Friday, March 16, 2018

BREAKING NEWS--Two Wataugans Appointed to the SBOE

Intercepted press release:

BOONE March 16, 2018 -- Watauga County Board of Elections member Stella Anderson was named today by Governor Roy Cooper to the reconstituted State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

Governor Cooper is suing to have the new board declared an unconstitutional infringement on his authority by the Republican General Assembly, but he decided to make the appointments now because of the upcoming primary elections. "It is important to have a board in place for the time being to administer the upcoming elections,” said the governor's spokesman Ford Porter. Meanwhile, the governor's suit to overturn the law is pending.

Anderson has served a total of ten years on the Watauga County Board of Elections, eight of those as chair before the Republican take-over in 2013. She is a professor of management in the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University and is only one of two newly appointed board member who is not a lawyer.

Anderson is best known throughout the state as a strong and persistent voting rights advocate. She has been the lead plaintiff in a series of lawsuits which established a constitutional right of students at Appalachian State University to ballot access. The first suit in 2014 led to an order by the Wake Superior Court to open an Early Voting site in the ASU Student Union for the 2014 General Elections. That court order is still in effect.

In that Superior Court decision, Judge Donald Stephens ruled that actions by the Republican majority on the Watauga County Board of Elections (Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto) to discourage student voting was an unconstitutional infringement on their rights.

A second lawsuit just last fall reaffirmed Judge Stephens' order for an Early Voting site in the ASU Student Union for the municipal elections.

Anderson was personally targeted by Anne Marie Yates, chair of the Watauga Republican Party, who sued AppState for the production of all of Professor Anderson's emails. "This is pure harassment and a useless fishing expedition," Anderson said at the time. ASU produced her work-related emails, and the issue died.

Anderson and seven other newly appointed board members -- four Democrats total and four Republicans -- will be sworn in immediately and are madated by the contested Republican law to send two nominees to the governor for a 9th member, an unaffiliated voter, within 14 days. The full board will immediately begin appointing members of county elections boards and hearing protests and petitions from the counties.


Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four") was also appointed.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Dr. Michael Bitzer put us onto a leaked email from the NC Republican House Caucus director, projecting what the election of Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania and the coming blue wave will mean for Republican control of the NC House. The caucus director cruelly predicts that when the dust settles, there'll be just 46 Republicans left.

It's his job to scare the bejesus out of his crowd and get them motivated. But the scare tactic may turn out to be prophecy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Kicking 'em While They're Down

Lunch ladies
Robert Costa writes this morning about the limits of Trumpism, even in the heart of his base among the shuttered steel mills and depressed economy of far southwest Pennsylvania.

Trump went all in for Rick Saccone (on the left in the photo) and even sent Junior to put on funny head-gear and try to seem like a regular guy.

Nothing worked. Not the Great Tax Giveaway of 2018. Not the Spectacular Tariff Bitch-Slap of 2018. Not even a Stupendous Public Rally in District 18.

The Doug Jones win in Alabama was not an anomaly. It was a sign of things to come.

Waiting for that next wave of Republican retirements.

NC Flip Charts, from Real Facts NC

WataugaWatch has been obsessed since January 2nd with the new crop of exciting Democratic candidates running for seats in the General Assembly, especially the insurgents in what are supposed to be safe Republican districts with long-term Republican incumbents.

Glad to see another outfit jumping in to tout the possibilities -- Real Facts NC, a 501(c)(4) non-profit "dedicated to telling the real story about what is happening to North Carolina. The organization is a communications vehicle to share the most up-to-date public policy and messaging research on issues facing North Carolina...."

Real Facts NC has issued an in-depth report on the "Legislative Races To Watch in 2018" for both the NC House and the NC Senate. They make for fascinating reading, and we're tickled to see many of the same Democratic faces there that we've highlighted on WataugaWatch, including Ray Russell in House District 93 (profiled here yesterday). Real Facts NC lists 36 House seats that could flip (and to be clear, some could conceivably flip from D to R) and 13 Senate seats to watch.

I'm watching.

Real Facts NC is run by Daniel Gilligan, one sharp tack who also happens to be a progressive Democrat sufficiently grounded in North Carolina politics to offer expert analysis of the new voting districts and how they may favor one party over the other. His Linked In profile points to his ability to take "complicated issues and make them understandable to influence public opinion and policy-makers."

For an example of his analytical prowess and his ability to boil down complicated issues and cut through messaging bullshit, in 2013, when the new Republican majority in the General Assembly was rewriting state tax laws to shift the tax burden off the very wealthy and onto the middle class via new sales taxes, Gilligan wrote:
...My point is simply that while they [Republican lawmakers in Raleigh] bemoan the antiquatedness of the current tax system, this new solution that North Carolina’s Republicans are pushing is nothing new at all – in fact it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. While they might want to dress it up as a "reform," what they’re really after is some misdirection for a little re-distribution.
Despite arguments they may want to make, twisting notions like fairness or throwing out technobabble like "disincentives for production" to make it sound like there is some of the dismal science involved somewhere, the end product adds up the same: most folks will be paying more, while the top few will be paying less. You don’t have to take my word for it, their own "tax calculator" said so....
[This is an excerpt of a longer piece, via Gary Pearce and thanks to NC Spin]

You may want to bookmark the Real Facts NC website and return there for sustenance. It's so good, it made me completely forget to crow about Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania this morning.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ray Russell Is Top Possibility for Flipping an NC House Seat

The North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation has a short list of NC House districts that "lean Republican." These eight districts (93, 9, 104, 105, 2, 7, 16, and 59) draw the attention of political operatives, because in a wave election, these might be the most flippable, red to blue.

District 93 is at the top of the list. District 93 contains Watauga and Ashe counties and is currently represented by Republican incumbent Jonathan Jordan, who was first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 on the strength of some very nasty campaigning against Democrat Cullie Tarleton. In the General Assembly, Jordan is what's known as furniture. He sits until called upon to vote, and he always votes with the Republican caucus. He supposedly lives in Ashe County.

Watauga County regularly votes for the Democratic challenger, but it's Ashe County that usually squeezes out Jordan's wins. That dynamic may change this year, with Democrat Bucky Absher on the ballot in Ashe running for sheriff. The scandal of lately resigned Republican Sheriff Terry Buchanan is expected to propel Absher into office and may splash up on the rest of the Republican slate.

Ray Russell
Democrat Ray Russell announced that he would run for the 93rd House seat almost a year ago, and he's got solid campaign infrastructure: Facebook, Twitter, and a website. He's raising money and sharpening a message and presents an energetic contrast to the lethargic Jordan: Russell, among other qualities, is a marathon runner. In 2016 he ran the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, 469 miles, to raise money for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

Russell is locally famous as an amateur weatherman who turned his fascination with the weather into a profitable business, His local forecasts now cover most of the Blue Ridge front from Avery County up into Virginia, and most people in the High Country will always hedge when planning an event -- "What does Ray say?"

So he's a scientist, and among the motivations for deciding to run in 2018 was the growing anti-science habits of the Republican Party under Donald J. Trump. It's unacceptable to Ray Russell that the party of his heritage and his family -- he used to be a registered Republican -- should collude to reject the demonstrable truth revealed by scientific investigation. Unacceptable. And he felt he had to do something.

He's also motivated by a deep Christian faith. If he sometimes sounds like a preacher, it's because he was one, pastoring churches in Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina. He got his bachelor's degree in Bible at Freed-Hardeman University, a private college associated with the Churches of Christ in Henderson, Tennessee. He subsequently got a Ph.D. in computer science at Georgia Tech and has been teaching computer science at AppState since the early 1990s.

In keeping with that religious grounding, Russell defines his values in terms familiar to those who know the Sermon on the Mount: “In modern history, the level of trying to scapegoat groups, trying to disenfranchise people, trying to slice and dice the electorate and the nature of the conversation has become so ugly, so rude and so disjoint from real issues,” Russell said. “In many cases, people have been so ugly in their campaigns that it puts them in a position where they cannot effectively lead as elected officials.”

“The heart of North Carolina is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ ” Russell said. “In the coming campaign and eventually in the North Carolina House of Representatives, I’ll live out that principle by demonstrating respect, listening to voices and leading with innovation and skill.”

Monday, March 12, 2018

Yates-Lockamy in House District 46

The North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation (Jonathan Kappler, really) currently lists 14 NC House seats as "competitive." Five of those seats are already held by Democrats. The other nine are currently held by Republicans, though two of them are now technically "open seats" because the Republican incumbent had planned to go fishing next year.

I've already written about several of the Democrats running for those Republican-held seats:

Ron Wesson (two days ago), District 1

Joe Sam Queen (scroll down), District 119

Terence Everitt (scroll down -- with a primary opponent), District 35

Sydney Batch, District 37

Erica McAdoo (scroll down), District 63

Julie von Haefen, District 36

Three others of the 14 districts will have Democratic primaries (including District 35, where Terence Everitt is running), and I've a hill to climb yet researching those races, as some candidates don't have a web presence. The same deficiency goes for a couple of other Democrats without primaries who haven't yet made it onto Watauga Watch (District 46 and 51). Until today.

Barbara Yates-Lockamy
Democrat Barbara Yates-Lockamy, running against a Republican incumbent named Jones in District 46.
District 46 now carves out a crescent on the eastern side of Robeson County and dips south toward the coast along the South Carolina border to take in the western side of Columbus County. It cuts out Pembroke (and its university) and clearly jerks east to keep away from Lumberton. (Looks like the map-drawer had a sudden sneezing fit.) Columbus County has over a dozen little towns and hamlets, the largest of which is Whiteville. But otherwise -- with Lumberton eliminated -- district 46 is a district without a large metropolitan magnet.
Barbara Yates-Lockamy is since 2010 a member of the Columbus County Board of Education (currently serving as chair, and she's an honorary member of the All-State School Board) and is prominent throughout the region. She serves on the Board of Directors of the NC Caucus of Black School Board Members, and in 2013 she was elected to the Board of Directors of the North Carolina School Board Association. On the Columbus Board of Education she co-exists with an otherwise all-male, all-white board. 
She lives in the county seat of Whiteville. When she was vice chair of the Columbus County Board in 2017, she supported the consolidation of Columbus County Schools with the Whiteville City Schools: "approximately 75-percent of Columbus County and Whiteville City schools facilities are over 50 years old and a gradual decline in enrollment has emphasized the need to consolidate."
The Board of Education of Whiteville City Schools fought the consolidation hard. "Whiteville City Schools Superintendent Charles Garland says the merger would not save money and would reduce state funding. Last week, Garland told [a reporter for WWAY-TV] it would be a significant loss of state dollars coming in to a poor economic county."
The opponents of consolidation went to their Republican General Assembly members, who told them that consolidation was ultimately in the hands of the seven-member county Board of Commissioners, only one of which represents Whiteville in their seven-district plan. Whiteville is feeling put upon and under-represented, and Yates-Lockamy putatively represents Whiteville on the Columbus County School Board. The school consolidation vote probably hurts her -- maybe -- with some of her base. It's curious -- in all the local press coverage of consolidation, Yates-Lockamy is never quoted. She's either very silent or simply ignored.
So far, Yates-Lockamy has no campaign infrastructure -- no Facebook, no website, no other social media at all. Someone needs to help her out.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Strong Democrat Running for NC House in Competitive District 1

The North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation lists House District 1 (Bertie, Washington, Chowan, Perquimans, Tyrrell, and Camden counties near the coast) as "competitive," and if Democrats take the NC House this year, they will ride in on their strength in competitive districts. House District 1 is 54% registered Democrat, though we know that doesn't necessarily mean victory, and Bertie County alone contains some 25% of the voting population in the district. This is an open seat, as its representative in the NC House, Republican Bob Steinburg, opted to run in Senate District 1 this year.

Democrat Ronald D. "Ron" Wesson is impressively qualified to win the seat. He's been elected and then reelected as a Bertie County commissioner, and he's served as both the chair of the board of commissioners and currently as vice-chair. He was born and raised in Bertie County, and he's married to a psychiatrist in private practice, Dr. Patricia W. Wesson. Ron completed his undergraduate work at UNC-Chapel Hill and his graduate studies at The Sloan School of Business, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then joined the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation where he served for more than 31 years, retiring as a senior vice-president and Global Leader. In 2004, Black Enterprise Magazine named Wesson one of the 50 most Influential Minorities in Business. Returning to Bertie County after retirement, he threw himself into community service, became chair of the Bertie County Chamber of Commerce, joined the Rotary Club, the Bertie County Community Foundation, and the Bertie County Schools Foundation. He moved into public service in 2012, running for and winning his seat on the county commission. He was actively recruited for this race by the Democratic House Caucus.

He owns an impressive pickup truck.

He says on his website, "Any success that I have had in business and in life, can be directly traced to the investment that others have made in me. I have always been encouraged to look beyond one’s self and seek to support others in ways that I have been supported. My Mother once said to me…'Son, God has blessed you with enough sense to do pretty much anything you set your mind to do. You will find that there are a lot of much smarter people out there, but never let anyone out work you to achieve your goals.' I have endeavored to live by this advice, and if given the opportunity, I look forward to working hard for the citizens of North Carolina’s 1st House District."

There's a Republican primary on the other side between Candace "CV" Hunter, a TV personality, and Chowan County Commissioner Eddy Goodwin. I'd put money on Hunter in the primary. She's blond and a big ole Christian conservative. You know how Republicans are about that stuff.

Friday, March 09, 2018

An Exciting Democratic Primary Shaping Up in NC Senate District 16

North Carolina Senate District 16 was one of those redrawn districts ordered by the courts, and it's essentially a newly created district and an open seat in western Wake County (city of Cary) and considered "strong Democratic," according to the ratings of the NC Free Enterprise Foundation.

Two highly qualified Democrats have filed for the primary election on May 8th:

Wiley Nickel
Democrat Wiley Nickel, a former Obama staffer and an attorney, was first out of the gate, announcing back in May 2017. He has both a website and a Facebook page. Nickel describes himself as a progressive Democrat and "believes it’s time to focus on strengthening our public schools, creating high paying jobs, expanding access to affordable healthcare and protecting our environment. Wiley will lead the fight to protect a woman’s right to choose, push for stronger gun control laws and implement independent redistricting reform that takes the power to draw new legislative districts out of the hands of politicians." He graduated from Tulane with a degree in political science in 1998 and joined Vice President Al Gore's advance team and traveled with him to events during the presidential campaign of 2000. Following that campaign he earned his law degree from Pepperdine University in California. He joined the Obama campaign in 2008 and spent three years as part of President Obama's national advance team. He left the Obama administration in 2011 and started his own law firm in Cary, specializing in criminal defense. He's married with two children. Running for the NC Senate, he has his focus on ending the Republican supermajority that has thwarted Governor Roy Cooper at every turn and which has passed extreme laws which have been overturned in the courts (at every turn). The dictatorship of Senate President Phil Berger must be stopped! Nickel has been endorsed by 2016 Senate candidate Deborah Ross.

Luis Toledo and his family
Democrat Luis Toledo, the son of an Hispanic immigrant, has an inspiring story of upward mobility at a time that Hispanic immigrants have become a target of presidential prejudice and Republican hostility. Luis Toledo has both a website and a Facebook page. "He was raised by a single-mother, never met his father, and is the first in his family to graduate from college where he earned degrees in business administration, cybersecurity, and public administration." He has worked in both the federal government (Department of State) and North Carolina government (as an assistant state auditor). He was born in Houston, Tex., where his mother struggled and depended on food stamps and the social safety net to keep her head only slightly above water. She picked up "their few belongings" and moved the family, ending up in the small western rural town of Marion, where Luis attended the public schools and graduated from high school. He did well in school, opting to take college-level classes at the local community college while still in McDowell High School. He also worked two part time jobs. After the attacks of 9/11, Luis joined the military and spent four years on active duty in the Air Force. After earning a graduate degree in public administration, he joined the Obama Administration as a Presidential Management Fellow and worked in the State Department under Secretary Hillary Clinton. In 2011, Luis and his family moved back to North Carolina, and he took a job working for State Auditor Beth Wood. "In January 2017, Luis joined the North Carolina Justice Center – a statewide nonprofit dedicated to economic and social justice and eliminating poverty across the state. As a public policy analyst, Luis conducts non-partisan research on the state and federal budget and assesses the role of public investments in our communities. His work informs major public debates and helps shape policy for the benefit of all North Carolinians."

Few Democratic primaries in North Carolina in 2018 encapsulate the progressive talent pouring into elective politics like this primary race in Wake County!

Republican Paul Smith ... oh, yeah, there's a Republican also filed to run for this seat, and maybe it's the curse of the last name, its commonness, or a sign of how strongly Democratic this district is going to be, but I can't find him anywhere ... no website, no Facebook page, no web presence at all.

Conor Lamb in the Home Stretch

According to Jonathan Martin, conservative groups have spent $10 million in the 18th Congressional District of Pennsylvania to defeat this man, Democrat Conor Lamb. They're totally freaked that Lamb could win the district in a special election on Tuesday. Trump carried the same district in 2016 by 20 points, and a Dimmycrap wasn't supposed to hunt here.

I've written about Lamb a couple of times before, here and here.

It's not just the crowd appeal of Conor Lamb, though he obviously has that. It's the "Trump effect" -- the growing wave of revulsion over the behavior of a buffoon. If Lamb wins on Tuesday, Joe Biden predicted a whole new wave of Republican retirements from Congress, as the reality of the Trump effect sinks in a little deeper.

You bet we'll be watching election returns Tuesday night.