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DPVA Executive Director Lauren Harmon Heads Back to Ohio After <11 Months on Job

by: lowkell

Fri Jan 03, 2014 at 12:55:36 PM EST

Well, that didn't last long. After being hired as Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia just 11 months ago (in February 2013), Lauren Harmon has now headed back to Ohio. What happened? It's a bit hard to get the details, because many/most people don't want to talk about it, and it also seems a bit odd, after Democrats swept all three statewide offices (in contrast, RPV Chair Pat Mullins stays on, despite presiding over a complete debacle for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General). However, here are a few tidbits that I've been told.

*According to Democratic insiders, Harmon was "treated really badly here," she was "marginalized," "not allowed to do anything," and made promises that "were never kept." For instance, she "couldn't even fix a fax machine without permission," had "no control over her own budget or anything." Harmon reportedly "felt totally abandoned."

*I'm also told by multiple sources that Harmon was undermined by DPVA Chair Charniele Herring's Chief of Staff, Zachary Rickard, who supposedly also helped recruit Harmon in the first place from Ohio, where they both had served in the state Democratic Party. Whether any of this was with Charniele Herring's knowledge and/or approval is unclear, but I'm told that Herring isn't particularly "hands-on" or engaged/interested in the job, per se (I'm told by multiple sources that she's mostly interested in setting herself up to run for Lt. Governor in 2017).

*More broadly, I've been hearing for a long time, from numerous sources, that DPVA was treated essentially as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the McAuliffe for Governor campaign during 2013, and that its Executive Director, Lauren Harmon, had little/no autonomy, little/no ability to develop relationships or a knowledge set. Given no sign of that changing in 2014, Harmon left - wisely, as far as I can determine. (Note: it would be interesting to know if Harmon was accurately informed as to what her role would be as DPVA Executive Director prior to being hired, or if - as one Dem told me - she was hired under "false pretenses")

Anyway, I'm sorry to see Harmon leave, as I believe she's the type of (talented, enthusiastic, aggressive) leader DPVA needs. I'm also sorry to see that DPVA continues to be treated with little if any respect, not allowed to develop into a strong organization whose #1 goal is to build up Virginia Democrats year in/year out, regardless of the comings and goings of transitory campaigns, candidates, etc. In my view, that's a big mistake, just as it's a mistake not to really work to modernize/overhaul DPVA for the 21st century. Apparently, though, no critical mass among the "powers that be" appears to be in place to do any of that, so here we are...sigh.

P.S. On a related note, another Democratic insider told me, "DPVA will never change until it has a real election for Chair."  

lowkell :: DPVA Executive Director Lauren Harmon Heads Back to Ohio After <11 Months on Job
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Saw This Coming (0.00 / 0)
Remember Ben's post from the start of the cycle?


Clark Mercer was passed over for Harmon. Maybe she didn't realize what she was getting into, but there were clear warning signs from the start.

And the idea that Zachary Rickard, a guy who was out field organizing in Ohio for the first time in 2010, is running interference through his ties to Chair Herring is another sign of a need to clean house.

What gives Rickard any qualifications to make any major strategic decisions for the Democratic Party of Virginia?

I'm torn. Now could be the opportunity to elevate Clark Mercer, who is deeply committed to the state. But at the same time, I have been critical of the DPVA for being too much of an insiders network, and with Clark's existing connections I can see his elevation as just another move of insiders helping insiders.

Clark was hired by Ralph Northam to be his (4.00 / 1)
Chief of Staff. So, fortunately for Clark, he's escaped to greener pastures!

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[ Parent ]
Missed that! (0.00 / 0)
Good for Clark. He'll be much happier.

[ Parent ]
Agreed, he'll do a great job for LG Northam (0.00 / 0)

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[ Parent ]
So Who? (0.00 / 0)
So who will fill the void?

I wouldn't want to be trying to hire a state party ED going into a major mid-term cycle. The good candidates are already hired by other state parties.

[ Parent ]
Not looking good. (0.00 / 0)
Why would anyone with any sense want this job?

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[ Parent ]
Dedication (0.00 / 0)
Dedication to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which is why Clark floated to my mind. I know some folks I'd like to see have more influence, but I also like them and wouldn't wish this on my enemy.

[ Parent ]
DPVA Woes (4.00 / 1)
I saw some stirrings of life in the DPVA this past year when there was at least an attempt to assist local committees in growing their committees and their effectiveness in elections. Well, now the state party is reduced to having lost the top staff...yet again. Perhaps it's inevitable. When Mark Warner was governor, the DPVA was simply an extension of the Warner campaign. When Tim Kaine was governor, ditto. Now, McAuliffe.

This obsession with making the DPVA the slave of the state-wide ticket might yield a more effective party apparatus if the governor was able to stand for reelection. But, with the one-term Virginia tradition, once the governor is elected, he (no reason to be politically correct by saying, "he or she") has no built-in commitment to the continued strength of the DPVA. Others looking to the next governor's race evidently figure they will build their own apparatus to control the DPVA in the future.

That leaves it up to us to build our local committees ourselves. DPVA won't help. (Oh, and I absolutely agree that, "DPVA will never change until it has a real election for chair." When the Central Committee meets to "vote" for the chair, the fix is already in.)  

Or - like the national party - when the top dog is (0.00 / 0)
the top elected official - they control the party apparatus.  I think we can rest a little bit - since McAuliffe is now the leader of the state party - then they may bring in someone that has some understanding of the state party insights - after all Levar still has the Governor's ear and he also has a pretty good understanding of the state party operations.

[ Parent ]
You're Joking, Right? (4.00 / 1)

[ Parent ]
Gotta be joking -- Levar "has a good understanding of party ops" ?! (4.00 / 1)
The DPVA can and must do much better, but so far has not, for the obvious reasons already stated.

Terry surely knows several people who would be better than Herring as Chair and several who are much better qualified than Levar for ED. Personally, I'd like to see Don Mark or Todd Smythe as ED,  maybe Don Mark as DPVA Chair and Todd as ED; now that would be a powerful combo with Don and Todd running the DPVA operations. I gotta give this some serious thought and hope all of you dedicated BV contributors will do likelwise

I think I need to reconsider my recent decision to skip the Feb. JJ Weekend. The opportunity to lobby for the best ED and best DPVA Chair we can find might be worth the money I'd have to spend in Feb. if we could pull off such a huge improvement in the DPVA operational leadership.


[ Parent ]
Thanks Tom but I think Frank Anderson would be better (0.00 / 0)
Fairfax County is the biggest and most complex proving ground in Virginia and we showed that by our great performance this last cycle. We were one of only 2 counties that out performed our 2012 turnout (I think the other was Suffolk?) and Frank Anderson had a lot to do with that. Developing 'relationships' is important but so is knowing where at least some of the land mines are. Passion and commitment for Virginia are also great and Frank has that.

[ Parent ]
Turnout? (0.00 / 0)
What do you mean by out performed out 2012 turnout? There's no way more people voted in 2013 in Fairfax than 2012.

[ Parent ]
Good point, Todd. Frank would be an excellent DPVA ED ! (0.00 / 0)
And you might not want to have to move to Richmond. You'd also be a great FCDC Ed, and with Frank as DPVA ED the two of you plus Don Mark as Chair would be a fantastically powerful force for turning more of Virginia a deeper blue.

[ Parent ]

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