by Jessee Perry
I came across an article today in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the stagnant membership of the Richmond City Democratic Committee. The summary is that Democratic Committees around the state are seeing a sharp incline in membership following the November 2016 elections; however, the local Richmond City branch is not experiencing that same kind of growth. In my opinion, RCDC isn't growing due to poor communication, lack of a strong opposition party, and their connections to establishment drama. Honestly, I question if RCDC is not experiencing growth because they are not interested in growing. If they wanted to grow, at the very least, they wouldn't have a cap on membership and they would care about the perception of the organization's ties to establishment politics.
The RTD article cited increased growth in membership of democrat committees in Prince William, Fairfax, and Virginia Beach. I decided to look them up and see how they differ from the Richmond City Democratic Committee. Here is what I found:
- RCDC website does not have a paid-for URL (richmonddems.wordpress.com)
- RCDC website is out of date (calendar has information from 2016, resources are from 2016, etc)
- It is clear where to go to join on the websites for PWDC, FCDC, VBDC
- RCDC posts about events are put on the website ~2 days prior to the event date while the other committee websites provide more notice
The lack of communication on the RCDC website and old updates gives the appearance that the organization is not active. For people interested in membership, there is just a "contact us" form to fill out that indicates someone will call you. It has no details on how to become a member, which based on the RTD article, involves being voted in by the other members and has a cap in numbers.
Lack of Opposition Party
When is the last time a Republican ran a successful campaign in a Richmond City election? Looking at gubernatorial election results, Richmond City went red in 1977 for John Dalton Jr. by a margin of 1,058. I would say there is a little bit of comfort among Richmond City residents that Democrats will continue to win elections. During the 2016 Presidential election, only 15% of Richmond City voters marked their ballot for Donald Trump. Contrast that number with the other democratic committees listed in the article: 28.6% of Fairfax County voters cast their ballot for Trump, Trump won Virginia Beach, and 36.4% of voters in Prince William went for Trump. Richmond is likely a little more insulated from the threat Democrats in other localities are feeling.
If the 2016 Presidential Election taught us nothing else... it is that people are sick and tired of establishment politics. On the Democrat side, Bernie Sanders had a solid run and Hilary was not able to rally the Democrat base to pull out a win on Election Day. Not only does RCDC represent the establishment, but chair J.J. Minor is deeply entrenched in the establishment which has reared it's ugly head a few times in the distant and not-so-distant past. Appearance and perception is everything. If people perceive things are fixed, they won't bother to get involved. Here are a couple examples from 2014 and 2016 when RCDC was connected to establishment drama:
City Council disavows door-to-door ballpark drive: In 2014, there were people being paid to go door-to-door to garner support for Shockoe Stadium. People claimed J.J. Minor was behind the petition drive; however, Minor denied the allegations. The article does cite that RCDC was "widely seen as part of the political apparatus of Mayor Dwight Jones."
GOLDMAN: Mayor Jones shouldn't let loyal aide take the fall: This article identifies J.J. Minor as the RCDC Chairman who was "hand-picked" by Mayor Jones. It also draws strong ties as J.J. was in Mayor Jones's administration at the time and his mother, Delegate Delores McQuinn, was also in with Mayor Jones.
The Fix is In: After the September 2016 RCDC mayoral forum, candidate Joe Morrissey alleged that RCDC fixed the endorsement to ensure it would go to Levar Stoney. Part of the reason for the finger pointing was that RCDC Chair J.J. Minor personally endorsed Levar Stoney prior to RCDC voting on an endorsement.
RCDC Drama: Two weeks before the November election, the RCDC chairman J.J. Minor and vice chair Sandra Antione formed the Greater Richmond Regional Democratic Coalition PAC. This PAC endorsed candidates who did not earn the RCDC endorsement including Mariah White, Johnny Walker, Garrett Sawyer, Ellen Robertson, and Reva Trammell. J.J. Minor claimed that there was not a conflict as this PAC focused on the Richmond region; however, the only candidates endorsed were in Richmond City.