Odus Evbagharu made history when he became both the first Black and the youngest (at age 28) chair of the Harris County Democratic Party (HCDP). And while he’s happy to talk about such an achievement, he’s also busy planning out the next steps for the state’s largest Democratic county party.
In an interview with Texas Signal Evbagharu discussed the immediate and long-term strategy for the HCDP. Evbagharu and his team are busy focusing on hiring and making sure that it can set the tone for not only the upcoming special session, but next year’s elections.
And with in-person events slowly ramping up, the HCDP is going to need all hands on deck. “I really want to make sure that our precinct chairs and volunteers are well taken care of, they know what the mission is and they are well equipped to handle the mission,” says Evbagharu.
That mission is to turn out as many votes as possible for Democrats in Harris County. The opportunity to get back to regular canvassing is exciting for Evbagharu. With canvassing suspended for most democratic campaigns in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the party lost out on a strategic advantage.
According to Evbagharu two important things happen with canvassing in-person: “You get to proactively put your message out there, but you also get to block the messages that are being put out there by the opposing party.” Directly meeting people and having conversations are integral for a party that is not beholden to special interest groups. “We always do more with less, that’s what makes being a Democrat amazing,” says Evbagharu.
The importance of Harris County cannot be overstated. After all, it’s the largest county in the state and the third largest in the country. Evbagharu has a long history with the HCDP that will come in handy as he works to coordinate with candidates and campaigns. In 2018 he served as both the Communications Director and Candidate Coordinator for the HCDP. Evbagharu is also the Chief of Staff to State Rep. Jon Rosenthal, a position he will hold until the end of the year.
A major priority as Evbagharu works to grow the HCDP is building coalitions “from the bottom up.” Specifically, he refers to these coalition partners as the “DMV,” otherwise known as “the disenfranchised, marginalized and voiceless.” The future of the party, and indeed of the state, relies on getting those “DMV” voters engaged throughout the year, and not just election season.
“So goes Harris County, so goes Texas, so goes the country,” says Evbagharu. And that type of energy and excitement can’t just stop at the county lines. Evbagharu is also looking to increase turnout by working together with other county parties in the region like Fort Bend, Galveston, and plenty more.
But the cornerstone is always Harris County. And for Evbagharu, “progress starts here.”