Area Dems gear up 'Break the Majority' effort for fall

071318 NCDemocrats Event
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Reshard el-Shair, regional field director for the "Break the Majority" initiative, speaks to a gathering of almost 30 local Democrats about the initiative at the Pasquotank County Library, Thursday night.

071318 NCDemocrats Event

By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Area Democrats are marshaling their forces for November, including in Elizabeth City where they met Thursday to rally around Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's “Break the Majority” initiative.

“This is going to be a heavy lift,” but “we have to break this super-majority this cycle,” Reshard el-Shair, Break the Majority regional field director, told a gathering of almost 30 local Democrats at the Pasquotank County Library Thursday night.

El-Shair explained that Thursday's meeting was one of many unfolding statewide as Democrats organize under Cooper's “Break the Majority” initiative.

As the name suggests, Cooper is rallying fellow Democrats around the idea of electing enough state lawmakers to end years of Republican super-majorities in the General Assembly. Those majorities empower Republicans to override Cooper's bill vetoes, including on the state budget and numerous other pieces of legislation. Cooper and Democratic lawmakers say they have little leverage in negotiating compromises.

“Break the Majority is designed to ensure he can actually operate as governor with some semblance of power,” el-Shair said, referring to Cooper.

El-Shair said Democrats are learning from mistakes made during the 2016 elections, as well as building off the data and infrastructure of Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful presidential campaign. In 2016, North Carolina Democrats turned out 25,000 “action-taking volunteers,” and Democrats hope to beat that number in 2018, he said.

El-Shair also explained Democrats need to start reaching out to voters now, not just to ask for their votes, but to get them to turn out for the fall election. That means voter calls will start going out now, and he encouraged Democratic officials in the room to host local events where voters are not only registered, but to sign “commit to vote” cards to help remind and encourage them to turn out in November. Democrats will shift into even more “intensive voter contact” after Labor Day, he added.

El-Shair also said Democrats will be working to hire more field workers for the region — and will hire locally as much as possible. Some audience members expressed concerns that Democrats hired workers in 2016 that were unfamiliar with the area.

To explain why voters should support Democrats in 2018, el-Shair said Break the Majority will focus on the following areas: public education, which is “absolutely under fire” under Republicans, who he claimed are under-funding schools; health care, which he said needs to be more accessible to more state residents; and the economy, which he argued won't grow with Republicans' “laissez faire” policies. “Laissez faire” is a term for preferring minimal intervention or regulation in markets.

El-Shair also said that Break the Majority will leave local issues to local candidates.

El-Shair also shared several other points with audience members during a question-and-answer period, including:

* Break the Majority doesn't plan, for now, to campaign on the six proposed constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot this fall. An audience member said Democrats cannot simply campaign against all the amendments, as some have little impact or may be popular with voters.

* Democrats will be working to get more voters who request absentee ballots to return them; audience members noted absentee voting is popular among Republicans. He urged caution if local volunteers try to encourage absentee voting, however, as they need to understand the extra rules and requirements that come with absentee voting.

* Democrats are stepping up their text messaging to voters, but still plan traditional phone banking. El-Shair said he’d ask party leaders to explore whether phone volunteers should be texting as well as calling.

Cole Phelps, the Democratic Senate candidate in District 1, also attended Thursday's event. He thanked the volunteers for their support, and said he's planning numerous events in Pasquotank and other Senate District 1 counties to seek voters' support. He's running against well-known Republican state House Rep. Bob Steinburg of Chowan.

Other notable audience members Thursday included Pasquotank County Commissioner Charles Jordan, Pasquotank Board of Elections member Michele Aydlett, former Perquimans County Commissioner Janice Cole, and Pasquotank Democratic Party Chairwoman Treva Gregory. Also present were Jackie Latson and Joan Ellis, of the Elizabeth City Together community group, whose group plans to help register voters during upcoming Democratic events in Pasquotank.