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Beating Your Head Against Slate(S)

March 2nd, 2010 by Pat Staley

I have been a BPOU chair since 2005, and a BPOU-level officer since 2001.  In that time, I have seen “slates” employed at BPOU conventions twice: in the hotly contested gubernatorial endorsement races of 2002 & 2010.

In 2002 both major candidates had slates at my convention.  I was on the “wrong” one for my BPOU, and, as a “new guy” in a re-districted BPOU, I was left as neither a delegate nor alternate for the marathon Pawlenty-Sullivan convention.  I went anyway to see some outstanding political theater- and had the benefit of being able to leave at a reasonable hour.

It struck me that despite there being slates, supporters of both sides got elected from my BPOU, beginning with the most recognized “names” such as elected officials and the top leadership.

Fast forward to 2010 and another contested race for governor.  This time, instead of being on the wrong slate, I was on no slate.  This is because 1) I was and remain undecided and 2) I wanted to be able to chair our convention without the appearance of favoritism.  Despite one candidate concluding his speech with an appeal for my support, I re-iterated my uncommitted status in my long, rambling, “vote for me as a delegate” pitch.  And, I was elected.

It seemed to me that just one of the major candidates organized a slate at our convention.    What occurred confirmed the some of the intuition I had in 2002.

We had 10 of our BPOU executive committee members run.  Nine were elected delegates and one is a high alternate.  Whether they were on a slate or not, these folks got elected.

So, if you are an individual seeking to be a state delegate, the surest route to success in our BPOU was to be active as a BPOU executive committee member. This entire group was elected delegate or a high alternate regardless of their “slating” status.  Almost all of these people ran unopposed for their positions at our convention last year.  Great foresight, and/or a reward for folks that had stepped forward as leaders.

We also had nine people run that I consider “core” folks at our BPOU conventions.  These are people that are at almost every BPOU convention and are names and faces recognizable to many of the local delegates. These include current & former elected officials, former BPOU officers, & “long-time activists”.   Seven were elected.  Again being on a slate would have appeared to have no real impact on whether this tier of folks got elected.

So, does this strategy work for a candidate?  If Minnesota Democrats Exposed’s count is to be believed the candidate whose supporters used the slate went from losing the caucus straw poll in our BPOU to winning the delegate count by a substantial margin.  While part of that was winning over some people who presumably would have been elected anyway, the ability to get the more anonymous candidates across the line was huge.  I think this makes sense since slating combines votes that might otherwise be scattered.

Is it unfair?  Looking down the list of who was not elected I am sure a handful of people might think so as their status might be a step below what it was before due to slating.

As a BPOU chair, I have no idea how I would prevent it.  You can’t stop people from discussing who they might want to vote for whatever the reason.  I guess we could have banned all paper on the floor during this process, and people would have to have the information written on their hands Sarah Palin-style.  Practically, I think there’s no way to prevent it.

I am certain that there are “slated” delegates that will go to the state convention and never show up for anything again.  However in past years we have had people elected without slates that went to the state convention and never showed up for anything again.  From an organizational perspective, I don’t see a big loss here.  The flip side is a “slated” delegate who might not otherwise participate may go to the convention, catch the bug, and decide to stick around and help.

Back to an earlier point- in my BPOU the delegates clearly respected the folks who have worked over time for the benefit of the BPOU- the executive committee.  Incrementally votes may have been gained or lost by being on a slate, but the work was rewarded.  Bottom line: if you want to have influence in the process, becoming active and staying active is the best way to gain it.

[Crossposted at True North]

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