Intimate conversations on policy with NC-11 congressional candidate Katie Dean


Jemima Malote

NC-11 Democratic congressional candidate Katie Dean, and Jacob Pinto, co-president of College Democrats listen to a question from Soren Pedersen, state executive committee member for Buncombe County Democratic Party.

Celestine J. Epps, [email protected], Assistant Arts & Features Editor

Katie Dean made a candid introduction to the UNC Asheville community Thursday night in discussion with the College Democrats about her candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Dean, 35, of Swannanoa, shared her policies including her motivations to run for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district to an intimate crowd consisting of the UNCA College Democrats. 

The first-time political candidate and small business owner centered her campaign on broadband infrastructure, the economy, energy, the environment, healthcare and social diplomacy for Western North Carolina.

“I’m running for this seat, for office because we know it doesn’t have to be like this,” Dean said. “Right now, we’re navigating the largest wealth-to-income disparity that our country has seen in modern times. Housing, student loans, access to healthcare, the economic fabric and landscape of our country, it doesn’t have to be like this.”

Dean shared her background in environmental infrastructure design and strategies to secure voters in rural municipalities outside of Buncombe County. The Georgia native said her grit and authenticity will set her apart from contenders in the Democratic party.

“Regardless of what the stock market says, it’s our local economies where we really engage. You know, the bulk majority of us aren’t putting money away for retirement. And like I said, if we don’t address the inequities that we currently face, we’re going to have a really hard time in the next few years,” said Dean.

Dean shared stories of her and her husband’s struggles as uninsured business owners and how she believes those experiences prepared her for the political battlefield, and potential “mudslinging” from Rep. Madison Cawthorn if the midterms come down to it.

“The metrics of this district, this race, there’s a unique opportunity to go head-to-head and toe-to-toe against the branded extremism that Madison Cawthorn and Mark Meadows have brought into our lives. I call it unchecked nationalism,” she said.

The College Democrats’ hour-long conversation divulged into Dean’s perspective on the midterm elections in North Carolina and how the candidate’s campaign compares politically and financially to prior constituents within the Democratic party.

“As a working-class, middle-class American, I am so frustrated with the pay-to-play economy that revolves around somebody getting elected because right now, our big default to the viability of the candidate is based on how much money they raise,” she said. “When I stepped onto the stage and interacted with folks and introduced myself to folks, if they had any sort of political background at all, it’s all about the money and it’s frustrating.”

Dean said she believes authentically connecting with people on the ground and relaying a clear course of action for office to Western North Carolinians will help secure her spot on the ballot in the general elections this fall. 

“In a similar frame, I’m also not the most pleased with how fundraising-heavy the campaign for the Senate is. But it’s the nature of the beast,” said Soren Pedersen, a state executive committee member for the Buncombe County Democratic Party.

Soren Pedersen, a state executive committee member for the Buncombe County Democratic Party, asks Katie Dean questions about the political analytics of her campaign.

According to Dean, her campaign advocates for blue-collar workers and functions on the grassroots level to understand issues that matter most to residents in the district. The group followed closely to Dean’s ideas, taking a keen interest in her political position in the current state of party relations.

“Cawthorn is Cawthorn, but he’s also Mark Meadows protege and he’s also the face of the Republican party here in WNC. What is your plan to run differently than Moe Davis did or run in a way that you think makes up for that deficit, especially in a year where Democrats are already unfavored?” asked Jacob Pinto, co-president of College Democrats. 

The small group spent time discussing foundations of her campaign, attributing her toughness in the spotlight to tumultuous experiences in whitewater sports. The candidate chose her words, attempting to stay away from identity politics to articulate the differences in her race compared to prior constituents.

“I think that if Cawthorn survives this primary, he’s incredibly vulnerable to lose the general against the right candidates and I don’t want to put it in terms of identity politics, but my background and resume are very different from Moe Davis,” she said. “The most common thing I hear from folks is, you’re a small business owner, so you get it, or you’ve been a small business employee, so you get it, and I’ve been both. The difference and contrast between Mr. Davis and myself couldn’t be any more dramatic in terms of identity politics within the Democratic party and how candidates have run their campaign.”

Overall, the intimate group appeared to be pleased with the conversation. Pinto said the talk was an absolutely fantastic experience and looks forward to inviting Dean back to campus before the state primaries begin May 17.

“I think the club as a whole would benefit from being able to hear her speak,” the co-president of UNCA’s College Democrats said.