Photo: Venus Over the Sunset Strip, New Bern, N.C., by Zach Frailey.
There’s a new force in Craven County. Down Home’s chapter in this coastal community began this year. Craven is an old county, with New Bern as the population and historical center. The population is diverse, 70% white and 25% Black, and includes a lot of older and retired folks.
During our listening sessions this year, we kept hearing concern about healthcare, education, and the justice system. So there’s a lot of work to do, and our Craven chapter got a later start than other chapters across the state.
While none of our endorsed candidates won in Craven, members there are excited and worked hard and want to continue building a trajectory for success.
“This was a win,” says Down Home Field Organizer Tara. “We got the community out. We got first-time voters out. I am excited by that. Really excited.”
Numbers to build on
Our Craven crew showed up! We knocked 12,366 doors in Craven County. We had 4,541 conversations with our neighbors there.
It was a big turn out this year. In Craven County, 50.48% of registered voters cast a ballot (37,130 out of 73,555). In the last midterm election, in 2018, slightly more voted – 51.18% – but there were fewer registered voters (70,187).
So, with a growing population and similar turnout, Craven County contains a lot of opportunity for growth for Down Home’s organizing in the coming years.
How our candidates did
Craven County leans heavily Republican, with Ted Budd getting 59% of the local vote for U.S. Senate (versus 51% statewide). Our Craven members endorsed Democrat Cheri Beasley, who got 38% of local votes (versus 47% statewide).
Our members also endorsed Barbara Gaskins for U.S. House in District 3. This Black woman, the mother of 3, started a nonprofit that focuses on prison re-entry, has a bright future and our members were excited to campaign for her. Unfortunately, she lost in the election, receiving 37% of the votes.
Our members also enthusiastically endorsed Theron McCade for County Commissioner. He lost by less than 500 votes.
The school board was hotly contested in Craven. Our members endorsed Loren Gatling Wilson in district 2, who lost 64% to 36%, and Victor Dove for district 4, who lost by the slightest of margins – 66 votes.
What’s next in Craven County
Despite some close losses, our members and organizers are keeping their eyes on the future and what’s been built this year.
“The calls, the team work, the door knocking, the movement of our canvassers!” exclaims field organizer Tara. “We are as strong and as mighty as we can be!”
Our Regional Organizing Manager Alexis shares the excitement and optimism.
“We have seen a great deal of wins throughout our losses,” she says. “Craven’s operation was delayed three weeks and we’re still able to reach 81% of their conversation goals.” That’s not a small feat in this rural county, where the roads are long and meander around the coastal inlets.
“Several things came out of this election,” says Alexis. “A group of elected officials and the birth of inspired, motivated, determined, and fearless rural community members.”