Thirteen candidates spoke to a crowd in Raleigh of nearly 500 State Executive Committee from across all 100 counties. The diverse pool of four women (3 white, 1 black) and nine men (six white, three black) presented 2-minute speeches to the enthusiastic crowd.
The first round of voting narrowed the field from 13 to the 5 top vote-getters. The second round votes winnowed the list down to two finalists. Verdejo won easily after third-round vote results in Fourth District Chair T.E. Austin of Durham trailed with 199 votes to Verdejo's 296 votes.
Verdejo's victory is bittersweet. A relative newcomer by his own admission to both state and Democratic Party politics, Verdejo's party involvement only just began in 2008. Over those three short years, Verdejo appears to have collected officer titles like a trick-or-treater collects candy:
- 2008: Democratic National Convention - NC Delegate
- 2009: State Executive Committee member (2009-Present)
- 2009: NC Young Democrats - Finance Chair
- 2009: Young Democrats of America - Judicial Council Vice Chair and Budget Committee member and Finance Director-Southeast Region (2009-2011)
- 2010: Hispanic American Democrats of North Carolina - 2nd Vice Chair
- 2010: Wake County Young Democrats - Vice President (1 yr)
- 2011: Wake County Democratic Party - 3rd Vice Chair (elected in April)
- 2011: Wake County Young Democrats - President (elected in April)
Still, Verdejo's brief service to the party certainly didn't stop him from leapfrogging over more deserving candidates with decades of service working to electing Democrats. So how did Verdejo win? Three factors.
Home Turf Advantage
Holding the meeting in Wake County certainly guaranteed greater number of Wake SEC members would be on hand to vote for a Wake County DNC candidate. Those DNC candidates from counties on the opposite side of the state were greatly disadvantaged. The further away the meeting's location, the fewer SEC members will attend it. Added expenses such as hotel accommodations, gasoline and meals also affect attendance for those who live the furthest away.
Big County Advantage
There's no denying four of the five finalists to make it to the second round of voting come from the two largest counties (Wake, Mecklenburg). Candidates from small counties rarely stand a chance of winning party elections since the larger the county's population, the larger the number of representatives such as SEC members. And SEC members equal SEC votes.
For example, Wake County has 75 SEC members or 75 votes; Mecklenburg has 65 SEC members/votes whereas small counties have little say or sway: Avery (1 SEC vote), Ashe (2 SEC votes), Person (3 SEC votes), Brunswick and Iredell (8 SEC votes each), Pitt (15 SEC votes). Candidates from smaller counties are highly disadvantaged and simply can't compete effectively against candidates from big counties.
How many positions or offices can one person hold simultaneously and still be effective? Verdejo's short tenure as an active democrat is jam-packed with multiple duties across multiple positions, many held simultaneously. Consolidating power, influence and decision-making roles within a small coterie of ambitious individuals eager to grab and retain power for the long haul only undermines the party's strength and abilities. The negative effects become glaringly apparent like congenital defects within inbred families.
Some may say this is the nature of politics but is this an adequate and acceptable answer? Our party's internal election process is flawed. As Democrats, we can do better. If we don't fix the process, we'll continue to see the same faces in the same positions year after year - a recipe for stagnation.
A list of all DNC candidates and their bios can be found here on the state party's website. The DNC candidates below are listed in order of their appearance onstage at today's SEC meeting and are identified by county, race*, gender** and voting round elimination:
- John Brooks, Wake (W, M, 1st round)
- Judy Gilbert, Lincoln (W, F, 1st round)
- Beth Ostgaard, McDowell (W, F, 1st round)
- Randy Voller, Chatham (W, M, 1st round)
- Brenda Pollard, Durham (W, F, 1st round)
- Jake Quinn, Buncombe (W, M, 1st round)
- Joel Ford, Mecklenburg (B, M, 2nd round)
- Mike Schaul, Wake (W, M, 1st round)
- Paul Lowe Jr., Forsythe (B, M, 2nd round)
- John Verdejo, Wake (B, M, 3rd round winner)
- Perry Parks, Richmond (W, M, 1st round)
- Carla Cunningham, Mecklenburg (B, F, 2nd round)
- T.E. Austin, Durham (W, M, 3rd round)
* Race: White (W), Black (B)
**Gender: Female (F), Male (M)