Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. My name is Brian Kuehl and I am here representing Democrats for the West, the nation’s first regional party organization.
Democrats for the West was founded last year by a coalition of state parties from nine western states – Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Alaska.
Democrats for the West is a new organization composed of Democratic stalwarts such as Stewart Udall, Cecil Andrus and Mike Sullivan, along with state party officials, rising stars, and local activists working to bring together Democrats from across the region to build long-term governing majorities throughout the West – one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions. Democrats for the West unites Democrats across state lines, adds value to state party efforts, and shares ideas and resources.
We are here today to strongly endorse the concept of an early western regional primary. For our purposes, I will use the term “regional primary” to mean a coordinated set of state primaries and/or caucuses held across the western states over a period of a few days or perhaps a week.
Why do Democrats for the West support a western primary? Why do we ask the Democratic National Committee to support it?
We are engaged in a long-term, region-wide party-building effort. We see a regional primary as an important component of that effort, and we are actively working toward that goal in each of the western states. As a compliment to our on-the-ground efforts, we believe the time is exactly right for the DNC to endorse a call for an early western primary.
We are not arguing that the West should be at the very front of the primary calendar or even that we should remain permanently near the front of the primary season. We are open to a fair rotation system. But from both a Democratic and a national perspective, we believe that 2008 is the right year to convene an early western regional primary.
We clearly have a partisan realignment occurring in the Rockies, and the swing is in a strongly Democratic direction. In the 8 states proposed for this primary (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) there were no Democratic governors by 2000. Now half of the states have Democratic governors – Governors Richardson, Napolitano, Freudenthal and
Schweitzer. We picked up a U.S. Senate seat and a House seat in 2004, and we turned both Colorado and Montana’s legislatures from red to blue. Across the region, we out-gained Republicans in legislative bodies.
And we’re electing Democratic mayors around the region – from Denver to Salt Lake City to Boise. This is a strong, well-earned swing in a Democratic direction across the region. As Democrats for the West, we want to consolidate our gains and push this swing to the top of the ballot to produce a substantial number of Democratic electoral votes in 2008.
This much is absolutely clear: no region in the country is better positioned to produce new blue states than the West. We believe that with coordinated regional party building efforts and concerted attention from Democratic Presidential candidates, many western states will endorse the Democratic Presidential nominee in 2008.
That having been said, no matter how powerful the Democratic arguments for a western primary might be, no major rescheduling of primary dates can occur without broad bipartisan support. And here again, the time is right to give the West a stronger voice in the primary process. The idea of a western primary or caucus has strong bipartisan support. That support was evident when the Western Governors Association endorsed the idea in 2004. Not only governors, but also other leaders from both parties in several western states have expressed their support. The reason is simply that both parties in the western states are tired of being passed by during presidential primaries.
Both parties in the West recognize that a simultaneous regional primary or caucus will prompt Presidential candidates to focus on issues critical to the western region. Even beyond issues, a western primary will make westerners in general feel like they count for something at the national level. That’s good for the West.
And if the DNC supports this move, it will be a welcome signal to westerners that the Democratic Party really cares about the West. And to many westerners, that’s not always been clear.
We proudly call ourselves Democrats for the West, and we will continue our regional party building efforts with or without an early western primary.
But fundamentally, we want our western neighbors to know that our entire
Party is “for the West.” Supporting this initiative is one way that the
national Democratic Party can send the message that we are all “Democrats
for the West.”