South Carolina Democratic Party
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April 14, 2006

To:          The Honorable Alexis Herman, Co-Chair, DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee
                Mr. James Roosevelt, Jr., Co-Chair, DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee

From:    Joe Erwin, Chair, South Carolina Democratic Party

Re:         Presidential Nominating Calendar

On behalf of South Carolina Democrats, let me commend the Rules and Bylaws Committee for its willingness to engage in the difficult task of developing a nominating process and calendar that are most likely to produce a Democratic President.  Meeting the goal of having more representative participation in our process will, I am convinced, be a big step toward nominating the strongest possible candidate and winning back The White House.

South Carolina Democrats are well positioned to conduct our Primary in the pre-window period, and hope the Rules and Bylaws Committee will seriously, and positively, consider our request to do so.

Strength # 1: South Carolina Meets the Criteria

Racial Diversity: Few states have a higher percentage of African-Americans - in population, in registered voters or in participation in the Democratic Party and its nominating process than South Carolina:

        African-American population in S.C.                         29.6 percent
        African-American registered voters in S.C.              28.5 percent
        African-American participation in the
            2004 S.C. Democratic Presidential Primary        49.0 percent

Geographic Diversity: As a Deep South state, South Carolina would add geographic diversity to the process, as we did in 2004 when we were the first in this region to hold a primary.

Economic Diversity: South Carolina is representative of the many Southern states whose per capita incomes are lower than those of the rest of the country.  For 2005, S.C. ranked 43rd in per capita income, at just over $28,000 per household.

Retail Politics: South Carolina is an ideal size to provide opportunities for retail politics; a candidate can easily schedule events in every media market in the state in a single day, without having to travel by air.  Additionally, when candidates do buy media here it is relatively inexpensive.  A television buy in S.C.'s four primary DMAs allows a campaign to reach nearly everyone in the state for a fraction of what it would cost in many other states.  Cost Per Point is low here, which makes S.C. a good place for candidates to test television and radio targeted at specific audiences, and use those results to inform more expensive buys elsewhere later in the process.

Labor Representation: While our work force does not include a high percentage of union members, our friends in organized labor are particularly active in our Democratic Party.  Volunteers from labor played a major role in the execution of our 2004 presidential primary, and we are counting on them to join us again in putting on our 2008 primary.  We are also fortunate that every year, more and more union members from other states are choosing South Carolina, particularly our coastal areas, as a retirement home.  These new S.C. Democrats are becoming an essential part of our state and local Democratic Parties and we want that trend to continue.

Ethnic Diversity: South Carolina's Hispanic population is growing rapidly, but is still only about 2 percent of our total.  Among registered voters, Hispanics still make up less than one percent.  We are, however, making a strong effort to insure that as Hispanics become citizens or adults (over half of South Carolina's Hispanic population was born in the United States) they register to vote, and that they vote Democratic.  Our outreach program includes effective working relationships with Hispanic organizations and leaders throughout the state.  This outreach paid off in 2004 with our first Hispanic alternate to the Democratic National Convention.

Delegate Diversity: South Carolina Democrats take great pride in the efforts we always make to reach our affirmative action goals for our delegation to the Democratic National Convention.  We are even prouder of the fact that we have never failed to exceed those goals.  The outstanding participation by African-American voters in our 2004 presidential primary will set the bar even higher for us as we draw up our affirmative action plan for 2008.  But we have no doubt at all about our ability to meet - and exceed - those goals, too.

Strength #2: South Carolina Has the Ability to Imclement a Presidential Primary

South Carolina's Primary is not funded by the state, which actually puts South Carolina Democrats in a better position to implement any necessary changes than any other state in the country!

Two additional considerations: It is clear that whatever we do, if it differs in any way from what we did in 2004, will need approval by the Justice Department.  We received pre-clearance for our presidential primary in 2004, and have no doubt that we would receive it again.

Second, it is important to remember that in 2004, some state governments (because of budget issues) failed to fund presidential primaries - fairly late in the process.  That cannot happen in South Carolina; the Democratic Party here is committed to providing our own financing.

We exceeded even our own high expectations in 2004, and are ready to duplicate what we did then.

Strength #3: South Carolina's Primary IS a Real Primary. Even Thoough the Party Runs It

Any suggestion to the contrary is simply inaccurate.  Ask the presidential candidates, their campaign organizations, and the Democratic voters of South Carolina if our 2004 primary was real.  In our book, it's not who pays for it, and it's not who does the work of organizing it.  A real primary is one in which every Democratic voter has an opportunity to cast a ballot and have it counted fairly.

While we wish we could count on the state to finance and run our presidential primary, we also enjoy the freedom we have to set our own date.  In 2004, it was hard to distinguish our primary from the usual state-run elections.  We made a commitment up front to conduct an election that allowed every single voter the opportunity to participate.  A commitment not to combine precincts.  A commitment not to abbreviate the 12-hour voting window.  A commitment to integrity, and to ensuring that every vote was accurately counted and reported.  Here's how we did:

Absentee voting was handled by the county election offices, just as in a state-run election, although we paid for postage.  The voting places were the same, and we followed the state election laws exactly as if the state were running the election.  We had to do it this way because we took seriously that the Justice Department, the media, the campaigns, the DNC, and even the Republicans were watching to see if we failed at any level.  Bottom line, we knew the country was watching to see if South Carolina could pull this off.

Strength #4: South Carolina Knows How to Use the Primary as a Party-Builder

Paying for the primary was a big responsibility, but we never doubted that it could be done.  Lining up nearly 6,000 volunteers was a huge undertaking, but it turned out to be a remarkable experience for Democrats and an excellent party-building exercise that is still paying off.  If we get the green light to do this again for the 2008 election, we will continue to build the SCDP in a way that is starting to make changes in the political landscape in South Carolina -changes that see Democrats starting to win more elections in races at every level across the state.

As you may know, many members of the media, both in South Carolina and inside the beltway, questioned whether we could really manage this process - and some predicted that we would have to combine many precincts because we wouldn't have the needed 6,000 volunteers to open all the polls.  These predictions proved a rallying point for our troops on the ground here, who came together to prove them wrong and make it a great day for the candidates, the Party, and the voters.

Final Considerations

What About the SC Republican Primary?
In 2000, the South Carolina Republican Primary was the event that caused the New Hampshire Democratic and Republican primaries - and thus, the Iowa caucuses - to be moved back into early February.  It is essential to understand that whether or not any Democratic caucuses or primaries take place before the first Tuesday in February, the South Carolina Republican Party will once again be having their primary before the window opens, regardless of their own Party's rules.

The exact date won't be known until 2007, on the last possible day for Republican state parties to announce their primary dates.  But it is already clear that Gap candidates see this state as critical: they are here almost weekly.

Is South Carolina the Smart Choice for You?
I do not envy the difficult choices you must make, and my team will respect and endorse whatever conclusion you reach.  Ultimately, South Carolina's going early provides a great and important challenge to our Democratic candidates -a challenge that can prove how strong our nominee will be in reaching voters in a region that Democrats cannot concede to Republicans if we are to win national elections.

We're Honored to Be Considered, and Ready to Work Hard.
Know that if you select South Carolina to tackle this important role, my team and I will do everything to create a great process for the candidates and their campaigns, as well as for South Carolina's Democratic voters.  And one of our key goals will be to make you proud for giving us this opportunity.

Thank you for your consideration.