Goodman seeks return to yesterday’s Main Street

Legislator unites moderate conservative Democrats behind mainstream message
With a little help, Goodman says, McLaurin might not have lost

By Kevin Spradlin

One could say the North Carolina Democratic Party is at a crossroads. Or even on a cliff. And Ken Goodman hopes to bring them back from the edge.

Goodman represents District 66 in the state House of Representatives. The area includes Hoke, Montgomery, Richmond, Robeson and Scotland counties. A week into the 2015 legislative session in Raleigh, the three-term Democrat was in Rockingham Friday afternoon and spoke with The Pee Dee Post about his effort to bring lawmakers together for a common cause — the people they serve through  the NC Main Street Democratic Caucus.

Kevin Spradlin | North Carolina Rep. Ken Goodman is leading a group of Democrats in the state General Assembly to revert back to being a "traditional North Carolina Democrat."

Kevin Spradlin |
North Carolina Rep. Ken Goodman is leading a group of Democrats in the state General Assembly to revert back to being a “traditional North Carolina Democrat.”

The goal is to unite moderate conservative Democrats — “traditional North Carolina Democrats,” Goodman said — into taking a stand in supporting the public’s interests on three key issues: economic growth and job creation; education; and community investment and infrastructure.

If it sounds idealistic, well, maybe it is. But Goodman insisted it’s necessary to save Democrats from themselves.

“Clearly, we’re doing something wrong,” Goodman said of a state party that is looking at the Republicans enjoy super majorities in both the House and Senate. The Democrats have lost 24 seats since Goodman was elected to office in recent elections. And even when a Democrat won re-election, the party lost. Goodman referenced Rep. Paul Tine, who won re-election as a Democrat but later registered unaffiliated “in hopes of getting more done for his district,” according to The News & Observer.

Goodman said it’s a sign that Democrats’ seats have been moved too far back from the table by Republicans in control. That is, in part, the Democrats’ own fault.

“Clearly, we’re doing something wrong,” Goodman said. “Clearly, people don’t like what we’re selling or are uncomfortable. There’s something going on here that people aren’t happy about.”

Core1On Tine, “we didn’t need to lose him,” Goodman said. “A group like ours might have made him feel like he would still have a home as a Democrat. We want to keep those people who are feeling like the Democratic Party doesn’t represent them anymore.”

There are two components to the newly formed caucus. The first part is to reestablish itself within the state business leaders with a legislative focus on economic growth and job creation.

“The business community has just completely written off the Democratic Party,” Goodman said. “North Carolina was built by working with businesses on issues, supporting education and having a great infrastructure, but I think we lost sight of that and moved too far to the left. It is killing us.”

Goodman said the party’s plight in eastern North Carolina is especially troublesome.

Core2“We have lost the middle class voter who’s struggling to feed his family,” he said. “They see the wealthy doing great and see the people that are below him on the economic ladder get assistance from the government and he’s stuck, and they aren’t happy. We need to get that person back. We need to get the business community back, and that’s my goal.”

So far, so good, Goodman said. He’s joined on the caucus by representatives Ken Waddell, William Brisson, George Graham, Ed Hanes, Michael Wray, Brian Turner, Gale Adcock and Brad Salmon along with senators Jane Smith, Joel Ford and Ben Clark.

The second part is political. The caucus plans to form a 501C4 independent expenditure campaign — read: money — and offer financial support to like-minded moderate conservative Democrats across the state. While Goodman said he’s been working on this idea for a few years, Sen. Gene McLaurin’s loss to Republican challenger Tom McInnis in the 2014 general election paved the way for action.

“If we could raise a considerable amount of money, then we’d have some power,” Goodman said.

The state Democratic Party supported McLaurin to the tune of $77,000, Goodman said — less than two years ago when McLaurin was the challenger.

Core3“They told him, ‘you are our guy, we’re not gonna let you lose,'” Goodman said of party leaders who didn’t back up their words with money.

McLaurin, Goodman said, is “a pro-business, moderate, clean-cut, straight-up guy. “If they had put their money behind him, he’d still be (in office). He’s not happy about it and I don’t blame him.”

“I don’t trust the party leadership … so we’re gonna go off on our own,” Goodman said.

He’s not worried about losing state party leaders’ help. Goodman said he’s never had it.

“The state Democratic Party’s never helped me out,” he said. “They’ve never given me a dime. Let’s be fair to them — they don’t think I need it. They think I’m pretty safe.”

He said he plans to appeal to the public through a variety of channels to seek support. Goodman knows it’s an uphill battle.

“I think there is some sympathy for what we do,” Goodman said, “but they don’t trust us. They think we’ve gone way overboard” to the far left of the political ideology.

“We’re still Democrats.”


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