Raleigh, N.C. — In his first news conference as North Carolina Democratic Party chairman, Randy Voller vowed Thursday to fight the Republican majority in the General Assembly and enlisted state residents to join in the battle.
"We cannot just lie down and let this train run over us," Voller said in fiery remarks to reporters.
"This is a radical and reactionary legislature," he said. "There's a small group in this state that's trying to take us back in time. Depending on what the bill is, they're either taking us to the 20th century, the 19th century (or) some might even say the Middle Ages."
The Pittsboro mayor, who was elected party chairman last weekend, said he recognizes he faces an uphill battle, with Republicans controlling state government. Also, the state Democratic Party has been in disarray for the past year after a sexual harassment scandal at the party's headquarters, and its fundraising has been lackluster.
He said Democrats will turn to grassroots advocacy to rebuild the party from the ground up, and he immediately set out to define the party as one of fairness, transparency and equality, one that will invest in children and one that believes diversity is a strength.
"This (Republican) agenda is anti-worker, anti-middle class, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-community, anti-local control – pretty much against everything," he said. "I want to know what they're for. They told us they're for jobs, (but) where are the jobs?
"It's easy to be against things. It's a lot harder to build things."
Voller said GOP lawmakers need to live up to their promises of focusing on job creation and stop getting sidetracked by legislation such as a Senate bill that would fire all sitting members of some key state boards and commissions.
"People are struggling, and all I hear up here (at the legislature) is cut, cut, cut," he said. "North Carolina needs to have jobs."
Republican legislative leaders say they are creating jobs by cutting taxes and regulatory burdens on business.
Voller called on lawmakers to halt plans to slash unemployment benefits and restructure the state tax code, which he said would favor business over families.
"We are the party of the New Deal," he said of Democrats. "They are the party of the raw deal."
He also criticized Gov. Pat McCrory's plan to fund higher education based on the rate at which university graduates obtain jobs, saying it would turn the University of North Carolina into "a vocational college" and no longer cultivate the innovation needed to succeed in the future.
Voller said the GOP gerrymandered voting districts last year to strengthen its hold on state government, and he called on lawmakers to appoint an independent commission to handle redistricting in the future. That's the only way to have fair elections, he said.
Still, he said, he's confident that Democrats will return to power in North Carolina as demographics change.
"The future is on our side, and I invite my brothers and sisters to join us because the bigger problems need to be solved," he said.