Insalaco won't seek re-election as Arkansas Democratic Party chair | Arkansas Blog

Insalaco won't seek re-election as Arkansas Democratic Party chair


VINCENT INSALACO: Won't think a third term as Democratic chair.
  • VINCENT INSALACO: Won't think a third term as Democratic chair.
Vincent Insalaco has sent an e-mail to Democratic Party regulars saying he won't seek a third term as chairman of the party, which has seen a decline in representation at every level in Arkansas politics.

Rep. Michael John Gray of Augusta has said he'll seek the position in elections early next year as has Drew Pritt, an occasional political candidate and political worker.

Insalaco signaled to me in a chance meeting in the Dallas airport Sunday night that his likelihood of running again was small. I think it fair to say his immediate assessment of prospects in Arkansas — particularly as measured by the overwhelming vote for Donald Trump — are not sparkling. The party will have to devise a strategy to operate as the distinctly minority party.

I think Insalaco and others have some questions about have a sitting legislator in a party leadership role. It's not personal. As Insalaco saw it, the party is able to stand for broad party principles. Legislators sometimes have to make sausage. They might have to compromise and stray from, say, party platform positions to get things done in the legislature.

I haven't been able to reach Insalaco today. But I'd add that, despite a general shared gloom Sunday over the presidential outcome, he remained somewhat more optimistic about the national picture. Both the Democratic and Republican Parties have had control of the White House and both houses of Congress in fairly recent times and seen the opposition party turn things around. He said he still believed that was possible.

Arkansas is another matter.

Here's what Insalaco wrote:

I believe in the principles and values of the Democratic Party. Since first putting up yard signs for David Pryor in 1972 to serving as president of the Young Democrats of Arkansas to serving as chair of the Party, I have always believed in who we are and what we stand for.

When I was asked to be chair by Governor Beebe, it was a tremendous honor, and one only surpassed by a reelection to a second term.

As you know, the last few years have been difficult for all of us. Despite all of the challenges, together, we have made progress as we prioritized fundraising while reducing the debt, instituted modern rules, and rebuilt county committees.

We started the Jimmie Lou Fisher/Lottie Shackelford Dinner, honoring two of the great Democratic women in Arkansas history and also providing two stable annual fundraising events for the DPA. Our Jefferson Jackson Day Dinners - honoring Governor Beebe in 2014 and hosting Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2015 and President Clinton in 2016 - were the most successful in our history. It was my honor to begin the Daisy and LC Bates Humanitarian Award in 2016, the first award named in honor of an African-American given by our party.

As a result of these efforts, we’ve paid off a ten-year-old debt and eliminated a $309,000 debt from the 2014 campaign. Our mortgage has been significantly reduced and for my entire tenure we have maintained a full time paid DPA staff.

We passed new rules in 2016 bringing our rules into the 21st century. Among other things, these rules gave the DPA the authority to begin our county committee building program. We’ve grown - in less than a year - from 27 to 60 counties and increased our membership from 400 to 2100.

Though it is difficult to get people to run in the current climate, we continued to recruit qualified people to run for office, began the first Legislative Coordinated Campaign to assist our candidates in running for office and began investing resources in Northwest Arkansas where many realize is a growth area for the Democratic Party.

When I agreed to chair the Party, I necessarily had to put on hold or compromise parts of my life that I hold dear. For that reason, it was never my intent to stay as chair more than two terms; however, many of you are encouraging me to seek a third term. And I appreciate your support more than you will know. But I believe it is time for me to move on to a new chapter of my life, so I will not seek a third term.

The role of Chair of the DPA requires a singular focus and full time commitment. It is a dramatically different job from what it was when Arkansas was a Democratic state. I hope those who seek the post will keep this in mind.

Dates for the Jimmie Lou Fisher/Lottie Shackelford Dinner and Officer elections will be announced soon after the holidays.

There are many people I need to thank and will do so in the coming weeks. I will serve out my term with the same passion I initially brought to the work, and look forward to seeing you all at the state committee meeting this weekend.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you these past years.

Vincent Insalaco, Chairman
Democratic Party of Arkansas

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