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Off to the races: local Democrats, Republicans excited for 2020 presidential election

SALISBURY — Candidates ready to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020 have emerged, setting off excitement on both sides of the aisle.

Several Democrats have announced they are running for president or have formed exploratory committees, including U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California; Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts; and Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York; as well as former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, a Democrat from Texas; U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, A Democrat from Hawaii; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democrat; and former U.S. Rep. John Delaney, a Democrat from Maryland. 

Rowan County Democratic Party Chairman Geoffrey Hoy said there is a “wonderful buffet of excellent candidates,” comparing it to selecting an ice cream flavor at Spanky’s in downtown Salisbury.

“It’s going to be a real challenge of selection between a large field of experience candidates,” Hoy said.

What will set the Democratic candidates apart, Hoy said, will be who can articulate positions well and who listens to others carefully. Candidates who can explain their previous positions that may not be favorable among Democratic voters and express how they have grown will go far, he added.

He said he hasn’t heard anything negative from Democratic voters in the community about the candidates who have announced.

On the other side, Rowan County Republican Party Chairman Don Vick said he hasn’t taken the Democratic candidates emerging seriously. If former Vice President Joe Biden runs, Vick says, he’ll be a hard competitor for Trump.

Vick said the local party will support Trump, regardless of a possible Republican challenger.

“Donald Trump should be the candidate for 2020,” Vick said. “Donald Trump should be the president.”

The Rowan County Republican Party has something else to look forward to in 2020: the Republican National Convention will be held less than an hour away in Charlotte. Vick said the local party plans to send volunteers and potentially provide housing for visitors.

Locally, Democrats are gearing up for expansion and developing a stronger base in the county. They will start organizing in the precincts and contacting voters, specifically former volunteers and people who have taken part in party activities.

Hoy said, for some, Trump is the best organizer.

Republicans will ramp up with their county convention on March 2. The Lincoln-Reagan Dinner this year will provide energy, with elected representatives and senators coming to speak. Until the election, door knocking and increased visibility on social media will be key, Vick said. The local party has also formed groups for Republican women and young voters to provide fellowship.

Grassroots will be the approach for both parties. Democrat Veleria Levy said candidates need to be in the trenches, especially with breakout U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who has gained national attention for her engagement and stirring excitement among younger voters. 

The 2018 election provided a high voter turner despite being a “blue moon” election — one in which the top race in North Carolina was for an U.S. representative. There was no presidential, U.S. Senate or gubernatorial race was on the ballot. About half of Rowan County voters cast a vote in the 2018 general election. Vick, Hoy and Levy see this trend of high turnout continuing into 2020.

After the 2016 election, Levy said, voters saw the value in being involved in elections and the importance of their vote.

“We’ll continue to see the momentum of people getting out to vote,” Vick said.

The issues voters will be looking at will vary. Hoy said Democrats care deeply about the issues that affect them and their livelihood. Health care affects whether you or your kids can see a doctor; the environment affects whether you have clean drinking water; and education affects kids learning and growing, he said. Republicans’ top issues are based on fear, especially concerning immigration legislation, he said.

“We don’t see fear as the big issue,” he said. “We’re concerned about this, but we don’t live in fear.”

Vick said Republicans will focus on border security, continuing a strong economy, medical plans for all with lower prescription drug prices and re-evaluating government assistance or “making it easier for people to be able to live.”

Levy said, locally, health care, poverty, bringing good jobs to the county and police conduct will sway the vote.

She said candidates can guarantee a vote by listening to what concerns voters have.

Levy expressed concerns about a repeat of the 2016 election, saying she wants her party to come together around one Democratic candidate after the primaries.

Hoy predicts the primary race will be hard fought but civil, since many of the candidates work together in Congress. The Rowan County Democratic Party will not take a position and support an individual ahead of the primary. It will get behind a candidate after the North Carolina primary on March 3, 2020.

“Either way, we would have a fine candidate,” Hoy said.

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