ABOUT the 8th District Democratic Party
The NC 8th District Democratic Party is one of thirteen congressional district committees affiliated with the North Carolina Democratic Party.
The North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP) is governed by by-laws known as the Plan of Organization. Section 3.0 of the Plan of Organization creates the congressional district subsidiaries of the NCDP, and outlines their official duties. The Plan of Organization calls for the congressional district executive committees to elect officers in every odd year, at a time and date set by the NCDP Chair. According to NC General Statute 163A-987, congressional district party committees have the legal obligation to replace their party's nominee in the event of a vacancy during a general election.
The NC 8th District Democratic Party has an executive committee of nearly 100 delegates from the seven counties in North Carolina's 8th Congressional District - Cabarrus County, Rowan County, Stanly County, Montgomery County, Moore County, Hoke County and Cumberland County. The 8th District includes the major NC cities of Fayetteville, Concord, Raeford, Southern Pines, Albemarleand Salisbury. It is home to Fort Bragg, the Pinehurst Resort, the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the Uwharrie Mountains.
Throughout its history, the NC 8th District Democratic Party has nominated several people who became prominent national figures. Eliza Jane Pratt, of Troy, was a Democrat and the first female to represent North Carolina in Congress, from 1946-47. Bill Hefner, of Kannapolis, for whom the W. G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury is named, served in Congress for 24 years and became Chair of an influential military appropriations committee. 8th District Democrats have also sent prominent leaders to Raleigh and the state legislature. Robert Jordan, of Mount Gilead, served as the 29th Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina and as Chair of the NC Board of Education. NC Representative Garland Pierce, of Wagram, has served as Chair of the NC Legislative Black Caucus and is currently House Minority Whip. Tony Rand, of Fayetteville, was one of the most powerful people in Raleigh when he served as Senate Majority Leader from 2001-2009.
The Cook Political Report rated the NC 8th Congressional District as an R+8 district in 2018, meaning it votes eight percent more Republican, on average, than the nation as a whole.
RECENT ELECTORAL HISTORY
2006 was a "blue moon election" in North Carolina, meaning there was no Presidential, Senatorial or Gubernatorial races on the November ballot, leaving only the congressional, state legislative and judicial contests. The NC 8th District Democratic Party recruited retired textile plant manager and social studies teacher Larry Kissell, of Biscoe, to run for Congress. Meanwhile, the DCCC - the campaigning and fundraising arm of the Democratic National Committee who oversees competitive House elections - recruited Tim Dunn, of Fayetteville. Dunn dropped out of the race, citing frustration over Rahm Emmanuel's aggressive focus on prioritizing fundraising. Kissell easily won the four-way primary, but the DCCC refused to help him financially, citing poor poll numbers. Kissell raised $781,742, compared to Republican Robin Hayes' $2,438,745. The NC Democratic Party, liberal interest groups and labor union political committees spent $307,672 on Kissell's behalf. The NC Republican Party and conservative interest groups spent $50,592 in support of Hayes. Kissell ran a "man of the people" campaign, attacking Hayes' for his deciding vote on CAFTA. Kissell went on to lose the closest election in the country, falling behind by just 329 votes. Following his loss, Kissell immediately declared his intention to run again in 2008. Nancy Pelosi and the DCCC hosted a fundraiser for Kissell in Washington, DC to help him retire his personal campaign debt from 2006.
Although there were rumblings of a primary challenge to Larry Kissell by then-NC state Representative Rick Glazier, there was no primary and Kissell was automatically the 2008 nominee for the NC 8th District Democratic Party. The DCCC threw their support behind Kissell in the rematch against incumbent Republican Robin Hayes. CQ Politics rated it as 'No Clear Favorite',The Rothenberg Political Report as 'Toss-Up/Tilt Democratic',and The Cook Political Report as 'Republican Toss Up.' The battle for the conservative-leaning district proved to be an expensive one. Robin Hayes raised $3,768,678, to Kissell's $1,503,264. The national Democratic Party and liberal interest groups, like the AFL-CIO and Moveon.org, spent $1,377,382 on Kissell's behalf. National Republicans and conservative groups, including the NRA, the National Right to Life committee, and the US Chamber of Commerce political committee spent just $182,180 in support of Hayes. Kissell won by a larger-than-expected margin, and Barack Obamaalso carried North Carolina in his victory in the 2008 United States Presidential Election.
Following impressive gains for Democrats nationally and statewide in North Carolina, Republicans rebounded in the 2010 midterm elections. Democrats lost control of the US House of Representatives, and for the first time since 1896, Republicans took control of both houses of the NC General Assembly. Going into the 2010 general election, grassroots Democrats were upset with Kissell for voting against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Nancy Shakir, a Fayetteville activist and retired teacher, challenged Kissell in the May 2010 primary election. Shakir, who volunteered for Kissell in 2006, stated, "I would like to field someone against Mr. Kissell to go to Washington and stand for the things he doesn't stand for." The primary fight proved to be an easy one for Kissell, who decisively won the election. Harold Johnson, a Charlotte sportscaster, emerged from the Republican primary as their nominee against Kissell. In October 2010, the Cook Political Report rated the race as a "toss up", CQ Politics rated it as a "toss up", and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball rated it as "Leans Republican". Larry Kissell raised $1,104,141, and Johnson raised $1,079,623. National and state Democrats and liberal interest groups, including several labor unions, spent $2,522,384 on Kissell's behalf - mostly on ads opposing Johnson. National and state Republicans and conservative groups, including the Americans for Job Security and the Center for Individual Freedom, spent $680,499 on Johnson's behalf. Although Democrats suffered losses nationwide, Kissell still managed to win his re-election.
Republicans took control of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2010, and were thus in control of the decennial redistricting in 2011, following the 2010 Census. The 8th District transformed dramatically, becoming significantly more Republican. It went from a district that had voted 52% for President Obama to a district that would have voted only 42% for Obama. The minority make-up of the district also shifted. Registered black voters dropped from nearly 30 percent to 19 percent in the new district. Larry Kissell attempted to appeal to the new white, conservative electorate. He voted with the Republicans for the repeal of Obamacare five times and to censure Attorney General Eric Holder, and he declined to endorse President Obama ahead of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. As a result, Kissell faced attorney and African American civil rights activist Marcus Williams in a primary, 73%-27%. Kissell won the primary, but in July 2012 the NC 8th Congressional District Black Leadership Caucus political action committee declined to endorse Kissell and instead recruited Dobbins Heights Mayor, Antonio Blue, a Democrat, to run against Kissell in the general election as a write-in candidate. Republicans capitalized on Kissell's declining support from within the 8th District. During the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the National Republican Campaign Committee (RCCC) held a press conference to bring attention to a GOP stunt where they drove a car to Kissell's campaign headquarters to pick him up to take him to the convention. Rep. Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican Representative, even “brought a larger-than-life-size cutout” of Kissell onto the set POLITICO LIVE’s midday show Wednesday, according to POLITICO's Jedd Rosche.
Kissell faced Richard Hudson, former U.S. Representative Robin Hayes' district director, in the general election. The Cook Political Report rated the race as "Leans Republican",and Roll Call rated it as "Leans Republican".According to NC Democratic operative Thomas Mills, national Democrats saw a loss in the 8th District a "foregone conclusion", and they pulled out, cancelling reservations for television ads in the last two weeks of the election. Kissell managed to raise $1,303,395, compared to Hudson's $1,518,469. Outside groups and the national Democratic Party all but abandoned Kissell, spending only $17,530 on his behalf. This paled in comparison to the $2,090,383 that national Republicans and conservative interest groups, including the Club for Growth committee, and Eric Cantor's YG Action Fund, spent on behalf of Hudson. Republicans easily reclaimed North Carolina's 8th Congressional District in the 2012 election.
The NC 8th District Democratic Party was unorganized following losses in 2010 and 2012, and internal divisions played out in public. Chair Grace Galloway, of Concord, resigned via a letter to the Charlotte Observer, stating, “I thought about all the time wasted sniping, fighting and having our real Democratic values compromised, and I realized that the Democratic Party that I originally knew is no longer – what is left is a group of people who continue to pursue the wrong paths and thus lose elections." Former write-in candidate, Antonio Blue, was the party's nominee in 2014. Blue raised only $15,690, while incumbent Richard Hudson raised $1,507,109. No significant outside money was spent in the race, deemed "Safe Republican" by the Cook Political Report. Hudson easily won re-election, and Antonio Blue was appointed Chair of the NC 8th District Democratic Party.
After the 2014 losses, Democratic activists throughout North Carolina's 8th Congressional District became increasingly frustrated with the disorganization. Public finance reports showed that the NC 8th District Democratic Party, under Antonio Blue's leadership, was in debt and under investigation by the NC Attorney General's office. Dylan Frick, a student organizer and former staffer for Senator Gene McLaurin, was elected Chair in May 2015 with a slate of officers. The new officers promised to get the committee back in good financial status and to recruit Democratic candidates for the congressional seat and for every state legislative district within the congressional district. They were successful on fulfilling both promises, by recruiting political consultant Thomas Mills to run for the 8th Congressional District and by becoming the only congressional district Democratic Party committee in North Carolina to have a Democrat running for every state legislative district. Still, the 8th District was a "Safe Republican" seat, according to the Cook Political Report,[32 ]and Mills was unable to compete with Richard Hudson's strong fundraising. Mills raised $406,147, while Hudson raised $2,065,162. National Republicans and conservative groups spent $53,730 supporting Hudson, while the Sierra Group political committee was the only group to help Mills, with an expenditure of $10. Hudson was re-elected.
At their convention in Biscoe, NC, in May 2017, Dylan Frick was re-elected Chair of the NC 8th District Democratic Party, again on a promise of raising money and recruiting strong candidates. Frick raised over $25,000 for the district committee and hosted a "Listening Tour" of town hall-style meetings across the 8th District with the purpose of hearing from "possible candidates." Frick initially tried to recruit State Representative Billy Richardson and former congressional candidate, Beth Troutman, for the role. Neither ran, but instead got behind small businessman and former Aberdeen Mayor Frank McNeill. McNeill announced his candidacy in February 2018, saying he was running to return "North Carolina values of decency, kindness and hard work" to Congress. Charlotte Democratic activists Scott Huffman and Marc Tiegel also ran, challenging McNeill in the May 2018 primary. Because of his outspoken support for McNeill in the contested primary, Dylan Frick took a leave of absence and temporarily resigned from being Chair of the NC 8th District Democratic Party. McNeill handily won the three-way primary with 56% of the vote, and went on to face incumbent Richard Hudson in the general election. Following McNeill's primary victory and strong early fundraising, the Cook Political Report moved the race from "Safe Republican" to "Likely Republican", and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball rated the race as "Likely Republican". Still, Hudson was a better fundraiser than McNeill. Hudson raised $2,440,575, while McNeill raised $648,020. McNeill ran on a moderate platform of pragmatism, attempting to appeal to moderates and conservatives dissatisfied with Donald Trump. In their endorsement of McNeill, The Pilot newspaper called him, "someone with a common-sense perspective...who doesn’t adhere to the overheated rhetoric and the tortured politics strangling national governance." Hudson criticized McNeill, claiming in emails and fundraising appeals that McNeill was funded by Nancy Pelosi and national Democrats, and that McNeill would attempt to weaken gun rights. McNeill won the early vote, but lost the general election to Hudson.
While 8th District Democrats were not ultimately successful in the congressional election, they did win several targeted state legislative and judicial seats. Former Fayetteville City Commissioner Kirk DeViere defeated Republican incumbent Wesley Meredith by just 433 votes to take back NC Senate district 19 for Democrats. Democrats Regina Joe and Juanita Boger-Allen both flipped district court seats from Republican to Democrat.
At the 2019 NC 8th District Democratic Party convention, delegates unanimously elected Jim Davis, of Hoke, as Chair. Soña Cooper, of Spring Lake, as 1st Vice Chair; Elaine Coats, of Stanly, as 2nd Vice Chair; Taylor Beckett, of Kannapolis, as 3rd Vice Chair. Christina Davis-McCoy, of Hoke, as Secretary; and Kerry Arnold, of Moore, as Treasurer.