Nestled in the Northeastern part of the state, bordering the Virginia state line, you’ll find the 1st congressional district of North Carolina. It is a fairly vast territory, encompassing all of Halifax County, and large swaths of those surrounding it. Durham, and Warrenton, Tarboro, and Windsor– the cities, as well as the demographics, are various. Half-urban, half-rural, the 1st district is almost split down the middle by ethnic group but (politically) has remained deep blue for a very long time. The district was carried by President Obama by forty-two percentage points, and went for John Kerry over George W. Bush by thirty. No one outside of the Democratic Party has represented this district in the U.S. House since 1899 and even he wasn’t a Republican.
I had the privilege to talk to a gentleman who is running to change history. No, he is not a Democrat. He is also not a Republican. He is a Libertarian. Jeremiah John Summerell (known as J.J.), is seeking to bring a new voice to the 1st district of North Carolina. He is a former chairman of the Libertarian Party of North Carolina, and has been a Libertarian all of his life. We spoke by phone.
Mr. Summerell is a life-long d sident of North Carolina, who graduated from Davidson (and later from Wake Forest, with an MBA). He’s been married to his wife, Virginia, for 35 years now and he has 3 grown children and 3 dogs. He is a managing general agent at an insurance broker house for employee benefits, and his background in business has contributed to his interest in politics (especially with the 2008 market crash). Mr. Summerell informed me that his great-grandfather was actually the Mayor of Raleigh but, other than that, his family has been apolitical for the most part. His motivations for getting involved soon became very clear.
The financial crisis of 2008 was a motivating factor for Mr. Summerell to get off of the sidelines. He told me that he has been a libertarian since college, but he was mainly an “armchair libertarian” who didn’t always have a hand in the process. After the economy crashed and the recession hit, he felt he needed to do his part. He got involved with the Libertarian Party of North Carolina, but struggled with what he called the “lack of pragmatism” in taking those views to voters. The libertarian views were theoretical, but nobody was explaining how they help the real people in his state. One year later, he was chairman of the party. His goal? To make Libertarianism “relevant to the people in North Carolina.” He spent time talking to folks in the 1st District, and found many to be dissatisfied with the current representation. He receieved a lot of feedback about the current representative being “lost in Washington, D.C.” and he wants to bring some personal responsiveness back to the process.
I asked Mr. Summerell about his political influences (I don’t like using the word heroes a lot because it loses its meaning), and what issues he wanted to put at the forefront of the race. His answers were concise: “Ronald Reagan on leadership. Barack Obama on oratory, even though I disagree with what he says, he always says it well, and of course on Libertarian principle, [renowned free-market economist] Milton Friedman.” Mr. Summerell told me about three issues central to his campaign: Poverty, Education, and Electoral Reform. The 1st district in North Carolina is one of the poorest in the nation, and Mr. Summerell made it very clear that he would focus on reforming the current social safety net programs to make them more efficient and more effective. He called the current system a “patchwork quilt”, and laid out how the system doesn’t always truly address the needs of those it attempts to help. While he was talking, I was reminded of the new points to address poverty that Speaker Ryan and House Republicans have put out. Mr. Summerell wants to use his business background in what amounts to block granting compensation, not individual benefits, in order to better address the needs of those who struggle in the shadows. He believes that the district deserves improvement and success, mixing fiscal constraint with social care, and not just accepting the standard status-quo.
As a contributor to Red Millennial, I wanted to know where Mr. Summerell stood on addressing the concerns of young voters. Young voters often get caught between the two major parties, with one promising them the moon, and the other simply writing them off. Mr. Summerell told me that young people have actually become the “driving force” behind new registrations with the Libertarian Party in North Carolina, especially those under the age of thirty-five. He stated that one of the major issues is simply motivating them to vote. Candidates must find a way to motivate young voters to perform their civic duty and go to the polls, and Mr. Summerell is hoping that the freedoms offered by the “fiscally conservative/socially liberal” mantra of the Libertarian Party will do just that.
In wrapping up our conversation, I left the message open to Mr. Summerell. I asked him what he would want each individual voter in North Carolina’s 1st district to know about him, and what lasting impression he would want them to have.
“Our country, despite our best intentions, does a terrible job of taking care of the disadvantaged among us. When President Obama speaks about the growing gap between the rich and poor, he admits that many of the social programs are not working. The poverty we experience is not necessary. We can do better than this.”