Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Marine and the Holy Men

Dan McCready and his family
Dan McCready is an ex-Marine and is running for Congress in the 9th Congressional District. He's running as a Democrat. He's an attractive candidate, young and level-headed. He was a college freshman at Duke on 9/11, and after finishing his degree and, seemingly already on the fast track to enter and do well in business, he joined the Marine corps. He went to Iraq in the surge of 2007, and as a captain, he led 65 other Marines in that show of force. After four years in the service, McCready got his MBA from Harvard in 2011, worked for McKinsey and Co. as a management consultant, then started his own company with a fellow ex-Marine -- Double Time Capital -- which invests in solar farms in North Carolina. They've helped build 36 so far. He also founded an online operation, This Land, a retail website that sells handmade American goods.

He's a sharp tack, an entrepreneur. He knows combat. He's smart as hell. He's young. He didn't think about running for office until Trump happened, but he's quick to separate himself from the partisan herd: “We’re really not focused on Trump,” McCready said about his campaign. “I am a Marine and an American before I’m a Democrat .... The American dream I fought for overseas is under attack."

His political "strategery" is still young and unshaped, though he's admitted to being a pro-business Democrat: "I understand from being a business owner how to make a payroll, how to balance a budget, and I believe we need regulatory relief, especially for small business.” Whatevs. I've got to believe there's generosity toward humanity in this package, and he'll be better than any Republican candidate (see below for details).

But he's got to do some renovation on his talking points to overcome "the vague platitudes common among first-time candidates" (Simone Pathe). And so far I can't tell if he's got the instincts for campaigning. (When asked by a reporter from Roll Call how he planned to attack Pittenger, McCready brought up Pittenger’s vote to fast-track trade promotion authority. Huh? That's your number one issue with Pittenger's record?) But McCready did think to criticize Pittenger's votes against Obamacare, quoting the incumbent's notorious insult that people could just move their butts out of state if they didn’t like the health care available to them.

McCready has been a phenomenal money-raiser. He announced his campaign way back last May, and as of last November he had already raised about $1 million, considerably more than the incumbent. McCready's raised more by now. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (a.k.a., DCCC) added him to the party’s Red to Blue program, which provides organizational and fundraising support, and McCready's ex-Marine partner in solar farm investment has started his own Super PAC to help more military veterans get to Congress.

(NOTE: Yes, I know there'll be a Democratic primary in May between McCready and Christian
Cano, who ran at 41.82% of the vote against Pittenger in 2016, and a third Democratic candidate, a woman named Maria Collins Warren, who has not so far filed for office.)

The Holy Men
Rob Christensen has a lengthy profile in today's News and Observer of the two leading Republicans who'll be battling for supremacy in May -- incumbent Robert Pittenger and Baptist preacher man Mark Harris. Harris has become a perennial candidate. He finished third in the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate in 2014 in a race won by then-state House Speaker Thom Tillis. In 2016, he unsuccessfully challenged Pittenger in the Republican primary, losing by a mere 133 votes. I've always believed Harris would win this primary, because Republican primaries have become extended tent revivals where glib preachers shout down sin, a popular Republican activity, and Pittenger looks tired and limp.

Mark Harris is first and foremost a smooth promoter of the Freedom Caucus Gospel, lambasting
as "the most liberal Republican in Congress" for voting for Trump's tax bill. Pittenger's riposte against Harris: “Mark Harris has opposed President Trump’s agenda and is instead siding with liberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi. While I voted to support President Trump, (Defense) Secretary Mattis and our troops, Harris said no. He is standing with Pelosi and House Democratic Leadership against the President’s budget.” Once again: Real men don't eat Pelosi.

Over the holidays, Rob Christensen reports, Pittenger ran a TV commercial in which he stood in front of a Christmas tree and said: “I’ve dedicated my life to sharing God’s love through Jesus Christ. Let’s end political correctness and put the true meaning of Christ back in Christmas.” If that pasted-on piety doesn't make your skin crawl, remember how Mark Harris led the fight in 2012 to take away civil liberties from LBGT citizens with Amendment One.

I think it'll be McCready v. Harris in November, and I'll lay you odds that McCready wins it.

To contribute to Dan McCready's campaign:

Read more here:

Friday, February 16, 2018

Congressman Patrick McHenry: The Soft Underside

Congressman Patrick McHenry, that roller of big cigars, has a Democratic opponent in 2018 -- David Wilson Brown -- who'll be contesting him for the right to represent the 10th Congressional District in Congress. McHenry's district got gerrymandered after 2010 to split liberal Asheville up and move most of it out of Mark Meadows' 11th District into McHenry's otherwise solidly Republican 10th. The map reveals the cynical reach of those Republican calculations to dilute the power of Asheville (see below).

McHenry was first elected in 2004 (in the same freshman class as Madam Virginia Foxx). He was a freshman in every sense, at the time the youngest member of that body (29), and he fashioned himself as a conservative bomb-thrower. He even signed on to "birtherism" and enjoyed bashing the feminine in Nancy Pelosi. (Real men don't eat Pelosi.) He rose fast as a deputy whip and is now acting majority whip. With Paul Ryan seemingly teetering on the edge of premature retirement, McHenry's name has even surfaced as a potential rival for Speaker of the House.

McHenry, who is maybe a little squishy and can be made to blink, has been feeling the heat from his most conservative constituents (because McHenry doesn't come from the same jug of right-wing paint stripper as, say, Virginia Foxx, and he's certainly not as crazy as Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows, who used to represent Asheville):
At an event in Hickory, constituent Robbie Varney asked the congressman if he would resign, given that Congress had yet to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or begin construction on President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico. McHenry deflected – and said he would not resign.
Deflection. He's good at deflection. But that kind of hostility from his base has got to rattle him.

He's a big "get" for the payday-lending industry and promotes their well being. He's grown rich in office and well fed, but has also developed an Achilles heel that comes from getting rich and fat: He feels entitled. He's never had a close election, and he hardly bothers with campaigning, and town
David Wilson Brown
halls like that one in Hickory have maybe made him more of a Virginia Foxx type representative, avoiding public exposure to criticism. This year might not be the year to act entitled.

Democrat David Wilson Brown was a 1990s graduate of AppState, majoring in poly sci (he did a Washington internship with then Republican Congresswoman Sue Myrick). He works now in the information technology industry. He's 43 with a wife and two kids, a boy and girl, 10 and 6, and they live in McAdenville ("Christmas Town, USA"), east of Gastonia on I-85. He grew up in Charlotte.

He's also a realist and knows what a long-shot he is to beat McHenry, but Brown is animated by the same dramatic spirit of resistance that has surged through so much of America in the Age of Trump. "I can’t sit on the sidelines and do nothing,” he told Michael Barrett of the Gaston Gazette.

He's particularly offended by the way the Republican use "the common man" as a mere prop for "making their end goals .... They use the politics of fear to keep people from getting ahead." Brown needs to focus on McHenry's enabling of the payday lenders, who rip off the common man and the little guy and the working class like smash-and-grab burglars. “When I look at the things Republicans are voting on again and again, they are against working class people who are just trying to get by,” he said. 

“I think we’re at a turning point in this next election where people are going to wake up and see that Republicans have used these fringe issues, that don’t affect people’s daily lives, to make voters think they care about what’s best for them.”

NC 10th Congressional District.
Looks like a man in a recliner

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Miss America, Running for Congress (Another Story We're Loving in 2018)

Mallory Hagan
Mallory Hagan, a native of Opelika, Alabama, who was also Miss America 2013, has announced that she's running for Alabama's 3rd Congressional District, which includes her hometown. She spent a year at Auburn University (studying biomedical science) and then moved to New York City to pursue a career in modeling and acting. She was a resident of Brooklyn when she won the Miss America competition on a platform of child sexual abuse awareness and prevention (she's probably not a Roy Moore fan). She also gave a response on the issue of gun control in which she opposed fighting violence with violence.

Late in 2017, Miss America company internal emails surfaced that revealed that top brass at the beauty pageant regularly dissed contestants and especially winners of the crown. Mallory Hagan in particular was both fat-shamed and slut-shamed. Publication of the emails led to several top resignations from the Miss America pageant.

In Hagan's Crowdpac appeal to supporters, she struck a populist note about how people are fairing in her Alabama district:
Today, the citizens of the third Congressional district of Alabama face many challenges. For instance, the once thriving city of Anniston has been transformed by the closure of Fort McClellan. In Talladega—home to the largest racetrack on the NASCAR cup circuit— roughly 31 percent of its residents live below the poverty level. And Alexander City, once the home of Russell Athletic, is now challenged by the loss of 6,500 jobs since 2012.
Even the most prosperous parts of the district face serious challenges. In Auburn—where 28,000 students reside in a town known as the loveliest village on the plains— almost 50 percent of all single mothers struggle financially to care for their children. And although my hometown Opelika has overcome significant economic and social challenges in recent years, today less than 34 percent of its K-12 students are proficient in reading.
The Republican incumbent, Mike Rogers, has won handily in the past 8 elections. He's always had a Democratic opponent, but most of them never come close to beating him. His closest race was his
Congressman Mike Rogers
first in 2002, when he won with just 50.3% of the vote.

Mallory Hagan said of Rogers, “Anyone being in a position of power for 16 straight years just goes against what our democracy is about.” She only launched an exploratory campaign last week on Crowdpac. In just a few hours, her page brought in more than $7,000. Now, that number has more than doubled, and she's in the race to stay.

Rogers has trended more and more conservative, up to and beyond buffoon level. He introduced legislation making it illegal to satirize or in any way parody the Transportation Security Administration (not making that up). In June 2016 he called for the United States' withdrawal from the United Nations in the wake of the Brexit vote by the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union. February 2, 2017, Rogers sponsored legislation to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. And so on.

May Mallory make Mike's "safe seat" very precarious!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Locked and Loaded

Phil Berger and his boys have enjoyed an overwhelming majority of Republicans in the NC General Assembly since 2013, after they got chucklehead in as governor in 2012. It was a veto-proof majority, not that McCrory was prone to veto (he rarely crossed Berger without personal humiliation, and even babies know not to touch hot stoves a second time).

The Republicans built their current impregnable fortress by way of unconstitutional gerrymandering, and they expect us to sit down and shut up and just take it. They'll mess with ballot access and throw up hurdles and yell "voter fraud" like parrots in a jungle, and I guess they'll even collude with Russkies to grab and keep power. Why, in North Carolina now, "Judges Say Throw Out the Map. Lawmakers Say Throw Out the Judges" (Pricey Harrison).

Our last resort is the ballot, and by God, we better hang onto our rights. Anybody try to take that ballot from me, they gonna get bit!

Another Special Election, More Voters 'Done With Trump!'

A special election for a Florida state House of Reps yesterday -- in a district with 13,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats -- went to the Democrat. No Democrat has won District 72 since at least 2010 (that's as far back as I looked). The last Republican incumbent won the district in 2016 by 17 points, and Trump beat Hillary here by more than 4 points.

The worm turns. Yesterday, Democrat Margaret Good took District 72 by a healthy 7 points. That's an almost dozen-point swing away from Trump, after only one full year of Colonel Bonespurs.

Margaret Good is a lawyer and first-time candidate. According to Ryan Butler, "Good's edge came from widespread support throughout the district, carrying all but four voting precincts .... Running a campaign prioritizing environmental protections, Good touted plans to combat climate change and
Margaret Good
better prepare the region in case of another storm such as Hurricane Irma. She also stressed commitments to funding public schools, health care and workforce development."

Good went to the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she served as an editor of the Florida Law Review and graduated with honors. And now she's a member of a (growing) minority in a Florida legislature very much dominated by Republicans.

Republican candidate James Buchanan (not making up that name) -- he's the son of Congressman Vern Buchanan, and he's in real estate too -- so ... connected to Republican money. During the campaign he played up his subservience to Trumpism, holding a rally where former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski carried the torch for him, and, according to Dave Weigel, Buchanan encouraged his supporters when they started chanting "lock her up" at that rally.

But look at his website. Buchanan's vanilla, country-club Republican with a questionable core.

The mirrored glasses belong to James Buchanan
Campaign photo

Bill Aceto Is His Name and Voter Suppression Is His Game

Nancy Owen and Bill Aceto
Yesterday the Republicans on the Watauga County Board of Elections, led by Bill Aceto, once again voted against an Early Voting site on the ASU campus for the May 2018 primary. Democrat Stella Anderson was the lone vote in favor.

Bill Aceto was joined by fellow Republican Nancy Owen, who last year for once voted with Democrat Stella Anderson for Early Voting at ASU for the municipal elections. Owen has obviously been disciplined and will not be making a mistake like that again.

So because the vote was split, the final decision will be made -- once again -- in Raleigh, either by a newly constituted State Board of Elections or by the Superior Court of Wake County.

The odd and ironic thing about the Republican Party's hostility to the student vote is that the students fully know it, and the more the Republicans try to shut out the students, the more determined the students are to vote. You'd think those political geniuses would finally get smart and start trying to win votes rather than alienating the voters.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Democratic Insurgents File in Catawba County House and Senate Districts

There's Blue Wave movement in Hickory, North Carolina!

Kim Bost, running in the NC House District 96
District 96 takes in a chunk of Catawba including most of Newton-Conover and most of Hickory and the dense sub-developments of St. Stephens, Long View, and Mountain View.
Incumbent Republican: Jay Adams hasn't yet announced his intentions, but another Republican, Taylor Huffman, filed yesterday. Jay Adams, first elected to the chamber four years ago, is a real estate broker who says he wants to bring back manufacturing to
Kim Bost
Hickory, presumably the furniture industry which is both a worthy goal and probably an impossibility. Adams ran unopposed by any Democrat in 2016. The other RepKiublican, Taylor Huffman, is a blank page.

Democrat Kim Bost is a design consultant who has her own small business. She moved to Catawba County over 20 years ago to work in the hosiery industry. In her work as a designer, she has partnered with entrepreneurs and local hosiery manufacturers to develop new products domestically. She is a graduate of the University of Delaware and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She is active in her community as a volunteer for many organizations including the Hickory Soup Kitchen, the Hickory Museum of Art, and the March of Dimes Foundation. She is the founder of the local opioid awareness group, Parents for Prevention and Recovery. Kim and her husband, Walter, have one son, Connor, age 13. She says, “I’m not a politician. I’m a wife, a small business owner, and a community volunteer. But most importantly, I’m a parent. And as a parent, I want all our children to grow up in a North Carolina with great schools that meet the needs of every student from preschool through college. A North Carolina that offers meaningful, fulfilling and good paying jobs."

Ric Vandett, running in the NC Senate District 42
Senate District 42 includes Catawba and Alexander counties, taking in Taylorsville, Hiddenite, Hickory, Newton-Conover, and the up-scale enclave of Bethlehem.
Republican incumbent: Andy Wells, who filed for reelection yesterday alongside the first of what will probably be two Republican primary opponents, is the owner of Prism
Ric Vandett with June Atkinson
Development, a commercial real estate company. He ran unopposed by any Democrat in 2016.

Democrat Ric Vandett is the former superintendent of Hickory Public Schools, 2006-2009. Vandett is a veteran of the Vietnam War and a leader in the Foothills Veterans Stand Down Committee and the Foothills Veterans Helping Veterans organization. He filed his candidacy yesterday and told the Hickory Record, “I’ve decided to run because I just -- I don’t like the tenor, the mood of politics in this country, in this state right now. It’s just too nasty and I don’t think that serves the citizens of our state very well.” In particular, Vandett said he wants to focus on issues like public education, veterans’ health, opioids and state spending. “I would like an opportunity to address those things in a civil manner and maintain the integrity that I think our electoral process needs.”

Monday, February 12, 2018

An Unexpected Republican Retirement from NC House

John Blust
John Blust, Republican member of the NC House (District 57), has just announced that he will not be running for reelection this year. That suddenly opens the door a little wider for Democratic challenger Ashton Clemmons (who was written about here on February 1).

That retirement seems like a pretty big deal and it comes rather late, on the opening day of filing, which means Republicans in Guilford County may be scrambling about now.

While John Blust retires, his brother David Blust intends to take another shot at Watauga County commission. He'll be running against Democrat Larry Turnbow, who beat him in 2016.

Zack Hawkins, Running in NC House District 31

After 20 terms in the NC House, legendary civil rights activist and statesman Henry "Mickey" Michaux is retiring from the General Assembly. Stepping in to run for his District 31 House seat is Zack Hawkins, well known Democratic activist from Durham. Hawkins was one of 13 "superdelegates" from North Carolina at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He's also 2nd
Zack Hawkins with Mickey Michaux
Vice Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party and works for the office of student affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously was Director of Development at East Carolina University.

In 2008, when Hawkins was chair of the North Carolina Young Democrats, he was featured in a Bob Geary article in the Independent Weekly as one of three up-and-coming African-American men in the state:
Zack Hawkins grew up in the tiny town of Chocowinity, in Beaufort County, where his grandmother and mother were school board members, church was central, and his parents always said, "Doing the right thing is the right thing to do." He caught a break when a high school science teacher plugged him into biology, which helped him land an internship at an environmental institute in RTP. He got another break in 2000 when Democrats reached out to the HBCUs—historically black colleges and universities—while he was the vice president of student government at Elizabeth City State University.
Twice bitten, he landed in Durham where he earned his master's degree in biology at N.C. Central University and a "Ph.D. in politics" by working on campaigns for U.S. Rep. David Price and U.S. Senate candidate Erskine Bowles. Four years ago, he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, where he heard Obama's stunning keynote address and felt he was "in the moment" of history.
Michaux last had a Republican opponent in the general election of 2014. He often ran for his 20 terms (first elected to the House in 1982) without Republican opposition. Since it's now an open seat, the Republicans would be crazy lazy not to put up a candidate, but at the moment there's no announced person willing to run under the GOP label.

Zack Hawkins will be hard to beat.