I recently had the opportunity to work with a wonderful woman and NC Democrat, June Mabry. She's the chair of the Stanly County Democratic Party and an amazing organizer. She and her fellow Democratic volunteers in Stanly County worked hard to produce one of the best GOTV efforts seen in the county by the Democratic party. On top of this she serves as the first vice chair of the 8th Congressional District.
She worked in communications with a Fortune 500 as communications manager. June worked in politics on the statewide and national level for 13 years before taking a self-imposed sabatical. She's back and Republicans should be quaking in their shoes.
The following is our interview:
When did you first find yourself interested in politics?
It's probably best for me to answer both of these questions in the same breath. My entré into politics was purely accidental. I was involved in a discussion on how to create a simple, clear message about a very complicated political issue. They liked my idea and asked me to mock it up, which I did, which got me interviewed by the Washington Post. One panel of my mock-up is in the Smithsonian's political archives. That got me in. What kept me in was the creative, chess and probably the thrill of the chase.
How on earth did you wind up in Stanly Co, NC?
Six degrees of separation. Someone who I had worked with in Washington was from North Carolina. Through a friend of theirs, by way of a lunch, I met a friend of theirs - also at the lunch - whom they had grown up with. Both of them were from Stanly County. A friendship grew into a courtship and we married in 1999. He wanted to come home to Stanly to be close to his parents and pick up where he'd left off. So, here I am!
Are you involved in politics now?
Yes, in similar and dissimilar ways though. Until the mid-1990s I was a political consultant. I left politics for numerous reasons. I got back in because I still believe now what I believed then: if we want a Democracy, we have to be engaged in democracy. My involvement is on the grassroots level - something I certainly knew about, but was only marginally knowledgeable about. I wanted and needed to know more about the grassroots, so I reentered politics on the grassroots level by organizing my precinct. I then ran for the North Carolina House and lost, after which I was elected as the Democratic Party Chair. I'm currently still the chair, but have also been elected as the First Vice Chair for the 8th Congressional District.
As a Party Chair, what do you think seems to be working?
Organization, proper analysis, and good old GOTV.
What I mean by organization is this - and get ready, because there isn't a short answer. The key to a success is no different to a [candidate] campaign than it is to a business, with ONE VERY IMPORTANT difference: A company or corporation has at least five years to go EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxation, Interest and Amortization) positive or put more plainly capturing marketshare before it goes belly-up. A [candidate] campaign, has eighteen to twenty-four months from when the campaign organizes (hiring a campaign manager, hiring a pollster, press director, finance director, etc.) to election day.
I could continue comparing, but I think you get where I'm coming from. A political organization's (like a political party) timeline is more like a corporation's because its lifeline is not limited to an election. The purpose of a political party is to coalesce, educate and motivate like-minded people, which is on-going. For instance, if there is no election going on (or if the time is not such that the general populace isn't focused on a candidate) then the party's responsibility is to continue to build its internal organization, keep communications going with people in the party about legislative issues and building and deepening loyalty, until election day is say 120 days away and then the party needs to begin organizing specifically for the election and our candidate.
What doesn't work?
Pitching up the party tent (or getting involved) 60-90 days before the election and shutting down two days after. You might as well be screaming in the wilderness for all that will help.
How can we organize better?
Create a party business plan (the NCDP calls it a strategic plan). Being serious about creating one -- realizing that the best laid plans need tweaking as you go (there's just no better teacher than time and experience) - which means getting it on paper and executing it. Just remember the old adage: Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan.
What was the key to the amazing improvement for Dem congressional voters in Stanly this past cycle?
Magic? Just kidding. The success we enjoyed in 2006 was the result of work begun in early 2005. That included creating a long-term (organization) plan and a short-term (election) plan for 2005. Following the 2005 election we held a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) to review and to plan and execute a strategy for 2006 which, by the way, included early voting.
Will you run for office again?
Oh my. I don't have any intention of running. To be honest, I didn't decide to run until the day before the end of filing in 2004. I just couldn't let the Republican unopposed. To do so, is not democracy in action. But back to your original question...while I believe I have the acumen and the drive to be a legislator, I think I am better suited as a consultant - with a conscience, who cares.