Outgoing state insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin wants to lead the N.C. Democratic Party, replacing current chairwoman Patsy Keever who has decided not to seek another term.
Goodwin, who has led the N.C. Department of Insurance since 2009, lost his re-election bid in November to Republican Mike Causey. Goodwin is a native of the Richmond County town of Hamlet and previously served in the N.C. House.
Goodwin launched his run this week on a Facebook page.
“Now is the time for the N.C. Democratic Party to elect a chairman who is seasoned in the grassroots needs and operational and organizational components of our party,” he wrote. “Now is the time for us to elect a chairman who can – and will – go toe to toe with Republican Party counterparts, and be a strong, respected voice for our party. ... Now is the time for us to elect a chairman who Gov. Roy Cooper can count on every day to have his back, to have your back and to represent our party.”
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Reached Wednesday, Keever – a former state legislator from Asheville who’s led the party since 2015 – said she’d always planned to step down after a single two-year term.
“I did what I came to do,” she said. “It was to come in and stabilize the party, raise money, and get Gov. Cooper elected, and we did those things.”
Keever said Goodwin is a strong candidate for the position, but she doesn’t plan to make any endorsement.
Keever took control of a divided and cash-strapped party in February 2015 following the controversial tenure of former Pittsboro mayor Randy Voller.
Under Keever’s leadership, Democrats ousted Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and elected their preferred candidate for N.C. Supreme Court but fell short in an effort to end GOP supermajorities in the legislature and hold onto several Council of State positions. The state party had about $1.8 million on hand at the end of the most recent campaign finance reporting period.
Goodwin’s bid to lead the party garnered endorsements from several high-profile Democrats on Wednesday, including N.C. Rep. Rodney Moore of Charlotte and Wake County Democratic Party Chairman Brian Fitzsimmons.
“If this year did anything, it sparked a passion in Democrats the likes of which we’ve rarely seen,” Fitzsimmons wrote on Facebook. “We’re ready to fight, and Commissioner Goodwin is just the person to lead the charge.”
Hundreds of Democratic Party leaders from across the state will meet Feb. 11 to elect the new chair. Janice Covington Allison, a transgender activist from Charlotte, and Marshall Adame, who chairs the party’s Hispanic Caucus, have also said they plan to run.
Another candidate, Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Hughes, who announced Dec. 12 that he was running for chair, now plans to run instead for the position of second vice-chair.
“There’s no reason for me to challenge Wayne for the chairmanship – I think we’d work well together,” Hughes said Wednesday.