U.S. Senate candidate Erica Smith has just announced her statewide tour of North Carolina, where she’ll be visiting all 100 counties in just 100 days. She’ll be launching the tour with former Blue America PAC endorsee, Gary Chambers who told us that Erica is an "unapologetic progressive" who "we need to send to the United States Senate." We couldn't agree more.
This is a hotly contested primary with Erica-- until this past January a state Senator from rural northeast North Carolina-- solidly locked in the top tier of the race. She’s up against Jeff Jackson who’s backed by Charlotte millionaires and Cheri Beasley who was recruited by the same DC establishment that picked Cal Cunningham last time, and lost the Democrats key races in not just in North Carolina but in Texas, Iowa, South Carolina, Maine and Kentucky to boot-- all with centrist nothings hand-picked by Schumer and the DC establishment. That thermometer below is the Blue America 2022 Senate thermometer, a hot link that you can click on and, if you want to, contribute to Erica's campaign-- how about to help with a tank of gas or even some bar-b-que for her staffers?
Instead of kissing up to the elites, Erica is taking her fight to the people, reminding me this morning that she "may not be the establishment candidate, but I am the people’s candidate." She’s got a real shot here, but she’s up against big money. She can win, but only if we make it so. Emily’s List and the DSCC want you to think the race is over and that Beasley’s already won because they know that she lacks the charisma and ability to authentically connect with voters and they know that in a truly contested primary Erica would win out. Progressive groups need to follow the lead of Blue America and Gary Chambers and get off the sidelines. Erica spoke to the stakes of this race: “if a candidate who believes the things I do, who’s running on Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, Universal Basic Income... this bold progressive agenda, wins in North Carolina, it opens the floodgates for progressives across the country." She’s right. And that’s why they’re trying so hard to stop her.
While Chuck Schumer has made it clear that he wants his candidates to stay in a windowless basement calling donors, Erica’s testing a different strategy. "I refuse to write anyone off. These folks who may have left our party or stopped voting entirely, they’re frustrated and frankly, they have every right to be. They’re caught in the same rigged economy that we are. In the same broken healthcare system, being paid the same starvation wages, and dealing with the same broadband that is too expensive and too ineffective. Writing them off is immoral and it’s bad politics. I believe that everyone is worthy of being seen, fought for, and represented, regardless of where they live, how wealthy or well-connected they are, or the color of their skin. When we transform our government, it’ll be with a diverse working class coalition. This 100 county tour is about building that coalition."
North Carolina has 100 counties, and garden variety Democrats skip most of them. Trump won 75 counties last year and Erica has no intention of seeing that kind of thing happen in the 2022 Senate election. A little more effort in Lenoir, Granville, Martin, Scotland and Alamance counties might have flipped those counties-- and the state-- blue. Maybe even Cabarrus too, where Democrats seem to have given up but where Trump only got 53.9% of the vote. Erica will be visiting Cabarrus... as well as Lenoir, Granville, Martin, Scotland and Alamance counties.
Tomorrow she kicks off the tour with Gary Chambers in North Carolina's biggest county, population-wise, Mecklenburg-- with late morning and late afternoon meet-and-greets in Charlotte. Then on Saturday, the two of them will start in Durham and end the day Wake County, in Raleigh's Moore Square Park. So two days, 3 counties... 97 to go.
There is a significant historical precedent for the 100-county tour. Politicians throughout North Carolina history have traveled across the state, drumming up support for their party and signature policies. But in North Carolina, a state still peppered with skeletons of plantation houses, still undergoing bouts of racial discrimination and backlash, and still deeply racially divided along geographical and class lines, a black woman has never completed the 100-county statewide tour.
Erica knows she may experience challenges on the road. But she also knows that Democrats cannot win if they merely campaign in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham. "I watched Charles Booker’s campaign in Kentucky very closely," she said, "To me, there’s only one way of interpreting that campaign: a real political movement that offers big and bold solutions can bridge the urban-rural divide, can show folks from the hood to the holler that they are not at real odds, that their lives matter."
People have asked Erica if she really expects those in Yadkin County (which voted 80% for Trump) to show up and talk to her. That’s not a concern of hers. She says she isn’t doing this to meet the people who are already active in county politics. She wants to meet people in line at the supermarket, on their way to work, at their doorsteps. "I've lived the struggle that working families across North Carolina are confronting today. I've experienced the challenges and frustration that a lot of these communities are experiencing. I want to show up for them and let them know that there's room for them in politics, there's room for them in our movement, and that by coming together we can create a new coalition that brings about true substantive and structural change. If we don't even try to engage these voters, if we refuse to show up for them, we can't expect them to show up for us."