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.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

It's Not Wise To Ignore Mother Nature

When science predicts bad stuff, ban science. Yeah, that's the plan. Or at least that was the plan back in 2012 for the NC General Assembly and for the whole problem of the sea.

What set the General Assembly off in 2012 was a report two years earlier by a panel of scientists gathered together by the state Coastal Resources Commission. Those guys, from several different state universities, used computer modeling based on increased warming due to carbon dioxide and melting ice caps -- and its cumulative effects -- those scientists  issued a dire warning in March 2010, estimating that the sea levels along the state’s coast would rise 39 inches over the next century.

Jeez Louise. Real estate developers and their allies didn't like the sound of that. I mean, just the sound of that science caused The Vapors, caused new foundations to melt. And hadn't real estate interests taken enough grief in the under-water tsunami of the Great Recession? Enough of doom and gloom! There were new profits to be made, and so special interests got busy, leaned on the all too willing new Republican majority in the General Assembly, and got a law in 2012 that literally barred policymakers and developers from using up-to-date climate science to regulate coastal development.

Pat McElrath
That put a stop to effing science. And development of coastal lowlands roared ahead, unrestrained by any predictions of disaster. Coastal population has increased by almost half in the last 20 years.

The Republican who wrote that 2012 law, NC House member Pat McElraft (Emerald Isle), is still in the House, representing District 13. McElraft's top campaign contributors in 2012 were the North Carolina Association of Realtors and the North Carolina Home Builders’ Association.

McElrath's up for reelection in 2018 with no Democratic opponent. The man who filed to run withdrew, and district Democrats didn't recruit another candidate. An unaffiliated candidate, Penelope Ann diMaio, is on the ballot and supported by the Carteret County Democrats. "Pene" diMaio has a website and presumably some sort of a campaign going. But signs are not encouraging that she's fighting for it. First line in her statement about environmental issues: "I believe in science." Curiously, she doesn't even mention her opponent's role in outlawing science.

All that science-banning fiasco in 2012 got the hilarious attention of Stephen Colbert. Ain't no laughing matter this week.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Wilkes County On My Mind

Current Board of County Commissioners in Wilkes

Those guys are all not Democrats. Here is the single Democrat running for county commission in Wilkes this year -- 

Laura Beth Prevette (prefers to be called "L.B.")

Unlikely contest? Wilkes is notoriously Republican. Democrats are beaten just about every time. Sometimes Democrats don't even run. But L.B. Prevette could be Wonder Woman in horn rims. Listen to her talk. Read what she's written. She's smart, has a wry sense of humor, and talks a straight, plain English that wholly captures her intelligence. "We're the people that work," she declares and wonders why that isn't enough. 

She's native to Wilkes County down five generations of farmers, which frames a good story about return of the prodigal: "As a farm family we lived paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t have the nicest clothes, didn’t fit in, and my internal clock counted down to the day I could leave Wilkes County and never look back."

"My father died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 39 when I was just entering my sophomore year at Wingate; and that was the end of my world. Dad was my world. He was a wonderful man, the definition of a servant leader who worked on the farm all day and then came in for a glass of grape Kool-Aid before heading out to help a neighbor on theirs."

With the passing of her father, L.B. had to quit Wingate and work waiting tables to help support the family. She worked several jobs and then after a year or so she took off for Reno, Nevada, to go back to school. Being gone always helps scrub one's spectacles, and L.B. came back to Wilkes with new appreciation for home and its possibilities, and she took a job at Lowe's Home Improvement. Isn't that the "quintessential Wilkes story," L.B. asks, ironically -- "from a chicken farm to Lowe’s."

She's got vision: "The story of Wilkes County is a story of makers: makers of moonshine and music. — We made a sport [NASCAR]. We made as many millionaires per capita as anywhere in the country [Lowe's] and while we’re stubborn (sometimes to a fault), we’re creative and because of that we have a future. Wilkes hosts some of the best hiking and wineries on the East Coast. Combine that with restless energy and character and resolve. Invest in transportation, housing, hospitality and entrepreneurship, and you’ve got an economy."

"I want us to invest in ourselves (because the best jobs here were always made in Wilkes) and to give young people a seat at the table; to provide incentives for college graduates to come home; and to prioritize folks who want to work and support themselves and only need an opportunity. I want you to feel the same sense of pride — about our history, our geography, our people, and our future — and I want you to feel hope again. I want that to be our story."

L.B. Prevette is an unconventional candidate. Compare her to the male phalanx pictured above. But she's embraced by the Wilkes Democratic Party, and that's a spunky, resilient bunch, and in a year like 2018 (need I say it again?), any frigging thing can happen. But not without work. Not without connecting with a fluid voter base. I wish L.B. had a real website, and more activity on Facebook. The new voters she could energize in Wilkes are computer age millennials, many of whom probably haven't been bothering to vote (after all, Republicans, like the gentlemen above, seem set in the concrete of local habit, and will last for generations). But L.B., with her generational straight talk, could energize a whole new segment of "step-up voters."

She pushes back against the prevailing media image of Wilkes County (as a depressing post-industrial, foothills backwater), particularly an article that ran in the New York Times: "I’m angry at reporters who come to Wilkes to write about overdoses and abandoned factories — but I’m mad at myself, and everyone else who let that become our story and who accepted decline as our fate; who became ashamed to be from Wilkes whether they moved away or stayed. I didn’t always feel that pride. I had to rediscover why I cared."

Isn't this the sort of millennial we want in government? Isn't this exactly who we need?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Back to Union County

Frank Deese (in back, on left) and his family
I wrote about Democrats in Union County down-column, and some of the stand-out candidates for the General Assembly, but I missed someone else who deserves appreciation ... Frank Deese, who's running in the NC House District 55. My excuse for missing Frank is that District 55 covers only part of Union County and all of Anson County. A tough district, yes, but Frank Deese is a tough human being.

Deese has a powerful back story of personal redemption that illustrates why I love this country. Deese served ten years in prison for armed robbery, but he got his life together and came out of that experience to become ultimately the mayor of Marshville, where he's been reelected for seven terms.

From his website: "In December of 1989 I was paroled with $30 in my pocket and the clothes on my back. And as I walked out of what had been my home for more than 10 years, one thought in my mind permeated throughout my entire being: 'I am not going back there.' ”
"The rest of my life, from that point to today, I have set out to prove that we are not confined by our pasts and that we can always turn our negatives into positives. It wasn’t long before I went from hitchhiking to and from work until I could afford a car to starting my own tax business that allowed me the freedom to begin giving back to my community beyond what my conviction required. I became a Sunday School teacher in my church and counseled others to help them avoid some of my own pitfalls. Later, I began to donate my time and money to organizations like the YWCA, and, over the next few years, I was honored with several awards including the Governor’s Award for Volunteering from Governor Jim Hunt, the Union County Chamber of Commerce Minority Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Few Good Men’s Citizen of the Year Award."
Photo: Sarah Nagem, News and Observer
Deese is running against incumbent Republican Mark Brody, first elected to the House in 2012. At that time, Brody was trailing some baggage, to which he's added other baggage. When first elected in 2012 and as a "former general contractor," he had been sued several times for failure to pay for services and materials (shades of DJT!). He tried to dodge TV cameras and claimed the suits were "politically motivated."

In May of this year, Brody threw a fit on his Facebook page about the huge rally of public school teachers planned in Raleigh on May 16, painting his pique with a broad brush:
"Let’s call this what it is, Teacher Union thugs want to control the education process! I am speaking up because I don’t want Union County schools, and for that matter all NC school systems, to turn into Chicago. Let the Union thugs get their way now and we are half way there."
That Facebook outburst ushered in several days of back-peddaling.

Mark Brody is ripe for plucking.

Friday, September 07, 2018

A David Up Against Goliath Ralph Hise

Democrat David Wheeler is running to unseat a big Republican dog in the NC Senate, Ralph Hise from nearby Spruce Pine. Senate District 47 is a difficult mix of mountain and lowland counties that wraps around Buncombe to the north and east, including all of Madison, Yancey, and Mitchell on the Tennessee border, continuing southward through McDowell, and concluding with Rutherford and Polk on the South Carolina border. Whew! How would you like to campaign over that bumpy ground?

The bulk of the population in District 47 lives in the lowland counties. Rutherford alone has more people than the three mountain counties of Madison, Yancey, and Mitchell combined. Both Democrat Wheeler and the incumbent Republican Ralph Hise live in Spruce Pine in Mitchell County. The winner this fall might be the man who hustles the most in the "downhill from home."

David Wheeler
David Wheeler looks for all the world like he's hustling votes. His Facebook feed suggests that he's mounted an active and aggressive campaign, and he got some earned media in the lowlands last month when he got asked to leave the controversial Word of Faith church in Rutherford County. That church has been a Rutherford County scandal for years, essentially enslaving and abusing its members and being winked at by local government including state Senator Ralph Hise. Wheeler's was a bold move that got him noticed. Will it also get him votes?

Sen. Ralph Hise
Incumbent Hise has set himself up for a massive fall. He's one of Senate boss Phil Berger's best boys, very active in attempting to gerrymander the North Carolina judiciary and to squeeze ballot access into something that might fit comfortably into his coat pocket. He is trailing a history of questionable and illegal campaign finance practices. As of February of this year, the NC Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement was still investigating complaints filed against Hise in 2017, and I can't find any evidence that Ethics enforcement has ever reached a conclusion.
The original complaint against Hise, filed in March of 2017 by activist Greg Flynn, detailed a variety of errors and omissions in Hise’s campaign disclosures. They include:
✿ Hise loaned about $50,000 to the campaign, but was repaid about $60,000 according to the reports. 
✿ Required information about campaign contributors – including employers and addresses – were missing from the reports. 
✿ A failure to report more than $9,000 that nine political action committees reported making to his campaign over a four year period. 
✿ A failure to provide itemized information on thousands of dollars in campaign disbursements.
If there ever was an incumbent hog feeding at the trough, it's Hise, and he needs to go. David Wheeler might be the candidate to send him packing in a year like 2018.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

David Wilson Brown in the 10th Congressional District

I'm paying close attention to direct voter contact this year and to the candidates/county Democratic parties that are blazing that trail to good effect. Nothing beats door-knocking for winning elections -- nothing! The problem is the thousands and thousands of doors that a candidate and his/her campaign may never get around to knocking, but getting out there on the ground with platoons of volunteers and trying to knock every door can produce a rift in the Matrix. Especially in a year like 2018.

David Wilson Brown in
Forest City
So I notice the impressive direct-voter contact numbers for Democrat David Wilson Brown, who's running against Patrick McHenry in the 10th Congressional District. How impressive? Of all the NC Democratic Congressional candidates this year, Kathy Manning, running in the 13th CD against first-term Congressman Ted Budd, is tops in direct voter contact. Dan McCready, running in the 9th against preacherman Mark Harris, comes in second with impressive numbers. And David Wilson Brown ranks third, which is something of a shock because the 10th is on no one's list of potentially flippable congressional districts.

I did a profile of David Wilson Brown back in February (and of the incumbent McHenry), and you'll have to pardon me for quoting from part of that here:
David 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.”

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

What's Happening in Union County?

Where is Union County?
Below Charlotte-Mecklenburg, on the South Carolina line. It's historically Jesse Helms country with the towns of Monroe and Wingate. But a portion of Union could also be considered suburban Charlotte, as it lies just south of the I-485 belt line.

Democrats in Union County are organized this year and energized. Couldn't help noticing how Union stands out among the 100 counties for current direct-voter contact. They're doing more door-knocking and phone calling than our larger Democratic strongholds in Wake and Mecklenburg. Which means they're supporting the wave that could roll all the way to Raleigh (not to mention DeeCee).

Union's Star Candidates in 2018
Dan McCready, running for the 9th Congressional seat. We've written about McCready several times, and he's attracting national support. Whether the map for the 9th is going to survive current legal action is another question, but at the moment McCready looks like a winner in a flippable district (which used to be Robert Pittenger's. He was involuntarily retired in the May Republican primary).

Caroline Walker, running for the state Senate (District 35). We first noticed Walker back in February. For a year like 2018, she's got it all ... a compelling resume in both business and education, an exemplary personal life that speaks to the struggles and rewards of many ordinary Union Countians, and an inspirational vision of helping rather than hurting her fellow citizens.

No one that I know of lists Senate District 35 as "in play," but Walker is running for an open seat (a plus), she's showing canny instincts as a candidate (check out her Twitter feed), and she's obviously got an energized Democratic Party behind her.

Senator Jeff Jackson of the nearby 37th District has been raising money across the state to help flip the NC Senate -- or at least break the Republican super-majority -- and I certainly hope that some of that money goes to support Caroline Walker. Her bravery and resolve are an inspiration in a year rich with inspirational first-candidate stories.

D'Oh! Forgot Rick Foulke
Also in Union County, Rick Foulke is running for the NC House District 68 seat. We first took note of him back on January 2nd of this year.

Like Ray Russell, Foulke was until recently an Unaffiliated voter. He was a doctor in the Army before retiring as a lieutenant colonel and going into private practice as an oncologist, first in Charlotte and then in Matthews. He decided to register as a Democrat after the Republicans refused to expand Medicaid. Those and other Republican policies "got me off the sidelines and persuaded me that I really need to be in this fight," Foulke said. “I spent my career diagnosing people with cancer, telling them I can save their lives but see them die because they couldn’t afford the treatment,” Foulke said. “That’s why I’m running.”

Monday, September 03, 2018

Dianne Little in NC House District 94

Dianne Little
Few other things a candidate does will get my attention like direct voter contact ... doors knocked, phone calls made, hands shaken.

That's why I sat up when I saw the numbers of direct voter contact for Democrat Dianne Little, running next door in House District 94 (Alexander and part of Wilkes counties). Only one other candidate for the General Assembly has higher numbers, and none of this year's Democratic stars in Wake, Mecklenburg, and Guilford have come close to hustling like Dianne Little is hustling.

We like her campaign theme: "Brave Enough to Say ENOUGH!" That's aimed at the corruption and misrule flowing out of Raleigh. Here's how her platform pokes at the current Republican super majority in the NC House and Senate:
✤ They have funneled money designated for public schools – our tax dollars – into private schools; and they have allowed charter schools to increase in number while public schools have lost enrollment. 
✤ They have allowed teacher salaries to plummet to as low as 47th in the nation, taken away the due process that employees need for fair treatment, and robbed educators of professional development funding and master’s degree stipends. 
✤ Those same leaders have denied equal access to quality healthcare for all North Carolina residents and have failed to provide access to health insurance. 
✤ They watched our environment be polluted while refusing to hold the polluters accountable for the clean-up cost, and instead, passed that cost on to taxpayers. 
✤ They have placed a larger tax burden on the shoulders of the average citizen and given huge tax breaks to larger corporations.
She's a veteran educator with over 40 years active experience in teaching, so naturally she's got education at the top of her issues. She taught at Alexander Central High School for 23 years, served as assistant principal and principal at Newton-Conover High School, and now is the director of the Phillips Leadership Institute at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory.

More importantly, she's obviously got a corps of volunteers working for her, which means more than a large bank account.

Who's she running against? This dude, Jeffrey Elmore, first elected to the NC House in 2012. We remember him mainly from the Republican primary he ran against Dan Soucek in 2010 for the NC Senate Dist. 45, which Soucek ultimately won.

While Little decries the backhand that public education has suffered during Elmore's term in office, Elmore can manage only a shrug: In 2014, he said "issues with abolishing teacher tenure would have to sort themselves out." Now, there's a leader!

He's hardcore on every issue where moderation might expose some humanity.

He doesn't appear to be taking Dianne Little seriously. If his Facebook page is any indication -- he hasn't posted anything since May, which was a new profile photo -- he appears to expect to coast back into office, and his website still says he represents Allegheny County, which was under a previous map.

Smugness in an incumbent in a year like 2018 might be a stumbling block.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Thank You, Juanita Jean's, The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon Inc.

Trump Exhaustion: There's a Cure for It

The daily tantrums. The hourly insults. The several thousand lies, fabrications, and misstatements. The muddying of crystal clear waters.

Living with Trump is like the constant itching need to tweezer out the tick before the tick gets to your bloodstream.

It's all so exhausting. Not just to us Twitterman-averse types but to his supporters too.

Exhausting was the word Sean Spicer used. Working for Trump wore him down, the way a nurse in the trauma ward is worn down. Cal Thomas noticed that Fox News host Neil Cavuto sounded more tired than mad when he addressed an on-air editorial to Trump personally: Payoffs to porn stars? Really, Dude? You've been denying any affair, and the $130,000 (at least) that sloshed over it --“You promised to drain the swamp, but you are muddying the waters."

"Mr. Trump should worry that Americans will stop believing anything he says.” --Cal Thomas. 

Isn't disbelief plain evidence of exhaustion? Or is it the cause?

Outrage maintained at high dynes for extended periods of time can lead to exhaustion. Exhaustion leads to shrugging the shoulders and rolling the eyes at the most recent outrage. The Onion can't even parody what is already the greatest living parody ever in the history of The Presidency.

"We’re exhausted. Trump has exhausted us to the point that he can rip up documents that belong to us — rip up our history and our ability to have a full accounting of what went on here — and all we can do is shrug." Elie Mystal was talking about the actual, literal Trump habit of tearing up all paper that comes across his desk, but it could be the metaphor for Trump's shredding of the emoluments clause. See, you're too exhausted to even notice any more.

Exhausting to the point of numbness. Are we becoming a Nation of Numbnuts? 

Not on your life, Bucko.

Lack of energy -- exhaustion -- can also follow a lack of motivation. Got no plan. Got no energy. That's a bad hole to fall into politically, but it isn't the trap this year. 2018 is full of energy, motivation, and A Plan, and it all climaxes in a vote.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Beto O'Rourke, Ballsy and Punk

So one of 2018's rock stars, Beto O'Rourke, has pulled even to Ted Cruz in polling for the Texas Senate race. Pulled even. He had proposed six debates to Ted Cruz, and Cruz countered with five and demanded the first one be this coming Friday at a place of Cruz's choosing and with a moderator of Cruz's choosing, and Beto said, "Whoa, Big Boy," and refused to jump to Cruz's tune:
O’Rourke said Monday that Cruz’s campaign has “attempted to dictate” different aspects of the debate schedule, such as the time, the moderators and which subjects the candidates could speak about.
“We’re working through those differences, and we’re trying to introduce more of a collaborative style to the negotiations than he [Cruz] may be used to,” O’Rourke said .... “And so we’re confident that out of that, we’re going to come to something good.”
That took balls.

So what did those miffed boys over in Cruz-land do? They dug up an old photo of Beto when he was
Beto O'Rourke, rock star.
He's on the left in goatee
and ponytail
in college and in a punk rock band, and they tweeted it out with the sarcastic suggestion that Beto couldn't debate this Friday because of a previous engagement [wink wink], because they thought that photo would embarrass him and hurt him with Texas Marlboro men.

It's fascinating to watch misfire after misfire by the Trumpian troops, miscalculations that can be deadly. Remember the video ad in favor of Jonathan Jordan that attacked weatherman Ray Russell as the "nutty professor." That one also backfired in a big way. People so mad they're contributing to Russell's campaign.

May the gods of tone-deafness continue to smile on this bunch and continue to inspire their dreams.

By Their Works ... We Shall Know Them

Indebted to the fine folks at Real Facts NC for compiling this list of 19 laws enacted by the NC General Assembly (Berger/Moore), subsequently ruled unlawful by the courts.

So ... an issue of legitimacy and hence illegitimacy. If you drew your own district illegally -- twice now --  and were "safe" via unconstitutional gerrymandering -- then you're illegitimate, and bastards do what bastards are:

Case/Short Name
Bill Number
Passage Date
Struck Down By
Congressional Districts

Congressional Districts
Federal panels as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders in January 2018 and August 2018
Legislative Districts
Election/Ethics Board Reform
Three-judge Superior Court Panel; ruling upheld by State Supreme Court
Elections/Ethics Board Reforms
Voter ID
Fourth Circuit (7/16); affirmed by US Supreme Court
Coal Ash Commission
Judicial Retention Elections
Stopped NCAE Dues check off
Career status for teachers
Wake County Board of Education
Wake County Commissioners Redistricting
Greensboro City Council Redistricting
Women’s Right to Know Act
Planned Parenthood defunding
Asheville Water
Forced Annexation
Ballot Labels for Judicial Elections
Sore Loser Law

Berger/Moore, Reaping What They've Sown

"Sizzling frustration." That's the hot turn of phrase that Sam Levine used to describe the attitude of the three federal judges who issued the 300+ page ruling about the NC General Assembly's continued attempts to keep the state's congressional districts gerrymandered using unconstitutional maps. Well, really it was one of the three, Federal Judge James Wynn, who wrote that decision and showed his mounting anger at our power-blind General Assembly.

Just look at how the Berger/Moore forces have resisted previous court findings: The Republicans passed new congressional district maps in 2011, which were in effect in 2012 and 2014 but were ruled an "unconstitutional racial gerrymander" in 2015. The maps the GA drew in response to that were the maps struck down this week on Monday. In addition to engineering (now) purely partisan gerrymandering to replace their purely racial gerrymandering, the GA has also mucked around in the state's judiciary,  imposing partisanship on those races and eliminating primaries, all in an effort to keep Republican judges on the bench and elect more of them. (And I haven't even gotten to the dismantling of checks and balances that those same Republicans have written into some constitutional amendments, and that's another whole set of lawsuits.)

The Federal judges saw all of that and were not amused. Which is why they're perfectly willing, given Republican behavior, to impose the harshest of remedies, to force the GA (or more likely, a special master) to draw new districts right now.

Berger/Moore, you brought this on yourselves.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Fruit Baskets, TURN OVER!

The whole world appears to be watching now -- the Berger/Moore North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) once again in national news for unconstitutionally cementing its grip on power via gerrymandering the living hell out of their ideological opponents.

The three-judge panel of Federal judges not only threw out the most recent NCGA redistricting of US House seats. They also said that the Republican scissoring of the state may necessitate another redistricting -- this time by a "special master" who isn't accepting back scratches from anybody -- and maybe even prior to November's scheduled election.

The Background
These are the same three Federal judges who heard this case (brought by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters) back in 2017. They issued their unanimous decision on January 9 of this year: That North Carolina’s 2016 redistricting plan (drawn in response to having their first redistricting map thrown out as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander) now relied too heavily on partisan affiliation in drawing constituencies, violating citizens’ rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution.

The first time a federal court had ever struck down a redistricting plan as a partisan gerrymander.

Well, the Supreme Court came to the rescue. By January 19 -- ten days later -- the High Court stayed the three-judge panel's order that new maps be drawn forthwith and sent the case back to the three, to reconsider, using the Supremes own very recently written guidelines for who has legal standing in gerrymandering cases. (Without the right to sue -- "standing" -- you're not going anywhere, O my brethren.)

It took over 300 pages of evidence and legal reasoning for the three to say, well, yes, these plaintiffs have standing because they can demonstrate direct harm, and as a matter of fact there is unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering going on in North Carolina, and it's even more pernicious than we thought. Therefore, the NCGA -- no, better, a special master -- needs to redraw those maps, and they may need to do it before this November. But here's our out: we'll give both sides until August 31st to present arguments on whether the court should allow the existing map to be used one more time. (Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. Not using the current maps for this November would probably necessitate turning November 6th into a primary for the 13 US Congressional seats, and move the final election for those seats to January of 2019, just before the convening of the new Congress. The judges even suggested that the state could forego congressional primaries altogether, as the NCGA had shown a willingness to eliminate primaries in other partisan races, namely judgeships.) [judges' mike drop]

The Supreme Court will never let them do it, stop the November election for congresspersons over partisan gerrymandering. The court has never ruled a partisan gerrymander unconstitutional. It blatantly passed up three separate opportunities to do so in its last term (Michael Wines and Richard Fausset). That was with Anthony Kennedy still on the Court.

With Kennedy retired, deadlock could happen, between four justices who have argued that the Court has the ability to judge partisan maps for their infringement on constitutional rights, and four conservatives who've never seen a partisan gerrymander they couldn't wink at. If they deadlocked 4-4, then my understanding is that the three-judge panel would have the magic wand to do its worst.

Some (many? all?) of the current Democratic candidates for US House seats will be relieved when the Supreme Court slaps a stay on this decision, or the three-judge panel stays its own ruling and keeps the old gerrymandered maps for one more time. The only thing worse than dread is dread from multiple directions.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Rewritten Constitutional Amendment Governing the State Board of Elections Is Still Very Bad

So Berger/Moore have taken out the language that would have stripped the governor of his power to appoint hundreds thousands of members of all state boards and commissions, which are charged with carrying out laws, setting policies, and enforcing compliance. But they left in the baseline chuckleheaded proposal to make the State Board of Elections an even-steven board of four hardline Republicans and four hardline Democrats.

Can you spell stalemate?

The current board is nine members, after the Berger/Moore General Assembly lost another court battle. They let the governor appoint the ninth member, and they've been unhappy ever since. Berger/Moore do not want majority decisions on this particular board, because with stalemate over competitive early voting plans, local boards of elections will have to revert to early voting in the local BOE offices only. It's a ploy, once again, to reduce the influence of early voting on the elections in North Carolina. Among other outcomes. A State Board that deadlocks 4-4 means that local board decisions, no matter how repressive, will stand. Or it will mean that a deadlocked local board will be deadlocked for eternity, as the State Board also deadlocks.

Republicans kind of like government that doesn't work.

Watauga BOE. The two Republican members on the left
Look at the local Watauga Board of Elections, divided 2-2 equally between Dems and Repubs. Nothing can change for the better. For a perfect recent example, the proposal to split the very large New River 3 precinct into two precincts with the in-town voters voting at the National Guard Armory and the out-in-the-country voters voting at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church ... Republican member Eric Eller first said it was a logical and excellent solution to a persistent problem for in-town voters. Then when the proposal could have passed, he balked. (Board Chair Republican Nancy Owen was never in favor of splitting the precinct. She hates the very idea of "convenience" for the voters. Or at least she said she hated people asking for "convenience" at the polls. It's like unprotected sex.)

Impasse. What could help voters get easier ballot access won't happen, and what we see on the local level could become the law of the realm, if the Republicans get this constitutional amendment through.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Door-Knocking: The Rarest and the Bestest

Read a statistic from the Pennsylvania State Department: Voters in the Keystone State who are 34 and younger now outnumber those 65 and older. 

Happening also in other states besides Pennsylvania. According to Dan Levin, Arizona, New York, Florida, and Virginia "have also seen sharp increases" in voter registration among the under-34 demographic. High time and overdue. 

What about North Carolina?

Those kinds of specific demographic numbers haven't immediately presented themselves. (This was one relevant statistic two years ago, in September 2016: "Only 67% of voting-eligible Millennials and 73% of Gen Xers were active, registered voters, compared to 81% of Boomers and 82% of Silent/Greatest voting-eligibles" -- Dr. Michael Bitzer.) But I don't find statistics for total numbers of Millennials and (especially) the rising number of Gen Zers (those born after 1998), as a percentage of total registration. What's the situation going to be in September 2018? Is that percentage of Millennials and Gen Zers rising?

Voter canvass, Saturday, August 25
I think it is, but I have only anecdotal evidence. I follow many Twitter accounts that show young activists campaigning, canvassing neighborhoods, registering voters, talking knowledgeably about issues that grab them. Break the Majority, an NCDP special campaign arm targeting NC House and Senate seats, launched a statewide canvass yesterday, aiming to knock 24,000 doors by 6 p.m. in targeted districts. Many or most of those canvassers are under the age of 25.

They're informed voters. They know what's been going on and not via Fox News. In fact, not really via any TV. Many -- most? -- of the Millennials I've met recently are readers, like ... reading is back, y'all! Which means, maybe, some young brains have better bullshit detectors.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Lipstick on the Pig

So another special session of the NC General Assembly today. Because all the other special sessions worked so well?

The NC House convenes this a.m. at 10 to rewrite (?) the two constitutional amendments that a three-judge panel ruled were impermissibly deceptive. They'll pass something today, probably, and the NC Senate will convene Monday to vote on what the House does.

Even if they're more honest about what those two amendments would do, the amendments will still be appalling usurpations of power to make Berger/Moore the dictators.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Phil Berger Deserves To Lose Because He's on the Wrong Side of History and He Has No Appreciation for Irony

When you run a political scrum like the Republican super-majorities in the NC General Assembly, you shouldn't toss around a word like "mob" so freely.

Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger on the toppling of Silent Sam: "Many of the wounds of racial injustice that still exist in our state and country were created by violent mobs and I can say with certainty that violent mobs won’t heal those wounds."

A mass murder at a Charleston black church on June 17, 2015, ignited a movement to do away with displays of white power Civil War glorification on public property (most of those mass-produced, hollow-core Civil War monuments were erected in the heyday of Jim Crow). How did Phil Berger and his boys deal with that sudden outcry? By pouring salt in "those wounds of racial injustice." By rushing a law to Gov. Pat McCrory's desk (by July 23 of that same summer), to actually ban the removal of white power icons Civil War memorials from any public property unless the NC Historical Commission said it was all right. (The NC Historical Commission? More later.)

Who's fast with a mob? Phil Berger.

And perhaps he was counting on mass chaos -- police, tear gas, people shoved around, Silent Sam defaced -- all exploitable for rousing the base. He got it. By defying the young anti-racist activists at UNC-Chapel Hill and on other college campuses, Berger got an issue, and that shit's dynamite with conservatives.

(Finally, earlier this week, the students found their own way to nullify a law: a bloodless trick to get the statue down without anyone's getting hurt. And that worked. Berger naturally yelled "mob," but that's a hollow sound in this instance.)

Did I say "nullification"? Who -- suddenly, in literal minutes -- nullified his own Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission so that he and his boys could guarantee that the real truth about six proposed constitutional amendments wouldn't be apparent to the voters? Phil Berger, that's who.

What was the trigger for trash-canning the Amendments Publication Commission? Why, sudden panic that there might be a Democratic conspiracy to caption the proposed constitutional amendments accurately for the voters. One of Berger's boys (David Lewis, a big dog in the House) apparently noticed (and suddenly) that the Constitutional Amendments Publications Commission was soliciting public input about how to caption the six, and a former legislative counsel tweeted some suggested captions that seriously spilled the beans, and Berger and his boys rushed to seize back the power. 

So we laughed out loud when Berger put these words on his FB page: "Democrats continue to advance absurd conspiracy theories...."

Courtesy of "James" at BlueNC