By Dave Russell
Down Home NC, a political action committee active in Jackson County and other areas of the state, made a splash last year when they endorsed candidates for Sylva town board. That election marked the first time a PAC had waded into a town race.
The group endorsed incumbents David Nestler and Greg McPherson, and Down Home staff member Carrie McBane in the non-partisan race for Sylva town board. Nestler and McPherson won out, while McBane lost in a coin toss to Ben Guiney after they tied for the third open seat.
Canvassers knocked on doors last year to stump for their chosen candidates, but COVID has forced them to change tack this year.
“Down Home is mostly using phones and digital (social media primarily) for our canvassing efforts this election season,” said Gwen Frisbie-Fulton, the group’s communications director. “We decided it was just too risky to do a lot of in-person events and conversations. Some of our teams are even doing letter writing, which I personally think is fantastic. We have asked our folks not to knock on doors – our communities are too fragile and too many of our neighbors are at risk.”
Down Home is also actively working on get-out-the-vote activities in Jackson County.
“We have initiatives to mobilize folks to vote that are non-partisan, and we have separate campaigns that are working to get out the vote for the candidates our local members have endorsed,” she said.
The PAC plans to run advertisements before the election, staking out their positions and endorsements, she said.
“While canvassing looks different this year because of the pandemic, we think our Relational Voter Turnout project is the right way to engage folks in building power when there is so much at stake locally,” Deputy Field Director Chelsea White-Hoglen said.
The project is centered on community members reaching out to friends and family to share about the issues that matter the most to them and empower one another, she said.
“Down Home’s local members in Jackson County have been active all year,” White-Hoglen said. “Their focus recently has been significantly on the upcoming elections. Our Jackson County members voted to endorse three local candidates and are now working hard to turn out the vote for them.”
The Jackson County members helped to put on a local Overdose Prevention Town Hall last week, White-Hoglen said.
A video of that program is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9cqHsyZTJ0.