the Victoria Advocate.

Democracy in Color Promotes Return of the Majority

Return of Majority

Today, Democracy in Color, launched a new report and campaign entitled “Return of the Majority: A Roadmap for Taking Back Our Country.” The efforts seeks to redirect the Democratic Party’s focus toward strategic investments in communities of color and among progressive whites to help re-establish Democratic primacy in critical elected offices across the nation. In the last election, the Democratic Party only spent 2% of its budget with people of color. Further, it disproportionately focused financial resources on national television ads instead of investing in local, grassroots organizations with a proven track record of registering and mobilizing new voters.

Democracy in Color, an organization founded by best-selling author and social justice advocate Steve Phillips, is calling on “Democrats and progressives nationwide to spend $1 billion over the next four years focusing on mobilizing 10 million new voters – people of color and progressive whites – in the 17 closest battleground states of 2016,” according to a press release detailing the effort’s launch.

“Return of the Majority highlights data that clearly shows the key to Democratic victories in Congress and the White House is in investing in communities of color who were key to Obama’s reelection, as well as registering newly eligible New American Majority voters,” said Phillips. “It’s about spending less on TV ads and more on hiring on-the-ground organizers, especially in the 17 Frontline States we have identified.”

According to Phillips, Democrats are facing a crisis of strategy and operations. “For too long,” he contended, “Democratic spending has been driven by a flawed strategy that overemphasizes tv ads and tries to target, persuade, and change the minds of white voters.” For more effective results, #ReturnoftheMajority advances a data driven, empirically sound plan to swing momentum back in favor of the Democratic Party.

Targeting 17 states – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin – this effort encourages donors to reallocate their resources to on the ground organizations doing the work of direct voter contact. Among the 18 “Frontline Freedom Fighters” initially identified by Democracy in Color are New Georgia Project, which registered 200,000 new Black voters in this past election cycle, One Arizona, which registered 150,000 new Latino voters in 16 weeks in 2016, Blueprint North Carolina, and the Texas Organizing Project.

The #ReturnoftheMajority advocates a civic web approach, which calls for strategic investments in on the ground staff, volunteers, and community block captain to the tune of $40-$50 per new voter. Using this model, an investment of just $500 million could yield 10 million new voters in key states.

“Clearly what was done is 2016 did not work,” said Phillips, noting that the lack of diverse spend – both in advertising and in direct grassroots mobilizing – coupled with a lack of accountability, transparency, and evidence-based spending have provided Democrats and progressives an opportunity to “see the consequences of that failure every day now.”

Failure to adapt to changing times and adopt a more dynamic on the ground strategy would likely lead Democrats and progressives to a permanent political underclass. As demographics continue to shift, however, we can realize a return of the majority through more strategic efforts to engage and mobilize voters of color and progressive whites.

This story originally appeared 3/27/2017 on Politic365.