Lee County Democrats elect leaders

Apr. 13, 2013 @ 06:22 PM

Chris Rey, chairman of the 2nd Congressional District Democratic Party and the mayor of Spring Lake in Harnett County, spoke at Saturday's county convention of the Lee County Democratic Party to urge locals to keep the faith even though Republicans control both houses of the General Assembly, the governor's mansion and, in Lee County, the only partisan elected board.

The local party also conducted its biannual elections, re-electing Ann McCracken as chair until at least 2015. Robert Reives is the first vice chair; Carol Carlson is the second vice chair; Imani Johnson is the third vice chair; Pam Patterson is the secretary; Jan Tart is the assistant secretary, and Gladys McAuley is the treasurer. The party also elected McCracken, Reives, John Kirkman and James French as its members of the Democratic Party State Executive Committee.

The message put forth Saturday by several speakers, both scheduled and speaking from the audience, was that the Democratic Party needs to do better at catching up to the Republican Party. Casey Mann, state director of the N.C. Democratic Party, said the party's platform points and ideals tend to poll better with the general public than those espoused by Republicans, but that the GOP is simply better at getting its message heard, at least in part because the Democratic Party isn't as organized. Deb McManus, a freshman legislator who represents Chatham County and part of Lee County in the House of Representatives, said she was shocked that at the start of the session, Republicans had already written many bills and were able to file them immediately.

Continuing the plead for better organization, Lee County Commissioner Amy Dalrymple asked the audience to apply for the dozens of open seats on city and county boards and committees. Calling it a "full-out assault," she said the local GOP is way ahead, with many supporters enlisted to apply. Radio host and former Lee County Board of Education member Margaret Murchison urged people to at least attend county commissioner meetings, saying that dozens of Republican supporters attend but virtually no Democrats do. In the end, McCracken summed it all up: "Everybody has to pitch in and help because we have got to change things around."

In his keynote address, Rey agreed, telling the 50 or so in attendance that although Republicans currently have the upper hand in politics and procedure, the Democratic Party has the moral upper hand and has had it since Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president in 1933.

"We have a state legislature that has forgotten they are there to serve the interests of the people, not the special interests," said Rey, a former Army special forces officer who teaches at Mt. Olive College in addition to his mayoral and regional political duties. "I have a lot of Republican friends, and they always ask me why I'm not a Republican, since I'm a pretty middle-of-the-road guy. I tell them it's because the Democratic Party is the party of inclusion."

Rattling off a long list of categories — race, age, gender, background, religion, wealth and more — Rey said Democrats are more likely than Republicans to fight for the least powerful of people. And that, he said, is why the party needs to be better organized for the long haul.

"You cannot be a Democrat and not care about people," he said. "That's why we fight."

Other news from the convention:

- The audience slammed Rep. Mike Stone, a Republican who represents Harnett County and part of Lee County, for locals bills he introduced, which would affect the Lee County Board of Elections and Sanford City Council, without ever consulting those boards. The group unanimously passed a resolution urging senators to not vote for H490 or H512. McManus said that since being elected, she has never once spoken with Stone — or even gotten an email response — despite repeated efforts to contact him before and after the controversy surrounding these bills.

- The next meeting of the Lee County Democratic Party will be April 23.

- The Second Congressional District Democratic Party Convention will be at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center on May 18.