This past year, no doubt, was the year that was. On Jan. 20, 45 started his 4th year as president already having lied or made 16,241 misleading statements. In Catawba County, Democrats began the year more positively with both Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein holding events here. We also started the year with five Democrats who had filed to run for office by the Dec. 21, 2019, deadline: Tina Miles for State Senate, Kim Bost and Greg Cranford for State House of Representatives, and Gabriel Sherwood and Jerome Simpkins for County Commissioner. Thank you, all, for stepping up. On Jan. 18, Greg Cranford hosted a fun MLK Day Dance Party to kick off our political year. A great time was had by Democrats, elected officials, and several candidates who attended. On Jan. 28, the CCDP Executive Committee met, the same night Governor Cooper held a fundraiser at Holler Mill - one of the few in-person events in 2020.
At a well-attended Feb. 15 meeting at the Hickory Soup Kitchen, CCDP organized precincts and candidates for federal, state and local office spoke. On Feb. 22, Chair Vandett led a lively brainstorm session on Building a Stronger Party that followed a Feb. 8 discussion with community members. The group discussed the role of precinct officers and how to better prepare precinct leaders. At the Feb. 25 monthly meeting, Deborah Hollingsworth was elected 3rd Vice Chair to replace Dacia Cress who stepped down after several years of service to the party.
North Carolina’s first reported COVID-19 case was on March 3. On March 10, Gov. Cooper issued the first of many executive orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On March 14, CCDP held makeup precinct organization meetings at headquarters and then at Sherrills Ford library and organized two more precincts for a total of 20 organized precincts. Those were the last official in-person meetings held in 2020. In a March 16 email, Chair Vandett said due to health concerns and his doctor’s orders that he “take it easy,” he was resigning as CCDP chair. The officers led a search effort, organized an online election, and CCDP elected Lynn Dorfman chair on March 28. In her first message, Dorfman thanked Vandett “for all he has done for our party, community, and state as a politician, educator, and leader.”
In early April, County Commissioner candidate Gabriel Sherwood resigned as 2nd Vice Chair after years of service to the Democratic Party. In addition to running for office, Sherwood said he would continue his leadership of the Catawba Valley Democratic Veterans. On April 22, educator Jeff Taylor was elected 2nd Vice Chair. On April 25, CCDP held its first-ever virtual County Convention with about 70 attendees. County Convention attendees reelected the members of the Judicial Executive and Senate Executive committees. Many thanks to Shannon Auer for her key technical assistance at this and other meeting.
Many Catawba County Democrats attended our virtual district conventions (District 5 and 10) on May 16. At the May 27 CCDP meeting, CCDP recognized Kim Naff as Volunteer of the Year, elected Sarah Sakatos to serve as representative to the 10th District, and announced the Dialing for Democrats initiative led by 2nd Vice Chair Jeff Taylor with key help from Rachel Parnell.
The Catawba County School Board filing period opened on June 1. Two Democrats – 2nd Vice Chair Jeff Taylor and Tracy Myers -- filed as candidates, as did Gavin Joshua Gabriel, UNA. The North Carolina Democratic Party held its virtual State Executive Committee meeting and virtual State Convention on June 6. CCDP sent a letter to its Century Club Dinner sponsors announcing there would be no Century Club Dinner this year but that CCDP would be holding a virtual online silent auction in late August and solicited donations to fund our get-out-the-vote efforts.
Catawba County Democrats made phone calls and the Silent Century Club Auction planning group worked on soliciting donations and planning the auction. At the July 28 meeting, CCDP approved spending $10,000 toward producing get-out-the-vote materials and for social media advertising. We also approved hiring Kim Naff as GOTV coordinator. In addition, CCDP voted to extend the lease on our Union Square headquarters for three years at a modest increase in rent to cover additional storage space.
Get-out-the-vote planning picked up with work on a flyer, the sample blue ballot, as well as phone bank scripts and call lists. The Silent Century Club Auction committee got items collected, photographed, and described. The auction opened Aug. 23, closed with a live Zoom finale on Aug. 30, and raised more than $8,000. More and more people signed up to help us with calls and volunteering at the polls. By Election Day, more than 300 people would be helping with get-out-the-vote activities.
Phone banking started in earnest after Labor Day. Absentee voting by mail began on Sept. 4 and starting Sept. 18 our flyer dropped in the mail. The great Biden/Harris, Cooper, and Cunningham yard sign quest continued. In the runup to the election our volunteers drove to Boone, Charlotte (multiple trips), Concord, Statesville, and N. Wilkesboro to fetch signs and literature. At our Sept. 22 meeting, Treasurer Nancy Miller reported CCDP had raised $23,792 to support GOTV expenditures.
Volunteers stepped up to take the lead at the five early voting sites. Sarah Sakatos used SignUp Genius to handle scheduling 185 hours of coverage over a 17-day period – Oct 15 to Oct. 31 as well as on Election Day. Sakatos and Kim Naff held Zoom training sessions for volunteers – many first timers and lots of our seasoned veterans. Meanwhile back at HQ, Deborah Hollingsworth led efforts to assemble Lit Bags (with voting and candidate information) and directed volunteers who distributed the bags in key neighborhoods. Treasurer Nancy Miller turned in the third-quarter financial report – all 110 pages!
We staffed 21 precincts on Election Day. Some precincts hadn’t been staffed in living memory. First vice chair Shamoyi McIver adopted E. Newton. One voter at Startown effusively thanked our volunteers for being there. Importantly, our volunteers took the high road during early voting and Election Day. Top local election news: Jeff Taylor was elected to serve on the Catawba County School Board. Sadly, we could not have an Election Night gathering due to health concerns, but office hours on Nov. 8 for volunteers to return their materials turned into an impromptu party just hours after the Biden/Harris ticket was declared the winner. Volunteers helped cure ballots after the election, picking up more votes for Democrats. After a slide show celebrating our volunteers, we turned our Nov. 24 meeting into a debrief session led by State Rep. Chaz Beasley who applauded our hard work, talked about how we increased the raw Democratic vote by 21 percent, and gave us suggestions on how to build on our work by increasing community outreach, especially in the key more heavily Democratic precincts of College Park, E. Newton, Greenmont, Kenworth, and Ridgeview.
In December, we posted a questionnaire for our volunteers – remember we’d recruited a lot of fresh faces – to let us know about their experience volunteering with CCDP. With the survey results in hand (more than 50 people responded) we held a debrief session on Dec. 7 and used the Zoom breakout room function to have small group discussion. We learned a lot, which will guide us as we plan for 2021. The biggest takeway: Everyone wants to stay involved! The other good news from the year was that our Sustaining Fund supporters contributed $6,914 over the course of the year. This fund is essential and enables us to have a headquarters location and “keep the lights on.” Many thanks to all of our 2020 donors!