We’ve got a story to tell down here in rural North Carolina.
On Tuesday night, Down Home’s members flipped the script.
We all know the familiar post-election narrative that blames rural and small-town voters for regressive outcomes. But our experience as organizers and strategists tells us that small-town Carolinians can and must be part of a winning coalition to win power for working people statewide. We’ve been building that coalition for the last five years and on Election Day we showed the state what we can do.
It’s no exaggeration to say that small town and rural voters saved North Carolina from the return of a Republican supermajority…and it’s all thanks to Down Home’s dedicated members.
Our members in Granville celebrating after electing Mary Wills Bode (NC Senate) and Robert Fountain (Sheriff)
We Prevented a Republican Supermajority
For evidence of this take a look at Cabarrus County and House District 73, where Down Home has been organizing for the past two years. Republicans thought they had this race in the bag, but they didn’t count on Down Home showing up. Our members hit the doors hard, knocking more than 35,000 doors and logging 7,757 conversations with voters. We made 5-6 passes through our universe there, and sent out 50 canvassing shifts a day in the final week.
It was all worth it: Down Home’s endorsed candidate, a Black working class nurse Diamond Staton Williams, won by just 425 votes, keeping Republicans one seat short of a House supermajority. Thanks to Down Home’s members, we held the line and protected abortion access for millions of North Carolinians, defended our public schools, our trans and queer youth, our undocumented neighbors, our right to protest, and our access to the ballot. Every time Governor Cooper uses his veto in the coming years, he will be wielding the power of Down Home’s members.
Members of our team in Cabarrus who helped deliver a win for Diamond Staton-Williams
With Diamond’s win, Down Home achieved our major 2022 strategic priority by defeating a supermajority, but we had much to celebrate up and down the ballot and across the state.
This was a historic and unprecedented effort.
Our program’s effort ranked in the top three statewide, hitting our goal of 150,000 door attempts for 35,000 conversations. Keep in mind, that’s 150,000 rural knocks, in some of the most difficult and low-density turf on the map…no small feat.
We also placed more than 155,000 phone calls, sent over 181,000 text messages, and posted more than 500,000 pieces of mail to rural mailboxes.
This program was 7 times larger than our 2018 effort, and reflects our ambitious plan to grow our power and win at scale.
Working-Class North Carolina Wins
Perhaps most importantly, these efforts paid off for our members, who notched signature wins for our endorsed Black and working class candidates across the state. They made the endorsements, they told us who they wanted to represent them, they continue to tell us what matters to them.
In rural Person County, Down Home members elected a local Black farmer, Ray Jeffers, to the NC State House, defeating a 12-year Republican incumbent and contributing one more pickup to our successful effort to block the supermajority. Our Person County members were fighting entrenched, white, Republican power in an urban/rural district, and they pulled off a win for the Black country boy. We couldn’t be prouder.
Overall, our program went +1 in the statehouse, but among these victories, we also suffered a heartbreaking loss in Alamance County, where Ricky Hurtado lost a close reelection campaign. Republicans spent an enormous amount of money to win this race, including a raft of misleading attack ads (which drew the attention of Trevor Noah). Our hearts hurt for Ricky, but our chapter is stronger than ever and determined to fight another day. Five years ago, Alamance was a sure-win for Republicans, but we’ve transformed it into a critical battleground that saps the resources of our opposition. In 2022, we continued this transformation by recruiting and supporting a Black candidate, Kelly White, to run against inveterate racist sheriff Terry Johnson, who hadn’t faced a challenger in 12 years. While we didn’t win, we expanded the electorate and grew our power through this race, and there’s no doubt that Down home will be back again..
Down Home also notched significant victories across the state that demonstrate the promise of our growing work to protect our public schools. We swept 6 school board candidates to power across three counties, effectively beating back and marginalizing far-right candidates and growing our power to win up-ticket. In 2023, we will be expanding our work to organize public school parents and stakeholders, kicking off the effort with a statewide gathering on public education on December 3rd.
Almost all of our 8 chapters saw big wins. In rural Granville County, which is 40% Black, our members delivered on a dream long-deferred by electing the first Black sheriff in the 276-year history of the county. Granville members also won their critical state Senate race, edging the Republican supermajority down to a single vote in that house.
In Alamance County, Down Home fellow and member Reverend Donna Vanhook won her race for Soil and Water commissioner, and Watauga county members are still awaiting the outcome in a deadlocked county commission race that we expect to win on provisional ballots. Ashe, Cabarrus and Watauga Counties won all but one seat they were fighting for on local school boards.
Long time member Donna VanHook the day before being elected in Alamance County.
Looking towards 2024
As we begin to turn our eyes toward 2024, we have one more story to tell that underscores the promise of North Carolina and reaffirms our status as a battleground state. In rural Johnston county, Down Home members contributed to one of the largest federal upsets of the night, defeating Trump-backed candidate Bo Hines and electing Wiley Nickel to US House-13. No one predicted this outcome, but our members knew we could win.This victory in North Carolina’s fastest-growing countrypolitan district should tell you everything you need to know about our chances of delivering North Carolina in the 2024 presidential and gubernatorial elections.
This is the story of North Carolina that we need national observers to understand. Our scrappy grassroots organization of working folks in the most rural places of the state DEFEATED a Republican supermajority, stemmed the red tide, and won a shocking US House race against a Trump analogue. While Cheri Beasley lost her campaign for US Senate, she fought to within 3.6% in a race that saw dramatic underinvestment compared to peer states like Georgia and Pennsylvania. The rumors of our demise are premature; North Carolina is a swing state, North Carolina is a purple state, North Carolina is a battleground. Say it with us.
When the necessary investments are made, we can and will win. Down Home’s members are emboldened. We are trained. We are growing. We are ready. We know how to fight. And we are planning to win in 2024.
As supporters of Down Home, we’re counting on y’all to help us raise the resources we need to grow this powerful, beautiful organization that knows how to win.
We’re just getting started. As our members like to say: “Come on in y’all, we got work to do.”