Former Colorado Democratic chair Rick Palacio launches national PAC to build state benches
Author: Ernest Luning - June 26, 2017 - Updated: June 26, 2017
Former Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio and past Massachusetts lieutenant governor nominee Steve Kerrigan are launching a national political action committee aimed at strengthening state and local Democratic parties and candidates with an eye toward next year’s elections.
They’re calling it the Stronger States PAC, and when it launches Monday, it will be the only national organization of its kind, Palacio told Colorado Politics.
“What is interesting is that, while people are looking toward the Democratic Party, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of overlap between current political organizations and PACs and what we’re doing,” he said. “There are a few focused on redistricting, a few focused on winning congressional seats, but we haven’t seen an organization out there that’s focused in doing our part to rebuild our local and state Democratic parties.”
The PAC hasn’t yet set a budget, but Palacio said the founders plan to start raising money — as a federal PAC, the donation limit will be $5,000 — right away and begin developing programs to offer around the country.
“One of the things a lot of people really learned out of recent election cycles is that we need to do a lot more to invest locally and build up our bench and our abilities to actually support those candidates at the down-ballot level,” he said.
Palacio said he’ll stay in Denver and mostly handle states west of the Mississippi, while Kerrigan, who lives in Boston, will focus on the rest, but they’ll both be spending plenty of time on the road.
“The work of rebuilding our Democratic brand and bench begins at the state and local level, precinct by precinct, neighbor by neighbor,” Kerrigan said in a statement. “In this new era of activism, it is critically important that community leaders have the training, tools, and resources to fight back.”
Some of that will involve introducing other states to the way Colorado has done things, Palacio added, including insights into party operations and tools that have been honed in the state over the last decade.
“We want to be able to take my experience as state party chair and work with the association of state party chairs and use them as best practices,” he said, adding that there have been an unusually large number of new state party chairs elected around the country this year.
Palacio said he’d like to help export homegrown outfits such as Emerge Colorado, which recruits and trains women candidates, and New Era Colorado, which registers young voters and then encourages them to show up at the polls.
“Those are two organizations we would fund in Colorado and anywhere we see them trying to grow,” he said. “Part of this is going to be us providing training were organizations like that don’t exist, but part of this will be providing resources to organizations that trying to get off the ground.”
While he said the new group plans to work in all 50 states, Palacio noted that some of its initial work could be in some that haven’t received as much attention as the handful of prominent battleground states.
“We’ll be looking at states that may not be as shiny, so to speak, as some of the other states people are talking about in 2018, but I think they’re states where people can make a difference just by doing what we can,” he said, suggesting that Missouri, Nebraska and Utah might be initial targets.
“Some states may not have the interest,” Palacio added. “But I think a lot of state parties out there do see a need for additional resources, training and investment at the local level.”
First elected state party chair in 2011, Palacio served three terms until this spring. He mounted an unsuccessful bid for one of the national party’s vice chair positions. Before returning to Colorado — he’s a native with roots stretching back generations in Pueblo and Trinidad — Palacio was a senior aide to then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
Kerrigan, a longtime aide to Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, was CEO of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, president of the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee and the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 2014. He’s the president and a co-founder of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund.