Monday, August 11, 2008

From Deep in the Heart of Texas...

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Our newest blogger here at DCW is Jeff Strater, who is a Clinton delegate to the convention. He’s shown here with Barbara Rosenberg at the Texas State Convention. Jeff and Barbara represent the same Dallas area district as national delegates. Jeff is the first person I’ve spoken with who actually attended the caucus part of the Texas Prima-Caucus. And I couldn’t wait to get to that, but first I just had to know….

Doc Jess: Is this going to be your first convention?

Jeff: Yes, I tried in 2000 and 2004, but didn’t make it through the process, and I’m very excited about going this year.

What are you most looking forward to?

I think mostly the speeches. But also the general craziness of it all. I’ve been to all the Texas State Conventions since 1998 and I have been a political activist for many years, so I have a sense of what it might be like. But I think it will be fantastic. I don’t just plan to go to the gavel-to-gavel evening part, but as many of the daytime events as I can.

Ed Espinoza, our resident Super Delegate blogger, said that the most important thing for delegates was comfortable shoes. Had you heard that?

I’m all over it; I plan to cover as much ground as possible. I want to be in as many places and meet as many people, and participate as much as possible. I will be taking comfortable ones, but also I’ll have a pair of cowboy boots on hand!

Are you paying for this trip yourself? Is this part of what you do for a living?

I’m in marketing. I do business development and public relations for a law firm, so politics isn’t professional with me. Therefore, I am paying for a lot of the trip with my own funds. But some friends threw a fundraiser for me call “Send Jeff to Denver”, and the money raised there is helping to offset some of the costs.

Even though “politics” isn’t my vocation, I’ve been involved in neighborhood and community issues as a member of the City of Dallas Planning and Zoning Commission. In the past, I’ve been a council appointee to the Permit and License Appeals Board, Urban Rehabilitation Standards Board and the City of Dallas 2003 Bond Program Steering Committee.

How long have you been involved in politics?

For a long time, starting back when I lived in Illinois. In 1996, I founded the Park Cities/Central Dallas Democrats which has since grown to be a powerful voice in the Dallas Democratic community. I was elected as the Democratic Party Nominee for Dallas County Clerk in 1998. From 2000 through 2004, I led efforts to raise much needed funds for the Dallas County Democratic party by serving as the party's fundraising committee chairperson. The fundraising committee was critical as the Dallas County Democratic Party began taking back county wide and judicial elected positions beginning in 2002.

So how DID you get to be a delegate?

I had to run 3 times. First, I was one of 8 Clinton delegates voted in at the precinct level, which put me in the running at the Senate Convention. In my district, there were 7 Obama delegates selected. Then, I had to run again at the Senate Convention, and finally, I ran against 7 other Clinton delegates at the State Convention, and that also involved a run-off.

Do you know how many delegates there are from Texas?

According to my last e-mail, our Texas delegation is 291 people.

I thought there were more like 193 delegates.

Well, there are 193 district level delegates, 35 Super Delegates, alternates, and then we have additional people who are not voting delegates, but who serve on the Platform, Credentials and Rules Committees. These committee people are picked by the campaigns: a 50/50 split between the registered agents of the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

So, you are a Clinton delegate.

I represent Texas Senate District 16 including the cities of Dallas, Garland, Richardson, Mesquite, University Park and Highland Park. I’m a delegate representing the people who elected me to this position, and yes, for Senator Clinton.

I’m going to ask this as delicately as I can. Um, how does it feel to be going to a convention where your candidate didn’t exactly come out the winner?

I certainly support Senator Clinton, and I represent people who believe in Hillary Clinton’s ideas, ideals and principles, I’m going to the Democratic Convention to represent their voices. I know there are some people who want to fight. I’m not one of them: I want to see us win in November. I take seriously the thousands of Clinton primary and caucus voter I represent from my district.

I’m sorry, but I don’t see a lot of daylight between the ideas of the two Senators.

Certainly, they hold the same fundamental beliefs. The difference, I believe is in how we get there. Take health care. I believe in Hillary Clinton’s plan for Universal Health Care, and I want to see her in a leadership role in getting the US health care system to where it needs to be. So one thing I’m concerned with is the actual map we plot to solve the critical issues of our day.

Do you think she should be the VP candidate?

I hope she is selected as Vice President. But I also know her to be a great Senator, and there is a long history of some people not making it through to the nomination, like Teddy Kennedy, who went on to have long, illustrious careers in the Senate, and if she remains there in a leadership role, I believe she’ll do a lot of good for our nation.

I will, however, support the ticket with everything I’ve got. The issues are too big; the disparity between the Republicans and us is just too great. We have to win this election, and as Democrats committed to our issues of getting out of Iraq, solving energy, economic, healthcare and education issues, we have to do everything we can to prevent Bush’s third term.

Great. So are you all set with your hotel, so you can help move our party forward?

I was a little nervous. I put in my reservation back in June, but didn’t get confirmation until last week. But now, I’m all set. The Texas delegation will all be staying at one of the Red Lion Inns. But now it’s just about 2 weeks away, and I’m thrilled and excited.

As are we all. Thanks, Jeff, for your time and your great work down in Texas.

My pleasure – it’s all about getting our country back on the right track.

By the way -- if you'd like to read more about Jeff and his convention experience, check out his blog.