Carolina Democracy

New North Carolina Project: Stand Up, Speak Up & Do Something

April 18, 2022 JD Wooten Episode 14
Carolina Democracy
New North Carolina Project: Stand Up, Speak Up & Do Something
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we’re joined by Dr. Aimy Steele, founder and Executive Director of the New North Carolina Project. We talk about her past experiences as an educator and candidate and how those experiences led to the New North Carolina Project's work to expand the electorate and engage North Carolina voters.

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Aimy Steele: Most importantly, figure out something you want to do and do it. Don't just do nothing. Don't just think everyone else has got it under control. No, they do not. Stand up, speak up, and do something.

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JD Wooten: Hey everyone, welcome back to Carolina Democracy. I’m JD Wooten, and today we’re joined by Dr. Aimy Steele, founder and Executive Director of the New North Carolina Project. Dr. Steele is a former public-school teacher and school administrator who ran for the North Carolina House of Representatives in 2018 and 2020. She ran some great races despite the gerrymandering she faced, and her campaign really uplifted and inspired many others across the state, myself included. While she may not have won those races, her experiences campaigning led her to her work today, so it was far from a loss either. We had a terrific chat and I can’t wait for you to hear it. 

Now, this is usually the time I would share some thoughts on the latest news impacting democracy around North Carolina. In my original outline I had some commentary about various things going on around North Carolina over the last week or so, including the former president’s lack-luster rally out in Selma and his former chief of staff’s apparent voter fraud, but at the end of the day, no matter how I talk about those things, it would just sound like a rant against Republicans. 

There’s enough of that kind of stuff in the world already, and I would rather this be a place to share positive messages of what people are doing to fight for democracy, not constantly railing against those who are fighting against democracy. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the Washington Post’s slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness," so I’ll absolutely highlight noteworthy things that we all need to be aware of. But if you haven’t figured out where the former president comes down on democracy and democratic norms, this podcast isn’t going to help.

All that said, this week let’s just focus on getting pumped up for the primary election next month and the great work that’s happening across North Carolina to support democracy. And that’s where Dr. Steele and the New North Carolina Project come in. But, before we turn to my interview with Dr. Steele, here are your weekly reminders of important election dates over the next few months. The primary election is on May 17th, less than a month away, and polling places should be open from 6:30am to 7:30pm. This coming Friday, April 22nd, is the deadline to register to vote in person in the May 17th primaries. In person early voting runs from April 28th to May 14th. During early voting, you can also do what’s called same-day registration or even update your voter registration. So even if you miss the April 22nd deadline to register to vote or update your registration, go to an early voting site in your county and register or update your registration, then vote. For mail-in absentee voting, the North Carolina Absentee Ballot Portal is open and you can request a mail-in ballot now. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is May 10th, but please do not wait that long. Links will be in the show notes for the absentee ballot portal. 

Also, I mentioned this last week and I’ll mention it again. If you or someone you know will be 18 years old by November 8th of this year, you can preregister to vote. You will then be qualified to vote in the primary election. Again, if you will be 18 by the general election on November 8, 2022, you can vote in the primary on May 17, 2022, if you have preregistered.

Don’t forget that in North Carolina unaffiliated or independent voters can still vote in the primary, you just have to choose which party’s ballot you want when you request a ballot. So if you’re registered to vote, but not registered with a particular party, that’s perfectly fine, you can still cast a ballot in the primary of your choice on May 17th.

Finally, our friends over a Carolina Forward will be have a live Zoom event on Wednesday, April 20th at 8PM to talk about the Carolina Forward Slate. They will focus on the strategy behind selecting the Slate and why you should care. The event will feature special guest the State House Democratic Leader Robert Reives, who will give an overview of this November’s battle plan. Link for more information and to register for the event in the show notes.

And now, here’s my interview with Dr. Aimy Steele of the New North Carolina Project.

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JD Wooten: With me today is the Founder and Executive Director of the New North Carolina Project, Dr. Aimy Steele. The New North Carolina Project works to make politics represent the needs of North Carolinians by investing in communities of color, expanding the engaged electorate, and creating lifelong voters. Dr. Steele, it's a pleasure to have you with us today. Welcome. 

Aimy Steele: Thank you, JD. It's my honor to be here. Can't wait to jump. 

JD Wooten: Well, I can't either. And I promise we'll get to all that great work that the new North Carolina project is doing in just a moment. But first what's your earliest memory of politics or getting involved in politics.

Aimy Steele: Wow, that's a great question. I think my earliest memory was serving on the student council during my eighth grade school year, and that was at Albritton Junior High School on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. And that was probably my earliest interaction, which really gave me an opportunity to learn how to publicly advocate for others, including my classmates who wanted vending machines and all of these other fun privileges in the eighth grade. 

JD Wooten: I hear the kids today still want the vending machines. 

Aimy Steele: Right, they just want the things inside to change. 

JD Wooten: I love it. It sounds like a similar wants and needs across generations. So your educational and professional background are in education, specifically K-12 public school operations, if I understand correctly. You also ran for the North Carolina House in 2018 and 2020. What led you to make that leap to running for office? 

Aimy Steele: So what led me to make the leap was really understanding the power that the state legislature had on public education. And if I wanted to change public education, I needed to go to the source of the power. And that was the State House. What happened was, you know, in my teaching career, I taught and I was perfectly content to be a teacher, until a moment of advocacy came up that I could not ignore. So I took that moment of advocacy to then become an assistant principal and a principal, because I felt like that's where I could address that issue. And I stayed that way until another moment of advocacy potential came up and that was with class size legislation. So to summarize the State House and State Senate passed a group of rules that made it mandatory for schools to have certain class sizes from kindergarten through third grade. So you have to move students, and you have to move teachers. And what we noticed was that this piece of legislation just put an unnecessary and undue strain on the entire school system, not just one school. I was going to run for county commissioner, but then was told that the real power rested with the state General Assembly,. And so I decided to run for North Carolina House. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, the education piece, especially here in North Carolina and the General Assembly, it feels like we've still got some work to do there, but we'll turn to that in a moment. So what was your most memorable moment from your two campaigns, good or bad? 

Aimy Steele: I think the first, most memorable moment was when my god-brother, who is now serving as a Assistant Chief of Staff, for the U.S. Department of Education, he was my campaign manager from a distance at the time, while I found one who was in North Carolina. One day we were out, we had just had a campaign training with my team, and I had to go to an appointment for something else. And he said, you know what, you don't have campaign discipline. And I was like, I don't have campaign discipline. What does that mean? And he said, no, one's going to take you seriously. I was like, what do you mean no, one's going to take me seriously. And that I don't have campaign discipline. He said, until you get this campaign under control and you have some campaign discipline, you are not going to win and people are not going to take you seriously. That was the changing point in my campaign. I thought just putting my name out there and being a person who was stepping up to run for office was good enough. My friends, it was absolutely not good enough. That kick in the butt really impacted my entire campaign. 

The second thing that I think that impacted my campaign actually happened in the same election cycle. And that was by June, I had only raised about $6,000. And I had a person who represented a national organization that wanted to endorse me. He said, if you don't raise $10,000 by the end of the second quarter, no one's going to take you seriously. So I had two people say no one was going to take me seriously if I didn't develop campaign discipline and raise more money. And those two things have the biggest impact on why I campaigned the way that I did. I did raise the money and it really helped me to see that if you do stand up and put your name on the ballot to run for office, someone is waiting on you to show up for them. Whether it's the people who gave you the money or the people whom you have to visit when you go into the field, either way, you owe it to the constituents to run your best race. 

JD Wooten: For the benefit of any candidates or prospective candidates that are listening, what was the first thing you did to address that campaign discipline? 

Aimy Steele: The first thing I did was created a schedule. When you are faced with running for office, you have to raise money. And I really did think, like I absolutely believed that my friends were going to all give me a hundred dollars each. And by the time I counted up all my friends, I would have about a, I thought I calculated about $50,000. If some people gave me a hundred and some people gave me a thousand and some people gave me 25.

It did not happen like that, JD. Nothing happened the way that I planned. So I developed the discipline of scheduling my call time. I was able to schedule call time for the first two hours of the day. I then scheduled in field time. So knocking doors and making phone calls, phone banking with my team, meeting volunteers, all of that became a part of my routine. So I set up the campaign like a part-time job. That was the first step. 

The second step was believing all of the things that were said about my race were not true. In other words, developing a new belief. I was told that, and had I known this and really understood what it meant, I might not have run for office, but anyway, probably so, but anyway. I was told that my district was what's called R+11 and I was like, okay. Later when I understood that, I was like, well, why didn't anybody tell me? Why didn't anyone explain what this meant? Because I didn't know what I mean. R+11 means Republicans are favored to win it by 11 points. That's a lot of points. R+2 and +3, you know, you can work with that. R+11 is like a death trap, but I ran anyway. And guess what? We made it into an R+3. So... 

JD Wooten: I love it! 

Aimy Steele: Not knowing all of that. That's what I had to develop discipline around. It was around my schedule. It was around my personal life and personal expenses because when you run for office, you're not running by yourself. It's you, your kids, your husband, your wife, your cousins, your aunties, your uncles, everyone's running from. Because any of their business could end up on a mailer. So everybody's involved. 

JD Wooten: Your next door neighbor, the guy or the gal that delivers the mail. You're all in the race. 

Aimy Steele: Everybody's in the race. It's a group affair. 

JD Wooten: That's just too funny. I remember in my 2018 race, I filed and announced my candidacy all at the same time. It was sort of a last minute deal. And, you know, three, four days into it, I was like, okay, if all my friends gave me what I thought they should've given me, why haven't I raised any money yet? Why haven't people just come to me to give me money? No, I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, that is not how it works.

Aimy Steele: Not at all. Quite the opposite. 

JD Wooten: Even trying to get money out of your best friend is sometimes pulling teeth, but that's what we're here for. So, transitioning now to the New North Carolina Project, were there any experiences coming out of those campaigns that really led you into this next chapter?

Aimy Steele: Yes. I would have to say every single time I went out canvassing, every experience I had, where someone was so excited to see me or where someone said I have never had a political candidate come to my door and ask me for my vote. Or better yet in the second election, when we finally started knocking doors again, people said, oh yeah, you came to my house last time. It's good to see you again. They remembered, and I know they voted, and I know they shared it with someone so they could vote for me. Those types of experiences were particularly uplifting. 

But I must share this one particular experience that really started to get my heart engaged in a slightly different way. So when we go to homes and we see people and we talk to them, we always want them to engage in voting. We always want to turn it into a, you need to go vote. But people have other issues. And when you go to them on the doors and you have sensible, reasonable conversations with people, oftentimes it's over things that are just very every day. And we need to start localizing our elections more so, than making them so national. 

So three instances I'll talk about. So one was I was passing some high school students. They were getting off from school, and I said, you know, are you 18? Are you registered to vote? And they were like, yes. And I was like, okay, all right. You know, I used to be a high school administrator, so I know how high schoolers are. And I said, well what's the biggest issue that's most important to you? They thought a little bit and the young man and young girl did not engage, you know, other than to smile, but there's one young man stood up and said, we need to legalize marijuana. And I was like, huh? I said, well, you're high school. What do you know about marijuana? And he just had this big, old smile on his face. Like I know everything about Mary Jane, you know? And I thought, well tell me, why do you think that? And he really articulated some really good points, and really it centered around the criminalization of people and criminalization of marijuana in one state when it's not that way in another state. So how can that be fair? That's where his mind was. So I was able to engage with him, get his information, and have a conversation with him and then turn it into now, this is why you need to vote. You need to vote for people who are aligned with that same value. And then we had a good conversation.

Second incident was, I went to a door and it was raining. I canvas in the rain. There was a man and a woman on the porch and I saw them and they were clearly a couple, but they were on the porch. It was cold outside and raining. So I was curious as to why they were outside, but I asked if they were the person on my list at home and they were like, no, that's our cousin. And I thought, oh, okay, well you must be waiting for your cousin. He's coming home anytime soon. And they said, no, we live here, but we can't go in because my cousin's at work. I said, I'm sorry, could you explain? They said, well, we're homeless. And my cousin doesn't let us into the house until he gets home. And I was like, wow, like that just took me out. So I had to take a pause. I had to like breathe. I talk to them about their situation, but then referred them to a person who could give the man a job. I made a few phone calls about housing. It wasn't just vote. It was, what is your current life situation and how can I be of assistance? And that's really what we do in the New North Carolina Project. We do a lot of referrals. We do a lot of directing toward resources, because we don't know it all, but we also know that people can tell us what's going on in their lives if we just stop and listen. And can we be a solution for people. And then how do we turn that into electoral organizing? So that candidates like me and others, and like you who ran for office have a fighting chance to win because people are going to turn out. It's a wonderful cycle if we just pay attention to it.

The last story there's so many, but this particular one was a woman. I knocked her door and she didn't really know what world she was in. She was registered to vote, but she really didn't know what world she was in. And she was hungry. She had to wait for her granddaughter to come home. And she was hungry. I don't know if she could fix food for herself or not, but she said, I really would like some KFC. I said, you know what, let's pause this conversation. I'm going to go get you a box of chicken. I'll be right back. So I went and grabbed her some chicken came right back, you know, got her sides together. And we sat on the porch. And that is the kind of stuff people need. They need human to human interaction and touch. And that's what led me to really understand that this work, in addition to Stacey Abrams and all of her amazing amazingness and all the women in Georgia and men, but that coupled with my experiences on the doors really led me to want to do this work. 

JD Wooten: Oh, that's phenomenal. I don't think I had any experiences in my canvassing during my campaigns that come anywhere close to those experiences. I certainly had some interesting ones, but nothing quite like that. Thank you for sharing. So, as I understand it, tying all that together, the primary purpose of the New North Carolina Project is to increase the electorate and turnout in traditionally black and brown communities. So let's just start with the basic, what percentage of those communities have been voting in the last few cycles? And what do you think is a reasonable goal?

Aimy Steele: Yeah. So a reasonable goal is a hundred percent. 

JD Wooten: I love it! 

Aimy Steele: That's my reasonable goal. I'm unreasonably reasonable. The percentage has been pretty high as it relates to people of color, which is our primary target group and their percentage of registered voters. So for instance, of the eligible black people who are registered to vote, that is about 63%. Of those 63%, we saw +90% vote in 2020. So if registered, voting will likely take place. That's just for the Black community. Now what's the gap and what's the issue? What we have about 37% of the eligible population who are not registered to vote. And that's one of the lower percentages of people who are not registered to vote. Latin X and Asian-American Pacific Islander, as well as native American voters are even higher in terms of how many more people in those demographics groups who are eligible to register as a percentage of how many are already registered, but a percentage of the total. So basically what we know is that we have a huge opportunity within communities of color to register more voters and then subsequently turn them out to vote. 

JD Wooten: So, then building on that, know that a lot of groups have worked to try and register voters over the years with varying levels of success. As I understand it, you all are not just looking though for the registration side, but rather really building on that, and having true engagement, especially in the longterm. Could you tell me a little more about that? 

Aimy Steele: Yeah, so voter registration is not our primary focus. Our primary focus is on engaging those who are already registered, and then registering those who are not. There are many, many groups that are working and that are doing this work. They were responsible for tens of thousands of registrants who voted, which is why I think North Carolina has been on this kind of steady pace in terms of how many people are being registered every year. And what we have to not ignore is that so many people are relocating to the state every single day. Um, you know, in the Charlotte Metro area alone, we have between 60 to 90 people coming into this area every single day on average. That is not letting up. That means that the more people who come here, the more opportunities there are to register new voters, especially for our state. They may have been registered in another state, but that doesn't count here. So because of that, we've seen this like flatline in North Carolina with voter registrations and with people engaging in the electorate. What we're ignoring are people of color who are registered to vote, or who are eligible to register to vote, but they need outreach, and they need investment in those communities.

JD Wooten: So as you're working on that, I understand the New North Carolina Project has quite the extensive field program across the state already. So what's that field infrastructure look like as of now, and what's the goal between say now and November 2022?

Aimy Steele: Our goals are high and our field infrastructure is really big. I have to be vague, you know certain people listening, they like to talk about us on social media. 

JD Wooten: Oh, I see. 

Aimy Steele: I'll say this, the field infrastructure is in the beginning stages of addressing the core issues that we need to address, which is infrastructure around organizing and around field in target areas across the state. And that infrastructure needs to really be built up in a solid way that engages groups who are already working and doing the work and then building up our own infrastructure to do the work as well, where there are clear gaps. Now we know there are gaps because if you look at the 2020 election, and you analyze the voting results, you have to know that there are gaps because of all the people who didn't win. Particularly 17 Black women who ran for State House, State Senate, and Council of State races, and judge who did not win. Not to say that all the Black women should have one just because we were Black, but why did we all lose? What was the commonality between all of us and why and how we lost. It was a lack of field and infrastructure in places where people of color were running and in places where people of color lived. And even though we saw record high turnout, we still had a gap of people who actually were able to access the ballot because they weren't registered to vote. So when you put all those factors together, we have a crisis on our hands and it's the divestment in communities of color, but we have to invest in those communities of color. So our field and our organizing structure represents what we feel is needed to get more turnout and to get more people registered to vote.

JD Wooten: I know off the top of my head, at least one of those Black women who didn't win, it was only by 401 votes. And there've been many nights where I've laid awake thinking, okay, could I have found 401 one more votes in my district? It wouldn't have gotten me over. 

Aimy Steele: Right. 

JD Wooten: But they would have had to turn the ballot over to vote for me. And they would have voted for Chief Justice Beasley.

Aimy Steele: That's exactly right. And not only that...

JD Wooten: Well, presumably. 

Aimy Steele: Right, presumably. You have to look at how many people were progressive leaning, who didn't show up to vote. White, Black, Asian, Native American, Latin X, how many were progressive leaning, who just didn't show up to vote? Those people need to be addressed too. Our lane is the lane of people of color, period. Other people's lanes are other people's lanes. And then if there are other partners who are already doing that, we honor the work that they're doing. We are the new kids on the block, but also, we know there's a deficit because of those same 17 Black women that I just talked about. And there were a host of other women who lost, white women, Native American women, other women who lost. But because we lost, something had to have been wrong when our state is pretty balanced, but it was so imbalanced on the ballots in 2020. 

JD Wooten: I like to think of it as same team, same fight. There are a lot of lanes that we can all take and we can hold our own for that common goal. So I know some of the initiatives you're undertaking include a Community Ambassador Program and Deep Canvassing. Let's start with the Community Ambassador Program, what can you tell me about that? 

Aimy Steele: Yeah, so the Community Ambassador Program, and it's gone through a few name iteration, but right now we'll call it that, is an opportunity for community members to really get engaged with volunteering with the organization and actually going out and helping us do this work because we know there's so much to do. We can't do it alone. It allows the community to help find other community ambassadors who live in the areas where we're targeting, who can help make video content and other types of messaging for that area, and really serve as a trusted messenger to the communities because we don't claim to know everything there is to know about every community. I can tell you a lot of stuff about Concord and Cabarrus County, and Kannapolis, but I'm still not from here. Been here 22 years, but I'm not from here. So there's still things that I don't know in terms of the underbelly of the culture. So that's what our trusted messengers do within the Community Ambassadors Program.

Our other effort around Deep Canvassing is really centered around what I explained earlier. Understanding what communities of color are talking about, what they need, what's important to them and then listening to them. So instead of that campaign style, rapid fire on the door, get off the door, go to the door, you got three minutes, off the door. We may spend 10 to 15 minutes at a door when you're deep canvassing, or when you're talking on the phone, because you want to develop conversations with people to really understand what they're saying, how to then frame it in a way that moves it to the next level of engagement.

So for instance, I talked to a young man who'd worked in a maximum security prison in North Carolina. And he said, that was the only job that he could do that did not involve slinging drugs on the street or working in manufacturing in his rural town. So he chose that. And so the job opportunities are very limited. The education system is very limited, and this is a rural North Carolina, Eastern North Carolina. And I really started to understand what he was saying, but then I had so many more questions and he was happy to engage. Well, that conversation took 20 minutes. That's an example of deep canvassing. Not just saying, hey, you're going to vote? Can we count on you? Okay, when you go to vote, early, tomorrow, by mail? That is not Deep Canvassing. So we do engage in a little bit of strategic conversation with people to be able to hear what they're saying.

JD Wooten: Yeah, so that's certainly not trying to hit a hundred or 200 doors in an afternoon. A completely different mindset. 

Aimy Steele: Absolutely. 

JD Wooten: So is this a year round effort that you'll be doing that then? Not just wham, bam, thank you, right at the end of an election cycle I suppose? 

Aimy Steele: Exactly it has to be year-round. The transactional approach just does not work. And that transactional approach has been something that we've been doing in communities of color for years. And frankly, we're tired of it. I'm tired of it. And you know, I've only been engaged in politics since about 2017, but people of color are really tired of it as a whole.

JD Wooten: I felt a sense of that as I was canvassing. 

Aimy Steele: Yep. Nothing like canvassing to bring you back to reality. 

JD Wooten: Oh, oh, amen, amen. You'll here some real stories there and you'll also get some pretty candid feedback very quickly. So what would make you get to the end of this year and think yes, this was a successful year for the New North Carolina Project?

Aimy Steele: That's a great question. I don't think anyone's asked me that before. I think getting to the end of the year and saying that we are proud of the infrastructure we've stood up, whether that turned into a certain amount of votes or a certain amount of registrations or anything like that, even though we're tracking those metrics too, but whether or not it turns into the record-breaking turnout that we'd like to see, or the record breaking new voter engagement that we'd like to see I think we need to be proud of the infrastructure that we've built. If we can say that we did not put it all on the table and that we did not do all the things we said we were going to do in a manner of excellence, then I think we won't be proud. I will be happy and proud of my team for exerting their best effort without completely burning out, so that we can continue doing this work, because it's not going to stop after November. It's going to keep going. And it's so important to realize that's the deficit, that's the gap. You can take a break for three weeks, but you certainly can't take a break for a year and expect nothing to go wrong in that one year, while you gear up for the next year. Why would you have to gear up for an election, when we have an election twice a year? It seems like you never have a time off, but for some reason in our state, we think the Presidential is the Big Kahuna and that's all we are looking forward to every four years. No, sir. No, ma'am. We have an election every six months, if you want to basically put it like that. March and November, and really it's like nine, three, whatever the difference is. But we have two elections every single year, period. There never is a down time. So our organization will be proud when we stand up our infrastructure in an excellent manner and do that with excellence and grace. And then on top of that, we want to see good results.

JD Wooten: And does that measure success look the same, or obviously the numbers would be different, but a similar idea for what success would look like by the end of the decade? 

Aimy Steele: Oh gosh, no, by the end of the decade, we want to see infrastructure in place. So these are first year goals and dreams. We want to see infrastructure in place. We want to see professionalism established at the field level. I mean, I see a vision where field staff are treated as professionals and not as, you're down there and I'm up here. It's nothing like that. We're all responsible for the quote unquote field and organizing. But I also see in a decade that more and more people of color are registered and are voting. And that those percentages live in the 90s so that when they get to the high 80s people are super concerned right now. We're just so content at 40, 50, 60, that's not contentment, that's laziness, lackadaisical thinking, and just pure T trash. Like you can not be comfortable with 40, 50 and 60%. If my doctor was 40, 50 or 60% likely to do a great job on my open heart surgery, I don't think he would be my doctor. I want the doctor that's been tried and true and has been through multiple open heart surgeries and has a 99.99% effectiveness rate if that is even a thing. But I want the one who has more experience with this, who's going to be the best who has been the best. And, you know, I don't want someone playing around with my life. That's how I view voting. And that's how I view success. If we are comfortable in the mid 40s, 50s, and 60s, then this might not be the work for us. So that's what it'll be like, I believe, in the next decade. 

JD Wooten: I love it. So we need to aspire for pilot success rates on landings, not baseball hall of fame batting averages.

Aimy Steele: That's exactly right. 

JD Wooten: I'm good with it. That doesn't really cut it in most other fields. So aside from contact information and how people can find you, what have we missed? What should listeners know about the New North Carolina Project that we didn't cover? 

Aimy Steele: Well, I really want to go back to the question you mentioned about year round. This is a different way of looking at political, engagement. Traditional political investing and traditional political engagement involves one year on, one year off, one year on, one year off, and that's how funding cycles are. To anyone listening, we need to change that. Instead of putting a gazillion dollars in one year, divide up that gazillion over four years, and systematically invest in campaigns or entities like the New North Carolina Project who are doing the work of keeping people engaged, so that by the time it's time to actually vote, we can show progress with these same people voting over a consistent amount of time. But we also don't have to close our doors, theoretically, every off year and then hire new staff. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to train staff to make sure they have your vision? Make sure they also get to input their vision. And then make sure you have the infrastructure in place to actually execute the vision. If you have a turnover that's as high as what I see on some campaigns or some resumes I review, it doesn't help you really get into the belly and the heart of your mission over time. So we want an infrastructure that lasts for years and years. We want people to be professionalized in this organization and work for it for many years, not just three months, not just six months, and then they move on to the next thing. And that's going to take systematic investment. 

JD Wooten: I went through three campaign managers in two cycles, and I loved them all, but that's a lot of turnover for what was essentially a small startup that then spent all this money, and then had to become a small startup all over again. 

Aimy Steele: Right. 

JD Wooten: Even the difference, literally an order of magnitude difference in what we raised in spent between one cycle and the next. And I think it could've gone a lot more efficiently for everyone involved had it been a little bit more of a peanut butter spread between the two. 

Aimy Steele: Exacty, I completely agree.

JD Wooten: So where can people go to learn more about the work happening at the New North Carolina Project and how to support those efforts and get involved? 

Aimy Steele: Absolutely. So you can support us by visiting our website, You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tik Tok at New NC Project. On our website or any of those social media platforms, you can sign up to volunteer, or you can also donate. We are on ActBlue. So feel free to find us: New North Carolina Project or New North Carolina Project Foundation. But most importantly, figure out something you want to do and do it. Don't just do nothing. Don't sit still. Don't just think everyone else has got it under control. No, they do not. It's up to you. Stand up, speak up, and do something. 

JD Wooten: I love it. So, any closing thoughts? 

Aimy Steele: I just want to say, thank you, JD. You ran a heck of a race all the times you ran. We're all so thankful that you decided to put your name in the hat, but thank you for this encouraging podcast and all of the things that you're doing. And to all your listeners, thank you for supporting him. Keep supporting him, share his podcast, and make sure you subscribe on every single channel where this podcast is listed. That's what I have to say. 

JD Wooten: That was not requested, but I appreciate the plug. Thank you so much, Dr. Steele. 

Aimy Steele: You're welcome! 

And thank you for being with us here today. We'll make sure to leave links in the show notes so everybody can find the New North Carolina Project. God bless, and God speed.

[music transition]

Thanks again to Dr. Steele for joining us today. Visit to learn more, volunteer, donate, or even just to get some great swag which also supports their work. I’m a firm believer of the mantra put your money where your mouth is, so I’ve got my new shirt and hoodie, and I’ve been a monthly recurring donor since sometime last year. As Dr. Steele said, “Don't just think everyone else has got it under control. No, they do not. Stand up, speak up, and do something.” And that includes supporting those doing important work on the ground to engage voters, whether by volunteering, spreading their message, or donating.

JD Wooten: And since Dr. Steele was generous enough to have already reminded everyone to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, I’ll jump straight to it: Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!


Interview with Dr. Aimy Steele
Closing Notes