Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nathan Miller's Attempt to Derail Boone Town Council Elections Now Hurtling Toward Resolution Today

Nathan Miller
Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway will hear the petition for a Writ of Mandamus filed by Sam Furgiuele, Marshall Ashcraft, and Connie Ulmer today, Tuesday, December 12, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. in Courtroom 3C of the Wake County Courthouse. The defendant in this action is actually the State Board of Elections, which the judge can direct to order the local board of elections to certify the November 7 election so that Furgiuele, Ashcraft, and Ulmer can be sworn in on December 21, as previously scheduled.

How We Got Here

Furgiuele, Ashcraft, and Ulmer win the Boone Town Council races on November 7; Watauga GOP through Nathan Miller files election protest over early voting site in ASU Student Union; his protest is voted down as "without merit" by the Watauga County Board of Elections; Miller appeals to the State Board of Elections (which currently doesn't exist)

State Board of Elections attorneys tell Miller he must appeal to the Wake Superior Court by a date certain; Miller misses the appeal date and says he doesn't care what the State Board of Elections attorneys tell him. He claims his protest can wait until a proper SBOE is appointed, and until then, no new municipal office-holders can be sworn in.

Furgiuele, Ashcraft, and Ulmer petition for a Writ of Mandamus to end Miller's protest and to declare their election certified. Their petition contains a motion for expedited hearing, which Judge Ridgeway granted yesterday, scheduling the hearing for this afternoon.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The 50-Yard Field Goal Attempt

The American Bridge PAC is running ads in Alabama urging voters tomorrow to write in the name Nick Saban on their ballots.

Why wouldn't Alabama voters choose their spiritual leader?

Back in September, with Trump distracting from the Mueller investigation by attacking NFL players, naturally a reporter would get to Nick Saban for a comment, and this is what coach said: "To me, some of the things that we do in our country when I grew up, they were unifying events and it's a little painful to see that those things are not so right now. But I also respect everyone's rights not to be censored in terms of the way they express their beliefs. I'm just a coach. I don't have the answers to all the questions. I know that most good things come out of love and respect and compassion and unifying people. Most bad things come out of hate and dislike and deceit. Hopefully we can focus on the above and not the below."

Well, Alabama could do worse than pick Nick Saban, and possibly will if it's to be Roy Moore.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

What Newly Elected Boone Town Council Members Are Asking

So I'm asked to explain a "Writ of Mandamus."

For those of you who had a misspent youth and didn't learn your Latin, mandamus means "we command" in that ancient language. The "we" refers to judges of superior jurisdiction who take charge of a situation where an obvious injustice has occurred. A writ of mandamus is a commandment to make things right. Mandamus, for example, is used to restore rights to a complainant who's been denied them, and writs of mandamus have traditionally been issued in response to abuses of judicial process.

If Nathan Miller isn't a walking abuse of judicial process, then we don't actually know a hawk from a handsaw.

So the petition filed in Raleigh on Friday by plaintiffs Sam Furgiuele, Marshall Ashcraft, and Connie Ulmer requests an order from the Superior Court directing Kim Strach, Executive Director of the NC State Board of Elections, to notify the Watauga County Board of Elections that the election is over, that the plaintiffs won and should be certified as the winners, and that furthermore the Nathan Miller election protest is dead for failing to meet its deadline for appeal.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Will Boone Swear in New Town Council Members on December 21?

Photo HC Press
Winners of the 2017 Boone Town Council elections still haven't been certified (and therefore can't be sworn in as scheduled on December 21, pending legal action filed yesterday in Wake County -- see below) because of Nathan Miller, prominent Boone lawyer and vice chair of the Watauga Republican Party.

(Note: The hold on certification of newly elected officials applies to all of Watauga County, including the municipal winners in Blowing Rock, Beech Mountain, and Seven Devils.)

Outline of Miller's Solo Attack on the Whole Elections Process 

October 13, 2017: Judge A. Graham Shirley enters an order in Wake Superior Court establishing an early voting site at ASU. Nathan Miller with Bill Aceto as plaintiff promptly intervenes and appeals Judge Shirley's order to the Court of Appeals.

October 18, 2017: Court of Appeals grants Miller-Aceto a temporary stay.

October 25, 2017: Court of Appeals dissolves the stay. Judge Shirley's original order is back in force, and it's the Eve of Early Voting on campus.

October 26, 2017: Early Voting opens on schedule at ASU. (Voting has already been going on at the downtown courthouse site since October 19.)

November 7, 2017: Election Day for Boone, Blowing Rock, Seven Devils, and Beech Mountain. There are winners and losers.

November 16, 2017: Now with Anne Marie Yates as plaintiff, Nathan Miller files an election protest with the Watauga (holdover) Board of Elections alleging an "irregularity or misconduct" in the Boone Town Council election and requesting a new election. Miller's whole argument: The law requires 20 days of advertisement to precede the opening of Early Voting, and the space between the Court of Appeals action on October 25 and the opening of Early Voting on the ASU campus on October 26 was precisely one day, not 20, and therefore the election is invalid. (Never mind Judge Shirley's order and the precedent of 2014.)

November 20, 2017: The Watauga County (hold-over) Board of Elections
votes unanimously to reject Miller's protest. Board Chair Bill Aceto says the protest has no merit.

November 21, 2017: Miller files Notice of Appeal with the state Board of Elections (SBOE), appealing the Watauga BOE's rejection of his election protest. General Counsel for the SBOE responds that because the SBOE does not exist currently (due to a lawsuit pending in the Supreme Court), the finding of the local Board stands as final. Any appeal must now be addressed to Wake Superior Court (as provided for by statute).

November 27, 2017: Nathan Miller replies to the SBOE General Counsel: We reject that interpretation of the law and maintain that until a proper SBOE is appointed and can rule on our objections, no certification of Watauga County municipal elections can be made.

November 28, 2017: General Counsel for the SBOE tells Miller he's wrong on the law and has until noon "tomorrow" -- November 29 -- to file a Notice of Appeal in Wake Superior Court. Miller rejects that, misses the deadline for appeal, and says he can wait until hell freezes over or until there's a new SBOE installed to hear his complaints. Therefore, according to Miller, no new municipal officials exist in Watauga County and exactly none may be sworn in.

That's where it stands. Or did, until Boone Town Council election winners Sam Furgiuele, Marshall Ashcraft, and Connie Ulmer filed a petition in Wake Superior Court yesterday (Friday, December 8) for a Writ of Mandamus to end this cynical and calculated circus.

What's this all about? Student voting, an existential threat to Trumpism.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Would You Take a Letter? Or Would You Have My Baby? Answer the Second Question First

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) was out of the House so fast yesterday it would make your head spin, on the same day that Al Franken announced his retirement (so you may have missed the Franks exit).

Two female staffers said Franks asked if either or both would carry his baby as a surrogate for his wife, who can't (she's had two miscarriages). The Franks have already used a surrogate for their twins.

Speaker Paul Ryan heard the accusations, called Franks in and repeated them, and Franks did not deny them and decided to quit the House immediately.

Hey, you hypocrite liberals! He was just family planning.

When the Air Goes Out of the Parade Float

Rebecca Shapiro reported that a new national Pew Research Center poll released today shows that President Donald Trump’s approval rating is declining among demographic groups that previously gave him relatively high numbers, particularly among evangelicals.

According to Pew, Trump’s approval rating among white evangelical Protestants dropped 17 percentage points from February to December, down from 78 percent to 61 percent. Eighty-one percent of white evangelical voters backed Trump in the 2016 presidential election, NPR reported.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Bredesen Just Made Tennessee Competitive

Democrat Phil Bredesen, a former two-term governor of Tennessee and former mayor of Nashville, announced this morning that he's running for the Corker Senate seat in Tennessee next year.

He's a high-profile, credible candidate and seriously energizes the Democratic side. Bredesen's candidacy triggers a Democratic primary, as there's already another declared Democrat, James Mackler, who's running. Mackler is a Nashville attorney and Iraq War veteran. At 44, he's 30 years younger than Bredesen, but nobody knows him (yet). Everybody knows Bredesen.

Mackler is likely to run a vigorous primary campaign. He's been raising money, and his youth and experience impressed many observers when he first announced his candidacy last April.

The likely and ultimate Republican candidate for that Senate seat will be Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a super conservative who might remind you of the Stepford Wives.


Seeing that the public is not buying the propaganda that everything will come up roses under the Republican tax rewrite, the billionaires who will get even filthier rich are putting some pocket change into trying to convince the rest of us that we should be grateful.

For example, Americans for Prosperity -- with a large field staff and volunteers, some of them high school students working off a community service requirement -- is spending $10 million nationwide for grass roots canvassing and advertising to rally middle-class support for the tax rewrite. They've reportedly hit more than 41,000 homes and made 1.1 million phone calls.

knock knock “Hello. Do you have a moment to hear my claim that Americans for Prosperity believes it’s time to fix our broken tax code and let families keep more of what they earn. By 'families' I don't mean necessarily yours. I mean the families of those who sent me out here today with this informative orange flyer."

You know Americans for Prosperity, right? Charles G. and David H. Koch. They have your best
Charles and David Koch
interests at heart, no matter which cold storage unit currently holds theirs.

Here's an example of some of your "best interests" written into the Republican tax plan: young and well educated people are specifically targeted in a "tuition tax" on university graduate students pursuing higher degrees. Many US universities waive tuition for students who conduct research or teach, but a provision in the tax bill would add the value of those waivers to a students’ taxable income. They're already poorly paid as graduate assistants. So making them suffer for being smart and innovative, that's especially nice.

Part of the Koch Bros' pitch is that the tax cuts will pay for themselves. That's an old, old line which hasn't improved with age. Their gospel is that more tax revenue will flow to the Treasury from higher paid workers (who'll therefore pay more in taxes because they're better paid) and from increased investment (jobs! more tax payers to take up the slack) -- growth in general. That's their fairyland: because corps will reap windfalls, they'll just naturally want to rain benefits on both workers and the general public.

Tax cuts will pay for themselves? The Republican tax cut will create a $1.5 trillion deficit for the budget. The Joint Tax Committee scored the plan, taking into account expected economic growth, and found that only $400 billion of the $1.5 trillion would be recouped. Falls well short of paying for itself. It will doubtless spur some economic growth, which conservatives want to claim will disproportionately benefit the middle class. It will benefit corporations more. They are not philanthropic organizations, and being thankful to them for the huge tax cuts they're getting is a little too much like the serf's rejoicing when some ort drops from the table where the lords are feasting.

In essence, Republicans and their corporate bosses are trying to sell us a free lunch made up largely of projected mirror images.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

See Ya Wouldn't Want To Be Ya

The best thing that could happen to the National Republican Party in the short term -- Roy Moore loses in Alabama. Otherwise, he's the aloha lei that every Republican at every level will be wearing in 2018, and it's not going to smell garden fresh.

Meanwhile, Trump is the nominal leader of the Republican Party but displays little actual leadership. Oh, he'll stomp on someone he thinks dissed him, like Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee, but as far as providing the political machinery by which Republican candidates can run next year, that ain't exactly happening. Trump's poll numbers are stuck at a low register, and Republican office-holders who have to run again in 2018 are trying to figure out how to run without inviting Trump into their states or districts.

Then there's the Trump whisperer, Steve Bannon, who's said he'll primary every Republican incumbent senator except Ted Cruz next year. What does Trump do? Does he dive in to help the incumbents against insurgents, like he tried to help Luther Strange in the Alabama primary? He's still miffed about that, that Strange lost by 9 points. He's complained that he should never have listened to Republican Party operatives who told him he had to campaign for Strange to protect the party. That's why calling Trump the "head of the GOP" seems like a suicide pact.

More like he's the demise of the GOP, the virus that wipes out the host. So we get the spectacle of the RNC withdrawing financial support from Roy Moore weeks ago and then hurriedly reinstating it yesterday after Trump tweeted on Monday his full endorsement of the child molester. Trump didn't tell anyone in advance he was going to endorse Moore, so the RNC is left looking like what it is -- rudderless and without any moral foundation.