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Michael Barnes: The TT Interview

"Since when is zero-for-29 a winning record?" asks the South Texas schoolteacher who wants to replace Boyd Richie as chair of the Texas Democratic Party. He talked with the Tribune on Monday about why he's running — and how Barack Obama has let his supporters down.

Michael Barnes

Michael Barnes, a schoolteacher from Edcouch in South Texas, wants to be chair of the Texas Democratic Party, and he's making his way around the state trying to gather support from delegates in advance of the party's state convention later this month in Corpus Christi. It's an uphill fight. He's politically inexperienced and will face incumbent chairman Boyd Richie of Graham, a popular figure inside the party and a longtime player (along with his wife, Betty) in Texas Democratic politics. Barnes says it's time for fresh blood, for change. "Since when is zero-for-29 a winning record?" he asks, referring to the number of statewide elected offices held by his kind. He stopped by The Texas Tribune's offices on Monday to talk about why he's running and how the president he backed has let his supporters down.

Barnes says Texas Democrats haven't found a way to move frustrated voters into their column — or even off of their couches.

The Texas Democratic Trust has been the most reliable source of money for the party for the last several years. Barnes wonders if the Democrats have become too dependent on that particular source, and whether the Democrats will be financially strong going in the years to come.

Democrats need to tap their past voters for votes, he says, rather than just asking them for money. Money, after all, is just used to turn out those voters, he says.

Barnes says the party chairman needs to get out more, to travel the state and enlist the support of local Democrats and to help them in efforts to win local elections.

He draws a distinction between Texas Democrats and national Democrats and says the president has let down some of his supporters here and elsewhere. He's willing to leave some room between Democrats nationally, in Washington, California and New York, and those in Texas.

The state party has left Texas Democrats "completely defenseless" at the statewide and legislative levels and on the Legislative Redistricting Board, which will likely have an important say in how new political maps are drawn next year.

He says the chairman of the party has a simple job that isn't being done right now; his pitch is that he'd change things.

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