Over the past two years, Democrats have suffered from significant losses, including losing majorities in the state house, congressional seats, and both the Governor and Lt. Governor races.
Where some see devastation and fear the loss of influence that has sent transactional donors to the new power brokers in the General Assembly and the Governor's Mansion, I see opportunity.
As I visit with Democrats across the state I find that my experience as a small business owner, small town mayor and county chair have helped me understand the needs and concerns of the voters in North Carolina.
Like many Tar Heels I was an unaffiliated voter who voted for Democrats but was not engaged with the Party. In 2005, after I was first elected Mayor of Pittsboro, I decided to become a Democrat, and I have never regretted my decision. However, the years when I was registered as an independent voter educated me on the thinking of independents, and I understand how our Party can engage and attract them through better articulation of our message.
In traveling around North Carolina, I have met many Democrats who are struggling economically, who need work, and who understand the challenges of the "Bush recession" that President Obama inherited in 2008 -- and the devastation it has wrought across our country. Of course, I empathize with them because I was in business with my father when the recession financially destroyed many of our clients and left them unable to pay the invoices they owed us. The economic downturn led to our decision to close the construction business and work together to settle the company's debts. Since my wife and I chose to honor both of my parents (my father is now deceased), we incurred a tax debt that we have been paying on for the four years since the recession struck.
Because of our personal experiences, the economic situation has given me insight into the issues that plague our communities: lending institutions tightening credit; challenges for small businesses to borrow capital and create jobs and the struggles of holding a family together while keeping one's home.
Soon the obstacles we have faced with the recession of 2008 will be behind us, but that is only because my family is fortunate. The North Carolina Democratic Party needs to focus on the many who have had their dreams shattered and their hopes dashed by thirty years of "trickle down" and a prolonged recession.
Because of my firsthand experience in business, government and the Democratic Party, I believe that I can articulate our message to the broad majority of Tar Heels and revitalize their dream. We can use the hard lessons we have learned to rebuild and revitalize our party from the smoke and ashes of defeat into a stronger, more resilient force that is authentic and meaningful in every community of the Tar Heel state.
Our efforts in Chatham County can be a template for success, but no "one size fits all" approach is enough. You're the experts. We're going to give you the tools and we're going to share the successes of other areas of the state to build a Democratic Party that restores North Carolina as the progressive voice of the South.