According to the Associated Press, Bill Burkett is a broken man, a loose cannon seeking to share "the truth" about President Bush's military record. State and National Democrats, including Max Cleland (whom Burkett claims to have contacted), seem to know little about Burkett.
But according to Bill Howell, Dallas County Chair for the Texas Democratic Party 1999-2002, Bill Burkett is not only connected to the Texas Democratic Party - he is a major player in the Texas Democratic Party.
As first reported last night,, Bill Burkett is certainly well known within the Texas Democratic Party. Tonight, new documents reveal that Burkett is not only known, but is a major player who is well versed in the structure and workings of the Texas Democratic Party.
From the archives of Bill Howell's old Weblog, "StoutDem", letters and documentation regarding the race State Democratic Party Chair for 2002 point to a bitter struggle for power within the party. These documents refer directly to Bill Burkett as a member of the Chair Steering Committee for David Van Os, a current Democratic Candidate for State Supreme Court Justice:
This year there WAS, for a few weeks, a serious contest for state Chair of the Texas Democratic Party. Delegates (and Alternates) voting at the State Convention in El Paso on June 13-15, 2002, will elect a Chair for a new two year term. The incumbent, MOLLY BETH MALCOLM, WAS being challenged by DAVID VAN OS. The choice to be made in this race would certainly have had a major effect on all of our campaigns for office this year, both state and local, and would have helped set the tone and direction for the entire party here in Texas. The two candidates had a very different style and approach.
On May 29, the Democratic candidate for Governor, TONY SANCHEZ, asked David Van Os not to continue his campaign for State Chair. On May 31, Van Os sent out a news release withdrawing from the race. We have posted it here, along with a covering note which Van Os sent to his supporters with the release.
[I have left this page and its linked emails up as an archive of the race. As you can see here, emotions were running very hot and heavy over this contest. Insults and accusations of dishonesty and worse were (and still are being) irresponsibly hurled by partisans. I have not posted the nastiest stuff. Both candidates were head and shoulders above a few rabid supporters on each side. Now people need to get over this and work together to defeat some awful Republicans this fall.]
Futher down the page, this link is given for BILL BURKETT:
BILL BURKETT, a member of the steering committee for Van Os, sent this email May 25, disputing the charge that he is running a divisive campaign, and severly criticizing Malcolm and her campaign.
Here we read the words of Bill Burkett: not the ramblings of a loose cannon, but the tempered strategies of a Democratic Party Power Player. These documents are included in their entirety here in the interest of completeness:
State Chair Contest
Bill Burkett 5/25
[This following email was from BILL BURKETT on may 25. It has not been edited. PLEASE NOTE: As always, the opinions expressed in these emails are those of the authors themselves, and not necessarily those of the candidates, or mine either.]
Knowing your history within the Texas and Dallas County Democratic parties, I wanted to give a short background to my role in the race for State Party Chair and what I think has brought the need for a debate about the future of the Texas Democratic party to a head. Please bear with me if this is a little long, but there have been several allegations made of a slanderous nature trying to build an impression that the candidacy of David Van Os is an "anti" candidacy or a divisive step. Since I was involved within asking Mr. Van Os to run for this position, I think it would be best to answer these questions and take any heat that Ms. Malcolm and her supporters want to give and then allow the discussions about the future and role of the Texas Democratic party to be debated on grounds of substance rather than cheap allegations and falsehoods.
I first wrote and then called Molly Beth to discuss troubling reports that I was receiving about decisions being made by her independent of the SDEC and contrary to CECs across the state. Like all of you, I was troubled that the party had not enjoyed a very impressive track record under her tenure as Chair, but respectful of her efforts. She is a very nice and well intentioned person and she and I talked candidly but with mutual respect.
It is impossible to place the full load of a 0 for 29 statewide election record at her feet. Yes, she is the Chairman and the responsibility ultimately stops at her desk. But I do cut her some slack over some things that she was unable to stop, which were totally irresponsible acts by candidates within the 1998 general election campaigns. I told her that and she was honest in admitting that she can't control such independent and destructive acts by a few prominent Democrats. I respect her honesty, but not her position.
But I also told her that we had to enforce some basic principles within the SDEC and CECs; principles that members of the SDEC and CECs had to follow but a few of the candidates refused to do so. Yes, that means standing on the stage with other Democrats and supporting the whole ticket. She admitted that she had been unable to enforce that. We discussed in depth that she had to share her burden with and let the SDEC enforce that principle; they are the decision body of the Texas Democratic Party. But she continued to speak of making sure that certain decisions/discussions were not conducted in front of the press and others. She indicated that was the reason many decisions were not made by the SDEC but by her. I disagreed and plainly spoke that our party has nothing to hide; nothing to slack from and that as a history, Democrats always debated fiercely before coming together with a decision. In fact, this was what set us apart fro! m the other party.
I was honest and forthright in telling Molly Beth that I could not support such independent acts and such an approach. I told her that I felt strongly that the party had to stand together from the White House to the Outhouse [an old Democratic slogan lost in days of better plumbing]. I was further very forthright in telling her I felt it unforgivable that when control of the State Senate was up for grabs, Mr. Underwood in SD30 did not receive massive help (only cosmetic help) in his runoff race with Craig Estes, and from that failing we lost the Texas Senate. Her excuse was money, rather than talking about utilizing State Party staff or asking other neighboring districts to help at a time in which only one race was being contested. Her answer, in my opinion did not speak to the question I had asked.
Following my call with Molly Beth, I spent several hours on the phone and other means of contact seeing if I was the only Texas Democrat who felt this way. I visited websites and entered discussions on numerous websites; some of which now favor Molly Beth and others which seem to favor Mr. Van Os. The New Texas Democrat was one of those sites and it certainly was not established by Mr. Van Os as claimed by one of your writers. [This refers to Don Kirkpatrick's email.]
I found that other Texas Democrats also were frustrated by the loss of voice and representation of the rank and file within the SDEC and by Molly Beth. I and several others, including members of the SDEC, CECs across the State and other rank and file Democrats asked David Van Os to run and bring about this debate. It was our feeling that the rank and file had not willed away our role within the Party. We agreed that the party leaders were the backs, legs and muscle of the party, but by the very mechanism created as the precincts, CECs and SDEC the brain and spirit of the Party was still in the PEOPLE - the rank and file.
Since I have been on David's steering committee, I can tell you from the inside that we and David have made every attempt to keep this debate about the good of the party rather than make it a distraction. As a gentleman and a professional and a 'non-divisive person" David sent a letter to Molly Beth and the Party Staff to insure that they knew that he had no plans of making this either an "anti" debate or a divisive race. David has forwarded a spirited letter which speaks of the grassroots principle to the congressmen and other elected officials further explaining his stance and the basis of his request for this non-divisive debate. I have conversed with Congressmen. I have answered a few very well phrased questions and several attacks based upon deceit for David and his effort along with other supporters. I have spoken with other elected officials as well.
I also know what happened in El Paso and the attempts made to circumvent the gathering of these delegates. Both Molly Beth and David were invited to appear at that gathering. That was quite unlike Cate Read's reference to the Road Women in Houston.
What began as a debate about the future of the Party has rapidly escalated into a demonstration of my concerns of what the Party has become.
I am proud to be a Democrat because this party has a heritage of being centered on PEOPLE. That's a big difference from the Republican Party where the decisions are all made by a powerful, moneyed few. Coming from several generations of Texas Republicans, I always thought of the Republicans as the Big I, Little U party.
But, as I told Molly Beth, without pure intent, but simply by the way she runs things she has imported that approach to our State Party and her unintended outcome has been that the rank and file; the PEOPLE have suffered and voted with their feet. They simply don't turn out to vote.
Contrary to what Mr. Sanchez believes and actively tells party operatives, MONEY will not activate voters and get out the vote. Enthusiasm, involvement and empowerment will.
So with great respect to Molly Beth Malcolm for her absolute effort on behalf of the party it is a difficult position that I must take that we have to make a fundamental change to the approach of the Texas Democratic party. Since, by statute, we can only do so at the State convention, we must do so now.
Within the David Van Os for Chair campaign we have made every effort to keep everything Democratically partisan, yet non-divisive. We have been disappointed but not surprised that some have chosen to utilize an approach of boasting falsehoods and slander against David. Norma Chavez did not have to be divisive nor manipulative. Nor did Cate Reed. This is a debate centered on a race for leadership, not a display of who controls the power of the party. Gather every forum and demonstrate Democracy in action. Invite both Molly Beth and David Van Os and let the debate be about the future of the party rather than the elation of rumor and innuendo. Its about electing Democrats not flexing personal influence. For if this debate is about the demonstration of the inner power of influence, we have just confirmed what so many of us at the rank and file have come to know was true. The Texas Democratic Party has taken on the ways of! the Big I, Little U Party.
Back to State Chair Contest home page.
The page also directs readers to another letter, indicating Burkett's intimacy with the Texas Democratic Party's inner workings:
State Chair Contest
Bill Burkett 5/27
[This email was received from Bill Burkett May 27.]
In response to Mr. Kirkpatrick [see this email]
Mr. Kirkpatrick is right to clarify and assure accuracy of the record, but he left out one critical point. BOTH candidates were invited and a letter was read from Molly Beth, even according to the newspapers.
I think what is being missed in all of this is a sincere need for each of us to hear both candidates within a proper forum answering the questions about the future of the party. Mr. Kirkpatrick brought up a court case brought against Mr. Van Os and probably did not know that the case had been found completely in favor of Mr. Van Os with some severe comments within the ruling concerning the honesty and credibility of the plaintiffs. [see this letter] Both of Mr. Kirkpatrick's questions were fair questions, IF the candidate is allowed to answer them and IF they are based upon facts rather than fiction.
But there are also serious questions that must be asked of Molly Beth which need to be answered. One of those questions is about the SD 30 race, in which the Texas Democratic Party did not even provide minimal support for Mayor Underwood, since they believed the district was becoming more Republican and had a Republican edge. This district was the only race in the State and its outcome dictated the control of the Texas Senate. Yet the State Democratic party didn't fire a shot. That's not leadership.
The 0 for 29 record in her tenure as Chair also brings lots of questions to bear. Specifically, Molly Beth developed a strategy to 'heavily weight' East Texas races and let the more Republican West Texas Districts go it alone, since they had less of a chance to win. By her 1998 approach, we left West Texas Democrats only one option - to become Republicans, and that is purely not acceptable to a few. But this certainly contributed to a 0 for 29 then; and the loss of the State to redistricting this last year.
So the question I have to ask is "Molly Beth, what have you learned from these miscues and what would you have us do now?"
Certainly, we have precincts within Texas that are stronger than others, but when you lose even in your strongest districts and you have taken all of the assets out of those districts and precincts to apportion and reinforce those "heavyweight" districts, you have taken such risk that when you lose, you can't blame it on everyone else.
Back to State Chair Contest home page
These letters, if authentic, prove Bill Burkett is not an independent party, simply peddling forged letters on a whim. Bill Burkett is a major player in the Texas Democratic Party - and known to them at the highest levels.
If Bill Burkett is this powerful in the Texas Democratic Party, it is possible that he is also known to the Democratic Party at the National level...
David Van Os posting messages for Bill Burkett on "Texas Democrats" Yahoo Group
"TIMELY MESSAGE FROM A RURAL WEST TEXAS DEMOCRATIC GRASS ROOTS ACTIVIST"
Bill Burkett describes New Mexico Governor/Clinton advisor Bill Richardson as "old friend"
"Since I am a native of New Mexico, I suggest that you learn to appreciate the
difference of flavor of the New mexico style Mexican food and send my regards
to my old friend Bill Richardson. They're not so arrogant and important in
New Mexico. They still treat people as equals.
David Van Os posting for Bill Burkett re: lack of communication from Texas Democratic Chair
"From: "David Van Os"
Date: Mon Dec 23, 2002 4:05 am
Subject: RE: A Letter from Molly Beth Malcolm
Forwarded comments from West Texas Democratic Party activist Bill Burkett
Subject: Re: A Letter from Molly Beth Malcolm
Without making this in to a debate about a letter, I would like to make a few observations that continue to add more questions rather than answers to the issue of Molly Beth Malcolm's tenure as Texas Democratic Chair.
I have read the referenced letter from two indirect sources. I did not receive a copy of the letter"...