Primary may have meaning Democrats’ votes for presidential candidate carrying more weight this year
By Jessie Burchette
Happy days are finally here again for Rowan County Democrats. Their votes in the state’s May primary could actually help pick the party’s presidential nominee.
“It’s always been decided before … in the first two or three primaries, and then it was over,” says Bobbie Earnhardt, the county’s longest serving elected Democrat. She’s in her fourth term as Register of Deeds.
“This is good for North Carolina,” she says. “A lot of young people are involved. Before, people felt their vote didn’t count.”
If the race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is still unsettled by May 6, Earnhardt predicts it will outshine all other contests on the ticket across the state.
Officers and activists in the Rowan County Democratic Party are excited about the prospect of having North Carolina’s vote count in picking a presidential nominee.
“There’s genuine interest and excitement about the two candidates,” says the Rev. Marvin Lindsay, a vice chairman. “They’re both extremely well qualified. People are satisfied with both candidates.”
Lindsay, a local pastor, is a relative newcomer to the Democratic Party. A Republi-can in the 1980s, he switched to unaffiliated and, in 2004, made the move to Democrat.
He expects a high turnout in the May primary.
Lindsay admits to a certain amount of satisfaction that North Carolina didn’t join other states in moving up the primary. He compared it to people cutting in line at the grocery store. “All those who cut in line ahead of us may wish they had stayed back.”
Awareness about this year’s race is high, says party activist Nan Lund.
“People know there is a presidential contest, unlike some years,” Lund says. “People know who is running.”
Lund, who moved to Rowan County four years ago, got started in politics in Buffalo, N.Y. She signed up and went to work for Hilary Clinton in her first run for the Senate.
Lund and others are now working to register young voters, holding drives at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and Livingstone College.
She’s expecting a good turnout on May 6.
Genoal Russell, first vice chairman of the local party, has been voting in the Democratic primary for decades. For the first time, her vote will matter.
“It will feel good,” she says.
Both Russell and Earnhardt aren’t pleased with the media, particularly with what they feel is television’s rush to decide the race.
Russell says people across the country need to make the decisions, not the newscasters. “Sometimes it would be nice to let the people decide.”
Earnhardt says the “news people” thought they were going to choose the candidates. “People have surprised them … they said it was going this way and then people surprised them, and they’ve had to eat crow.”
Earnhardt also says the national media weren’t fair to all the candidates, particularly John Edwards on the Democratic side and Ron Paul on the Republican side.
The increased interest in the presidential race, Democratic and Republican, is apparently spurring more people to register.
Crystal West, an election specialist, said the volume of new registration is keeping one staffer busy. She credited several registration drives.
The deadline to register for the May primary is April 11.
As of Jan. 10, there were 30,163 Democrats and 36,177 Republicans registered as voters in Rowan County. Unaffiliated voters total 17,077.