Some 400 Democratic Party faithful and their candidates turned out at 1101 Broadway for Monday night’s grand opening of the Bexar County United Democrats campaign HQ. The red-brick building was festively plastered with most of the campaign signs of its 41 candidate tenants. A band played San Anto R&B favorites in the solar-heated parking lot, precinct chairs and a courthouse worth of judges lined up for hotdogs, Bill White’s state campaign manager handed out stickers, and everyone generally made merry. State Senator Carlos Uresti sweated with the hoi polloi while he waited his turn to speak. We even heard that someone sighted Gina Castañeda, the controversial campaign manager whom the Party’s County Executive Committee banned from the all-but-abandoned official Party headquarters, where the QueQue imagines a lonely Dan Ramos mulling over a Southside map from his self-imposed chairmanship-in-exile.
Any day now, Ramos will be the recipient of the County’s lawsuit, which is seeking the recovery of roughly $300,000 in 2008 primary funds, the vast majority of which was allegedly stolen or misspent by former Treasurer Dwayne Adams under the tenure of Ramos’s predecessor, Carla Vela.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who is serving as one of five honorary co-chairs for the Bexar County United Democrats, also sits on the Commissioners Court, which voted to sue the Party. “I know it’s kind of a strange deal to be suing your own party,” he said. But he’s optimistic about the Democrats’ future in South Texas, thanks to the BCUD and its organizer, Christian Archer. “It’s the first time I’ve seen what I would call a truly organized effort since I’ve been in office.”
That doesn’t mean Adams’s and Vela’s misdeeds won’t hurt Democratic candidates this fall: Party activists worry that Republican DA Susan Reed will drop an indictment at an awkward time. To that end they’re working on strategies to mitigate any PR damage, including using a portion of BCUD funds raised to retire the Party’s primary debt.
“I did tell `Archer` that I’m in favor of some `BCUD` money being set aside to help pay for the screw-up of the Democratic Party,” Wolff said, including half of donations he personally makes.
“I think that the Bexar County Democrats are really the victims of two people,” Archer said. “So to say that, we’ve also got to put money where our mouth is. We’re not deadbeats.”
The BCUD has already collected more than $100,000 of its half-million goal, funds that will mostly be used to get out the Democratic base vote in November so that candidates can focus on new and swing voters. According to Archer, none of the 200-plus donors to date are trial attorney Mikal Watts, who in the past has been the single largest benefactor of the Vote Texas PAC that writes BCUD’s checks. But if Watts’s rousing stump speech at Monday’s rally is any indication, that won’t be the case come finance-report time.
The fever spread to the volunteers inside, who included San Antonio City Council District 1 candidate Chris Forbrich (opponent Carolyn Kelley was in attendance before she left for a neighborhood meeting), and former Councilwoman Elena Guajardo. “People were hungry,” she said. “You got a plan? Come on. The plan is a good one; it’s about grassroots outreach.”