06/12/17 — Party leaders look ahead to 2018: Democrats

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Party leaders look ahead to 2018: Democrats

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 12, 2017 7:08 AM

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Barbara Dantonio, Wayne County Democratic Party chair, said she used to believe participation in local politics started and ended in the voting booth. But after volunteering in a 2010 political race in Wilson, she developed a "fever" for politics.

Barbara Dantonio, a lifelong Democrat, used to have a simple approach to politics.

"I used to think you went, you voted -- you supported your party by voting. You went home and just watched the results," she said. "But now I know better. ItĂș is a little more involved than that."

Her view changed in 2010 when she became active in Wilson County politics working in the campaign for a Democratic candidate for sheriff who won the office.

"I just got the fever," she said. "I have had the fever since 2010."

That fever remains unabated for Mrs. Dantonio, 69, the new chairman of the Wayne County Democratic Party.

She hopes to spread that passion for the values that she said drew her to the Democratic Party to start with.

Some of that passion comes from years spent living in different parts of the world where her father was stationed with the U.S. Air Force.

"I believe in equality," she said. "Having been raised in the different places that I was raised I did not really see racism being in the Air Force. We just all got along.

"I was just exposed to so many cultures. I feel that is one of the values of being a Democrat -- believing that all people are equal. I just think that people are good and that we need to help each other. I believe in diversity and equality and being truthful about things. I believe in the Democratic values."

Mrs. Dantonio said she thinks there is a "lot of stereotyping" about Democrats -- the Republican Party does not own a monopoly on religion and patriotism, she said.

"That can be their rallying cry, but that is not what they are living right now," she said. "When you cut food stamps to people who need them. When you make massive cuts in education. When you cut special needs programs in two Democratic district and then give money to a Republican district in Robeson County. That's not Christianity. I am sorry.

"So I think that they need to review just what Christianity is about. Another thing, too, if you get into the history of our founding fathers, some of them were deists. They believed in God, but they didn't particularly believe in Christianity. They don't know the history."

People came to America to escape religious persecution, but as far as Christian values Mrs. Dantonio said she doesn't think Republicans have any particular claim on them more than anyone else.

"If they are going to say that, then they need to live it, and right now I don't think that they are. They are being discriminatory," she said. "We are a diverse community, a diverse nation. Having lived overseas and going to school with people that were not Christians, but yet having Christian missionary children as my friends I saw that we are all the same. We all want good for each other and that is what we should do."

The Republicans do not have all of the patriots either, she said.

"We have it, too," she said. "I am a proud Air Force brat. When we hold the flag up, I get chills because I am just proud to be an American. I am proud of the values this country was started with. It was not perfect. We have been improving it through the years and we can only go up.

"We don't need to go backward. We don't need to go back to the '50s and '60s because some of those days were not very bright days for people. I think we have good values and that we believe in so many good things like equality and justice and liberty and pursuit of happiness. It is reflected in the people who are attracted to us."

Mrs. Dantonio said she thinks it is a good time to be party chair because it is a time for planting seeds and gathering strength and educating people.

The role of the leader is to lead not dictate, she said. A democracy is where people listen to one another, she said.

The local party has elected "really good people" for all its offices, she said.

"I strongly believe in education," Mrs. Dantonio said. "When you know better, you do better."

The party is already starting to vet candidates for the 2018 elections, she said.

It is important for people doing the calling on behalf of the party to meet and know the candidates, she said. That way people can feel much more comfortable about making phone calls because they have met them and know what they stand for, she said.

"I think as Democrats it is up to us to put our hand across the aisle and say, 'Look these are our values. You are welcome to come in. We will be glad to talk with you about your feelings on anything, if there is something that you want us to bring up to the legislature let us know,'" she said.

A native of Atlantic City, N.J., she has lived in Goldsboro since January, 2015.

She has two sons Jonathan Moore, athletic director for parks and recreation in Smithfield, and Joseph Hallman, who works at the Durham Performing Arts Center doing sound and lighting.

She has a granddaughter who is a student at Princeton Middle School.