Democratic party chairman focused on future -- Gazette.Net


As the new chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, Kevin Walling said he plans to take the party back to basics focusing on engaging members, fundraising and supporting party nominees in the Nov. 4 general election.

Walling, a senior strategist with the political consulting firm Stones’ Phones, was elected in July by the central committee to serve as its leader for the next two years. He succeeds Gabe Albornoz.

Only weeks earlier, Montgomery County Democrats tapped him to serve his first four-year term on the Central Committee.

Walling characterized the June 24 primary as a change election for his committee. Many new Democrats were elected to serve on the central committee and while the new members reflect the diversity of the county, he said the election also highlighted a level of disconnect with Democratic voters.

Despite the party’s swelling ranks — 1,100 new Democrats registered with the party in June alone — Walling said more voters are not hitting the polls.

“This should be a wake up call to us in Montgomery County,” Walling said. “We are voting with same numbers as we did decade ago. We’ve added 100,000 Democrats to voter rolls yet we still see the same level of engagement.”

Walling has made it a priority for the party to engage Democrats “where they are.” He is working with the local Democratic clubs to mobilize and involve members and will be reaching out to all newly registered Democrats with a message of gratitude and welcome.

On Sept. 27, the Democratic Central Committee will host a summit in Silver Spring to address issues such as voter turnout, member engagement and support of the party’s nominees.

With no elected Republicans in office, “we need to make sure we are staying highly motivated,” Walling said.

“We cannot take our eye off the ball,” he continued. Walling said Montgomery County has the ability to drive up vote margins and deliver the county for candidates such as for Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, the party’s gubernatorial nominee, U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Dist. 6) of Potomac who is running for re-election and Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Somerset, who is running for Maryland Attorney General.

“They will win Montgomery County,” Walling said. “The issue for me is that they win in a way that has the highest margin possible so they are in a safer place as they look around in less-safe counties. It is incumbent on us to drive for those margins, especially for Delaney.”

To carry out his plan, Walling has already taken steps to grow the party’s resources.

Simply adding a donate button to the bottom of the party’s latest e-newsletter drew significant donations, he said.

He also plans to host more fundraisers, starting this fall with a major event. Likely to be held in early October, he said details were not available because it is still being planned.

“We want to grow, in order to become more relevant,” he said. “My goal is to make sure we have the resources to reach out. That costs money.”

Unwilling to allow the party to lose any ground to Republicans, Walling said he plans to professionalize the party to keep it as competitive and as relevant as possible and to have it ready to support a presidential nominee in 2016.

“What we have to do is make the case that we not only need to sustain the party and expand it, we also need to gear up for 2016,” he said. Montgomery County was one of the lifebloods of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, with volunteers making thousands of calls, and traveling to nearby states to get out the vote, he said.

“What I want to see is the central committee be that resource for the presidential candidate once we select one in the [2016] primary,” he said

Walling is also working to rebuild the party’s relationship with organized labor.

Strained in 2012 when the party voted to encourage Democrats to support a ballot question that rolled back some bargaining rights for Montgomery County’s police union, the relationship worsened in 2013 when the labor unions organized a protest of the party’s Spring Ball fundraiser over the 2012 action and the party’s role in helping the ballot question to pass.

Walling said he is not weighed down by the decisions of past party leadership.

“This is a new day for the central committee and for our relationship with labor,” he said. “I made a commitment to our brothers and sisters in labor that this will never happen again.”