New chairman says Democrats will lead again

  • Posted: Friday, February 8, 2013 1:16 a.m.

RALEIGH (AP) — The new chairman of the North Carolina Democrats said Thursday his party will return to leading the state by building a youth-oriented grassroots movement and by contrasting itself with Republicans pushing what he calls a reactionary agenda.

Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller arrives at the job after Democrats suffered heavily losses in state elections during the past two election cycles and got outraised and outspent by the state GOP and their candidates. Democrats had previously controlled most of the levers of state government for more than a century. Now, Republicans hold the Executive Mansion and large majorities in the General Assembly.

“We will lead again,” Voller said at a news conference at party headquarters in Raleigh. “We will lead by engaging in our sense of community, of building grassroots support from the ground up.”

The party’s state executive committee narrowly chose Voller as chairman last weekend over former U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, who was drafted to run by supporters of a former state senator who dropped out of the race late.

Voller, while invoking the name of past party heroes such as Terry Sanford, Frank Porter Graham and Jim Hunt, said state Democrats again need “to be the party of innovation, of investment and integrity” and said investing in young people would be the centerpiece of new party leadership.

“We will lead by championing equality, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation,” he said.

Voller said Democrats will be competitive in municipal elections this fall and wants young Democrats to run for office. “We cannot just lay down and let this train run over us,” he said.

He criticized Gov. Pat McCrory for recent comments about the University of North Carolina system and for senators passing a bill this week that would fire all members of several key boards and commissions while the state unemployment rate remains among the highest in the country.

“All I hear up here is cut, cut, cut and I don’t see a lot of things that are creating jobs,” Voller said. “North Carolinians need to have jobs.”

Republicans contend they are creating jobs by eliminating needless regulation, reducing taxes and accelerating the repayment of $2.6 billion owed the federal government for unemployment insurance.

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