Hunt rallies state Democrats, down on their luck

lbonner@newsobserver.comAugust 17, 2013 

— Former Gov. Jim Hunt delivered a pep talk to grassroots leaders of the state’s beleaguered Democratic Party on Saturday night, where he emphasized the basics of winning elections.

Hunt told the crowd at a reception named partly in his honor to appeal to independent voters, run good candidates and raise money.

“We’re not exactly the party of money,” Hunt said, “but we can do more than we’ve done.”

Lack of money is one of the reasons the party is struggling. The Sanford-Hunt-Frye event at which Hunt was speaking was busted from a dinner down to a reception this year because of strains on party finances.

The New York Times and other national media outlets “are talking about how terrible things are in North Carolina,” said Hunt, referencing a widely debated editorial titled “The Decline of North Carolina.”

“It’s because they know how good they were,” Hunt said. “North Carolina is going to come back and be the great state that we love so much.”

Talk of unity dominated a meeting of state Democratic Party grassroots leaders earlier Saturday, as a proposed confidence vote in the party’s embattled chairman never gained traction.

Media consultant Frank Eaton, who had called for a confidence vote in Chairman Randy Voller, did not attend the party’s state executive committee meeting, and open opposition to Voller’s leadership never materialized.

Exhortations for members to pull together as their party faces adversity drew sustained applause.

“Beware of diversions,” said Ben Chavis Jr., a member of the Wilmington 10 and former national NAACP executive director. “Beware of disunity. If there was ever a time we need unity in the Democratic Party, it is now.”

After dominating state politics for more than a century, Democrats have been driven to near irrelevance in just four years, with Republicans holding super-majorities in the state House and Senate, the governor’s office and a majority on the state Supreme Court.

Legislative maps give Republican candidates advantages in most House and Senate districts. Though some Democrats talked of regaining a majority in either the state House or Senate, others said that it will take more than another year.

“We just have to say to ourselves we’re not going to win in 2014,” said William A. Franklin, a committee member from Burlington. “We’re in a real corner and we’ve got to turn it around. And we will. I have confidence.”

Franklin surmised that scrambling over scarce money triggered the party rift, but that Voller can pull everyone together.

Voller has been criticized for owing back taxes to the IRS and for putting a trip to Las Vegas on a party credit card, which he later repaid.

“Differences of opinion are fine,” Voller said of his critics. “It’s a democratic process.”

The party can expand its reach by getting disaffected people to vote, he said.

“We’re a party in transition,” he said. “We’re learning now how to move forward.”

Bonner: 919-829-4821

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service