Distinguished Democrats: Gary Stark

Gary describes himself as “a concerned citizen with lots of experience, doing what he can in the time he has, to work towards what he believes in.”

As a retired professor of German History at GVSU, he can’t help but think about what can happen in America if people are not vigilant and involved in upholding democracy. His advice to young leaders new to the Kent Dems is: “Become involved. There are a whole range of things people can do to bring about change, especially on the local level. Everyone can be doing more; should be doing more.”

Gary decided to become involved himself after attending the 2017 Women’s March on the Mall in D.C., right after Trump got elected. He was impressed with how Katie Fahey, the organizer for Voters Not Politicians (VNP), took an idea to end statewide gerrymandering to reality. He enjoyed using his skills as a presenter for VNP to promote a cause he believed in. Using Katie as an example, Gary said, “You are more powerful than you think you are.”

When Gary decided to check out the Kent Dems, others took note of his leadership abilities and persuaded him to be the Chair in 2017. It was a steep learning curve for him to learn the culture, get to know the members and figure out how things are done. He is proud that along with Jeff Winston, they were able to secure the new headquarters which has made a huge difference. 

During the 2020 elections while he was Chair, the eyes of the nation and the world were on Kent County as one of five “bellwether” counties in the country. Gary said it was “kind of fun” to be dealing with the media and doing telephone interviews from all around the world as Kent County Dems came through and turned the county Blue for the first time in a long time. 

After the election, Gary decided to step down from being the Chair on a high note and reduce stress associated with the job. In 2022, he agreed to chair the 3rd Congressional District and helped to get Hillary Scholten re-elected. He enjoys working with other county parties and to see how well the Kent Dems are doing compared to others in the District. 

Gary is currently the First Vice-Chair, Chair of the Endorsement Committee, Chair of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, and serves on the Fundraising Committee. He also serves on the MI Voter Protection Hotline trouble-shooting voter issues. He enjoys being behind the scenes as a facilitator and helping to get critical infrastructures in place.  

Gary is motivated by a desire for fairness, a sense of justice, and an empathy for people who have been discriminated against. His advice to others is “to pay attention to what is going on in the world. Take on responsibility. Be someone others can count on. Step up and do what needs to be done.”

Want to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention? Here’s How.

Ever wonder how we, as a Democratic Party, decide which candidates will run under our banner in the fall?

For many offices, such as Congress, state legislature, and county and township offices, our nominees are chosen in the summer primary election (August 6 this year). Candidates for statewide education boards and Michigan Supreme Court are nominated at a state Democratic convention (this year’s convention will be August 24 in Lansing – mark your calendar!).

But how do we decide our nominee for President?

The Democratic presidential nominating process includes the following steps:

STEP ONE: Presidential primary election. More than 770,000 Michigan voters voted a Democratic ballot in the presidential primary election. President Joe Biden got 81.1% of the vote statewide, including 82% in the 2nd Congressional District and 80.6% in the 3rd Congressional District.

STEP TWO: Delegates are awarded to presidential candidates. Delegate spots are awarded proportionally to candidates who receive more than 15% of the vote in the presidential primary statewide as well as within each congressional district. Because only Joe Biden got over 15% of the vote, he won all statewide delegate spots as well as all delegates for the 2nd and 3rd districts.

STEP THREE: The actual delegates (and alternates) are selected. Michigan will have 140 National Convention delegates this year. These include four from the Second Congressional District; six from the Third Congressional District; 25 at-large delegates; and 15 delegate spots reserved for Party leaders and elected officials. District-level delegates will be elected at Congressional District Conventions on May 11; all other delegates and alternates will be elected by the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee on June 8. To run for DNC Delegate and/or Alternate, you must fill out the Delegate Declaration of Candidacy form and be an MDP member by April 11 (for district-level Delegate candidates) or May 6 (for PLEO and At-Large candidates). Protip: Fill out and send in your Delegate Declaration of Candidacy ASAP – don’t let deadlines sneak up on you!

STEP FOUR: Democratic National Convention. The Convention will take place on August 19-22 in Chicago. Delegates to the Convention will vote to nominate our candidates for President and Vice President and adopt the Democratic Party’s national platform.

Want to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention? If so, you must do two things by April 12:

District-level delegates will be selected at district conventions on Saturday, May 11.

Distinguished Democrats: Hon. Lupe Ramos-Montigny

Hon. Lupe Ramos-Montigny
Educator, Democratic Party Leader, Community Organizer

Anyone who has ever crossed paths with Lupe Ramos-Montigny would undoubtedly tell you she is a force to be reckoned with. Certainly, she is nothing but a ball of gusto, vim and vigor even now after decades of dedication as an educator, mentor, politico, and community organizer.

“There’s no book that says you have to like Ramos-Montigny,” Lupe once told Tom Rademacher, a long-time reporter and columnist for The Grand Rapids Press, with a laugh. “I just believe in doing good work, and hoping others join in. My motto? Do not allow anyone or anything to get in the way of progress.

From picking Michigan cherries and tomatoes as a migrant worker’s child to earning numerous degrees and teaching 36 years with GRPS, Lupe has been guided by a singular focus on cultivating herself, building up those around her, and never letting “no” stop her.

After retiring from teaching, W. Paul Mayhue recruited her to join Kent County Democrats as a professional. When asked what she wanted to do, Lupe responded that she wanted to go to Democratic National Conventions.

Countless of conventions later, she is noted as the organizing force behind the Michigan Democratic Hispanic/Latino Caucus, which she also chaired. In 2002, she also became the first Latina to serve as Kent County Democratic Party Chair and later, in 2003, the first Hispanic Vice-Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

She was elected to the Michigan State Board of Education for eight years, and she continues to chair the community-based Committee to Honor Cesar E. Chavez since its inception in 2000.

As a leader, Lupe has found she could help lots of people at all levels. And she urges everyone: “Attend meetings. Get involved. Understand how things work and meet key leaders. There are many opportunities to be a leader. We always have to move forward.”

It’s that indomitable spirit that caused GVSU to name the “Si Se Puede” “Yes, I Can!” Legacy Scholarship after her in 2015. This past November, she was recognized as an engaged and inspiring individual at the “16 Over 60 Gala.”

“If I believe in something, I will work hard,” Lupe said. “I never say I can’t do something. Right now, I can.”

Click here to read more of Lupe’s story by Terry Gates.