The North Carolina Democratic Party has a secret, but it is not a secret within the circles of the African-American community. For the last 30 years, since the Jim Hunt Democratic dynasty, the party has collectively wooed African-Americans in an effort to turn out the vote for their candidates.
But, for at least the last 10 years, those same Democratic candidates have courted the African-American vote by saying one thing and doing another.
Janet Barnes, a longtime Democratic activist in the NCDP, says it best, “They take us to the dance and then they leave with another woman.” Barnes has held many positions within the Democratic Party in North Carolina, and she is not the only one that has become vocal in how the Democratic establishment takes for granted the most significant minority population in the state – the Black vote.
Democratic politicos will tell you that they cannot win without the African-American turnout. When Senator Kay Hagan ran for reelection in 2014, many African-American leaders met her on the tarmac in Charlotte to explain why the minority vote was so important and how she needed to engage African-American voters. Either Sen. Hagan didn’t listen or she didn’t think it was important enough to change her game plan. She lost to Tom Tillis by 40,000 votes and she did not bring in Mecklenburg County – a community that has become more liberal and has historically been demographically heavy with African-Americans.
Fast forward to 2016.
North Carolina is a battleground state between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Presently, some polls have Clinton with a two-point lead over Trump and many Democratic politicos would like to see that translate into down ballot wins: especially from Roy Cooper, Josh Stein, Linda Coleman and the rest of the statewide candidates that will make up the Council of State.
Unfortunately, many of these candidates still have not reached out to minority African-American voters, especially in eastern North Carolina. And, African-American leaders are getting tired of supporting candidates that won’t return phone calls or remember their names after Election Day- let alone the issues they profess to address.
Veleria Levy, the second vice chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, would not comment on many of the questions I asked her regarding the division between fractions of African-American caucus, but she did say that she acknowledged that a lot of work needs to be done with regard to minority caucuses. Levy is the only Democrat running for Rowan County Commissioner in a heavily fortified Republican community.
Marshall Adame, the chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party Hispanic Caucus, acknowledges the lack in leadership on the Democratic side when it comes to engaging minorities, especially Latinos.
Adame says, “We need to build coalitions and we need to build up the caucuses. The Democratic Party is a big tent organization and there is room for everyone. And everyone should have a voice and a seat at the table.”
But, having a seat at the table means different things to different Democrats. What most minority Democrats will tell you is that a seat at the table is a seat on the Executive Council. Recently, the North Carolina Democratic Party Rules Committee attempted to change the bylaws of the Plan of Organization, making it harder for caucuses to form statewide.
Gracie Galloway, the chair of the Asian-American Pacific Islanders caucus, was instrumental in working with the DNC and some North Carolina Democrats on holding off the Rules Committee from making those changes.
Many Democrats, not just minorities, were taken aback when the North Carolina Democratic Party tried to change caucus rules in the middle of a presidential campaign cycle.
As Janet Barnes stated, “This is just not what you do, and this is not how you do it.” Barnes, who was an SEC member at the last party meeting, less than two months ago asked for a quorum call which ended the North Carolina Democratic Party’s actions to change the minority party structure.
Behind-the-scenes, minority Democrats feel that too much weight is being given to LGBT activists. Within the North Carolina Democratic structure, LGBT activist make up at least 40% of the North Carolina Democratic Party when it comes to elected positions and appointments. Take for example Equality NC’s Executive Director and General Assembly Representative Chris Sgro, his wife Ryan Butler sits on the NCDP Executive Council and the Bylaws committee. Butler is also an SEC member and DNC member and he’s just one individual.
Many minorities, and politicos for that matter, think that is too much power in the hands of a very few people. LGBT activist are usually single issue individuals. Take for example HB2. Mainstream media has played up the bathroom clause in House Bill 2, but has virtually remained silent on the other clauses that affect minorities and poor people statewide.
Many Democrats, as well as minorities, see the bathroom issue as a non-issue, however they do see that an employee should be able to bring a lawsuit for nondiscrimination in state court (a right which was restored in July) and many believe that a municipality should have a right to adjust a living wage standard.
Some activists are even more vocal when it comes to the Democratic elite who have often been cited historically as the North Carolina Democratic Party’s movers and shakers. Some Democrats feel that the Jim Hunt playbook and pay to play politics should be a thing of the past.
Minorities chastise the Democratic Party for the way they have been treated. It should come as no surprise that Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HK on J), started by the Rev. Dr. William Barber, the North Carolina president of the NAACP, began during a Democratic administration because minorities were not being heard nor acknowledged and were being taken for granted.
If Democratic candidates want to win in North Carolina, the LGBT coalition will not be able to win the day – it has always taken minority voters going to the polls in mass numbers and especially black voters historically.