North Carolina Second Primary- Focus on the Fifth

After the old maps for the US House of Representatives were ruled unconstitutional (specifically districts 1 and district 12), North Carolina voters were called to return to the polls on June 7th to pick their congressional candidates for the November election. While people had a vote for Congress on their March ballot, those votes were null and void when the appeal on the constitutionality of the maps was denied. Under the old maps, Winston-Salem and Forsyth County were split between the Fifth District (Foxx) and the Twelfth District (Adams), with many of the more liberal, urban parts of Winston-Salem in the more liberal Twelfth District, while many of the wealthier, more conservative parts of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County were drawn into the Fifth District. Under the new map, the entirety of Forsyth County is in the Fifth District. The Fifth District has always been a special place for me. My home (Seven Devils, NC/Watauga County) is in the western most corner of the district. When I first got involved in politics, it was at home in Watauga County, as well as some involvement in district-wide politics. Representative Foxx and I also have a history, where for years we went to the same church back in Boone, and know each other personally (we were friendly until my more liberal side started to come out haha!). The Fifth District has always been a conservative district (PVI=R+13 in 2014). The newly drawn Fifth is slightly more accessible for a Democratic, but will still have a PVI likely around R+9/10. I’m naive enough to think that a Democrat can make the district competitive in the right environment (I know I’m wrong, but I’m pigheaded). I actually tried to convince my dad to run the district in 2014 (in the right environment, I think my dad could be a strong candidate, and he spent some years active in the Watauga County Democratic Party). What a bad idea that would have been (In 2014, Josh Brannon got 35% of the vote as the Democratic candidate in a wave election for the GOP)…

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Running in the second primary in the fifth was one of my earliest political mentors, Charlie Wallin. When I was still in high school (2010), Charlie ran for school board, and he and a couple other candidates took a liking to me, and took me under their wings. While that race didn’t end the way either of us would have preferred, we stayed in touch while I was still living in Watauga County, before drifting away a bit when I went to Wake Forest. Earlier this year we ran into each other while attending a Democratic fundraiser in Forsyth County, and reconnected like we had never drifted apart. Charlie is currently serving as the chair of the Fifth District, and is additionally the College Democrats advisor at Appalachian State. When we saw each other, they had just announced the new maps, and were speculating if there would be an active primary in the Fifth, and who might run. I expressed interest in working the race, and he agreed to keep me in the loop about who was running and connect me to a candidate who he thought would be a good fit for me. A couple weeks later, he reached back out to me saying he thought he had the perfect candidate for me, but he was waiting for them to officially announce, and to stay tuned. I waited a couple days. And waited. I’m not the type of person who has a large degree of patience, but this was worth the wait. Charlie told me that he was running, and wanted me to assist with his campaign. While the primary campaign was pretty quiet (low turnout is expected in a second primary, and I was shocked that turnout even reached 7%), we maintained communication in the lead up to the primary, and on the primary day, I spent a few hours out in front of one of our town’s polling places and got to talk to voters. Like would be expected in an election where only the most committed voters took the time to vote, most people had made up their mind before coming to the polling place (even though some people had questions about the non-partisan judicial race, which was the other item on the ballot). People did appreciate my enthusiasm to be out there, but it was a really quiet morning. I could count the number of voters I talked to on all of my fingers and toes. Luckily most of them said they were supporting Charlie (questions about honesty during times like this but… #SecretBallot)

The race unfortunately didn’t go in his favor. Charlie got about 27% of the vote, and lost to the 2014 candidate, Josh Brannon (47% of the vote), but as always, it was an honor to work with Charlie, and I’m glad that he’s heading back to being the Fifth District Party Chair, where he’ll continue to be a great advocate for Democrats across the Fifth.

We’ll talk again soon. Really excited that the conventions are just under a month away now!

-SLI

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