Democrats Elect Heim New Chair
Moore County Democrats elected a new chairman Saturday and heard a party stalwart urge them to concentrate on defeating Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr in 2010.
The occasion was the party's annual county convention. The new chairman is Jim Heim, a semi-retired digital video engineer who lives on a horse farm in the Little River precinct. He succeeds Brian Deaton of Pinehurst, who did not seek a second term.
"You have an awful lot to be proud of," said Cal Cunningham, recently returned from service with the Judge Advocate General's Corps in Iraq. "This is a great time to be united as the Democratic Party."
Cunningham delivered the keynote address at the beginning of the meeting to enable him to make the Democrats' county convention in Harnett County, where he was also the principal speaker.
A native of Lexington, Cunningham, an attorney, is a captain and a paratrooper in the U.S. Army Reserve. His recent term in Iraq was his second year-long mobilization in four years.
"The election of Barack Obama in North Carolina was an amazing and glorious thing," Cunningham said. "This was not just a normal election. This was a transforming election."
He called the election "a complete repudiation of what the other crowd stands for."
Cunningham expressed regret that he was out of the country at the time "of the most exciting election in our time" but said it was a joy to observe it from afar.
The new Democratic administration has inherited the largest deficit in history, he said, adding that it is urgent, in this time of critically high unemployment with huge numbers uninsured, for the country to put money in the hands of the people to create jobs and open lending channels.
"There is an urgency about our mission," Cunningham said. "There is an urgency about our needs."
Hold to Values
Cunningham said the Democrats must stand up for their values, which include protection of the family and protection of people's privacy, as well as freeing the country from foreign oil and re-introducing transparency in government.
"We can make a stronger Moore County," he said. "We can make a stronger North Carolina, and we can make a stronger United States."
Cunningham said that "all the great accomplishments of the past 100 years" had occurred during Democratic administrations, and he cited Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and such advancements as Social Security, Medicare, and civil rights.
'Future Versus Past'
Aware that Democrats are a minority in Moore County, Cunningham urged them not to lose hope and reminded them that every vote counts. He said that work on the next election has already started and Democrats must be ready to challenge Sen. Richard Burr when he seeks re-election next year.
He asked members of the audience to name one accomplishment during Burr's 15 years in Congress, including the last four in the Senate. His question brought silence, then laughter.
Cunningham, who is a member of the State Banking Commission, reminded his audience of Burr's recent admission that he advised his wife to withdraw as much money as possible from ATMs last fall during a bank crisis.
"This is called a run on the bank," he said, a reference to the banking crisis of the Great Depression.
Cunningham said the Senate seat held by Burr is the same one once held by the late Terry Sanford, a former governor and former Duke University president.
"This election is going to be about leadership, about the future versus the past," he said. "We've got to win this one for Terry Sanford."
Cunningham was senior trial counsel with the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, where he pioneered an effort with the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute contractor misconduct in Iraq. In June he led the first court-martial of a contractor under military law since 1968.
He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service and will receive the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award in May. A graduate of both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the London School of Economics, Cunningham is now a litigation attorney with the Winston-Salem office of Kilpatrick Stockton. He served one term in the state Senate as one of the youngest senators in North Carolina.
Provide 'More Light'
The slate of officers selected by the nominating committee was elected by acclamation after a report by Diane Greene, a member of the committee and retiring party secretary.
Elected to serve with Heim were Mary Alice Wicker, of Cameron, first vice chair; Algene Johnson, of South Southern Pines, second vice chair; Kevin Smith, of Aberdeen, third vice chair; Shannon Cox, of Pinehurst B, secretary; and Juanita Harbour, of Cameron, treasurer.
Heim presently chairs Little River Precinct. His wife is Dr. Lori Heim, a retired Air Force officer now serving as a hospitalist at Scotland Memorial Hospital in Laurinburg.
On behalf of his fellow officers, Deaton reported a number of local party accomplishments in the past two years.
Although the local party remains outnumbered and outvoted by Republicans, Deaton reported that the Democrats did close the gap by nine to 10 percentage points in 2008, with an increase in registrations and voting.
Noting that there was an increase of almost 2,500 in unaffiliated registrants, Deaton said Moore County Democrats need to connect with these independent voters.
Deaton said that the party increased its activities and raised more money last year with most expenses incurred with maintaining and equipping the permanent party headquarters in Carthage.
"The people now know there is a Democratic Party here," Deaton said.
Deaton said it is important for Democrats to provide "more light than heat" and to avoid senseless sloganeering in their campaign efforts.
"The facts are on the side of the Democratic Party," Deaton said.
The retiring chairman also commended two Democrats who were candidates in 2008, despite their losses at the polls. Betty Mangum, of Pinehurst, was a candidate for state House of Representatives, and Tony Berk ran for district attorney.
At the close of his remarks, the party delegates gave Deaton a standing ovation.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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