Yesterday we learned a little about Kenneth Lewis, the only Democrat who has declared to run for U.S. Senate as a challenger to Richard Burr. You can read part 1 of this series by following this link. Today, we will take a look at his approach to campaigning and his stance on a few important issues.
Can he win?
The Lewis for Senate campaign is about more than having a compelling personal story or a long history of community service. Kenneth has a realistic idea of the energy and time it takes to run a statewide campaign. He has experience raising money and proved he can raise money by pulling in $109,000 in 21 days. Instead of waiting to see who else might jump in, he stepped up to lead early and he committed to a strong, viable campaign by taking the step to hire Joe Trippi, a pioneer in internet fundraising and messaging.
You may not have heard about him, but Lewis has been active politically for 22 years. He helped organize a neighborhood in Charlotte for Harvey Gantt when Gantt ran for mayor, but the bulk of his grassroots experience was gained in the past few years. While he has been touted as a fundraiser for Barack Obama, his involvement in the campaign actually has more of a grassroots foundation.
Lewis attended Harvard Law School with Michelle Obama and met Barack at a Harvard function. He liked him and was excited to hear he planned to run for the Senate. He did raise money for Obama’s Senate and Presidential campaigns, but his entire family got involved on a local grassroots level. The Lewis family traveled to South Carolina on primary day. They went door to door in Orangeburg, South Carolina, in an effort to get out the vote.
The family also traveled to Goldsboro, North Carolina where they went door to door getting people registered to vote and educating them on the electoral process. They were in public housing and mobile home communities meeting with people who had not been a part of the process in the past.
The very process of knocking on doors - me and my young family - and inviting them to the process had a tremendous impact. I had many people who told me that if we hadn’t shown up they probably wouldn’t have gotten involved.
What I learned most is that we have lots of people out here who are willing to be a part of this process. Those of us who really believe in Democracy and want to see it work the way it was originally envisioned – we have a responsibility to go out to our fellow citizens and invite them to the process.
Lewis said that his family campaigned together for Barack Obama for 18 months, so they all have a good idea of the demands of a full-time campaign. He is already doing a fair amount of traveling across North Carolina and finds that people are very supportive.
Another impressive move, especially to those of us who do much of our political organizing on the internet, has been the hiring of Joe Trippi. Trippi, who gained recognition for his work for Howard Dean and John Edwards is in great demand and Lewis said he is happy that Joe is on board.
Lewis pays a lot of respect to those of us who use the internet as our tool of choice for political organizing. He calls it one of the best things to happen in American politics because of its capacity for democratizing participation in the democratic process. They plan an aggressive internet presence.
When asked if he felt there was still a barrier for an African American in a statewide campaign he gave this answer:
Throughout my life I have been the first at a number of things. I was the first African American lawyer hired by Moore & Van Allen, which at the time was the largest law firm in the state. I was the first African American partner at the firm. I was the first African American partner at Womble Carlisle to be located in the Research Triangle Park office, so I’ve been a half-dozen or so firsts myself.
I’ve also grown up in a time when I’ve seen a lot of firsts. I’ve seen the first black fire chief in my hometown, I’ve seen the first black supreme court justice, the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl and the first black coach to win the Super Bowl. I see all these firsts. And here’s what I know about firsts. There’s never a break in the clouds or a thunderclap that occurs to let you know a first is about to happen. It doesn’t happen that way. The first just happens and once it happens no one talks about it being the first anymore. That whole way of thinking just fades away. And, so it will be with the senate race in North Carolina.
I had already taken more of Kenneth’s time than originally scheduled, but he agreed to a few issue oriented questions that my fellow bloggers at BlueNC had asked.
First, where does he see himself politically?
Lewis considers himself to be progress oriented. He thinks one thing that has held candidates back is that they get stuck in the low taxes/small government narrative.
I think these categories of left and right are labels that we often put on the wrong questions. I understand why these labels exist as a way to help us organize our way of thinking but they often get in the way of really thinking about the world from the perspective of our interests. What is it we are trying to accomplish? How do we align our resources – financial and policy – with achieving our interests?
I think the burden on people who have views that are progress oriented – and I think my views are progress oriented – is to articulate for the voters the basis for their views and to strongly articulate why we should move in a certain direction.
I think global warming is a critical issue. I think the scientific community is quite clear that it has been caused, in part, by the actions of man. I think there’s no serious debate about that that I’m aware of.
I think that we have to have meaningful health care reform and we have to have reform that reduces our cost, that gives people a choice and that we aren’t just mandating a particular plan and I think we have to have the kind of health care that is broadly available for all. I think we should have a plan that you can‘t lose if you lose your job or that you cant be denied coverage if you have a preexisting condition.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?
I’m a firm believer that we should not discriminate against people. That’s part of my core belief structure. We have men and women of all sexual orientations serving in the military. The idea that we would remove an officer or anyone because of his or her sexual orientation is abhorrent to me.
Employee Non-Discrimination Act?
I have not read the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, but I will repeat that I do not believe we should discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.
I understand people and their religious beliefs and I respect that very much and I would not want to do anything that infringes upon someone exercising their religion, but with respect to government actions and as a society of people who have a variety of faiths and non-faiths, I do not believe we should discriminate.
Kenneth Lewis may just transcend identity politics. Who knows if the color of his skin alone will excite African American voters and bring them to the polls? Who knows if Kenneth’s compelling family history in North Carolina’s rural Person County will endear rural voters to his candidacy. Who knows if his history of supporting women’s health and reproductive choices will bring out women voters. Lewis isn’t counting on these factors to drive voters to his candidacy or to motivate voters for down ticket races. He has committed early. He’s shown fundraising prowess and with his hiring of Joe Trippi he demonstrates a commitment to running a professional, high-energy campaign.
To donate to the Kenneth Lewis for U.S. Senate campaign please follow this link.