Among the 35 Grayson County Democrats who gathered at the courthouse Saturday morning for the party’s annual County Convention meeting, there was much that one might expect: ethnic diversity among the crowd and plenty of blue shirts.

Among the 35 Grayson County Democrats who gathered at the courthouse Saturday morning for the party’s annual County Convention meeting, there was much that one might expect: ethnic diversity among the crowd and plenty of blue shirts.


But there was much that happened Saturday that an opposite-party fly-on-the-wall might have found surprising, as well. A stirring and highly reverent prayer by former Denison City Councilman Obie Greenleaf led-off the festivities, and a wry sense of humor about their underdog status in the county pervaded the discussions throughout. They may be outnumbered, but optimism ruled the day for Grayson County’s Democrats.


"Who’s feeling blue today? Blue in a good way, that is," said County Chair Lander Bethel to open the convention, referring the Democrats’ traditional color.


Party Treasurer Judy Baker, who served as one of the organizers for the event, said the convention provides a wonderful chance to see the small-‘d’ democratic process in action.


"This is where it all begins," said Baker. "You hear people talk about the grassroots; this is the the grassroots."


The first half of the meeting was devoted to electing delegates to the Democratic State Convention, which will be held in Dallas from June 26 to June 28. Bethel and former State Party Chair Bob Slagle earned automatic bids due to their current and past positions, respectively. Taking the other spots were precinct delegates Greenleaf, Harlan Johnstone, Mark Ewig, Barb Rush, James Echeandia, Meredith Avila Camarena, Nancy Knapp, Shelley Stapleton, Kate Whitfield, Jacob Travis and Jody Baker, as well as at-large delegates Lindsy Patterson, Brady Flanery, Marvin Smith, R.C. Slagle IV, Debbie West and Clara Bagley. Alternates were Christina Johnstone, Larry Hutson, Mary Middleton, Joanne Briggs and Tom Nockols.


Attendee John Bowers* said he would have loved to serve as a state delegate, but the pay-your-own-way nature of the position ruled him out. Hutson explained that it was the first County Convention he had attended since 1968, as he became disillusioned after the electoral failure of Hubert Humphrey.


"I’ve grown to hate what the Republican Party is trying to do to the United States and Texas in particular," said Bowers,* who pointed to wage disparity, abortion, and oil and gas exploration as his hot-button issues. "I’m here to try to get some voters out in November ‘14 and then in November ‘16. I want to get some … Democrats on the move!"


After the delegation selection was complete, the convention shifted gears to consider resolutions to be forwarded to the state party for hopeful inclusion in the state platform. The resolutions were a mix of statements seeded by the state and those suggested by local members. They ranged in seriousness from "deadly serious" to tongue-in-cheek.


Among those in the former category supported by the body were resolutions endorsing the reelection of Gilberto Hinojosa as state party chair; supporting the expansion of Medicaid; encouraging the federal government to adopt comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship; supporting federal action to require Political Action Committees to disclose large donations; supporting equal pay for Texas women; seeking to eliminate partisan affiliations for local-level elections; supporting more working hours for state and county workers; and supporting the restoration of funding for women’s health care in Texas, including Planned Parenthood.


"Republicans want to guarantee a ‘Right to Life;’ but not much of one," quipped Bob Slagle.


The lone proposition rejected by the convention was a resolution supporting "equal representation in the U.S. Senate for all Texans." The proposal would have thrown local Democratic support behind an idea to permanently devote each of Texas’ Senate seats to each of the political parties.


Locally submitted resolutions that were adopted supported amending the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, increasing funding for public education, enforcing of the Clean Water Act, requiring background checks for all gun sales and limiting concealed carry, increasing taxes on businesses through property and franchise taxes, and giving welfare recipients an extra opportunity to register to vote.


Resolutions of a less-serious nature that were supported by the group nonetheless were two proposals that drew hoots and hollers from the crowd. The first, a response to the conservative push to require drug tests for those receiving government assistance, would require the same of any private business owner receiving public money in contracts or tax waivers. The second would require all political candidates to submit to a public background check. Candidates would also have to take a high school-level academic test, the results of which would be made public.


Christina Johnstone, who said she had attended five or six County Conventions in past years, said she enjoyed coming to the event to engage with younger members of the Party who represent the future.


"I’m a Democrat, and this is the place to be … It’s really where the rubber meets the road," said Johnstone. "Even though it’s hard to be Democrat here, we just have to keep fighting for what we believe."