Chad to Philadelphia for Bernie

My name is Chad Lupkes, and I’m asking for your support to finance my trip to Philadelphia as a CD Delegate from the 7th Congressional District of Washington, as well as your help over the next few years. This Political Revolution goes beyond 2016, and we’ve always known that.

I was born in Seattle and raised in Kent. I’ve lived in the Puget Sound my entire life, except while I was in the Navy. I owned a progressive bookstore and gift shop in Everett for three years in the 1990’s.  While I was there, I started the Everett/Snohomish County chapter of Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).  I went to a private university to rack up school loan debt that I’m still paying off.

One of my classes in early 2003 was State and Local Government, and one of the assignments was to attend a meeting of a political organization. I had not been cognizant of how the party was structured, so I discovered that I lived in the 46th LD, and that the meeting of the 46th LD Democrats was the next night. I attended, and it was really, really “interesting”. Supporters of Lyndon Larouche were standing on chairs singing protest songs because their candidate wasn’t being taken seriously enough to be invited to the Democratic candidate debates. The police pulled them outside, and I volunteered with the party immediately. I started looking at how to improve, i.e. build from scratch, a website that would actually accomplish what they needed done during the run-up to a Presidential Caucus cycle. I had a lot to learn, so I started by transcribing the entire PCO Handbook into a website. You can still find that site on my Seattle Webcrafters domain.

Then my wife felt some lumps in my neck, and I went to get them checked out. The Nurse Practitioner at my doctor’s office told me to sit tight and she made my doctor drop everything. He then got on the phone and made an appointment for a CAT Scan across the highway, immediately. After a few days, I had a biopsy scheduled at Swedish Ballard. And a day or so later, I got a confirmation phone call saying that I had Stage II-B Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

I had started working for Nordstrom in 2000, and I had their health care insurance. I’m really glad that I did. When the EOB’s started coming in the mail, we realized that without that insurance, we would have had to sell our home to pay those bills. Then I heard someone talking about how 47 Million people in our country, in MY country, didn’t have any health insurance at all. They couldn’t even make an appointment with a doctor, let alone get anything else. That was Howard Dean, and that was my wake up call. I have been Single Payer or Bust ever since.

While going through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I continued to build the website of the 46th, along with a few others. I started reading history about how the political evolution of the Democratic and Republican Parties have gone over the entire history of our country. I read about the Progressive Era and the Long Gilded Age, and started really putting the pieces together about what had gone wrong. And how to put it right. I got more involved.

I caucused for Howard Dean at the 2004 Precinct Caucuses. I ran for PCO. And lost, by 1 vote, to a supporter of Lyndon Larouche whom I actually never saw again. She moved away before the 2006 cycle and I was able to take the PCO position officially. In the meantime, I joined the executive board of the 46th LD as an At Large member in 2005, then became the King County Committeeman in 2007. I became the chair of the 46th in 2009, as well as vice chair of the King County Democrats, and vice chair of the Chair’s Organization.

I attended the Seattle launch of Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, and helped launch the state level organization, Democracy for Washington. After several years of work trying to keep the people who had been inspired by Howard to stay engaged with the party, we realized we had been successful and folded the organization into Progressive Majority Washington. All of our members were active officers within the Democratic Party.

I also helped form the Washington State Progressive Caucus, starting within the 46th LD where we had meetings the week before the district meetings in order to talk about the upcoming agenda and have a more in depth discussion about the issues, debates, votes, endorsements, and whatever else was happening in North Seattle. We actually held the first candidate forum for the position of State Party Chair in 2006 when Paul Berendt stepped down after 11 years. The members of the executive board were not sure what was happening until we invited the district chair to sit in at a meeting. He stopped worrying and started helping us.

I had caucused for someone in 2008 that I choose because of the message he had been putting out. I didn’t yet know that the Edwards campaign was defunct, although we on the state steering committee knew he wasn’t going to stick with it. I had watched both the Obama and Clinton campaigns through the summer and fall of 2007, and only the Obama campaign really built a grassroots organization that I could find. When we got to the precinct caucus, I switched to Obama. But I didn’t run for national seriously because many others had done the work over the previous year, and they needed to go.

After the success the Democratic Party had in 2006 in gaining back control over the US House and Senate, and the intense health care debates that seriously mirrored what had been seen in 1993, we saw 2010 coming and really couldn’t do much to stop it. Citizens United clinched it, and campaign finance reform has been a top issue of mine every since.

Then the 46th had a shock. Our State Senator Scott White, who had been the district chair that attended the progressive caucus meeting in 2006, died suddenly in October, 2011. He was a good friend, mentor, former chair of the district, and someone I really wanted to see continue into higher and higher office. He had one of the largest hearts I knew, caring about everyone. His doctor never caught the fact that it was too large. The resulting contests within the 46th LD to fill his vacancy, and then the State House vacancy that came from David Frockt taking his place in the Senate, tore the district apart. At least that’s how I saw it. I didn’t have time to grieve. I ran the vacancy appointment meetings, and watched the executive board split down the middle. It burned me out. I started making mistakes during meetings, and it got to be too much. I resigned as chair, stepped away from the party, and focused on my family for a while.

During this whole time I had been listening and supporting Progressive Talk radio, especially Thom Hartmann. I loved Fridays, when “America’s Congressman”, who in 2006 became “America’s Senator” would give an hour of his time to tell the truth about how things were going in Congress. Bernie Sanders never strayed off message, never gave into despair, and always gave me hope that someone, at LEAST one person in DC had my back. I knew about the Congressional Progressive Caucus, one of my good friends had worked as the Executive Director of the Progressive Congress organization. (Darcy Burner is now running for the State House in the 5th LD.) In early 2015, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do during the next caucus cycle. I looked at Martin O’Malley, and mostly liked what I saw. I wasn’t thrilled with Hillary. I knew all about the Third Way Coalition, and I really didn’t want a repeat of the 1990’s.

Bernie Sanders announced his intention to run for the Democratic Nomination on April 28th. I announced on that same day that I was in. This was (is) a drop everything moment. I started the Facebook group “Washington for Bernie Sanders”. I brought in my best friend Mario Brown to start the Page and to help me build the organization. The mission was to maximize the number of delegates that Washington would send to the National Convention in Philadelphia.

I worked with grassroots leaders from all over the country setting the foundations for Bernie’s domination of social media. I worked with over the summer to capture and rebroadcast as many speeches as we could. Mario and I were asked to lead the volunteers when Bernie first came to Seattle in August. And Mario and I started doing caucus training sessions every weekend somewhere around the Puget Sound area, telling people how this could actually succeed. We were not selling the idea of Bernie Sanders as President, he was doing that just fine. What we were focused on is how the grassroots could actually win. And people responded. We have had people step up in all 10 Congressional Districts, and most counties and legislative districts. We got Votebuilder access in December, and started providing lists for people to canvass their neighborhoods. We started promoting the phone banks that were going into Iowa and New Hampshire.

When staff arrived in Washington, they met with us and our team. For the very first time, a presidential campaign came in and said they wanted to amplify and magnify what we were already doing, not take over or start over from scratch. Instead of giving orders, they asked us what we needed, and then made it happen. The closer we got, the more we all focused on phone banks going into our own state. We knew what could happen if we stayed focused on positive campaigning and empowering the grassroots. But what actually happened was far and away beyond our expectations.

Obama in 2008 got 67.56% at the precinct caucuses. On March 26, 2016, Bernie Sanders got 72.7%. We won every county. The lowest number was 60% in King County. We had done it. It had never been about what I could do on social media, or what Mario and I could do with trainings, it was about what everyone who was inspired could do when we worked together.

I have been trying to gather delegate lists and provide them to people who need them. We’ve been doing video calls so I can answer questions from all over the state, and joining in the campaign calls. Members of our team built the website which is promoting the idea of keeping the Political Revolution alive after the Convention and after November. We’ve done this before. We can do it again. We can built a better tomorrow.

I want to tell this story in Philadelphia. I want to listen and talk with people from all over the country, people given hope that if we work together we can really achieve a better tomorrow. People excited by the possibilities of political action, not disappointed by what the corporate media tells them to think. I need your vote to make that happen. I need your help to spread the word and tell people that this was never just about one candidate, one office, and one election cycle.

I know how to work within the Democratic Party to enact change. I’ve done it. I know how to build external party groups and use them to expand the outreach efforts of the party to the progressive movement as well as push issue positions and policy ideas from the larger movement into the party. I’ve done it. I know how to teach people to answer the three core questions of an activist: “What decision is being made?”, “Who is making that decision?”, and “How can I influence that decision?” Answers to those three questions are what drive change.

In 2008 the slogan was “Yes we can”. In 2016, it’s “Oh Yes We Will”. No matter what they say, we’re going to build a world that our children can grow up in. We’re going to build a future.

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Chad Lupkes
Seattle, WA

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