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Lillie Schechter

Lillie Schechter elected HCDP Chair

Lillie Schechter

Six candidates were nominated for HCDP Chair at Sunday’s County Executive Committee meeting: Dominique Davis, Johnathan Miller, Chris Spellmon, Keryl Douglass, Eartha Jean Johnson, and Lillie Schechter. Each candidate was given two minutes for a speech in a pre-determined order, and the most interesting thing to come out of those speeches was candidates Spellmon and Douglass urging their supporters to cast their votes for Johnson. I presume this was a strategic move, to not split the vote among the three of them and give one candidate – Johnson – the best possible odds of making to a runoff. You may ask, as I did, why they just didn’t decline the nomination. Assuming they could decline the nominations, which may or may not be the case under the rules, being nominated meant they got to deliver those speeches and thus advocate for Johnson.

Not a bad plan, but it wasn’t enough. There were 359 current precinct chairs in attendance – afterwards, in the regular meeting, a bunch of new precinct chairs were inaugurated, but they were not eligible to vote in this election – and via the “division of the room” method we are all familiar with by now, Schechter emerged victorious in the first round, collecting 190 votes to Johnson’s 118; Miller had 30 and Davis 21. She was then sworn in by TDP Chair Gilberto Hinojosa, who was present for the meeting.

In the end, I supported Schechter. It was a tough choice – I liked all four of the candidates who asked for our votes – but in the end I decided Schechter had the best combination of priorities, experience, and fundraising abilities. She got off to a good start, calling all of the Chair candidates up to the dais and thanking them for their dedication. There’s always the possibility of bitterness after an election like this, but I didn’t get the sense there was any after this one. I hope that remains the case.

One promise all of the candidates made was to ensure the Party is fully funded for its day-to-day and campaign efforts, and to fill the empty precinct chair positions. The 359 chairs who voted were about 75% of active chairs at the time. There were others sworn in following the election as noted, but the grand total is still only about half of the total number of precincts, or maybe 60% of the precincts that have any real population in them. There’s plenty of room to grow, and that’s without mentioning the fact that some precinct chairs are more active than others. We will definitely have some objective data by which to judge Schechter’s tenure as Chair.

All in all, it was a good experience. I hope it’s a long time before I’m called upon again as a precinct chair to select someone for office. I’ve exercised enough power to last a lifetime, thanks. My thanks to now-former Chair Lane Lewis, and congratulations to Lillie Schechter. I think I speak for many when I say we hope for big things from you. The Chron has more.

HCDP Chair Q&A: Lillie Schechter

(Note: I have sent out a brief Q&A to all of the announced HCDP Chair candidates for whom I could find contact information. I will run the responses I get in the order I receive them. While only precinct chairs will vote on the new Chair, I believe everyone should have some basic information about the candidates.)

Lillie Schechter

1. Who are you, and what is your background/experience in Democratic politics?

I grew up in the Democratic party, whether I was marching with my cousins, chanting, “vote for Annie, she’s our granny,” as part of my grandmother’s successful bid for Tax Assessor-Collector in Hood County; block walking, making signs and working polls when my mom was the State Representative of District 134; working at the HCDP office in High School; attending or working at fundraisers hosted by my family; or working on my dad’s campaign for HCC Trustee.

Since 2009, I have run my own consulting firm, working with non-profits, organizations and helping progressive candidates in all areas of campaigning, from candidate training to fundraising and campaign strategy. I have had the pleasure to work and volunteer on campaigns in Houston, Pasadena and Galena Park, including races for United States Senator, State Senators, County Commissioner, Sheriff, City Council, Constable, School Board, Judicial, State Representative & Mayoral. I have had the fortune of working closely with some of the superstars of Texas and national Democratic politics, including Cecile Richards and Planned Parenthood, Wendy Davis, Leticia Van De Putte, and Hillary Clinton.

Regardless of the pleasure I’ve had to work on these efforts, my real passion has always been a solid blue Harris County. Since 2012, I have worked on a team effort to organize a coalition of elected officials, grassroots organizations, local and national donors and labor in order to push the County’s largest get-out-the-vote efforts ever. In 2016, it really paid off. Harris County Democratic voters turned out, electing all county-wide Democrats and giving Hillary Clinton the largest victory in Harris County of any Democratic Presidential candidate since LBJ.

In addition to working with the local party and with Democratic candidates, I gauged the need for a leadership-training program focused on growing, recruiting and training progressive candidates in Texas. After researching organizations across the country, I worked to bring Texas’s first chapter of the New Leader’s Council (NLC) to Houston. I raised money for the program and helped assemble an advisory board that has become a who’s who of local politics. NLC has thrived ever since, with twenty new progressives entering the program each year and chapters forming in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.

2. Why are you running to be HCDP Chair?

I am running for HCDP chair because keeping Harris County blue and flipping Texas starts with having a strong local party. We not only need to elect more democrats in Texas, we also need to drive up the Democratic vote share in our largest counties so we can flip Texas as a whole. I don’t want to live in a state that denies people the right to public education, health care, a living wage and who separates families. As a 7th generation Texan, I want to live in and raise kids in a state that respects all its residents and provides every citizen a fair shot, no matter your race, gender, sexual orientation, or citizenship status. My experience will enable me to hit the ground running on Day One and position the Harris County Democratic Party for gains in 2017, 2018 and beyond.

3. What is your assessment of the HCDP today, and what does it need to do going forward?

HCDP has a strong core of dedicated volunteers, clubs, precinct chairs, and activists. HCDP in recent years has been able to dedicate time and resources into running a mail ballot program and we have indeed increased our share of Democratic mail ballot voters. To move forward, though, the Party needs to grow. The size and infrastructure of the Party should reflect the fact that Harris County is the 3rd largest county in the country and larger than 24 states.

In addition to doing mail ballots, the Party needs to expand its infrastructure to support the vast number of strong clubs and dedicated volunteers. This means expanding resources including training materials, and more group and one-on-one VAN trainings, increased number of staff, and making office space available when needed.

The first step toward creating a Party that reflects the size of Harris County is raising money. We need to expand our base of financial supporters. I want to grow the number of small dollar donors and large dollar donors. We can grow our base of small donors by being more active locally by increasing the frequency of in-person events, expanding our social media reach in order to get new people in the doors, and expanding our engagement and appreciation of small dollar donors who sacrifice what they can to make the Party better. We will grow our large dollar donations by creating a strategic plan that investors believe in. Increasing the amount of money raised through the Party can only be done through creating professional, goal-oriented plans with deliverable results.

In addition to building the HCDP infrastructure and raising money, we need to create a Party that works with the larger constellation of organizations that work to make Harris County more progressive, like AFL-CIO. We have no shortage of potential voters to contact in election years and no shortage of voters to register here in Harris County. No one organization can do all the work, but HCDP can collaborate and assist with other organizations to get us to our shared collective goal, not just keeping the county blue, but creating a more progressive county for us to live in.

4. How do you use social media? How should the HCDP be using social media?

I use social media to keep my friends, family and followers up to date on my activities and to amplify the work and beliefs of those I support. In this capacity, HCDP’s social media footprint has been fairly well done, but as an organization social media is more than just an outlet to amplify ideas and notify followers of events, social media is a tool.

While likes are not equal to votes, they are a good way to get someone’s foot in the door who then comes to an event and eventually becomes a volunteer, and later a sustaining member. Social media needs to be used as a tool that increases our base and helps us reach our goal of building a bigger Party.

In addition to using social media as a tool to build our volunteer and donor base, social media is an emerging tool in voter contact. When talking to voters we must use the best medium to get our message through. For some that is a knock at their door, a phone call, or a piece of mail. For others, particularly younger voters and first time voters, social media is their chosen line of communication. Targeting voters on social media has come a long way and we no longer use it to cast a wide geographic net, but can use it to target specific individual voters. As Chair I will make sure that we are using social media in the most current, strategic and effective way possible to grow our base of volunteers, donors and voters.

5. What kind of involvement should the HCDP have in non-partisan races (city council, school board, etc)?

If there are progressive candidates on the ballot, HCDP should be involved. Organizing doesn’t only happen the months leading up to a November election in even years. From our work in Harris County, we have learned that we need to talk to voters year-round and voters from previous elections are easier to turn out for the next elections. This includes people who turned out for the first time in a Mayoral or odd year election.

That means turning out Democrats to vote in non-partisan races when there is a clear D-R match-up should be an integral part of our overall strategy for keeping Harris county blue and contributing to turning Texas blue.

6. What is your plan to improve Democratic turnout in 2018?

Improving Democratic turnout in ’18 starts this year. That means organizing voters in upcoming May and November elections and doing voter registration.

The key to winning in 2018, and 2020, and 2022 is voter registration. HCDP has the most valuable and underused resource when it comes to registration, our volunteers. As chair, I will increase the number of trainings done at HCDP and increase our outreach to our volunteers to let them know about other trainings.

In addition to working to get more HCDP volunteers trained as deputy registrars, I plan to make a calendar available and send emails about all events in the county where VDR’s can go and register voters.

7. Why should precinct chairs support you to be the next HCDP Chair and not one of your opponents?

I am honored to be a part of a good group of candidates running for chair and am sure that our party will be stronger and in better shape after the election on March 5th. My extensive professional and volunteer experience working on every level of campaigns sets me apart from any other candidate. I know what it takes to create, fundraise, and implement multi-tiered campaign plans focused on door knocks, phones calls, mail and media in Harris county and have been involved in executing these efforts during multiple cycles. I have spent the last ten years building coalitions to support different campaigns and build the local Democratic Party.

This experience will allow me to put HCDP in a better position to organize toward the future from Day 1 and I look forward to being able to work with all allies in the county. I ask for your support to help elect me Chairwoman of the Harris County Democratic Party so that we can continue working together to keep Harris County Blue and flip the state.

You can also find out more at www.lillieforchair.com.

Date set for HCDP Chair election

From the Inbox:

Lane Lewis

Two months ago, I announced my intention to resign in February 2017. This will result in a vacancy, therefore we must move forward with a special election. The Precinct Chairs of Harris County will elect a replacement Chair at the next County Executive Committee Meeting.

I am confident that our Precinct Chairs will select the best candidate to serve as Party Chair. Keep an eye out for further emails with meeting location information in the next coming days. The CEC Meeting will be open to the public.

February 26, 2017 from 4:00 PM-6:00 PM: Public Forum to meet the individuals interested in consideration for the Harris County Democratic Party Chair position. The Forum will be hosted by the HCDP (All are welcome and public comment will be encouraged).

March 05, 2017 from 3:00 PM-6:00 PM: CEC Meeting to select the replacement Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party (All are welcome, but only Precinct Chairs currently listed on the Texas Secretary of State’s website are eligible to vote).

I will definitely be there for both. In the meantime, Lillie Schechter made her formal announcement for Chair, while Tomaro Bell dropped out and endorsed Schechter. Assuming that Art Pronin is still either on the fence or not going to get in, we have: Robert Collier, Eartha Jean Johnson, Lillie Schechter, Chris Spellmon, Dominique Davis, Keryl Douglass, Johnathan Miller, and Rony Escobar. I hope to have Q&A responses from all of them before the 26th.

Still more HCDP Chair hopefuls

From the inbox, from precinct chair Sterling Camp:

Lane Lewis

10 Possible County Chair Candidates

I’ve been emailed that Keryl Douglas, former executive director of Houston NAACP, will be running for County Chair. The list grows to 10.

Tomaro Bell
Robert Collier
Dominique Davis
Keryl Douglas
Rony Escobar
Eartha Jean Johnson
Johnathan F. Miller
Art Pronin (considering)
Lillie Schechter
Chris Spellmon

SD17 Forum Moved to Feb. 9

The SD17 County Chair Forum has been changed to Thursday, Feb. 9. All are welcome to attend. Further details to be provided.

Special Election Meeting

I called the office, identified myself, and asked for when the meeting to elect the new County Chair is. The staff who answered the phone said that it has not been decided yet, and Precinct Chairs will be emailed when it is scheduled. So we still do not know when the meeting is.

Here’s Camp’s previous email, which contains information about the qualifications one needs to have to be a county party chair. I will make plans to attend that forum, which is being organized by SD17 Chair Tom Gederberg. I would note at this time that this race, like the ones last year for nominations to be County Commissioner and all that other stuff, will be decided by precinct chairs. What that means is that as was the case with those “races” last year, the only candidates will be those who are nominated during the selection process by a precinct chair, and what that means is that some number of people who say they are running will wind up on the sidelines when the actual vote takes place. That’s how it went with County Commissioner and SD13, where several of the announced candidates, some of whom participated in candidate forums, were never officially put up for consideration.

Which is why I’m a little puzzled that there hasn’t been more outreach from the candidates yet. I have received a couple of emails from Eartha Johnson, and both she and Rony Escobar were at a meeting of the Spring Branch Dems on Wednesday, where I had been invited to speak. I’ve now also received an email from Robert Collier, but so far that’s it. There are multiple people on that list above who have good resumes, but no clear frontrunners. Most if not all of them will need to introduce themselves and make a case for themselves to the precinct chairs. I hope we get more of that soon.

So who is running to succeed Lane Lewis as HCDP Chair?

Lane Lewis

It has been over a month since Lane Lewis announced his impemding departure as HCDP Chair. Since then, I have been asked by multiple people if I have heard from any potential candidates to replace him. My answer has been, and as of this morning continues to be, no I have not. I presume that with the holidays and the preparations for the Legislative session and the resistance to the Trump regime, this has been somewhat of a back burner item for people. That said, there will be a County Executive Committee meeting for the HCDP in February (date and time not yet scheduled, but we know it’s coming), at which precinct chairs will vote to name a successor. I have to assume that some time between now and then, the interested parties will make themselves known to the chairs and will ask them for their support.

In the meantime, I have now heard a few names mentioned as possibilities. The following are the names I have heard mentioned by more than one person:

Rony Escobar
Dominique Davis
Chris Spellmon
Lillie Schechter
Art Pronin

Lillie Schechter is a political consultant who has worked with Sen. Sylvia Garcia, CM Jerry Davis, former Council candidate Tom McCasland, and others. Her mother Sue Schechter was HCDP Chair in the late 90s-early 2000s, right before Gerry Birnberg. Art Pronin is the President of the Meyerland Democrats club, which is one of the more active clubs in the area. He’s the only person on this list that I have talked to so far, and isn’t committed to running but is thinking about it. He and Schechter are the two potential candidates that I know best. Davis is the Chief of Staff/Director of Operations of the HCDP, so she would clearly have plenty of experience going in. I’m sure I’ve met her but don’t know her beyond that. I don’t know Escobar or Spellmon at all. This email from the Meyerland Dems mentions the names Rob Collier and Tomaro Bell, whom I also don’t know. (The email actually says “Robin Collier”, but I have since received clarification that it is Rob Collier, whose wife Rabea was a candidate for judge in 2016.)

So that’s what I know at this time. I don’t have a preferred candidate yet, as I would like to hear from everyone and get an idea of what they have in mind to do as HCDP Chair. Tomorrow I will post about the sort of things I’d like to see our next HCDP Chair do.

UPDATE: One more name to add, Eartha Jean Johnson, who wins the distinction of being the first HCDP Chair hopeful to send me an official email of her candidacy.