Carolina Democracy

Dreaming of Lollipops & Bad Bills

June 20, 2022 Episode 24
Carolina Democracy
Dreaming of Lollipops & Bad Bills
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we’re joined by Anna Nunn, a seasoned Democratic staffer who's managed numerous successful state and federal legislative races and currently works for the North Carolina Senate Democratic Caucus. Plus, highlights from the January 6th Committee Hearings of the past week.

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Anna Nunn: They have a dream and our plan is to crush it. Right now lollipops and bad bills running through their minds at night as they sleep of all the cool things they're gonna do if they get that super majority back. 

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JD Wooten: Welcome back to Carolina Democracy. Today I’m joined by Anna Nunn, a Democratic political staffer who has led numerous successful legislative campaigns for the State House, the State Senate, and most recently, Valerie Foushee’s successful U.S. Congressional primary race. Anna has also spent several years working for the State Senate Democratic Caucus, which is where we first met. She has some great experiences and insights to share, especially as we look to the 2022 general election cycle.

But first, a few important reminders. If you enjoy this episode, please share it with a friend who might be interested. Just one. If everyone who listens shares with one new person, we’ll double our audience immediately, which would be an amazing help for all of our guests who are trying to get their message out in an extremely loud political climate, to say the least. I have no doubt that there’s a large audience of concerned, engaged North Carolinians who would love to hear from our local and state candidates. Please h elp us reach them by sharing this episode, or any other episode you think they might like.

Also, quick reminder that numerous counties and municipalities across the state have run off primary elections or general elections on July 26th. Early voting for these elections will run from July 7th to July 23rd, with election day being July 26th. The Absentee Ballot Request Portal is also open online, and I’ll leave that link in the show notes. I’ve read off all the municipalities and counties in the last few episodes, and quite frankly it sounded like I was reading off a severe weather alert, so I’ll save you that this week. Go listen to either of our last two episodes with Judge Lucy Inman or State Senator Michael Garrett if you want to hear me read that list again. And bonus, in the process you’ll get to hear from some great candidates as well. If in doubt, check your local board of elections website for information.

Now, for the news impacting democracy in North Carolina from this past week, let’s start with some local news. Last Wednesday, U.S. News reported that State House Speaker Tim Moore says he doesn’t have the votes to push the State Senate’s “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” or as Senator Garrett dubbed it, HB2, Classroom Edition, through to law. He was quick to add that he hopes “Republicans will win enough seats in November to make the House GOP majority veto-proof starting in early 2023,” which all but confirms he’s shelving North Carolina’s Don’t Say Gay Bill because he knows the Governor will veto it and he doesn’t have the votes to override the veto. But come January 2023, if they have the votes for a veto override, I have no doubt this and bills like it will become law. Protecting the Governor’s veto is a continuing theme of 2022, and Anna and I discuss it as well, and as noted in the teaser, she thinks North Carolina Republicans are dreaming of lollipops and bad bills they can push through if they get back their supermajorities. So, we have our work cut out for us to make sure that doesn’t happen.

In other good news, a recent WRAL News poll finally shows Cheri Beasley besting Ted Budd. At least according to FiveThirtyEight, this is one of the first polls showing Beasley clearly tracking ahead, although it’s still within the margin of error. This will be a nailbiter and we have to fight like hell to the last moment to see Chief Justice Beasley over the finish line. Still, it’s great news because it shows a significant closing of the average polling gap between Beasley and Budd, with Beasley now out front. Given the current national political climate, which we’ve always known would be tough for Democrats as the first midterm during a Democratic presidential administration, this really is a bright spot for right now!

Shifting to national news, once again there really wasn’t anything bigger or more important than the public hearings of the January 6th Committee. I continue to be impressed by Republican Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney. If you had asked me in 2020 or earlier if I’d be rooting for a Cheney, I feel pretty confident my answer would have been no. And to be clear, I still disagree with her on most policy issues. But on the fundamental questions involving our democracy, democratic norms, and our democratic government, rock on Congresswoman! She’s not pulling any punches right now. 

Now, there were two more bombshell hearings this week. The first touched on “President Trump’s effort to convince millions of Americans that the election was stolen from him by overwhelming fraud.” The second focused on “President Trump’s relentless effort to pressure Mike Pence to refuse to count electoral votes on January 6th.” I originally wanted to include lots of clips from the hearings and really go through it all in detail, but with two days of enormously impactful testimony, that’s just not possible while keeping this episode to a reasonable length. We do have a great interview to get to with Anna, after all. So, what I think I’m going to do is save the more detailed dive into the hearings for another day, perhaps even next week, and for today, focus on a few excerpts that I think really capture the essence of the two days. For the first day, you’ll hear words from Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, Vice Chair Liz Cheney, and former Attorney General Bill Bar.

Bennie Thompson: The numbers tell you the winner and the loser. For the most part, the numbers don't lie. But if something doesn't add up with the numbers, you go to court to get resolution, and that's the end of the line. We accept those results. That's what it means to respect the rule of law. That's what it means to seek elective office in our democracy. This morning, we'll tell the story of how Donald Trump lost an election and knew he lost an election and, as a result of his loss, decided to wage an attack on our democracy, an attack on the American people by trying to rob you of your voice in our democracy, and in doing so, lit the fuse that led to the horrific violence of January 6th, when a mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol, sent by Donald Trump to stop the transfer of power.

Liz Cheney: You will also hear testimony that President Trump rejected the advice of his campaign experts on election night and instead followed the course recommended by an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani to just claim he won and insist that the vote counting stop, to falsely claim everything was fraudulent. He falsely told the American people that the election was not legitimate, in his words, "a major fraud." Millions of Americans believed him. The Trump campaign legal team knew there was no legitimate argument, fraud, irregularities, or anything, to overturn the election, and yet President Trump went ahead with his plans for January 6th anyway.  As one conservative editorial board put it recently, "Mr. Trump betrayed his supporters by conning them on January 6th, and he is still doing it."

Bill Barr: It was like playing Whac-A-Mole, because something would come out one day and then the next day it would be another issue. Also, I was influenced by the fact that all the early claims that I understood on — were — were completely bogus and silly and usually based on complete misinformation. And I told him that the stuff that his people were shoveling out to the public were bull — was bullshit. I mean that the claims of fraud were bullshit. And, you know, he was indignant about that. And I reiterated that they've wasted a whole month on these claims — on the Dominion voting machines and they were idiotic claims. And I told them that it was — it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that. And it was doing a great, grave disservice to the country.

JD Wooten: Towards the end of Day 2, we also heard testimony from Amanda Wick, Senior Investigative Counsel for the House Select Committee. Here’s just a small piece of her testimony:

Amanda Wick: The claims that the election was stolen were so successful President Trump and his allies raised $250 million, nearly $100 million in the first week after the election. On November 9th, 2020, President Trump created a separate entity called the Save America PAC. Most of the money raised went to this newly created PAC, not to election related litigation.

JD Wooten: Now here are some clips from Day 3, and again you’ll hear from Committee Chair Thompson and Vice Chair Cheney, as well as former federal appellate Judge Michal Luttig, and a former White House attorney for President Trump, Michael Herschmann. And make no mistake about where these latter two gentlemen are on the ideological spectrum – Judge Luttig is a staunch conservative, was appointed by George H.W. Bush to the federal bench, and was the judge that John Eastman actually clerked for. And Michael Herschmann was the attorney who defended Donald Trump at his first impeachment trial. With the exception of Congressman Thompson, these are all extraordinarily conservative voices:

Bennie Thompson: The former president wanted Pence to reject the votes and either declare Trump the winner or send the votes back to the states to be counted again. Mike Pence said no. He resisted the pressure. He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong. We are fortunate for Mr. Pence's courage. On January 6th, our democracy came dangerously close to catastrophe.

Liz Cheney: What the president wanted the vice president to do was not just wrong, it was illegal and unconstitutional. Vice President Pence understood that his oath of office was more important than his loyalty to Donald Trump. He did his duty. President Trump unequivocally did not.

Bennie Thompson: In the United States, the people choose our Representatives, including the highest official in the land, the President of the United States. The American people did this on November 3rd, 2020, but President Trump did not like the outcome. He did everything he could to change the result of the election. He tried litigation, 62 cases in fact, and that failed. He tried to pressure state legislatures to reverse the results of the election in their states, but they refused. He tried to enlist the Department of Justice in his efforts to overturn election results, but officials leading the department refused to comply.  So eventually, he latched on to a completely nonsensical and anti-democratic theory that one man, his own Vice President, could determine the outcome of the election. He wanted the Vice President to unilaterally select the President. This theory that the Vice President could unilaterally select the President runs completely contrary to our Constitution, our laws, and the entirety of our American experience.

JD Wooten: Judge Luttig reflected on what would have happened had President Trump and his allies been successful on January 6th:

Judge Michael Luttig: I believe that had Vice President Pence obeyed the orders from his President and the President of the United States of America during the joint session of the Congress of the United States on January 6, 2021 and declared Donald Trump the next President of the United States, notwithstanding that then President Trump had lost the Electoral College vote as well as the popular vote in the 2020 Presidential election, that declaration of Donald Trump as the next President would have plunged America into what I believe would have been tantamount to a revolution within a constitutional crisis in America

JD Wooten: When asked about attorney John Eastman’s insane and unconstitutional schemes involving the Vice President essentially picking the next president, here is what former Trump White House lawyer Michael Herschmann had to say:

Eric Herschmann: I said hold on a second. I want to understand what you're saying. You're saying that you believe the vice president, acting as president of the Senate, can be the sole decision maker as to, under your theory, who becomes the next president of the United States. And he said yes. And I said are you out of your effing mind, right? And I — you know, that was pretty blunt. I said you're completely crazy. I said you're going to turn around and tell 78-plus million people in this country that your theory is this is how you're going to invalidate their votes, because you think the election was stolen? And I said they're not going to tolerate, that, said you're going to cause riots in the streets. And he said words to the effect of there has been violence in the history of our country, Eric, to protect the democracy or protect the republic.

JD Wooten: And here are some concluding remarks from Congresswoman Cheney:

Liz Cheney: We have seen so far in — in our hearings that President Trump knew that his claims of a stolen election were false. You have seen that he knew that Mike Pence could not legally refuse to count electoral votes. And you have seen what Mike — what President Trump did to pressure Mike Pence into taking illegal action. Over the course of our next hearings, you will see information about President Trump's efforts, John Eastman efforts, the Trump legal team's efforts to apply pressure to Republican state legislatures, state officials, and others. Judge Carter has recently written, "Dr. Eastman's actions in these few weeks indicate that his and President Trump's pressure campaign to stop the electoral count did not end with Vice President Pence. It targeted every tier of federal and state elected officials." We will examine all of those threats, and we will examine the Trump team's determination to transmit materially false electoral slates from multiple states to officials of the executive and legislative branches of our government. We will examine the pressures put on state legislatures to convene to reverse lawful election results. An honorable man, receiving the information and advice that Mr. Trump received from his campaign experts and his staff, a man who loved his country more than himself would have conceded this election. Indeed, we know that a number of President Trump's closest aides urged him to do so. This committee will address all of these issues in greater detail in the coming weeks.

JD Wooten: Finally, reflecting on the threat which lies ahead, Judge Luttig had this to say at the end of the hearing:

Judge Michael Luttig: almost two years after that fateful day in January 2021, that still Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy. That's not because of what happened on January 6th. It's because, to this very day, the former president, his allies, and supporters pledge that, in the presidential election of 2024, if the former president or his anointed successor as the Republican Party presidential candidate were to lose that election, that they would attempt to overturn that 2024 election in the same way that they attempted to overturn the 2020 election, but succeed in 2024 where they failed in 2020. I don't speak those words lightly. I would have never spoken those words ever in my life, except that that's what the former president and his allies are telling us. As I said in that New York Times op-ed, wherein I was speaking about the Electoral Count Act of 1887, the former president and his allies are executing that blueprint for 2024 in open, in plain view of the American public. I repeat, I would have never uttered one single one of those words unless the former president and his allies were candidly and proudly speaking those exact words to America.

JD Wooten: Again, in the words of Congressman Bennie Thompson, “January 6th was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt…to overthrow the government.” And as Judge Luttig made clear this past week, there is still a very real threat to our democracy from those who tried, and will try again given the opportunity, to subvert our democracy. This coming week will have two more hearings, the first on Tuesday, June 21, at 1 p.m. eastern and the second on Thursday, June 23, at 1 p.m. eastern. I’ll be tuning in and I hope you will too.

Now, without further ado, here’s my interview with the one and only, the great Anna Nunn!

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JD Wooten: With me today is Anna Nunn, a seasoned, Democratic political staffer who has managed numerous state legislative races, worked for the State Senate Democratic Caucus, and recently managed Valerie Foushee's successful primary race for Congress in North Carolina's Fourth Congressional District. Welcome Anna. 

Anna Nunn: Hi JD, thank you for having. 

JD Wooten: Well, it's a delight to have you on today. And as always, let's start at the beginning. What's your first memory of politics or getting involved in politics? 

Anna Nunn: Oh, that's a good question. I think everybody comes to this sport differently. I think people are surprised sometimes to learn that I was not a poli sci major in college. it was something I kind of fell into accidentally. It was definitely not the plan. I majored in social sciences and I thought I wanted to go into academia to affect change. And then I realized that uh, policy's not really based on research a lot of times. So I thought, well, how can I get closer to affecting change? And so I did a master's in public administration and policy analysis, and I thought, you know I'll go work on the official side. And that didn't really feel close enough for me. I don't know that you get any closer to affecting real change without putting your name on the ballot yourself, than electing good people to office that you know, are gonna live your values. 

And I kind of just got involved in activism around amendment one in 2012, when they put that on the primary ballot. We lost that one pretty bad, but it made me, you know, it gave me that little bug and I started working with Susi Hamilton, who was a House Rep at the time, just because she was a personal friend. We lived on the same block and she asked for a little bit of help with her campaign stuff. And I had no idea what I was doing. But it turned out, I realized that I was good at it. And there's something that we all in this business have that we share in common, we're all adrenaline junkies. And once that, that bug bites you you know, I have two master's degrees. I could be doing other things and I'm, and frankly, making more money and my life would be easier. But once it kind of gets under your skin it's just, it's hard to shake it and you get a couple victories under your belt. And I mean, I still tell people that that Harbor Peterson race, when we won by 36 votes on election night, and broke the super majority in the Senate, that was better than my wedding night. I mean, it was like the most exhilarating thing ever. And there, you just can't quit after that. 

JD Wooten: So what was your first job in politics and how did that come to be? 

Anna Nunn: So that was with Susi, and like I said, she just needed some help, so it was really just doing some fundraising. And she actually introduced me to John Merrit, who was the Chief of Staff for Charlie Rose in Congress for like 30 years. And he's this Oldtimer in politics at Wilmington and he and I hit it off immediately. We spent hours talking about Shelby v. Holder and like all these like Voting Rights Acts court cases and things. And he kind of took me under his wing and raised me up in politics. And then from there, when Susi got tapped for the cabinet position, Deb got appointed. And Deb was also a personal friend of mine who lived like a block over for me. And I knew her and her wife really well. So Susi called her and said, you have to take Anna. You need her. And Deb was like, absolutely. And I was with Deb, just kind of helping her get started with, she came right in during the HB2 repeal, which was somewhat controversial and helped her navigate that. And then from there did Harper and then the Caucus. 

All right, so you've mentioned now three of your successful state legislative contenders that you've worked for. Susi Hamilton, Deb Butler, both in the State House, and then Harper Peterson in the State Senate. I'm sure we could spend an entire episode on each of them and each race that you've run, but just generally speaking, what are some of the key lessons that you learned working on those campaigns that, you know, still influence your thinking today?

We could spend a whole series just on Harper. God bless them. I mean, I love all three of them so much and still talk to them every week. But they're very different and I, I think working for a seated member, doing fundraising for Deb and Susi is interesting, right? Because you get to be privy to sort of how the sausage is made in the building and the policy side of things. And that definitely changed my worldview. I would say that I was a wide-eyed kid when I got into this and kind of, was a bleeding heart and pure as the driven snow. And then when I, I spent some time with seated members and saw how the sausage is made on the inside and the process, and it definitely changed the way I approach politics. And then Harper, that's one I'm really proud of. We were the last race to be called on election night. I knew getting into that race, I saw the polling before I signed up, I knew that it was gonna come down to a couple hundred votes. And when all was said and done, it was 231 votes after the ballot chase and all the votes were counted. So that one I knew going in was gonna be a dog fight. And I think I really learned how important it is to leave everything on the field. Everything, I mean, that was a stressful race. Not to mention there was a major hurricane that hit about three weeks before election day. But I learned you have to, you have to give it everything you've got. If you're not willing to play at 110% all day, every day, not sleep and eat, sleep and breathe it, you know, there's no such thing as that's not my job on a campaign, especially in state leg races, because we don't really have budgets for staff, right? It's just you a lot of times and you wear all the hats. If I had let up or taken my foot off the gas, or if Harper had at any point, we may not have pulled that one off, 36 votes broke the super majority. And like I said, it's, it was the best night of my life. 

JD Wooten: You've just talked about that great election victory and the general election cycle, you recently got tapped to manage a primary race in a seat that will probably have a pretty safe general election, but it was certainly a very competitive primary. And you were managing Valerie Foushee's now successful primary campaign for U.S. Congress. How'd that come to be? 

Anna Nunn: So it actually was not something that I sought it out. I actually got a phone call from someone in D.C. a few days before Congressman Price made the announcement and saying like that that was coming. I didn't really think anything of it. I was like, that's not shocking. He's been there for a long time, good for him. And then a couple weeks went by and, you know, we were all hearing all the names, right? All the names for coming outta the woodwork, everybody was gonna run and all that. I was doing my day job at the Caucus. And, and remember, this was when filing was December 17th. So we were in the middle of like heavy candidate recruitment at the Caucus. So it never even crossed my mind. And then I heard that Valerie was thinking about running. And one day out of the blue, I was going to Chapel Hill and it like triggered my memory and I texted her and I said, you know, for what it's worth Senator, I think you would be fantastic and you should do this. I think the voters of this district deserve you, and you'd be great. Not self-serving at all. It never, I had a job. I had actually just gotten a raise. I was pretty happy where I was. And then someone who's very hooked up and in politics called me. And I remember it was game five of the world series and I'm a big Braves fan and I was getting ready to go across the street to the sports bar and watch the game. And I get this random phone call at 7:30 asking me if I would consider running Valerie. And I was like, that's crazy. I have a job. So I thought about it. I slept on it. I called him back the next day. And I said, no, the Caucus needs me and I, I can't do that. And, and he said, I really think you should reconsider. So I did. And I thought about it. And at the end of the day, I just, Valerie is one of my absolute favorites. I, I always say you can tell a lot about electeds and, and who they are by how they treat staff. And Valerie, I could say more than probably anyone in that Caucus is the first one to stand up for us is staff and to support us. And there's no one in that building has a bad word to say about her, her colleagues or her adversaries. She's the kind of person that walks softly and carries a big stick and she commands a lot of respect. And as a woman, I really admire that. And, you know, I just, I really enjoy being around her and learning from her. So I just couldn't say, no, it's not every day that you get to work with a candidate that you just absolutely adore. Not that we don't adore you all, JD. You know, you weren't on my desk in, in twenties, so I didn't get to interact with you as much, but, you know, there are some that, that are gonna be great candidates, but they're not necessarily the kind of people you wanna go have a beer with and, and to be able to work with someone that you love and respect. And I truly do love her love and respect as much as her. I, I just couldn't say no to that. It, it was not something I sought out, but something I couldn't turn down. 

JD Wooten: Wow, that's amazing. Well, thank you for sharing. And you know, I certainly echo everything you had to say about Senator Foushee. I told her this when she was a guest on our podcast a few months ago that I greatly appreciated and thought it spoke very highly of her as a member to always make the time to come and attend those weekly calls that we had with candidates in 2020 just trying to help us understand messaging and strategy and what was going on so that we could be trusted advisors or trusted communicators within our own districts and not all members made that time.

Anna Nunn: I've been shocked at how many people I've met through this process of campaigning with her refer to her as their mentor, because she, she is someone who is very invested in other people's success and in lifting people up and in, in the success for the greater good And that's why she takes the time and makes the time to lift other people up, which I just admire a lot about her. I want, that's the kind of person I want to be in this business. When I think about as my star rises, how I give back and I, I really admire the way that she does it and it's something I would like to emulate. 

JD Wooten: Oh yeah. I think the old mantra that I remember growing up was A's pick A's, B's pick C's in terms of how you surround yourself with other people.

Anna Nunn: Yeah. 

JD Wooten: Alright, so what was your overall campaign strategy for winning that primary, you know, your fundraising, comms, field, so forth? 

Anna Nunn: I know that it would be more fun if I had a really sexy story for you, but it was actually, the strategy's pretty boring. Turns out everything we know about campaigns is true. And not to, to boil candidates down to this, but basically we all work in marketing and sales, right? So the candidate's the product, when you're starting with a product as good as Valerie you're very fortunate. So I was fortunate to have a great candidate who has an amazing personal story. And a 25 year track record of serving this district. I mean, Valerie grew up at a time in Chapel Hill where she couldn't eat at the lunch counter on the, in the restaurants on Franklin street. She couldn't even go to the front door to pick up food to go. She had to go to the back door. And still, she went on to serve that community for 25 years. And when you have a candidate that great and you have a, a track record like that, you know, you do the poll, and the poll says, once people learn to know Valerie is to love her. Once they learn about her and her story and her experience you win. So we made a plan to make sure that voters knew about her. And then we executed that plan. And then we won. It was really that boring.

JD Wooten: It's rocket science.

Anna Nunn: Mm-hmm, yeah, we stuck to the plan. Turns out, voters really respect her service. 

JD Wooten: On the fundraising side, just because I'm always curious what kind of breakdown did y'all do in terms of like trying to fundraise by events, versus call time, versus digital, or email?

Anna Nunn: Yeah. I would say. Call time works. If you work it, that's what we tell all candidates and everybody hates it and she hated it. And it's not fun to have to beg people for money and shake down your friends, but it works. And that's why we do it. So we did a lot of that. I will say that then this is something that I've seen at the caucus level cause I worked with so many different types of people, whether it be members or candidates that. And there's research that supports this, but it is harder for black candidates, and particularly for black women. It's harder for white women than it is for white men, but for black women, it's tough out there. And I have seen that to be true with all of the black women in our caucus. And they'll tell you the same thing. So that was frustrating. But we did a lot of call time, five to six hours a day, and she was great. She was a trooper. And then we did some email fundraising. Of course, some, you know, had had some events. We had some really gracious people, open their homes and their doors to us. But at the end of the day, it's call time.

JD Wooten: You know, it took a long time for me to get that through my fixed goal personally. And I understand others wanting to be resistant to it too. I will share, I had an interesting experience earlier, just this week, after several years and a couple of campaigns of soliciting donations for political purposes, earlier this week, I had my first call time, if you will, on behalf of Boy Scouts that I serve on the board for. And after I made the ask and I got the, yes, I got a thank you for making the phone call. I have made a lot of phone calls asking for money. I have never had somebody thank me for calling to ask them for money. So that was a new first. Ok, any particularly notable experiences or lessons learned from there that you want to share with listeners before we move back to this cycle?

Anna Nunn: Not that any that I wanna share with listeners. 

JD Wooten: Oh, it's, it's just you and me, Anna. Don't worry about it.

Anna Nunn: Trying to get me in trouble. No I don't know if I would do a primary again, honestly. You know, Valerie and I decided early on, we sat down. It was really important to her that we don't go negative on anyone. I'm immensely proud of the campaign that we ran and I'm immensely proud of, of how strong she was throughout 'cause she knows who she is. We decided early on that we didn't want to engage in any sort of divisiveness among other Democrats. And this was my first time doing a primary and it was not nearly as fun as running against Republicans, right? I mean, we agreed on all the issues. And I think it was really important to her that we keep it clean and we did, and we're proud of that. And we have so much on the ballot in November. Roe particularly is one that just scares the hell out of me. But you look, we know what Republicans can do with unchecked power. And, and right now is the time that we need to come together as Democrats and stand up to the real threat here, and it's not each other. And we need to stop with the internal firing squad and start rowing our boats in the same direction. And that's really, really, really important to me. And it's really, really important to her. 

JD Wooten: Well, I think that's an important message that you just hit, that friendly fire is not the way to go. That's sort of the whole point of this podcast. Let's, let's find other voices that are fighting for, I mean, hell at this point, fighting for democracy and democratic norms, all the other stuff is...

Anna Nunn: Just democracy, you know? 

JD Wooten: Yeah, how about democracy? Okay. So in addition to working directly for all these different candidates and campaigns that we've discussed, you've also spent a fair bit of time working for the State Senate Democratic Caucus. First is the finance director, and now you're deputy executive director. As a starting point, can you help explain to our listeners in a nutshell what the caucus is and what their role is in elections? You know, primary, general, that sort of thing. 

Anna Nunn: Yes. So I, I deal with a lot of candidates these days, but, but I'm glad you asked that because that is something that we get a lot, right? And we have to do a lot of fundraising as a caucus and, and it's hard to get people to give you money when they don't know what you are or what you do. Right. And they know what the North Carolina Democratic Party is. They know what, why the candidates need money. So we have to do a lot of educating folks on what we do. So essentially the way people should think about it, we're under the umbrella of the NCDP. So there's the NCDP. And then there's the, the House Caucus and the Senate Caucus. And we exist to first and foremost help our incumbent members. We do fundraising for them. We help them with comms. We work with their managers. They are our first priority. And then we, recruit ,train, and resource candidates. So if you're giving money to Senate caucus, you should know that it's going to candidates in seats that we call targeted, that we think we can win. And this is no secret. This is how all caucuses operate. But, you know, we go out and try to find the candidates and then we help them become good candidates. A lot of times, especially first time candidates, they get in there and they have no idea what they're doing, right? Understandably, they've never done anything like this before, and it's not exactly like House of Cards or what you see in the movies. We don't ride around in Tahoes all day and, you know, have sexy cocktail lunches. So it's a lot of hard work and they don't know what they're getting into. So we help them find managers. And we work with those managers to get a campaign plan together, a finance plan together, a field plan together. And then we have caucus consultants and the candidates work with those consultants, if they're targeted races, meaning races that we believe we Can win, and we need to play hard in. And they help put together polling and paid comms and we kind of help them through that process. And then at the end of the day, and this is no secret either, cause it's all publicly available on campaign finance reports, but we actually directly give money to candidates to be able to execute paid comms, mail pieces, television, radio, digital, whatever we decide to do in, in different districts. They're all very different. 

JD Wooten: And those of us on the receiving end appreciate that support. 

Anna Nunn: And then when you have trouble candidates like JD having meltdowns all the time, you know, you have to put your therapist hat out and get on the phone and calm him down and convince. I'm just kidding. You were a great candidate. You got... 

JD Wooten: I'm not taking any of that out. Everybody's gonna get that. I'm not taking the word of that out. 

Anna Nunn: You were very unfairly beaten up. 

JD Wooten: I think that when they go that hard, especially with stuff that's you know, I, I say this, not for my own sake, but for, you know, the next group of candidates to go through, cause we're about to approach that next cycle of, of who knows what's gonna come out. I personally in hindsight, choose to take it as a bit of flattery that they felt that threatened, that they had to just go whole cloth, you know, and go after me. And they did the same with, you know, Allen Wellens, and Donna Lake, and Terri LeGrand, and Tess Judge. And it was just all kinds of nonsense, but that's cause we were running strong races that they were really freaking concerned about.

Anna Nunn: Yeah. You're a boy scout, JD. And of course they were scared of you in a district that looked really good for us. 

JD Wooten: Well, hey, we had fun. So without giving away any of the trade secrets, then that would give the opposition a leg up, what can you tell us about the Caucus's strategy going into the 2022 general election cycle?

Anna Nunn: So the strategy is to win more seats. Um, that's an evergreen strategy. Just...

JD Wooten: I walked into that one. That's fair. 

Anna Nunn: Make you a little here's a, a little super secret nugget. Our plan is always to win, win, win 'em all, win all the seats, a hundred Democrats. 

JD Wooten: So our plan is to get more votes than the other guys.

Anna Nunn: The plan is to get more votes than the other guy. So every year is different and this year's gonna be a tough year for us, but there's a lot on the line. And there are a lot of bright spots, including we have some really great candidates this year. Not that we didn't in the previous cycle, but I'm, I'm excited about some of these folks. You know, we've got a candidate in Mark Speed who's up in the Franklin-Nash- Vance District against Lisa Stone Barnes. Wilmington, I'm a Wilmington girl. That seat will always be a seat that we have to play in, cause it's, it's a 50-50 district, and frankly it's trending our way, which is why they keep gerrymandering it. As long as I'm alive in North Carolina, Wilmington will always be, that seat is personal to me. You know, we won in 18. We lost it in 20. We're going back for it again this time. Michael Lee is aware. And then we have to hold on to Sydney Batch up here in Wake County. That's gonna be a tough race. The plan is always to build toward a majority, right? But we have to come back at 21 seats in the Senate. We're at 22 now. If we don't come back at at least 21, the Republicans will have a super majority again. We will not be able to sustain Cooper's veto and we're gonna be in big trouble. So we have to hold that line in the State Senate. So that is the, the number one goal here to win enough seats to come back and be able to protect Governor Cooper's veto so they can't run a muck. And then from there to continue building toward a majority to 26 seats. 

JD Wooten: Then building on that. So you've already kind of answered my, my next question that I was gonna ask as to who should we be watching for or what areas. But now I'm curious, you mentioned legislation that we could be fearful of seeing, especially if we don't have enough seats to protect the veto. The State Senate recently did a couple of surprising things. Two of the three, I think were overall pretty good, but the third was horrific. We've got the Medicaid Expansion bill, we've got the legalizing medical marijuana bill, and then we've got as our earlier guest State Senator Michael Garrett dubbed it "HB2, Classroom Edition," or Don't Say "Gay" Bill. So two out of the three of those, nice. One, come on guys. And I'm curious, has that impacted any thoughts at the caucus on campaign strategy or messaging going into 2022? 

Anna Nunn: I think that every Democrat in the State Senate would tell you that they're thrilled that Republicans have finally, finally, come to the table on Medicaid Expansion. I mean, we've been beating that horse since 2010. And now they, you know, they want to come late to the party and take all the credit for it. Fine, whatever. We'll take it. We want it to become law because we people need healthcare. But I don't know. My mom always told me that when people show you who they are, believe them. So we know who they are nice try guys. I don't think they're pulling the wool over anybody's eyes that all of a sudden, cause as you said, you know, it's like here, look at these two cool things, medical marijuana, and then don't say gay. Don't look over here. Don't look at this. I don't think they're fooling anybody with that. So I would say at least for me personally, I don't think it changes our thinking. 

JD Wooten: So anything we've missed on the State Senate races or the, the Caucus strategy in the overall climate for this election cycle. 

Anna Nunn: I don't think so. Please send checks and money to the Senate Caucus. No, I mean, it's really, you know, when we are recruiting candidates and when we talk to candidates about stuff like this, I, I always tell people it's not hyperbolic to say that this is the real deal, they will abolish abortion in North Carolina, if we don't come back to 21 seats of the state Senate. That will happen. And we will go backwards and they will do all kind of crazy shit, cause they've shown us who they are and we know what they're capable of. We're gonna do everything in our power to make sure that that doesn't happen. They have a dream and our plan is to crush it. Right now lollipops and bad bills running through their minds at night as they sleep of all the cool things they're gonna do if they get that super majority back, I mean, that's what they're banking on and that's, that's what they're hoping for. And our job is to stop that from happening. So it is truly, truly that important that, that we are successful in these Senate races this cycle. 

JD Wooten: For starters. I think we now have an episode title in the works, something along the lines of lollipops and bad bills. I'll let you make the pitch on the fundraising in just sec, cause we gotta hit that. But any closing thoughts before we turn to the always ever present ask?

Anna Nunn: I would say, first of all, thank you for letting me come on. I'm normally more of a behind the scenes kind of person. And so thank you for having me. This has been weird being in front of the camera, but I actually I'm I have an ask of you. I actually really enjoyed this. I would like to come back and let's do an episode and I'm gonna bring some of my, my girlfriends in this business and do a whole episode, talk about women in this business. Cause I think that is something that's really important and there aren't enough of us. And as my star rises, I think about how I can lift other people up. And women's voices are really important in this space. And I think that would be a really fun episode to do. 

JD Wooten: I love the idea. Let's make it happen. All right, so, now most important question of the day. How can listeners learn more about all the great things we've been talking about and ways to support any of these great candidates or causes to advance democracy?

Anna Nunn: is the website. You can always email me I'm happy to talk to anybody about where they wanna put their money, love to park money for folks. Write a check, get involved in your local precincts. We're gonna need all hands on deck. GOTVing is going to be super important. We have a U.S. Senate race on the ballot that is very important. We have judicial races on the ballots that are very important. And like I said, these state leg races are very important. The last line of defense to help keep Cooper's veto. It's all hands on deck. So getting involved in your local precincts, getting involved with your county parties, there's so many great orgs out there right now. Now or Never, the Rural NC Project, Neighbors on Call is great for people who are living in safe districts, making phone calls into districts that we're trying to flip. I mean, there's just so many different ways, but I hate to, to keep harping on it, but money is key because they, they have a lot of money. 

JD Wooten: Yeah. Well, just like you mentioned earlier, we've got some great candidates. And when the voters become informed about who these candidates are, they garner a lot of support, but it takes money to help get that information out there. And that's why our listeners need to go support. So I'll put all those links in the show notes for everybody. All right. 

Anna Nunn: Thank you. 

JD Wooten: Thank you so much, Anna. I really appreciate it. 

Anna Nunn: Absolutely. I enjoyed it.

 [music transition]

JD Wooten: Thanks again to Anna for joining me today. Links are in the show notes to learn more about the State Senate Democratic Caucus, plus links to video and transcripts of last week’s hearings. If you have any questions or comments, send me an email at And again, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!



Review of Jan 6th Hearings
Interview with Anna Nunn
Closing Notes