The Political Beat: Democratic leader emphasizes rural gains for party growth in NC

CHARLOTTE — A young North Carolina activist is putting an emphasis on rallying rural Democrats as the party strives to make gains statewide.

Anderson Clayton, 25, chairs the Person County Democratic Party where she helped flip a local city council and a state House seat from red to blue in the community north of Durham near the Virginia state line.

Now, Clayton is looking to chair the statewide Democratic Party in North Carolina. She’ll face incumbent Dr. Bobbie Richardson and Eric Terashima, who chairs the party in Brunswick County, in an election voted on by state party leaders next month.

Clayton told the Political Beat’s Joe Bruno that her experience in North Carolina’s rural communities inspired her to run for statewide leadership.

“For a long time, the Democratic Party has ceded ground in rural communities, and they shouldn’t be,” she said. “I think that we have a really strong message in our areas right now in North Carolina. A large majority of our state lives in these communities, and I think that we need to be active in them everywhere.

“We need to make sure that we are active in our communities year-round and not just the three months after an election season or before an election season. I really want to make sure that we are constantly prioritizing being that voice in every community.”

Clayton said the Democratic Party found success in Person County by emphasizing local, city elections with candidates who have deep roots and engage the voter base. She thinks the strategy could work across North Carolina.

“I think that we need to really prioritize the people that we are running in our communities, because they need to have a message and a clear vision for what that community needs to look like in the future,” Clayton said. “We need to get back to the issues that are really hurting our communities right now, because rural North Carolina is not living; they are surviving, and I tell people that constantly. I think we have to run candidates and organize in these communities like we generally care about them, because we want to see them have a future, because they do and they should.”

In last November’s general election, Democratic candidate for the Cheri Beasley lost her bid for the U.S. Senate by about 3%. Many pundits said a lack of national support sunk Beasley, but Clayton said there were a myriad of reasons for the result.

“We need to take on the message that rural folks have taken on their whole life, nobody is coming out here to save us,” Clayton said.

“I don’t blame one person or the other for why Cheri Beasley lost that election. What I do know is she should be a United States Senator for North Carolina and the fault on that is we had 135,000-ish Democrats that did not turn out to vote this cycle that should have and that’s a problem that I think the party has ownership over and needs to take into consideration.”

>>> Watch the Political Beat’s full interview with Anderson Clayton in the video at the top of this page.

(WATCH BELOW: Democrats retain control of Mecklenburg County Commission)