C.J. King has been a fixture in Douglas County Democratic Party politics for a long time. At 6’5” with a kind, engaging smile, and booming baritone voice with a hint of Boston still remaining, he’s genuinely hard to miss. He credits his mom with his interest in politics. “She used to take me with her to town hall meetings when I was just a kid. All of that passion, negotiation and problem solving, it had a big impact on my life.”
His mother influenced him in a lot of substantive ways, actually in every substantive way. A single mom and schoolteacher, she taught through much more than word. She demonstrated her penchant for character through thoughtful, kind and resilient leadership every day of her life. “I did amazing things with my mother growing up. We went on great vacations, and it didn’t occur to me until I was much older: How in the world did she pay for all that? She counted every penny. She saved and was careful every day of her life.”
C.J. began his career as a utilities contractor, eventually arriving here in 1989 with OPPD. He began as a radiation protection technician, went to school, worked hard and rose to become the plant health physicist. Active throughout with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the IBEW, he became the local president from 1994 through 1999. He was offered a permanent position as an International Representative at the International Headquarters in 1999, and since then has served 10 states in the upper Midwest as a union educator.
Asked, which of his life’s experiences did he think had most prepared him to be the Douglas County Chair? Without hesitation, he said, “Negotiating, bringing people together through leadership, sometimes taking positions you don’t love for the greater good.”
“I focus on commonalities and not differences,” says C.J. “In the union, the political breakdown is about 40 percent Democrats, 30 percent Republicans and 30 percent Independents. You’ve got to bring people together for the common good.”
Looking to the challenges ahead, he pointed to a need to bring the Party together to win the Mayoral race in 2021. “We need to quit focusing on divisions in the Party and find a candidate who will be a great unifier,” he said.
“We need to stop making everything a binary choice,” says C.J. “It’s about coming to the middle and compromising for the greater good. What good does it do to divide? It's only a formula for defeat.”
He further points to the need to up our fundraising game as a Party and be very honest with candidates about how much money it takes to mount a successful campaign. The Party cannot afford to finance campaigns, and it costs between $80,000 to $100,000 to run even the smaller races. That is a burden that candidates must take responsibility for themselves.
As Douglas County Chair, he wants to raise awareness with Democrats countywide. He attaches a great deal of importance to developing outreach to both North and South Omaha. “A vast majority of Douglas County Democrats don’t even know where our County Office is located,” he said. “That’s all got to change.”
A wise old pol once told me, “Look out for the guy who wants to be something, rather than the guy that wants to do something.” I’ve always thought that sage advice, and C.J. definitely fits the right side of that question. His opponent for this post is Spencer Danner, a highly accomplished executive with First National Bank. Says C.J. “I’m totally okay with it if Spencer wins. I’ll do whatever I can to support him.” Character, how refreshing!
Photo courtesy of pjmorgan.com