(Source: The Missouri Rebuild Model)

Barron: Describe your work with the Missouri Democratic Party and why you left that position?

Logan: In 2020, I was the Rural Director for the Missouri Democratic Party (MDP), meaning I covered about 110 counties in the state. I handled the political role in those rural counties by liaising with the local committees, clubs, and candidates. My focus was on education; my goal was to educate activists and candidates alike on political best practices, something that was seriously lacking in the previous party structures. One of my first big projects was writing a 55-page book called The County Committee Manual, which, like the name suggests, aims to educate county committees in Missouri on what they should be doing within the party structure.

As simple as it sounds, there was not a guide in place for political committees before this manual. I also strengthened and maintained an online library of training resources called The Portal. A collection of hundreds of training documents on political best practices, The Portal is a tool that I still use to this day when I am consulting with candidates. The County Committee Manual and The Portal set the educational tone for my tenure as Rural Director, and if I do say so myself, they are among the best educational resources for any Democratic state party in the country. I worked on those projects because they were seriously needed; when I was a new consultant in 2018, I didn’t know the first thing about Missouri politics. So, I attended all the training programs offered and absorbed as much knowledge as I could so I could pass it along to others who also felt left behind. 

My love for education did not stop when I left the Rural Director position. Education is one of the main themes of The Missouri Rebuild Model. By splitting Missouri up into six regions and putting a full-time, local activist as the Regional Director for each region, local democrats will have a point person for political efforts. While it is not a new idea to split a state up and staff each region (virtually every statewide and presidential campaign does this) Missouri has never used this approach for a year-round political educational initiative before. The Missouri Rebuild Model utilizes strategies that have worked in the past during campaign season and adapts them to capitalize on the success year-round. 

I was fired from the Missouri Democratic Party in December of 2020. Unfortunately, political parties have a reputation for firing all staff after November elections. This is problematic because it forces heavy turnover and creates a lack of institutional knowledge among state party staff. It’s also frustrating for local county committee people because their point-of-contact changes so often. It’s hard to get anything done when the structure changes every two years, and this is especially true for the MDP even though there was a lot of public opposition for turnover after November 2020. As an incentive to keep me on staff, I sent party leadership a copy of The Missouri Rebuild Model as my plan for the future of rural Missouri. I hoped that my big ideas were enough to want to keep me on staff. Nonetheless, I was fired two days later. Now, I plan to oversee and implement the project myself. 

Barron: This reads like a plan that a state party would undertake. Why is the Missouri Democratic Party incapable of implementing this?

Logan: The Missouri Rebuild Model was originally written as a plan for the Missouri Democratic Rural Caucus in 2018. It evolved into what it is today, which is written with oversight by the MDP in mind. However, the current MDP leadership does not have an interest in funding this project, and I do not expect that to change in the future. The MDP is currently working on a different project that also splits up the state into regions, but the cost of their plan is grossly underestimated, misappropriated, and misdirected. Their plan makes finding field offices a priority; while regional field offices are important, the Coronavirus pandemic has shown that they are not always necessary. The funding for field offices would be much better spent on year-round organizing and education efforts, as outlined in the Missouri Rebuild Model. To me, it seems that the MDP’s priorities are not in line with what the state really needs. 

Barron: Who would fund this plan? The Democratic National Committee is sitting on $75 million and has expressed an interest in doing more to compete for rural votes. Should the DNC invest resources in this plan and could that happen outside of the state party? Would a super PAC be a good vehicle to underwrite this initiative?

Logan: The Missouri Rebuild Model will cost an estimated $550k/year to implement. Ideally, this plan would be funded by private donors, with all staff members taking part in call time to collect those funds. I would love for the DNC to put money towards this. Funding a project like this would show Americans that Democrats are making rural voters a priority.

Rural Democrats have been left behind for far too long. I have spoken with older Democrats who have been fighting the good fight for decades with little to no support. We cannot continue like this, and we will not be able to volunteer our way out of the hole we are in. Having the DNC fund the Missouri Rebuild Model would be a blessing and would be of mutual interest to the DNC and the once-bellwether-state of Missouri. 

I am looking into creating two ways to underwrite this project: a state PAC and a federal SSF. Unfortunately, super PACs do not necessarily exist in the state of Missouri, and working with political committees is essential to the Model. The only drawback of a PAC and an SSF is the contribution limits: an individual can contribute $5,000 max per year for an SSF and even less for a PAC. Those contribution limits can be restrictive with such a large project, but I have faith that we can achieve this. There is still some research to be done on how to best fund this project, but this is what I am thinking right now. 

Barron: The Democratic brand is badly tarnished in rural America and in outstate Missouri. Statewide candidates for governor and senate have only carried the urban areas of St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia in recent elections and no Democratic state legislators currently represent any rural counties. Which of the six regions would you prioritize first if funding was not available to do the whole state at first, and why?

Logan: There have been a lot of great candidates that did not make it to The Capitol, but I would not consider those campaigns to be losses. The underlying purpose of The Missouri Rebuild Model is long-term investment. It will take time to flip rural Missouri blue, and in the meantime, we have to redefine what success looks like. To me, a win is any sort of progress for that district: moving the needle by a few points, having a strong field program to build up the data on the district, registering new voters, strengthening the local county committee, or even simply having a Democratic candidate on the ballot so we can get an idea of base numbers for the district. Anything that gets us closer to our goal of electing Democrats is a win in my book. If the Georgia Senate races taught us anything, it’s that success does not happen overnight. 

My style of candidate consulting focuses on building long-term results through education, party building, and perseverance. This is shown through structural change that presents itself in small bits of progress. And it might not seem like it, but trust me, it’s working. We made a lot of progress in 2020, and the Missouri Rebuild Model will further that success.

Each region has its pros and cons, its strengths and weaknesses, and its wonderful activists. If funds were limited, I would not prioritize one district over another because I do not want people to feel like they are not being represented. Rural Missourians have been excluded from the conversation for far too long. We have been looked over in favor of other areas of the state. We have been told we don’t matter. We have been told that campaigning in our areas is a waste of time. We have been told we don’t need rural broadband because we “can go to McDonald’s to get wifi.” I do not want those same stigmas to carry on with The Missouri Rebuild Model. 

Barron: Can Democrats be competitive in rural counties on issues such as: agriculture, trade, infrastructure, health care and veterans services or is the Republican opposition to abortion, gun control and LGBTQ rights just too strong to allow Democrats to win on meat and potato economic issues?

Logan: Democrats can absolutely be competitive in rural areas. It will take time, but it will be possible. We just have to get back to basics, and that will start with real conversations about community issues. I am a big advocate for localized messaging and community-based organizing. Democrats love to hire people who are out of state and expect them to know how to communicate in their new turf. That doesn’t work, especially not in rural Missouri. Missourians can smell an out-of-towner from miles away. We need people who live here to have these conversations. Local people are experts in their communities and should be the ones to drive the conversation. I am a big fan of the deep canvassing project that the Missouri Rural Crisis Center has been implementing—Missourians talking to other Missourians about kitchen table issues. If you haven’t heard of them before, I would recommend looking them up. They’re a great organization. 

We might not be able to agree on abortion, but if we can have a conversation about country of origin labeling, you might see that we are more alike than you might think. However, it’s important to know when to walk away. There are some people that will not be receptive to having a conversation because we disagree on wedge issues, and that’s fine. We are all entitled to our opinions. We all have limited time and resources. It is a much better use of time to talk with someone who is willing to have a productive conversation than someone who is committed to arguing. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Missouri Democratic Party did not provide a response to the Daily Yonder’s request for comment.

Tara Logan from Maryville, Missouri, can be reached  at LoganStratgiesLLC@gmail.com

Matt L. Barron of MLB Research Associates is a political consultant and rural strategist based in Chesterfield, Massachusetts. www.mlbresearch.com