Dems look to South

Indian Land Democrats gather to hear South Forward director talk about election strategy

Special to the Fort Mill TimesApril 2, 2013 

— South Forward plans to win back lost Democratic seats with money and support by building a bench of hopefuls who would get involved on the local level.

Jay Parmley, South Forward’s director, told residents in Indian Land last week that success centers on training more prospective candidates and fielding challengers in races in which GOP candidates often run unopposed.

“We have to do this smarter and differently,” Parmley said. “All municipalities are different and have elections at different times. In 2013 we’re starting to get a handle on where and when the elections are – in most states they aren’t uniform. We’re starting to fill the bench.

“It’s a big task, but as they say, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,’ ” Parmley said, offering his group’s guidance.

“We can win these tough elections. There’s help available through South Forward. We want to invest and know who the good, quality candidates are and help to build a bench.”

He said the primary task is “Train, develop and coordinate elections throughout the South.”

Parmley addressed more than 20 local residents last week at the Del Webb Library. The event was sponsored by the Indian Land Democratic Club. He was introduced by club member Sheila Bickford, who said she’s also dedicated to nonpartisan voter registration and turnout.

“We need volunteers. No matter how people vote, let’s help them get registered,” she said.

Parmley discussed the seats lost by Democrats in the last 13 to 15 years and how the Republican presence has grown in the South, noting that many of the rules used today were crafted by Democrats when they were in power.

He also blamed the practice of redistricting lines – referred to as gerrymandering – being drawn by the party in power, which usually makes it easier for incumbents to win re-election.

“We went from 28 legislative chambers controlled by the Democrats in 1990 ... to 2010, where Democrats controlled 13. Then we lost 11 in the 2010-2011 cycle. It’s horrible. Not just a swing, it’s an absolute reverse.”

Attributing the growth to small-race wins leading to higher profile wins by the Republicans, he quoted longtime U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill, D.-Mass., who said “all politics are local.”

He blamed a disinvestment politically in the South, saying South Forward seeks individuals willing to run. The organization plans to help them up front, instead of trying to affect the race when it’s too late.

Traditionally, elected officials stayed in the office they were elected to, said Parmley, but “today people are successful and they just keep on moving up.”

A native of Wyandotte, Okla., Parmley has served as director of more state Democratic parties than anyone in party history – all in the South.

Since 2007, he has been a trainer with Democracy for America, where he has trained more than 2,600 activists, candidates and campaign staff across the United States.

He is a former at-large member of the Democratic National Committee and served on its budget and finance committee.

Parmley concluded by encouraging the audience to let him know who’s in the local races.

“There’s lots we can do to help,” he said.

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