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Guilford Dems take N.C. House District 58 voters for granted


Afrique I. Kilimanjaro, Peacemaker Editor Afrique I. Kilimanjaro, Peacemaker Editor
The Guilford County Democratic Party leadership gathered Saturday morning (April 9) for a special meeting to elect a replacement to fill the unexpired term of late freshman N.C. House Rep. Ralph Johnson (District- 58), who died on March 15 from complications of a stroke in early February. Not only did Johnson lose his re-election bid, he sadly lost his life on Primary Day. District voters overwhelmingly elected Johnson’s challenger, Amos Quick, who garnered more than 80 percent of the votes. Quick is the current vice-chairman of the Guilford County School Board, but as far as voters knew, he would be the ideal person to fill Johnson’s unexpired term. Sources within the Guilford Democratic Party told the Peacemaker that Quick was to be voted on to fill Johnson’s unexpired term last Saturday, but news came to the Democratic Party chair on Friday, April 8, that Quick was unwilling to take the seat citing unfinished duties with the school board such as the pending selection of a new superintendent. From this point, the Democracy train jumps the tracks. Once the Democratic leadership was apprised of Quick’s refusal to take the seat, the process should’ve been halted out of respect for the constituents of District 58.

To effectively expedite the apparent urgency of the situation, (since the Short Legislative session begins April 25) District 58 residents should’ve been notified via public notices or in the media. A more inclusive way to handle the election of Johnson’s replacement would’ve been to open the nomination process to any district resident who is registered as a Democrat and meets the qualifications. Those individuals should’ve had an opportunity to submit their name, credentials and so forth for consideration. After all, N.C. House District 58 is comprised of 58,893 registered voters (Republican, Democrat & Unaffiliated). There are 36,673 registered Democrats in the district and of that number 26,675 are African American and 8,251 are Caucasian.

The Guilford Democratic leadership says it followed protocol, and it did. However, the body opted to follow an election protocol which failed to notify the affected constituency, which was possible. Sources say there were 37 to 40 Democratic board members present to vote at the Saturday meeting. Most of them do not reside in the district.

Quite frankly, District 58 residents we’ve heard from are mad as hell for being systematically excluded and unaware of the pending process. This is not how a transparent Democracy conducts business. African American voters are tired of being taken for granted by a small group of people, often our presumed allies, who think they know what’s in our best interests. The father/mother knows best mantra seems to be quite pervasive across the board in American politics. It is decisions like electing a D-58 replacement which makes our Democratic leadership (people with good intentions) look like a faction of paternalistic king makers.

From the national stage down, it’s become apparent to many observers that whenever there is an election to be won, the Democratic Party makes tremendous efforts to galvanize African American voters, but often fails to seek robust African American input on decisions and policies that directly impact us. The Guilford Democrats allowed last Saturday’s election to carry-on without so much as a smoke signal to the constituency that Quick took a pass on the position (for now). Democrats are no better than the Republicans they vehemently criticize for using legislative processes that lack transparency.

It is important to remember, there is a U.S. House of Representatives’ election in June with no run-off and the General Election will be in November. It will be critical that D-58 residents, specifically African Americans, vote in the upcoming elections. However, we understand there was a whole lot of politics as usual, back door lobbying and jockeying conducted by the elected D-58 candidate. Guilford Democrats have some serious explaining to do with its most loyal voting bloc- African American voters.

The newly elected D-58 representative is Chris Sgro. He is the executive director of N.C. Equality, an LGBTQ civil rights organization which promotes equality on behalf of members of the LGBTQ community. Sgro is probably a fine person, but like most of his new constituents, I have not met him. I’m having a difficult time getting past the fact that Sgro lobbied members of the Party’s leadership for the past 30 days during which the incumbent, Johnson, was still alive. It’s quite distasteful.

We understand Sgro plans to hit the ground running in Raleigh. He wants to make his voice heard primarily to oppose the recent passage of HB 2, a new law permitting state sanctioned discrimination primarily aimed at members of the LGBTQ community along with women, the working poor, contractors of color, and the list of those marginalized by the new law goes on. Most people of conscience stand firmly against HB 2. It hurts everyone and must be repealed in its entirety.

It is our hope that Chris Sgro will be more than a one issue legislator. He must gain a quick grasp of a myriad of issues affecting his constituency, in addition to LGBTQ issues. Sgro and the Guilford Democratic leadership must be vocal advocates for Medicaid expansion; work to eliminate voter suppression laws and barriers at the ballot box; support the establishment of a non-partisan state redistricting committee; work to restore unemployment benefits for N.C. residents who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own; properly fund our public education system and its teachers; restore women’s autonomy and health rights; fight for criminal justice reform; protect our environment and natural resources from coal ash, fracking, off-shore drilling and contamination; support minority businesses and contractors; and welcome North Carolina’s immigrant population. WE must hold his feet to the fire.

As it stands, the Guilford Democratic Party’s leadership has some serious fence mending ahead as it pertains to transparency and its paternalistic behavior towards D-58 voters. Stop the politics as usual. African American voters are here and we will be heard.