Could a Democrat represent Gaston County in Congress?

Kevin Ellis

The Gaston Gazette published 5:01 a.m. ET March 30, 2022

Jeff Jackson came to Gaston County fresh out of law school at UNC Chapel Hill more than a decade ago looking for a job. He found one in the District Attorney’s Office as an assistant prosecutor.

On Monday, the 39-year-old state senator from Charlotte was at Gastonia’s Rankin Lake Park to kick off a campaign he hopes will make him the first Democratic congressman to represent part of Gaston County in decades.

“I’ve had the privilege of talking to a lot of Gaston County juries and a lot of those conversations are still with me,” Jackson said before addressing a crowd of about 75 party faithful in a picnic shelter on the lake’s edge.

Redistricting has split Gaston County between the 10th and 14 U.S. House Districts. The Republican-leaning 10th District takes in roughly 25% of the western most part of the county, including Bessemer City and Cherryville.

Jackson hopes to represent the 14th U.S. District, which includes those living in Gastonia east and into Mecklenburg County, where he lives.

About two-thirds of the people living in the 14th District reside in heavily Democratic Charlotte, and the district as a whole leans about 10 percentage points toward Democrats.

Gaston County Democrats, who have just one local Democrat on November’s ballot, see Jackson’s campaign as a chance to get representation in Congress.

“I think Jeff is a much needed shot in the arm for Gaston County Democrats, but more important he is someone willing to work across the aisle,” said Danny Caudill, former chairman of the Gaston County Democrat Party.

Jackson ended last year dropping out of a bid to replace retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr.

He ended his campaign in December after deciding he didn’t have a chance to beat former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley for the Democratic nomination.

He figured he was out of politics for at least two years, he said, and admitted he was enjoying the extra family time with his wife, Marisa, and their three children.

He told the crowd at his campaign kick off he even went to the gym every day in the month of January.

But newly redrawn congressional maps gave Jackson a district he feels he can win, he said. He does have a primary opponent in Ram Mammadov, someone with far less name recognition.

Two Republicans are also vying for the seat.

Jackson worked for former Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell from 2011 to 2014. Jackson left his job as an assistant prosecutor when former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon left office after being charged with taking bribes, which led to Dan Clodfelter, a state senator at the time, being appointed mayor.