RALEIGH — The permanent leader of day-to-day operations at the North Carolina Democratic Party said Monday she’s focused on winning elections and having the party speak for working people despite recent electoral and financial setbacks.
The party’s Executive Council, meeting over the weekend in Greensboro, decided interim executive director Casey Mann will keep the job she took following last month’s firing of predecessor Robert Dempsey by Chairman Randy Voller.
Mann, previously the party’s on-the-ground state director and a veteran campaign worker, said the party must be willing to try new things to be successful in an era in which Republicans control the legislature and the governor’s mansion. She said party activists, though recently at odds with each other over the party’s future, must work together to win campaigns.
“My goal is to work within the (party) institution as we have it … to work on how we raise money, how we spend our money and how we can become a lean, mean election-winning machine,” Mann, 40, of Greensboro, told The Associated Press in an interview. “That is all I want. It is about the mission not the position, and the mission of this party is to win elections and to represent the people of North Carolina.”
Democrats have been struggling to find their legs after the GOP took majorities in both the state House and Senate in 2010 for the first time in 140 years. Two years later, Pat McCrory became the first Republican governor in 20 years.
Also in 2012, a male Democratic Party employee accused then-executive director Jay Parmley of sexual harassment. Parmley resigned from his job but denied the allegations. Top Democratic elected officials called on then-Chairman David Parker to resign. He offered his resignation but party regulars wouldn’t accept it.
Parker didn’t seek re-election in 2013. Instead Voller, the mayor of Pittsboro, barely won election to the job. He’s faced criticism over his leadership style, business problems, and recently Dempsey’s firing Feb. 2. Voller hasn’t explained publicly reasons for the dismissal and wanted initially to hire civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis.
Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic consultant who worked with former Gov. Jim Hunt, wrote in a blog posting Monday that Voller’s supporters “pose as great a danger to Democrats as the tea party does to Republicans.”
The state party took another hit when Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election campaign decided to work directly with the Wake County Democratic Party to operate the Democrats’ statewide coordinated campaign for the 2014 elections. The coordinated campaign provides the conduit for added fundraising for get-out-the-voter efforts and volunteering.
Cory Warfield, the coordinated campaign director, said in a statement the decision is designed to allow state party officials “to focus on their internal operations” and to maintain a “laser focus” on “building one of the largest, savviest field operation and turnout efforts in history to elect Democrats across North Carolina.”
Mann downplayed the relationship, finalized last week in a federal campaign filing, saying the state party and Hagan’s campaign “have been working together and continue to work together.” She said it’s not unusual for state or national campaign to partner with county party affiliates. The state party could have a larger role in the months ahead.
The state GOP raised $1.2 million during 2013 compared to $793,000 for the Democrats, according to campaign finance records.
Party officials confirmed they have about $60,000 in the party operating account and are evaluating how to keep up their century-old downtown Raleigh headquarters building, the Goodwin House. But there are no plans to sell the building, Mann and Voller said. The house underwent a multi-million upgrade about a decade ago and is owned free and clear by the party.
Voller said in a release all Democrats should give to the party’s building fund to make the house “shine as a beacon to all citizens who care about the values that we support.”
Mann said the party has other pots of money beside the $60,000, some of which could be shifted around to help with cash flow. She said the party received at least $20,000 in pledges in the last day alone.
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