The N.C. Democratic Party entered 2015 with just $42,700 in the bank – and just under $6,000 in its main account for day-to-day operations, according to financial reports filed with the state.
The reports show the state party with less money on hand than in any other reporting cycle in years. Much of the $42,700 belongs to the House and Senate caucus organizations.
The party is also nearly $130,000 in debt, although that number has been dropping. Its building fund, which covers upkeep for the party’s historic headquarters in downtown Raleigh, has just $180.
The financial news comes as the party prepares to elect a new leader to replace Randy Voller, who’s stepping down as chairman after being battered by scandals and infighting. It also comes after a costly 2014 election in which the party won a few judicial and county commissioner races while losing a U.S. Senate seat.
In an interview, Voller downplayed the financial numbers. “It’s not a big story or a big surprise,” he said, noting that party coffers are typically depleted after a major election. “We focused all of our energy trying to win that election. Now we’re raising money for another election cycle.”
But Voller says the fundraising needs are critical: at a minimum, the party must raise $200,000 soon to fund daily operations. Operating expenses, he said, ran about $20,000 per month when he was elected two years ago. The party has since cut costs, and Voller said he’s not sure what the monthly budget is now.
“If (supporters) want to have an ongoing and strong Democratic party, people need to invest in it – simple as that,” he said.
Voller says that $200,000 would be easily raised if each county’s party organization paid their dues. Based on the number of Democratic voters, recommended county contributions range from $800 for a small county to $25,000 for a large county like Mecklenburg or Wake.
“It’s difficult to get some of the larger counties to want to pay their money to the sustaining fund,” he said.
Both state parties saw revenues drop when the legislature eliminated the tax “checkoff” program, which allowed North Carolina taxpayers to direct $3 of their income tax payment to their favorite political party. The change left the Democratic Party with a $1.5 million shortfall.
The N.C. Republican Party ended 2014 with $151,300. That’s down from $1.38 million in October, which was the height of campaign season. The Democratic Party had about half that amount, about $662,000, on the same date in October.
Hundreds of Democratic Party leaders will meet Feb. 7 to cast their votes for chair, with four candidates running. Until Friday, the meeting location was listed online as “TBD,” leading some Democrats to complain they need more advance notice. Some speculated that the party was struggling to afford a large enough meeting space.
On Friday, the party announced that the meeting will be held at Northwoods High School, in Voller’s hometown of Pittsboro. That’s where the last meeting was held in November. “Most of you know how to get there,” he said. “It’s equidistant to all locations.”
The best-known candidate to replace Voller is former state Rep. Patsy Keever of Asheville, who currently serves as first vice chairwoman. Reached Friday, she declined to answer questions about the party’s financial health.
“Yes, we’re in financial difficulties,” she said. “I think when we have a change in leadership, we will be able to bring it back to where it needs to be.”