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Jeffrey Billman has produced for The Assembly the most revealing investigation of the current fight for the chairmanship of the NCDP, between a 73-year-old incumbent blamed by many grassroots activists for the 2022 debacle and a 25-year-old upstart with proven skills for winning unlikely campaigns. (I've written extensively about both Bobbie Richardson and Anderson Clayton and don't intend to write more. Use the search function up top, if you don't believe me.)
For his article on the Democrats, "Tangled Up in Blue," Billman interviewed a lot of people, but the interview he landed with Morgan Jackson is by far the most diagnostic of what's gone wrong with the Democrats. Morgan Jackson is Chief Political Strategist for Governor Cooper and also for Josh Stein ("Governor in '24!"), and the state Party has traditionally spent money the way the chief political strategist for the governor wanted it spent. So in the current struggle for the chairmanship, you don't get any more establishment than Morgan Jackson. Jackson has his own consulting firm, Nexus Strategies. He has a clear financial stake in the status quo, which happens to be the reelection of Bobbie Richardson. for it's in his interest and in the collective interests of his guys to make sure the gears are turning correctly down at the state Democratic Party HDQs.
"It all begins and ends with money," Jackson told Billman. Which ... no kidding!
So the big establishment doubt about Anderson Clayton, the insurgent, is pecuniary. Can a 25-year-old upstart be able to raise the money? Billman says the party under Richardson's management raised a record $29 million in the '21-'22 cycle. Can Anderson Clayton do as well? Or even rake in a more average $20 million? She'll actually need more than that to mount a sustenance plan for activist organizing in the rural counties.
You betcha the money will come for Anderson Clayton! I feel it myself. I don't think I've ever given anything directly to the state Dems (except my sweat and my blood), but with a new leader who has both a vision and a clue, I would be generous. Others would too. The fecklessness of the Raleigh apparatus frankly caused me to resent the county party's assessment for "the sustaining fund," which all county parties are required to pay to the central office. What's the money going to?
Clayton doesn't lack for confidence in herself. She forecast to Billman that "donors will open their wallets if there’s a clear vision for how to make North Carolina a beacon of the South.” I agree.
“I know from being in conversations with donors, mainly in the context of resourcing legislative campaigns, but also as chair of the Orange County Democrats, that there are a number of donors in state and out of state who would love to fund and feel a part of aggressive, on-the-ground field operations,” he said. “But you just need a strong, credible vehicle for building out strategies and executing plans.”
"Aggressive, on-the-ground field operations."
Orange County Senator Graig Meyer agreed that the state party has lacked a taste for blood, shying away from aggressive politics and "too dependent on outside groups to attack Republicans instead of doing it themselves." For example, Ted Budd never got successfully tagged as the good ole boy extremist he was.
Anderson Clayton gets the last word: "This party needs bite again."
We'll find out Saturday.