In November last year, the Monday after the announcement of her primary election candidacy, Patsy Keever of Asheville was in Cleveland County reaching out to voters and party leaders. She spoke to local Democratic Women members, introducing herself and sharing why she had decided to enter the race for the Tenth Congressional District U. S. House seat currently held by Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC).
The November gathering was held in a meeting room at Western Sizzlin’ Restaurant in Shelby. For some local Dems, it was their first time to meet Rep. Keever, now a member of the N. C. General Assembly representing a House District 115 that will change along with others across the state as redistricting is accomplished.
On Thursday this week, just two days after winning the months-long primary race, Rep. Keever was back in Cleveland County, back at Western Sizzlin,’ and back--now on a first-name basis--with local Dems newly energized by a general election slate strong across the ticket. This time, it was a meeting of the local party’s Executive Committee including officers, precinct leaders, and some active volunteers.
The early visits to Cleveland County before the primary and now before the general election aren’t a coincidence, Rep. Keever said. Besides the personal symbolism of returning to the same place to start a second successful campaign, they underscore how Cleveland County is central to the reconfigured Tenth District. And not just geographically with changed boundaries stretching from Gaston to parts of Buncombe counties but also as an active leader in building new links and helping unify district political efforts.
“Hitting the ground running,” particularly in view of new opportunities redistricting presents, could well have been the theme of the entire Thursday Democratic Executive Committee meeting.
“We not only have opportunity but a tremendous slate of candidates to present to voters in Cleveland County as they think seriously about the issues and hopes important to them,” said party Chair Davy Lowman. “At every spot on the ticket, from Washington to Raleigh to the courthouse, we’re fielding strong proven leaders. If we do our job well now as a party, they’ll get the thoughtful consideration of voters here and, I believe, their strong support.”
Lowman spent a few minutes commending all the party’s primary candidates across-the-board for their energetic, clean campaigns and congratulating the winners. But the agenda turned quickly to examining the scope of local efforts needed for the general election campaign.
Present to help with the looking-ahead in addition to Rep. Keever were Cliff Moone of Hickory, chair of the Tenth Congressional District Democratic organization, and John T. McDevitt of Morganton, Democratic nominee for the District 46 N. C. State Senate seat to which a Republican successor was named following the 2011 resignation of Sen. Debbie Clary. McDevitt is the popular former sheriff of Burke County, retired in 2011 after three four-year terms, with strong Cleveland County links. He grew up in Kings Mountain, where his father was long-time police chief, and still has many ties there.
As he has said, the redistricting of District 46 by the Republican majority in the legislature creates a near-perfect opportunity for him to represent the two counties where he knows the needs and aspirations of citizens best and first-hand. If redistricting withstands court challenge, Cleveland and Burke are the sole counties within District 46 boundaries. In prior elections, the district comprised Cleveland and Rutherford counties. Discussion focused on how the local party could support the campaign strategies of the Dem candidate slate, for example, coordinating local headquarters and events and establishing close working links with other counties in the “new” Tenth Congressional District to optimize joint efforts. Tenth District Chair Moore also brought details of the upcoming Tenth District Democratic Convention, slated May 19 at Patton High School in Morganton. Interest among Dems is especially high: it’s at these district conventions held across the state that many delegates will be elected to the September Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Given that redistricting is not yet final pending current court challenge, Democratic party processes such as conventions and delegate selection are continuing to be organized along pre-existing boundaries, Moone said. For example, Cleveland will be one of 10 counties with delegates at the Tenth District convention, entitled to cast its 61 votes in the election of five delegates from the district to the national convention (three men and two women).
The national Democratic Party’s delegate selection process is designed to be open to all who are interested, allowing anyone to apply for election by filling out an application form made broadly available on websites and at gatherings such as precinct meetings, Moone said.
The application process recently ended, and the state party shortly will release to each congressional district convention ballots with the names of those from the district with valid applications—the information will then be provided to county party chairs to apprise their delegations. Typically, those applying don’t make their interest broadly known until they’re sure they’re on the ballot. So for a few more days Cleveland Dems won’t know for certain if there are local national delegate candidates, although a few have shared their hopes to apply, nor how competitive the election will be given the involvement of 10 counties and yet-unknown number of candidates.
In other business, the Executive Committee heard updates on plans for the county party’s Century Club Dinner fundraiser, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 31 at Cleveland Country Club in Shelby. Some tickets are still available. State Senate candidate John McDevitt will be keynote speaker. Information on obtaining tickets is available from party secretary Pat Poston by telephone at 704.457.9840, by email at email@example.com, and a page on this website.