As we begin the 2014 election cycle, North Carolina Democrats need to find a message. Luckily, there’s one available that’s been working pretty well for the last few election cycles: “North Carolina state government is broken.” It helped Republicans capture the general assembly in 2010 and took Pat McCrory to the governor’s mansion in 2012. Democrats just need to add the caveat “and the GOP broke it.”
In a blog earlier this week, I said that a message for a candidate answers the question, “Why me? Why now?” The party message should answer the same question, “Why us? Why now?”
The answer is simple. “North Carolina state government is broken and the GOP broke it. We want to make it work for North Carolina families again.” Everything else is supporting documentation.
And there’s plenty of it. Our schools are suffering. Teacher pay is 46th nation. Qualified, experienced teachers are leaving the profession. Classrooms lack needed supplies and support.
The Governor’s administration is rife with cronyism. They hired unqualified campaign hacks and gave them raises of over $20,000 after only months on the job. They gave six-figure, no-bid contracts to political contributors and supporters while denying raises for teachers and state employees and opposing an increase in the minimum wage. One cabinet secretary had to resign because of potential conflicts of interests between his law practice and day job.
At a time when our workforce is shrinking and our state is still struggling to emerge from the Great Recession, the governor and legislature denied unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed even though there are three applicants for every available job.
In addition, incompetence at the Department of Health and Human Services left struggling families with children without food assistance, even during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. DHHS also sent the private information of almost 50,000 people to the wrong address, leaving people vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. And, finally, the department is now being sued by doctors who have not been paid for services in the Medicaid system, leaving physicians’ offices financially strapped and patients suffering.
So here it is. “North Carolina state government is broken, riddled with incompetence, misplaced priorities and cronyism. We want to make it work for North Carolina families again. We’ll get our schools back on track by raising teacher pay to the national average and putting teacher assistants back into the classroom. We’ll get people working again with a program to update our infrastructure to prepare North Carolina for the modern economy and we will offer support to families as they get back on their feet. Finally, we will end cronyism by reducing the number of political appointees and adding accountability and oversight to state agency hiring.”
It’s a pretty good message for the times and backed up by the latest polling. Steal it. Please.