The secret to election success in Granville County? Our unique coalition.

Photo: Tobacco barn on the way to Oxford, N.C., by Carol Von Canon.

Our new Down Home Granville chapter had huge success in 2022’s elections. Even though it was only formed this year, our chapter made history in Granville County. They knocked doors, talked to neighbors, and worked the polls – and helped elect the county’s first Black sheriff ever. 

By “ever,” that means 276 years. That’s a long time to not have a Black sheriff, especially considering the county’s population has historically been almost half Black. 

And as a reminder, during our listening sessions this year people frequently called out Granville’s “old boys’ club” history as a serious impediment to progress. The county was long a focus of tobacco growing and home to an old south money-making system. But things are beginning to change. 

Not only did we help make county history, but our Granville chapter also helped stop the Republican supermajority in the state. If they got enough seats, our state’s GOP had already promised to erase North Carolina’s right to choose, as well as readied to attack voting rights and LGBTQ protections. But our chapter in Granville County helped preserve Governor Roy Cooper’s veto power.

And even though Granville helped steer the state, our members’ focus was always on local outcomes. 

“Winning felt like winning with family here,” says Field Organizer Toia.

Granville County's 2022 election by the numbers

We knocked 15,351 doors in rural Granville County and had 6,741 conversations. This had a huge impact on local voting.

Voting was up this year versus the last midterm election. Over 55% of registered voters turned out this year, versus 53% in 2018, even though the number of registered voters was about the same. Granville has 40,490 registered voters.

About 64% of Granville’s population is white; 32% is African-American; and 10% is Hispanic. Folks here are a little older and a little less educated than the North Carolina average. And even though the median income in Granville ($56,924) is about the same as the state average ($56,642), there are slightly more people living in poverty here.

How our Granville candidates did

Of all of Down Home’s eight chapters, Granville was the only one that chose not to endorse Cheri Beasley for U.S. Senate. Instead, our members chose to focus their energies on only three races (every other chapter endorsed four or more).

The focus paid off.

For N.C. Senate, Down Home members endorsed Mary Wills Bode. She won with 52% of the vote. She comes from a local family and was enthusiastically endorsed by our Granville members, who were won over by how she talked about equity and her experience fighting for fair redistricting. 

“Bode really did a great job of speaking to fixing the economic, infrastructural, and housing needs that Granville County has faced for a long time,” says Deputy Field Director Reeves

Unfortunately, one of our endorsed candidates lost. Incumbent Terry Garrison lost his NC House seat after being redistricted, but the race was close with him earning 49% of the vote. 

And for sheriff, our members were proud to knock doors and help Robert Fountain win his historic victory. In a three-way race, Fountain earned 41% of the vote.

Turning from elections to co-governance

“Fountain excelled because he knows both the reality of what working people face everyday in Oxford,” says Reeves. “He knows and respects the history here and I think voters recognize that understanding.”

The Granville County Sheriff’s Department has been rocked by scandals, and Fountain brings diverse law enforcement experience to the office, including time with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the N.C. Department of Public Safety, and the U.S. Marine Corps SWAT team.

“The kind of wins that Fountain and Bode had show just how much tough work on the ground our canvass team did,” says Reeves. “All the data we had showed these races being neck and neck, yet both won with comfortable margins.”

That kind of outcome is the result of a community coming together to organize their neighbors and having real conversations on what they want and need as a collective. 

Now that progress is being made in Granville County, our members are looking forward to working with their new elected officials on the issues that matter most to them.