What’s going on in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District?
- By Tony Parks
I recently attended the 3rd District Democratic Convention in Greenville, North Carolina at the request of Marshall Adame, a potential candidate for Congress. Marshall could not attend because he is overseas at the moment and he asked me to attend and do some polling on the convention floor. After sitting through the entire proceeding, and having spoken with many super nice, interested and stanch Democrats, I came away thinking to myself; What is going on in the 3d Congressional District of North Carolina?
I came to this convention expecting a group of Democrats that were tired of losing, tired of being overlooked for many years by the State and the National Organizations of the Democratic Party, tired of a 14 year losing streak and tired of being tired. What I found was a group of Democrats, however interested in winning, were all but leaderless. Needless to say I was a bit surprised.
Democratic Congressional District Conventions are integral to organization, good order, planning and focus. Many needed purposes are fulfilled, such as conducting party business, voting on important resolutions, shaping the District Party Platform, etc.. Conventions also provide a venue to establish even more important elements of organization such Leadership, Direction, Vision, Planning, Strategies and a Platform for sharing ideas. Democratic Conventions must serve to inspire renew and promote values, visions, unity and the way forward. Another important responsibility for conventions is introducing new candidates, hearing them speak and getting a general idea what this person is all about, what resources they need and where they want to generally take their campaign. This is an important part of moving forward, planning and uniting Democrats who are active party operatives. I was somewhat disheartened to see almost none of this happening here; at least not happening here in any meaningful or appreciable way.
All was not dark. One bright fifteen minute spot of the more than 4 hours of events and business, was hearing Ms. Nina Landis speak. Nina is the new 1st Vice Chair for the NCDP. Nina brought the goods to the Convention exactly as it should be done. Nina was beaming with confidence, surety and with an air of victory about her that was contagious. Her spoken word, enthusiasm, motivation, leadership and vision brought, if even for a brief moment, the excitement and expectation every convention should be experiencing from the time the doors open to the lights going out. She clearly articulated the changes in the new Republican Dominated North Carolina and how the newly elected Republican Statehouse is rolling back the decades of the hard fought changes that Democrats championed in North Carolina and how we all had to stand against this damaging tide of conservative dogma. It was worth the trip just to hear her speak. The light she brought to the convention shown but for a moment. When Nina finished her speaking part, the lights of spirit just seem to leave the convention once again.
The resulting questions ringing in my head? What is going on in the 3d District? Why is the 3rd District riding a 14 year losing streak? Why have the Democrats of the 3d District allowed Republican Walter “Freedom Fries” Jones a free pass for all this time? A Congressman who has voted against the interest of the NC 3rd District over and over again. In essence, the 3rd District of NC has been essentially without representation in Washington for over 20 years. Republican Congressman Walter Jones has been a big part of the failure in Washington and yet enjoys a free ride in just about every election in the 3rd District. Why? Then it hits me...like a ton of bricks.....Leadership and vision. When nearly one third of a Congressional District is completely unorganized (more the 7 of the 22 counties), a lack of organized support for Democratic Candidates is going to be an inevitable outcome. This convention was screaming for leadership and for vision. The Democrats of the 3rd Congressional District of NC seemed as a rudderless ship helpless at sea, given to any wind that may blow them.
Leadership inspires, motivates and sets a course. Leadership requires an active role. It is something one does, not talks about. Placing the good of the Party ahead of all person feelings, supporting the party’s Candidates and Organizing the Districts so the party can win is the mark of a good leader. A 14 to 20 year losing streak in NCs 3rd District says allot about the leadership in the District, it also says allot about the State party organization, structure and effectiveness.
To run for a Congressional Seat in any district in any state is a huge personal sacrifice. In order to be sincere and true to your party and to the goal of being elected a candidate, particularly one with limited resources, has to give up a great deal which affects just about every aspect of his/her personal life including ones job, personal time, family life and in most cases one’s money, which is usually very limited to begin with. Candidates must commit themselves completely and when they do, they become that tiny bug under this huge magnifying glass, sacrificing privacy. Everything they ever wrote, or uttered is up for debate and ridicule. Yet people subject themselves to this scrutiny willingly for the honor to serve as an elected representative of the people in the greatest Democracy on earth. Yes, some do it for personal or monetary gain, but most do it because they love their country and their state and have the heart and mind of a servant.
As committed as the candidates must be, the Democratic Party leadership must be twice as committed. Candidates come and go, but the leadership remains. When it is effective, active and motivated, helping candidates to win, the leadership rightly takes credit for the wins and as certainly as it must the defeats. From my perspective, there was no sense of accountability form the 3rd District Leadership. There was no discussion whatever about turning the 3rd District for Democrats. None. Candidates don’t lose, parties lose and the 3rd District of NC seemed all but resigned to that fate.
What happened to NCs 3rd Congressional District? A leadership vacuum is most certainly the answer. There was a complete absence of vision and direction from the District Chair ; an absence of leadership articulating hope for the future and resolve by the District to find a way forward, a way to victory.
So what will I report in my letter back to my close friend and future candidate for congress who asked me to attend the NC Democrats 3rd Congressional District Convention in Greenville? I want to tell him to forget it. I want to tell him to avoid putting himself and his family through the trouble and expense that come with congressional campaigns. I want to tell him not to quit his very successful job in order to become a full time candidate for a year. I want to tell him the 3rd District will not come to his call, or go out of their way to support any Democratic candidate the way they must in order to achieve a victory. Marshall and I have been very close friends and professional partners for many years. I know how strongly he feels about the issues plaguing North Carolina and how deeply he loves the state he adopted and which adopted him some 40 years ago. I don’t want to see my friend hurt. Yes, I know what I want to tell Marshall, but I won’t.
I am going to report back to him and say that NC needs him; NC needs Marshall Adame’s vision and his contagious optimism. I will tell him that North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District Democrats are starving for direction and experienced leadership. I will tell Marshall that he must run with nothing more than hope and faith if that is what it takes. That’s what true servants do and Marshall Adame has been serving his country for his entire adult life to this day. I will tell him what I know he needs to hear from me, a trusted friend. He will know that the disorganization of the 3rd Congressional District will make it very hard for him to succeed, but he will run anyway………no matter what I say. The Democrats of the 3rd Congressional District may leave Marshall out in the cold…..but I can’t. Friends don’t do that.