Many attended the conference to get reenergized after suffering huge loses in the 2014 elections. Many came asking the same questions, such as, what went wrong in the last election cycle, what did we get right so we can improve on it, how can we get more candidates to run for office, how can we get more women to run for office, and can Democrats win in a state with districts that are so gerrymandered? These, and many other questions, were addressed in a number of break-out sessions as well as in the Town Hall meetings, with open and honest discussions, and this is what made the conference a success. But talking about the issues and discussing winning strategies is just the beginning. It is clear that the work ahead of us across the state and at the county level has only just begun.
Those who attended this year’s Issues Conference did not return with all of the answers to fix the problems Democrats face in winning elections, but were armed with some new ideas to help grow the party. These included partnering with like-minded groups and organizations to register more voters and to get those already registered more involved. Also, our county parties need to become more active by showing a presence in their communities. Democrats need to do a better job of explaining who we are and what we stand for. Our message should be simplified and tailored to our own communities.
Many of the break-out sessions also provided attendees the opportunity to learn about the tools needed to develop successful strategies for elections. Some of these included using social media and VoteBuilder. Sessions discussing strengthening our precincts and county parties also provided good information.
One of the more somber topics attendees focused on was in the general session, “Stop the Pain: Ending Domestic Violence in South Carolina,” moderated by state Rep. Mary Tinkler. State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter discussed new legislation that is working its way through the legislature to help victims of domestic violence.
The conference left many of us feeling more invigorated and ready to tackle the issues and obstacles that have been standing in the way of our winning elections. Some of this was fueled by the discussions at the conference, but there is renewed excitement because in less than one year, South Carolina will host the first in the South presidential primary on February 27, 2016. From now forward, candidates from both parties will start focusing on our state and we want to be ready to meet the challenges we will face when the time comes to help our candidates.
We are also looking forward to this year’s SCDP Annual Convention in Columbia on April 24 and 25. This year, the State Party will be honoring Charleston Mayor Joe Riley at its Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.
Our party needs everyone to get involved. Whatever you can do to help is needed and appreciated!