Monday, September 24, 2018

UPDATE: The Race in the Virginia 2nd District

Elaine Luria
I was star-struck by Democratic candidate Elaine Luria way back on January 30. She was already turning heads as an ex-Navy commander running as the insurgent in a military-heavy district. Since then, she's continued and built a credible and effective campaign against a first-term Republican, Congressman Scott Taylor, a swaggering ex-Navy Seal who should have the seat sewn up by now.

But no. Taylor has been implicated in an election-tampering scandal that's dragging him down.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Should D D Adams Win?

Guest blogging: Jeanne Supin

Friends and I recently held a fundraiser for 5thDistrict Democratic congressional candidate D D Adams. Framed by our beautiful Blue Ridge vistas, we gathered outside on the deck, wine and food in hand, to hear from and celebrate an exuberant, tireless, intelligent, and delightfully warm woman who has dedicated her life to public service.

Not a horserace ... a question of character
Before, during, and after the event more than a handful of people privately asked me, “What do the polls say? Does she have a chance? Can D D win?”

At first I entertained the questions, talking about the new district’s composition, the piqued passion of new and once-disillusioned voters, the fact that Millennials are now the nation’s largest bloc of eligible voters, that certainly the 5thDistrict is as enlightened as Georgia, let’s say, or Florida, in judging candidates by the content of their policies and their character.

But those conversations about polling data and voter predictions quickly grew uncomfortable for me. I didn’t like joining the narrative equating campaigns with horse-races. I got sucked into evaluating D D Adams by calculating the electoral odds, by doing the numbers. And it quickly felt all wrong.

Elections should never be reduced to over-simplified probability, statistics, and a win-lose mentality. They should be about policy. They should be about values. They should demand thoughtful consideration of the future of our nation. They should be exalted as the deepest privilege and responsibility of a civil and democratic society.

Look, I know we all need to make choices. And I’m not na├»ve; I’ve been working in politics and government for 40 years. Plus I run my own business, my pockets aren’t deep, and I only have so much time and energy. So I get it. 

But I still don’t like the question Can D D Adams win? It feels calculating and cynical to me. It seems to miss the point.

Instead I’m asking: ShouldD D Adams win? I’ve decided that’show I will choose which candidates to support and which candidates deserve my time, my energy, my money, and my vote. 

And the answer to the question ShouldD D Adams win? Absolutely. Without question. Born and raised in District 5, she has spent her whole life giving back to our community, through works with her family, her profession, her faith community, and as a Winston-Salem City Council member. She’s experienced at bringing together diverse interests to help public schools, local businesses and farmers, and community groups.

She will bring to Washington tireless advocacy for policies I believe in: access to quality healthcare for all; real commitments to living wages, middle class wealth and security, and tax codes that are just and unifying; affordable education within reach to all who want to better themselves; sound immigration policies that establish clear legal rules yet also reflect our aspirations as a welcoming and humane melting pot; securing our safety and our borders through wise, firm diplomacy and policy; meaningful efforts to reverse climate change, and reclaiming values of diversity, inclusion, kindness, and equality for all.

Sure, it sounds flowery. But today, as we lead up to the election on November 6, 2018, these policies and these ideals are in grave danger. I’m 57, and I’ve never seen anything like our current political collapse. I am alarmed for me, for my community and my country, and for the future my children and their children might face.

I’m not playing anymore by the old rules: What do the polls say? What about the numbers? Can D D Adams win?I’m standing firm with the one and only question I think matters: ShouldD D Adams be our next congressional representative? And I’m committing all that I can to YES.

I invite you to do the same.

September 20, 2018

Don't Drink the Water

AP Newsbreak
AP headline, 11:35, Friday morning, September 21:

Coal ash may be flowing into Cape Fear River

Substitute "definitely is" for "may be" flowing, and this is the world we've got now, the landscape shaped by, permeated with the leavings of unregulated special interests. 

Add pigshit from overtopped shit lagoons infecting all the surface water, coating the kitchen walls of submerged houses, soaking into the dry wall. Tell me that some powerful interests aren't ruling the roost! And woe to everything that's downhill from them!

Duke Energy is trying to get out of paying damages for the Dan River spill. Duke owes, or could owe, even before Florence, $1 billion+ as a result of spills and other environmental problems at its coal-ash ponds. Duke is suing its insurance providers to pick up that bill, or some of it. Customers will probably pay for the rest. Headline from June 1: "Your utility bill could go up: Duke Energy Progress seeking 16.7% rate increase."


You watch: Those well dressed guys in Raleigh, the Phil Berger/Tim Moore troops, will never make Duke or the pigshit industry own up to its abuses. They're the guys who don't do enforcement. Don't believe in it. Against their religion.

Rep. Jonathan Jordan and Sen. Deanna Ballard bunk with those boys. All of them need to go somewhere else.

2018 Trends

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Something's Stirring in Catawba County

I'm told that Catawba County voters haven't elected a Democrat to the county commission in over 30 years. No Democrat even bothered to file for the office in 2016, and going back many election cycles on the State Board of Elections site, I found some Democrats on the ballot in various years, but none of them ever came close to taking a seat.

This year there are three Democrats on the ballot for the Catawba County Commission, all women, all exceptional in one way or another. You can read about all of them on the Catawba Democratic Party website.

Geniey Yang in action
I'm particularly drawn to Geniey (pronounced gee-knee) Yang, an Asian-American woman of 30 who's been an international teacher of English and is also an accomplished rock-climber: "I got on the rocks and never looked back. It guides my travel plans and has a key impact on how I govern my life. Rock climbing has taken me to some of the most exquisite places in the world. It has been the guiding light to my self-assurance, assessing different situations, and preparing for all things possible."

Geniey's family was part of the Hmong (the 'h' is silent) immigration to the United States in the late 1980s. The Hmong were ethnically Chinese living mainly in the mountains of Laos and Vietnam. Many of them helped American forces in the Vietnamese War, and after the Pathet Lao seized control of Laos, they began a brutal persecution of the Hmong. Hmong refugees fled to Thailand, and from there many immigrated to the United States, some of them to Catawba and Burke counties in North Carolina where they have become well established as professional workers of all kinds, farmers (they excel at agriculture), and in the case of Geniey, a candidate for public office.

I hear from insiders in Catawba that Geniey and her team of volunteers have already knocked over 4,000 doors in the county. That kind of commitment and out-reach is golden. Observing her energy and commitment, a Catawba County Democrat told me, "a young Asian woman knocking doors every day of the week in rural Catawba County is very impressive." More than impressive, I'd say. #2018BlueWave courageous!

Geniey writes, "My drive for progress and satisfaction is fearless, and it is tantamount to what I feel for my community. I have seen the proof of universal strength of community repeatedly through my travels across the world  -- people taking care of people, neighbors pulling together for the benefit of all .... we must all strive to be better than we are. I believe in self-betterment and looking after one another. To make that a reality, I am ready and dedicated to give back to my community."

I was already watching Catawba County because of candidates like Kim Bost and Ric Vandett and David Wilson Brown and DD Adams. Geniey Yang gives me a tingling sensation that 2018 ain't like any other year in Catawba and in many other North Carolina counties.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Connection Between Ballot Subpoenas in North Carolina and DJT's Ego

Well, knock us over with a feather duster! A lengthy investigative piece posted last week on Salon proves that there was past substantial voting by "illegal aliens" in a North Carolina election, only it was done to benefit a Republican candidate for Fayetteville City Council.

We've written about Wesley Meredith before, because he's now an incumbent member of the NC Senate, and a powerful one, and he has a credible Democratic opponent this year in Kirk deViere.

But back more than a decade ago, according to Steven Rosenfeld, Meredith was trying awfully hard to get onto the Fayetteville City Council. He ran once and lost. Then he ran again in 2005 and won, but not without a lot of questions and evidence of illegal registrations by non-citizens who were supposedly taking a keen interest in seeing a landscape contractor elected to city council.

Marshall Tutor, who retired in March 2018 after many years as lead investigator for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, was deeply involved investigating Meredith's 2005 win. "There are a lot of problems with that case," Tutor told Rosenfeld. "I spent a lot of time on fraudulent absentee ballot requests and non-citizens requesting absentee ballots. And it was federal crimes involved because there were absentee ballot requests made for Fayetteville citizens who knew nothing about it, that were mailed over state lines into a drop box in Virginia.”

Tutor took his evidence to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina -- "evidence showing that non-citizens tried to, and did, register and vote, and vote early. We had enough [evidence] that, had it been thoroughly investigated, there would have had to have been charges on somebody” -- but “the U.S. attorney’s office told us they would get back to us after they had time to go over the documentation. About 13 months later they sent an email saying they didn’t have enough evidence to go forward with any kind of investigation. Keep in mind Meredith was a huge fundraiser for state Republican candidates during this time.”

Robert J. Higdon Jr.,
U.S. Attorney
Eastern District of N.C.
Hmmm. Who was that Federal prosecutor who said no thanks to busting illegal voting? Why, Robert J. Higdon Jr., who is now, presently, the very U.S. Attorney who engineered the recent surprise subpoena for some 20 million ballots and voting records from 44 eastern counties of North Carolina ... 44 eastern counties where the proportion of Latinos just happens to be highest. That appears to be the point of the subpoenas and more evidence that the Trump administration is still pursuing its fraudulent claim that millions of "illegals" voted in 2016.

See, when Trump's bogus commission appointed to look into illegal voting crashed and burned -- it was led by Kris Kobach of Kansas (what's the matter with Kansas?), a sloppy partisan with no qualms who's now trying to move his conspiracy theories into the Kansas governor's mansion -- when that commission disbanded in disgrace, Kobach transferred the "hunt for illegals" to the Department of Homeland Security, which runs ICE, which made the requests to Robert J. Higdon Jr. to issue those blanket subpoenas at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Labor Day.

Threatening subpoenas delivered not only to the county boards of elections in 44 eastern North Carolina counties, but also to every DMV office, where many people register to vote, with the clear threat and implication that someone has broken the law and needs to be keel-hauled ... coming from a U.S. Attorney with a history of partisan decision-making ... well, ain't that just a kick in the pants?

We're thankful we have a State Board of Elections and an Attorney General willing and able to push back against the intimidation, the lingering penumbra of Kris Kobach, vampire hunter.

Phil Berger: Why He Won't Debate Jen Mangrum

The Boss of North Carolina, Senate leader Phil Berger, thinks if he ignores Jen Mangrum ... well, ignorance is bliss, right? Berger is not only refusing to debate Mangrum, his Democratic opponent. He even refuses to acknowledge her existence.

MYFOX8 down in the Triad (WGHP in High Point) tried to set up a debate between Mangrum and Berger, a live on-air debate. Station General Manager Jim Himes set a deadline for both campaigns to agree. (A grudge match like this one would take careful scheduling.) According to the notification Himes sent Mangrum yesterday (posted on her Facebook page), Berger never acknowledged the request. Didn't bother to respond even after Himes extended the deadline.

That's not just Berger arrogance. That's Berger flop-sweat. Jennifer Mangrum's candidacy (which I have stalked since late last year, and full disclosure, I'm a repeat contributor), Jen Mangrum has rattled the man, who can doubtless read the atmosphere like a hygrometer. He knows the polls. He fully understands the growing resistance. Which makes him a man in a hurry. Push those rewritings of North Carolina government through quickly. Rush those constitutional amendments to the public, and label them what they're not, and if the voting public votes yes, you'll have all the power forever

He'll play dirty to defeat the resistance. He sent spies to poke their noses in Mangrum's closets, after she moved to Reidsville in order to stay in the race against him. Pretend buyers of the property that Mangrum was renting tried to prove she wasn't really a resident of Berger's district. That didn't work. The State Board of Elections upheld her qualification to run, and the episode just made her stronger. 

Jen Mangrum, center
When she posted the Himes email about Berger's stonewalling, she added, "This is important. North Carolina is controlled by a bully and dictator! Hold him accountable!" She's subsequently published Berger's office phone number and asked people to call him to beg him to debate.

It'll never happen. There's no advantage in it for Berger, and traditionally, incumbents who are perceived to be well ahead of their challengers rarely agree to debate. Whether that's true of Berger, he wants to project that image -- too big to fail. And why confer status on a challenger? Why give them the stage, even if you could wipe the floor with them because of your decades of government experience? (Surely Berger thinks that!)

But 2018 isn't ordinary. Jen Mangrum isn't ordinary. She's got the fire, the smarts, and the guts to keep getting up in Berger's grill. Refusal to debate can be a political practicality. It can also be fear.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Daring the Odds in NC House District 97

NC House District 97 consists of Lincoln County in its entirety and alone. Last statistics I've seen for Lincoln revealed almost twice the number of registered Republicans as Democrats, so it has a dismal swamp sort of aspect to it. That pall of defeatism seems mirrored by the website of the Lincoln County Democratic Party, which doesn't even list its candidates for office, and one candidate in particular -- Natalie Robertson -- deserves some attention.

Democrat Natalie Robertson is attempting the heavy lift of running for the NC House District 97 with three very young children clinging to her, literally, which makes her another of those woke women who felt a call this year to stand up and "go for it," damn the odds. I've got to admire that kind of fortitude even if she's not so far mounting the most vigorous door-knocking and direct-voter-contact campaign. She seems to be getting very little team support from her fellow Democrats in Lincoln County. She needs to be encouraged for the long haul, because if she's not successful this year there's always the next year, and she might yet build a following of activists that could turn things around.

According to her website, Robertson "built a career in Information Technology working for US Airways, The Disney Corporation, United Airlines and most recently Travel Leaders Group." She's married to an executive with Wells Fargo in Charlotte (who was also a captain in the British Army and served two tours in Afghanistan). There's grit in this family to go around.

Who is Natalie Robertson up against? Just one of those big Republican dogs who've mired North Carolina in the regressive silt of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative group funded by corporations that writes "model legislation" for state legislators to introduce...

Jason Saine, clothes horse
Incumbent Republican Jason Saine, who late last year got rewarded for his regressive politics and willingness to carry water for the rich and powerful. Saine was named national chairman last December for ALEC. Big dog, with big money backing him.

ALEC is notorious, especially for influencing the flood of ultra-conservative legislation that began to flow in North Carolina following the Republican take-all in 2012. Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, "says ALEC's conferences and model legislation slip a national business agenda between legislators and the people who elected them. 'It's not listening to their constituencies. It's listening to this very narrow segment and it's all done typically in a very private way,' he says."

Saine was appointed to the General Assembly in 2011. He didn't have a Democratic opponent in 2012 nor in 2016. He steamrolled the one Democratic opponent he had in 2014.

Saine drew some negative attention in 2015 when he spent $19,000 on custom-made clothes out of his campaign funds, but he appears to have gotten away with that. Maybe the voters of Lincoln County are comfortable with that kind of padding.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Kim Bost Making (Blue) Waves in NC House District 96

It's downright edifying to watch North Carolina Democratic candidates for General Assembly seats in  "unlikely districts" proving conventional expectations all wet. When did we last see such energy on the Democratic side, such volunteerism among the rank-and-file, such blazing commitment among the resistance?

Kim Bost, running in House District 96, is just one example of in-it-to-win-it grit in a district where no Democrat even filed for the office in 2016. District 96 is a compact piece of real estate taking in some of the densest neighborhoods in Catawba County -- Hickory and Conover, principally. Think post-industrial landscape where factory jobs have been disappearing, median family incomes have not kept pace with the rest of North Carolina -- let alone the rest of the nation -- and property values have been in a slump. Trump Country, right?

Enter Kim Bost, a native of New Jersey who came to Hickory in 1999 to work as a designer for Ellis Hosiery. She's been a close observer of the struggling textile industry and has focused her campaign on North Carolina's ranking as 47th among all the states for worker wages and worker protections. That's a dismal statistic that can be laid on the Republican-dominated General Assembly.

Bost is running an energetic campaign and drawing volunteers in to help with weekly door-knocking, phone banking, and other direct voter contact. She's already passed the landmark of 1,000 doors knocked and is showing no sign of slowing down. It's like she's revved up a resistance that's just been waiting for a leader, for a standard-bearer, for a candidate willing to work hard for it. Bost is active on Twitter and on Facebook. Nothing inspires followers like a hard-working candidate with a solid platform of support for public education, worker rights, and expanded healthcare.

Meanwhile, the incumbent Republican Jay Adams looks like furniture. He votes for what his bosses tell him to vote for, which is every piece of regressive legislation that Berger/Moore came up with. Adams managed to get himself on HB2 as a sponsor, one of the most destructive bills for business in the state's history.

If anyone can break the bad Catawba habit of voting for do-nothing Republicans like Jay Adams, Kim Bost is that candidate.