Carolina Democracy

Phil Berger Bought Me an Ad!

July 25, 2022 JD Wooten Episode 29
Carolina Democracy
Phil Berger Bought Me an Ad!
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Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by Brandon Gray of Guilford County to discuss his campaign for North Carolina House District 62. We also review some of the latest political news from around North Carolina and briefly discuss last week's Jan. 6th Committee Hearing.

January 6th Hearing Resources:

Learn More About Brandon Gray:

Other Resources: 

Carolina Forward:

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Brandon Gray: Phil Berger actually ran a commercial in our district. And I'm like, wow, Phil Berger's paying for an ad for us. 

JD Wooten: Wow. Yeah, I, I had forgotten about that. That's great. 

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JD Wooten: Welcome back to Carolina Democracy. I’m JD Wooten, and today we’re joined by Brandon Gray of Guilford County who is running to represents District 62 in the North Carolina House of Representatives. But first, a couple of reminders and a few excerpts from the latest Jan. 6th hearing.

So, first reminder – please share this episode with a friend, or post about it on social media. Our audience continues to grow, which means that interview guests, past and present, keep reaching larger audiences and new people. Even if you can’t donate or volunteer for any of our great candidate guests, helping them spread their message is enormously helpful. There is no better currency in politics than word-of-mouth recommendations, plus it’s quick and free.

Second, don’t forget that numerous counties and municipalities across the state have run off primary elections or general elections on July 26th. Early voting has ended, but you can still vote this Tuesday, July 26th. Check your local board of elections website for more details.

Finally, don’t forget we’ve got a YouTube channel now, featuring video from our various guest interviews. Link in the show notes.

And to everyone who attended or supported Carolina Forward’s Justice for All event last Saturday in Greensboro, thank you. I haven’t heard a final fundraising number from our friends over there yet, but sounds like it was a tremendous fundraising success. The event itself was certainly wonderful and I think we had a great time hearing from candidates Judge Lucy Inman who is running for the state Supreme Court and Guilford County Chief District Court Judge Teresa Vincent, as well as state Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls who stopped by to offer thoughts on the dangers that the increasing politicization of our Courts poses to democracy. Perhaps we’ll even be lucky enough to get her on the show sometime soon to hear a version of those same remarks.

Now, our first piece of news is that the $1.7 billion school construction referendum which was on the ballot in Guilford County in May has finally been certified and the County can begin implementing that bond. A state court judge declined to paused the certification pending further court action, allowing the County to move forward. The judge noted that even if “the activities of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and the Guilford County Schools may have improperly caused voters to vote in favor of the bond at issue,” he did not believe that “but for those actions, the outcome of the election would have been different.” Thus he ruled that further action was unlikely to succeed, meaning an injunction was not warranted. Good news for Guilford!

Next, the General Assembly is still in recess and the U.S. Supreme Court has been quiet lately, so given some of the recent news from those institutions we’re all still reeling from, I’m going with “no news is good news” for the moment. A bright spot for North Carolina recently was a new set of business rankings from CNBC and Business Facilities magazine that both ranked North Carolina as the number 1 state to do business. A major driving factor cited for this ranking has been major economic development and bi-partisanship between lawmakers on the economy. 

I realize that last part can sound surprising given the strong partisanship we see from the General Assembly on everything aside from business, but this is a good opportunity to focus on a positive and perhaps amplify the message that when we put aside our partisan differences and truly work together for the good of North Carolinians, good things are possible. Now if we could just embrace that concept more broadly to help all of our hard-working North Carolinians, not just businesses, that’d be great. Still, this is good news. And, I would like to think that regardless of politics, leadership in Raleigh will recognize that to maintain that kind of a ranking, we have to invest in our people and our infrastructure, which will benefit everyone. Time will tell, but I choose to be hopeful.

In other democracy specific news, a bipartisan group of nine Republicans and seven Democrats to introduced the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Act last week. Among other things, the proposed legislation clarifies that the vice president’s role in the Jan. 6 counting of the presidential college electoral vote is purely ceremonial. The bill also makes it harder for members of Congress to initiate objections to results. Currently, only one senator and one representative are necessary to suspend the joint session and take a vote on an objection to a state’s electoral results. By raising the threshold to one-fifth of the members of each chamber, the goal is to reduce frivolous objections, like we saw on Jan. 6, 2021.

The proposed bill also strikes a “failed election” provision from the 1845 law that could be exploited by state legislatures. The provision currently permits state legislatures to disregard the popular vote if they declare the election has “failed,” an undefined term. Under the new bill, after Election Day state legislatures cannot change the rules for appointing electors.

Overall, it’s a good start. However, they only have 9 GOP supporters at this point, shy of the 10 we need to do anything right now, so I’ll feel better when they come up with enough support to actually move it through the Senate. Second, almost immediately after that bill was announced, Liz Cheney released a statement in response to the bill and said “The Select Committee has been considering legislative recommendations based on its findings concerning the January 6 attack and will share those soon. These will include a bipartisan approach to the Electoral Count Act.” Not sure if she was saying the House and the Select Committee have different ideas, better ideas, or that was just a signal of forthcoming support or something else altogether, but I certainly read it as having the tone of our work isn’t done yet and we’re definitely going to have some things to say about all of this before the Committee’s work concludes. In all, I’m glad to see movement on this front even if we’re a long way from any kind of consensus in Congress.

And speaking of the January 6th Committee, here’s a small sample of Chairman Bennie Thompson’s remarks to open last Thursday’s hearing:

Bennie Thompson: Over the last month and a half, the Select Committee has told the story of a president who did everything in his power to overturn an election. He lied. He bullied. He betrayed his oath. He tried to destroy our democratic institutions. He summoned a mob to Washington. Afterward, on January 6th when he knew that the assembled mob was heavily armed and angry, he commanded the mob to go to the Capitol, and he emphatically commanded the heavily armed mob to fight like hell. Our democracy withstood the attack on January 6th. If there is no accountability for January 6th, for every part of this scheme, I fear that we will not overcome the ongoing threat to our democracy. There must be stiff consequences for those responsible.

JD Wooten: He then turned it over to Vice Chair Liz Cheney. Here are some of her opening remarks:

Liz Cheney: In our initial hearing, the chairman and I described what ultimately became Donald Trump's seven-part plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election, a plan stretching from before Election Day through January 6th. At the close of today's hearing, we will have addressed each element of that plan. But in the course of these hearings, we have received new evidence, and new witnesses have bravely stepped forward. Efforts to litigate and overcome immunity and executive privilege claims have been successful, and those continue. Doors have opened, new subpoenas have been issued, and the dam has begun to break. We have considerably more to do. We have far more evidence to share with the American people and more to gather, so our committee will spend August pursuing emerging information on multiple fronts before convening further hearings this September.

JD Wooten: In his concluding remarks, Congressman Adam Kinzinger said this:

Adam Kinzinger: Donald Trump's conduct on January 6th was a supreme violation of his oath of office and a complete dereliction of his duty to our nation. It is a stain on our history. It is a dishonor to all those who have sacrificed and died in service of our democracy.

JD Wooten: And of course, once again, Liz Cheney brought us home. Here are some of her concluding remarks:

Liz Cheney: Donald Trump knows that millions of Americans who supported him would stand up and defend our nation were it threatened. They would put their lives and their freedom at stake to protect her. And he is preying on their patriotism. He is preying on their sense of justice. And on January 6th, Donald Trump turned their love of country into a weapon against our Capitol and our Constitution. We must remember that we cannot abandon the truth and remain a free nation. Donald Trump made a purposeful choice to violate his oath of office, to ignore the ongoing violence against law enforcement, to threaten our constitutional order. There is no way to excuse that behavior. It was indefensible. And every American must consider this, can a President who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of January 6th ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?

JD Wooten: And I must say, perhaps the highlight of the week’s hearing, at least for comedians and memes everywhere was the video of Senator Josh Hawley running away from the violence in the Capitol. This is the same Josh Hawley who was happy to give a fist pump to rile up the crowd in a secure area not long before. But once it got real, he got running. Now, did that have anything to do with President Trump or the planning and execution of January 6th? Nope, not at all. But he obviously pissed off someone on the committee, and I’m going to guess Liz Cheney just for fun, so he’s now a meme and the butt of late-night jokes thanks to video of him running away. Once again, the country is being reminded don’t piss off a Cheney. Thankfully, this time she’s on our side.

There was a lot of great evidence presented over the 8 hearings, including powerful witness testimony. In the coming weeks, I’ll try to cobble together some of the more important parts for a little digest to help us all remember what we’ve seen and heard over the last couple of months before the hearings pick back up in September.

I think this all takes us back to the most important question we face every day: what can we do today to protect democracy? Short answer is whatever it takes to elect more pro-democracy candidates up and down the ballot. If you want to directly support groups doing the tough work on the ground to organize and build an engaged electorate, and you can look to groups like The New North Carolina Project and the New Rural Project. If you want to directly support candidates in the most competitive races where your time and treasure will have the greatest impact, check out the lists from groups like Carolina Forward and Now or Never NC. There’s a lot of work to be done between now and November, but it’s work we can do, together. And now, here’s my interview with Brandon Gray, a candidate from one of those tough but highly competitive races for a seat in the North Carolina House.

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JD Wooten: With me today is Brandon Gray, candidate for the North Carolina House District 62. Welcome Brandon. 

Brandon Gray: Thanks, JD for having me. I'm super excited to be here today. I do watch the podcast and I've been counting down the weeks until it was my turn, so I'm excited to be here. 

JD Wooten: Oh, I love it. That's so great. So first question, you know what it is, what's your earliest memory of politics or getting involved in politics?

Brandon Gray: I was thinking about this earlier, and I, I can't even remember my earliest memory of politics, but the first time I got involved, one of my husband and I's first dates, we actually went to go see Hillary Clinton in her 2016 campaign, and we ended up meeting her, and that kind of is like what got me involved in politics. I had 2016 was the first election presidential election that I was able to vote in. So I was super excited about that. And her candidacy back in 2015 and then 2016, we actually went to go see her at UNC-G. And then, like I said, we met her, so that got us like super fired up and excited. And then we ended up volunteering for her campaign a couple times. One of the times was when we saw Tim Kaine, her VP pick, and Josh Stein was there. And I actually got to share that story with Josh Stein the other day at one of his fundraisers here in Greensboro. And I was like, showed him a picture from like 2016 when I met him. And I was like, and now look at you. I was like, it's full circle. 

JD Wooten: Very nice. Just out of curiosity, so was all of that, you know, meeting Secretary Clinton and the volunteer and all that, all that thereafter was that all here in the Greensboro area?

Brandon Gray: Yeah, we would volunteer at like various things. And also I helped out with a couple different presidential campaigns back in 2019 for people that were running in 2020. And then also with the break the majority efforts in 2018. That was when I really, really got involved. Because we saw, well, you know, North Carolina politics how important it was to break the super majority and then just doing that, and then that just built on to 2020. 

JD Wooten: I love it. So let's start with your background. Where did you grow up and what were some of your early experiences that shaped your political philosophy today? 

Brandon Gray: I grew up in Oak Ridge. It's the rural part of Guilford County. It's the Greensboro airport area. I was raised by my grandmother. She worked two jobs and waited tables on the side to make ends meet. And just knowing that she would go without, to help others to make sure that they would have a chance. That was just instilled in me from such a young age of helping others and really just public service watching her go without to ensure that others would have a chance. That was part of the reason that drove me to run for office, just helping others and making sure that everyone has a level playing field, because a lot of times folks don't have a level playing field and whatever you can do, whether it's small or big to make their life a little bit better. That's really what drove me to run for office back in 2020 as well is just, I care about my community and politics. And I thought that that was the best way that I could serve my community. 

JD Wooten: So speaking of community, you've written that a strong community-led education gave you the opportunity to go to college and then start your own business. Can you tell us a little more about those opportunities and your fight to see those kind of opportunities extend to future generations? 

Brandon Gray: Yeah, for sure. I had a lot of great teachers. I went to public schools all in Guilford County and then I went on to go to GTCC and a local community college here. And it's where I studied political science back in 2017. It was after the 2016 election, which is just seeing everything that happened then, and just being so disheartened. I was like, what can I do? And I wanted to learn more about politics and learn more about policy and ways that everything works and how laws are created and government. And that's pretty much what shifted my focus, but I never intended to run for office this early. I had just wanted to get more of an understanding about political science and do all of that. I've worked various jobs. But recently I did start my own small business. It's in digital marketing. I've helped out with campaigns and then also I'm first vice chair of the Guilford County Democratic Party. So I run their social media. So a lot of like content creation, social media management, websites, all of like the digital marketing aspects. Which honestly, really helps when you're running a campaign, especially in 2020, cause we weren't able to do much in person as you know, everything we did was basically on the internet. So we really got to experience that firsthand. 

JD Wooten: I got my first taste of the digital side in 2018 and we relied heavily on digital in that campaign because although we had decent fundraising, it was not enough to go up on TV. So we had to fall back real heavily on digital. And then of course those lessons learned were extraordinarily helpful come 2020 when there wasn't a whole lot of other option. So you've already talked around it a little bit, but what in particular led you to run for the State House in 2020? 

Brandon Gray: I talked to the candidate that ran in 2018. She wasn't gonna run again in 2020 and I, even this cycle being first vice chair of the Guilford County Democratic Party, it's super important that we don't leave these seats unopposed. And I don't think we should just be handing the other side seats. Even if the district isn't winnable in 2020, I knew my district wasn't winnable, but we still ran a hard fault campaign on the issues that we cared about and the issues that our community cared about. And it was just about giving folks a choice on the ballot, and that was pretty much what that was. I wanted to help my community and I didn't want My opponent to go unopposed. And that's what would've happened in 2020. Part of the reason is just like various reasons like for legislation that he would vote on. I'm big on like contacting senators, congressperson, legislation. And I would contact him, email his office, never have still, never got a reply from him via email or a phone call returned. I've only seen him in the community literally three times since he's been my representative due to redistricting. So I think when you get involved in politics and you get elected, don't just go to Raleigh and then forget the people that you are there to represent. And I think that happens so many times in politics. And he's definitely been complacent in that. And I wanna go to Raleigh and come back every day in my community and stay involved in my community, not just in the final stretch of get out the vote and ask folks for their votes. I don't, I think that that's not genuine. You should be involved in your community all the time, not just when you need votes. So that was a big part about that. 

JD Wooten: Well, I wholeheartedly agree with all of that. And I certainly remember by all accounts, what I saw, what I heard you know, we were running in the same county so a lot of overlap with, with our volunteer base and our enthusiast base. It sounds like you ran a great race in 2020, but it was clearly a tough district and a tough year for Democrats across North Carolina. So what do you think's different about this election cycle? 

Brandon Gray: This election cycle, we were looking at the maps. 2020, when I ran, knew I didn't have a chance, but I was hopeful that Democrats would've performed well enough that we would have at least have a seat in redistricting. A seat at the table. And I was not hopeful with the way the election went in 2020, that that would even happen. And then earlier this year I woke up to all these DM's on Twitter and texts and they were like run Brandon, run. And I was like, what? Cause I had submitted comments about redistricting and then I'm like, run for what? I'm like, I'm clearly not gonna run in R+11 again. I was like, cause I'd already been trying to find someone to run for that district. And then they were like, it's a district that President Biden won by three points, Governor Cooper won it by 10 points. And it is a toss up District, it's D+1. So we are excited this cycle to actually have a level playing field, cause clearly in 2020, even though in the middle of a pandemic, we did run a hard-fought campaign on the issues that matter, it was not a level playing filled with it being R+11, even though it was a presidential election year, which we know turnout is bigger. Now we're in a midterm and we've just seen what the Supreme Court has recently done. I've went to various protests about that and just listening to the voters. So many young folks are fired up. And I think that we'll see that play a part in the election in November, as well as we'll also be canvasing every day that we can. We were not able to canvas in 2020, and I definitely think that that hurt Democrats. But that was the best thing to do, was to not canvas, because obviously we saw the effects of COVID. We were not gonna put people's lives at risk. So we did do lit drops in 2020, which basically we just drove around the roll parts of the district and we would, we were in my car and sometimes we'd have to drive two miles to the next person's house just to put a door hanger on their door. So that was definitely interesting to do and also see, and then we are not gonna have to worry about this, that this cycle we will be able to canvas and I I'm confident we can win it on the doors, this cycle. 

JD Wooten: Well, like I said, not only did I hear great things about what you were doing in 2020, but it's hard not to hear all the great things that are still going on for a candidate like you in a district right next door to where I live now. So you know, kudos and thank you for running again, especially in what we know is gonna be a tough cycle, but in a seat that's definitely winnable and we've gotta win. But we'll get to that in a moment. So, okay. Fun background stuff out of the way. Let's shift gears to what's on the ballot this year. We all know the economy and inflation are at the top of everyone's mind. How do you think we need to be addressing those concerns at the state level? 

Brandon Gray: We send out emails with our campaigns with, with my campaign about various like updates and my opinion on things. And one of the things that I advocated for a few months ago was getting rid of the gas tax, at least, so folks in North Carolina could have a little bit relief at the pump by not having to pay that gas tax. And that's something that we could reinstate later on down the line, but just something right now that could make a instant impact at the pump. We've seen inflation, we've seen the greed with all these corporations and the price gouging. I definitely think that that's something that needs to be addressed and that I think not a lot is happening. It was super frustrating to see that the, every Republican in Congress voted against the holding the oil companies accountable, even though they've had record breaking profits and they would not even hold them accountable for price gouging. That was very disappointing to see, as well as just these other companies who've had record breaking profits and are still price gouging. We've something has to be done about that. And we are seeing that gas prices are coming down. I would still like to see the gas tax be removed at least for the rest of the year. So folks can have a little bit of relief because that does add up 10, 15, 20 cents on a gallon. That really does add up, especially for folks that have to commute a long way to work. That's just one of the things that I think we should be doing to combat that. 

JD Wooten: Well, you're not alone in wanting to target the gas tax, as I'm sure you've heard from several of our previous episodes. A lot of state legislators on the Democratic side of the aisle, at least that have identified that and even proposed more modest things that might be palatable to the Republican majority, like the gas tax rebate. Unfortunately, slow to get traction, but I'm glad to hear that if we get you and get you in the House, then, then we've got one more friend on that side. Maybe take up some of that legislation. So speaking of legislation that maybe needs some more support in the House. We had a bit of a surprise earlier this summer when the State Senate passed some bills to expand Medicaid and to legalize medical marijuana. Unfortunately those have not been taken up in the State House. What are your thoughts on those surprises and you know, what would you support along those lines when elected to the State House? 

Brandon Gray: Medical marijuana, that was one of the things we ran on in 2020. It's a no brainer. My opponent actually voted against the medical marijuana. Recently that was, he was one of the few, no votes in the House. I was actually shocked to see that Phil Berger was offering up these things that Democrats have been advocating for for a decade. And then like suddenly a change of heart when. All of this is happening. I was like, that's very interesting. But history has shown that you have held this legislation up from being passed for the last 10 years. You haven't even held up a vote. I honestly think that it was just all for show. I think him and Tim Moore had a deal. They would pass it in one chamber and it wouldn't get passed in the other chamber, but it still gave them good press and folks believed it. And then you have Tim Moore saying, well, let's focus on this legislation after the November elections, because he's confident that they will take a super majority again. And hopefully that won't happen. And races like mine, we will be able to flip as well as sustain Governor Cooper's veto power and we'll be able to actually get progress passed here in North Carolina because Medicaid expansion is a no brainer. We have states that are super red, who have passed Medicaid expansion. It's working there. It's costing us money by not passing it. We're on year three of a pandemic. We have seen the disparities with healthcare, and we've gotta get Medicaid expanded. My husband's a ICU nurse and he sees the disparities in these hospitals that he works at. And the lack of care that folks don't have. A lot of folks will come in, they'll have had a heart attack days before and they know that they can't afford to go to the hospital. But they also don't qualify for Medicaid, but had Medicaid been expanded, they would've qualified for that. And sadly, a lot of folks are scared to go into all this medical debt and to go to the hospital. And for some folks it's too late. Those are stories I haven't just heard from my husband, but also from constituents from my 2020 campaign. Even in this campaign, folks are, it seems to be top of mind and it's not just Democrats who won't Medicaid expansion, it's independents and it's Republicans as well. We have to get Medicaid expanded as well as medical marijuana. And I'm confident that we will have the votes to get that done next cycle with folks in races like mine, as well as keeping Governor Cooper's veto-proof majority.

JD Wooten: Yeah. There was definitely a cynical part of me that wondered immediately when I started hearing Senator Berger's talking points, I was like, wait, what? And then I had that, I had that reflexive well, all right. Part of me is being cynical, but the other part wants to say welcome. Welcome. Come on. This is great. Stick it out. You're you'll love it over here. 

Brandon Gray: Yeah. 

JD Wooten: So we'll see what happens. I hope that we can get there, but I think you're, you're definitely right. That if we, let's just say, if we don't maintain at least enough votes in both chambers to sustain Governor Cooper's vetos, I don't really want to have to think about what we'll be seeing.

Brandon Gray: Phil Berger actually ran a commercial in our district, "Tell Representative John Faircloth to vote for Medicaid Expansion and change his vote." And I'm like, wow, Phil Berger's paying for an ad for us. 

JD Wooten: Wow. Yeah, I, I had forgotten about that. That's great. So when did that run? 

Brandon Gray: We, we got a couple phone calls about it a few weeks. When I was doing call time, someone was like, I saw Phil Berger did an ad for you. And I was like, what? And then that's when I learned about it. And then other people had said they had seen it. And I was like crazy times when Phil Berger is going against one of the most conservatives in the state legislature.

JD Wooten: Yeah. I still am not quite sure what to make of that or the, the political calculus behind it, but sticking with healthcare for a moment. I know you've been inviting for more than just Medicaid Expansion. What else do you think we need to be doing here in North Carolina to improve access to quality healthcare for everyone?

Brandon Gray: Like I said, my husband, he is a ICU nurse he's travels around to various hospitals to work and he sees the disparities in these hospitals. Medicaid Expansion is, it's not just providing folks with care, it's giving funding so we can keep our rural hospitals open and bring more folks in as well as bring in more staff. Our hospitals are very short staffed, folks complain about the long wait times, which I completely understand. It is frustrating when you're trying to get life saving care. And they're also short staffed because they're not properly funded. So just making sure that folks have the funding and passing Medicaid Expansion would allow us to do that.

JD Wooten: So one last area I wanna make sure that we get to is public education, and I'll give you a chance to grab any other topics that I don't hit in a moment. But this one last area that, that I'm insistent on. Multiple state court judges, and most recently, even a Republican Business Court Judge have found that the state is underfunding public education by roughly $785 million, but the General Assembly continues to underfund public education regardless. Are we risking our state's future if we stay on this path? 

Brandon Gray: I wholeheartedly believe we are risking our future if we do stay on this path. These children that are being taught in our public schools are the future of North Carolina and the future of America. I don't know why we would want to underfund these schools and our future generations, because they're gonna be what's carrying us to the next generation. And we have to be properly funding these schools. And that case has came up a lot when I talk to voters. They cannot believe how underfunded North Carolina is in education and where we rank in education. And Republicans like to talk about they give pay raises to our teachers. Yeah, but you're not doing enough. And we have to be doing enough for our educators and for our students because they are our future. 

JD Wooten: Yeah. North Carolina was just recently ranked number one state for business. I think that was CNBC. And I think a big part of that is, you know, workforce and workforce development. And I don't know how we maintain that kind of a ranking and continue to be a place that attracts business if we're not preparing the next generation of the workforce. 

Brandon Gray: Yeah, I know so many people who have started their own small business like I have in the last year or two, or even during the pandemic. And I think that that's great that we are ranked so high when it does come to business, but we have to be retaining the workforce and making sure we're paying living wages to folks so they wanna come and they wanna work for these various companies. And a lot of times we aren't seeing that. We see all these signs on doors that they're hiring and I'm like, okay, why are you hiring? Like, and then you find out they're underpaying their staff. Their staff, they have to work multiple jobs to even make ends meet if they did work there. So a lot of folks have brought this up to me. And I also think it's, we've seen in the pandemic, how folks are treated and what people are willing to go through. And they're not willing to make minimum wage and be just treated awful. Everyone deserves respect at their workplace and we have to make sure that that's happening as well as paying living wages. And then just making sure our small businesses are thriving. So many folks wanna start their own business. And I think that that's great for North Carolina and also for folks for their own independence. 

JD Wooten: So I'm curious as somebody who just recently started their own small business, were there any particular challenges that you found while you were going through that process or in the first period of operating that you think maybe we could be doing better as a state you'd like to see addressed when you get to the General Assembly?

Brandon Gray: I think the process for me was relatively easy just because I've helped out with other businesses when they were getting started. So I did have the expertise and the background to know what to expect, as well as the resources to do so. But I definitely think just making sure that these small business loans that some folks. Receive and like minority and women own businesses, just making sure that that's happened. And I was reading an article recently and it was saying North, I believe North Carolina also ranked first on states with new small business creation. And I thought that that was super incredible that that's happening right here in North Carolina. So many new entrepreneurs, folks I went to school with in high school and then college are doing their own thing. And I think that that's great. And just think everyone should have an equal opportunity if they wanna start their own business and think that they should have the resources to be able to do so. And I, I think that that's happening and just making sure that folks know that the resources are there and what we can provide to them. 

JD Wooten: Wholeheartedly agree, that's all great stuff. I feel similarly on all that. Anything else we've missed? I think we've hit healthcare, we've hit business, we've hit schools, but we've hit 'em at a very high level. So anything else we've missed that you really wanna dive in on? 

Brandon Gray: So much happens in our state, and North Carolina becomes national news. Honestly, it's like whiplash, all these different issues that get thrown at us in it. It sounds bad, but the news cycle, like we forget so quickly because there's just constantly bad legislation being thrown at us. Right now on my mind is just making sure that we do have the votes to uphold Governor Cooper's veto come next cycle. One of the things that Tim Moore said was his top priority was an anti-choice bill come January. So making sure that we do make sure we have the votes to sustain Governor Cooper's veto. If we don't do that, it's not only gonna impact North Carolinians, but also folks all over the Southeast. Obviously North Carolinians is my top priority, but when we think about all the states in the Southeast that are gonna be impacted and would be coming to North Carolina, it's just mind blowing to me that we are the last safe haven and that could be taken away if Democrats don't hold onto the seats they have and then flip seats like mine that are tossups. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, your race is critical. We've gotta hold onto that. And if it's any consolation to the long wait that you mentioned at the beginning of the interview about having to wait to come on, it was because we wanna make sure we focus, focus our attention on the most competitive races at the right time and get everybody's attention focused when they can keep that focus. So there's no question your race is one we've gotta pay attention to. So last and most important question of the day, where can people go to learn more about you, your campaign, sign up to volunteer, donate, all those great things?

Brandon Gray: Yeah. All of our website and social media is And then all of our usernames on social media is BrandonGrayNC. We're very active on social media: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Always love to connect. Right now we're just trying to fundraise, cuz like I said, our race is critical and the other side is already running attacks. So just making sure that we can hit people's mailboxes with mailers and making sure that we can counter the attacks so folks know who I am and know my message and the choice that they actually do have on the ballot come November. I always hate how money is involved and it just feels icky to me that we constantly have to ask for money, but we can't win without money sadly. Call time is important, fundraising is important, but I'm just excited to continue to build our volunteer base. So we will be able to canvas, and knock doors, and phone bank. And everyone listening, I would love for you to chip in at my website, donate whatever you can, make phone calls, knock doors, whatever you can do, we would love to have your support. 

JD Wooten: Yeah. As I was told early and reminded often in my campaigning days, money is not the most important thing in politics, but all the important things cost money. 

Brandon Gray: Yes. 100%. That is true. And these things are also very expensive. 

JD Wooten: No doubt, indeed. Well, Brandon, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. It's been a real pleasure. 

Brandon Gray: Thank you for having me JD. And for all your work and for running you ran great races and I'm proud to know you and to have been on the ballot with you. And this podcast is keeping folks informed here in North Carolina about what they can do and how they can get involved. And I'm a fan of the podcast and can't wait see who else you have next on the show? 

JD Wooten: Well, we'll be sure to surprise everyone. If you wanna pull back the shroud of mystery, look for where the competitive districts are, that's probably where I'm making my phone calls. So, well, thanks again, Brandon and thanks for those compliments.

[music transition]

JD Wooten: Thanks again to Brandon Gray  for joining us today, and to everyone for listening. Links are in the show notes for everything from today’s episode. If you have 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!


Interview with Brandon Gray
Closing Notes