(Note: I have sent out a brief Q&A to all of the announced HCDP Chair candidates for whom I could find contact information. I will run the responses I get in the order I receive them. While only precinct chairs will vote on the new Chair, I believe everyone should have some basic information about the candidates.)
1. Who are you, and what is your background/experience in Democratic politics?
I am Robert Collier. I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and I am one of three siblings of Donnell and Dorothy Ann Collier. I am a product of a long list of staunch Democrats, civil rights activist, and community organizations such as Upward Bound. As a child, I witnessed KKK rallies in Jackson and the oppression of those without the means to fight back. I wanted to fight back, and the Democratic Party became my hammer. Like so many others, I became active in the Democratic Party in college, where I eventually became President. As President, I organized and mobilized students around issues such as police brutality, elections, and protests. I even managed to convince Jane Goodall to come to campus to promote her Roots and Shoots program to highlight the significance of environmental issues. I also wanted to become an attorney to hone my skills as an advocate. After college, I enrolled in law school.
In 2005, while in law school, I founded the Thurgood Marshall Democratic Club. I clerked for U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson and the U.S. Homeland Security Committee. I had an opportunity to work there full-time, but declined because I realized D.C. politics was very different than local politics. After law school, I became a member of Meyerland Dems and eventually a Precinct Chair. I also served on the standing committee as Finance and Fundraising Chair for over 2 1⁄2 years. Moreover, in the last five years, I have hosted fundraisers and contributed to support candidates and advance the Democratic agenda. Most recently, I supported my wife, Rabeea Collier, in her campaign to become a judge in Harris County.
2. Why are you running to be HCDP Chair?
We are the last line of defense for so many working families. If we fail, it will have a direct impact on families. Further, I don’t want to see the Party used to narrowly further the agenda of an individual or group of individuals. I want to see the Party flourish and advance all of our mutual interests; and to serve as a reminder of why we do what we do. Moreover, we have to transform into more than a political party, we have to become a community-service oriented organization. We have to show the community that we not only care about their vote, but we care about them. That’s why I’m running and I need your support.
3. What is your assessment of the HCDP today, and what does it need to do going forward?
Operationally, the Party is almost in the same position it has been in for years. We are under-utilizing our supporters’ talents. I believe the membership of most clubs and associations are burnt-out; and the current problems with the Party are accelerating that frustration and fatigue. We have to use technology to assist with a coordinated effort and communication. The Party is understaffed and under-capitalized, and we have to develop a long-term business plan of our goals and how we plan to grow as an organization.
Fragmented Effort. Due to the lack of strategic leadership and communication of our vision, our supporters are involved in so many different groups and grassroots issues. We have to provide a clear focus and road map of how we become successful. Our members are constantly being pulled in several directions, therefore it is imperative we communicate to them in advance when and how the Party will rely on their support. Further, due to limited resources, time, and volunteers, we have to become focused. I believe we can solve that by providing tactical and strategic leadership to our members.
Campaign Strategy. In my opinion, we have relied on two main strategies that I will refer to as the “top-of-the-ticket” and “straight-ticket” strategies, and for good reason. I believe the mid-term elections are a really good gauge of the effectiveness of our campaign strategy. The victory margins for Republicans have been roughly between 2%-10%, with the last election being roughly 2%. We have focused on multi-cultural issues, and that has helped us build strong coalitions, but it has also divided the Party. How do we advance the interest of one demographic of the Party without alienating another? We reclaim our identity as the Party for working families and labor. If I am elected, we will focus our campaigning, branding and messaging around working families and the economic realities that we all face. We have to tackle pocketbook and kitchen table issues.
My grassroots target audience will be the 18-40 age demographic, blue-collar workers, and women. My geographic focus will be Kingwood, Spring and Katy areas. If we can penetrate the suburban areas of Harris County with strong messaging regarding the Republicans’ attack on public education and working families, we can win.
Lastly, building on the momentum of the presidential campaigns, I want to heavily focus on the 18-35 generation. We’ve been talking about increasing the involvement of young people for some time, but our membership of this demographic hasn’t changed in a meaningful way. If there was ever a time to have a significant outreach effort to this demographic, it would be right now.
Throughout 2017, we will be planning, recruiting and training candidates and precinct chairs; fundraising; and expanding our community engagement. In 2018, we will begin to focus on our core base and implementing our GOTV strategy. We don’t have a lot of time, and there is a lot of work to do. I have the experience and skill set to hit the ground running.
Fundraising. As a former Finance and Fundraising HCDP Chair, I have coordinated and assisted in organizing small dollar events for the Party across Harris County. That experience has taught me that the strategy cannot be the cornerstone of growing the Party. Additionally, we are severely exhausting the resources of our members when we only target our candidates, elected officials and members to support our fundraising events and campaigns. We have to align our fundraising events with our community engagement; and target an expanded community for fundraising.
I recently served as the national Finance and Fundraising Chair for the National Bar Association, the association of black attorneys that advocates for civil rights. I coordinated and assisted the organization in raising roughly $2.5 million dollars. I highlight this experience because it involved developing a strategy, building a consensus among strong personalities, and effectively executing that strategy. For my efforts, I was awarded the NBA’s highest award, the President’s Award. If elected, I will explore similar fundamental strategies that will lead to our success.
4. How do you use social media? How should the HCDP be using social media?
My plan is to utilize our members and young supporters who are technologically inclined and to start a committee whose sole focus will be to expand our social media and online campaign efforts.
5. What kind of involvement should the HCDP have in non-partisan races (city council, school board, etc)?
Our Party is based on our values and ideas. They bind us together. We exists not just to get candidates elected, but to get Democratic candidates elected who will help us advance our values. There are a lot of non-partisan races that directly touch issues we care about such as public education and affordable property taxes. Furthermore, if I’m elected, we will get more involved in policy issues in a systematic and strategic way.
6. What is your plan to improve Democratic turnout in 2018?
We have 8-10 months in 2017 to develop a strategy, recruit candidates and precinct chairs, and educate supporters why mid-term elections matter. The branding and messaging that we implement in 2017 will be the branding and messaging for the 2018 elections. We will focus on an issue-oriented campaign and Trump’s policies that attack our core base. I want to focus on the issues that matter to the 18-40 age demographic, blue-collar workers, and women. In addition to the “top-of-the-ticket” strategy, I want us to dig deeper and develop a segmented campaign, both geographically and demographically, that will address the issues that matter most to our core base and Democratic leaning supporters. Further, I will work to develop and implement a coordination strategy among our progressive groups that will help us all to utilize our resources effectively. You can learn more at www.robcollier.com.
7. Why should precinct chairs support you to be the next HCDP Chair and not one of your opponents?
I am product of HCDP. In addition to serving in leadership positions within HCDP, I serve and have served in leadership positions in Houston and nationally. I’m ready to hit the ground running.
Based upon my experience in the HCDP office and working with the coordinated campaign political director, I have an appreciation for the Party dynamics and the Chair’s responsibilities including not only managing a campaign and outreach, but also managing state and federal regulatory compliance, balancing a budget, managing cash flow, fundraising, coordinating primary elections and etc. I think a lot of the candidates have passion, but I think my experience and clear vision sets me apart.
Further, there are candidates that have a skill set, but they have an agenda that I think will ultimately be corrosive to the Party. We are a Party that volunteers and makes change happen from the bottom up, and the election of our Chair should be no different. I think the Chair should be an idealist, skilled, and experienced Party volunteer.
I believe Precinct Chairs should support me because I have the passion, leadership and experience, both professionally and within the Democratic Party, to lead the Party. I have served HCDP as a Precinct Chair, a Fundraising Chair, Recount Committee Chair, pro-bono attorney, donor, senate district delegate and convention organizer, among other capacities. I recently supported my wife in running for judge from beginning to end, so I know how the Party can better serve our candidates. In all my years of being involved with the Party, I have never asked a candidate nor the Party to pay for my professional services or time provided to the Party. Moreover, I have raised thousands of dollars for candidates and I have never asked a single candidate for something in return, other than to serve well. I don’t have an agenda, other than to serve the Party faithfully. If you are looking for such a candidate, I ask for your support. Let’s move forward, not backwards.