Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 3, 2012

Leadership of Local Parties

In previous posts, I have made the point that the biggest “x factor” in elections is the quality of the people involved in campaigns. I’ve urged campaigns to buy local, when it comes to campaign managers, to examine the quality of those around them and to take care when hiring political staff.

Whatcom Dems Chair Mike Estes and me at a Labor Rally

So when the Whatcom Democrats swapped out the top three positions in their leadership this year, and made the ever-so-foolish decision of electing me vice-chair of the party, I decided to take a look at the Executive boards of both local parties and see what similarities and differences I can find.

Here is the leadership for the Whatcom Republicans. First of all, they have pictures of a majority of their officers, which is neat. It provides a personal connection so when you see them around, you know they are the local political leaders. There are a handful of positions, and they seem pretty evenly divided between women and men.

Here is the leadership for the Whatcom Democrats. No pictures, but what is immediately apparent is that there are several more people involved. There are seventeen names listed on the Executive Board. That’s a big committee. Again, men and women seem evenly divided, and there seems to be a few more vacancies, but with seventeen people in the room, how many more do they need?

But here’s the thing that neither list shows. There is a huge age difference between the two boards. I built a spreadsheet with everyone’s age on it on both boards and discovered that the average age of the Whatcom Republicans board? 61.8 years old. The average age for the Whatcom Democrats board? 48.4 years old. That is a huge gap.  Usually, local political parties are staffed by senior citizens, as they have the time and energy to devote to politics, but the Whatcom Democrats have brought in a large number of Generation X, and younger people to their leadership.

Just looking at their top positions, the Whatcom Democrats’  chair, and both vice-chairs are all under 35.

So what does this mean? It depends entirely on the quality of the people involved, but it says to me that the Whatcom Democrats are getting a diverse spread of opinions from their leadership. They get the wisdom of people who have spent years in this community, they get the energy and enthusiasm of the new generation, they get working people’s input, business owners, and those just looking for a job. In short, they get a spectrum of perspectives. The Whatcom Republicans might get that too. Age is just one dimension by which we can measure diversity, and I know there are several talented young conservatives that are very involved in the party. But with efforts like those at their county convention to shut the young, energized, Ron Paul supporters out of the process, they might find it difficult to keep those voters on their side of the  aisle.

I am not going to share the spreadsheet I made with everyone’s age on it, out of respect for people’s privacy, but if someone needs to see the data behind my research, they can shoot me an email. Also, I discovered that friend and fellow blogger, Apexnerd, has a fantastic middle name: Myron. Isn’t that just crazy? Anyways, I’m not trying to make a grand conclusion, I just thought it was an interesting comparison between the two local parties.

Luanne Van Wervan and me at a Tea Party rally

UPDATE: I got a lovely email from Whatcom Republican chair Luanne Van Werven who pointed out that Political Director Louis (27) and their intern Lisa (18) should be figured into the mix, if I am going to count committee leaders like Chet Down and Wayne Farber, even though Louis and Lisa are not on their website. This brings their average age to a much closer 54. Still an 8 year gap but not nearly as drastic.

Van Werven also gave a nicer version of Ronald Reagan’s famous response saying, “I agree that leadership depends entirely on the quality of the people involved so I feel immeasurably satisfied that our experience and wisdom is an advantage.”



  1. Wow, Luanne reads yer blog!

  2. Considering that the Political Director post is a paid position I don’t think I’d tally that into the equation unless paying young people to be involved is somehow part of the strategy. If that is the case please let us know. I know a bunch of young folks who will happily take your money to help you pad your numbers.

  3. […] Morris presided with his usual grace and charm, and much fun was had. Mike Estes gave an address as the new chair of the Whatcom Democrats and handled it like an old pro. Below are a few pictures. Grethe speaking to the crowd Mike Estes […]

  4. […] new leadership has taken the reins leading to big wins in the last two election cycles and it has been time and past time to bury the […]

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