CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article misstated how UNC alumnus Jonah Garson will be departing from his role as chairperson of the Orange County Democratic Party. He will be stepping aside. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Garson's experience with the Orange County Democratic Party. He was elected First Vice Chair in 2019, and helped lead the party through the 2020 election cycle. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
UNC alumnus Jonah Garson announced on Sept. 22 that he is stepping aside from his role as chairperson of the Orange County Democratic Party and is running to represent the 56th N.C. House district.
The district is currently represented by Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, who announced she is not seeking reelection.
In addition to his position as chairperson, Garson is an attorney at Parry Law, was the former voter protection director for the N.C. Democratic Party and is a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Executive Committee.
In a recent press release, Garson said he was thankful for Rep. Insko’s work.
“Rep. Insko has been a steady force for good for our beloved Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” Garson said. “I am grateful for her wisdom, advice, good humor, wit and integrity, and for being a strong, clear voice for our values as a community.”
Garson was elected as First Vice Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party in 2019. He helped lead the party through the 2020 election cycle.
Erica McAdoo, who ran for N.C. House District 63 in 2018, worked with Garson during her campaign and expressed her support for his candidacy.
“I know that when he’s in the legislature, he’ll be able to help us flip seats across the state,” McAdoo said in a press release.
Phyllis Portie-Ascott, the acting chairperson of the Orange County Democratic Party, wished Garson luck in a recent statement.
“Jonah Garson has done a great job growing and strengthening our county party, and I wish him the best of luck in the next step of his career,” Portie-Ascott said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but he’s left us in a good position.”
Garson told The Daily Tar Heel that his campaign will be concerned with issues such as affordable health care, equitable public schools, protection for our environment and abortion rights. He also said he is fighting for UNC students' and faculty leaders’ freedom to lead without political interference.
“We need legislators who are organizers, who will fight for progressive policy in Raleigh,” Garson said. “(We need legislators) who know how to mobilize the community and build democratic power.”
Garson recounted a story from election night in 2010, when he was working for former N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird.
The Republican Party had won control over both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly, and Kinnaird told him she was worried about gerrymandering and Republicans undoing their work. He cited this moment as a reason for his decision to run for N.C. House.
“I remember thinking to myself: This is my political coming-of-age,” Garson recalled. “I am going to do everything I can to build a political community around the state House fight.”
Garson said he is excited about campaigning because he can knock on doors and meet people on their porches, which is especially exciting following the isolation from the pandemic. He also added he is excited about the opportunity to build communities of civic participation.
“Campaigns are opportunities to build new communities of democracy,” Garson said. “A campaign gets people together in political community and allows them to form bonds of trust, so they can go out and do the important work we need to do in North Carolina.”
As a Chapel Hill native, Garson believes voters should support him because he's a local and has the relevant organizing experience. He said his work as the voter protection director for the 9th U.S. Congressional District during the "redo election" — which was held because voter fraud in the district tainted election results in 2018 — and as the field coordinator for several democratic legislative races has given him the necessary experience.
“It is more than going to Raleigh,” Garson said. “If we want to win the policy we as a community have been fighting for, we need to be organizing in every corner of the state. That is the job I’m running for and know how to do.”