It's good to be a Democrat in Mecklenburg County these days. As Charlotte prepares to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the local Democratic Party readies for the future with new leader Aisha Dew at the helm. Dew, the 34-year-old Charlotte native who was elected as party chair last month, became the first African-American woman to ever hold the position. So, what does she have to say about what's next for the county's Democrats?
Creative Loafing: What is the current state of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party?
Aisha Dew: I would say we're at a good place. I know that [former chairman Joel Ford] inherited the party as they were moving from the [Nick] Mackey situation. [Ford] was left with a couple hundred dollars, and he left us with about $3,000 or $4,000 dollars in the account. Financially, we're in a better situation. I was able to inherit a better situation than the previous chair. We've been able to build the party in the last three weeks. We've gone from having one sustaining donor to having 10 sustaining donors. I think that whole process will continue. We have the big job of getting Democrats elected, and we have some pretty exciting Democrats in the mayor of the city of Charlotte, Anthony Foxx, and the people on the City Council — and, obviously, President Obama. The party will continue to grow and expand. We have the bonus of having the convention come here.
What role will the local party play in the planning of the 2012 Democratic National Convention?
That's still being developed. It's still in conversation. We just had our county race ... so, right now we're in the process of having a lot of conversation as to how that will all work.
What has to be done locally to keep Democrats in office statewide?
Well, in all honesty, Mecklenburg did our part. We returned our people back to the statehouse. We managed to keep the County Commission blue at a time when the state did not stay blue and nor did the rest of the country. If I had to say what Mecklenburg needs to do to help that process, it would perhaps be to share some best practices and strategies with surrounding areas. And I think to that extent, all of the county party chairs need to share with each other some of the things that worked and some of the things that did not so that we can improve for this year and next.
What are your goals as chairwoman of the Mecklenburg County Democrats?
I would like to most definitely build from where we left off. To have more consistent donors over the next two years and to build the party structure and get more people engaged — and get more people excited about being a Democrat. We have a great president, and I definitely want to get him re-elected and get Anthony Foxx re-elected. I want to leave the party in better shape than when I received it, just as Joel did with the party that he inherited.
Why did you decide to run for party chair?
I was vice chair for the last two years, and I was really involved with our campaign for 2010. I was first vice chair for the Young Democrats of Mecklenburg County from the end of 2008 until last year. I was able to see what we have, and I was able to accomplish a lot, in conjunction with my board members, and then also see where we need to go. I think the county party of Mecklenburg needs to have a stronger institutional membering, and that's the main reason why I ran. I really love getting Democrats elected; it's pretty exciting.
Do you think young people are as involved in politics as they were in 2008?
Being on the board of the Young Democrats, I think you have to look at the demographics of the group that you're dealing with. Since '08, the people in that group have changed. So, if you had students who were at Johnson C. Smith or UNC Charlotte, they've graduated, and they've moved somewhere else. So, who's to say whether or not they're still active? That group that's right outside of college, they're transitioning; they're getting married and moving into their careers. This is a really interesting time for people, and with the economy not being as strong, people are making choices based on sheer necessity. They might move home as opposed to staying in the same place. So the short answer is, "yes." I just think the population is so ever-changing that it doesn't quite look the same. It's incumbent upon the party and the Young Democrats and all of us to keep reaching out to that community.