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Christian Fyke—Interim State Chair of Pennsylvania
Benjamin Valimont—Interim Secretary
Kyle DeMarino—Interim Vice-Chair of Eastern Pennsylvania
Héctor Diaz—Interim Vice-Chair of Central Pennsylvania
Brian McMurray—Interim Vice-Chair of Western Pennsylvania
Brian (Last name not stated on recording)
- National Issues
The meeting began with a few introductions of members who would be sitting before we turned to our first topic. We had to accelerate the discussion with our national liaison, Courtney Hazen, as she had to could only stay for a limited amount of time.
- Officer Elections (Part 1)
The first issue of concern was revisiting the election of our officers. Originally, our initial officers’ roles were only meant to be seen as an interim position until we had a regular election at our first convention where we would also adopt our bylaws. However, the speed at which Pennsylvania Forward Party is moving changes things. We will need to adopt our bylaws sooner rather than later, & national would like us to have more authority than a vote from only the Leadership team. They would like a call for nominations & a vote of all the Pennsylvania Forward Party members.
Courtney stated that national wants all of the state chapters to behave like a party—even before they become a party. However, when a chapter is ready to become a legally recognized party, the chapter needs to have legally recognized officers. The steps to take to make this happen will be determined by a chapter’s bylaws, the regulations by their state Secretaries of State, & Forward Nationals’ timeline documents. The timeline will give us the best steps & options a chapter can make to be legally recognized.
After we get the Timeline document from national, we will immediately begin working on Compliance Finance Memorandum. That will be document of around ten (10) pages. It will lay out who will do our bank account, whether we will do a Political Action Committee (PAC), what the PAC’s relationship with national will be. Technically our PAC currently is a national PAC & not a PAC that the Pennsylvania leadership team has control or access to yet. As such it does not limit what Pennsylvania Forward Party can & can not do yet.
- Legal Status of Pennsylvania Forward Party
Courtney then opened herself up to questions & Secretary Valimont was happy to oblige. He began by asking for some clarity on the current legal status of the Pennsylvania Forward Party? The answer was that the Pennsylvania Forward Party do not have a current legal status. We are currently a bunch of volunteers working to create something. In the timeline, it will advise on whether or not we should incorporate to give us some legal standing to open a bank account & such.
Chairman Fyke jumped in at this point & asked a question on what the document did that allowed us to endorse Ilya Breyman. Courtney answered by stating that document created a National PAC in Pennsylvania. It did not create a Political Body.
Secretary Valimont wanted to stress that if we are not a Political Body, we can not run candidates in the Special Elections. This led into a discussion on what exactly is a Political Body. In Pennsylvania, a document is filed with the Secretary of State establishing the Political Body. If a Political Body gets 2% in a statewide race, they become a Minor Party. If they get 15%, they become a major party. All the traditional third parties are usually classified as a Political Bodies—except for the year after a Presidential election, if they get 2%. If we are not a Political Body right now, it limits what we can do.
Chairman Fyke turned the discussion to show that our relationship with national will change once Pennsylvania Forward Party becomes a Political Body. Becoming a Political Body is quick & easy, but when we do some walls will come down between the Pennsylvania Forward Party & national. National is a hybrid PAC themselves & there are laws limiting what they can do with the state chapters once they become state parties. As Pennsylvania Forward Party gets more autonomy the less National can help until all 50 state chapters are recognized. At that time, the national Forward Party will be recognized as a national political party.
Secretary Valimont suggested that in the interim & we have a candidate we want to run, we could have them run as an independent candidate & they could form their own political body to get on the ballot.
- Executive Committee (Part 1)
Secretary Valimont then turned to the bylaws. He asked the question on if we want an executive committee separate from the leadership team & if it was mandatory to call it an executive committee. Courtney stated that it was up to Pennsylvania to decide & that National had no preferences for this. She then went into how the three states who have them set them up. Texas is similar to what the legacy SAM did in having their state officers as well as all of their county chairs be members of the executive committee. Florida is much smaller, they have their chair, vice-chair, Secretary, Treasurer & one or two extra seats.
- Officer Elections (Part 2)
Michal Lee wanted more clarity on election of the officers & the status of the interim-officers. The response from Courtney was that it will be determined in the Legal Timeline that the leadership team should get in the next few weeks. Chairman Fyke then reiterated that at the steps in the process that we are about to take we will need more authority than just an election from the leadership team. Courtney stated that because we are looking to start fundraising & are moving quicker along in the process, the leadership team needs more authority.
Chair McMurray presented a concern that we are in the same place we were a couple of months ago & now we will be asking the membership to do it all over again with a potential change in leadership. He was chiefly concerned with exactly how to conduct the elections. Chairman Fyke stated that he has a call scheduled with the Florida team & that he could ask them how they conducted theirs. Courtney also volunteered putting someone in touch with Ceasar from Nevada as well.
Secretary Valimont added that the way he sees it, is that the we need to hold a special election for our statewide officers because we hit the point where we need the authority from the Pennsylvania Forward Party at large to proceed in the next steps in the process. Normally, leadership elections will happen at the convention & that the bylaws will say that our special term will end at that time. The officers’ terms will last from our first convention until our next convention—whenever that will be. But we do need more authority at the moment. Having an election amongst only the leadership team is not enough authority going forward.
It was at this time that Chairman Fyke stated that he was under the impression that the timeline would not be given to us until we had these elections. Courtney clarified that was not the case & that we do not have to rush these special elections, if we need them. Chairman Fyke stated that until we are told otherwise, we will continue with the interim-leadership, but we will prepare for how a special election would look like. Chair McMurray suggested tying the leadership elections to filing of the Political Body paperwork.
- Executive Committee (Part 2)
A further discussion of the bylaws was started. Secretary Valimont had sent out revisions to the SAM bylaws to most of the leadership team, which included all of the named officers, but he was unsure if it reached everyone on the call.
Chair Diaz stated that he read Secretary Valimont’s revisions & agreed with the way he had formatted the bylaws, but wanted some more things added, like an executive committee & the power it would have. Secretary Valimont had originally removed the executive committee portion of the SAM bylaws because, at the time, it looked like it would just consist of the leadership team & would be redundant. After the night’s discussion, however, we need to have one. The SAM bylaws had every county chair included in leadership & had a set out an executive committee consisting of the officers. Thinking forward, we need to determine what is our leadership. What we would have right now for an executive committee would be the state chair, the regional chairs, the secretary, & the treasurer whom Secretary Valimont does not know the name of.
Chairman Fyke responded by stating we need to find a treasurer. The person Ethan had suggested has since become too busy to take on this role, but would be willing to mentor whomever we end up deciding upon.
Christian Clarke had suggested allowing the executive committee to take actions but their actions would have to be confirmed by a larger body.
It was at this time the working group call for the bylaws. Chair Diaz stated that he was meeting with Ethan to work on this. Chair Diaz suggested setting up a zoom meeting where all of us are present with he & Ethan attending. Chair McMurray stated that the role of the executive committee will eventual be served by the county chairs & committees.
Secretary Valimont was concerned with the fact if we give too much power to counties, we might be setting up logistical hurdles for elections concerning multiple counties. As we are finding out with the special elections in Allegheny County, we can not afford any delays if the state gives us less than two weeks to collect all of these signatures. Chair DeMarino cautioned that for some time we probably won’t have the depth to do things at the county level.
Chairman Fyke then turned to a regional discussion & Chair McMurray stated that he had been looking into the Special Election for Senate District 27:
Chair McMurray had pulled up the people listed on Nationbuilder who live in that area & was surprised to see that we have around sixty (60) people out in that area. A lot of them had been imported from the RAM list. Chair McMurray had e-mailed about six people from the list & received two responses. If a third of the people responded & he had e-mailed the entire list from about 20 people, that might be enough to make a county lead.
Secretary Valimont shared his screen to show the above map to the rest of the call. He also used the opportunity to present a preliminary map designate the current areas of the regional chairs:
He suggested that instead of just saying that we have a western, central, & eastern regions, we should probably have a map that designates those areas. Secretary Valimont stated that he based the map largely off a watershed map.
Chairman Fyke stated that to Chair’s DeMarino’s point, right now having a county chair at this point doesn’t really make sense.
Chair DeMarino mentioned that in Chester County, the Republican Party has township level committees. But as for us, we do not have the resources to compete down to that level.
To wrap up this discussion, the people attending the bylaw workshop will need to report back.
Chair Diaz will coordinate with Ethan & Chair DeMarino & Secretary Valimont & have it on a weeknight.
Chair McMurray had recently talked with the group Independent Pennsylvanians, they had brought up that they had done a lot of work trying to get the representatives on the record with Ranked Choice Voting & Open Primaries. Not that the state house is controlled by the Democrats, it is a whole new group of people they have to work with. As such we need to keep up on our contacts.
Chair McMurray had also tried to talked to Gus from the Keystone Party, but he is on vacation right now. The Keystone Party is another third party that is forming that is in a very similar position to us. There is a lot that we could learn from each other if we all got on a call together.
Chair DeMarino asked if Chair McMurray had a formal list of the organizations that we are trying to work with. Chair McMurray then shared an excel file listing all of the groups. He also mentioned several members who are interested in helping. He highlighted Alex Darlington. Alex is a college kid who is super motivated & will probably take over the world someday. He is running a college chapter & convention. He attends a college near Philly.
Chair DeMarino stated that he has Carol’s number from Fix Harrisburg. Fix Harrisburg is what Fair Districts is currently mostly operating as. They are looking to change the legislative rules. Carol is a lifelong independent but gets labeled as a Democrat due to the gerrymander stuff. She was very interested in what we are doing & was interested in collaborating once we were a little more set up.
Secretary Valimont mentioned that he listed to a podcast a few weeks ago in which the national BridgeUSA participated as well as the University of Pittsburgh chapter head. BridgeUSA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) that creates spaces on high school & college campuses for open discussions between students and political issues. The University of Pittsburgh appeared to be very active. I located their contact information:
421 Semple St. #1
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Chair DeMarino suggest creating a collaboration group to handle all of the contacting & finalizing their names in early January.
Chair McMurray mentioned that he heard that several groups celebrate January 23 as Ranked Choice Voting Day because it is 1-23. This might be a great opportunity to interact with them. Especially if we could get our social media to interact with their social media. Generally, we need someone to be our main liaison to all of these groups.
Chair Diaz mentioned that he has a meeting with a person in the Shapiro transition & further mentioned that he is going to be a guest on a podcast called the Political Nomad. It is set to be a two part feature.
- Leadership Retreat & Convention
Chair Diaz turned the topic towards having some type of event where the leadership team could get together in person some weekend. Perhaps this could take place while we are drafting the bylaws, we could have dinner together.
Secretary Valimont suggested that this could be also be an opportunity to have an in person meet & greet in a lesser populated portion of the state. Right now, we have only had them in & around Pittsburgh & Philadelphia.
Chair DeMarino asked the Western Pennsylvanians which location would work best for them. Secretary Valimont suggested somewhere around Bedford or Altoona.
Christian Clarke also threw out the location of Gettysburg as one for the convention. Chairman Fyke then mentioned that he has a connection to get the Monroeville Convention Center. Chairman Fyke said that it has already been offered to him at no charge. The budget & expenses will be determinative of the location, but it is nice to know that the Convention Center is open to us if we need it.
Chair Diaz raised the concern of whether our current status will affect the budget for the convention center. Chairman Fyke stated that we would fundraise to national & that we would get 25% of that. We may want to set up our own bank accounts first though as our donors, while supportive of national, may want their money to go directly to the Pennsylvania organization. Regardless, National will want to see our budget.
Next week, National will be doing phone banking to contact people who donated to SAM & RAM in the past but have not done so recently. National wants to see that Pennsylvania Forward Party is sustainable of fundraising without National’s help. Once we become a party/political body, National’s financial support will not be there.
Secretary Valimont reiterated the fact that there are calendar dates approaching that we need to be mindful of. If we want to run candidates as Forward Candidates in November of 2023, mid-march is when we can start to collect signatures for Nomination Papers. If we take too long in forming our Political Body, it could hurt us in November.
The key thing to remember is that we need a treasurer. Secretary Valimont stressed that one of the major revisions to the SAM bylaws was the treatment of the Treasurer. He pointed out that he changed it from an elected position to an appointed position. The reasoning is that once we become a political body, we MUST always have a treasurer. It can never be unfilled.
Secretary Valimont realized that the second we become a political body, we probably can’t use their treasurer anymore. Furthermore, we need to keep in the back of our minds that any money the leadership team spends a receipt will be needed. A receipt can be a handwritten note but receipts are necessary. Even a donation in kind should have a receipt.
When we get the information from National, we will see how much National will be limited in supporting us. When we become a political body, pretty much the entirety of our funding needs to come from us. By the time we are running elections, we need to be independent. In the meantime, National is going to continue to give us our seed money.
Chair DeMarino questioned if we have asked any considered asking a law firm or Financial Firm to handle it. Chairman Fyke stated that we have not considered how we want to fill this role yet. Hopefully we can find someone who will volunteer for this, there will be a time where that becomes a paid position.
- Thursday—Andrew Yang event, & the 4 in 6 in 24 plan
The meeting ended with a short discussion previewing the Thursday meet & greet with Andrew Yang. There is a list about 30 people signed up to attend. With the weather & normal no-shows, Chairman Fyke expected around 20 people to attend.
Chairman Fyke also mentioned the 4 in 6 in 24 plan that Mr. Yang has started to promote. The idea is to leverage about four percent of the electorate in the six swing states in the 2024 election to promote candidates in the presidential election who support Ranked Choice Voting. Pennsylvania is one of the six states in this plan & we will be essential to pulling it off. This might be in coalition with several likeminded groups.
 After this meeting, further discussions found that if we state in our bylaws that the initial officers are only temporary & that future officers will be subject to a full election.
 Site of Steel City Con
 Perhaps this could be a way we involve our state level partnerships as well
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