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Monday, September 30th, 2013

Dwight Pelz to retire as Washington State Democratic Party Chair in February

For­mer King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Dwight Pelz, who has ably led the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty for more than three fourths of a decade, announced today that he will retir­ing as state par­ty chair on Feb­ru­ary 1st, 2014, the date of the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Com­mit­tee’s next meet­ing in Vancouver.

In a let­ter copied to state com­mi­teemem­bers (of which I am one!), Pelz repeat­ed­ly described the oppor­tu­ni­ty to serve as chair­man as a great hon­or, and expressed con­fi­dence that his suc­ces­sor will build on the lega­cy he is leav­ing behind.

I am writ­ing today to state my inten­tion to resign as Chair of the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty on Feb­ru­ary 1, 2014. That is the date for our next Cen­tral Com­mit­tee Meet­ing, to be held in Vancouver.

At that time I would expect the State Par­ty Cen­tral Com­mit­tee [the WSDCC] to elect a new Chair.

It has been my hon­or to serve the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty for the past eight years. The lead­ers and the activists and the foot sol­diers and the mem­bers of our Par­ty do a great job elect­ing Democ­rats and uphold­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic values.

It has also been my great hon­or to serve our elect­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­ers, includ­ing Pat­ty Mur­ray, Maria Cantwell, Chris Gre­goire, Jay Inlsee, our Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers of the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Speak­er Frank Chopp, our statewide elect­ed offi­cials, our Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers of the State House and the State Sen­ate, and Democ­rats elect­ed at every lev­el of local office.

The mis­sion of the Wash­ing­ton Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is to elect Democ­rats, and I am proud to say that we have nev­er lost a major race in my four elec­tion cycles – 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. We have built or main­tained impres­sive mar­gins through these years, essen­tial­ly turn­ing Wash­ing­ton from Pur­ple to Blue. I am most proud of the elec­tion of Jay Inslee as Gov­er­nor, an elec­tion that many thought we would lose. Jay Inslee is a pro­found­ly pro­gres­sive gov­er­nor, in stark con­trast to his oppo­nent in this race.

To the extent I have been suc­cess­ful I large­ly owe that suc­cess to the tal­ent­ed staff that have worked for the State Par­ty these past eight years. Jax­on Ravens, Shaw­na Ousse, Misty Shock Rule, Patrick Mead, Kim Cobuzzi, and Heather Hess com­prised the most expe­ri­enced staff of any state par­ty in Amer­i­ca. Mary­grace Gal­ston, Michael King, Rory Steele, and Tim­o­thy Ander­son led the most potent Coor­di­nat­ed Cam­paigns of any com­pa­ra­ble sized state in the nation.

The State of the Par­ty is strong. You will elect a new chair to work with our grass­roots lead­ers, our elect­ed Democ­rats, our can­di­dates, and our allied part­ners to con­tin­ue to elect Democ­rats in Wash­ing­ton in 2014 and 2016.

Thanks to the Wash­ing­ton State Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty for this, the great­est hon­or in my 40 year polit­i­cal career.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee wast­ed no time in thank­ing Pelz for his many years of able lead­er­ship and ser­vice to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

Dwight has been a fan­tas­tic leader for Wash­ing­ton state, as a leg­is­la­tor, King Coun­ty Coun­cil mem­ber and as par­ty chair­man. He is tough, com­mit­ted, as bright as they come and cares deeply about our state. Dwight nev­er backed down from a fight and from the many, many con­ver­sa­tions we’ve had, I know he cares deeply about the issues that fam­i­lies in Wash­ing­ton care about. He’s been good for the entire state and I thank him for his service.

By choos­ing to retire mid-term (he was reelect­ed to a two-year term end­ing in ear­ly 2015 last Jan­u­ary) Dwight Pelz is head­ing out the door on his own terms, and with a very impres­sive record. Dur­ing his tenure, Democ­rats not only held on to the gov­er­nor’s man­sion twice and kept Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray in office, but also elect­ed a Demo­c­ra­t­ic com­mis­sion­er of pub­lic lands (Peter Gold­mark) and a Demo­c­ra­t­ic attor­ney gen­er­al (Bob Ferguson).

Today, Democ­rats hold every posi­tion in the state-lev­el exec­u­tive depart­ment, with the excep­tion of Sec­re­tary of State. (Demo­c­rat Kath­leen Drew came close to win­ning last year, but could­n’t quite man­age to defeat Kim Wyman).

Democ­rats also held both hous­es of the Leg­is­la­ture through Pelz’s first sev­en years and would still but for defec­tors Rod­ney Tom and Tim Shel­don, who have called them­selves Democ­rats for years but failed to act like Democrats.

Pelz’s record on U.S. House races is more mixed.

In the sev­en years he has led the state par­ty, it did not man­age to unseat a Repub­li­can incum­bent in a con­gres­sion­al con­test, despite favor­able elec­toral winds in 2006 and 2008. Grant­ed, incum­bents are tough to take out, but the par­ty did have oppor­tu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­lar­ly against Dave Reichert in the old 8th District.

The par­ty has been much more suc­cess­ful at defend­ing open seats. Though it was not able to hold Bri­an Baird’s old dis­trict in south­west Wash­ing­ton in 2010, it did hold the 1st and the 6th last year. The par­ty also won the new 10th District.

Pelz will thus leave office with the same num­ber of Democ­rats in the state’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion as when he took over from Paul Berendt: eight.

Many Demo­c­ra­t­ic activists who are far more griz­zled than I have told me they have sel­dom seen a state par­ty chair as effec­tive as Dwight Pelz.

Dwight presided over a well-run and respon­sive state par­ty office that took on huge elec­toral chal­lenges and met them, par­tic­u­lar­ly last year. Repub­li­cans thought that the gov­er­nor’s man­sion was theirs for the tak­ing, but Democ­rats knew bet­ter. When the dust had set­tled and the votes had been count­ed, Jay Inslee was the undis­put­ed win­ner. Dwight ought to be proud of that vic­to­ry.… it was huge.

In the near­ly eight years that Pelz has been in charge of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, the Repub­li­can Par­ty has had a total of four chairs: Diane Tebe­lius, Luke Ess­er, Kir­by Wilbur, and now Susan Hutchi­son. (Tebe­lius and Pelz, inci­den­tal­ly, were elect­ed on the very same day: Jan­u­ary 29th, 2006). Pelz’s depend­able lead­er­ship has been a sig­nif­i­cant advan­tage for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, and replac­ing him won’t be easy. He is a shrewd strate­gist, a skilled fundrais­er, and ener­getic speak­er, known and loved for telling it like it is — some­times with col­or­ful language.

As a Demo­c­ra­t­ic activist I am per­son­al­ly grate­ful to Dwight for all of the years of hard work he has put in. All of the phone calls, the ral­ly­ing speech­es, and the long hours in the office sup­port­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates. He’s earned a rest, and I hope he enjoys trav­el­ing the world, which he says he intends to do.

Much as I wish he would con­tin­ue to stay at the helm of the state par­ty, I respect his deci­sion to retire, and I thank him for lay­ing the ground­work for a order­ly, seam­less tran­si­tion. His suc­ces­sor’s most imme­di­ate major pri­or­i­ty will be to reclaim the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, which Repub­li­cans seized with the help of Tom and Shel­don. Both will have to face vot­ers next year.

The WSDCC won’t meet again for anoth­er four months, so that gives Democ­rats who are inter­est­ed in the state par­ty’s top job time to think about run­ning and then get around to the state’s forty nine leg­isla­tive dis­tricts and thir­ty-nine counties.

The state par­ty’s char­ter restricts vot­ing for offi­cers to the state par­ty’s one hun­dred and sev­en­ty-six reg­u­lar mem­bers: two rep­re­sent­ing each coun­ty and two rep­re­sent­ing each leg­isla­tive dis­trict in the state.

I hap­pen to rep­re­sent one of those votes. I will be look­ing for­ward to hear­ing from the can­di­dates and talk­ing about their ideas for par­ty­build­ing with them.

Who­ev­er is elect­ed will have big shoes to fill, that’s for sure.

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4 Comments

  1. Very good trib­ute, Andrew. I wrote a trib­ute on my blog too.

    # by Mike Barer :: September 30th, 2013 at 9:01 PM
  2. Who­ev­er is cho­sen as the suc­ces­sor should be a sea­soned indi­vid­ual with a proven track record of win­ning elec­tions in swing dis­tricts and of fund rais­ing. What hap­pened with the State Sen­ate Democ­rats last year was part­ly a result of throw­ing an insuf­fi­cient­ly expe­ri­enced per­son into a posi­tion where he was in over his head rather than giv­ing him time to move up the ranks and grow. Part of this expe­ri­ence should include a proven track record of ethics. Anoth­er char­ac­ter­is­tic I would look for is whether the per­son is a good lis­ten­er. Also tough­ness and not giv­ing in. The chair should also be pro-labor and pro­gres­sive to be cho­sen, some­one who did­n’t cave in when oth­ers caved in. Respect­ing and fur­ther­ing free­dom of speech and diverse points of view is anoth­er desired characteristic.

    # by Linda Seltzer :: October 5th, 2013 at 8:51 AM
  3. Lin­da: Kath­leen Drew at least meets all of your cri­te­ria, but she tells me she is devot­ed to the chal­leng­ing and reward­ing job she has tak­en with the Depart­ment of Licensing. 

    One addi­tion­al strength we are look­ing for in our par­ties new chair is a gen­uine core com­mit­ment to sup­port and men­tor qual­i­fied women and minor­i­ty candidates.

    # by Steven Drew :: October 5th, 2013 at 11:50 AM
    • Steven, I agree Kath­leen would be an excel­lent can­di­date for chair if she chose to ran. There seem to be many peo­ple inter­est­ed in the job. We will see who jumps in.

      # by Andrew :: October 5th, 2013 at 9:30 PM
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