Cody Pogue, a devoted Democrat, a team player, an organizer, a former Democratic candidate, and much more, wrote the following post on Facebook that details a callous injustice instantiated by leaders in the Harris County Democratic Party. Cody does not describe it in the stark terms I did. He is too kind to call out this injustice for what it is. I hope those reading his words will ensure that around election time, those who played a part in this injustice are held accountable. I know Cody personally. There is no better Democrat and none that is either a better organizer or advocate.
Cody Pogue’s story.
Several months ago I posted on here that I became a precinct chair. I honestly thought I had at the time. I got sworn in and everything. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be true.
In mid-January, I applied to be the precinct chair for 0045. On February 8, I received an email from a Harris County Democratic Party staffer stating “Since we currently do not have a Precinct 0045 Chair, Your Senate District Vacancy Committee can consider you for a ‘vacancy appointment’. I am copying SD6 Chair and Vacancy Chair. They will be in touch with you regarding your potential appointment.”
On March 2, nearly a month without hearing from either of them, I sent them an email telling them a little about myself and my excitement to become a precinct chair here in my home community. On March 5, which was also the date of the CEC meeting, I received a reply from the district chair saying that she would like to meet with me before accepting me as a chair.
As a faithful Democrat, I went to the CEC meeting anyway. I spoke briefly with the vacancy chair but did not get a chance to speak with the district chair before the meeting. I did, however, notice that my name was on the agenda as a potential precinct chair. I sat through the meeting and when the potential precinct chairs were read by the district chairs, my district chair failed to mention my name.
On my way out, a friend stopped me to congratulate me on becoming a new precinct chair. When I told him what had happened, he rushed me to the front and showed the person running the meeting my name on the potential precinct chair list. He had the lady next to him write my name in a book and the judge swore me in as my friend witnessed.
From that moment until May 4, I thought I was a precinct chair. On that night, however, I got a phone call from the district chair saying that she was denying my request to be a precinct chair because she questions whether I am really a faithful member of the Democratic Party and because I did not follow the correct procedure.
I feel that the true reason for this rejection lies in the politics of the 2016 Democratic Primary. I was the organizer for the Bernie Sanders delegation to my Senate District and the leadership of my Senate District was made up mostly of very vocal Clinton supporters. There was a great deal of conflict at our Senate District meeting at the state convention. I can’t prove it, but my personal belief is that they purposely blocked my nomination as a precinct chair in order to punish me for supporting Senator Sanders in the Democratic Primary.
I have been a loyal Democrat since I started graduate school in 2007. I voted for President Obama in 2008. I volunteered so much time for the Bill White campaign in 2010 that they gave me a house district (HD142) and made me the field organizer for that district even though I was a volunteer. I ran as a Democrat for Texas House of Representatives in 2012 and worked as hard as I could to boost turnout in a very red area of Harris County. In 2014, I volunteered so much for the Wendy Davis campaign that the Battle Ground organizers called me one of their “super volunteers”. When I bought my house in 2014, Wendy Davis campaign organizers moved in before I did and while I was moving my furniture into my house, it was already functioning as the Wendy David Campaign Headquarters for this side of town. In 2016, I ran phone banks and canvasses from my house for the Bernie Sanders campaign and had sometimes up to 20 people (mostly under the age of 35) scattered around my house working for a Democratic candidate on almost a weekly basis. I was a member of the Harris County Young Democrats for a while back in 2009-2010. I was a paid member of the Kingwood Area Democrats for several years. I was a founding member and the interim President, and later the Parliamentarian of the Humble Area Democrats. I am currently the Vice President of the East Houston Democrats. I have been a sustaining member of the Harris County Democratic Party most years between 2010 and now. I have been a sustaining member of the Texas Democratic Party several of those years. I have voted in 4 democratic primaries, attended 3 democratic conventions, and never voted in the primary of any other party. Anyone who has any doubt about my loyalty to the party can just take a moment and scroll down my Facebook page, read my blog, or google my name and see years-worth of commitment to this party.
That commitment to the Democratic Party has come at great opportunity cost. I am not retired or self-employed. I work between 40 and 70 hours most weeks. When I knock on doors for Democratic candidates, hold phone banks in my home, or go to Democratic meetings, I use my limited free time to do that. I sacrifice time that I could be sleeping or hanging out with friends. Every time I go to a democratic meeting, my dog doesn’t get to go on his normal walk that night, which is important to me. Every time I have donated to the Democratic Party, to a democratic cause, or to a democratic candidate, it has been a sacrifice. The help that I have given this party over the past 8 years has not come out of an abundance of time and money, but out of scarcity and at great opportunity cost.
For this reason, I was always skeptical about becoming a precinct chair. For years, I passed up the opportunity because I had too much on my plate already and didn’t want to add one more thing. After Trump got elected as president, however, I felt that I had a duty to step up and do all I could to protect political equality, economic opportunity, the advancement of the sciences, arts, and humanities, public education, and all of the other things that were suddenly coming under attack. I didn’t apply as a precinct chair because I was hungry for a position. I applied because the seat had been sitting vacant for years and nobody was organizing the area for the Democratic party, and I knew that I could do a good job at it. I grew up in this community, I have a lot of connections in this community, I am on the board for my HOA, I attend local MUD meetings when I can, I am the VP of the local Democratic club, and I have experience in field organizing.
I applied to be a precinct chair not out of entitlement, but out of duty, which is why I was so surprised when I got the call saying they would rather keep the position vacant and have nobody organizing this precinct than to have me do it. After all, I had sacrificed for this party, not only was I not wanted, but I was so despised that they would rather have nobody at all getting out the vote in my community than to have me doing it.
I sent my district chair an email asking for the specific reason why I was denied, but I never received a reply. From the best I could understand over our phone conversation, and I could be off on the details, it sounds like they went way back into my facebook and found a post during a heated time during the 2016 primary. I was frustrated with some things going on in the party and I felt like the party establishment was doing all it could to stack the decks in favor of Clinton. I am not a public figure with a professional running my Facebook page. I am just a regular 34-year-old guy who is human. In that moment of exasperation, I said something about how if the democratic party doesn’t clean up its act, I may have to go join the green party. I shouldn’t have said it. I was frustrated and I am human. I didn’t join the green party. I voted for Hillary Clinton for president in the general election. I encouraged others to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. Those who were determined not to vote for Clinton, I encouraged them to vote for Democrats in the local elections.
To end my long rambling post, I do not like conflict, so I chose to fight this decision through back channels instead of fighting it publicly. I told a few people who I trusted who were officers in the Democratic Party about the situation and asked them if they would fight for me. They did, but there was little they could do.
About a month ago, I heard that there was a guy who was new to this area who wanted to get involved and was thinking about trying to become the precinct chair for this precinct. I added him as a friend on facebook and encouraged him to do it. As I said before, I never really wanted the added responsibility. I just wanted to make sure the seat got filled and the job got done. About two weeks ago, he was sworn in as the precinct chair. Many of my friends were outraged. They were mad because it wasn’t right, but what could be done? I met him in person last night and he seems to be a great guy. I told him that I look forward to helping him in any way that I can. I have no intention of running against him or challenging him. I want to help him organize phone banks, print out block walking lists, register voters, and all of the other things precinct chairs do. With our without my help, I am confident that he will do a great job.
I write all of this not to complain. I am not one for complaining. I knew when I supported Bernie in the primary that I was going against a lot of powerful people. I can accept my losses and keep fighting. I write because a lot of people do not know that this sort of thing is happening in our party, and we need to make sure that it stops. I am fine. I am glad I don’t have to take the extra responsibility. It gives me more time to go on walks with my dog, go on hikes through the mountains of west Texas, and finally get busy on writing a book on the history of my home community that I have been putting off mostly because I have been so busy with political stuff.
What I do care about is those kids who supported Bernie with such idealism and youthfulness, who are now trying to get involved in the Democratic Party. I was lucky to have a base of people who welcomed me in the Harris County Young Democrats, the Bill White Campaign, and the Kingwood Area Democrats when I started getting involved in politics back in 2009. These kids are getting the opposite experience. Instead of having the party welcome them, many people in the party are actively trying to stop them. If the people in the party establishment can successfully remove me from any position in the party, after all, that I have done, how much easier will it be to totally kick an idealistic 22-year-old out of the party? It’s not right, and this sort of thing has to stop.