Saturday, January 21, 2023

Time for New Leadership at the NCDP


I wasn't gonna flap my fat lip about insider Democratic Party stuff -- at least not right now -- but Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein -- Democrats both -- force my hand by endorsing Bobbie Richardson for another term as chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Following that disastrous election. Josh Stein just yesterday allowed Richardson to put his picture and his endorsement on her social media, and Gov. Cooper endorsed her a couple of days before that.

Meanwhile, Anderson Clayton of Person County has been endorsed (according to her own website) by over 90 Democratic leaders, particularly young electeds and Party activists in rural counties looking for a different kind of losing proposition, maybe even a winning formula.  (There are others in the race for Chair; see below.)

Why Cooper and Stein did their endorsements I don't know -- I'm planning to guess, by-'n'-by -- but it certainly brands the coming election of Party leadership as Establishment v. The Folks With Pitchforks and Big Jugs of Vinegar. The State Executive Committee (SEC), made up of over 800 voting members from all (?) the 100 counties, will elect the Party chair (and several other sub-chairs) at a regular Winter Meeting on February 11.

The last time the establishment candidate for party chair lost the SEC election was in 2005. That was the year of Jerry Meek, who was the insurgent reformer running against the establishment candidate Ed Turlington. Governor Mike Easley had endorsed Turlington. But Meek won. It was a surprise, apparently, and the Howard Dean-inspired upstarts made some real gains in 2006 and 2008. Jerry Meek was, in my long experience with the NCDP, the best state Party chair of this century. Whoever wrote his Wikipedia entry got it right:

As State Chair, Meek worked aggressively to rebuild the State Party’s grassroots network, to expand services and support to local party organizations, to make better use of technology, and to encourage new people – especially young people – to become active in the Democratic Party. He retired as party chair in 2009....

Meek got measurable results in the general elections of both 2006 and 2008, when Barack Obama and Bev Perdue and Kay Hagan all won the state. The general elections of 2006, in rural counties in western North Carolina, were a no less stunningly good year, because County parties that had been fading away got their gumption back, and fought back, and took local offices (don't ask me for exact numbers, except this one: In Watauga County in 2006, Democrats swept all the local races, from sheriff to county commission, and helped elect Steve Goss to the Senate and Cullie Tarleton to the House. During his tenure as chair, Meek came to Watauga more than once, learned how we do canvassing by going canvassing with us, and he convened the one and only -- far as I know -- round-table for progressive bloggers at Party HDQs in Raleigh, where I met some of the activists still kicking.

So the point is, an insurgent candidate like Anderson Clayton could surprise everyone. And do us a world of good.

Why Anderson Clayton?

Right off the bat I've got to admit that I've known her for years, and I know the tactical incubator that birthed her. Anderson was a rising leader in the AppState Student Government Assoc. at the same time Watauga Democrats were perfecting their staffing model for field and for mobilizing young voters. Anderson rose in the SGA Senate, won president of SGA in 2017, because she had the qualities of born leadership, and good political instincts, and she was key in galvanizing the college cohort to participate in our democracy. 

She's still young (25), vivacious, smart -- she majored in poly sci and journalism at AppState. Grew up in Roxboro in Person County (up along the northern border with Virginia), and when she got back there after AppState, she immediately took the reins of the Person County Democratic Party, "at a crisis point .... Within two years, Anderson led Person County to flip the Roxboro City Council and flip a seat in the NC House—one of just two red-to-blue flips in the House in ’22" (Clayton website).

On her Linked-In page, Clayton names Rural Innovation Network (RIN) as her current employer, working as a "broadband analyst," which captures some of RIN's focus on helping develop tech infrastructure in rural county cultures. RIN's website says the org has developed outposts in 34 different counties across the nation, including one in Wilkes County, where "local leaders are focused on educating and training local residents in tech skills (especially those traditionally excluded from the tech industry), employing them in new economy jobs, and empowering them to launch startups that will drive a prosperous 21st-century economy."

Anderson promises, "We can break the cycle of Democratic decline," a flash of both hopefulness and frankness that's required when the current Party leadership seems loath to admit anything could have been done differently or better in the future. I understand why gentlemen at the top of the ticket might want control of the State Party -- the so-called "coordinated campaigns" run by the state party have always been skewed to the messaging strategy and tactics of the Top Dog, usually the Guv, which Josh Stein is trying to be.

Stein's surprising, even electrifying preemptive attack on Mark Robinson in his announcement video earlier this week -- that rallied me for a Governor candidate who's going to be under vicious attack constantly. But Stein's endorsement of Richardson sends exactly the opposite message for me, that he's nervous about grassroots and progressive energy in this Party. Granted, the grassroots can sometimes grow stinky weeds. I'm willing to admit it. But a Party stuck in neutral, doing the same things again, that's not for me.

Others in the Race for Chair

Aside from incumbent Chair Bobbie Richardson (about whom I expressed an opinion back in December)....

Eric Terashima (website), a retired career Marine, former chair of the Brunswick County Party, and a losing candidate for the NC House.

LeVon Barnes ran for Durham City Council in 2017 and for the Durham County Board of Commish in 2020 and lost both times in the primaries.

Scott Huffman (2022 congressional candidate website) has become something of a perennial candidate, running for Congress in NC-8 in the Democratic primary in 2018, in the 2020 congressional election in NC-13, and in the NC-8 congressional election in 2022. He lost all of those.

Eva Lee, Wake County activist who toyed with running both a senatorial campaign and a campaign for state Labor Commissioner in 2020 (according to Ballotpedia) but never put her name on the ballot.

And there may well be additional candidates in the days ahead before February 11th.


Wolf's Head said...

Butting heads with the establishment, are you?

Welcome to the party, pal.

Anonymous said...

How could we vote on this? Thanks!