On October 30, 2003, I e-mailed all 59 County LP Chairs and Executive Committee members listed on our lptexas.org website. I explained the upcoming 45,540 signature petition drive we faced and asked for volunteer coordinators and signature commitments.
Much to my surprise, AOL froze my e-mail account!
I had to phone tech support to have it re-instated. They had frozen it because nearly half of the e-mail addresses had bounced. Not to be defeated, I picked up the phone and started calling our county chairs. Depressingly, many of their phone numbers were either disconnected, gave fax tones, or rang continuously without any answering system.
I began to fully realize the mess our state party organization had become. For the first time in 16 years we faced a petition drive for ballot access, and our state and county organizations were in shambles. The state database volunteer had resigned and our website was a wreck with outdated contact information. A few months later the state treasurer ceased activities. The state secretary hadn’t published minutes for months. All of the officers had been at each others' throats but were done bickering and basically went AWOL. While many of those individuals were excellent county activists and some continue to contribute significantly today, for whatever the reason, the group dynamics at the time proved dysfunctional.
Fortunately, a ballot access committee formed with Pat Dixon at the helm and took charge of the petition drive. None of the state party officers were on that committee. Without being able to do justice to the heroic efforts of the people who made this happen, I'll just say that in May 2004 the LP of Texas turned in over 80,000 signatures and qualified for the ballot.
At the 2004 state convention, most ballot access committee leaders took positions on the state committee. I was hired for the newly created position of Executive Director.
Shortly after taking my position as Executive Director, I proceeded to work with our new Secretary, Laura Coker-Garcia, to update our website contacts. On July 1, 2004, I phoned the 800 number listed on our website and left a voicemail to see what would happen. The message on the 800 number mentioned our former (2002) candidate for governor as well as another person’s phone number which I tried, but it was disconnected.
With additional investigation I was able to find who had access to the voicemail box for the 800 number. Upon checking it, I found it had 6 months' worth of unchecked messages and there had probably been more that were automatically deleted. A sampling of transcripts of some of those voicemails:
“This is Michael M@@@ 210-533-####; want to know if y'all have 28th congressional district candidate; I would run as libertarian. . . .”
“Ross, interested in helping LP with campaigning in El Paso”
“Ken F@@@, Dallas TX 214-275-####. I called R H and his phone is disconnected. Chris J's message center doesn't give anything to leave a message on. I'm in Arlington and want to get a hold of where the Gary Nolan campaign meeting will be. Maybe I'll get on the computer one day.”
“Albert Wood with Valley Morning Star, we're doing series of stories . . .”
“Hi, my name is Melvin W@@@, I'm trying to find a petition to sign.”
“Hi, this is Wes Benedict, I was calling about the...the-uh...this phone number...the uh 800-422-1776 [gee I sound weird on tape]. I'm curious who gets these messages. If you'd give me a call at 512-442-4910. Thanks a lot and I hope this voicemail works. Thanks, bye.”
In August and September, I was bombarded by requests for contact information for our November 2004 candidates. Unfortunately, much of the contact information I had was outdated. The press was begging for phone numbers and photos of our candidates, but I only had that information for some of them.
While some of you may find this information depressing, I found it truly inspiring. Libertarians constantly whine about the lack of press coverage, but what I found was that the press was begging to cover us if we would only help them a little. Volunteers contact us begging to help if we will only give them something worthwhile to do. We make it extremely difficult for voters to find out about our candidates, yet many voters continue to vote Libertarian.
Recently, some Libertarian activists have argued extensively over the failure of the Libertarian Party to achieve greater success and have blamed things such as our platform, the membership pledge, and plenty more.
I’m not sure how much our platform has to do with our success or failure, but I’ll bet my boots that unanswered phones and outdated websites are problems we can all agree on.
Have you heard of Dallas (Dallas County) or Fort Worth (Tarrant County) Texas? Pretty big cities, right? Now check out their Libertarian websites:
(Note: these websites might have changed since this was posted.)
Nobody from Dallas or Fort Worth gets to tell me why the LP is not doing better without explaining this first.
Despite our continued localized weaknesses, the LP of Texas has a record number of candidates this year, is on track for record fundraising, and our party and candidates are getting record amounts of media coverage.
Step One of the Texas Two Step turnaround was electing new officers, getting our state party communications and database management functioning, and recruiting an army of candidates. There was no magic bullet. Just hard work, common sense, and attention to detail.
Step Two is still in progress for the Texas LP. I’ll let you know how Step Two turns out in November.
Step One is just getting under way for the National Libertarian Party. I urge you to contact your state chairs and LNC Representatives and tell them to focus on Step One. Clean up their unfinnished business before starting new projects they can't handle. No more gimmicks. No more excuses. No more silver bullets. No more pretending to dance when they're barely able to stand up without hurting themselves.
Lots of obvious easy fixes have me bullish on the National LP and I'm excited about getting to work. Stay tuned for details . . .
(disclosure: my boots are hiking boots and I'm not a dancer)