The American Independent – 12-06-10
After crushing midterm defeats in both houses of the General Assembly, North Carolina Democrats now begin a search for a new state party chair. When current chairman David Young announced he would not seek another term last week, David P. Parker, attorney and long-time party insider, immediately announced his candidacy. He is the only declared candidate.
Whoever is elected will lead Democrats when they are in the minority of both the state House and state Senate for the first time in more than a century. Republican margins are so great in both chambers, it will be an uphill battle for Democrats to regain control of either chamber in 2012. In addition, Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, who will seek reelection in 2012, currently faces weak approval ratings and an ongoing FBI investigation into her 2008 campaign.
Nonetheless, Parker speaks with an enthusiasm that defies the glum mood in a party that has just suffered historic defeats. His attitude may reflect his experience with the party in its good days as well as its bad. He has held myriad jobs within the Democratic Party, starting with Jimmy Carter’s Youth Coordinator for North Carolina in 1976 and including managing Sen. Terry Sanford’s reelection campaign in 1992. His resume also includes membership in the Democratic National Committee since 1995, and he was Super-Delegate for Obama in 2008.
Now aggressively campaigning for the state party’s top position, Parker has a website, voteparker.com, complete with a video showcasing his background. He says he’s also busy getting in touch with county party chairs, among others, to promote his candidacy.
The midterm election featured an onslaught of television advertising, but Parker eschews the air wars and instead believes the way to build the party is by getting back to the basics of organizing. Speaking with the North Carolina Independent News, Parker says one-on-one voter contact will be an emphasis if he is elected to lead the party.
“If you look a voter in the eye, the numbers show that is incredibly more persuasive for getting out the vote, than a phone call or a mailer, or a robo-call,” he says. “The number of hits you have to have with TV is now 15 or 20 before you can get their attention, the same effect as one in person contact.”
Parker also thinks Democrats need to be better able to defend themselves against negative mailers from 527 and 501 (c)(4) groups that helped propel Republicans to wins at the state level this election cycle.
“I want to create a rapid response team in every county, so when there are negative talking points put out there, county chairs can respond the same day. You can get letters to the editor and calls into AM talk shows, not just responses limited to the blogosphere,” he says.
Parker also wants feedback from the counties. “One of the things I want to create within the first 30 minutes of being elected is an association of county chairs,” he says. “We can take successful county chairs and take their experience and use that to help train their fellow county chairs in a non-confrontational way. I’ve been trying to start [that] since the mid-80′s.”
Parker says the easy answer to beefing up a party’s ground game is to hire more field organizers, but it will take more than that to reestablish a strong local party structure. He believes Democrats made mistakes leading up to 2010 by not staying in contact with voters. “Political parties don’t just function during the campaign,” he says.
Part of Parker’s appeal to Democrats may be that he doesn’t shy from criticizing Republicans and their policies in a way that will grab voters’ attention. Art Pope, a conservative businessman who donated to Republican candidates across the state and has spent millions establishing conservative think tanks in North Carolina, is squarely within Parker’s sights.
Parker disagrees with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, but he acknowledges that Pope is simply taking advantage of rules that allow him to funnel money to candidates in new ways.
“You have to go after his ideas,” Parker said. For instance, he says, one of Pope’s think tanks, the John Locke Foundation, offers proposals that don’t answer the needs of ordinary people.
“The problem with the Republican platform as announced by the John Locke Foundation, which is Art Pope’s vehicle for pronouncements, is that nothing in there creates jobs,” Parker said.
The next meeting of the State Executive Committee is scheduled for the end of January. The new chair of the party would be elected at that time.