The North Carolina Democratic Party has recruited candidates to run in every state legislative race as part of a strategy to break Republican state lawmakers’ supermajority. The party’s 100-county strategy also involves boosting voter enthusiasm across the state. Since February, state Democratic Party leader Wayne Goodwin has been connecting with local party leaders and members in Eastern North Carolina, as part of his rural listening tour.
Goodwin made stops last week in Wayne, Lenoir, Craven and Carteret Counties, where he met with local party leaders and members. The visit is Goodwin’s third trip to Eastern North Carolina, as part of the listening tour.
“America and North Carolina have both fallen in objective measurements in how we’re viewed in the world, and it’s because Republicans are in charge,” Goodwin told about 25 party members at the Craven County Democratic Women’s lunch on Thursday. "And we Democrats are partially to blame for letting this happen. So, whatever it means to get more Democratic votes in this county, you do it because the world is watching.”
For the first time in recorded history, Democratic candidates are running in all 170 state legislative races. With the help of Gov. Cooper, the party has raised $2.4 million to support these candidates. The party’s primary goal is to break Republican state lawmakers’ veto-overriding majority, Goodwin said.
“Because Republicans have such dominance in our state legislature, they have no incentive to come to the table and to negotiate. They have no incentive to understand why certain proposals are bad and should be vetoed. They essentially can overrule any veto that Governor Cooper chooses to issue. Governor Cooper was elected by the entire state, these legislators were only elected by their districts. It harms our system of government to have the legislators overturn every veto that Governor Cooper believes is necessary,” Goodwin said.
Last year, Republican state lawmakers overturned 10 of Gov. Cooper’s 13 vetoes, which is the most the General Assembly has ever overridden in a legislative session. To prevent this from continuing next year, Democrats need to elect in November four candidates to the state house and six to the state senate.
“This election is vital, we have seen such tremendous negative coverage for our state with our public schools, with our economy, with other decisions that have been made by the Republican legislative leadership since they took control that we need to win more seats to break the supermajority to start undoing the damage they have done,” Goodwin said.
Turning red districts blue could prove challenging in Eastern North Carolina, where Republicans have dominated state legislative districts for years. But that’s not due to a shortage of registered Democrats and independents. In the state’s third congressional district, which includes 17 eastern counties, Democratic and unaffiliated voters outnumber Republicans roughly two to one. Goodwin says his party’s rural listening tour aims to address this disconnect.
“I believe when they learn more about what the party truly stands for, when they know that we are fighting for every county and every vote. And that we’re focusing more than ever on rural Eastern North Carolina, I think we can win back folks. When Democrats vote Democrat, Democrats win,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin says the party doesn’t expect to win every race, but the energy he’s seen among party members statewide has raised his confidence that Democrats will do well in November’s elections.
“I’ve gone into communities where in years past I’ve visited and there might be five or ten people, where we’ve had fifty people or a hundred people at town hall meetings. We had our precinct meetings last year where six thousand new people showed up who hadn’t been at precinct meetings before statewide. That’s incredible. And we’ve had forty five percent increase in the number of organized precincts. We were more organized last year because of this energy than we were during the actual presidential election year,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin says he hasn’t seen this much energy among Democratic voters in at least 20 years. He says he thinks a number of factors are contributing to this excitement.
“We have an extremely unpopular Congress and an even more unpopular or equally unpopular state legislature led by the Republicans,” Goodwin said. “The fact that Republicans have been decimating our public schools, have been choosing to make poor investments in many ways and support policies that benefit millionaires and billionaires instead of supporting average working families like here in Eastern North Carolina.”
The exact level of enthusiasm among Democratic voters won’t become evident until Election Day on November 6. Until then, the party will continue working to engage voters across the state, Goodwin said.