Monday, August 20, 2018

Puddle Deep

Twitterman decided to whistle (loudly) past that graveyard called November and improbably started touting a "Red Wave" coming this year. Jonathan Swan at Axios wrote yesterday that DJT's swaggering might actually be helping to depress Republican turnout. "Republican strategists want the base to panic so they'll show up to vote. But instead, Trump is breeding complacency."

Trump voters are glued to their unreality: "They watch Hannity ... and hear that a red wave is coming to save the House. They really believe it's going to be 2016 all over again."

New Hope for Georgia -- Stacey Abrams for Governor

Many people in Georgia -- Republicans and old-line Democrats (which are in many cases the same thing) -- don't think Stacey Abrams can ever, not in a million years, become governor of Georgia. She would not only be the first woman and the first black to win the governorship, she'd be the first black woman elected governor of any state. (She turned our head on WataugaWatch back in May.)

She was the Minority Leader in the Georgia House for six years, so naturally she made some enemies on her own side of the aisle because she was willing to negotiate with the majority. But don't underestimate her.

We like the glimpses of her we can get from the lengthy profile published in today's New York Times. What follows is from deep into that article:
Ms. Abrams was elected to the General Assembly in 2006, two years after Republicans had taken control of the Georgia House for the first time in more than a century. She was young, but not green. She had served as student president at Spelman College, Atlanta’s storied African-American women’s college, and kept her life ambitions, eventually including the goal of becoming president, listed in a spreadsheet. “The sheer boldness of my ambitions gnawed at me,” she recalled in her 2018 autobiography, “Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change.”
Style-wise, she was more of a listener than a glad-hander, more policy wonk than enforcer. She was a careful, prepared speaker with a bookish quality, a wry sense of humor and a tendency toward efficiency.
“She engendered a sense of loyalty in a lot of people that way,” said Brian Thomas, who was a member of the House Democratic leadership at the time. “A lot of people just respected the fact that she was just a lot smarter than some of us, and able to use that intellect in ways that were really effective.” ...
Her debut on the political scene had effectively come in 1992, when she emerged as a leading voice among black students. Atlanta, like other American cities, was racked by protests and riots after police officers in Los Angeles were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King. Eventually she found herself at a televised town-hall meeting with Maynard Jackson, the city’s first black mayor. As the cameras rolled, Ms. Abrams recalled in her book, she “excoriated his record and scoffed at his leadership.”
Mr. Jackson later co-opted his eloquent critic, giving her a job in the city’s office of youth services. She went on to earn a law degree and a master’s in public policy, and at the age of 29, to serve as deputy city attorney....
She made her bid for minority leader in November 2010. The Democrats had just lost more House seats in the Tea Party wave election, and were watching bitterly as a number of their white lawmakers jumped ship to the Republicans.
The caucus, which had become majority black and held fewer than 70 of the 180 seats in the House, turned to a young backbencher. “I took the lead of a broken party,” Ms. Abrams wrote, “knowing that we would wander in the political wilderness for at least a decade.”
She had already established herself as one of the smartest members of the Legislature. Her background in tax law helped her analyze the deep structure of complex bills, landing her on the powerful Ways and Means Committee as a freshman. Even Republicans saw her talent: In 2011, State Representative Allen Peake called her “brilliant.”
“People who underestimate her risk complete embarrassment,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Dallas Woodhouse, Uber Alles

Just seen on Twitter:
Wow. NCGOP threatens Supreme Court justices if they remove any constitutional amendments. "We'll have a constitutional crisis," Dallas says before reminding people how many votes GOP needs to impeach, remove justices
Dallas Woodhouse is Exec. Director of the NCGOP.

Dallas Woodhouse posted on Facebook a few minutes ago:

Today I suggested that should the democrats on the NC Supreme Court block citizens from voting on constitutional amendments, a Constitutional crisis would be upon us. 
I suggested that there would be an equal and opposite reaction that occur with voters and their elected representatives, that could include many things: censure, further attempts to clarify the role of the courts through constitutional amendments, changes in what courts can hear what cases, and yes Impeachment
I have had no discussions with any legislative members about this issue. I do not believe that is being discussed at this time. 
However should the courts spark a Constitutional crisis, nobody can say definitively where it leads. 
North Carolina will have a Constitutional crisis because for the first time the court take the drastic extraordinary and extreme position that they have a right to block citizens from voting on amendments. 
I believe their will be a very visceral reaction from voters and our activists to having their right to vote on amendments blocked. 
That reaction could be re-amending the Constitution, censure, adding positions to the court and/or impeachment. I did state this morning (a Constitutional fact) 
That it takes 61 in the house to impeach and 33 to remove in the Senate 
Nobody wants that. 
The Constitution clearly says it is the legislature’s Constitutional right to propose amendments AND decide what goes on the ballot. 
The State Supreme Court would be rewriting the constitution and forever changing the amendment process. 
Every single amendment would have the ballot wording challenged in court. 
This is simply a political question left to voters to decide. The Constitution demands it. 
Also the Republican Party’s position is the voters are fully capable to engage in the educational process and cast votes on the amendments as published. 
The democrats position is voters are not smart enough to decide these questions and must be blocked from voting 
The people have a right to decide

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Another Panel of Judges Puts Temporary Injunction on Printing November Ballots

Generally speaking -- and how else would a non-lawyer speak on such a subject? -- temporary injunctions aren't slapped on the printing of ballots unless there's some perhaps wee but fair-haired expectation that the plaintiff might win on the merits.

The plaintiff -- Governor Roy Cooper. The defendants: Phil Berger/Tim Moore (for the NC General Assembly) and the State Board of Elections, which is charged with printing Berger/Moore's constitutional amendments on the fall ballot. The issue for Cooper: Two of the amendments would seriously rewrite the governor's role and destroy the whole principle of the separation of powers, but those ends are studiously hidden from voters by bland and misleading language. It's pretty demonstrably true.

(In a separate filing, the State Board of Elections agrees that the proposed amendments essentially dissemble their true import.)

In court yesterday, a panel of three superior court judges granted the governor's request for a temporary injunction to block the printing of ballots until the merits of the argument can be decided.

Matthew Burns and Laura Leslie reported on the court arguments yesterday morning. This, covering some of Cooper's side:
The judicial vacancies amendment ... calls for "a nonpartisan, merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence." But Adam Doerr, an attorney for Cooper, noted that lawmakers would have the power to appoint anyone they want to the bench and that the only qualifications the state requires for someone to be a judge are that they are a licensed attorney under the age of 72. [emphasis added]
"What [the amendment] is actually doing is letting the General Assembly exercise political influence over judicial selection that it currently lacks but would very much like to have," Doerr said.
Similarly, the appointments amendment calls for "clarify[ing] the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches," as if, Doerr said, it was merely "a bit of legislative housekeeping." He said the state Supreme Court has clearly laid out the appointment powers of the governor, so no clarification is needed." ... 
"If you want to seek the consent of the voters to amend the constitution, you must ask them and you must tell them what you are doing," Doerr [argued].
How did the lawyer for Berger/Moore respond? I shit you not:
Martin Warf, a lawyer for legislative leaders, argued there's no standard for what is misleading and that lawmakers are under no constitutional duty to inform voters about the amendments on the ballot. Voters who want to know more about them, he said, can do research.
Berger/Moore's contention: It's up to voters not to get fooled by their own government when that government is going everything in its power to fool the voters.

Burns and Leslie suggest that the three judges hearing this case are "skeptical" about the governor's argument. That may be, but they at least want to be further schooled in the legal implications of what Berger/Moore are trying to do to the state of North Carolina before they allow the printing of those ballots.

Dark Money Attack Ad Against NC House Candidate Ray Russell

When you see an attack ad like the one below, don't you strain to see who paid for it? Don't you? Don't you want to know whose money went into that? Aren't you ready to spend hours trying to find out? Luckily for me, Blogger Penny Smith in Jackson County did that work, probing a PAC calling itself "Carolina Leadership Coalition," which paid for "Nutty Professor" below:
Steven B. Long
Its registered agent, at least at one time, was Steven B. Long. Long is on the NC Board of Governors; he was the force behind eliminating the ability of UNC’s Civil Rights Center to litigate on behalf of poor people. A Republican donor, he was on the board of Art Pope’s Civitas Institute, but resigned when he won a seat on the Board of Governors. He has also served as the Treasurer of the NC Republican Party.
One address for the Carolina Leadership Coalition is an office suite on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh. That must be a very large suite, because there are 9 companies listing that address as their agent’s address, including Integrity NC, NC Job Creators Forum and NC Non-Profit Corporation. It is also the address of a large, multi-state, law firm associated with Long.
However, on another set of papers the Carolina Leadership address is given as 10540 Swerling Way in Raleigh, a nice suburban house owned by Collin McMichael. It, too, must be large, because seven companies are listed there, including Common Sense Raleigh, North Carolina Issues Project and the Committee for Sound Policy Solutions.
McMichael was also treasurer for the Thom Tillis Committee, a role with which he is familiar. For example, he staffed the Elizabeth Dole campaigns. He is involved with a group called Holding Together Our Majority, which is affiliated with Tillis and includes among its donors the Koch Brothers. He is also linked to Mark Meadows (his treasurer for the Your Voice Counts PAC), whose donors include, yes, you guessed it, the Koch Brothers. And Meadows’ House Freedom Fund is linked to a number of astro-turf organizations as well as the Koch Brothers. For those of you who don’t know, the Koch Brothers are not from North Carolina. They’re not even southerners, although they have spent considerable money enlisting southerners to their pet causes. (Pope, Meadows and Tillis all have links with ALEC, an organization that churns out conservative policy papers and model legislation.)
Penny Smith got started on this research because of slick mailers (not video) in Jackson County (NCH119) extolling the manifest virtues of their incumbent Republican House member, Mike Clampitt. Paid for by a group calling itself a rosy-sounding, made-up name. It looked like a rescue operation, for Clampitt is indeed endangered. His Democratic opponent, Joe Sam Queen, has held the seat before, is widely popular and very well known, and he's been running strong. We noted here back on July 19th that Queen had vastly out-raised Clampitt in the Second Quarter. Same for Ray Russell, the subject of that attack ad below, who vastly out-raised incumbent Republican Jonathan Jordan (NCH93) in the 2nd Quarter (detailed in the same post).

Bound to be more of these "Carolina Leadership Coalition" products out across the state. Many  endangered Republican incumbents, with very anemic fund-raising -- a landscape bleak enough to give billionaires the dry heaves. Clampitt and Jordan don't need to raise money. They have Art Pope and the Koch Bros.

One final observation: This attack ad is gonna backfire. Already has. People in the district know Ray Russell. They depend on his science in their daily lives. They can recognize an outrageous smear when they see one. They resent it. Jonathan Jordan will bear the brunt of that anger, and he'll deserve it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

When Lawmakers Go Wrong

Can you believe that the Berger/Moore duo are appealing Judge Rebecca Holt's injunction in the case of Chris Anglin and Rebecca Edwards? I mean, can you believe that after such a resounding, logical, and completely expected court decision, the Berger/Moore forces continue to hang onto their unconstitutional push to deny Anglin and Edwards equal treatment under the law?

The Berger/Moore appeal goes to the NC Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel will hear it. Ballots cannot be printed until the issue is finally settled, and according to the State Board of Elections, the deadline for getting information to the printers is this Friday. Obviously, that ain't gonna happen (unless the Court of Appeals does some unprecedented fast-laning of the case).

I think you can expect absentee balloting in North Carolina to be delayed from its September 7th availability. You can thank Berger/Moore for the delay.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

John Arrowood Is Running for Reelection to the NC Court of Appeals

Democratic Judge John Arrowood is somewhat famous in our household because of the way he was appointed to the bench by Governor Roy Cooper.
Photo: News and Observer
When Governor Cooper was sworn into office in December of 2016, the Republicans in the General Assembly were facing an unappetizing prospect. Three judges on the Court of Appeals -- two of which were Republicans -- were going to be forced into mandatory retirement during Governor Cooper's term, meaning he would get to appoint their replacements.
The troops under Phil Berger and Tim Moore got busy and came up with a new law reducing the Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 seats, meaning that those mandatory retirements would not be replaced at all. Governor Cooper vetoed that bill in April and immediately Republican Judge Doug McCullough, one of the three facing mandatory retirement, retired early to allow Cooper to appoint his replacement before the General Assembly could override his veto. Boom! Cooper appointed John Arrowood of Charlotte to the bench.
(You can read the background here, especially the revelation that the NCGOP pressured McCullough to resign early while Pat McCrory was still governor, which pissed McCullough off enough for him to bollix up their scheme. Since then, naturally, the Berger/Moore machine has put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to give themselves appointment powers over all the judiciary.)
John Arrowood had served on the Court of Appeals before. He was appointed to a vacancy by Governor Mike Easley in 2007 but lost election in 2008. He ran again in 2014 in a very crowded field of 19 candidates and came in second.
Arrowood has more than a quarter-century of legal experience behind him as a lawyer in private practice aside from his two stints on the Court of Appeals. He graduated from the UNC law school at Chapel Hill, clerked for NC Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Arnold, and also served as a staff attorney and head of the Court’s central staff. He is vastly more experienced than his Republican opponent.
Arrowood is clear that the greatest current threat to a fair judiciary is the Berger/Moore General Assembly: "Article IV of the North Carolina Constitution establishes the General Courts of Justice as an independent co-ordinate branch of government and protects its power and jurisdiction from usurpation by other branches of government .... it is critical that our system be allowed to work independently without intimidation or the threat of interference by other branches of government."
Amen to that.

Republican Andrew Heath was appointed to a special Superior Court judgeship by Governor Pat McCrory between his failure to win reelection in November of 2016 and his actual leaving office in December of that year. Heath had been McCrory's budget director, and McCrory needed to give him a landing pad after that defeat.

Monday, August 13, 2018

BREAKING: Judge Rules in Anglin, Edwards Case

North Carolina legislators cannot reach back in time and change the rules of an election after the fact, Wake County Superior Court Judge Rebecca Holt ruled today as she issued a preliminary injunction to stop the printing of ballots that do not show the chosen party affiliations of Chris Anglin and Rebecca Edwards, who changed their party affiliations prior to filing for Supreme Court and Wake County District Court, respectively. Anglin changed his registration from Democrat to Republican, and Edwards switched from Republican to Democrat.

Republicans in the NC General Assembly then retroactively changed the rules so that the new party affiliations of Anglin and Edwards wouldn't be published on ballots.

The duo of Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore "have not yet decided if they will appeal Holt’s ruling, according to what they told other media outlets."

Republicans inserted that worm into the election apple, and they are livid that the worm turned.

Another of the State-Wide Court of Appeals Candidates You Need to Know

Democrat Toby Hampson is running for an open seat on the NC Court of Appeals. Judge Ann Calabria (R) is not running for reelection.
Hampson is a Moore County boy who was plucked out for advanced studies during high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham in 1994. He went on to earn his law degree in 2002 from Campbell University with multiple honors including a seat on the Law Review. He began his career at the North Carolina Court of Appeals clerking for judges K. Edward Greene, Wanda Bryant, and Bob C. Hunter. He then practiced with Patterson Dilthey in Raleigh focusing on trial and appellate litigation before joining Wyrick, Robbins, Yates & Ponton in Raleigh in 2007, where he now leads the firm’s Appellate Practice group as a full partner.
So he's massively qualified for a seat on that appellate bench. He was named one of the "Top 100 Super Lawyers in North Carolina" (2015, 2017, 2018) by Super Lawyers Magazine. He was a top-rated appellate attorney by North Carolina Super Lawyers -- recognized in Appellate Practice (2014-2018) and as a “Rising Star” (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). He is recognized as "Legal Elite" in the area of appellate law (2018) and "Young Guns" (2010, 2012) by Business North Carolina magazine. 
He's married to another lawyer, Kristin, and they have three little girls.
The two Republicans in this race are Sandra Ray and Jefferson Griffin. Sandra Ray is a single mother of three, a district court judge in New Hanover and Pender counties, and she's not endorsed by the NCGOP -- which anointed the other Republican, Jefferson Griffin, for the seat. Griffin is a Wake County District Court judge. Neither he nor Sandra Ray have qualifications anywhere near Toby Hampson's.