Thursday, March 22, 2018

Landscape in NC Senate District 19 Looks Rocky

NC Senate District 19 -- Republican incumbent Wesley Meredith
Wesley Meredith
This description of Meredith caught our attention in Real Facts NC's assessment of the District 19 race: "Meredith, a top lieutenant of Senate Leader Berger, now finds himself in a redrawn district where 30 percent of the voters haven’t seen his name on their ballot before. Gov. Cooper won Meredith’s new district in 2016. However, given Meredith’s deep unpopularity with folks that know him, being less well known to the voters he’ll face might be an advantage."

Meredith is a mean campaigner. He beat Democratic incumbent Margaret Dickson in his first campaign in 2010 with what many observers considered sexist attacks and innuendo. He eked out a win with 51% of the vote. His district was promptly gerrymandered to make it friendlier for a Republican, and he more easily won reelection in 2012 against a weaker Democratic opponent. In 2014, he faced a strong Democratic candidate who produced evidence that Meredith had soaked up social welfare money in the 1990s on a six-figure income, and an ex-wife of Meredith's jumped in and collaborated the charges. That scandal got Meredith a good going-over on the Wonkette website, but he won the race again anyway with some very mean TV spots aimed at his Democratic opponent.
This year Meredith is running in a court-ordered redrawing of District 19 that might not be so friendly. We would expect him to go full-bore negative on his Democratic opponent, but whoever that Democrat turns out to be (after the May 8th primary), he'll have a smorgasbord of Meredith's record to work with in his own attack ads. Let's hope he's got the will to answer every attack.
The likely Democrat in District. 19 -- Kirk deViere
Kirk deViere
DeViere has to survive a primary first with a former Cumberland County district court judge, Ed Donaldson, who was last in elective office a dozen years ago.
DeViere is a former Fayetteville city councilman (as was Wesley Meredith prior to 2010). He is president and owner of the 219 Group, a marketing and advertising company in Fayetteville. He ran more than once unsuccessfully to be mayor of Fayetteville, first as an unaffiliated voter before switching his registration to Democrat early in 2017. In the municipal elections of 2017, deViere didn't make it through the mayoral primary and was criticized for accepting the endorsement of Anthony Chavonne, a former mayor whose tenure was "littered with strife, corruption and malfeasance." 
DeViere's campaign website is woefully under-developed at the moment and needs some protein, especially for a man who makes his living as a marketer and promoter. Where's the beef?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Make a Note: Beverly Boswell Is Not a Nurse

Beverly Boswell
We profiled Republican NC House member Beverly Boswell (House District 6) on February 22, along with her Democratic opponent, Tess Judge. Since that writing, we noticed that Real Fact NC characterized her as "deeply unpopular" in the 6th District.

Her personality came through quite clearly in a recent Facebook post when she criticized high school students protesting assault rifles as "Tide pod eaters."

John Burns, a Democratic Wake County commissioner from Raleigh, told Boswell on Facebook that she should be ashamed of herself. "To denigrate these children for taking a stand is the height of arrogance and ignorance. A dangerous combination," Burns posted. "Until you solve either the arrogance or the ignorance, kindly stick to your district and mind your own business."

Then today, Boswell gets called out for impersonating a registered nurse.

Go back and read about Tess Judge who's running against her this November (if Boswell survives her Republican primary). If you've got spare change, send it Tess Judge's way:

The Action Today at the SBEEE: Republicans Cave

WEDNESDAY, March 21 -- Here was the Republican dilemma today in Raleigh as their newly designed State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (SBEEE) met for the first time. Everyone was expecting total impasse, which is what we got a lot of, at least at first, but rumor had it that Governor Roy Cooper was itching to take any 4-4 board impasse and failure to follow the law to court to prove by definitive example how wrongheaded Republican schemes are. So, on the one hand, while Republicans automatically thwart and overpower the Democratic governor at every opportunity, they could not afford to shut the process down today. Though they wanted to.

Andy Penry
Maybe they weren't counting on the strength of Andy Penry. The governor had appointed Penry chair when he appointed all eight. Penry is a Democrat, and as mandated in the Republican law, his service extends only to this July, when a Republican must take the chair and hold it through the elections of 2018.

From the beginning Penry was no nonsense and by the book, quoting the new law to his Republican friends and making them follow it, and showing every indication that he, like the governor, was fully prepared to go to court to have this entire new board thrown out for not being able to act.

Follow along:

The first gambit of the Republicans -- delay nominating anyone. Delay. But Chair Penry, again reading the language of the law the Republicans had passed, pointed out they had only 14 days to nominate the ninth member and have him/her appointed by the governor.  14 days from today, according to statute. Penry said he wouldn't support a delay, and that gambit died.

The most vocal for delay: Republican member John Malachi Lewis, who also happens to be deputy counsel for the North Carolina Republican Party and who otherwise has no visible connection to the legal community nor the community of Mount Pleasant. He makes a motion to recess the meeting for a week and in the meantime take out newspaper advertising for a job opening on the SBEEE.

Lewis's motion fails 4-4.

Josh Malcolm nominates Damon Circosta and Gerry Cohen.

Lewis jumps in and says he was getting ready to nominate Gerry Cohen himself. What? In fact, Cohen likely knew it, since he had just this week changed his party affiliation from D to U. Did Malcolm know the Republicans had been talking to Cohen? And did Malcolm deliberately call their bluff? Democrat Malcolm moved to approve Circosta and Cohen. The Republicans voted no, and the motion failed. Penry is prepared to bang the gavel and adjourn the meeting: "Is there any further business to come before the Board?"

Lewis nominates former Republican Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Burley Mitchell. Mitchell, it comes out, has also recently changed his affiliation from D to U. Lewis has no second nominee, and Penry demands it. Lewis doesn't want to say who else, and Republicans want to vote on one nominee at a time. (No mention of Gerry Cohen at this point. That's odd.) Chair Penry objects to one nominee at a time. Lead counsel to the board, Josh Lawson, says he doesn't believe there is anything barring a process of voting on one nominee at a time. Lewis therefore nominates Burley Mitchell alone. Malcolm slams that door shut: "No motion is going to pass today with only one name" (Melissa Boughten). Penry agrees. "Is there any further business to come before the Board?" He's got that gavel in his hand, ready to bring it down.

Lewis then nominates Burley Mitchell and Gerry Cohen. A 10-minute break is called.

After the break, the Republicans come back with another gambit: Republican Ken Raymond of Winston-Salem wants to put three names in a hat and draw two: Circosta, Mitchell, and Cohen. Motion fails. Penry: "Any further business?"

Then another Republican gambit (are we up to four?): Lewis moves the nomination of Burley Mitchell and Gerry Cohen. Democrats vote no. Motion fails.

Democrat Malcolm then splits the baby: He nominates Circosta and Mitchell. Dems vote yes. Republicans vote no. Motion fails.

Penry for sure is going to adjourn the meeting as a textbook example of inability to take official action, when the Republicans cave. Did they during that ten-minute break give the honor of admitting defeat to member Stacy C. Eggers IV? "In the spirit of bipartisanship," Four calls for a revote on the team of Circosta and Mitchell. All the Republicans fall in line, and the board votes unanimously for Circosta and Mitchell.

Take one guess who Governor Cooper will choose:

Damon Circosta -- 
Executive Director and Vice President of the A J Fletcher Foundation. Quoting from that website:
"Damon has been in the nonprofit sector since 2007 and headed AJF since 2012. A native of Arizona, he moved to the Triangle just as quickly as he could and has called North Carolina home since 2005. Previously, Damon led the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, an organization dedicated to improving the electoral process. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona School of Law. He is passionate about surfing, helping nonprofits thrive, his family, and the community he calls home. He is kinda-sorta thinking about a paleo diet and seeking new athletic endeavors now that his knees are asking him to give up the old ones. He vehemently opposes Daylight Savings Time."

Burley Mitchell --
Democrat Burley Mitchell had already served as an associate justice on the NC Supreme Court since 1982 when Governor Jim Hunt appointed him Chief Justice in 1995. He served until his retirement in 1999, after a total of 30 years on the court. In 2011 he was presented with the Liberty Bell Award by the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association. As a member of the UNC university system's board of trustees, Mitchell angrily demanded a full investigation of bogus classes and automatic good grades given to UNC-Chapel Hill athletes, and he recently came out strongly against the Republican plan to "reorganize" the North Carolina judiciary.  He also presumably and very recently changed his voter registration from D to U.

Republican operative Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the NC Republican Party, has already announced the Republican "remedy" for what went down today: A constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to fix the SBEEE permanently with four Republicans and four Democrats, the ninth member go hang! Because obviously 4-4 works so well.

Governor Roy Cooper has appointed Damon Circosta as the ninth member.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Thom Tillis, the First Manchurian Candidate?

In 2014, Thom Tillis beat incumbent Senator Kay Hagan by a margin of 1.7% of the vote. At the time it was the most expensive Senate race in history with total spending above $121 million.

At least $345,000 of that money went to Cambridge Analytica, the data company now accused by a whistleblower of stealing the personal information on 50 million users from Facebook to help Donald Trump get elected. That money was paid by Thom Tillis himself and the North Carolina Republican Party. Apparently, getting Thom Tillis elected two years before Trump's campaign was a kind of dress rehearsal on how to manipulate individual voters based on a Facebook personality survey. Cambridge Analytica brags about it as a "case study" on their web site and claims they raised "voter performance" by over 12%.

We say "at least $345,000" because the John Bolton SuperPAC, which spent nearly $1.5 million to benefit Tillis and damage Hagan in that 2014 campaign, also paid Cambridge Analytica some $341,000 "for messaging consulting."

The Facebook data came from an app that paid users to take a personality test but also collected data from those users' friends. The data was given by Facebook to a Cambridge University professor who was supposedly doing academic research. He passed the data to Cambridge Analytica. The professor is a Russia-born psychologist, Aleksandre Kogan, who actually built the app that gathered the personality data, so he knew exactly what he was looking for.

Steve Bannon served as the vice president of Cambridge Analytica during the 2014 Thom Tillis race and until he joined the Trump campaign in 2016, and billionaire GOP donor Robert Mercer funded the startup of Cambridge Analytica as well as the startup of Breitbart News.

Monday, March 19, 2018

New Republican Members of the SBOE

Ken Raymond

The newly appointed State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has scheduled its first meeting this Wednesday at 8 a.m. in Raleigh. The following are the Republicans on the board, which, along with the four Democrats, will be agreeing (supposedly) on the names of two unaffiliated voters to forward to Governor Cooper. One of them will be appointed as the ninth member of the board, presumably as the tie-breaker.

▪ Ken Raymond, chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Elections.
Raymond gained his seat on the Forsyth BOE immediately after the election of Governor McCrory in 2013. Very early in his tenure, he made it clear that there would be no more early voting site on the campus of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), and he floated the idea that sheriff's deputies ought to stand guard at polling places, maybe particularly those in majority black neighborhoods. He said he would recommend prosecution of any teacher or college professor who offered extra credit if students voted, particularly professors at WSSU. Soon after his swearing in, Raymond also went to work running off the hold-over elections director for Forsyth who was ultimately fired early in 2014.

Raymond graduated from WSSU in 1987 with a degree in English and a minor in mass communications. He retired in April of 2017 after serving as a Winston-Salem Police Department 911 operator and dispatcher for 28 years. In July of 2017, and at the instigation of Republican state Senator Joyce Krawiec, Raymond was appointed to the Board of Trustees of WSSU, not without vocal protest from other trustees and alumni.

He's also a homophobe.

▪ John ("Jay") Randolph Hemphill, a Raleigh attorney and partner in Hemphill Gelder and Monroe.
Jay Hemphill is a 2001 graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1998). Before entering the private practice of law, he served as a Captain in the United States Air Force’s JAG Corps at Edwards Air Force Base in California and at Pope Air Force Base at Fort Bragg. He specializes in estate planning, probate and estate administration, tax law, and general civil litigation.

▪ John Malachi Lewis, a Cabarrus County lawyer who serves as deputy counsel for the state Republican Party.

▪ Stacy Eggers IV ("Four")
Eggers revealed on September 17, 2013, as the ghost-writer of everything going forward under the new Republican majority on the Watauga County Board of Elections, including emails supposedly written by his brother Luke Eggers, new chair of the Watauga BOE, to the SBOE.
September 2014, timeline of Four Eggers involvement in voter suppression in Watauga, including his collusion with SBOE member Mark Foley.
For more, use the search engine, above left.

Friday, March 16, 2018

BREAKING NEWS--Two Wataugans Appointed to the SBOE

Intercepted press release:

BOONE March 16, 2018 -- Watauga County Board of Elections member Stella Anderson was named today by Governor Roy Cooper to the reconstituted State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

Governor Cooper is suing to have the new board declared an unconstitutional infringement on his authority by the Republican General Assembly, but he decided to make the appointments now because of the upcoming primary elections. "It is important to have a board in place for the time being to administer the upcoming elections,” said the governor's spokesman Ford Porter. Meanwhile, the governor's suit to overturn the law is pending.

Anderson has served a total of ten years on the Watauga County Board of Elections, eight of those as chair before the Republican take-over in 2013. She is a professor of management in the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University and is only one of two newly appointed board member who is not a lawyer.

Anderson is best known throughout the state as a strong and persistent voting rights advocate. She has been the lead plaintiff in a series of lawsuits which established a constitutional right of students at Appalachian State University to ballot access. The first suit in 2014 led to an order by the Wake Superior Court to open an Early Voting site in the ASU Student Union for the 2014 General Elections. That court order is still in effect.

In that Superior Court decision, Judge Donald Stephens ruled that actions by the Republican majority on the Watauga County Board of Elections (Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto) to discourage student voting was an unconstitutional infringement on their rights.

A second lawsuit just last fall reaffirmed Judge Stephens' order for an Early Voting site in the ASU Student Union for the municipal elections.

Anderson was personally targeted by Anne Marie Yates, chair of the Watauga Republican Party, who sued AppState for the production of all of Professor Anderson's emails. "This is pure harassment and a useless fishing expedition," Anderson said at the time. ASU produced her work-related emails, and the issue died.

Anderson and seven other newly appointed board members -- four Democrats total and four Republicans -- will be sworn in immediately and are madated by the contested Republican law to send two nominees to the governor for a 9th member, an unaffiliated voter, within 14 days. The full board will immediately begin appointing members of county elections boards and hearing protests and petitions from the counties.


Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four") was also appointed.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Dr. Michael Bitzer put us onto a leaked email from the NC Republican House Caucus director, projecting what the election of Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania and the coming blue wave will mean for Republican control of the NC House. The caucus director cruelly predicts that when the dust settles, there'll be just 46 Republicans left.

It's his job to scare the bejesus out of his crowd and get them motivated. But the scare tactic may turn out to be prophecy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Kicking 'em While They're Down

Lunch ladies
Robert Costa writes this morning about the limits of Trumpism, even in the heart of his base among the shuttered steel mills and depressed economy of far southwest Pennsylvania.

Trump went all in for Rick Saccone (on the left in the photo) and even sent Junior to put on funny head-gear and try to seem like a regular guy.

Nothing worked. Not the Great Tax Giveaway of 2018. Not the Spectacular Tariff Bitch-Slap of 2018. Not even a Stupendous Public Rally in District 18.

The Doug Jones win in Alabama was not an anomaly. It was a sign of things to come.

Waiting for that next wave of Republican retirements.

NC Flip Charts, from Real Facts NC

WataugaWatch has been obsessed since January 2nd with the new crop of exciting Democratic candidates running for seats in the General Assembly, especially the insurgents in what are supposed to be safe Republican districts with long-term Republican incumbents.

Glad to see another outfit jumping in to tout the possibilities -- Real Facts NC, a 501(c)(4) non-profit "dedicated to telling the real story about what is happening to North Carolina. The organization is a communications vehicle to share the most up-to-date public policy and messaging research on issues facing North Carolina...."

Real Facts NC has issued an in-depth report on the "Legislative Races To Watch in 2018" for both the NC House and the NC Senate. They make for fascinating reading, and we're tickled to see many of the same Democratic faces there that we've highlighted on WataugaWatch, including Ray Russell in House District 93 (profiled here yesterday). Real Facts NC lists 36 House seats that could flip (and to be clear, some could conceivably flip from D to R) and 13 Senate seats to watch.

I'm watching.

Real Facts NC is run by Daniel Gilligan, one sharp tack who also happens to be a progressive Democrat sufficiently grounded in North Carolina politics to offer expert analysis of the new voting districts and how they may favor one party over the other. His Linked In profile points to his ability to take "complicated issues and make them understandable to influence public opinion and policy-makers."

For an example of his analytical prowess and his ability to boil down complicated issues and cut through messaging bullshit, in 2013, when the new Republican majority in the General Assembly was rewriting state tax laws to shift the tax burden off the very wealthy and onto the middle class via new sales taxes, Gilligan wrote:
...My point is simply that while they [Republican lawmakers in Raleigh] bemoan the antiquatedness of the current tax system, this new solution that North Carolina’s Republicans are pushing is nothing new at all – in fact it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. While they might want to dress it up as a "reform," what they’re really after is some misdirection for a little re-distribution.
Despite arguments they may want to make, twisting notions like fairness or throwing out technobabble like "disincentives for production" to make it sound like there is some of the dismal science involved somewhere, the end product adds up the same: most folks will be paying more, while the top few will be paying less. You don’t have to take my word for it, their own "tax calculator" said so....
[This is an excerpt of a longer piece, via Gary Pearce and thanks to NC Spin]

You may want to bookmark the Real Facts NC website and return there for sustenance. It's so good, it made me completely forget to crow about Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania this morning.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ray Russell Is Top Possibility for Flipping an NC House Seat

The North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation has a short list of NC House districts that "lean Republican." These eight districts (93, 9, 104, 105, 2, 7, 16, and 59) draw the attention of political operatives, because in a wave election, these might be the most flippable, red to blue.

District 93 is at the top of the list. District 93 contains Watauga and Ashe counties and is currently represented by Republican incumbent Jonathan Jordan, who was first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 on the strength of some very nasty campaigning against Democrat Cullie Tarleton. In the General Assembly, Jordan is what's known as furniture. He sits until called upon to vote, and he always votes with the Republican caucus. He supposedly lives in Ashe County.

Watauga County regularly votes for the Democratic challenger, but it's Ashe County that usually squeezes out Jordan's wins. That dynamic may change this year, with Democrat Bucky Absher on the ballot in Ashe running for sheriff. The scandal of lately resigned Republican Sheriff Terry Buchanan is expected to propel Absher into office and may splash up on the rest of the Republican slate.

Ray Russell
Democrat Ray Russell announced that he would run for the 93rd House seat almost a year ago, and he's got solid campaign infrastructure: Facebook, Twitter, and a website. He's raising money and sharpening a message and presents an energetic contrast to the lethargic Jordan: Russell, among other qualities, is a marathon runner. In 2016 he ran the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, 469 miles, to raise money for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

Russell is locally famous as an amateur weatherman who turned his fascination with the weather into a profitable business, His local forecasts now cover most of the Blue Ridge front from Avery County up into Virginia, and most people in the High Country will always hedge when planning an event -- "What does Ray say?"

So he's a scientist, and among the motivations for deciding to run in 2018 was the growing anti-science habits of the Republican Party under Donald J. Trump. It's unacceptable to Ray Russell that the party of his heritage and his family -- he used to be a registered Republican -- should collude to reject the demonstrable truth revealed by scientific investigation. Unacceptable. And he felt he had to do something.

He's also motivated by a deep Christian faith. If he sometimes sounds like a preacher, it's because he was one, pastoring churches in Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina. He got his bachelor's degree in Bible at Freed-Hardeman University, a private college associated with the Churches of Christ in Henderson, Tennessee. He subsequently got a Ph.D. in computer science at Georgia Tech and has been teaching computer science at AppState since the early 1990s.

In keeping with that religious grounding, Russell defines his values in terms familiar to those who know the Sermon on the Mount: “In modern history, the level of trying to scapegoat groups, trying to disenfranchise people, trying to slice and dice the electorate and the nature of the conversation has become so ugly, so rude and so disjoint from real issues,” Russell said. “In many cases, people have been so ugly in their campaigns that it puts them in a position where they cannot effectively lead as elected officials.”

“The heart of North Carolina is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ ” Russell said. “In the coming campaign and eventually in the North Carolina House of Representatives, I’ll live out that principle by demonstrating respect, listening to voices and leading with innovation and skill.”

Monday, March 12, 2018

Yates-Lockamy in House District 46

The North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation (Jonathan Kappler, really) currently lists 14 NC House seats as "competitive." Five of those seats are already held by Democrats. The other nine are currently held by Republicans, though two of them are now technically "open seats" because the Republican incumbent had planned to go fishing next year.

I've already written about several of the Democrats running for those Republican-held seats:

Ron Wesson (two days ago), District 1

Joe Sam Queen (scroll down), District 119

Terence Everitt (scroll down -- with a primary opponent), District 35

Sydney Batch, District 37

Erica McAdoo (scroll down), District 63

Julie von Haefen, District 36

Three others of the 14 districts will have Democratic primaries (including District 35, where Terence Everitt is running), and I've a hill to climb yet researching those races, as some candidates don't have a web presence. The same deficiency goes for a couple of other Democrats without primaries who haven't yet made it onto Watauga Watch (District 46 and 51). Until today.

Barbara Yates-Lockamy
Democrat Barbara Yates-Lockamy, running against a Republican incumbent named Jones in District 46.
District 46 now carves out a crescent on the eastern side of Robeson County and dips south toward the coast along the South Carolina border to take in the western side of Columbus County. It cuts out Pembroke (and its university) and clearly jerks east to keep away from Lumberton. (Looks like the map-drawer had a sudden sneezing fit.) Columbus County has over a dozen little towns and hamlets, the largest of which is Whiteville. But otherwise -- with Lumberton eliminated -- district 46 is a district without a large metropolitan magnet.
Barbara Yates-Lockamy is since 2010 a member of the Columbus County Board of Education (currently serving as chair, and she's an honorary member of the All-State School Board) and is prominent throughout the region. She serves on the Board of Directors of the NC Caucus of Black School Board Members, and in 2013 she was elected to the Board of Directors of the North Carolina School Board Association. On the Columbus Board of Education she co-exists with an otherwise all-male, all-white board. 
She lives in the county seat of Whiteville. When she was vice chair of the Columbus County Board in 2017, she supported the consolidation of Columbus County Schools with the Whiteville City Schools: "approximately 75-percent of Columbus County and Whiteville City schools facilities are over 50 years old and a gradual decline in enrollment has emphasized the need to consolidate."
The Board of Education of Whiteville City Schools fought the consolidation hard. "Whiteville City Schools Superintendent Charles Garland says the merger would not save money and would reduce state funding. Last week, Garland told [a reporter for WWAY-TV] it would be a significant loss of state dollars coming in to a poor economic county."
The opponents of consolidation went to their Republican General Assembly members, who told them that consolidation was ultimately in the hands of the seven-member county Board of Commissioners, only one of which represents Whiteville in their seven-district plan. Whiteville is feeling put upon and under-represented, and Yates-Lockamy putatively represents Whiteville on the Columbus County School Board. The school consolidation vote probably hurts her -- maybe -- with some of her base. It's curious -- in all the local press coverage of consolidation, Yates-Lockamy is never quoted. She's either very silent or simply ignored.
So far, Yates-Lockamy has no campaign infrastructure -- no Facebook, no website, no other social media at all. Someone needs to help her out.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Strong Democrat Running for NC House in Competitive District 1

The North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation lists House District 1 (Bertie, Washington, Chowan, Perquimans, Tyrrell, and Camden counties near the coast) as "competitive," and if Democrats take the NC House this year, they will ride in on their strength in competitive districts. House District 1 is 54% registered Democrat, though we know that doesn't necessarily mean victory, and Bertie County alone contains some 25% of the voting population in the district. This is an open seat, as its representative in the NC House, Republican Bob Steinburg, opted to run in Senate District 1 this year.

Democrat Ronald D. "Ron" Wesson is impressively qualified to win the seat. He's been elected and then reelected as a Bertie County commissioner, and he's served as both the chair of the board of commissioners and currently as vice-chair. He was born and raised in Bertie County, and he's married to a psychiatrist in private practice, Dr. Patricia W. Wesson. Ron completed his undergraduate work at UNC-Chapel Hill and his graduate studies at The Sloan School of Business, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then joined the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation where he served for more than 31 years, retiring as a senior vice-president and Global Leader. In 2004, Black Enterprise Magazine named Wesson one of the 50 most Influential Minorities in Business. Returning to Bertie County after retirement, he threw himself into community service, became chair of the Bertie County Chamber of Commerce, joined the Rotary Club, the Bertie County Community Foundation, and the Bertie County Schools Foundation. He moved into public service in 2012, running for and winning his seat on the county commission. He was actively recruited for this race by the Democratic House Caucus.

He owns an impressive pickup truck.

He says on his website, "Any success that I have had in business and in life, can be directly traced to the investment that others have made in me. I have always been encouraged to look beyond one’s self and seek to support others in ways that I have been supported. My Mother once said to me…'Son, God has blessed you with enough sense to do pretty much anything you set your mind to do. You will find that there are a lot of much smarter people out there, but never let anyone out work you to achieve your goals.' I have endeavored to live by this advice, and if given the opportunity, I look forward to working hard for the citizens of North Carolina’s 1st House District."

There's a Republican primary on the other side between Candace "CV" Hunter, a TV personality, and Chowan County Commissioner Eddy Goodwin. I'd put money on Hunter in the primary. She's blond and a big ole Christian conservative. You know how Republicans are about that stuff.

Friday, March 09, 2018

An Exciting Democratic Primary Shaping Up in NC Senate District 16

North Carolina Senate District 16 was one of those redrawn districts ordered by the courts, and it's essentially a newly created district and an open seat in western Wake County (city of Cary) and considered "strong Democratic," according to the ratings of the NC Free Enterprise Foundation.

Two highly qualified Democrats have filed for the primary election on May 8th:

Wiley Nickel
Democrat Wiley Nickel, a former Obama staffer and an attorney, was first out of the gate, announcing back in May 2017. He has both a website and a Facebook page. Nickel describes himself as a progressive Democrat and "believes it’s time to focus on strengthening our public schools, creating high paying jobs, expanding access to affordable healthcare and protecting our environment. Wiley will lead the fight to protect a woman’s right to choose, push for stronger gun control laws and implement independent redistricting reform that takes the power to draw new legislative districts out of the hands of politicians." He graduated from Tulane with a degree in political science in 1998 and joined Vice President Al Gore's advance team and traveled with him to events during the presidential campaign of 2000. Following that campaign he earned his law degree from Pepperdine University in California. He joined the Obama campaign in 2008 and spent three years as part of President Obama's national advance team. He left the Obama administration in 2011 and started his own law firm in Cary, specializing in criminal defense. He's married with two children. Running for the NC Senate, he has his focus on ending the Republican supermajority that has thwarted Governor Roy Cooper at every turn and which has passed extreme laws which have been overturned in the courts (at every turn). The dictatorship of Senate President Phil Berger must be stopped! Nickel has been endorsed by 2016 Senate candidate Deborah Ross.

Luis Toledo and his family
Democrat Luis Toledo, the son of an Hispanic immigrant, has an inspiring story of upward mobility at a time that Hispanic immigrants have become a target of presidential prejudice and Republican hostility. Luis Toledo has both a website and a Facebook page. "He was raised by a single-mother, never met his father, and is the first in his family to graduate from college where he earned degrees in business administration, cybersecurity, and public administration." He has worked in both the federal government (Department of State) and North Carolina government (as an assistant state auditor). He was born in Houston, Tex., where his mother struggled and depended on food stamps and the social safety net to keep her head only slightly above water. She picked up "their few belongings" and moved the family, ending up in the small western rural town of Marion, where Luis attended the public schools and graduated from high school. He did well in school, opting to take college-level classes at the local community college while still in McDowell High School. He also worked two part time jobs. After the attacks of 9/11, Luis joined the military and spent four years on active duty in the Air Force. After earning a graduate degree in public administration, he joined the Obama Administration as a Presidential Management Fellow and worked in the State Department under Secretary Hillary Clinton. In 2011, Luis and his family moved back to North Carolina, and he took a job working for State Auditor Beth Wood. "In January 2017, Luis joined the North Carolina Justice Center – a statewide nonprofit dedicated to economic and social justice and eliminating poverty across the state. As a public policy analyst, Luis conducts non-partisan research on the state and federal budget and assesses the role of public investments in our communities. His work informs major public debates and helps shape policy for the benefit of all North Carolinians."

Few Democratic primaries in North Carolina in 2018 encapsulate the progressive talent pouring into elective politics like this primary race in Wake County!

Republican Paul Smith ... oh, yeah, there's a Republican also filed to run for this seat, and maybe it's the curse of the last name, its commonness, or a sign of how strongly Democratic this district is going to be, but I can't find him anywhere ... no website, no Facebook page, no web presence at all.

Conor Lamb in the Home Stretch

According to Jonathan Martin, conservative groups have spent $10 million in the 18th Congressional District of Pennsylvania to defeat this man, Democrat Conor Lamb. They're totally freaked that Lamb could win the district in a special election on Tuesday. Trump carried the same district in 2016 by 20 points, and a Dimmycrap wasn't supposed to hunt here.

I've written about Lamb a couple of times before, here and here.

It's not just the crowd appeal of Conor Lamb, though he obviously has that. It's the "Trump effect" -- the growing wave of revulsion over the behavior of a buffoon. If Lamb wins on Tuesday, Joe Biden predicted a whole new wave of Republican retirements from Congress, as the reality of the Trump effect sinks in a little deeper.

You bet we'll be watching election returns Tuesday night.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Three Democrats Vying To Run Against Mark Meadows in the NC-11th District

Reading the thoughts of Congressman Mark Meadows this morning on how gun control is not the answer and how schools just need more armed police, I'm seriously looking at the possible antidote for this fool in November. Three Democrats have filed in the 11th Congressional District for the right to take on Meadows, and one of them will come out on top on May 8th.

So ... more or less in the order they got into this race:

Scott Donaldson
Democrat Phillip Price of McDowell County announced last year in July. He has a website and a Facebook page. He's a business entrepreneur and owns a company that salvages lumber from demolitions and tear-downs and repurposes it for new construction projects. Kyle Perrotti did a lengthy profile of Price in The Mountaineer and noted that the candidate pushes two primary memes about himself -- that he's a very dedicated Christian (“People have asked if religion will affect my policies, and I say, 'yes they will,' ”) and that he's willing to compromise ("He differs from hardline progressives in his desire to compromise"). Oy vey! I might be able to gulp hard and take the declaration of religiosity as a sincere effort to find The Light, but I balk at the second. Reminds me too much of the early Barack Obama, who compromised away what could have been an effective health-care fix, whose willingness always to compromise looked like weakness to the Republicans (and some Democrats), who made a sport of running him over and then backing up and running him over again. Interestingly, Price was a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016. Sanders was (and still is) neither Christian nor a compromiser. So ... go figure.

Scott Donaldson
Democrat Scott Donaldson is a urological surgeon in Hendersonville. He has a website and a Facebook page. He's been a regular on Hendersonville's WTZQ-FM as a "radio storyteller," "with warm, compassionate and witty accounts of patients he’s treated and people he’s met." He put some of those stories together with photographs into a small book, "Urological Surgery and Lite Haulin: Relections of a Small Town Surgeon." We're talking folksiness, not a bad thing in the 11th District. As a physician he takes a stand on expanding healthcare: "Obamacare was a step in the right direction, but there are still coverage gaps and Republicans in Congress have done everything in their power to try to undermine the law, leaving many Americans vulnerable. I promise to fight for legislation that will expand coverage for all Americans and make sure that no one has to incur mountains of debt or is denied medical coverage because of inability to pay." And he provides a clear contrast to Mark Meadows on another issue: "I own guns, a lot of them. But I know we need common sense solutions to prevent tragedies. We must limit access to guns for people with mental illness, place limits on high capacity magazines, and ban civilian ownership of weapons that were clearly designed for military purposes. Universal background checks and mandatory wait times are also a no-brainer."

Steve Woodsmall
Democrat Steve Woodsmall is an Air Force veteran (he retired at the rank of Major) who is now teaching leadership and management at Brevard College. He has a website and a Facebook page. Becky Johnson profiled him in The Mountaineer. Like a lot of Democratic insurgents running in 2018, Woodsmall said he never aspired to be a politician but couldn't remain silent "given the country's trajectory." “Silence constitutes acceptance. We were always taught in the Air Force if you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem, and we’ve got a big problem right now,” Woodsmall said. He prefers the term "progressive" as a self-descriptor. Woodsmall also has Republican Meadows' stance on gun safety on his mind this morning. From his Facebook page: "The vast majority of Americans support gun safety regulations. But politicians like Mark Meadows, who have received THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of dollars from the NRA, won't even support common sense gun regulation that would save innocent lives because the NRA is against it." Woodsmall has his own book: "It Beats Eatin' Lizards: Lessons Learned in Life and Leadership." He has extensive platform positions on his website, and they are indeed progressive.

There's a lot of talent in the Democratic primary in the 11th Congressional District. If I lived there and could vote for one of these men, I'd be hard pressed at the moment to make a choice. But if I lived there and could vote, I'd enjoy getting to know all of them better and to probe their electability. Anything could happen in a Blue Wave!

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

NC House Speaker Tim Moore Has a New Scandal

The headline above is not the only point of what follows. A Democrat filed against Speaker of the House Tim Moore in the NC House District 111. That Democrat so far is all but invisible. Too bad, with such a spectacle of insider corruption erupting on the incumbent.

First, the Newest Accusation Against Tim Moore
Tim Moore's apparent and alleged use of his official position to further his own financial gain is all over the morning papers in Raleigh. It doesn't look good. Moore, of course, is blaming the media and "liberals" out to get him. Here's a summary of the new scandal (hattip Thomas Mills):

Tim Moore as college student.
The Daily Tar Heel
The complaint has to do with property in Siler City that Moore and some business partners bought in 2013. According to the AP, “The complaint accuses Moore of improperly intervening with [the Dept. of Environmental Quality] DEQ so a limited liability company he co-owned could avoid fines related to underground fuel storage tanks where the former Townsend poultry plant stood.” Moore and his partners bought the property for $85,000 in 2013 and sold it three years later for $550,000. All of this during the administration of Pat McCrory, and his DEQ chief --  Donald van der Vaart, "who is now under consideration for a top environmental post in the Trump administration. He frequently said while leading DEQ that he wanted the department to be more 'customer-friendly' to businesses it interacted with."

If this complaint against Moore turns out to have merit, wrong-doing by high DEQ officials under van der Vaart would have included deliberately sending misleading emails to create a falsified papertrail to cover their tracks of special dealing for Tim Moore. That's clear in the long NandO piece this morning.

Second, This Is Not Tim Moore's First Rodeo
In August 2015, it came to light that Tim Moore had been appointed Cleveland County Attorney by a Board of Commissioners led by Tim Moore's own cousin, a partial sinecure worth $25,000 per annum --  $25k, whether he did a lick of actual work or not. Because as Speaker of the House, Tim Moore would have to be in Raleigh for sometimes months on end, so any legal business for Cleveland County would have to be handled by other lawyers paid their fair market rate. You know what a sinecure is, right?

But presumably Cleveland County could reap the benefits in hard cash, as indeed they did when Moore funneled millions in support and grants to projects in his home county. Moore became an accomplished pork-barreller.

Late in 2015, WBTV investigative reporter Nick Ochsner outed Moore for flagrantly ignoring campaign finance reporting rules, and by January of 2016 Ochsner was hot on Moore's trail for paying campaign rent to himself. ("Speaker Tim Moore: Big Spender But Not So Great at Reporting It")

Tim Moore is naturally interested in Tim Moore above everything else, but sometimes unnaturally (or unethically) he acts on that impulse, and uses his official position as leverage. He went to Raleigh as a kind of po' boy, but look at him now. Thomas Mills quotes a person from Cleveland County who said, “Tim left for Raleigh driving a beat up Honda and he’s come back driving a Maserati.”

Now May We See the Democrat, Please?
Days ago I saw that one David Brinkley, a Democrat, had filed on the last day of filing, February 28, to oppose Tim Moore in November. Immediately Googling, I found pages of memorials to NBC newscaster David Brinkley, dead in 2003, and one link to "Who Filed in Cleveland County" in the Shelby Star, which gave me this, sum total: "A Democratic candidate has also filed to run for the N.C. House of Representatives District 111 seat. David C. Brinkley will face incumbent Republican and Speaker of the House Tim Moore during the November election."

Otherwise, no information on who David Brinkley is and what he does and what he's done in the past or what he thinks about important stuff today, and a "Hey, vote for me" campaign presence. Nothing like that at all. No website, no Twitter account, no nuttin'. (I did find his Facebook page eventually, after the following detours into an otherwise meager biography:

David Brinkley was founder of Brinkley Financial Group in Kings Mountain, a town in Cleveland County. Brinkley earned a Batchelor of Science in Education at Western Carolina, tried teaching and soon discovered he couldn't make a living for a growing family on a teacher's salary, so he entered the financial services industry with the Big Boys, spent a couple of years learning, and then came back to Cleveland County and founded Diversified Business Concepts, which became Brinkley Financial in 2006 -- David C. Brinkley Founder and President. It's an investment counseling and financial management company, and he appears to have done well.

Brinkley and his wife Marie are deeply embedded in the community. They're generous donors to local causes, especially educational enhancement and local high school athletics. He is actively involved in Central United Methodist Church of Kings Mountain serving as chairman of the Endowment Fund and Finance Committee. He is also a member of the Administrative Council for Central United Methodist Church, serves on the Advisory Board of the Life Enrichment Center, and is a charter member and president of the Kings Mountain Touchdown Club. He served on the Board of Trustees at Gardner-Webb University.

On his Facebook page watch the video of his first public speaking appearance on the street outside the Board of Elections on filing day, to a small crowd of supporters. I got a very different impression of him, and a welcome one. He's far from a politician, but he seems genuine and honest. He's got some political fire in him: "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired," he declared to applause. He came to Cleveland County, he said, as a coach and teacher in 1971 to do what he loved, but the poor salary made him take a leap into the business world, and now the thing he's sickest and tiredest of is the way we continue to treat our school teachers and drive them out of teaching. And
treat our law enforcement officers and other public servants who enrich the general society while barely scraping by themselves. Increase their pay now is David Brinkley's number one issue.

David Brinkley on filing day,
wearing the purple
But he also wore purple for the occasion. "Neither blue nor red," as he pointed to his sweater vest. He wanted people to notice that. Meaning, he's no partisan Democrat, and won't fight like a partisan: "I won't get in the gutter," sez he, by which we assume he harbors a negative stereotype of campaigners and therefore probably won't be talked into attacking Tim Moore's record of self-dealing. Doesn't want to go negative. But that way -- the purple way -- takes you under the bus that just rolled over your torso.

Brinkley should make an issue of the corruption of power. Voters don't like public corruption, and given an option of an upstanding pillar of the community like David Brinkley, they might just decide to notice the truth for once about an elected official who's so clearly in it for himself while all sorts of other people drown.

A Democrat's winning this race -- maybe it's impossible. Maybe even if Brinkley drew sharp comparisons between himself and Moore, maybe it wouldn't move the needle. But maybe it would. I'd advise, in my capacity as Senior Campaign Advisor, that Brinkley raise the money to make Tim Moore's self-enrichment a campaign theme to all the voters in the 111th House District.