North Carolina is a battleground state that local Democrats say they don’t plan to lose.
On Friday, members of the Scotland County Democratic Women heard Vanessa Davis, a field organizer for Organizing for America, a project of the Democratic National Committee formed to build support for Obama at the grassroots level.
“We’re kick starting in North Carolina because this is the state to win,” Davis said. “My job as a field organizer in these counties is to be a resource to the ladies and gentlemen and young people in the area to outreach to your neighbors, outreach to other women about the campaign, about voting, and about why 2012 is an important election.”
Davis is based in Lumberton, where she and another organizer serve Scotland, Robeson, and Bladen counties.
At present, the Democrats’ strategy is simply to make sure that people are registered to vote to elect officials for positions in the state and national legislatures as well as for a presidential candidate.
“The strategy for right now is to register, register, register,” said Davis. “It is so important to register people to vote… I’m not just here on behalf of the president; we represent all Democrats everywhere.”
Ken Spencer, chairman of the Scotland County Democratic Party, who also attended, agreed.
“Now until May 8, the stance of the Party is that we don’t advocate for any candidates,” he said. “We allow the voters to make their decisions, but after the primaries, that’s when the gloves come off and we start working towards a process of moving aggressively forward.”
“[N.C. Sen. Bill] Purcell’s seat’s up, as well as a few other positions, and we need to make sure we keep those within the Democratic Party,” Spencer added.
Jarrod Hall, Congressman Larry Kissell’s outreach director, was also in attendance at the Democratic Women’s meeting, as Kissell’s campaign will pay particular attention to unregistered voters in Robeson County. Kissell is facing Marcus Williams in the Democratic primary.
“North Carolina is an important state – it’s a state that the president only won by about 14,000 votes,” said Hall. “They found about 50,000 unregistered voters in Robeson County, which with redistricting we have encompassed, so our district now stretches from the tip of Rowan County all the way down to the bottom of Robeson County, and not many people know about the Congressman down there.”
Davis also encouraged the group to reach out to their neighbors, targeting infrequent voters particularly.
“I’ll be back to help you guys with lists of people in your neighborhood who don’t usually vote or that just need some kind of outreach,” Davis said. “We need to tell people the importance of voting, the importance of getting out, Democratic or not, to elect your representatives.”
In keeping with the grassroots ethos of the Obama campaign, Davis expressed the hope that she could work as a team with local Democrats to spread the word about the campaign to the local community.
“I’m going to be asking people in the community how best to work in the community – I don’t know Scotland County,” she said. “I will be able to assist you with lists, I will be able to assist you with things like doing the data entry and things of that nature, that’s the way I can be a resource to this area. We’re all here to work together to make this happen.”
On the local level, Spencer said that the effort leading up to the primaries will focus primarily upon membership drives and uniting local Democrats under the auspices of the Scotland County Democratic Party.
“We need to broaden our reach and our approach, and this is where creativity comes in,” he said. “One of the things that we need to do is membership drives, and this is the place where we can do it. You can make it as fun as possible, you can do it any way you want it. We need to also be able to get other groups in: the Young Democrats are organized and they have a charter, but they need to start meeting here.”
Although the Democratic Party will not officially back a particular Democratic candidate for any position before the voters do, that will not preclude them from advertising promoting general Democratic ideas until the primary.
“Many times the candidates themselves have to carry a lot of the burden,” said Spencer. “Locally we can advocate across platforms the Democratic ideals that we stand for.”
“As we move toward the convention and after the convention, that’s when we start ratcheting it up,” he added.
Although Organizing for America does not have a current Scotland County address, Davis and other organizers will meet with individuals in Laurinburg by appointment, and regular meeting times may be established at the Scotland County Democratic Headquarters as campaigning intensifies.
“As the campaign moves on throughout the summer, we’re working on summer fellowships and getting more people involved in doing organizing positions,” Davis said.
Shelley Strickland was scheduled to speak at Friday’s meeting, but was unable to attend. He is running for the Stewartsville Township seat on the Scotland County Board of Commissioners. He will face incumbent Clarence McPhatter.