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Grassroots Farm Team – working for new leadership in North Carolina

Three years ago I was a 20-year-old candidate for County Commissioner. I had a good bit of civic experience (after-school program leader, volunteer at the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte, Democratic Party and School System activist) and I was able to get a lot of support from my local community. But you're never dumber than when you're a candidate, and I was lucky to go into the experience open to all of the lessons I would learn.

In spite of losing, the race made me a believer in young candidates. I was progressive, energetic, and I like to think that I was honest. I got new people involved in the governmental process, and after my race I got involved with other young candidates and causes. Last year, I worked on the Jim Neal for Senate campaign and saw everything that could be accomplished when a campaign decided to partner with young voters. Later, I managed one of the closest state house campaigns in NC for a 28-year-old who ran an incredible race.

This year, my experiences (and those of others across the state) have culminated in the creation of the Grassroots Farm Team PAC, a committee with one main goal – raise the money and build the small-dollar donor network to get young, progressive leaders elected.

Ever since I became politically active over six years ago, I’ve wondered about where the next generation of Democratic leaders is going to come from. In stark contrast to us Democrats, the Republican Party has created a vast network of think tanks, training programs, and political networks that exist to recruit future Republican leaders and get them elected. In North Carolina, the concept of Democratic candidate recruitment is virtually unknown.

However, in the same span of time I’ve known many adroit young people who ran for seats on their local municipal boards, in the General Assembly, and even in Congress. They’ve injected new energy and new ideas into important races while challenging their opponents to be better public servants. Young candidates are often more willing to share our values when it comes to open government, equality, fairness, and social justice. Every now and then, without any establishment support, they’ve won.

And this year, many young people have answered President Obama’s call to public service by putting their name on the ballot, even though the odds are usually stacked against a young Democratic candidate. My campaign received no party support, and my support of impact fees and smart growth ordinances guaranteed that special interest money would stay away. It's not easy to win as a young candidate, even if you're the best person for the job.

That’s about to change.

This month, after extensive planning and research, the Grassroots Farm Team PAC was formed to support young Democratic candidates in North Carolina. We are raising the money necessary to make a difference this year while looking to the future to prevent a Republican takeover of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2010.

But for now, we are focused on helping to elect some very talented young leaders. We’ve recruited a team of “friendraisers” to build a broad small-donor network across North Carolina, and we’re looking at six “prospects” – six candidates with diverse backgrounds from across North Carolina that are running winning campaigns.  For the candidates that win their primaries, prove their viability and, most of all, demonstrate that they will be upstanding public servants, we plan to make a sizable contribution and recruit volunteers to get them elected.

A few of our prospects may be familiar to you. Asheville City Council candidate Gordon Smith is the founder of Scrutiny Hooligans, and Greensboro City Council Jay Ovittore has been blogging for many years, and is currently a writer for StopTheCap.com, a blog fighting for Net Neutrality and public broadband rights. And as Pam mentioned before, Gordon Smith is a strong supporter of marriage equality.

Additionally, Lee Sartain would be the first openly gay member of the Raleigh City Council. He's got a great presence in the community and online, and his election is in less than two weeks. If you're interested in helping out or learning more, visit his web site!

Boone Town Council candidate Andy Ball has done a great job as both a Democratic Party activist (he’s the president of the Watauga County YDs) and as a local leader on the Board of Adjustment. Fayetteville City Council Candidate Kady-Ann Davy has a civic resume that you have to see to believe. Finally, Donald Hughes recently made headlines as one of the youngest people (at 22) ever to receive the endorsement of the Durham Committee (he's running for Durham City Council).

But the clock is ticking. Early voting started in the primary election on Thursday, September 17 for four of these candidates. I'm asking my friends on the blogs to pitch in $6 to help elect our future leaders. If you're willing to give more, that's great! But our main goal is building the small-dollar donor network that will help us raise the money we need to achieve big victories for young candidates across the state.

If you’d like to help out, you can reach us at @NCFarmTeam on twitter, on our Facebook Fan Page, or by e-mail at NCFarmTeam <:at:> gmail.com.

Thanks for taking the time to read this – I hope that we can earn your support!

Cheers,
Sam Spencer
Executive Director
Grassroots Farm Team PAC

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