CLEVELAND – In 2020, Denton Lee, a lifelong member of the Cleveland community, was the only unaffiliated candidate in the state of North Carolina to run for the North Carolina General Assembly. Lee said he knew all along that it was a losing proposition, but he didn’t do it to win. He did it to tell anyone listening that the political middle had been forgotten. And what exactly is the political middle?
“I look at it in terms of percentages,” Lee said. “I believe 20-25 percent of the population on both the right and left are what you would consider immovably loyal to their party. They will not vote for any candidate outside their party, even if they know they are voting for a terrible candidate. But I truly believe that the middle half of the population – even if some are mostly loyal to one party – understands that we are a country full of vastly different beliefs, and peace depends on us respecting that fact. Peace depends on us putting forth real effort at finding common ground.”
Lee views the country the exact same now that he has announced a run for the US House of Representatives as a Democrat in District 7 (as with all NC districts, the boundaries of District 7 could change in the coming months as our state undergoes redistricting.)
He understands how challenging his party choice will be in a Republican-leaning district, but he said he really had no other choice if he wanted to be the candidate he thought our state and country needed.
“Richard Burr was condemned and censured for making ONE unpopular decision he felt was right,” Lee said. “I struggled with which party to choose, but if I should win, it would be my job to make decisions based on the voices of 100% of my constituents. If and when those decisions differed from my party, I would be censured weekly on the Republican side. At a time when 100% party loyalty is required, I simply thought I’d be allowed to be myself on the Democratic side.”
Lee believes that while finding common ground is essential to a functioning government, we need an overall culture change in politics in this country. In addition to term limits which he says would change the culture in Washington almost overnight, he believes the culture simply needs leaders who refuse toxic partisanship and 100% party allegiance.
“If we sat down to have actual dialogue about an issue, how many representatives in Washington would discuss the pros and cons of all sides of that issue? They won’t. They’ll only sell their side and it will likely be full of propaganda and spin. I refuse to do that. I would not be representing the entirety of my district if I only represented the ones with the same letter beside their names. And 100% of them deserve honesty and transparency.”
In his race for NC House in 2020, Lee didn’t once resort to attack ads or negative campaigning, and he says he’ll do the same thing this year no matter who he faces in either the primary or the general election should he get past the primary.
“What does it prove if I attack my opponents? That I can find flaws in another human who has the guts to run for office? Heck, I probably have more flaws than them. Besides, there is no way I can prove myself to be a fair and competent representative by attacking the perceived weaknesses of my opponents. So I’ll stick to trying to sell myself.”
Lee knows there will be very few candidates in the country this year who refuse to attack their opponents and even fewer who would go to Washington and challenge their own party, but he also knows that he has never talked to a single person in his entire life who believes Washington is anything other than a corrupt, unethical cesspool of parties and politicians out for power and personal gain.
“I don’t believe in unbending party loyalty. I believe in honesty, facts, math, majorities, science, transparency, education, decency, and truth, but mostly I believe in rational common ground, because that’s what we’re supposed to do in this country. And even though I disagree with ideas on both sides of the aisle, I do not believe in burning bridges to the people championing those ideas. If I burned those bridges, a lot of my friends, family, and neighbors would be on the other side. I’m just not okay with that.”
Denton Lee received his undergraduate degree in Business Management from the University of Mount Olive, and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from East Carolina University. He is a special education math teacher at Smithfield-Selma High School. He and his wife, Megan, have three children, ages 2, 5, and 16.
The Seventh District US House seat is current held by Representative David Rouzer (R-NC) who first won election to the seat in 2015 and most recently won reelection on November 3, 2020.