Carolina Democracy

"I Would Rather Walk Across Cut Glass!"

May 27, 2024 JD Wooten Season 3 Episode 20
"I Would Rather Walk Across Cut Glass!"
Carolina Democracy
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Carolina Democracy
"I Would Rather Walk Across Cut Glass!"
May 27, 2024 Season 3 Episode 20
JD Wooten

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by the Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Anderson Clayton. Plus updates on the latest from the General Assembly and U.S. Supreme Court.

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Show Notes Transcript

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by the Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Anderson Clayton. Plus updates on the latest from the General Assembly and U.S. Supreme Court.

North Carolina Democratic Party:

Contact Us:

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

JD Wooten: are you telling me you're not looking forward to that North Carolina that Mark Robinson wants to take us back to when women couldn't vote? 

Anderson Clayton: I mean, I'm saying that I would rather walk across cut glass, but that's just my personal preference, and I think we're going to do every single thing humanly possible this year to make sure that someone like that doesn't get within an arm's reach of the governor's office

[music transition]

JD Wooten: Welcome back to Carolina Democracy and happy Memorial Day! I’m JD Wooten, and this week we’re joined by none other than the magnificent Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Anderson Clayton. It took us a while to get his one on the calendar, but if you follow her on social media, that should come as no surprise. When she’s not at a local fundraiser, party event, or canvass trying to fire people up, she’s crisscrossing the country raising money for the state party to help get Democrats elected up and down the ballot in November. One time we had to reschedule because, well, some lady named Kamala something or other unexpectedly dropped by and Anderson wanted to ride around in her limo or something like that. Jokes aside, my calendar can get tough but bless her, I’m not kidding when I say she keeps a ridiculously impressive schedule fighting so hard, it’s inspiring.

Anyways, we finally caught up and had an amazing conversation, but the challenges weren’t done there. Turns out Anderson’s love of rural North Carolina, which is extremely sincere, also means she’s hanging out in the same places we’ve talked about numerous times with regards to broadband or other highspeed internet access issues. So, perhaps not surprisingly, we ran into some recording challenges as well. We actually lost a few minutes of the middle of the recording, but what did we did save covers most of her background up through her time as the Person County Dem Party chair, and then it picked back up with her calls to action. What we lost was her recounting her campaign for and election as chair of the state party.

I suppose thankfully the parts we lost are probably the best known parts anyways, so if we were going to lose something, that’d be what I’d pick. And, what we still got was so good that I’m very excited to share because I think it really helps frame the story of who’s leading the state party, her devotion to engaging rural voters, and her penchant for talking to, well, basically anyone and everyone who will talk to her. And most importantly, we still got the part of the interview that’s the call to action and what we can do to help her and the state party succeed this year. Maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll find a time to try again some day and focus on her longshot bid to become the youngest state party chair in the country, but I’m not making any promises because let’s face it, she’s got a lot on her plate for the next 162 days!

But before we hear from Anderson, let’s take a moment to talk about masking in public. Several weeks ago, Senate Republicans, in their always infinite wisdom, passed a bill increasing criminal penalties for committing crimes in a mask and imposing penalties for those who impede traffic or emergency vehicles during demonstrations. I’m generally ok with those provisions of the legislation, although I’m always a little suspicious of legislation that could be abused by an overly zealous DA to prosecute free speech, like the impeding traffic while demonstrating. What if an otherwise lawful protest causes people to slow down to watch, or increased traffic creates traffic jams and thus blocks traffic. I don’t know that anyone would do those things, but then again, people like the Alamance Sheriff don’t seem to need any extra laws to pretend it’s still 1968 and he can gas protestors and do whatever else he seems to like. 

Unfortunately, those aren’t the real problem with the proposed law. The Senate bill also repeals the pandemic exception to allow masking in public for health and safety reasons. I get the origins of the law banning masks in public – mainly to stop Klansmen – and deterring domestic terrorism was obviously a good aim. Today, those folks have quit wearing sheets and hoods in public, at least for the most part, and they don’t want others to wear masks either. For the life of me I can barely even remember when and why masking became a political thing, it shouldn’t be, it's a medical and health issue, but regardless, here we are. Allowing masks in public for health concerns is reasonable, and repealing it is an obvious culture war issue. 

There’s been immense public backlash, and somewhat surprisingly, the State House Republicans seems to have gotten the message that this isn’t the hill to die on and have tabled the legislation. Speaker Moore has noted that House Republicans broadly support the provisions of the bill about increasing penalties for wearing masks while committing crimes and blocking traffic, but House Republicans want language that clarifies masking for health reasons will not be criminalized. Over on the Senate side, the answer seems to be “trust us, no one would ever enforce this to criminalize masking for health reasons, wink wink.” That’s a giant load of horseshit and any politician who tries to convince you that people won’t do exactly what a law says they can do is so full of shit they need to be voted out of office. Of course the individual I’m thinking of is in such a gerrymandered district it’ll never happen, but still. That’s just an idiotic argument to make. Anyways, reporting over the weekend suggests that Senate Republicans intend to be as intractable as ever and refuse to change their bill, and the House Republicans won’t support it as written, so perhaps this will never get to the governor’s desk to begin with.

In other controversial news, the UNC Board of Governors scrapped important DEI policies for the North Carolina university system. Perhaps not surprisingly, this is a board made up of mostly white men and who were appointed by the GOP-controlled General Assembly. One of the reasons cited for repealing the policies was funding considerations. I get that balancing financial considerations for a governing board is important and difficult. But the actual amount at stake in these policies are negligible compared to the university systems’ overall budget, making that excuse pretty much hogwash. I’m also the chair of non-profit board that serves much of central North Carolina with a large annual budget, a decent sized staff, and our organization has thousands of members and volunteers in the area and millions across the country. I’ll tell you right now, you don’t make a policy change with this much public visibility and backlash directed at such a miniscule impact on the overall budget unless you’re doing it to make a point. This was a deliberate thumbing of the nose to diversity efforts and marks a low point for the university system.

And despite early promises that this would actually be a short session of the General Assembly, the State Senate and State House reached an impasse in budget talks this past week. Senate Republicans blame the State House and too much “pork” in the budget. The problem seems to be that originally, the state was projected to collect excess revenues above budget projections by well over a billion dollars, perhaps even double that. The latest projections put that budget surplus at only about a billion dollars, which both chambers are ready to spend right away. However, the State House also wants to dip into reserves, and the State Senate has no interest in spending more than the current revenues. But not to fear, for those who were worried about welfare for the wealthy, lawmakers in the State House working on the budget have repeatedly emphasized that they have every intention of fully funding the voucher program to ensure that public money is diverted to private and religious schools for the wealthiest North Carolinians.

And of course I’m going to mention the gerrymandering case from the Supreme Court this past week. In essence, this is another step in gutting electoral protections for minority voters. At issue was whether the South Carolina legislature racially gerrymandered their congressional map to deprive South Carolina voters their choice of preferred candidates. The Court created new hurdles to overcome, like deciding that because the plaintiffs did not submit a proposed new map that showed the gerrymandering was only based on race and not based on party, the plaintiffs couldn’t succeed on their claim in the first place. And the real problem here is that where a demographic group is so highly concentrated with one political party, that’s a very high hurdle to meet. Basically, it allows racially gerrymandering if a racial group overwhelmingly favors a particular political party because it will be all but impossible to disentangle race and partisanship. 

Put differently, if every white person voted Republican, and every white person was moved into the same district, was that based on partisanship or based on race? Absent someone explicitly admitting one or the other, that’s nearly impossible to prove because it looks identical. And of course that’s a grossly oversimplified example. In practice, it gets much more complicated. Oh, and don’t mind the fact that the South Carolina legislators publicly disclaimed that they were drawing the map based on partisanship when drawing the map, so even with the overlap between race and partisanship, if one has already  been disclaimed, it must be the other, right? Well, the Supreme Court conveniently handled that logic problem by just ignoring it and rewriting history. I guess from a consistency point of view, rewriting history in this way is at least consistent with history and tradition, as sordid as that history and tradition may be on the point.

But, moving on happy things – today we’ve got Anderson Clayton. So let’s hear her inspirational words and hopefully it gets you fired up to get in the fight help elect more Democrats! Hope you enjoy!

[music transition]

JD Wooten: With us today is a woman who likely needs no introduction for this audience, the chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Anderson Clayton. Welcome to the show, Anderson. 

Anderson Clayton: Thanks for having me, J. D. I appreciate it. 

JD Wooten: Absolutely. So first question, I love asking everyone, what's your earliest memory of politics or getting involved in politics?

Anderson Clayton: My grandma, so in 2008, when Hillary Clinton was running against Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, Bill Clinton somehow decided that he was going to come to Roxborough, North Carolina, which is in Person County, where I'm from. And he came to Person High School. And I remember my grandma was like any probably woman in her seventies obsessed with Bill Clinton and just thought he was the best president, like the best looking man, you know what I mean? And so she looked at us and she said, we're going to go wait in line to see Former President Bill Clinton. And I was like, okay. And so she took me and my three, like my two cousins and my sister, Alex, and we waited in line for like four and a half hours to see Bill Clinton that day.

And I just, I remember going, and I remember my grandma like kissing Bill Clinton on the cheek because we were right at the barricade or where the rope like was essentially. And it was just the funniest thing. Like she would never forget that in her life. So that was my earliest political memory definitely.

JD Wooten: Okay. So you just mentioned growing up in Roxborough, Person County, rural community in North Carolina. And it seems to me as a person who has followed along in some of your journeys and your messaging, that that rural background has probably informed a lot of your thinking and your messaging and where we need to go as Democrats. So could you tell us a little more about that? How that rural upbringing and the rural community influenced your thinking today? 

Anderson Clayton: Yeah, I mean, I think I grew up with parents that I would say were very strong willed but not always political. And so my mom was a very big believer in women's rights and feminism and everything, but it wasn't so much like, I grew up in a very like you're voting this type of way type of household. And so I, I think that that was a, usually when you come out of rural areas, I, I feel like it's very stigmatized in some sense, like you're a Republican. And I don't think I really knew what I was, but I knew that I cared a lot about community because I think that politics in rural areas is really about public service, right?

You're not getting paid to do the work that you're doing if you're on city council or county commissioner, usually in a rural county, and you're oftentimes doing it for less than nothing, and I think that like it takes someone with a big heart to represent and to go into politics. And that's how I grew up with it in my mind.

And when I went to Appalachian, I ended up getting really involved with campaigns for the first time in rural Watauga County. But it really wasn't until I think I got on campaigns at the national level that I realized how much I just, I had a love for rural organizing. I went on national campaigns and I thought I never wanted to be, or to go back to a rural community again, because of just like, when you grow up in a rural town and a small town, it's like if you've got big ideas or you think that you want to do something with your life, a lot of people tell you to leave it. And so I always had that mentality, but it really wasn't until I started organizing in a completely different state, but that mirrors North Carolina a lot, you know, Iowa and North Carolina rival each other for the hog production that we have in the state.

So Iowa is equally the only other state that's got as many pigs in it that we do. And I just think that like, there was, there was so much like similarities between where I grew up and also where I was placed for Kamala Harris's campaign when I was there for the caucuses.

And I just, I don't know, rural Democrats are just different. Rural people to me are different. There's such a like beauty and people that have come up from nothing and that have like had to work really hard to get where they are and just like want to do right by people. And so I think that's the thing that we've tried to take into this election cycle and in this year and in this party, right, is like embracing the fact that no matter where you come from, you deserve to have a party that fights for you. No matter where you come from, you deserve to be to have a group in a community that makes you feel like you're a part of the one that you're in and that you're accepted in it. And I think that those are really powerful things that a Democratic Party, even a local one, can do in communities everywhere. 

JD Wooten: Ton to unpack in all of that, and I love every single bit of it. I spend a lot of time in Surrey County because my family's got a little spot up there, and the people are just amazing. And it's clearly not a Democratic mecca but, it doesn't change the warmth and vibrancy of the community and, and how much those people genuinely just care about each other and the future of North Carolina, even if they may not be voting the same way that we can do all the time.

But I am a little curious on, you mentioned being out in Watauga, so App State, getting involved in various campaigns out there. You were also involved in student government. After that, you managed to come back and work on Kathy Manning's race in 2018, which meant, I don't know exactly where in the county you were working, but you may have been working in some of the precincts overlapped with my race in that year. And then in 2020, you went out and worked in Iowa in the field for Kamala Harris. So, so much there. And you mentioned a little bit of it already, but I'm curious, how did those experiences kind of, as they evolve and transform the path that you ended up on to coming back to Person County later, which we'll get to in a second.

Anderson Clayton: I think the first place I ever thought I wanted to go home again was Iowa. Like I just remember looking around and I was sitting in Benton County, which is around the same size as Person County where I'm from. And I had found all of these volunteers. Like it was like 20 or 30 people that we just had that would come out to any event we did that would get out and knock doors for us. And there was a large part of it. Like it came from the fact that I had all these young people that were saying, man, the county party here is really resistant to change. And like, Iowa feels like it's stuck in this like past sort of world and like the county party is just not doing anything different.

I was like, well, you're the county party, like you can change that. And I joke with folks, honestly, like that, that time to me became a little bit less about like working for Kamala Harris and it became a lot more about like working for the Benton County Dems and trying to figure out a way to like revive that County party and make people feel like that they had a voice in the local issues that were going on, that they didn't have to be afraid to call themselves Democrats.

And I knew then I wanted to, but I didn't know kind of if that was, if it was the right time for me, I think in my, my mind, I still had it on my train of like honestly, like when you get on campaigns at that level, like your brain just goes, I'm going to go be a field organizer. I'm going to go be a regional field director. I'm going to go be like a field director. And then I'm going to go be a campaign manager. And like, I'm going to work my way up through like this ladder of campaigns. And so I did, I went to Kentucky after Iowa, I worked for Amy McGrath's campaign, and I ended up being the rural regional field director for 42 counties across Eastern Kentucky.

And it was, one of the most eyeopening and like transformative experiences of my life then too, because I was put in a really rural part of the country that everybody was like, man, you spent 2020 in the heart of Trump country. What did that feel like Anderson? And I was like, honestly, I, I felt like I was in the heart of where like politics had failed people in so many ways, and there was this, there was this anger and like distrusting government more than anything I had ever felt on the ground.

The local democratic parties there were run by like party bosses in some way. And no one really felt like it was democratic. Everyone was like, you can't call yourself a Democrat because you'll lose your job. Like Republicans were really out to get people. And I was like, man, if this is how people feel in a place that used to be a Democratic haven for our party, like, you know, blue collar workers and also like working people that just are not feeling that they're really even represented in our party anymore at all. It was just, I had to do something different. And I also realized to myself, I'm like, man, Amy McGrath had $96 million and like I had 42 counties like that I was like a regional over and it just, and I wasn't from Kentucky, you know, it kind of made that whole process more and more to me of like, local people should have, like, we had the money to train local people to do this work and like to come in and really invest in like recruiting if this campaign was serious about it.

And I just feel like we missed all the marks and I feel like my way of organizing was like, I believe in knocking every door. I don't believe in not talking to Republicans, honestly. I think like local issues bring people in. I think that everybody's worth talking to. Most folks, JD would tell me that I'm crazy for that. Like even now in this job as a state party chair, like folks are like, you need to target, like targeting is important. And I'm like, well, what if I just went out and talked to somebody too, and just got to understand what their thinking was and stuff like that. And that's why I'm like, time is the most important thing you have as an organizer.

And so I left Kentucky pretty fed up and pretty disheartened. And I came back to Roxborough at 24. And I was like, man, I'm going to organize here. I'm going to do it my own backyard. I'm going to figure out if that's what works. And I went on LinkedIn and I searched in those search bar of LinkedIn, the word rural, and I messaged every single person that had the word rural in their bio that was either a manager or a CEO or someone that had a, that they were a nonprofit leader about a job because I was like, I'm unemployed. I've left campaigns. I don't know what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. Like my, my trajectory was politics all the way up. And now I'm questioning whether or not I even want to do that really.

Matt Dunn, who is a founder of this group called the Center on Rural Innovation, messaged me back and he was like, I'll give you 30 minutes of my time. And I gave him the biggest pitch of like, I love rural. I think I want to stay here, but I, there's not a job in my hometown for a 24 year old that like wants to make a real living in their life and still be able to, to do something extra.

And I talked to him a lot about broadband access and what was limiting about campaigns. And Matt just looked at me and he's like, I've got a job for you and hung up the zoom call. And then messages or emails me the next day and was like, here's your offer and here's what we'd bring you on on. And I was like, oh my God, I can stay in Person County. Like I, I can organize here. I can do this and I have a job that I can work from home. And so I started organizing with the Person Dems after that, but it was just one of those kind of like, I don't know, I fought to go back. And that was a weird, it's a weird thing now to say out loud in so many ways of like I figured it out along the way of just the national campaign route. Sorry, that was such a long winded way of saying all of that.

JD Wooten: I'm soaking it up over here, so, you know, feel free. Now, you didn't just go home and organize with the Person County Dems. You became the chair of the local county party. What led to that one? 

Anderson Clayton: Well that's like, so Benton County in Iowa, I was like, the county parties matter, that's the infrastructure. So when I came home and I was like, I want to organize for Democrats. Like I went to the county party first and they had a meeting that they were having and I didn't realize it was the county convention and you know, you do that every two years, right? And you elect a chair and you elect all your officers.

And I was on this call with like eight people, including like Senator Mike Woodard, right, was on this call with us. And Charles Harvey, who is the former chair, he had been, it was only like eight people too. That was the really bad part about it. It was eight people, Charles Harvey, who's the chair right now. And he looks at everybody and he's like, I'm not doing this again. He said, I don't know who's going to do it, but like, I'm not going to do it. And Tammy Kirkland, who is the treasurer for the party, who had also been the chair previously was like, I'm not doing it again. Like that's, this is not my responsibility.

And so it was like a toss the hat type thing. And I was new, it was my first call. And I was honestly not even in North Carolina. I was, it was a virtual call, right? Cause we were still kind of like COVID esque in that way. And I was, remember I was, I was in Florida and I was also at a drag show with my best friend, Chris and his brother Noah. And I stepped outside and I was like, I've got to get on this call because they're, they're doing our county convention this morning and stuff, or like this Democratic meeting and stuff. And I just remember volunteering. I was like, I will be the County Chair if someone will let me, and people were like, I think that makes sense. Like, sure. 

And I was, I told him, I was like, I just got back, you know, I've got a job in Roxborough now. Like here's my, I've got organizing experience. Like, this is everything I think we should be able to do. And like Charles Harvey was like, here's the case of the kingdom kid. Go to town. Have fun, enjoy it. Like there's not really much that's there. And Tammy was like, I'll give you the website and the Facebook and you know, you can make of it what you will. And it just, and then like, I don't know, it just kind of fell on my lap. You know what I mean? And that was something where I hear from all these folks right now, like, I think a lot of young people are really inspired to get involved with their local parties because they've heard that from me. And what I find to be a little disheartening is how much I hear of like the struggle that it is for young people to get into leadership roles and to feel like people will trust them with it because I'm, I'm really fortunate that like all of my old folks on that call that day were like give it to the young person. Like toss it to her and let's see what she can do because we rebranded. I started calling us rural dems, you know I I made a new website. We made a new logo. 

We had this like really creative energy and I looked at the you next races that were coming up and it was 2021. So it was city council races. And when you get back to a place that like you grew up in, right, that's known you your whole life, these people start to tell you their opinions of what you should or should not do. And my local paper editor, Kelly Snow has known me since I was in diapers. And when I was talking to him, you know, we were having a beer and I was talking to him about like, what I want to do as the new chair and stuff. And I said, I want to find people to run for city council. Like I want to find Democrats to run and I want to support them as the party.

And he looked at me and he goes, no, Anderson, don't go bother city council now and city council don't bother nobody. And that you're not supposed to be doing that. And I just looked at him and I was like, yeah, like that's the problem. City Council doesn't bother anybody right now. And there are people here that are not, that do not have what they need every day. And like, that should be what City council does. City Council should bother people with the folks in their communities that, that need something, that don't have it. And, you know, if they're not the ones that are taking the spotlight and putting it on that and shining it on that, who is? And I always think of politics and like public service is like, you think about the least of these, not like the people that have the most of this.

And so we recruited three really amazing Democrats to run: Shana Outlaw, who led our Black Lives Matter movement in Person County; Cynthia Petty, who worked at our sheriff's department for 30 years and retired and now works in the school system as a part time volunteer; and then Peter Baker, who was a faith leader in the community and also someone that was a small business owner. And so just someone that like all three of them really, I think drove out a turnout rate that we had never seen for City Council races in Roxborough, but also like the type of people that turned out to vote were people that hadn't voted in elections previously before, because they hadn't seen someone that even represented them or looked like them run for an office.

And so City Council was cool that year because we got to, and it wasn't a race we expected to win. I think it's just amazing. Like I had Republicans that day we flipped the city council from red to blue, right? It was three, those three Democrats got on there and I had the former editor of the local paper, right, come up to me cause he was one of the people that were on its own city council, right? He's, he kept his seat a little narrow hair. But He looked at me that day outside the voting booth and he just goes, I don't know how y'all did this, Anderson, but man, y'all did it. And I, you can just tell, like he knew, like he was in trouble.

Like they, they all kind of knew every Republican out there. And it was because like, they saw Black people turn out to vote for the first time in such a long time. And it, and like, they wouldn't even talk to them. Like white Republicans at the ballot box, like would not even outside of the the polling location. And it was just wild to me because like, I, my brain automatically goes to like, I don't care what you look like. I want to talk to you. I want to chase your vote. And it was like, the Republican ideology was already like, we're going to self categorize people as to like how they vote already. So it was just interesting. And also like very exciting for the city itself, because I'm like, it gave Democrats in Person County a lot to believe in. And they hadn't really had that in a while. 

JD Wooten: So you've got people knocking doors now. People are out doing that hard work. What can we be doing in addition to jumping on the canvases to help with this 2024 vision? 

Anderson Clayton: Yeah, I hate to sound like a broken record. But money is always appreciated. We, we love monthly donors. I said that earlier. So I, I really do believe that the state party needs to run more like a business where we're not going paycheck to paycheck, but where we're actually having a, you know, three month runway for, for staffing and for everything else because the state party is continuous. And I really tried to promote the idea of year round organizing and year round programs in the state party, which include voter protection and include our digital department, includes our data department, and includes things that really help the organizing happen year round on the ground. And so, those are the key pieces of that.

And so monthly donors, you can go to the ncdp. org to make a contribution or also sign up to volunteer for some of those canvases. There's also a way for you to know who your local county party is if you're unsure right now of like, where is my local democratic party doing organizing? And also how can I get in touch with my local organizer too? That's always something that we have available on our website. 

And if any of you all are curious or want to know more about the heinous person who's running for governor for our Republican nomination this year, Mark Robinson, you can go to It's a website the state party has created that is really able to give you the background info that you need to know about a man that's and he said that he would like to see a total abortion ban in the state of North Carolina if he was governor on day one.

And so making sure that y'all are educated and that you know what this means for our state. And also that you're sharing it around with your friends too, who may never have heard of Mark Robinson before. Because not many people know of our Lieutenant Governor. Somehow he's not really been doing his job for the last four years that he's been Lieutenant Governor. And so he's really been able to fly under the radar for most folks. And the whole concept and the whole angle right now of the family man that y'all are seeing everywhere is not actually true. And so I think that we just need to help educate people and paint the real picture about the real Mark Robinson for folks. And then also give folks the idea of who Josh Stein is that's running for governor for the Democratic nomination this year too.

JD Wooten: So Anderson, are you telling me you're not looking forward to that North Carolina that Mark Robinson wants to take us back to when women couldn't vote? 

Anderson Clayton: I mean, I'm saying that I would rather walk across cut glass, but that's just my personal preference, and I think we're going to do every single thing humanly possible this year to make sure that someone like that doesn't get within an arm's reach of the governor's office, even though, to be honest with you, he already is. A lot of people Forget that Mark Robinson was elected statewide in 2020. And I think that that should scare a lot of people with thinking about, you know, how many folks don't understand his background.

People don't know that Mark Robinson came up from a Greensboro City Council meeting and he walked in and he said, you know, it's the people that are killing people, not the guns, you know. And after the Parkland shooting had happened in Florida, and, and making the case of that, you know, gun violence isn't a real epidemic right now across the country. And I'm like, go tell that to UNC students who have had two school shooter drills this year, and have faced that on their campus. Go tell that to all of our folks across the state right now who have seen that happen in their communities, right? Go tell that to people in Mecklenburg County right now who are experiencing it in their streets every day. Like, I mean, it's a hard thing and it's something that we've got to come to terms with as a state, and Mark Robinson isn't the person to do that for us. 

JD Wooten: Wholeheartedly agree. And I think we have an episode title now. I'd rather walk across the glass. Anything else you'd like the listeners to know today? 

Anderson Clayton: Just that we're doing a lot at the state party. I think sometimes it can feel like, you know, people are like, what's the Democratic message or what are Democrats doing? And I'm like, healthcare, jobs, and education. Because for healthcare this year, we have provided over 400, 000 people access to healthcare that did not have it before and the A. C. A. and the expansion from that right and making that possible, Medicaid Expansion, is something that Democrats have to take credit for. And we're going to this year. 

Education because Republicans are defunding our schools and taking money out of every single rural county this year and giving it to urban communities that have private schools, because I don't know about y'all, but Person County ain't got one in our backyard. So I don't know what they mean by we're going to get several million dollars in vouchers because it's not happening in my community. And that just means that it's taking people out of public school systems in Person County. And they're going to Raleigh or they're going somewhere else. So they're having to travel out of the county to be able to go to school, to get educated now, which also doesn't really make sense to people. And I think that the realities of that program are going to hit folks like none other. But I tell the story a lot and I think that Carolina Forward honestly did one of the best jobs of covering it. But what this election cycle is really about, you know, people look at me all the time and they're like, God, Anderson, Donald Trump or Joe Biden, right? Those are two pretty sucky choices to have. And I'm like, no. Because what we're voting for this year is the fact that there's a pastor in Monroe that got to sit up in a pulpit, right, and say that if a woman was wearing a skirt and got raped by a man, that she deserved to be raped, and that that man deserves to be able to walk Scott free out of a courtroom, right, if he was on the jury. That same man, that same pastor, is now getting $3.3 million from public school system money that's going into a private school that he's teaching at his church right now. I'm like, no, the safety and the future of our country for women, for people, for marginalized communities, like that is what you're voting for this year. You're voting for two very different ideological viewpoints, societal viewpoints about the future of this country and fundamentally what it looks like to be able to live and walk around in it. And so if anybody is confused about that or feeling, you know, frustrated by it, come talk to me. 220 Hillsborough Street. I'm ready to host any time at Goodwin house. And I'd love to talk with you about the importance of this election cycle and why sitting it out is just not an option this year for you.

JD Wooten: I don't have anything better than that to end on. So thank you so much, Madam Chair, for joining us today. It has been an absolute delight. 

Anderson Clayton: Thank you, J. D., for doing this. I appreciate it. 

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JD Wooten: Thanks again to everyone for listening today. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, send me an email at And as always, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!




In another interesting legal case this week, the North Carolina Supreme Court via an opinion authored by Chief Justice Newby ruled that anyone remotely involved in any way with an election protest enjoys absolute immunity from claims for defamation. Now, full disclosure, a partner at my law firm with whom I have worked closely on other cases represented the plaintiffs in this litigation and he personally argued the case before the North Carolian Supreme Court. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, I’ll limit my comments to more reporting and less opinion, but since I literally have a duty to zealously advocate for clients of my firm, I’ll just say that I zealously disagree with the Chief Justice. 

The basic facts of the case aren’t terribly complicated. After the 2016 election, which was extremely close in North Carolina between Roy Cooper and Pat McCrory, some individuals brought an ill-fated election protest based on some bogus claims of ineligible voters voting in the election. Basically, the GOP found ballots and voters to target, then found individuals to serve as proxies to file the election protests. Ultimately all those protests were dismissed or otherwise thrown out, but not before the voters who were being challenged suffered from the false claims that they had done something wrong. Now, under well-established law, the individuals who filed the protests are immune from defamation claims. To put it mildly, it can really suck when someone brings a bogus lawsuit, but the recourse for that is are usually claims like abuse of process or malicious prosecution. For a lot of very good reasons dating back centuries, those who participate in legal proceedings or quasi-legal proceedings are immune from claims of defamation for anything said during those proceedings. So if someone says something untrue and defamatory at trial, or in a deposition, you can’t bring a claim for defamation, although you can still bring other claims or prosecute for perjury. 

Anyways, in this particular case that got to the Supreme Court was directed not to the people that filed the election protests, but to those who worked behind the scenes to draft the bogus protests. The plaintiffs argued those individuals didn’t enjoy immunity from suit because they weren’t directly involved. The trial court judge and a unanimous Court of Appeals, with a mix of Democratic and Republican judges, agreed. Then the case got to the state Supreme Court, and all five Republican justices decided the GOP actors behind the scenes were immune from defamation claims. Like I said, I disagree with the outcome, but I’m obviously biased and probably have an ethical duty to say I disagree with the Court even if I didn’t. I’ll leave my criticism of their legal ruling there as our side lost this one and that’s the end of it.

Now, all that said, I do also want to mention that while I understand that reasonable minds can differ on legal conclusions, most people in the legal profession go to great lengths to be respectful of those differences and other practitioners. That also extends between judges and the attorneys who appear before them. Only in the most egregious cases do judges usually start throwing in gratuitous comments about criticizing attorneys. This opinion was different. Again, I want to be careful in what I say, but it was very hard to read the opinion without it feeling like a personal attack on the attorneys representing the plaintiffs and every single judge that heard the case before them.

And maybe that was intentional. This particular case had an interesting twist to it. Representing the plaintiffs were not only members of my firm, but also the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. And, for those who don’t know, that’s an organization founded by Anita Earls and later run by Allison Riggs. They’re now the two lone Democrats on the Supreme Court. They recused themselves from this case given that connection, and Justice Riggs actually participated in the representation as at attorney years ago before joining the bench. So, with that in mind, and given the well-documented animosity between the Chief Justice and these other justices, it’s really hard not to read this opinion as an extraordinarily personal attack on his colleagues.