Raleigh, N.C. — One day after North Carolina Democratic Party officials named her as executive director, Casey Mann said Monday that the party is in financial trouble but isn't ready yet to part with its historic headquarters.
Mann, who has worked on North Carolina political campaigns since 2004, went to work for the state party last year after the election of Chairman Randy Voller. He named her interim executive director last month after he fired Robert Dempsey as the party's day-to-day chief.
"We are at a disadvantage," she said of the party's finances. "You can't take anything off the table. You have to be open, and frankly, you've got to be willing to fight."
She said she doesn't foresee any layoffs among the six-person staff at this point and said there are no immediate plans to sell Goodwin House, a 111-year-old house on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh that serves as party headquarters. She noted, however, that the party's building fund went from $25,000 at the beginning of 2013 to $274 at the end of the year.
"This is an incredible legacy," she said. "As an historic building, it requires a lot of upkeep. You can't just put vinyl siding on it."
The house and property have a tax value of $1.3 million.
Goodwin House is a valuable asset to the party, but officials are "assessing" whether to open a campaign headquarters at a different location, Mann said. She couldn't immediately say how the party would afford a second location when it's having difficulty maintaining its current location.
"There is no denying that the North Carolina Democratic Party is in a place that we need to rebuild," she said. "That's not something that happened today."
Mann also downplayed reports that U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's re-election campaign bypassed the state party in favor of the Wake County Democratic Party to handle its funding.
Campaigns typically work with both state and county organizations, she said, stressing that the state party is in constant communication with the Hagan campaign.
Reports about the state party's financial straits came as a "shock to the system" to party donors, Mann said.
"I think that people didn't realize that, with loss of power, came loss of financial influence," she said.
In addition to loss of influence, Democrats couldn't stop Republican lawmakers last year from eliminating the check-off on individual income tax returns that provided money for state political parties. The check-off brought in $500,000 to $1.5 million a year for the state Democratic Party.
"The tax check-off covered three-fourths of our operating costs," Mann said. "We have never been necessarily flush beyond that."
The party will look at revamping all of its operations, from fundraising events to donor networks, she said.
Donors poured $25,000 into the party's coffers since Sunday, including a $5,000 pledge from Voller. That marks the best fundraising day for the party in more than a year, Mann said.
"We are clearly at a place of institutional disadvantage," she said, "but I'm not one to walk away from a fight. I believe in the North Carolina Democratic Party."