October 06, 2019

Chapter Spotlight: Vancouver brings them in

Close to 80,000 Americans live in Vancouver, and Susan Brennan, chair for DA’s Vancouver chapter and membership chair for DA Canada, is determined to reach every one of them. “We Americans do seem to find each other,” she says with a laugh. “I think we’re more assertive, especially Americans who leave the U.S. and live elsewhere. Maybe it’s a pioneering spirit.”

The Vancouver chapter got its formal start in 2008 when DA held its global meeting in the city. Early leadership crafted by-laws and constitution, a structure that now supports almost 3,700 members, the second largest chapter after Toronto. The growth was slow and steady, before a sharp uptick in 2016. “In 2012 we had 30 people vote in our Global Presidential Primary,” says Brennan, adding this was the year she got actively involved. “In 2016, that number jumped to 125.” The 2018 mid-terms brought in 100 people to watch the returns, many of whom have now become members and active volunteers.

Brennan and her board have kept the events coming: In 2018 they set up a voter registration table in front of Trump Tower. They’ve taken advantage of public-speaking events with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. They break out hotdogs for Fourth of July picnics, turkey and fixings for Thanksgiving dinners. This season’s Democratic debates have brought out 153 “unique” people, with debate-watch venues in Downtown Vancouver, the University of British Columbia, and Surrey. Plans are already in the works for hosting Kitchen Table conversations to help mold DA’s 2020 platform. Brennan has her eye on recruiting Darius Pruss, member-at-large for DA Canada and member of the Vancouver’s board as well, to head these up. “He’s a policy wonk,” she says. “He’s really good.”

The future is where it’s at for Brennan and her chapter. The goal? More, she says simply. More events, “more people stepping forward.” She’s proud of her board and grateful for how they came together this past year when her husband was being treated for cancer. “We’d just opened our store,” she explains. (The couple own a comic-books and collectibles store called Nifty Keen Stuff.) “I was trying to work, take care of him and run the chapter.” The support of DA members made it all possible.

What also keeps Brennan going is the thought of all those Americans in her part of Canada. “There are a lot of people out there who could vote and don’t,” she says. This chapter is doing its best to find them.