Bonding over barbecue

Published September 21, 2023

By Gary Pearce


Anderson Clayton reminds me of Jim Hunt: the same energy, the same enthusiasm and the same determination to make North Carolina better – through the Democratic Party.

A couple of us old Hunt hands saw that this week when the 86-year-old four-term governor and the 25-year-old first-term party chair met for the first time, at Parkers Barbeque in Wilson.

Over family-style bowls of barbeque, fried chicken, shrimp and more, they talked politics – yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The Governor wanted to know her plan for 2024. “Put boots on the ground,” she said – organizers in every congressional district and every county.

“How many counties have you been to?” he asked. “72 so far,” she said, “and the other 28 want to know when I’m coming.”

She asked his advice. “Stand up for fairness and equal opportunity,” he said. “Put together a good team, work hard and raise Cain.”

Both Hunt and Clayton come from rural roots – Hunt from Rock Ridge and Clayton from Roxboro. They know what life is like there.

Both got started in college politics – Hunt at N.C. State and Clayton at Appalachian State.

Both got involved early in political organizing – Hunt for John F. Kennedy and Terry Sanford and Clayton for Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

Both came up through the party that stands for fairness and equal opportunity. Hunt was state Young Democrats president and chaired a reform commission that opened up party leadership positions for Blacks, women and young people. Clayton found herself on a Zoom meeting with eight Person County Democrats and nobody else wanted to be chair. She volunteered and got elected to the job.

She recruited candidates, organized a campaign and flipped the town council.

Then she challenged the status quo, ran for state chair and won.

Some people thought she was too young. Just like some people thought Hunt was too young to be lieutenant governor and governor 50 years ago.

Now she’s bringing new energy, new ideas and new people to the party.

Just like Hunt did.

As we finished lunch, the Governor declared, “Thank God we’ve got her.”

Clayton was wiping away a tear.