OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Barely one week on the job, Oklahoma Democratic Party chairman Ivan Holmes is scrambling to put together a new staff and raise enough money to keep the party's office open past June.
Holmes, elected to replace outgoing party head Lisa Pryor at the party's statewide convention on May 19, also said he has received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from Oklahoma Democrats since his election complaining that the party is not aggressive enough opposing President Bush and the war in Iraq.
State Democrats also want the party to show more support for traditional Democratic issues like health care, he said.
Describing the Democratic Party as the “party of the big tent,'' Holmes said he welcomes their comments.
“One thing I am going to do is open up this party,'' Holmes said.
Holmes said state Democrats are struggling to pay off $75,000 in debt mostly from former Rep. Brad Carson's unsuccessful 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate.
“We don't have a lot of money,'' said Holmes, 69, who ran Labor Commissioner Lloyd Fields' successful campaign to unseat Republican Brenda Reneau last year. Holmes said he has resigned as Fields' director of communications.
“We're working on a skeleton crew. So we're trying to figure out how to raise money,'' he said.
Holmes said it costs about $30,000 a month to operate the party's Oklahoma City office. After paying June's rent and other expenses, only about $2,000 will remain, he said.
“I've got until next month to raise $30,000,'' he said.
Holmes said that during the state party's convention, he passed out pledge cards to about 1,000 Democrats seeking donations of $20 a month to fund party activities. He said about 100 people signed the cards and he is hoping to receive more in the coming weeks.
Holmes said he also asked for and received the resignations of two staff workers whose salaries were paid by the Democratic National Committee. A third has not responded to the request, he said.
All were given the opportunity to reapply for their jobs, he said. That was the same procedure used at the Department of Labor after Fields was elected last fall, Holmes said.
Pryor, who also holds the title of executive director of the state party, will leave that position at the end of the month.
“The problem really is one of manpower,'' he said. Holmes said he plans to hire additional staffers and is working with the national party to pay their salaries.