A Candidate’s Profile: Henry Vandermeir for DPOC Chair

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Note to readers:  This is the first of a two-part story; Chris Prevatt will profile DPOC Chair candidate Jeff LaTourneau in the next few days.  It’s a great example of how Chris and I don’t always agree and rather than argue this out over the phone, we decided to put this out on the blog and open this up for debate.

I’m supporting Henry Vandermeir for the DPOC Chair for a number of reasons.  The Party is blessed with two great candidates.  I happen to think Henry is the best person for the job.  I think LeTourneau is a smart and a talented guy.  But I know Henry better. I believe his background and experience at a local and statewide level make him better suited to lead the party and manage its various factions.    I think Henry is better able to raise money our party needs, proactive where we need to be, and will be more reactive to breaking developments.  And that’s why I support him.

He has the support of most of the county’s elected Democratic Party leaders and influencers.  He has a strong track record of positive volunteer work for the Party.

Thus far, Henry’s run a pretty positive campaign.  But there are some questions being put out there about his background that have to be addressed.

Here’s a short summary of his background:

Working in California’s business and political environment for over 20 years has provided Vandermeir with a unique portfolio of experience and contacts that match perfectly with the goals and requirements of a Democratic leader:

  • · Extensive list of political and legislative contacts across the state
  • · Years of working with universities, corporations and political organizations has given me the ability to interact easily with all levels of staff and management
  • · Experience with membership communication for a state-wide organization with almost 20,000 members
  • · Organized numerous campaign trainings, fundraising events, conferences and state conventions
  • · Extensive knowledge of Orange County’s political and demographic environment
  • · Years of fundraising at local and statewide level
  • · Expertise in communications (including press) and parliamentary procedures
  • · Broad computer background, including website design, networking, social media, and online content management.

I’ve interviewed Henry and here’s the Q&A:

Q.  How will you deal with the perceived conflict of interest as DPOC chair and DFOC when both are charged with raising money for the party and electing Democrats to office?

The insinuation that I couldn’t raise money for the DPOC because I’m supposedly competing for the same dollars for the Foundation shows a lack of understanding of how the Foundation raises its money. There is absolutely no ‘conflict of interest’ since the Foundation has its own fundraising mechanism that does not interfere or hinder me from raising money for the Party.

Money raised by the Foundation comes from within its own membership and Dan Jacobson is the Chair of the Foundation.  As Chair, he is the person responsible for recruiting members and raising money – just as I would be responsible for raising money as Chair of the DPOC.

If the criteria is that no one working for any organization that raises political money could run for Chair, then that would eliminate anyone who is a member of a Democratic club, political PAC (ECCO, Planned Parenthood, Labor) or just about any other organization or corporation.  In California, there are many County Party chairs (Eric Bauman in Los Angeles, David Atkins in Ventura, Steve Preminger in Santa Clara or Mary Jung in San Francisco, to name just a few) that have day jobs directly connected to politics. That so-called conflict would  apply to some of our state party’s most respected leaders as well as to many of our own Central Committee members.

I won’t jeopardize 15 years of hard work with the Democratic Party and my professional reputation by not being able to use sound judgment and ethics to separate my job as the Executive Director of the Foundation or as Chair of the Party. There is no glory in failure and in order to be a success as Chair and do all the things we need to do, I will have to raise a lot of money for the Party – not the Foundation. 

If I’m elected as Party Chair, it would be a positive opportunity to bring the Foundation and the Party closer together and present a unified front.  There are many members of the Foundation who give to both the Party and the Foundation, and many more members of the Foundation who might be willing to give to the Party if they see that they are made welcome instead of being vilified.  Foundation Chair Dan Jacobson, has already indicated they would help the Party financially should I be elected.

Q. You have amassed a strong base of support.  Tell us about who supports you.

A.  All one has to do is take a simple look at my growing list of supporters and you’ll see I am not backed by any single group, but instead, am supported by a wide range of Democrats from all facets of the Party – from the grassroots activists on the far left to the more conservative Democrats within the county.   The reason they all support me is because they know the hard work I have done for the Party and the fact that I don’t participate in petty political games. My focus is and always has been on electing Democrats to office and that is what we need as the focus of the Party Chair in OC.

Editor’s Note, Vandermeir is backed by the following (partial list):

  • Larry Agran, Irvine City Council
  • Christina Avalos, candidate AD-68
  • Jay Chen, candidate CD-39
  • James Corbett, candidate AD -73
  • Tom Daly, State Assembly (AD-69)
  • Lou Correa, State Senator (SD-34)
  • Sukhee Kang, former Irvine Mayor, candidate CD-45
  • Beth Krom, Irvine City Council
  • Alan Lowenthal, Congressman CD-47
  • Jose Solorio, Rancho Board, former Assembly member
  • Jerry Tetalman, candidate CD-49
  • Philip Tsunoda, Aliso Viejo City Council
  • Ron Varasteh. Candidate CD-48
  • Jonathan Adler, DPOC
  • Ken Arnold, DPOC
  • Sutida Bergquist, DPOC
  • Monika Broome, Southern Trustee, California Democratic Council
  • Janice Burstin, DPOC
  • Melissa Fox, president-elect, National Women’s Political Caucus
  • Marleen Gillespie, DPOC
  • Shelly Haggerty, DPOC
  • Phil Hanneman, DPOC
  • Dr. Bill Honigman, State Coordinator PDA
  • Madeline Rae Jensen, DPOC
  • Jim Moreno, Coast Community College Trustee, DPOC
  • Marti Schrank, Co-Chair, California Democratic Party Resolutions Committee, DPOC Member
  • John Smith, Regional Director, California Democratic Party
  • David Sonneborn, DPOC
  • Melissa Stern, DPOC
  • Louise Stewardson, DPOC
  • Toni Sullivan, DPOC
  • John Vassiliades, DPOC
  • Dick Frank, President, Laguna Beach Democratic Club
  • Mike Getto, President, South Orange County Democratic Club
  • Walt Lawson, President, Canyon Democrats
  • Penny Anderson, President, Democratic Club of Seal Beach-Leisure World
  • Linda Nearing, President, Laguna Woods Democratic Club
  • Dr. Suzanne Savary, President, Newport Beach Women’s Democratic Club
  • Sharon Toji, Chair, Democrats of Greater Irvine
  • Jose Vargas, President, Orange County Young Democrats
  • Hilary Crosby, Controller, California Democratic Party
  • Jess Durfee, Chair, San Diego County Democratic Party
  • Michael Fox, CDP Executive Board member, DPOC executive board member
  • Alex Gallardo-Rooker, Vice Chair, California Democratic Party
  • Sue Ann Young, Chair, Riverside County Democratic Central Committee, CDP Regional Director
  • Wylie Aitken, past chair DFOC
  • Patty Bellasalma, President, California National Organization for Women
  • Bill Blume, Business Manager, SW Regional Council of Carpenters
  • Stephen Chen, Political Committee Member, OC Sierra Club
  • Ray Cordova, Chair, South County Labor
  • Felicity Figueroa, Membership Chair, OC Equality Coalition (OCEC)
  • Dan Jacobson, Chair, DFOC
  • Susan Kopicki, Chair, DFA, OC

I’ve known Jeff LeTourneau for a couple of years too, but not as well as Chris Prevatt who is preparing a similar feature on Jeff for this site.  To my knowledge, Jeff hasn’t published a list of those who publicly support him, but he does have the support of some in the OC Labor community and blogger Art Pedroza (and anyone who gets Pedroza’s endorsement should consider it the kiss of death).  Jeff is also the subject of a lengthy piece by Gustavo Arellano in OC Weekly.  But let’s be honest, Gustavo rarely has a positive thing to say about anyone in politics and the Weekly has become the only alt-weekly in the nation where the only thing liberal about it is the ads and Dan Savage’s column (pointing out the demise of the OC GOP or the idiotic ramblings of Dana Rohrabacher is simply stating the obvious).  And if Jeff does make an endorsement list available, I’ll retract this  but will compare his list against Henry’s.

Now there are two prominent rumors surrounding Vandermeir which have been debunked.  We’d heard Vandermeir was claiming support from people no longer supporting him.  And a simple fact check revealed this not to be the case.  Jesus Silva, the husband of new State Rep Sharon Quirk-Silva, has gone from a supporter to neutral and he’s the DPOC Northern Vice Chair, but that’s the only change we can confirm.  The other rumor was that the Vandermeir team was trying to move the election up to January 14 from the end of the month because “Henry’s losing support.”  The opposite is true.  The DPOC bylaws state an election has to happen on the second Monday of the month.  The subsequent rumor is Jeff LeTourneau’s people and OC labor unions are trying to push the election date back a couple of weeks.  But I’m not buying that one either.  The election is scheduled to be held when the rules say it’s supposed to be held.  So the back and forth is designed to weaken both candidates when a simple fact check spells it out.

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A. The biennial organizational meeting of the County Committee shall meet, upon call by the County Clerk, and in quarters which may be provided by the Clerk on the second (2nd) Monday in January following the Direct Primary Election in even numbered years.

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This would make it January 14, 2013.  If the election was pushed back to the end of the month, the State Party could nullify the election and Orange County would take the risk of losing its convention delegates.

There’s been a suggestion that while this is the rule, the party has never followed the rules regarding the elections before and rule changes can be voted on.

From my perspective, as the writer of this piece and hearing both sides, I think when the election actually takes place doesn’t obscure the fact there are two qualified and stark choices for Chair.  Regardless of who wins, we all need to come together as Democrats to advance the party and advance our candidates.

Back to the Q&A.

Q.  Tell us about your track record for raising money?

A. I’ve been President (another volunteer position) of a statewide organization for years now – the California Democratic Council (CDC). When I took over, CDC provided nothing tangible to the almost 450 clubs and county committees across the state and had very little in the way of financial resources. Since being elected president, I have personally raised the money required to provide free websites, club banners, booths, voter registration tables, and training across the state. As a result of my raising the funds and delivering the products and services club presidents requested, our organization has grown from 4,000 members when I took over to now more than 20,000 members. I will be stepping down from this position in order to focus on Orange County.

Q.  If you are elected, is there a role for Jeff LaTourneau. 

A.  Jeff is welcome to run for any position and I would not work against him in that endeavor. He and I have been friends in the past, and I trust that we will continue to get along and work to advance Democrats in Orange County.

Q.  What will you do to work with Labor?

I have always been a strong supporter of Labor. That’s why I have the support of many Labor organizations and many leaders in the Labor community, such as Ray Cordova (Chair of South County Labor), Joe Kerr (President Emeritus of OC Professional Firefighters Association), Doug Mangione (IBEW) and Bill Blume (Southwestern Carpenters’ Council). There will be even more Labor endorsements coming soon.

If elected, we will have an extremely close relationship with ALL factions of Labor, not just a select group.  They will be strongly encouraged to participate in our candidate recruitment process to help avoid some of the conflicts such as the one which occurred during this last election cycle where Labor was pitted against Labor because of a difference of opinion regarding the endorsed Democratic candidates.

I will also make sure that the Labor voice is included when resolutions affecting Labor interests come before the Central Committee.

Q.  There’s been discussion in the blogsphere asking why there isn’t a minority running for Chair and that the Party needs someone from the minority community.  

A.  I am a minority candidate.  I am Asian-American. My grandfather traveled from Shanghai in the late 1930s to Germany to work for Siemens, met and married my grandmother but was forced to flee Germany when the Nazis took over.

Q.  There’s a complaint that you somehow cheated and line up these endorsements early.  Care to address that?

A. I’m not sure how you ‘cheat’ when it comes to lining up endorsements.  If you mean that I started campaigning for support from county leaders and votes from central committee members as soon as I heard Frank was stepping down, then yes, I did what a candidate is supposed to do, right?   I believe that’s called ‘politics’!   I’ve worked on enough campaigns over the years to know how important it is to reach out to local leaders and voters.

I have been planning to run for Chair whenever Frank decided to step down.  Having been involved directly with the Party for over 15 years (as a club president, a vice chair, an AD delegate, a state party caucus chair (Computer & Internet), and president of a statewide organization (California Democratic Council)), the Chair’s position is a natural progression for me. 

As President of the CDC for the past five years, I have visited and worked with hundreds of clubs and just about every County Central Committee in the state.  I have seen what does (and does not) work within counties and now want to bring the best practices from across the state to my own county.

Along with all that traveling and working for the Party, I have made a lot of contacts who are ready and willing to help me out.

And last, but not least, I was part of the campaign training team for the California Democratic Party in 2010 that traveled across the entire state training candidates and activists.  

So yes, I have been gaining the experience, knowledge and contacts over the past several years to make sure I would have the tools and resources necessary to do the job properly. 

I would think that would be a positive – to have someone running the County Party who actually knows what it takes to organize/run a political organization, what candidates need to get elected, and how the internals of the state party work in order to get the resources you need.  It never occurred to me that the fact that I have actually taken the time necessary to ensure I’m well prepared for the position before jumping in would be considered a negative.

Seems to me that’s how people typically progress in their careers.  And let’s not forget that all of this has been, and is, volunteer work.

Q.  Are you a ‘paid’ consultant and would you use the Chair position to enhance your consulting business.

Nothing could be further from the truth. My day job as Executive Director for the Democratic Foundation is a part-time job which pays my bills but will allow me plenty of time to concentrate on the job as Chair of DPOC. I have purposely reduced my workload to ensure I will have the time to dedicate to this volunteer position and have already announced to the state Party that I am stepping down as President of the CDC in order to be able to concentrate on the Chair’s position.  I personally believe that whoever the next Chair of DPOC is will need to spend a lot of time on the job and I am willing and able to commit myself to this. 

As far as my wife Lori is concerned and her also being a “consultant”, she is employed as the California Communications Director for the National Organization for Women (NOW). She’s held that position for two years, is well paid and has no plans of leaving NOW. She did serve as Sharon Quirk-Silva’s Communication Director but that was because NOW endorsed Sharon and Lori took time off from NOW to help Sharon in the final three months of her campaign since it was an important race against an incumbent that NOW had serious issues with. She did a really good job and I’m very proud of her and the work she does.

 And there you have it.  Prevatt will give LaTourneau space to make his case.  We ask our readers to be thoughtful in your comments about both men.

  4 comments for “A Candidate’s Profile: Henry Vandermeir for DPOC Chair

  1. Michael Kinslow
    January 3, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    A few things I would have like to have seen in the article:

    1. The hard dollar amount that the candidate has raised. The author opines that the candidate would be better at raising funds that his opponent , and the candidate was given a chance to set out his “track record,” but they did not put down a hard number or even a soft number.

    2. More candor regarding the tension between the roles of Chair of The Democratic Party of Orange County and Executive Director of the Democratic Foundation of Orange County This is a real issue. Both raise money under the Democratic Banner and both endorse candidates.

    A reasonable mind must concede at least the appearance of a conflict in this case, and I hold that there is a real one. But the candidate denies any conflict. Arguing that the two organizations raise money from different pools (“the Foundation has its own fundraising mechanism”) leaves the impression that the candidate is not interested in expanding the committee’s pool too far into the foundation’s. Admitting as he musts the foundation is the “job that pays [his] bills.”

    There is something that needs to be balanced on this issue, and the candidate’s denial of the issue does not move his case forward.

    An aspect of the tension was revealed when the candidate stated that the chair of the Foundation would provide support to the committee if we elect his executive director to head our organization. Sure, it just politics. But we deserve something a little better in the upcoming two years. I hope that all Democrats who can, will support the good work of the Party’s official arm in our county. Regardless of who wins this race, that person will deserve our support

    I have addressed this issue with the candidate directly and had hoped for something better than the answer set out in this article.

    3. A trimming down of the list of supporters to those who actually have a vote in this leadership race. That’s what’s important in this race, the eligible voters. The list is misleading as it portends a particular vote lead with the names of individuals that cannot cast a vote.

  2. Claudio W. Gallegos
    January 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Sorry Dan, but I am with Chris Prevatt. I have known Jeff LeTourneau for years and he is a consistent progressive voice in Orange County. While Henry is a good guy, some of his supporters are of the school of thought that we can have progressive ideals without actually expressing progressive ideals. Jeff was a loud voice for GLBT rights back when it was not “en vogue” to be loud about GLBT rights in Orange “f_cking” County. He has been a loud, consistent and unwavering voice for immigrants rights when other fellow Dems have actually told me speaking out on such issues needs to be kept to a minimum. I want someone who is uncompromisingly progressive in their values and willing to be a voice for a voiceless. The one I can trust to be consistent in that regard is Jeff LeTourneau.

    • Dan Chmielewski
      January 4, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      I have nothing against Jeff. He’s a fine man. I think Henry is better suited to lead the party

  3. SantaAnaDem
    January 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Yes they are both good guys. I have not seen the piece Lib OC has promised about Jeff Letourneau, so I will reserve specific comments regarding Mr. Letourneau for that article.

    I am somewhat concerned about Mr. Vandermier’s dismissive comments about the “conflict of interest” issue, which I think has rightfully offended those who are justifiably concerned about it. First, the Foundation has been a traditional competitor for dollars with the OC Democratic Party. Second, the Foundation has an agenda of its own, which is not always in synch with the OC Democratic Party, and which could certainly create substantial issues with Mr. Vandermeir as Chair of the Party, and Executive Director of the Foundation. Greg Diamond does an excellent analysis of this conflict of interest issue in the Orange Juice Blog.

    Also of concern is Mr. Vandermeir’s tone toward individuals with viewpoints he disagrees with. In this interview he speaks in terms of of “insinuation” and “lack of understanding” when describing those expressing these concerns about the conflict issue.

    Also note his following comments: “If I’m elected as Party Chair, it would be a positive opportunity to bring the Foundation and the Party closer together and present a unified front.” This heightens the perception that he would use his volunteer position to leverage the goals of his raises actual concerns of conflict and who he would serve, and the use of his positions to leverage the elected party representatives toward the Foundation’s agenda. It is notable that the outgoing chair, Mr. Barbaro, bucked the party endorsement of David Benavides for Mayor, and gave his name and party title as Chair to endorse Miguel Pulido – with Financial assistance from Dan Jacobson and The Foundation. Where was Mr. Vandermeir during these actions?

    He also states “There are also many members of the Foundation who give to both the Party and the Foundation, and many more members of the Foundation who might be willing to give to the Party if they see that they are made welcome instead of being vilified. Foundation Chair Dan Jacobson, has already indicated they would help the Party financially should I be elected.” Is anyone else concerned about this sounding like economic blackmail by Mr. Vandermeir that the fundraising of the Foundation and its members will be open to the Party if he (and only if he) is elected? Also, I am unaware of Foundation members being vilified by the Party. Certainly, acts of some like Mr. Barbaro and Mr. Jacobsen in supporting a non-party endorsed candidate like Miguel Pulido against the party endorsed candidate is going to create natural friction. But “Villification”? This language portends a “get in line with the Foundation members” attitude by Mr. Vandermeir that I hope is not how he would actually act as chair. Still, the use of potential Foundation money as leverage against a fictional “opponents” in the party seems to create potential conflict while arguing he should be elected to lead the party.

    A key characteristic of political leadership is the ability to unite diverse interests and factions toward a common goal, without alienating or maligning those with divergent viewpoints. These comments by Mr. Vandermeir, who is a talented and dedicated Democratic Activist and Strategist (both paid and volunteer) and a true asset to the party, do raise questions as to whether he possesses this key characteristic of leadership needed so badly in the new Party Chair to unite the OC Democratic Party, and whether his is the best candidate for that position at this time.

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