democratic officials are gearing up for a battle Saturday over
who will be elected as the state's Democratic Party Chairman.
Meek, current vice-chair of the party, was an expected shoo-in for
the position two years ago, but party insiders appeared to broker
in which Meek would allow outgoing chair Barbara Allen to assume
post before turning it over to Meek in 2005. However, Gov. Mike
announced his support for Raleigh lawyer Ed Turlington, and the
chair is playing out as a battle between capital insiders and grassroots
Sweeting, chair of the Watauga Democratic Party, said the county
committee met to discuss the issue and the county's three voting
of the state executive committee will be backing Meek. Sweeting
it's the first time she can recall the chairmanship receiving so
a dead heat for the chair," Sweeting said. "At our last
meeting, we talked to people there and they told us they supported
Jerry Meek. He's actually put in a lot of time in our county. He's
helped with organization and he's been here, and I've seen him more
in the last two years. The other fellow (Turlington), I haven't
and many other Democratic officials view Meek as more sympathetic
to rural areas and for the party at the county level. Meek has served
as a precinct chair, county chair, a Congressional district chair
in addition to the last two years as state vice-chair.
his web site promoting his run for state party chair, Meek said,
believe that we need a state party that is responsive to the needs
local parties and that includes them in the decision-making process.
many local party leaders feel locked out of the process. They wonder
what Raleigh does for them. They believe that the state party takes
they're right. The state party has incredible resources that we
and must use to benefit local parties. Our party is built upon the
of literally thousands of grassroots activists, working at the precinct
and county levels. We need a state party that serves them and takes
has led a more high-profile political career, working in the
national presidential campaign of Bill Bradley, and was a co-chair
John Edwards's presidential campaign. He also worked on Bill Bradley's
run for president in 2000. He served as an aide to Gov. Jim Hunt
Gov. Terry Sanford, though he also served the party at a precinct
since he was 15 years old.
said part of the concern for county Democratic officials,
particularly in western North Carolina, was that Turlington's election
as chair would consolidate more power in Raleigh. Turlington is
painted as the "corporate" candidate, having served as
a lobbyist for
large companies. Meek is from Fayetteville and has a reputation
working closely at the grassroots level and supporting that direction
for the party.
battle for state chair in many ways mirrors the battle for chairmanship
of the Democratic National Committee, where self-professed liberal
Howard Dean is opposed by party members who favor a more middle-of-the-road
party leader. However, Democrats still hold power in state government,
controlling both houses of the General Assembly, though recent federal
races have been dominated by Republicans.
will be interesting how it turns out," Sweeting said. "It
might let people in Raleigh know that people in rural counties want
said despite the battle for chair, she expects a low-key
executive committee meeting since it's not an election year. She
there will be a background theme of what direction the party should
take, and what it will take to get Democrats elected. She said there
been interest in other county's about Watauga's Democratic strategies
that helped send three Democrats to the county commission.
"We did something a lot of people didn't do," Sweeting
counties (Democratic party candidates) lost seats. We may talk about
that. Most everybody knows what we did."
addition to selecting officers, the executive committee will vote
a budget, plan events for the coming year, and adopt resolutions.
Sweeting will be joined as a voting member of the committee by Dennis
Grady and Celia Roten, who were selected at last year's county