The Orange County Democratic Party, after a year in which it lost its executive director after a short tenure and was rocked by the Kinde Durkee scandal, has drafted a young leader with hopes of invigorating the party machinery.
Nick Anas, 26, who until recently headed the Orange County Young Democrats, has been appointed executive director of the party and expects to be in the job for a long time.
“He’s a great pick,” Democratic Party Chairman Frank Barbaro said of Anas. “I’ve watched him make the Orange County Young Democrats into a real force, an outfit that has fundraising capacity and power throughout the state.”
A leader with fundraising prowess is a must for an organization hit hard in the wake of the Kinde Durkee embezzlement scandal last year. Durkee, who was treasurer for the local party, the Young Democrats and a long list of top elected Democrats, allegedly stole millions from the party and individuals.
Barbaro said last year’s successful Truman Dinner, the local party’s biggest annual fundraiser, helped shore up the party’s finances.
“We have the money to be able to operate throughout the rest of the year,” he said. “We want to do more than just operate the party. We want to donate to candidates, work to organize precincts and raise additional funds to expand the party’s scope throughout the county.”
Barbaro said that Anas would help the party shed a longtime criticism that it spends more time and money on races outside of Orange County.
“With Nick, we’re going to have more of a pulse of what’s going on here in the county and have more information and more ability to focus on local races where we have a legitimate change to pull off a win.”
Barbaro and other Democratic leaders are also seeking some stability at the top after a short stint by Gerrie Schipske that ended in controversy over how she was being paid.
Barbaro compares Anas to many of the young Democrats he worked with in the 1970s: Santa Ana’s Mayor Miguel Pulido and former Mayor Dan Young as well as Rancho Santiago Community College District Trustee John Hanna and political consultant George Urch.
“I’m very excited,” Barbaro said. “He and people like him are the future of the party.”
Anas, who serves on the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board, is an Orange County native who grew up in La Habra. After attending Fullerton College, he transferred to UC Santa Barbara and graduated in 2008 with a degree in political science.
After moving back to Orange County, Anas interned with the local party and ran a few smaller ballot campaigns. He was then put in charge of running Irvine Councilwoman Beth Krom’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign for Congress.
In April he became president of the Orange County Young Democrats and until recently was working as a professional political fundraiser in Los Angeles.
Anas said heading the Democratic Party is a “perfect fit,” a “dream job” for a political junkie from Orange County.
Anas said he wants to build more bridges with Orange County labor groups, something Schipske also adopted as a goal but failed to accomplish.
“I want to solidify it,” he said. “They are one of the key groups that have been on the front lines. To me, labor is the Democratic Party.”
Anas also said he wants “to ramp up our fundraising” and give more help to local candidates, especially in the small cities.
“I’ve worked with large and small campaigns, so I know a lot of the basics.”