Guide to Choosing a new KDP Chairperson

January 21, 2015

As current KDP chair, Joan Wagnon, announced that she will be stepping down and that a new leader will be selected at Washington Days in early March, I wanted to put together a few thoughts for Democrats around the state to consider when selecting the next chair for the Kansas Democratic Party.

The Kansas Democratic Party needs a leader who:

Welcomes everyone to the party who wants to be involved

  • No exclusion, no cliques, no BS.
  • Respect and honor differences of perspective and approaches within the party.
  • No friendly fire – when your forces are outnumbered you shouldn’t shoot someone who wants to fight for your side.
  • Tactfully guides individuals toward roles that are a good fit for their strengths and encourages political and professional development of those with aspirations.

Helps the candidates who need the party most

  • Our current operation mirrors Republican party philosophy – nearly all of the benefits go to those at the top with the most money. How sadly ironic is this?
  • Candidates who can raise several hundred thousand or more are not those that need help from the KDP.
  • We should make an effort to ensure every Democratic candidate throughout the state can run a credible campaign.
  • We need 100+ strong campaigns each cycle not only 2 or 3.

Focuses on rebranding that disabuses Kansans of their false beliefs about Democrats

  • “Education, Opportunity, Responsibility” didn’t work. Some Democrats probably don’t even remember this let alone anyone not in the party.
  • According to some polls from 2014 cycle, Fox News is identified most often as the primary news source for Kansans. We must find an effective way to refute propaganda and redefine our brand.
  • Branding requires an advertising campaign including television ads. (Not yard signs with text too small to read from the street or Democrats announcing our brand to one another in internal meetings.)

Builds a strong collaboration with all county party organizations

  • County parties are very willing to help move the party forward but they need strong leadership including a plan of action, informational resources, and materials.
  • State party needs to encourage and help county parties engage in outreach and increase participation and donors.

Agrees that the KDP should sit on its own financial bottom

  • The KDP needs to operate on its own revenue.
  • No more “you’ll take what we give you (which might be nothing) and you’ll like it” approaches. It’s not acceptable to take money from candidates and not provide expected campaign services that benefit their campaign.
  • Efforts to broaden donor participation are vital – small, regular donations from ever-increasing numbers of Democrats around the state are key.
  • KDP staff needs to be right-sized for budget.

Is an inspirational speaker with a polished appearance

  • We need someone who looks and sounds like a leader.
  • Rallying rank and file Democrats requires someone who can make an inspirational impact.

Is willing to serve as a transformational leader but be uncompensated

  • This is a huge barrier to obtaining excellent leadership.
  • Sometimes you get what you pay for, unfortunately.