Young Democrats of America Great Lakes Region Biennial Conference

By: Corey J Trusso

On Saturday, June 8, 2013 the Great Lakes Region consisting of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio met for the first time in person in nearly a decade. Great Lakes Region Director, Nick DeCenzo, hosted the conference with over twenty members in attendance in Ohio City of Cleveland, Ohio. The program was a combination of conversations with local public figures, state debriefings, and voting.

The Conference started with a welcome from Ohio City Executive Director, Thomas McNair. McNair spoke about the history of Ohio City and the redevelopment over the past five years including the Cleveland Hostel where our event was held. The Cleveland Hostel’s story parallels Ohio City’s, as they were rugged, underdeveloped, but rich in history. Mark Raymond, owner of the Cleveland Hostel saw an old furniture warehouse and turned it into a trendy, modern, sixty-bed hostel for young travelers like himself. Ohio City is under renovation by young entrepreneurs and democrats similar to Raymond who want Ohio City to turn back into a vibrant community. McNair stated, “Ohio City is what we would like to see the City of Cleveland turn into great public transit, cultural diversity, economic development, and building upon our history like the West Side Market.” With continued support of YDs the transformation of Cleveland will continue.

Nick Martin, Cuyahoga County Party Executive Director, continued the meeting with a seminar about what Ohio and more importantly the I-80 corridor means for presidential elections. The northern section of Ohio gave President Obama nearly half of the votes needed to win Ohio and the 2012 election. Cuyahoga County alone gave President Obama a margin of 256,000 votes as he carried the state by 166,000 votes. Martin’s presentation put Ohio’s voting power into perspective, encouraging Young Dems of America to continue expanding the Democratic Party. He proceeded to discuss the roles of Young Dems and how YDs are not just the future of the party, but are currently helping shape the party’s agenda.

After the morning welcome by McNair and Martin, Director DeCenzo continued the event by going over the day’s agenda and kicking off each state’s address to the region. Each states’ progress over the past two years and outlook were somewhat similar. The consistency was that chapters were growing their membership, finding young active members to run for office, organizing groups to support progressive movements, and fundraising. The two speeches that stood out were Indiana’s Daqavise Winston and Susan Fruth’s of Illinois. Winston reported that in 2012 the Indiana Young Dems were able to recruit YDs to run in a majority of state legislator races and they would like to have a YD in every race for 2014. Fruth of Illinois was happy to report they have continued to have a strong following, but would like to expand their membership throughout the state. Ohio and Michigan were alike in redeveloping their state chapters and growing alongside YDA.

Following state presentations a local public leader Kent Smith led a discussion on how to get members more active. His 11 activities for strengthening chapters were created by over twenty years of experience politics, working on campaigns in five states, serving in public office, and developing a strong democratic club in Euclid, Ohio. An hour-long workshop with input and discussion from YDA members was very informative and educational. One activity that was discussed related to, “D on D violence,” or organizations fighting internally. Smith’s advice of negotiating peace for the greater good of the group was on of the most enlightening and enjoyable sections. The dialogs provided a great segue into discussions of the future of YDA.

The first half of the conference concluded with a round of campaign speeches by YDA candidates for national office. Those who spoke were Atima Omara-Alwala, YDA Progress candidate for President, Erin Carlstrom, YDA Progress candidate for Executive Vice President, Cassi Peters, One YDA candidate for Vice President, and Chris Algera, One YDA candidate for Secretary.  Great Lakes Region was happy to have all of the candidates for national office speak to us about their vision and travel from across the nation to do so. Their visions for the future of YDA were all consistent in wanting to grow the organization and voice the concerns of young adults throughout the country and world.

The finial presentation of the conference was a panel discussion with State Representatives Nickie Antonio and Dan Ramos of Ohio with Nick DeCenzo moderating. The hour long seminar addressed the topics of running for office as a YD, being a freshman legislator, and not just being the future of the Democratic Party but being an active member now. The talk gave great light on where to start a campaign plan, raising money, who to speak with, and keeping faith. Educational events like this and throughout the Great Lakes Conference are helping mold young leaders for the Democratic Party.

The day was capped off by voting for new leadership of the Great Lakes Region of YDA. The newly elected officials are:

  • Regional Director Susan Fruth
  • Deputy Regional Director Corey J Trusso
  • Secretary/Treasure Erik J Clarke
  • Judicial Council Representative Daqavise Winston
  • Judicial Council Alternate Liz Walters

They will begin their new roles at the conclusion of the National Convention. YDA National Convention will take place August 8-11 and the Early Bird Registration Fee end on June 28th. For more information please go to yda.org.

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FCYD at the Young Democrats of American Spring Convention!

This is a guest blog from FCYD members Karen Castro and Corey Trusso. Image

On Friday May 31, 2013 we represented FCYD at the Young Democrats of America (YDA) 2013 Spring Meeting in Charleston, West Virginia. We attended to learn more about the organization, the resources YDA offer other young democrats, and how it can specifically help both FCYD and Ohio Young Democrats. The three-day convention was broken up into multiple break out sessions that covered political educational sessions, seminars by elected officials and organizations, and networking opportunities.

Political education sessions were important because young democrats are advancing the movement within the Democratic Party. Being trained and educated together is an advantage as we become more effective together whether it’s on a presidential, congressional, state, local or issued based campaign. Political educational sessions give YDs the opportunity to accomplish their goals and effectively work together as an organization.

One of the political education sessions we attended was the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) program with West Virginia State Delegate Mike Caputo, We had the opportunity to learn from Del. Caputo about the movement the UMWA is currently fighting on behalf of coalminers. In 2007, Patriot Coal was created by Peabody Energy to cut its liability cost by $1 Billion. Peabody Energy was able to reduce its liability costs by allowing Patriot Coal to go bankrupt and no longer needing to fulfill their contractual obligation of providing health care to Peabody Energy’s retirees. This issue based campaign is similar to other issued based campaigns happening in our states fighting for the rights of the 99 percent in regards to equal pay, fair working conditions, and healthcare.

We also attended a political education session called DEMopolis training. We learned several things at this training that will help FCYD and its communications committee. DEMopolis was led by the YDA Deputy Communications Director, Elaine Almquist. She walked us through on how to use DEMopolis, a resource available to state and local chapters. The online database is capable of fundraising, promoting advocacy campaigns, communications outreach and offers supporter management tools.  We know how to use the use DEMopolis and that it or similar services will help FCYD leadership better manage our chapter as we continue to grow.

The last and final educational session we attended was called “Finding your next job in politics” it was sponsored by Democratic GAIN.  Ashley Spillane, the organization’s executive director, trained members of YDA on how to present their resume for political jobs and how ones campaign experience is transferable to careers outside of politics. We’re going to speak more about what we learned at this session at the next FCYD meeting. Democratic GAIN and other resources to offer insight and assistance to its members looking to have a career in politics.

We were also able to network with elected officials and organization leaders. Leaders in the community shared their experiences in the field, and discussed the day-to-day challenges and obstacles they face in their current positions.for example, the Women’s Caucus invited Carye Blaney, first vice president of the National Democratic Women’s Association, to speak in an open forum about the issues that are important to YDA members. This seminar gave us and other YDs the chance to speak up about their ideas, concerns, and ways our organizations can work together. Carye was not only open to discussion on the issues, but invited all of the members to get involved within her organization and grow alongside YDA. Not only was it beneficial to have such a great speaker, but also the forum gave YDA members a chance to learn from one another through discussion and see where our chapters could work together to reach our common goals. At the conclusion of the discussion, members of the Women’s Caucus who were running for YDA offices were given the opportunity to present a to two-minute speech.

The GLBT Caucus invited first-term West Virginia State Delegate, Stephen Skinner, the first openly gay member of West Virginia’s state legislature. Del. Skinner spoke about his role and responsibilities as one of “firsts” in public office. He described the good and bad of being an openly gay member of the legislature, and what his experience has been like as a first-term delegate. Del. Skinner did a great job of explaining the struggles of being the first minority to fill a particular role by giving examples of civil rights leaders who had to rise above the hatred and be better than the average elected officials. He is setting the mold of what a gay representative is even though he is truly there solely to represent his constituents. As a freshman legislator, he found the best way to gain credibility is by fundraising. Del. Skinner found that raising funds for the West Virginia Democratic Party has given him a voice in future policy agenda items as he moves forward as a state delegate. When discussing anti-discriminatory legislation, which failed to pass multiple times in the state legislature, we were able to better understand the importance of not losing sight of ones passions and beliefs. His speech shed light on keeping ones goals and the significance of slowly moving an agenda while being considerate of the state, its constituents, and the surrounding culture.

The West Virginia Secretary of State, Abigail Blank, started the YDA General Assembly on Sunday. She spoke about running for office as a woman, the struggles of gaining credibility as a newly elected female public official, and ensuring all citizens have the ability to vote.

The political educational sessions, seminars led by community leaders, and networking opportunities were a unique experience for us. We were able to expand our knowledge on how to become better activist. Participating in this convention, gave us the tools to become the next generation of public leaders and we’re excited to teach others about these tools!