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John Courage

Courage looks to lead Dems

A Republican majority controls not only Washington, D.C. but the state government: from the governor's office to the legislature to the dog catcher. Well maybe not the dog catcher, but Democrats have felt like they're in the doghouse since the GOP bit them on the butt during the last two elections.

With nine Democratic presidential candidates vying to be the chosen one to dethrone President Bush, the Dems see 2004 as a crucial time for the party. If you can't beat a president whose administration has run up the biggest budget deficit in 70 years, embroiled the country in an intractable war, undermined veterans' and health benefits, and attempted to unravel reproductive rights, whom can you beat?

The Democrats need leadership - from the precinct level to the national committee - and on November 17, John Courage, the Democratic nominee for the 21st Congressional District in 2002, filed his candidacy for chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party. Current chair Gabe Quintanilla is stepping down.

No one else has officially filed to run against Courage, although Charlie Jones - who opposed Quintanilla when the post was last up for grabs - and Rachel Barrios-Vos are reportedly considering a bid. The filing deadline is January 2.

"I don't feel the Bexar County Democratic party has been unified for years," Courage said during his lunch hour at Pickett Academy, an alternative school where he teaches eighth-grade U.S. history. "We've seen the growth of Democratic clubs: the Northeast and Northwest and San Antonio Democratic League. My goal is to bring those groups back to the core of the party."

New and disenfranchised voters are another source of power for the Democrats, but to reach them, the party needs a cohesive message, which currently it does not have.

"I think the biggest part as a party is we're not providing a message that helps people understand what the Democrats can do and how to be a part of that," Courage said. "I haven't got a message now that I'm prepared to deliver, but I want to work with the leaders of clubs, precinct chairs and the county executive committee to put one together."

Courage said that if elected - Democratic voters can choose the chairperson during the primary - he would assemble an advisory committee and start a leadership program to train up-and-coming party leaders.

His wife, Zada True-Courage, helps coordinate the Howard Dean campaign for Bexar County, and Dean supported Courage during his Congressional run. Yet, Courage said he wants to represent the entire party and "any and all candidates."

"The important thing is we have a Democratic candidate that we can all get behind," he said, adding that Dems throughout the entire political spectrum need to coalesce behind core issues: health care, civil rights, veterans' benefits, and Social Security. "There are extraneous issues that divide us. We need to set those aside and remove the Republican regime in Washington and Austin. They can be a rallying point for everyone who considers themselves a Democrat." •

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