People - March 2006
Joe Sinsheimer has long been a master at crafting political messages. His latest one is concise: Jim Black must go. Black, a Democrat from Matthews, is a 10-term state representative in his fourth term as House speaker. He’s also a key figure in the scandal involving the state lottery
Sinsheimer launched www.jim blackmustgo.com Nov. 15. Within two months, it had more than a million hits. The weird part is that Sinsheimer is a Democrat who for years ran a political consultancy helping Democrats get elected. “I wanted to grab my party by the lapels. Everyone knew the emperor wasn’t wearing clothes, but no one wanted to talk about it.”
Despite his latest crusade, Sinsheimer, who turns 44 in April, says he has been retired from politics since late 2004. He’s the managing partner of Raleigh-based Sunflower Ventures I LLC, a venture-capital fund with $1 million under investment in North Carolina technology companies. One, Durham-based Motricity, which distributes music, games and other entertainment for wireless devices such as cell phones, plans to go public this year.
He grew up in Cleveland and came to North Carolina to attend Duke University, where he graduated with a double major in history and religion in 1983. He jumped into politics, moving to Iowa to work on California Sen. Alan Cranston’s presidential campaign. The next year, he returned to North Carolina to aid Jim Hunt’s bid for Jesse Helms’ Senate seat. In 1987-88, he was the Southeast political director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
After a year at grad school at the University of Virginia, he returned to politics and in 1991 set up the Sinsheimer Group, a seven-employee consultancy in Raleigh. Through 1996, it handled close to 90 Democratic campaigns across the country. Burned out, he retired from politics, got married and moved to Denver in 1997, buying into Digital Education Systems, a technology startup. When his wife, a college professor, got an offer from N.C. State in 2001, he sold his stake, and they returned to Raleigh.
He planned to focus on venture-capital opportunities but says he got pulled back into politics. He helped Ed Rendell, former mayor of Philadelphia, get elected governor of Pennsylvania in 2002, and soon his phone was ringing off the hook. In 2004, he helped Illinois state legislator Barack Obama win a U.S. Senate seat and retired from politics again.