Newly-elected Mecklenburg Democratic Party Chairperson Drew Kromer represents a new era for North Carolina Democrats. At the age of 26, Kromer is one of the many new faces of the state’s Democratic party. He, along with 25-year-old N.C. Democratic Party Chairperson Clayton Anderson, are part of a new class of young leadership in politics and governance, one Kromer feels is essential for moving forward in North Carolina.

QNotes spoke with Kromer about the wide range of challenges the Democratic party faces in our state and how LGBTQ North Carolinians will be impacted by proposed legislation and more. 

What made you decide to run for the Democratic party chair position in Mecklenburg County?

I looked at the turnout of the last couple of elections and was just really disappointed in the county party’s overall turnout in 2022. Wake County had a turnout [of] 56 percent, and statewide average was 51 percent. Mecklenburg was about 44.5 percent, 45 percent, somewhere in there – that’s a difference of 80,000 votes. So, it looks to me that statewide Democratic candidates simply don’t stand a chance, mathematically, of winning unless Mecklenburg increases our turnout, so I look at that as an existential crisis for the party. 

When we win a lot of our local races, particularly city council, county commissioners, there are fewer campaigns to drive turnout. There are fewer campaigns to get people excited, and there’s one fewer reminder for people to vote. That means that it falls to the county party to really drive enthusiasm and help people understand why their vote matters and why they need to show up. 

What are some visions you have for the Mecklenburg County Democrats? Is there anything you want to see come to fruition, including any goals that you can have as the party chair?

I really plan to spend the next six months really building infrastructure for the party and building community within the party – get more people involved, get more resources.

We can’t wait until a few months before the election to start trying to recruit volunteers and start raising money. We’ve got to be doing that stuff right now … Just getting into that routine of being involved and engaged and building those relationships with people that live near you who also care about the state of our politics and want to see us create something better.

LGBTQ people are under attack more than ever in North Carolina, particularly transgender residents. So what are some steps that you want to take as the new party chair to address the LGBTQ community’s concerns?

We have an LGBTQ+ caucus in Mecklenburg County, and similar to many of our other caucuses,  they’re really not at full strength. Part of that is they don’t necessarily get the support that they need from the county party, and my hope is that we can change that. 

Just like any [similar] groups, it takes time to build up membership and to get people involved and for people to see it as a good place to spend their time and their money. The more I can help support our caucuses, in particular the LGBTQ+ caucus, the more I think that we will be able to see those groups turn into an effective part of our Democratic party.

There’s legislation being filed, targeting the LGBTQ community. One currently being filed and debated on is Senate Bill 636, which excludes transgender athletes from participating in sports teams that correlate with their gender identity. As the new local party chair, is there a way that that you or your local party can address the concerns surrounding these policies?

I think one of the things that we haven’t done a great job of as the Democratic party, historically, is we need to do a better job at helping people understand what’s at stake in some of these elections.

When you have such a small number of people who turn out to vote, that small number of people get to decide outcome and, particularly with the state legislature, they’re making decisions that are literally changing lives. And the consequences of not turning out in voting are massive.

As we’re going into an election, we’ve got to understand that these issues are going to come down the pipeline … it comes down to our messaging. So, the more we can improve that messaging and help explain what’s at stake, then more people can understand, ‘Okay, this is an issue that I care about.’

Rep. Tricia Cotham, from Mecklenburg County recently switched her party affiliation from Democratic to Republican. With her district being mostly Democratic and making that switch, how does that impact your district, and how do you think that decision for her will affect the LGBTQ community?

It will obviously have a massive impact because it looks like she’s going to be going along with the Republicans now on issues that she campaigned against and on things she had committed to her voters. 

As far as what the impact of her election will be on LGBTQ+ constituents will be, I don’t know specifically which bills she’s voting she intends to vote for or against. When it comes to the veto override, that’s where we’ll really see if she sold her soul or she still has some semblance of values.

It’s a huge disappointment, but at this point, the best we can do is hope that it will challenge people to channel more energy into the party and realize that there are consequences to elections and to who you elect. 

What are some plans that you have to ensure more LGBTQ plus individuals are coming into the Democratic Party ranks?

I would push back on the idea that they’re not involved in the party already, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to do a better job. I think we always need to strive to do a better job making sure that people understand the doors are open. 

One of the things I’m trying to do is really beef up our caucuses and auxiliary groups, because that’s really the entry point for people who identify with any of these marginalized groups. That’s a path for them to get involved with the party. The more I can support those groups and really help them become powerhouses within themselves in their own right, the more I think that we’re going to see people who are LGBTQ+ or African-American or young guns or what have you, getting involved.

What can people do if they want to be get more involved with the Mecklenburg Democratic Party?

If you go to our website, there’s a big button on the front page that says volunteer. You click it, and it’ll take you to a form you can fill out. 

I think historically people have this perception that the party is like this massive political machine, that they’re going to take care of things and it’ll all work out. The thing is, we are the party. There’s a limit to how much we can accomplish based [on] who our people are and what their skills are. So the more people that we’ve gotten engaged, the more we’re able to accomplish as a group, and we need as many people as we can get.

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