Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Congressional Redistricting Claims a Democratic Casualty

The remapping of North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District threw incumbent Republican Congressman George Holding under the bus. Now it's also claimed the candidacy of a promising Democratic up-and-comer, Scott Cooper.

Retired Marine fighter pilot Cooper announced back in June that he would challenge George Holding in 2020 in what was then the 2nd CD. When the district was remapped to be contained within Wake County alone, and after former Senatorial candidate Deborah Ross announced that she would run, we speculated that maybe Cooper would choose to run in the 8th District rather than challenge Ross for the nomination and thus sap the strength of both candidates (which would be a crying shame).

Cooper announced this morning that he's suspending his campaign and won't be running in any CD in 2020. We hate to see him go and hope to see him return as a candidate for some public office in 2022.

It's a sign of the Trump times, isn't it, that Democrats have so many good and promising contenders? And chivalrous gentlemen, to boot.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Outside Group Will Target NC in 2020

The Chicago-based Progressive Turnout Project (PTP) announced its 2020 targets, and North Carolina is high on the list, primarily because of the Tillis Senate seat. PTP will be opening six offices (two in Charlotte, two in Raleigh/Durham, one in Greensboro, and one in Winston-Salem) with hired staff, and will be recruiting hundreds of volunteers to door-knock citizens who have spotty voting records.

In 2018 PTP targeted 17 US House districts (none in North Carolina) with an investment of $8 million and saw several of those targeted districts flip red-to-blue. In 2017, PTP ran successful voter-turnout programs in five Northern Virginia House of Delegate districts, with stunning results.

In 2020, PTP is promising an investment of $45 million to knock on 7 million doors in 15 different states. Nothing's more productive than those boots on the ground, all that one-on-one contact, and the ripple effect for down-ballot races will be significant.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

WTF Is Going on at the NC Board of Elections?

Back on August 23rd, in a controversial 3-2 vote, the NC State Board of Elections (SBOE) certified electronic voting equipment made by Elections Systems and Software (ESandS) even though everyone agrees that a voter's ballot choices can't be audited. Not everyone agrees that the inability to audit the votes on those machines is any big deal, like the 3 on the SBOE in favor of certification -- two Republican members and Chair Damon Circosta.

NEW PROBLEMS WITH ESandS Electronic Machinery
A long investigative piece this week by Jordan Wilkie in the Carolina Public Press uncovers this:

Karen Brinson Bell,
Exec. Dir., SBOE
1. ESandS lobbyists -- and please note that word lobbyists -- informed the SBOE legal staff just before Thanksgiving that -- oops! -- the company can't fulfill its obligations to the state in 2020 for the voting machines certified on August 23rd. Only about 1/6th of the machines needed are available to meet the demand.

2. ESandS lobbyists suggest a different machine, an "upgrade," which was not tested and certified by the SBOE.

3. By waiting until last month to inform the SBOE that it can't meet its obligations, ESandS has effectively sandbagged the board. So the lobbyists -- the lobbyists -- suggested that since new testing and certification on the substitute machines couldn't be completed in time for use in 2020, why couldn't the administrative staff just go ahead and approve the new machinery, bypassing the appointed 5-member SBOE? Just "wave the new system through."

4. SBOE Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell recommended that the Board of Elections approve the ES&S request -- inaccurately describing, by the way, the technical changes in the new machines that raise legitimate concerns about ballot security. I mean, Brinson Bell seriously misrepresented the technical changes in the new machines in an apparent attempt to rush the SBOE into approving them, according to Jordan Wilkie's reporting.

Damon Circosta,
Chair, SBOE
5. "No way," said SBOE member Stella Anderson, who's been a consistent whistleblower about the safety of electronic voting machines. "Holding on to the information of an equipment shortage until the last minute, the irregular channel of communicating that information [lobbyists], inaccurately disclosing the location where the machines are manufactured and not notifying the board of problems with the current system until after it was certified are all part of a 'clear pattern of actions on the part of ESandS that represent a fundamental lack of candor in the certification process,' ” Anderson wrote her fellow board members in an email. Anderson's whistleblowing has prompted a special SBOE meeting next week to hash this out.

6. The big question for next week: Will SBOE Chair Damon Circosta continue his unaccountable soft spot for ESandS electronic equipment? Will he vote with the Republicans to certify new equipment that hasn't been adequately tested or hasn't gone through the normal mandated certification process?

Friday, December 06, 2019

George Holding in the NC2 Opts for Retirement Because of Redistricting

US Congressman George Holding's District 2 became Wake County and Wake County alone (greater Raleigh) in the most recent round of court-ordered redistricting. Whereas Holding was initially elected and reelected via very Republican-heavy mapping, he's suddenly been thrown into one of the most blue-trending counties in the state, with strong Democratic contenders for that congressional seat already either announcing or already well underway. Who said, "Discretion is the better part of valor"? Was it a fat man in armor? George Holding announced a couple of days ago that he wouldn't run in another adjacent district if it already had a Republican rep. So today he opted out entirely, said he's retiring from Congress.

There's already a potentially invigorating Democratic scrimmage for the seat. On Tuesday, Deborah Ross, the former Democratic candidate for the US Senate (she ran against Dick Burr in 2016 and got over 45% of the vote statewide), announced that she would seek the seat. She'll be formidable. But retired Marine "top gun" aviator Scott Cooper also looks strong, and he's been building a campaign against Holding since last year.

Shame to watch Cooper and Ross duke it out, so it's relieving to hear this morning that Cooper might be reconsidering, might jump over to the new 8th District, which runs south of Wake through Harnett, Cumberland, and Lee counties, then due west through Moore, Montgomery, Stanly, and Cabarrus. On the face of it, the new 8th looks considerably less friendly to Democrats, though an ex-Marine fighter pilot like Scott Cooper might be the man to change that. (For the record, the rumor of Cooper's maybe switching his campaign to the 8th might be nothing more than rumor. Cooper's Twitter feed certainly doesn't indicate anything other than "full throttle up" for the 2nd.)

In the environment we're currently occupying, every weather-front creates more weather. Democrat Scott Huffman has been running an energetic campaign already for months in the 8th against incumbent Republican Richard Hudson, and the forecast that Scott Cooper might move his campaign south could seem like a bad cold front blowing in (and I've exhausted the weather metaphor).

Lots of ferment since the court approved the new NC congressional districts for 2020. Sometimes it's just going to come down to the better candidate prevailing.

Respect His Authoritah

Michael Whatley
So if you're a registered Republican voter in North Carolina who's also not in love with Donald Trump -- I know there are at least six of you! -- your state GOP leadership wants to make sure you won't have choices on your Republican primary ballot in March. They intend to disappear Bill Weld and Joe Walsh. No lie.

News broke yesterday that NCGOP chair Michael Whatley submitted only the name of President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican Primary ballot, ignoring the other Republicans who've announced -- Weld and Walsh (Mark Sanford already dropped out).

"Parties are required to submit a list of candidates to the State Board of Elections this week, including all 'candidates whose candidacy is generally advocated and recognized in the news media throughout the United States or in North Carolina.' ”

The Democrats submitted 15 names. The Libertarians, 16 (including the evergreen Vermin Supreme). But Mr. Whatley couldn't think of any other Republicans but Trump.

What's a ballot with only one choice when that "choice" is decreed by the bosses?

Yeah. Whatever Trump's got has spread to the little Trumps in states like North Carolina. It appears to be an incurable disease, immune to inoculation and resistant to antibiotics. Evacuation may be the only treatment ... like the three Republican county commissioners in Transylvania County who left the Republican Party en masse yesterday and re-registered as independents. Evacuation like that.

But Whatley actually doesn't have the final word. The State Board of Elections has the power to add names by majority vote of the board. They'll meet in January.

Larry Pittman Draws a Credible Primary Opponent in 2020

Larry Pittman, the Republican incumbent in House District 83, is one of the most extreme Republican members of the NC General Assembly. He has regularly made headlines with various off-the-rails pronouncements, and he's good at invoking God because he's also Preacherman Larry Pittman. In 2017 he wanted to repeal a provision in the state's constitution so that North Carolina could secede from the Union. No, really. Pittman also introduced a bill in 2017 that would end North Carolina's recognition of same sex marriage in defiance of the US Supreme Court, citing the Bible as the legal authority. Speaker of the House Tim Moore scuttled that plan, for which I think Pittman may have called down fire from heaven on Tim Moore's head.

In short, he's been a regular embarrassment to the Republican establishment.

Jay White
Now he's drawn what may be his first credible primary opponent from the Republican establishment, Concord attorney Jay White who has previously served two full terms on the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners and nearly six years as its chairman. He seems sane.

Not a hint of Trumpism in his written announcement: “I am seeking the Republican nomination for House District 83 because my experience and my proven record of leadership and community involvement will enable me to serve our District. The people of the 83rd District are my friends; you are my family. Together, united by our shared values, we can make Cabarrus County and North Carolina a better place for ourselves and our children.”

Democrat Gail Young ran against Larry Pittman in 2018 and did better than anyone might have expected, drawing over 47% of the vote, and she's been building the infrastructure for another campaign for the District 83 seat in 2020. She might prefer to run against Larry Pittman rather than Jay White, who has an established name and who is, like I said, sane.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Earthquake in Transylvania County

Transylvania County in red
Awoke to news posted on the Transylvania Times that three Republican county commissioners in Transylvania County have left the Republican Party en masse and changed their voter registrations to "unaffiliated." Two of those commissioners, Mike Hawkins and Page Lemel, are currently up for reelection in 2020. If they choose to run again (according to Derek McKissock), they'll have to get onto the ballot via petition. Mike Hawkins is currently the chair of the board. Commissioner David Guice, the third member who announced he was leaving the Republican Party, is vice chair but is not up for reelection in 2020.

The statement the three issued is open to interpretation but pregnant with implications about the current leadership of the Republican Party, from DeeCee to Raleigh. Just an excerpt:
...Naturally, citizens may be curious about our choice to disassociate from the Republican Party. Our reasoning falls along three broad areas.
First, we have clear notions of conservatism. To be conservative is to honor and preserve the fundamental institutions, processes, structures and rule of law, which have enabled the United States to be history’s greatest success story. To be conservative is to be financially prudent while also investing in common groundworks that support individual success for all citizens. To be conservative is to be welcoming and inclusive, understanding that all of us share the same human aspirations; conservative tenets of self-determination cannot be exclusive. To be conservative is to have a strong moral compass and the willingness to challenge wrong regardless of its source. We believe all of these are not merely conservative principles but American principles.
Next, we believe elected officials have a special duty to conduct themselves beyond reproach and make genuine efforts to represent all their constituents. Elected officials must strive to conduct all public and private actions with honor and integrity. Elected officials must value objective truth and, in turn, be truthful in their own statements and interactions. And elected officials must continually work to hear the voices of all while making hard decisions on behalf of their fellow citizens....

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

And the Race Is On!

Much happened yesterday in the world of North Carolina politics. The big thing was the court approval of the redistricted maps for the 13 Congressional seats in our state. Which seems to have set off something of a land rush. Deborah Ross announced for the 2nd CD in Wake County (where there are already other strong candidates running). Kathy Manning announced for the 6th CD in Guilford (where there are and will be others competing). And there's a virtual pileup of Democratic candidates in the 11th, which now again includes all of Buncombe County.

We'll be sorting through all the candidate filings in the weeks (and months) ahead with special emphasis on the NC House and Senate districts that got remapped in a more competitive way for Democrats in 2020.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Garland Tucker Has Ended His Campaign for U.S. Senate

And just like that ... he's out.

Says he hasn't been able to raise the money he needs to complete the primary.

In his announcement letter, "Tucker took several shots at Tillis and did not offer an endorsement."

Make of that what you will. We were talking about Tucker just yesterday...

Read more here: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/election/article237961279.html#storylink=cpy