DLCC Chairwoman, Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald's Remarks at the DLCC Luncheon, August 19, 2005

Friday, August 19, 2005

We state legislators are one of the Democrats’ best stories from the 2004 cycle, and certainly the most overlooked good story.

In what was not a good year for Democrats at the federal level, Democratic state legislators and the DLCC saw net victories in 2004.

Democrats moved 10 chambers toward Democratic control, setting the stage for pivotal elections in 2005 and 2006. (Colorado House and Senate, Montana Senate, New Jersey Senate—2003, North Carolina House, Oregon Senate, Vermont House, Washington Senate, Iowa Senate (to a tie) and Montana House (to a tie)). Democrats gained 45 seats at the state legislative level in the 2004 elections.

Democrats picked up chambers in all regions of the country in states as diverse as Colorado, Montana, and North Carolina.

We are now putting in place a plan to build on those successes.

Today, the DLCC’s mission and my mission as Chair is to build and maintain winning, state-of-the-art legislative campaign operations nationally and to put Democrats in a strong position for 2010 and the next redistricting.

As Chair, I have a number of both short-term and long-term goals as I work with state legislators across the country to fulfill that mission.

The first of these goals is to stand up for Democratic values at the local level and to blunt the right-wing, divisive agenda best expressed by Grover Norquist who said “We are trying to change the tones in the state capitols—and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship.”

Too many legislators in this room have seen how Republicans overreach when they take over state legislatures; Texas and my home state of Colorado are prime examples. Republicans are doing it now in Georgia.

My second goal as Chair of the DLCC is to play an important role in the redistricting efforts after the 2010 census.

State legislators will help decide the balance of power in the U.S. Congress through redistricting. Today, 20 of the 36 states where the state legislature controls redistricting have at least one legislative chamber which is within four seats of changing.

These 20 states currently represent 195 Congressional seats which could be altered in the 2010 redistricting.

That puts Democratic state legislators right smack in the middle of a large battle that we intend to win – and our 2004 record is what we will build on.

Another goal of mine is to show Democrats across the country that we have been winning and can continue to win in “red” states.

In my own home state of Colorado, we elected teachers, nurses, attorneys as well as ranchers and farmers to the legislature. The story was the same in Montana, Iowa, and North Carolina.

These Democrats won because they emphasized their connection to their districts and told their own stories, rather than focusing on the national values debate that Republicans tried so desperately to seize upon.

By giving candidates the ability to localize their races and develop these state-specific strategies, Democrats have been successful at the legislative level.

For the last ten years, the DLCC has been working to meet that challenge—from recruiting candidates to providing staff and candidate training as well as campaign services. The DLCC is emerging at a time when Democrats at the national level are seeking ways to return to the majority. There are important policy and political reasons for party leaders to build on our success.

There are over 600 Democratic leaders in the room and over 100 of our contributors. I want to recognize all of you for your support. Please take a look at your programs and at the screen behind me as I would like to recognize the 75 organizations that made today and every day possible for the DLCC. We couldn’t do it without your valued support.

I would also like to recognize our Board Members who are in attendance today, especially my outstanding Vice Chair Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan from Oklahoma. Other Board members—Representative Mike Veon from Pennsylvania, the DLCC’s Treasurer, Senator Wally Horn from Iowa, Representative Bob Kuzman from Indiana, Senator Toddy Puller from Virginia, Speaker Jimmy Naifeh from Tennessee, Representative Mimi Stewart of New Mexico, and Speaker Frank Chopp.

It is now my pleasure to say a few words about our keynote speaker who I met with back in April.

In 2003, John Kerry announced that he would be a candidate for President and he went on to mount a come-from-behind campaign that began in Iowa to win the Democratic nomination.

As he traveled across the country, the American people reminded him once again that people are the same wherever you go, and he continues in the United States Senate fighting for what motivated him to enter public life in the first place—love of country and call of duty.

Senator Kerry went back to work for America the very next day after the election to work on the issues he fought for during the campaign—fighting for children’s health care, supporting America’s military and their families, honoring our veterans, and ensuring that every vote cast in America is counted.

John Kerry will continue to fight for a better future for all Americans, standing on principle in flights like confirmation hearings or drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge and giving voice to the values of the thousands of Americans he met along the campaign trail.

John Kerry is dedicated to electing candidates up and down the ticket in 2005, 2006 and beyond. He’s working hard to ensure that Democrats and the Democratic Party have the resources and tools they need to communicate our values and ideas to voters.

With that in mind, he has recently founded Keeping America’s Promise, a political action committee, which is a national grassroots organization dedicated to bringing change to America by supporting Democratic candidates at every level of government, strengthening the Democratic Party’s grassroots organizing capacity and promoting a policy agenda that addresses America’s biggest challenges.

Now, it is my honor to introduce our keynote speaker Senator John Kerry.

Courtesy of the DLCC.

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