Idaho's Boynton Brown pitches herself as outsider in DNC bid

Idaho's Boynton Brown pitches herself as outsider in DNC bid
© Courtesy Sally Boynton Brown

For Idaho Democratic Party executive director and Democratic National Committee chair hopeful Sally Boynton Brown, the cure for what ails her party will come from far outside the Beltway. 

Boynton Brown doesn’t have the national brand of Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the race's leading candidates.  

And she doesn't have the DNC ties of South Carolina state party chair Jaime Harrison and New Hampshire party chair Raymond Buckley, two other DNC candidates and members of the 447-person national committee that will choose its next chair in February.

But in a conversation with The Hill, Boynton Brown pitched herself as a “drastically different type of candidate,” an “outside the box” image that she hopes will represent a change as the party looks to rebuild after Democrats’ latest round of election defeats.

“I think we need someone who knows how to manage people and processes along with that,” Boynton Brown said.

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Boynton Brown first took over as the Idaho Democratic Party’s executive director in 2012, after previously working as interim director and communications director. 

While Boynton Brown has worked on campaigns, her background is in communications and management. Before jumping into politics, she spent 13 years in child care, starting her own company. That experience, she said, was pivotal toward developing her management skills. 

“I always joke and say if I can control a room of 100 toddlers, 100 Democrats is really not an issue. But I mean that quite seriously,” she said.

“With kids, we don’t try to change them, we just take the kid that’s in front of us and figure out how we can do what needs to be done. With kids, it’s getting dressed. With Democrats, it’s, 'How do I get money, get on message, how do we all get on the same page so that we can move together?'”

The new DNC chair will inherit a party that has lost control of both chambers of Congress, the White House and about 1,000 state legislature seats since President Obama took office.

Every DNC candidate agrees on the general solution: shift the party’s emphasis downward, empowering state parties and reaching out to the grassroots. They all point to the success of Howard Dean, who ran the DNC from 2005 to 2006. Dean's "50 State Strategy" saw Democrats controlling the House, Senate and the White House by 2008. 

Nearly all of the 447 DNC members have touted that same path forward, suggesting that the race is about which candidate can convince members that they’re the best person to carry out those promises.

DNC members haven't coalesced around one candidate, but Perez and Ellison seized the early momentum and endorsements.

That means long odds for lesser-known candidates like Boynton Brown. 

Still, Boynton Brown insists that her deep management experience, as well as her work growing a party in a red state, makes her a strong choice to deliver. 

Her view is that the entire DNC structure is “drastically out of alignment with our values," requiring a strong manager to help put the focus on the grassroots and Democrats across the country

Boynton Brown added that her Idaho background could help bridge the divide between the progressive and more moderate wings of the party. 

Ellison is seen as the candidate of the Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Dems fear lasting damage from Clinton-Sanders fight MORE wing, while other candidates had warmed to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Overnight Tech: Equifax hit by earlier undisclosed hack | Facebook takes heat over Russian ads | Alt-right Twitter rival may lose domain MORE during the primary race. Perez, once floated as a running mate for Clinton, is the favorite of many moderate Democrats, including those close to the White House. 

But Boynton Brown brushed aside that rift as a distraction. In her view, the party should unite around its more basic, shared goals instead. 

“If we get under liberal and moderate labels, then you can get to values that anybody in the ideological spectrum can agree on and build from there,” she said. 

One way to do that, Boynton Brown argues, is with DNC working groups that emphasize collaboration and consensus building. It's a plan she's already implemented on the state level in Idaho. 

The emphasis on the grassroots will put the party more in line with the majority of Americans who don’t see themselves neatly fitting into the hierarchical structure of partisan politics, she added. That includes the roughly 45 percent of American voters who didn’t participate in the past election.  

“Political parties are out of touch with the 21st century electorate. We’ve got kids turning 18 every single day and they don’t want to be labeled Democrat or Republican — they just want to live their lives and hopefully be interested in voting,” she said. 

“We’ve got to figure out how to create an innovative, resilient political party for today’s issues.” 

Boynton Brown is the only woman in the race. Ilyse Hogue, the head of the pro-abortion rights NARAL Pro-Choice America, considered a bid but ultimately decided to continue leading the group. 

Boynton Brown told The Hill that her gender isn’t a part of her platform or her pitch to DNC members, although it plays into her perspective on party leadership.

“The gentlemen in our party do their damnedest to speak to women’s concerns. … But talking about how they have daughters and wives and mothers is not the same thing as a daughter, a wife and a mother speaking on women’s issues,” she said.