Democratic Municipal Officials, A Constituency Association of the Democratic National Committee
by Nils Robbins, Communications Director, @NationalDMO
The Last Blue Wall
As federal and state governments have cut funding and resources for essential services, it is local officials who have had to get creative to be sure that constituents’ needs are met. There’s nowhere else to pass the buck, so municipal and county governments have learned new ways to do more with less, building trust with voters along the way. These leaders build records of accomplishments of real service to their communities — creating innovative programs and economic development opportunities, providing affordable housing, repairing infrastructure and constructing new facilities to meet local needs.
Municipal and county offices are Democrats’ last line of defense against a gathering red storm. Having seized control of federal and state governments, Republicans have now set their sights on local races in the hopes of achieving the “permanent Republican Majority” that was Bush strategist Karl Rove’s ultimate goal. They are organizing through well-financed groups like Community Leaders of America and the ALEC-funded American City County Exchange, and they are succeeding.
The Democratic Municipal Officials (DMO), a non-profit, non-federal 527 with 6,000 current members, has a vital role to play in keeping America’s cities and towns in Democratic hands, and in identifying and supporting the future leaders of the Democratic Party. The DMO is the organization best suited to work at the local level to elect, retain and support Democrats in the offices that make the greatest difference in constituents’ daily lives.
Connect, Engage, Empower
For more than 30 years, the DMO has been the national organization bringing together elected Democratic municipal leaders from across the country. Membership in the DMO has traditionally been open to any incumbent municipal official who self-identifies as a Democrat, including those who hold non-partisan office. As an official constituency organization with three voting seats—including an executive committee seat— on the Democratic National Committee, the DMO is the Democratic voice in local politics and the local voice in national Democratic politics.
The DMO currently hosts two large membership breakfasts held in conjunction with each of the National League of Cities annual conference. The DMO also holds receptions at Democratic National Committee meetings, the Democratic National Convention, and state municipal leagues to raise awareness of the DMO amongst Democratic leaders around the country. Headquartered in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, DMO regularly attends the Illinois Municipal League.
The DMO regularly engages with members through email, social media, and membership calls on a variety of topics of interest to municipal officials. Communications may focus on best practices, highlight innovative work by a municipality or municipal leader, or focus on issues of rising national importance. This outreach has been invaluable in both fostering local Democratic talent and identifying issues and trends before they receive attention in national political circles or in the press.
Labor Council and Curriculum
In 2016, the DMO hired a part-time labor and policy fellow to begin compiling a Labor Curriculum. Working in conjunction with our labor partners, the DMO Labor Council aims to give local elected officials a better grasp of the issues that are important to the labor community: whether it be a basic understanding of public sector unions or a more in-depth examination of Project Labor Agreements, prevailing wage laws or so-called “right to work” efforts. The DMO and our labor partners recognized that most municipal officials come into office with very little background in labor negotiations, and felt it was important to provide this context at the beginning of their electoral careers.
In the aftermath of unnecessary losses in municipal races nationwide, the DMO convened a diverse group of political professionals representing every aspect of a modern campaign to serve as a resource for DMO members. Members of the Political Council have committed to providing advice and services to the DMO and its members. In its first year, the DMO helped find staff for a competitive council race in the Midwest, advised council members on communications in the midst of a major crisis in their city, and provided fundraising training to members of the DMO board. The political council will continue to be a resource as the organization grows and evolves.
How County Chairs Can Engage
Democratic Municipal Officials is excited to start building partnerships with the IDCCA, and County Chairs across our home state of Illinois. Here are a few ways we can begin to coordinate to strengthen local Democratic interests.
- Connect us with your municipal leaders – DMO is constantly building our list of Democrats serving at the municipal level. Whether or not they hold a partisan office, send us the list of your mayors, council members, and other Democrats elected to city positions in your county.
- Alert DMO to critical elections – Is a Democrat running against a Republican in a key mayoral or council election? Make sure DMO knows about it so we can connect these candidates with our network of consultants and resources.
- Keep us Informed – Send DMO updates on state level preemption or other policy issues affecting local officials in your county.
- Shine a Light on your Rising Stars – Is there a council member or mayor who is on their way up? Let DMO know about them. We are always scouting officials for our State Chapter leadership, and the exposure and benefits that entails.
- Notify us about your Trainings – We want to get the word out about your trainings. Let us know when you are getting local Democrats together so we can help build attendance.
We look forward to hearing from you about these and other ways County Chairs can partner with the DMO. More than ever, Illinois is a blue haven in a red sea. Thank you for keeping the Democratic bench strong.
Barbara Moore, Executive Director
312.758.1818 / BarbaraMoore@thedmo.org
Nils Robbins, Communications Director
202.770.8053 / Nils.Robbins@nationaldmo.org
Oliver Judd, Director of State Chapters
603.759.9347 / Oliver.Judd@nationaldmo.org
Dan Besse, Policy and Labor Director