Hamlet native elected as state party chairman

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County native Wayne Goodwin was elected Chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party Saturday, succeeding Patsy Keever who declined to run for a second term.

State party members gathered for a meeting in the Rolesville High School auditorium, where Governor Roy Cooper spoke of strategies to level the state’s political playing field in upcoming elections.

Goodwin, who served four terms in the North Carolina House of Representatives before serving eight years as state insurance commissioner, said he feels optimistic about the energy of the party.

“From what I have felt since the election, there seems to be a growing interest in what’s happening politically — not only in our state but across the nation,” he said. “There are still too many citizens registered to vote who do not participate in elections. My job is to help reconnect the (party) with those lost voters.”

Issues that matter to voters in the state, he said, have been sidelined for some time.

“There are many issues — like jobs and public schools, and strengthening the economy of our rural counties — that will resonate with voters in counties like Richmond County and elsewhere,” Goodwin explained. “But the politics of the nation and our state has for one reason or another prevented that message from getting out. I’m going to try and change that.”

Richmond County Democratic Party Chairwoman Lois Jones attended the meeting and said she is excited for the party’s future under Goodwin’s leadership.

“He got about 92 percent of the vote, so he is very liked by the party,” Jones said. “As young as he is, he’s done so much for the Democratic Party. As insurance commissioner, we are disappointed he will not be continuing that because he did such a great job — but we are glad he will be representing us on the state level. We’ve had good party leaders before. Wayne is known in every county in the state, and I think that is going to be beneficial for the party.”

Jones explained that disengaged registered voters need to step up to the plate if they hope for change.

“I think with what’s going on locally, what’s going on in the state, perhaps, people are realizing more they are going to have to get up, get out and do things — instead of just sitting around and talking,” she said. “We have marches in North Carolina and all over the United States. People have to get involved.

“It’s time for people who have been sitting on the sidelines and thinking about getting involved to roll up their sleeves and do so,” she continued. “It’s the only way we’re going to make any changes.”

Having a strong personal connection with people throughout the state, Goodwin said, will allow him to get the job done.

“I believe that my background — personally and professionally — is highly relevant for these unique times,” he explained. “Because I am from rural North Carolina and I grew up with very little means, if I can share that message to a larger audience. That will help me do my job as the Chairman to the state Democratic Party. I’m especially excited to be a partner with our new governor, Roy Cooper, as he works everyday to make the state better for all North Carolinians more than ever before.”

Especially impressive this year, Goodwin said, is the diversity of leadership elected to serve the next term. He said he looks forward to working with party secretary Melvin Williams, first vice chair Aisha Dew, second vice chair Matt Hughes and third vice chair Nida Allam.

“This is the most diverse set of officers in the history of the Democratic Party in North Carolina,” Goodwin said.

During his brief speech at the gathering, Goodwin described life growing up in a rural county.

“I was born and raised in Hamlet on a rural Richmond County farm,” he said during his speech. “I lived in a mobile home for the first decade of my life. My dad was a farmer and a grocery store manager who became disabled at the young age of 33.

“My mom, a textile mill worker and teacher’s assistant, took care of him, and we lived – we survived — on Social Security Disability and reduced and free lunch at school,” he continued. “Times were tough for us. But for my public school teachers and our public schools and public university system and our community college system that North Carolina Democrats established, I would not be here before you today.”

Goodwin went on to say Democrats must take action if Democratic Governor Roy Cooper is to accomplish his goals.

“But today I’m also furious at what Republican leaders and harmful special interests have done and are doing to our state and nation,” he said. “I’m ready to re-energize our party — ready to re-organize our party — ready to listen and work and plan on the way we can reclaim our state. I’m ready to break that Republican legislative super-majority, and to have Gov. Cooper’s back today and every day.”

Goodwin will serve as chair for the 2017-2019 term.