As a former organizer in North Carolina, our upcoming Academy in Charlotte is personal for me. I got my first job there working for Barack Obama’s ‘08 Presidential run and went to Raleigh as a Data Director for his re-election.
In Raleigh, I strategized how Obama could win a state that is so diverse from the Sandhills to the Mountain regions of North Carolina. But I didn’t understand how important state elections are until after he won re-election, when I started working with local North Carolina groups on the “state leg” — what people in the industry call state legislative races.
Many Democrats had been so focused on the Presidency we forgot about the states, but organizers in North Carolina saw the problem clearly. Across the country, Republicans dominated policy-heavy state governments while Democrats poured their energy into a log-jammed Congress. The crisis was especially severe in North Carolina, where Republicans used racist gerrymandering and voter suppression to skew future elections.
Even though these problems were (and are) urgent, the organizers I met didn’t talk about winning back the N.C. statehouse in 2014 or even 2016. With a task this monumental, we knew it couldn’t happen overnight. Our sights were trained on 2020.
Back then 2020 felt so far away it was unimaginable. But 2020 is here, and after years of community-building, voter registration, and fighting for fairer maps, Democrats in North Carolina are finally within striking distance of flipping the State House and Senate.
Arena’s role in this years-long effort is simple: we’re going to train diverse people at all levels of experience how to staff North Carolina legislative races and work with campaigns to place them on races where they’re most needed.
I have faith that we can and will pull it off — but it will only work if we can funnel at least a hundred trained staffers to North Carolina where candidates need support.