Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dan Besse Running Again for NC House in Forsyth County

Many of the Democratic rising stars who made good showings but still lost in 2018 laid the groundwork for coming out stronger, wiser, more organized, and better funded in the 2020 races ahead of us. I'm talking here specifically about the outstanding army of progressives who rattled the doors on the NC General Assembly last year and are back already for 2020.

Dan Besse, on the right
Our friend Dan Besse came within 2,000 votes of beating incumbent Republican Donny Lambeth in NC House District 75. The 75th is entirely inside Forsyth County and largely suburban. It creeps along Forsyth County’s southern border with Davidson County, from Kernersville in the east to Clemmons in the west, with a finger reaching into southwest Winston-Salem, including the Ardmore neighborhood.

Dan is an attorney, a graduate of UNC Law School, and a five-term member of the Winston-Salem city council.  He's made good (and alternative) transportation a special focus of his terms in office, including safe streets, good public transit, and a growing network of safe biking and pedestrian paths, greenways, and sidewalks. (Dan takes full advantage of those paths, greenways, and sidewalks because he's a pretty damn impressive athlete, competing in bike rides and foot races in that Forsyth County heat). He also represents Winston-Salem in leadership roles on the urban area Transportation Advisory Committee, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, and the National League of Cities. I contributed to Dan's campaign in 2018 and have again for the 2020 contest.

In his law practice, Dan has sought out cases dealing with environmental law and public health, clean energy and utilities, and fair employment, housing, and health care access for working families. He has taught classes in environmental law and policy, and in government, at colleges from N.C State University to Winston-Salem State University and Forsyth Technical Community College.

So ... no surprise he recently posted this on his Facebook page:
I focus a lot of attention on the need to change some of the most egregious failures of this Republican-led legislature: its refusal to close the health care coverage gap or protect coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions; its disrespect for our teachers and failure to pay them what they deserve or fund a good public education for every child; its outrageous attacks on voting rights, civil rights, and human rights.
But there's another Republican legislative failure that is hurting the health of our people today and jeopardizing our future: its rollbacks of clean air and water protections, its refusal to make polluters pay to clean up their messes, its baffling attacks on clean energy development, and its willful ignorance in the face of impending climate disaster.
I've spent much of my public service career working to cut pollution and protect public health and our natural environment. I understand in detail just how much damage this legislature is doing to us all now, and to the prospects for a good future for our children and grandchildren. And I understand how to go about repairing that damage and getting our state back on track as a leader in clean energy and a clean environment.

Donny Lambeth
Meanwhile, incumbent Donny Lambeth won his seat in 2012 with people suggesting he'd be a "moderate." Whatever that word meant when applied to Republican office-holders pre-Trump, it's become something of a joke now. (To Trump, a "moderate" is a limp dick.) But, really, moderate? Lambeth recently tried to wipe out Dan Besse, his 2018 election opponent, as a Winston-Salem city councilman in a "local bill" to redistrict the council seats, double-bunking Dan with a Republican member, while also incidentally punishing the four African-American women on the council. That proposed redistricting bill produced a fire storm, and Lambeth quickly withdrew it.

Even more recently Lambeth played a more obvious "moderate card" as chief sponsor of an (ultimately doomed?) Republican-lite Medicaid expansion bill that suddenly passed a Republican committee last week. The timing's everything, with the Republican majority currently thwarted in passing a vetoed budget until they cave to the governor on Medicaid expansion. That Lambeth bill passed its committee but has yet to reach the House floor, and so far the Big Boss, Mr. Berger in the Senate, has shown no affection for it. Lambeth, who always looks like the act of smiling is physically painful, of course stuck a work requirement into his legislation, because why would a "moderate Republican" pass up an opportunity to further humiliate the already working poor.

The day after the election last fall, Dan hinted on Facebook that he would run again: "This race was not the end of our efforts, but the beginning. You can look for more news over the coming month." If he ever made a formal announcement about running again in 2020, I can't find it. But he's obviously running. The post excerpted above about a new emphasis on the environment was prelude to inviting everyone to a fundraiser for the 2020 campaign.

Dan is currently very active on Facebook, has a Twitter account but doesn't use it. He needs to up his game.

He also needs a campaign manager, preferably one with experience. He needs boots on the ground, lots of them. He needs a strategy (based on data) for identifying those Republican voters who're weary of Trumpian conduct wherever it takes place.

Forsyth County was one of the most under-performing urban counties in all of North Carolina in 2018. All Democratic candidates running in all races in 2020 need to hold a private summit and figure out why and what to do about it before 2020 actually dawns.

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