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Meet Mike Rawlins who is running for Collin County Democratic Party Chair.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I’ve had a lifelong interest in politics, with my undergraduate degree being in Political Science. I didn’t get actively involved in party politics until 2003. I did that in part because my involvement in environmental activism through the Sierra Club convinced me that progress can only be made by electing the right people to office. And, I felt my talents were more aligned toward helping others get elected than in serving myself.
I was born and grew up in northeast Oklahoma and moved to Texas in my 20s. Professionally I work as a Software Engineer and hold an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas. I earned my B.A. from the University of Oklahoma, Phi Beta Kappa. My wife and I have lived in Richardson and been residents of the county since 1996.
Why are you running for office?
I am running for re-election to finish the job I started when I took this office – build a strong county party that can elect Democrats, and that will survive and be able to continue doing that long after I’m gone.
What makes you the most qualified person for this position?
The question “most qualified” invites a comparison with others running for this office.
When I decided to run for County Chair in 2013 the party was in decline. Since my team and I took office in 2014 we have turned the party around. By every objective measure we have built the party to be stronger than it has been in 30 years. We have momentum and are headed in the right direction. I am the only candidate for this office with that kind of track record, doing what every candidate for this office pledges to do – have more Democrats on the ballot, win more votes for them, and build a stronger county party.
A political party is unlike any other organization, and there is no other job like County Chair. While there are some similarities and transferable skills, there are no equivalents for actual experience in the party. Not only am I the only candidate who has served as County Chair (3 ½ years), I am the only one who has been a Precinct Chair (10 years), chaired a party committee (Coordinated Campaign and Strategic Planning Committees), been a delegate to the Texas Democratic Party state convention (six times), presided over a County Convention, been a delegate to a County or Senate District Convention (eight times), chaired a County Convention Committee (Resolutions three times), presided over a Precinct Convention, attended a Precinct Convention (nine times), and have been and currently is a sustaining donor to both the CCDP and TDP.
One of my opponents never attended a County Executive Committee until announcing for office, and the other still hasn’t. In short, I am the only candidate who has any significant experience in the party or demonstrated any serious commitment to it, and had anything more than a brief, casual association with the Democratic Party at any level. From this broad and deep experience I have gained an intimate working knowledge of party operations and rules that is unmatched by anyone else seeking this office, and built relationships in the county and across the state that have been essential to success in this position.
I am the only candidate who has proven my skills at campaigning by actually winning an election – beating my predecessor, a five year incumbent, by a margin of two to one.
Finally, In addition to political experience, in my adult life I have more than 30 years of nearly continuous experience in leadership positions in a variety of professional, technical, and environmental organizations.
What issues are your top priorities? Name three.
The values and policy positions of the party are well articulated in the state and national platforms. The primary purpose of our county party is to get Democrats on the ballot and get votes for them. To those ends, my top three priorities for the next term are:
a) Expanding the base – Texas lags behind nearly every other state in voter turnout. Our main opportunity is to get those nonvoters, who are most likely Democrats, to the polls. We will do that through year round outreach and engagement, continuing the odd-year field work we started in 2017. Last year we knocked on more doors than we had in many Presidential Election years. We will also continue to expand our Community Outreach initiatives.
b) Fundraising – Until we get money out of politics by electing people who will make that a priority, we have to be competitive. We will expand our major donor program that got a big boost from our Ann Richards Dinner last year, and continue to expand our sustaining donor program and dedicated fundraising for special projects.
c) Hire staff – We are growing to the point where we need full time staff in order to get us to the next level. Most other county parties in our class have staff, including our counterparts in the other major party. I would like to see us hire full or part time Executive Director, Office Manager, and Development Director in charge of fundraising.
What changes would you implement and how?
There’s nothing specific I would change for the next term. We have constantly been changing and reinventing ourselves over the past three and a half years as we have grown and progressed. If there’s anything we can do better I get to work on it now and don’t wait for the next term.
What factors in your life have shaped your beliefs?
I was raised to believe in fairness, respect, basic human dignity, the value of education, and the obligation of service. My mother had a strong but quiet Christian faith, and my father was somewhat conservative politically. As I matured and was exposed to different ideas and got to know a broader range of people from diverse backgrounds, both my religious and political beliefs evolved, but those core values only strengthened. They formed the foundation of my political beliefs and involvement in the Democratic Party – supporting justice as well as liberty, equal opportunity, and a fair shake for everyone.
What do you believe should be the function of government?
Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst form of government that there is – except for all of the others. As a Democrat I don’t believe that government is inherently good or bad. It is what we make of it. If we don’t play our roles and exercise our responsibilities as citizens we have bad government that benefits only a few. When it functions well government gives us the ability do things together for the benefit of all that we either can’t do acting as individuals, or that we can’t do as effectively through private initiatives.
In addition to the basic functions of providing for common defense, a system of laws and courts, basic community services, and the services necessary to support a healthy economy, government should provide a level playing field to make sure that the rich and powerful don’t take advantage of everyone else.