It's Time For The Bexar County Democratic Party To Focus on Winning, Not Infighting

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Yet again there appears to be some funny business going on with the Bexar County Democratic Party, and it needs to stop. This cycle is too important for Democrats and we need everyone working well and working together to win.

Over the weekend, the San Antonio Express-News published a column criticizing Bexar County Chair Manuel Medina's ousting of deputy chair Verna Blackwell, who has served the party for 43 years. Blackwell opposed Medina's decision for the BCDP to create a “straw poll” of Democratic primary candidates. The “straw poll” has been characterized as a way to shake down candidates for money and exert inappropriate and undue influence on the Democratic primary process. It's divisive and alienates activists and donors.

This isn't the first time the BCDP has made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In 2011, BCDP chair Dan Ramos used his position as a bully pulpit for his rampant homophobia and was ousted by the county executive committee. The prior treasurer, Dwayne Adams, embezzled $200,000 from the county party and went to jail.

Former chair Choco Meza resuscitated the party after Ramos was ousted, cleaned it up and raised funds to get the balance sheets out of the negative, but was surprisingly ousted by Medina in the 2012 primary after he spent over $100,000 of his own money to win the seat.

It's time for the Bexar County Democratic Party to get its act together — not only for Wendy Davis' sake, but also for Pete Gallego's sake, Leticia Van de Putte's sake, the Castro brothers' sake and for Texas to have a real chance of going blue.

More below the jump. What happened between Medina and Blackwell sounds as if he used strong-arm tactics to remove someone who vocally criticized his leadership and raised valid concerns about party operations.

Medina held the meeting in the middle of the afternoon when many precinct chairs had work and were unable to attend, on the same day that Wendy Davis was announcing for governor. Supporters of Blackwell said they did not receive sufficient notice of the meeting and were not told about the agenda. Blackwell herself could not attend because she was caring for her injured son, and her attorney was not allowed to speak on her behalf at the meeting.

The divisive move stands to alienate donors and activists at a time when Texas needs Democrats to actually be coming together to work hard and elect our candidates up and down the ballot.

Bexar County is our fourth-most populated county and frankly, it needs to improve its Democratic performance. Without strong turnout, Democrats statewide will have a harder time winning, and candidates from that region will have diminished prospects of seeking higher office.

In 2010, the Bexar County Democratic Party was in such disarray that the Democratic clubs had to form a separate organization to run a coordinated campaign to help Bill White and other Democratic candidates. We can't have a repeat of that in 2014.

Pete Gallego's re-election will need strong Democratic turnout in San Antonio. Should Leticia Van de Putte seek a statewide office, she will need her home base to come out strong for her and Wendy Davis. And if the Castro brothers ever want to run statewide and win, they need San Antonio to have high Democratic performance.

Right now, the party seems more focused on infighting than voter engagement, and that needs to change.

If BCDP wants serious money to flow through the organization in 2014, they need to focus on improving operations, not holding kangaroo courts in the parking lot to run off long-term party veterans who dare hold divergent opinions.

Correction: Adams was incorrectly identified as a former chair, not a treasurer. This post has been updated with the correct information.

About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She has previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Austin. In addition to serving as the president of Austin Young Democrats, she is also UCONN's #1 fan in Texas.

5 Comments

  1. Correction
    Dwayne Adams was never chair, he was treasurer.  He was appointed by Party Chair Carla Vela, who resigned after it came out that he stole the money.

  2. Bexar Democratic Infighting
    All the principals you mention in the article will agree with you that “It's Time For The Bexar County Democratic Party To Focus on Winning, Not Infighting,” but they will nevertheless, keep on infighting. They can't help it. The Bexar Dems have a pathological penchant for self-destruction. It will take a serious intervention by the Texas Democratic Party to remedy that; Gilberto Hinojosa needs to read them all the riot act and warn them that their infighting will provide the means to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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