Acceptance Speech of

TERRY McAULIFFE

The DNC's New Chair

 

I PROMISE YOU THIS AS WELL!

We will transform the anger about Florida into energy about politics.

We will prove there is victory after denial, democracy after Florida,

Daschle after Lott, Gephardt after Hastert, and justice after the Supreme Court.

We will give the American people a Congress they can be proud of,

and we will show George Bush the door in two thousand and four.

 

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THE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH:

 

Thank you, fellow Democrats. There is nothing subliminable about the way I feel today. I am all pumped up about this, and I hope you are too. Thank you!

 

Let me begin by thanking the two dedicated Chairmen who served our Party so brilliantly these last years - Joe Andrew and Ed Rendell. Please join me in applauding them for their fantastic service to our Party.

 

I also want to thank their Co-Chairs, Mayor Dennis Archer, and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, and the DNC Vice Chairs, Lottie Shackleford, Bill Lynch, Gloria Molina, Linda Chavez-Thompson, Joan Menard for their hard work.

 

My thanks to Treasurer Andy Tobias and Secretary Kathy Vick for helping to build and support the Democratic Party. And my fabulous friends in Finance - Joe Cari, Carol Pensky, and Joel Hiatt - I thank them for working so hard to give our candidates resources to wage winning campaigns.

 

There are three women sitting together who deserve special notice: a person, who knows more than anyone in this room what it means to support a Party Chairman, Alma Brown; a great Democratic soldier from Syracuse my mother, Millie McAuliffe; and Dorothy McAuliffe, my incredibly loyal and loving wife, I thank each of you.

 

Thank you, Maynard Jackson, for giving this open race for Party Chairman a vigorous and healthy debate. Thank you, and thanks to your great staff. Thank you to the men and women of the labor movement, for defending the interests of working Americans and giving strength to the Party that represents them. I thank Bill Clinton and Al Gore for giving us eight years of prosperity and peace. But most of all, to the Members of the DNC, Thank you for this incredible honor and this great opportunity.

 

This would not have been possible without the help of a large group of very talented and selfless organizers - they waged the greatest grassroots campaign ever for Chair of the DNC. Would the staff please rise and take a bow? You are terrific! And please join me in wishing my campaign chair, Amy Chapman, a Happy Birthday!

 

Six weeks ago, I got into this campaign for one simple reason. I love America. I love the Democratic Party. And I believe our country is a better place when Democrats win elections.

 

All my life, I've believed in the Democratic Party. My Dad was the leader of the Onondaga County Democratic Party, and he kindled that belief in my heart. Hand in hand, we began walking his precincts together when I was seven years old. He was my best friend, and he taught me everything I know today about politics, canvassing and getting out the vote. Judith Hope and the DNC honored my Dad today, and that meant everything to me.

 

I've served this party for more than 20 years. Since the Carter Campaign in '79 through the years of Reagan, when we fought hard to keep the House and retake the Senate; through the Clinton victory in '92, I have fought along side all of you.

 

Together, we fought Newt Gingrich's contract on America and then helped Bill Clinton become the first Democratic President re-elected since FDR.

 

Together, we celebrated, and I had the privilege of leading the effort in Los Angeles which was the most diverse and successful Party convention in our history; a convention that gave Al Gore the bounce he needed and George Bush the jolt he deserved.

 

And I'm here to tell you - Our Party will celebrate again.

 

I believe our critics are wrong. Our Party is united. Our Party is strong. In the last election, we beat Republican incumbents. We picked up seats in the House. We picked up seats in the Senate. We won State Houses. And we won the popular vote, rolling up 50 million votes nationally.

 

And you know this: if Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, Jim Baker and the Supreme Court hadn't tampered with the results, Al Gore would be President, George Bush would be back in Austin, and John Ashcroft would be home reading Southern Partisan magazine.

 

We won that election, because the country is with us, and not with them. Not for spending the whole surplus on tax cuts for the rich. Not for repealing Roe V. Wade. Not for vouchers. Not for trashing teachers. Not for gutting Medicare or cutting Social Security. Not for discrimination against lesbians and gays. Not for spilling oil in Alaska or putting derricks in Yellow Stone Park. They're not for John Ashcroft. And for gosh sake - they're not for refighting the civil war!

 

This country wants our Party, because this country shares our values. They want a party that stands for a strong economy, fights for working families, and pays down the debt. They want a party that stands for the rights of patients and against the wrongs of HMOs. They want a party that fights for civil rights, voting rights, equal rights and human rights. They want a party that invests in education and stands with public school teachers. They want a party that protects the rights of women to choose when to have a family at home - and abroad

 

That Party, my friends, is the Democratic Party. And with the Republicans holding the White House, the Congress and the courts, the American people are counting on us - to get out of our seats and to fight for them! That's why our cause is so urgent and our time is so precious.

 

We have to win elections. As your Party Chair, that's my mission - winning elections. And to win elections, we must create the best run, best managed, best organized and best funded political party in America. We are going to win elections- not just four years from now, not just two years from now, but beginning in two thousand and one.

 

This year, Legislatures redraw every state and Congressional district in America; we've got Governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia; and we elect Mayors in New York and LA and in countless critical cities and towns in between. One year later, every Member of the House, a third of the Senate, 36 State houses, and offices from town council to Mayor to State legislature are up for grabs in all 50 States and the territories. And these races will help set the tone for 2004. The next four years are critical for our people and our country. Everything's on the table, and nothing will be taken for granted. Your DNC will drive this Party's efforts - we must win elections.

 

There's a man in the audience I want you to meet - would you stand, Bobby? Bobby Romeo is the brand new Democratic County Chairman of Onondaga County. That's my hometown Democratic Party. It's a tough job in a high-performing Republican County. But you know what? Because of Bobby and his fired up Democrats, Hillary Clinton carried that county in the last election. Bobby is great, and he's just like thousands of Democrats fighting for our candidates at local levels - they sacrifice, they work hard, and they deserve our support.

 

For Bobby and Democrats like him across America, we must rededicate the DNC to its partnership with State and Local parties. And Bobby, let me tell you this: I will work my heart out for you and all the county Chairs.

 

The DNC must recognize and support the role these parties play in candidate recruitment, message development, building the base, registering voters, and getting our people to the polls. Organizing is the hand-to-hand combat of American politics, and the DNC will invest in grassroots organizing never before. The DNC will make available the results of national and local public opinion research and increase the capacity of State and Local parties to gather research on their issues.

 

When a State or Local Party chair calls Washington to get a national speaker for a local event, the days of having no one at home are over. Beginning next week, a real person will actually answer the phone and say: "National Speaker's Bureau, may I help you?"

 

The DNC will provide high impact Democrats for speaking appearances and Party meetings, and those speakers must reflect the broad diversity and talent of our Party. In fact I'm proud to announce that I've accepted the invitation from a group of East Bay Democratic Clubs in California to go to Alameda and help them build their parties from the grassroots up.

 

This Party will run dynamic campaigns, and we will run diverse candidates. Union members, women, Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, Gays and Lesbians - we want you as candidates and we want you to run our campaigns. We will see that you have the training, the talent, the resources, and the ideas you need to run and win your elections.

 

That is the approach that Ron Brown and Paul Tully used to make the Democrats successful in the 1990s - and we will do it again. Yes, you will see many changes at the local and state level, and you will see changes at the National Party as well.

 

Without a Democratic President and the White House podium, we must change how the DNC does business, and we will. We'll triple the size of the communications office; triple the size of research. Provide you with a message of the day. Provide state parties with letters to the editor, talking heads for television, and talking points for breaking news. The Republicans did that from the day Bill Clinton took office, and George Bush is about to taste the same medicine.

 

To win elections, Democrats need the best message, research and ideas -- delivered by traditional and new media, all at lightning speed. The best political party in America will be the best-run political party in America - you have my word. I also promise this. We Democrats will reclaim our Party's historic commitment to the voting rights of all Americans.

 

Thirty-five years after Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, Florida and the Republicans remind us that the right to vote is sacred, but by no means secure. It isn't just Katherine Harris. And it isn't just Florida. Look at what John Ashcroft did in Missouri to stop the voting in St. Louis.

 

Throughout America, voting machines and systems are in outrageous and decrepit condition, especially in poor neighborhoods. Profiling on the highway has now moved to the voting booth. African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities have been forced to prove that they are not felons, or are simply denied the vote on erroneous assumptions that they were.

 

My friends: not any more, not any longer, not in America. We are Democrats - and we will stand up for democracy in America. These injustices will never be forgotten and must never be repeated. Your DNC will hold hearing on voter suppression and voter intimidation in all regions of the United States. We will protect voter rights in redistricting. We will take aggressive steps to ensure that the Voting Rights Act and other statutes are complied with strictly in all elections beginning in 2001.

 

George Bush says he's for election reform. Reform this: I say, park the state police cars, take down the roadblocks, stop asking people of color for multiple forms of ID, print readable ballots, open the polling places, count all the votes, and start practicing Democracy in America again. President Bush, will you join me in calling for those reforms?

 

My friends, this is our time - time to organize, energize, and revitalize the Democratic Party. This is our task - to redeem the promise of our democracy, and restore the trust of the American people. It's nothing more complicated than fighting their battles. Nothing more important than upholding their values. We can do it, and as your Party Chair, I promise that we will.

 

My friends, you know me. You know I have worked for this Party and spent time raising money. But for the next four years, this Party Chairman is going to raise hope, raise expectations, raise issues and raise hell about what George Bush and the Republicans are doing!

 

I promise you this as well! We will transform the anger about Florida into energy about politics. We will prove there is victory after denial, democracy after Florida, Daschle after Lott, Gephardt after Hastert, and justice after the Supreme Court. We will give the American people a Congress they can be proud of, and we will show George Bush the door in two thousand and four.

 

The time for speeches is over. We have 300 days to put Democrats in the Virginia and New Jersey State Houses. Just 600 days to elect Democratic Majorities in the House and Senate. Nearly, 1500 days before we inaugurate the next Democratic President. I am going to give my heart and soul to this party for the next four years. And if you join me, our issues, our interests and our ideals will prevail.

 

We're going to get organized. We're going to have some fun. And we're going to win a lot of elections. Thank you for your support! Thank you for your confidence!

 

Now let's get back to work.

 

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