Thursday, July 26, 2007

Western N.C. in the National Spotlight

Bob Moser's article, "Purple America," in the new Nation magazine highlights the resurgence of the Wilkes County Democratic Party as a means for exploring in depth the vibrant changes Howard Dean has brought to the national party, primarily through his "50-state strategy."

The article opens with a tasty eye-witness account of the Wilkes Democratic County Convention back in April, particularly the performance of the ineffable Seth Chapman as keynote speaker, a role he performed as volubly that same month in Watauga County.

Tucked into that first section is a reference to Watauga County (though we go unnamed until page 3): "Farfetched as [the Democratic conquest of Wilkes County] sounds, it wouldn't be any more so than the red-to-blue turnaround that's happened just up the road..." (That'd be us in Watauga.)

Here are the paragraphs from page 3:

North Carolina's first hire [of regional political directors with Howard Dean support], Mark Hufford, knew the turf. He also knew that Democrats in a few of these mountain counties had already begun to dig themselves out of the doldrums -- particularly in Watauga County, where a band of progressives had taken over the party apparatus in the 1990s and, despite a sizable Republican majority among registered voters, slowly built toward dominance in local elections. The Watauga organizers were soon being deployed to help Hufford train and inspire other county leaders on recruiting good candidates, motivating volunteers and getting out votes. Last fall, as Watauga County chair Diane Tilson happily recalls, "We were the first county in the nation to do a countywide canvass. Yes we were! It was freezing cold, but we did it."

Often, even when hard-core Republicans answer their doors, they turn out to have issues on their mind that run right up the Democratic alley. "There's so many people that really don't realize the relationship between elections and whether or not they're going to be able to get their drugs," Tilson says, "or how expensive gas is." While new canvassers often brace themselves for a barrage of questions about abortion and gay marriage, that's not foremost on most folks' minds. "They're thinking about whether they'll have heat this winter," she says. "How they're going to get themselves to the grocery store and work."

In November, Democrats swept every race in Watauga....
Love that mean Dean! And love that Seth Chapman too. And miss that Mark Hufford, who's taken another job.

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