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Chair's Corner

The State Party Convention
Phil O'Dwyer, BDC Chair
February 26, 2013

Over 3,600 Democrats came from across the state to attend the Feb 23rd Convention at Cobo Hall. At issue was the party’s top job; the State Chair. For 18 years Mark Brewer held the position with only token challenges but the atmosphere this time was different. Tension filled the air as delegates awaited the showdown on the floor of the convention hall. Newcomer, Lon Johnson came with enthusiasm, vigor and vision, propelled by the support of the entire congressional delegation, the UAW, Teamsters and a host of elected Democrats from every level of government.

A contentious meeting of the Credentials Committee struggled with the question of who should be allowed to vote. Was being a registered party member sufficient or must a voting delegate have paid their annual party dues? The former perspective was persuasive only to be challenged at the District Caucus meetings.

In our 9th Congressional District Caucus a blistering exchange occurred between Congressman Sandy Levin and Macomb County Democratic Party Chair, Ed Bruley with Levin insisting “there should not be a Poll Tax in the Democratic Party”. A caucus vote later vindicated Sandy Levin’s position.

Of course, this unsuccessful challenge to the credentials report could have a direct bearing on the vote for Party Chair given the extraordinary attendance.

As each district caucus spilled its members into the cavernous corridors of Cobo, a sense of anticipation gripped the delegates as they headed for the Main Convention Hall. The usual excitement of a State Convention was strangely silent.

The preliminary pageantry, prayers and pledges seemed only to intensify the anxiety in the air. It was clear to many that a party rift was imminent as each side marshaled their support. Mark Brewer then casually stepped to the podium and announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy. This classy move was recognition of reality and a desire to maintain unity. The assembly gave him a deserved standing ovation as the delegates felt relieved that it was over. Brewer declared that he “had 18 great years as Chairman of the State Party” and assured the delegates not to worry: “I’m not going away…I wish Lon Johnson all the best…”

And so begins a new era for our party under the leadership of Lon Johnson. The task is great and requires everyone in our party to work together. Michigan’s National Ranking under Snyder is truly shocking: 45th in unemployment, 36th in infant mortality, 36th in children in poverty, 38th in violent crime per 100,000, 47th in police per 1,000 civilians, 39th in Higher Education Appropriations per FTE, and our credit rating is 45th among all states. This is not the Michigan we want but that is what we have under Republican rule. Elections have consequences. Republicans control everything in Michigan and these facts reflect it. Democrats must win elections in this state if we want that picture to change. Together we can!