Over one hundred members of the Chatham County Democratic Party met for their annual convention on April 18th to socialize, elect party officers, debate and pass resolutions and hear from the keynote speaker, UNC Law Professor Gene Nichol.
Party Chair, Jan Nichols, welcomed the delegates and gaveled the convention to order. The Chatham County Sheriff’s Department presented the color guard and Ms. Nichol invited past chairman, Karl Kachergis, to sing the national anthem.
Once the meeting commenced, an honorary resolution was read and passed on behalf of former county commissioner, Patrick Barnes III, and the chair asked for a moment of silence.
Randy Voller, the former Mayor of Pittsboro, former chair of the local party and immediate past chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, provided the message from the state party and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall to the delegates and guests. Voller also discussed the value of leaders who tackle issues on behalf of the community regardless of focus groups or popularity. He emphasized the foundation that was built in 2014 that Democrats around the state can stand on and move forward to make gains across the state in 2015 and 2016.
Gene Nichol followed Voller and gave a riveting speech on the state of affairs in North Carolina. Nichol, who is a Professor in the School of Law at UNC/Chapel Hill and the past director of the GOP-defunded North Carolina Poverty Center, told the crowd that Chatham County has the type of “scrappy Democrats” that he likes. He believes that the Democratic Party represents the values and ideas that we need to return North Carolina to being a state of decency and democracy.
Nichol deplored the current GOP leadership in the North Carolina General Assembly, which has very little diversity and has spent the past four years imposing their ideas through regressive legislation on this state.
The direction charted by this new GOP leadership represents clear and unambiguous interference in the lives of women, the LGBT community and minorities.
Nichol cited the cynical support and legal defense of “Amendment One” as well as the current push for “Religious Freedom” legislation--laws and policies that could allow both public servants and private vendors to discriminate against citizens based on private belief.
These bromides were a just a precursor for Professor Nichol’s spirited critique of the extreme GOP’s “war on the poor”. He lashed out at the Republican-led General Assembly for its policies against the “least of these” and hard hearted legislation that hurt the working people of North Carolina. He noted that several members of GOP leadership actually denied that poverty existed in North Carolina, which is absurd given that North Carolina ranks second only to Louisiana for the number of its children living in poverty. He cited the extreme lack of social mobility for the poor in Charlotte and the pernicious effects of food deserts in Greensboro, which has made the city the “second hungriest” municipality in America. Combined with the GOP-led General Assembly’s Scrooge-like cut to unemployment benefits and shifting of the tax burden to the working poor, Nichol implored the delegates to unite and focus on righting the ship in North Carolina.
After the rousing speech by Professor Nichol the delegates moved on to the business of the day. Chairwoman Jan Nichols and Rev. Anthony Davis were re-elected to the offices of chair and first vice-chair and the leadership team was rounded out with Daphne Rainy, Tyson Miller, Linda Batley and Erika Lindemann winning elections to officer positions.
The convention elected Randolph Voller, Lou Forrisi, Jerry Markatos, Sheila Thompson and Casey Mann to the State Executive Committee.
The convention concluded with debate and discussion about the resolutions and those that passed will be forwarded to district conventions in May.
Among the delegates who attended were county commissioners Jim Crawford, Mike Cross, Diana Hales and Karen Howard; School Board member Del Turner; Sheriff Richard Webster; Pittsboro Mayor Pro-Tem Pamela Baldwin and former Mayor Randolph Voller; and State Representative Robert Reives and former State Senator Bob Atwater.