Last month, Barbara Gaskins completed an independent campaign for mayor in Greenville, North Carolina — her second run for office in as many years. Gaskins spoke with Good Party about what she’s learned from campaigning and why she remains committed to standing up and representing her community.
In 2022, Barbara Gaskins ran as a Democrat to represent North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House. Gaskins won her primary election by a landslide, earning 80.8% of the vote, but lost in the general election to the incumbent Republican House member, Gregory Murphy. Following her defeat, she decided to run for office again, this time for mayor, after learning that her city’s incumbent mayor was planning to run unopposed.
“I don't believe in any race being unopposed,” Gaskins said. “So I reached out to everyone I knew that was Democratic, that was Republican, that was independent, and said, ‘Hey, if you all run, I'll support you. I'll be your campaign manager. That's what I can offer.’ And no one wanted to do it.”
Gaskins stepped up to run for office herself, and became a Good Party certified candidate — committing to run an independent, people-powered, and anti-corruption political campaign. A nationally certified reentry professional, nationally certified gang specialist, and activist, Gaskins believes in meeting voters where they are. She is also passionate about finding innovative ways to make sure people feel truly represented by local government.
“I don't feel that I can actually be effective to anyone unless I see how they live, why they live the way they do, and just understand the issues going on,” Gaskins said. “Last year, I traveled to all 15 counties just to see what was going on, just to see the issues. It was the same deal here.”
Gaskins described speaking with residents and contractors to hear their perspectives on local issues like affordable housing and community policing. On the issue of community policing, Gaskins emphasized the importance of finding creative solutions rather than falling back on stale partisan rhetoric.
“With community policing, we know that when it comes to red, a lot of them are pro-law enforcement, and blue is more pro-defund the police. But in actuality, I think that what we both want is that aspect of community policing. We want our community safe. But as people of color and as marginalized communities, we also want to be safe as well. So we can look at both sides and try to find a way to make everyone happy,” she said.
Going into 2024, Gaskins is working to encourage more people of color to move toward political independence.
“Being a Black female, when you turn 18, we're told, ‘Go register as a Democrat. Vote blue no matter who.’ But it’s not working,” Gaskins said. “We constantly see it's not working. We constantly see Republicans flipping and then becoming Democratic and then flipping back.
“I have to stand for the people and stand for what I believe in. And I believe that on both sides, there's some good and there's some bad. But I also believe that that's why we have checks and balances.”
Though Gaskins did not end up winning this year’s mayoral election in Greenville, she was successful in connecting with constituents, mobilizing volunteers, and raising funds from small-dollar donors. In addition to planning a blackout initiative for 2024, she said she is contemplating another Congressional campaign in the future.
Gaskins shared powerful advice for others who are thinking about running for office to represent their communities:
“Don't allow an incumbent to run unopposed,” Gaskins said. “What I told everyone is that I'm a fighter. And if you're a fighter, people see that someone real is fighting for them. Even if you don't win, it allows people to see that there is someone who will stand up, who will be honest and fight for them. I cannot see an issue and stand on the sidelines and not deal with the issue, because I truly believe silence is just being complacent.”
This passion has fueled Gaskins through her two campaigns, and continues to inspire her as she is being asked to run for office once again.
“We need a seat at the table. Protesting and being in the streets is fine, but if you have a seat at the table, you have a lot more power,” Gaskins said. “If you're not at the table, you're on the menu. So many issues and so many rules, regulations, and policies that affect us are being discussed, and the real people are not able to have a voice regarding it.”
For Gaskins, then, running for office is a way to make sure her community’s needs are met and voices are heard.
To keep up with Gaskins’ work going forward, you can connect with her on social media. You can also volunteer to support Good Party certified candidates like Gaskins who are running as independents to make a real difference in their communities.