Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dems #ncga Candidates Catching Fire All Across the State

I wrote about Democratic NC House candidate Terri LeGrand showing some fundraising strength in Forsyth County yesterday. Today brings plenty more fundraising news in that same vein. If campaign fundraising is a barometer -- and it is -- then these General Assembly candidates below are looking gooder and gooder for this November.

In House District 52, Lowell Simon out-raised Republican incumbent Jamie Boles $11,987.68 to $8,450 during the Second Quarter of 2018. Those are low numbers on both sides but still interesting. Boles may be suffering from over-confidence, since he's had no opponent at all for ten years. But he's lugging some serious baggage -- evidence of self-dealing and other corruption.
Democrat Lowell Simon looks viable. He is a recently retired high school math teacher, a profession he came to late in his career after many years in business. First in New York state and then in North Carolina, he managed chains of convenience stores. He was vice president of operations for Quick Chek, a chain of about 30 convenience stores based in Troy, which brought him and his family to Seven Lakes to live. He later bought into Southern Pines based Fuel Mate, which had six BP stores. During his time teaching math at Union Pines High School, the superintendent tapped him to start an entrepreneurship program for students. "Simon has served on the boards of Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust. A political appointee of three different state House speakers from both parties, he has helped draft key legislation, including the formation of the NC Lottery .... He currently serves on the boards of Moore Regional Hospital and Moore Forward, and is president emeritus of the Sandhills Jewish Congregation" (ThePilot.com).

In Senate District 1, Democrat D. Cole Phelps raised $73,788.04 to Republican opponent Bob Steinburg's $48,417.50 during he Second Quarter. Senate District 1 hugs the coast in the northeastern corner of the state. Steinburg is currently a member of the NC House looking to move up in the world. Tea partiers consider him a cuck.
Democrat Cole Phelps is a young lawyer. How young? When he was elected to the county commission of Washington County at 24, he was the youngest member of any county commission in the state. He's serving his second term now at the age of 29. He was the first in his family to go to college, first to East Carolina for a degree in Family and Community Services and then to NC Central School of Law. He got a leg up to get that good education, and it says something about him that he immediately turned around and established a scholarship program for deserving first-generation, college-bound students in several east Carolina counties. From his very first campaign for county commission, he was pumping education and the need to keep kids in school and make college more possible. He's been named a William C. Friday Fellow. That's a prestigious group of 200 citizens deemed crucial leaders in their local communities. For the record (and this particular issue looks decisive on the coast), he's an outspoken opponent of Twitterman's scheme to drill for oil in North Carolina waters.

In Senate District 25, Democrat Helen Probst Mills outraised Republican incumbent Tom McInnis $87,933.80 to $64,642.52 in the Second Quarter. Mills is propped up by PAC money. He was also propped up by the Republican leadership in the House during a destructive primary in May against Tea Party opposition. When you're propped up that much, you run the risk of becoming a prop.
Democrat Helen Probst Mills has been on our radar since the second week of February. She's an attorney from Pinehurst and entered politics this year, she says, in part to simply provide an option. “The reality is that I walk in on Election Day to the polling booth here in Pinehurst and there are no Democrats for me to check. We need a choice,” Mills said. “There needs to be an opportunity for an individual to stand up and to make him crystalize his position on issues and policies and to defend the votes he has taken.” Mills says she grew up a daughter to a single mother and is herself the mother of three and a cancer survivor who moved to North Carolina with her husband, Stuart, in 2006. She is licensed to practice law in Illinois. Last year, Mills was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees. She also serves on the college’s Foundation Board, where she helped develop a program allowing high school graduates to attend for two years tuition-free. She serves as development chair for the Northern Moore Family Resource Center in Robbins, which has opened a preschool and is developing a community center. She credits the overcoming of breast cancer to having health insurance: “Everyone, no matter their background or how much money they make, should have access to affordable, quality health care. Yet too many politicians in Raleigh put petty partisan politics over policies that would help thousands. That is wrong for my community and for North Carolina.” (Republican incumbent McInnis opposed, like most other Republicans in Phil Berger's senate, the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.)

In House District 36, Democrat Julie von Haefen outraised Republican incumbent and powerful chair of the House Budget Committee Nelson Dollar $70,281.64 to $38,800 in the Second Quarter. Rep. Dollar, in terms of what his pelt will fetch, is a rhino, a bull elephant, and a giraffe all in one. This is a Wake County district that was spitefully redrawn to cut out Democratic stars who had wanted to run against him, leaving the current Democratic challenger to screw up her courage and step forward to the challenge.

Democrat Julie von Haefen is president of the Wake County PTA Council and has three school-age children in the Wake County public schools. She scorched Dollar in her filing announcement for what his state budgets have done to public education: "From the expansion of school vouchers and charter schools to the failure to pay our teachers and principals what they deserve, Representative Dollar and his legislature have harmed our students and our schools. Most recently, their reckless and unfunded K-3 class size mandate caused unnecessary stress for school districts across the state. It is time to put our teachers and our children ahead of partisan politics. North Carolina's students deserve better than they are getting from our legislature. They deserve increased funding for school counselors and nurses. And they deserve a public school system with the funding and resources it needs to prepare them for the future. We owe it to our students, and to the economy, and to the state." Von Haefen is married to an NC State professor, and they have lived in Apex for the last 13 years. She trained as a lawyer and practiced law for 10 years.

In House District 51, Democrat Lisa Mathis has seriously outraised Republican incumbent John Sauls during both quarters of 2018 -- $24,963.53 to $3,500 in the First Quarter, and $49,495.26 to $5,050 in the Second Quarter.
Lisa Mathis was a "military kid" who says that repeatedly moving all over the country taught her "courage, adaptability, and a deep respect for the sacrifices of our service members and their families." She trained as an artist and graphic designer and opened a small graphic design business in Sanford, N.C. Deeply involved in community and profoundly appreciative of putting down deep roots in a single place, she started a second small business in 2003, ArtStudio in downtown Sanford, "a place for children and adults to explore their creativity." Especially children. She is a strong advocate for education spending and for expanding Medicaid. She talks on her website about helping working families and encouraging small businesses, especially in areas previously devastated by the Bush recession. She's got boots on the ground -- a good following of willing volunteers -- and a field organizer. Always a good sign.

In Senate District 9, Democrat Harper Peterson raised $52,316.03 to Republican incumbent Mike Lee's $36,300 in the Second Quarter. Lee had 20 Second Quarter donors, 11 of which were special interest PACs.
Democrat Harper Peterson has been a leader in the reaction to the GenX pollution crisis and helped start the community watchdog group Clean Cape Fear. He's also a former mayor of Wilmington and city councilman. He announced that he was running for this seat back last September. He says, "Unfortunately, in recent years, the basic needs and guaranteed rights of North Carolinians have taken a backseat to the interests of politicians and their big donors. Specifically, they have spread distrust among North Carolinians while trading to their donors our excellent public schools, quality healthcare and natural resources for tax giveaways. The games at our expense have to stop. I now have the time and energy and the full support of my family and friends to serve and be a voice for common sense in our state legislature." Peterson is critical of current Republican legislative priorities: "Too many of our representatives ignored the governor’s request for $2.6 million in emergency funds for the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health and Human Services to vigorously address GenX and other cancer-causing compounds that have been dumped into our river. Additionally, tax giveaways to corporate interests have been paid for through slashed budgets and staffing for the state agencies who could have been proactive in defending us from this poison in our water." He also wants to bring back the film industry, which the General Assembly essentially ran out of North Carolina in one of its budget bills.

In Senate District 41, Democrat Natasha Marcus raised $113,802.53 from 375 donors during the First Quarter, while the Republican incumbent Jeff Tarte raised $35,456.34 from 53 donors. In the Second Quarter, Tarte went ahead of Marcus by $7,300, but for the year Marcus is still ahead of Tarte. She has hundreds of donors. Tarte has far fewer, many of which are special interest PACs.
Democrat Natasha Marcus has been on my radar since early in February. She made an unsuccessful bid for the state House in her Cornelius neighborhood in 2014, when Republican John Bradford III defeated her 55 to 45 percent. “The policies that touch our lives most closely often come from the state level,” Marcus told WUNC. “Federal politics is important, but what happens at the General Assembly in Raleigh – from public school funding, to healthcare, to whether we’re going to have to pay tolls here in the North Mecklenburg area is also important." According to Ballotpedia, Marcus earned her B.A. in public policy from Hamilton College and her J.D. from Duke University School of Law in 1994. Her professional experience includes working as a lawyer for Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard; as Judicial Clerk for the Honorable Frank W. Bullock, Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Greensboro; and as a founding member of DavidsonLearns, a non-profit providing senior citizen learning and enrichment. Marcus intends a fight for the seat: “Cuts to public pre-K through higher education, unconstitutional laws, politicians who put polluters over our clean air and water, policies that make healthcare more expensive and less accessible, and expensive toll lanes on I-77 have taken us backwards. Like many people in our community, I am fed up with being ignored by Raleigh Republicans and am ready to take a stand.”

Two of the candidates above -- Lisa Mathis and Cole Phelps -- are new to this blog. I've written about the others before and -- full disclosure -- I have cannibilized those earlier postings for the one above.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Terri LeGrand, Igniting in NC House District 74

NC House District 74 is a wrap-around. It packs itself into the northern nooks of Forsyth County and forms a vise around the urban core of Winston-Salem. It's reportedly 82.34% white. It nevertheless contains plenty of what gets defined as suburbia. It has a three-term Republican rep in the NC House, Debra Conrad, who is the kind of well groomed, country club Republican that Forsyth tends to elect and reelect over and over.

Then comes Democrat Terri LeGrand in 2018, just one of the large group of energized Democratic insurgents storming the Bastille of the Raleigh General Assembly. I wrote about LeGrand's prospects way back in March.

Terri LeGrand
How's she doing? You might say ... just fine! She's outraising Debra Conrad by a country mile. According to a press release from the LeGrand campaign, she raised $86,497 in the second quarter compared to $23,015 raised by Conrad. And she's gots boots on the ground, demonstrating once again that in 2018, newly minted Democratic candidates are out-raising, out-hustling, and out-door-knocking the matrix.

When I wrote about this race back in March, my impression of District 74 made it one of the hardest nuts to crack in this year's insurgency. Actual statistics soften that view (ht, KR): 18,616 Dem, 23,949 Reps, and 17,505 Unaffiliateds. In other words, and quite obviously, the winning margin for LeGrand in District 74 = the independents. Not to mention that when the Dems get energized, that 5 thousand voter-registration advantage of the Rs can deplenish itself quickly.

One cautionary note on LeGrand's fundraising superiority: We know from the Jonathan Jordan example in District 93 that outside groups -- third parties and super pacs -- always step in for their favored Republican incumbents. Jonathan Jordan is a lazy fundraiser, but his Dem opponent always seems to get plenty of nasty negative abuse. That'll likely be the same for LeGrand.

Bottomline this year: money is no advantage over enthusiasm anyway, and boots on the ground. Money's essential, but it's the army of volunteers who'll always take down the castle.

Phil Berger Looking for Something -- ANYTHING! -- To Use Against Jen Mangrum

Very obviously, NC Senate overlord Phil Berger -- or someone closely allied with him -- has hired the opposition research specialists at America Rising to dig up any dirt they can find on his Democratic challenger Jen Mangrum.

Mangrum just got reaffirmed as Berger's legitimate challenger by the state Board of Elections last Thursday, so Berger's team is upping its game.

America Rising was started by Mitt Romney's campaign manager after Romney's failed 2012 presidential run. It specializes in opposition research on Democrats its clients consider annoying. For example, it recently conducted research on career employees of the Environmental Protection Agency who had criticized Trump's policies and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's behavior.

Jen Mangrum got notice from the provost at UNC-Greensboro that the university has received a Freedom of Information Act request for a long list of documents relating to Mangrum's employment at the university. Can a demand for all her email be far behind?

You can rest assured that this is only the beginning of the fishing. Probably isn't even the beginning but somewhere in the middle.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

WataugaWatch's List of US Congressional, Statewide Races We're Following

This list is infinitely expandable and will be expanded as time passes before November:

Georgia ... Stacey Abrams
Oklahoma ... Drew Edmondson

Arizona ... Kyrsten Sinema, for Jeff Flake's seat
Mississippi ... David Barria, for Roger Wicker's seat
Mississippi ... Mike Espy, for Thad Cochran's seat (special election)
Tennessee ... Phil Bredesen, for Bob Corker's seat
Texas ... Beto O'Rourke, for Ted Cruz's seat


Mallory Hagan ... 3rd CD
James Lee Auman ... 4th CD

Gil Cisneros ... 39th CD
Mike Levin ... 49th CD

Donna Shalala ... 27th CD

Abby Finkenauer ... 1st CD
J. D. Scholten ... 4th CD

Paul Davis ... 2nd CD

Amy McGrath ... 6th CD

Kathleen Williams ... at large

New Jersey
Mikie Sherrill ... 11th CD

North Carolina
D. D. Adams ... 5th CD
Ryan Watts ... 6th CD
Kyle Horton ... 7th CD
Dan McCready ... 9th CD
Kathy Manning ... 13th CD

Danny O'Connor ... 12th CD

Scott Wallace ... 1st CD
Susan Wild ... 7th CD
Denny Wolff ... 9th CD
Conor Lamb ... 17th CD

South Carolina
Joe Cunningham ... 1st CD
Brandon Brown ... 4th CD
Archie Parnell ... 5th CD

Lizzie Pannill Fletcher ... 7th CD
Veronica Escobar ... 16th CD
M. J. Hegar ... 31st CD

Ben McAdams ... 4th CD

Elaine Luria ... 2nd CD
Leslie Cockburn ... 5th CD
Jennifer Lewis ... 6th CD
Abigail Spanberger ... 7th CD
Anthony Flaccavento ... 9th CD
Jennifer Wexton ... 10th CD

West Virginia
Richard Ojeda ... 3rd CD

Randy Bryce ... 1st CD

WataugaWatch's "2018 Candidates Worth Watching for #ncga"

In no particular order...

These are the Democratic candidates in NC House and Senate races that I've got my eye on in 2018. I call them the Democratic A Team. (Wanna make sumthin of it? Get your own list!) WataugaWatch has covered all of them -- you know how to search, top left corner above.

Gail Young in NC House District 83
Christy Clark in Dist. 98
Joe Fowler in Dist. 76
Steven Buccini in Dist. 59
Dan Besse in Dist. 75
Marcia Morgan in Dist. 19
Terence Everitt in Dist. 35
Brandon Lofton in Dist. 104
Rhonda Schandevel in Dist. 118
Joe Sam Queen in Dist. 119
Lowell Simon in Dist. 52
Ashton Clemmons in Dist. 57
Natasha Marcus in Dist. 41
Leslie Cohen in Dist. 20
Kandie Smith in Dist. 8
Sam Edney in Dist. 113
Rick Foulke in Dist. 68
Dan Whitten in Dist. 15
Darryl Moss in Dist. 2
Linda Bennett in Dist. 26
Erica McAdoo in Dist. 63
Wendy B. Sellers in Dist. 80
Wesley Harris in Dist. 105
Susan Maxon in Dist. 109
Albeiro Florez in Dist. 45

Ron Wesson in Dist. 1
Kim Bost in Dist. 96
Zack Hawkins in Dist. 31
James D. Gailliard in Dist. 25
Tess Judge in Dist. 6
Charles Dudley in Dist. 3
Sydney Batch in Dist. 37
Rachel Hunt in Dist. 103
Julie von Haefen in Dist. 36
Cathy von Hassel-Davies in Dist. 64
Ray Russell in Dist. 93
Barbara Yates-Lockamy in Dist. 46
David Brinkley in Dist. 111 (Tim Moore's seat)
Aimy Steele in Dist. 82
Terri LeGrand in Dist. 74
Martha Shafer in Dist. 62

Mack Paul in NC Senate District 18
Harper Peterson in Dist. 9
Eleanor Erickson in Dist. 8
Ginger Garner in Dist. 2
Helen Probst Mills in Dist. 25
Ric Vandett in Dist 42
Caroline Walker in Dist. 35
Sam Searcy in Dist. 17
Cheraton Love in Dist. 29
Bobby Kuppers in Dist. 50
Jen Mangrum in Dist. 30 (Phil Berger's seat) 
Wiley Nickel in Dist. 16
J. D. Wooten in Dist. 24
Michael K. Garrett in Dist. 27
Kirk DeViere in Dist. 19
Mujtaba Mohammed in Dist. 38
Ann Harlan in Dist. 39

The talent, commitment, and drive manifested above keeps me from despair, mandates my working harder and more efficiently, because our future is hanging by a thread.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Watch This One on August 7

Danny O'Connor in red shirt, canvassing.
Photo Maddie McGarvey, for the NYTimes

The 12th Congressional District of Ohio hasn't elected a Democrat since 1980.

A special election there for the US Congress is now rated a tossup by the Cook Political Report. The Democrat, Danny O'Connor, could be the next indication that the 2018 blue wave ain't no mirage.

Apparently, Democratic turn-out in early voting in heavily Republican areas bodes well. Early voting numbers always signal political energy -- who has the edge, which team can't wait to get in the game?

The Republican candidate for the open seat tries to paint O'Connor as a puppet of Nancy Pelosi, which hardly works at all any more, especially since O'Connor has already announced that he won't be voting for Pelosi as Speaker, should the Dems take control of the House.

Read This Spy Novel Now!

Forget your "beach reading"! Put down that latest issue of US Weekly. The published indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers offers 18 pages of thrills and chills straight out of the truly frightening world of computer hacking.

Seeing in black and white that the Russians could impersonate official email from Google, ordering a user to log on and fix this or that "on your account" -- I recognize that I've received those "spearphishing" messages myself. I bet most people reading this have too. That's only one way into your secrets. If they can gain access to one of your best friends, they can gain access to you too. It's chilling.
On or about April 6, 2016, the Conspirators created an email account in the name of a known member of the Clinton Campaign (with a one-letter deviation from the actual spelling).  The Conspirators then used that account to send spearphishing emails to the work accounts of more than thirty different Clinton Campaign employees. In the spearphishing emails, LUKASHEV and his co-conspirators embedded a link purporting to direct the recipient to a document titled “hillary- clinton-favorable-rating.xlsx.” In fact, this link directed the recipients’ computers to a GRU [Russian Military Intelligence]-created website.
Once they're inside, look what they can do:
The keylog function allowed the Conspirators to capture keystrokes entered by DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] employees. The screenshot function allowed the Conspirators to take pictures of the DCCC employees’ computer screens.

One Obvious Reason Twitterman Is So Cowed by Putin

The indictments released yesterday drop this tidbit: They stole "opposition research" off Democratic Party and Clinton campaign computers. Opposition research. Get it? The Russians know everything bad about DJT that the Democrats were able to dig up -- not to mention, obviously what the Russians themselves already have on him.

Russians Subvert Actblue

"On or about June 14, 2016, the Conspirators registered the domain actblues.com, which mimicked the domain of a political fundraising platform that included a DCCC donations page. Shortly thereafter, the Conspirators used stolen DCCC credentials to modify the DCCC website and redirect visitors to the actblues.com domain."

What the Russians Did with the Stolen Documents

Oh, you know about Wikileaks ("Organization 1" in the indictment) and their publication of stolen material. But did you know about this "candidate for the U.S. Congress"?
On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for the U.S. Congress. The Conspirators responded using the Guccifer 2.0 persona and sent the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent.
Asked for and received stolen documents. That's a new detail, and doesn't that suggest that other indictments are sure to come? Receiving stolen property. Asking for stolen property.

Aaron Nevins.
Butter won't melt in his mouth
Not only a sitting member of Congress but also an enterprising lobbyist:
On or about August 22, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, transferred approximately 2.5 gigabytes of data stolen from the DCCC to a then-registered state lobbyist and online source of political news. The stolen data included donor records and personal identifying information for more than 2,000 Democratic donors.
"State lobbyist." Puzzling over what that means, Google sends me to a Florida newspaper. That "state lobbyist" appears to be one Aaron Nevins (according to the Sun-Sentinel), "a state and local lobbyist and operator of the political news website 'Mark Miewurd's HelloFLA!' (The name is a play on 'mark my words.') "

We also learn that the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, contacted a U.S. reporter with an offer to provide stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s staff. "The Conspirators then sent the reporter the password to access a nonpublic, password-protected portion of dcleaks.com containing emails stolen from Victim 1."

We've known since at least February of this year that the Russians attempted to penetrate the computers of 21 state boards of election, but "an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated" (NBC News). The indictment specifies just one, "SBOE 1." Was that Illinois, which admitted in 2016 that its system had been breached? Or some other state, like North Carolina?

"With Others Known and Unknown"

Other shoes are yet to drop. Obviously.

In the section of the indictment that specifies which American laws have been broken, there are a couple of references to "others known and unknown" as having participated in theft and conspiracy with the Russians. Some -- most? -- of those persons -- especially the known ones -- are likely American citizens, aren't they? And aren't we likely to see yet a cascade of additional indictments of persons who don't enjoy the protection of Vladimir Putin?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Jen Mangrum Gets Okay from SBOE To Run Against Phil Berger

I was in that hearing room yesterday in Raleigh, but because of the state Board of Elections weird policy blocking WiFi access for the public, I was unable to post live updates. Here's the bottomline news, courtesy of the NewsandObserver:

RALEIGH -- Jen Mangrum, a former teacher and first-time candidate, turned back a challenge to her district residency on Thursday, opening the way for her to continue her campaign against state Senate leader Phil Berger of Rockingham County — one of the most influential politicians in North Carolina.

The state elections board, in a 5-4 vote, overturned a decision by a local panel which decided against Mangrum, a Democrat, in a party-line vote in May.

Billy Cushman, a Republican travel agent from Rockingham County, challenged Mangrum’s residency, claiming she had not moved permanently from Greensboro to Reidsville, a town in Berger’s district. The state election board’s four Democrats and its unaffiliated member voted in Mangrum’s favor, while the board’s four Republicans voted against her.

Mangrum said she was happy with the result, but disappointed that the vote wasn’t unanimous.
“The facts are, I moved,” she said. Mangrum said Berger had been challenged only three times in nine elections, and she felt it was important for voters to have a choice. “I decided that someone needed to stand up to Sen. Berger, and I was going to be that person,” she said....
The local panel used a standard to judge Mangrum that it would not apply to a man, said Stella Anderson, a state board member. One of the local panel members, according to the record, was not convinced that Mangrum and her husband wouldn’t reconcile. 
“That is irrelevant as it relates to the law,” Anderson said. “This panel chose to impose on her a requirement that is not a requirement of the law.”
Jen Mangrum's a fighter, and the attempt to get her disqualified because she moved in order to run, has given her greater name recognition and a growing army of willing volunteers. Phil Berger has every reason to be nervous.

Question remains: Will the man who challenged Mangrum's eligibility (Billy Cushman of Eden) now appeal to the NC Court of Appeals. My understanding is that he has just two days to do that, once the action yesterday is finalized in a formal order. Considering Berger's nervousness and the ample money that seems to be available to pay Cushman's team of high-priced lawyers, I'm betting he will appeal.

If so, they will not have learned that every hurdle thrown in Jen Mangrum's path just makes her stronger.

Full disclosure: I am now a repeat contributor to her campaign.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ye Shall Know Them By Their Fruits

When the top Republican bosses in the General Assembly were asked by the News and Observer if they planned to take any more powers away from Governor Cooper, Senate leader Phil Berger laughed cynically and said, "Does he still have any?"

House Speaker Tim Moore chimed in, “If you have any suggestions, let us know.”

We intend to wipe those sarcastic grins off those repulsive faces in 118 days. The voters of this state will have the last laugh.

Sign of the Times

Thank you, James Protzman!

Jen Mangrum -- Strong Today, Stronger Tomorrow

Jen Mangrum, the former Republican who has become overlord Phil Berger's nemesis this year, will see her eligibility to run against Berger litigated by the full state Board of Elections tomorrow. I intend to be there as a witness.

You may recall that Mangrum, a professor at UNC-Greensboro, announced her intention to run against Berger back in 2017. She was a Republican-turned-Democrat who decided she was fed up by the ruthless power-grabbing of Berger and his boys in the General Assembly. She attracted a lot of positive attention from supporters and a lot of negative energy from Republicans.

So what did the Republicans in the General Assembly do? They redrew Berger's district and cut out Mangrum's residence. What did Mangrum do? She leased property and moved so that she could be in Berger's district again. You don't put Jen Mangrum in a corner.

But Berger's allies weren't done. They challenged Mangrum's residency, and a 3-2 panel of Republican and Democratic elections officials ruled against her on party lines. Their need to protect the empire of Phil Berger was palpable.

Her appeal to the state Board of Elections comes tomorrow in Raleigh. She will win on the facts, and the concerted effort to keep her off the ballot and out of Phil Berger's face has only served to make her stronger.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Republican 2018 Voter Suppression Already Working in North Carolina

First step: reduce access to early voting.


And do it under the cover of mandating uniform hours -- 12-hour days -- at all early voting sites.

The Overlords in Raleigh knew all along exactly what they were doing.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Jennifer Lewis, Another US House Candidate to Watch in Virginia

The 6th Congressional District of Virginia looks about as hopelessly Republican as they come. The incumbent Republican congressman, Bob Goodlatte, is retiring, so the seat's open, but the Democratic track record there doesn't suggest a lot of hope. Democrats didn't even field a candidate against Goodlatte in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. In 2008, a Democrat was on the ballot, got 36.6% of the vote, the most any Democrat has ever polled against Goodlatte in his 26 years in Congress.

But the seat's open. The new Republican who won the primary, Ben Cline, has served eight terms in the Virginia House of Delegates and is among the most conservative. He's also young, 46. He earns a living as a lawyer in private practice, which must be a pretty good living because he has offices in Lexington, Harrisonburg, and Amherst, Va. He was co-chair of the Virginia chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which speaks volumes in this high volume age.

Ben Cline should be a shoo-in. Easy peasy.

The Democratic Insurgency of Jennifer Lewis

Because the 6th CD seat was open, several Democrats wanted the nomination, but a "bold progressive activist" Jennifer Lewis won it, and she's attracting attention. She's 36, a mental health professional and prominent opponent of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, supports Medicare for all, a $15 per hour minimum wage, legal marijuana, tougher bank regulations, and an end to corporate “personhood.”

She comes by her populist impulse honestly: "I grew up with that feeling that things aren’t fair in our society. Financially speaking, we were not well off at all. I grew up getting free lunches at school. I grew up with the sense of always seeing the rich getting richer and the poor staying stagnant or getting worse .... We’re speaking about equality for all, health care for all, good education for all, rural broadband for all. We are this very inclusive campaign that resonates with a lot of people who are ready for bold, progressive change in their lives and in their district .... Being a farmer’s daughter is obviously helpful in breaking down some of those walls of farmers thinking they can’t talk about some of those issues" (HuffPost).

Does she talk about Trump? Yes, like this:
I understand why people voted for Donald Trump. I really do. People were sick of the establishment candidates, sick of the establishment politics, and they unfortunately believed Donald Trump that he was gonna drain the swamp, that he was an independent candidate who wasn’t attached to special interests. Unfortunately, that hasn’t panned out.
She says she will not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House, if and when there's a change and assuming Jennifer Lewis can be a part of it.

She's on the board of the Headwaters Soil and Water Conservation district of Augusta County, an elected position, and she earned press coverage for her opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which put her at odds with the Democratic Governor Ralph Northam. She's against the pipeline because of the use of eminent domain to benefit private industry, because of the environmental threat to water resources, and because of "the political corruption of it all," says Lewis. "You see Dominion [Energy Virginia] writing these checks to Republicans and Democrats, and then they get friendly legislation. The running joke is Dominion owns Virginia. It’s not a funny joke. It’s very sick and it’s very wrong. It’s not how democracy is supposed to work."

Jennifer Lewis will give Ben Cline a race to remember. She'll do it with an army of willing and enthusiastic volunteers. Her ground game for the Democratic primary was intense, and there's reason to believe she'll amp it up this fall. She's intent on registering non-voters -- of which there are a lot in the 6th district -- and she knows the importance of door-knocking. She's an organizer of volunteers from way back, and an inspirer of volunteers.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

We Love You, Howard Dean, And Always Will

Howard Dean taught us modern campaigning. He pioneered social media outreach and fundraising. As chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2009, he preached and enacted the "50-state strategy," an effort to put staff and resources into every state to bolster the grassroots. Which worked. Which lives on today in North Carolina as "a candidate in every single House and Senate district" -- all 120 House seats and 50 Senate seats, contested -- no matter how improbable the prospects, and the literally hundreds of new candidates in every state that are running strong right now, with clear positive platforms, and who owe absolutely nothing to the political establishment.

When he led the Democrats, he encouraged county parties to return to retail politics, one-on-one voter outreach, and he taught everyone the importance of social media for fundraising and for message propagation -- where boomlets happen like lightning. Howard Dean was leading the DNC when Watauga Democrats flipped the county commission from red to blue in 2006, and Cullie Tarleton and Steve Goss won House and Senate seats. We learned so much.

Dean's tenure at the DNC coincided with Jerry Meek's chairmanship of the NC Democratic Party, a renaissance of grassroots activism and retail politics. Jerry Meek came to Watauga and participated in the biggest ever "kickoff canvass" in 2006. Unfortunately, Jerry Meek passed the torch after two terms, and we didn't hardly see his like again, until recently.

Howard Dean made the right kind of enemy. Rahm Emanuel hated his guts. Emanuel favored a different political model that ignored some states -- actually, many -- and poured all the money into boosting the presidential candidate rather than building local parties. Emanuel got rid of Dean as soon as Obama became president. Senator Chuck Schumer participated in that purge. He didn't like Howard Dean either. As far as I'm concerned, Rahm Emanuel was everything that was wrong with Barack Obama's first term, and Chuck Schumer is everything that's wrong with sucking up to money-pimping Democratic donors today, particularly the ones with Wall Street addresses.

Howard stirred excitement among punked-out Democrats and bored independent voters during his presidential run in 2004. It was such excitement. If you were a part of it, you remember it. I see the same vibration around many new Democratic candidates this year. They're rewriting the Party and rewiring the Party brain, just like Howard Dean did.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Republicans on Watauga Board of Elections Want Polling Places in Churches

Of course they do.

Mount Vernon Baptist Church currently serves as the election day polling place for New River 3, the second largest precinct in Watauga County. It was chosen as the polling place by Bill Aceto and Four Eggers (via Luke Eggers) obviously because...

a. It's as far away from the urban-suburban center of population in that precinct as you can get and still stay in the precinct. It's in the middle of the countryside, miles from the population center and without any public transportation to reach it.

b. It's a hotbed of Republican Party activists who make no bones that you can't be a Christian and a Democrat at the same time. This was the church marquee on the eve of the 2016 election. Voters either drove or walked by it on the way to vote.

Aside from the obnoxiousness, the inconvenience, the absence of logic, Mount Vernon Baptist Church is the perfect polling place for the 3,989 voters registered in New River 3.

Watauga Board of Elections Chair Jane Anne Hodges proposed moving that polling place back to where it used to be, the National Guard Armory, but Republicans Nancy Owen and Eric Eller weren't having it. In fact, Hodges proposed moving all three polling places currently in churches to non-church sites which would also be more convenient for voters, with easier access and plenty of parking:

New River 3
from Mount Vernon Baptist Church ... to National Guard Armory on State Farm Rd.
Brushy Fork
from Oak Grove Baptist Church ... to Caldwell Community College
Blue Ridge
from Laurel Fork Baptist Church ... to Deer Valley Racquet Club

Those moves aren't going to happen as long as both Owen and Eller, the Republican members, oppose. Precincts can be moved by majority vote, and both Chair Hodges and the other Democratic member, Richard Rapfogel, want this for the sake of convenience to the public and avoidance of conflict-of-interest or partisan intimidation.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Other State-Wide Judicial Race With Two Republicans Running

NC Court of Appeals, Calabria seat:

On June 13, Wake County District Court Judge Jefferson Griffin won the endorsement of the NCGOP for the Calabria seat on the NC Court of Appeals. He's been running for a solid year.

Sandra Alice Ray, second from left,
with her three children
On June 25th, near the end of the filing period, Sandra Alice Ray, Republican, also filed for the Calabria seat. (And, if you've been paying attention here, ditto the elimination of judicial primaries this year, so there are two Republicans and one Democrat running for the Calabria seat.)

Sandra Alice Ray is not endorsed by the NCGOP. She's a District Court Judge, first elected in 2004, and she's apparently always been a Republican. She's a graduate of NC State University and the Campbell University School of Law. A single mother, she has specialized in juvenile justice in Pender County.

She has both a website, and a Facebook page. She joined Twitter in April.

Who's the Democrat in the Race?

Toby (Tobias) Hampson is the lead attorney in Wyrick Robbins' Appellate Litigation Practice Group. Wyrick Robbins is a large Raleigh firm specializing in the growth of entrepreneurial businesses.

Hampson is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Legal Specialist in Appellate Practice with extensive experience in appellate litigation, particularly in the North Carolina Court of Appeals (the court he is running to join) and the North Carolina Supreme Court "in all areas of the law."

He's a 1994 graduate of the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, earned his BA
Toby Hampson
from American University School of International Service, and graduated from the Campbell University School of Law in 2002. He currently serves on Campbell Law’s Board of Visitors. He clerked for three different NC Court of Appeals judges, so he knows the appellate level of legal practice very well. He certainly appears to be the most qualified of the three candidates running.

He has a website and a Facebook group

The NC Republican That Other Republicans Are Hating On

Immediately down-column, see the posting about how the NC Republican Party's attempt to screw with judicial elections has bitten them in the butt. The supremely important Supreme Court seat has two Republicans running against one Democrat, because the Overlords eliminated judicial primaries this year.

The incumbent Republican Justice, Barbara Jackson, veers partisan, so she's anointed by the state party. The other Republican, Chris Anglin, calls himself a "constitutional Republican," so he's the object of hatred. Get a load of what Dallas Woodhouse said about him.

Anglin is a brand new Republican, but so what? A constitutionalist young lawyer can have a sudden conversion experience. It's happened before. In fact, the ranks of Republican elected officials in North Carolina is stuffed with former Democrats. So get over it, Mr. Woodhouse. You guys eliminated primaries that might have weeded out Anglin for the sake of your chosen one, Barbara Jackson. (And see "A Message About Just Desserts" below.)

Judge Barbara Jackson
Barbara Jackson got on the Court in the Tea Party wave of 2010, getting just over 51% of the vote. Here's what Ballotpedia found out about her partisanship:
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan ideology of state supreme court justices. They created a scoring system in which a score above 0 indicated a more conservative-leaning ideology, while scores below 0 were more liberal.
Jackson received a campaign finance score of 0.76, indicating a conservative ideological leaning. This was more conservative than the average score of -0.01 that justices received in North Carolina.
The study was based on data from campaign contributions by the judges themselves, the partisan leaning of those who contributed to the judges' campaigns, or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study was not a definitive label of a justice, but an academic summary of various relevant factors.
She claimed in 2010, on a questionnaire from IndyWeek.com, "I have always sought to follow my judicial philosophy, which is grounded in the fact that North Carolina's Constitution contains a mandatory separation of powers clause." Mandatory separation of powers, yes. But when it came to the Phil Berger power grab that took away Governor Cooper's ability to appoint the state Board of Elections, Barbara Jackson voted her partisanship.

If I am reading her language correctly, she was sending a clear message at a joint Federalist Society/John Locke Foundation candidate forum in September 2010 that, as far as she was concerned, Berger and the other Overlords could do as they please: “My judicial philosophy is that I believe it’s up to judges to judge and leave it to the legislature to legislate,” she said. “I don’t think the courts should act in the role of a super-legislature, and I tend to take a very narrow view of the court’s role.” 

Yippee! shouted the vandals.

Who Is Chris Anglin?
He's a 32-year-old leader of his own law firm in Raleigh, Anglin Law. He went to Wake Forest University as an undergraduate, then Elon University School of Law for his law degree. He's tried cases in both North Carolina State Superior Court and Federal Court. In 2014, he was selected for the North Carolina Bar Association's Leadership Academy.

Anglin told Jim Morrill and Anne Blythe, "I filed as a Republican to ... stand up for the independence of the judiciary," he said. The North Carolina judiciary has been "under constant assault," he said "This is not a trick by the Democrats .... I didn't think I could sit on the sidelines any more and not take action."

Now, a Message about Just Desserts
For several years, the Republican-led General Assembly has made many changes to the courts that rule on the constitutionality of laws. Since 2011, the lawmakers taking North Carolina on a sharp swing to the political right have seen many of their laws overturned in court.
This year, they talked about sweeping changes to judicial districts and adopted a proposal to ask voters to amend the state Constitution so the two leaders of the General Assembly control what names the governor must consider when filling vacancies on the benches of the state courts.
They also considered asking voters to abandon the election of judges, but stopped short of that. Last year, they did away with primary elections for all judicial races this year.
The state Democratic Party went to federal court in an effort to stop that. Attorneys argued that without an election to winnow the field of candidates in the first year in decades that all judicial elections are partisan, the party would not have a way to let voters know its candidate of choice on the November ballot.
Republican lawmakers also changed the election rules for 2018 so that any candidate could declare affiliation with a party 30 days before filing notice of their candidacy.
Democrats argued in court that could lead to shenanigans. For example, they said, someone could file in their party but not really represent the platform.
Chris Anglin may not represent the party platform, but he sure enough represents an even older truth: You gonna reap what you sow!

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

NC Supreme Court Race ... SUPREMELY Important in 2018!

Anita Earls
The filing period for judicial seats in North Carolina has passed, and what some had feared did not come to pass -- a piling on of scores of candidates on the fall ballot because the Republican overlords eliminated judicial primaries. In fact, the lack of primaries for judges just may have bitten the Republican overlords in the butt.

Take the NC Supreme Court seat currently held by Republican Barbara Jackson. She's running again. But so's another last-minute Republican candidate, Christopher Anglin. The lone Democrat, Anita Earls, already seems jet-fueled for the race, and the possibility that Republicans will divide their votes between two contenders opens the path for Earls a little wider.

Anita Earls is a legal rock star. She founded the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and served as its executive director and became a major warrior against voter suppression and the evils of gerrymandering. She was the lead attorney challenging the gerrymandering of the state, the voter ID law, and other voting restrictions. She's been an announced candidate for the Supreme Court since way back last November.

“I passionately believe in the importance of the right to vote, and that an independent judiciary is crucial to the balance of powers necessary to maintain democratic government of, by and for the people,” Earls said. “... In these times, I am seeing how those values are under attack, and I admire the determination of ordinary people who take great risks to stand up for their rights.”

We've all watched for several years now as the overlords rigged the system, or attempted to, save for the intervention of the courts, and we've held our breath in 2018 as the Republicans threatened the entire judicial system with more gerrymandering and a plan to appoint all judges themselves -- a scheme that did not yet mature into reality. Give 'em time!

"...Too often this political process feels like a powerful few rigging the system against a powerless many,” Earls said. “In light of recent attacks on the independence of North Carolina’s judiciary, and on the right of all citizens to cast a ballot that is counted equally, it is clear to me that I have to not just talk the talk, but also must have the courage to walk the walk.”

There is no race as important as this Supreme Court seat in North Carolina -- except maybe for all the other races this year. Our democracy depends on stopping the drift and restoring the concept of checks and balances.

Monday, July 02, 2018

An Organic Farmer Running in Virginia's 9th District

I just took a road trip up into Virginia's 9th Congressional District, which is huge, stretching from Cumberland Gap eastward and northward, taking in over 20 counties and parts of counties and also several major universities including Virginia Tech and Radford. It's the second largest district in the state and includes the coal fields of far southwest Virginia. The district is larger than the entire state of New Jersey.

On Saturday I happened onto a small-town July 4th parade in the district. Except for one -- and only one -- local politician and some dude driving a four-wheel recreational vehicle displaying a "Corey Stewart for Senate" placard, the parade was otherwise completely free of politicians, a remarkable void in itself, I thought.

(Corey Stewart, incidentally, is the white-supremacy-curious Republican candidate for Senate that is causing enormous heartache among mainstream and country club Republicans. There's a big article in this morning's WashPost about the split in the party over Stewart's candidacy. I noticed at the parade on Saturday that no one was applauding the dude with the Stewart placard.)

What I did notice everywhere else I went in the district were "Flaccavento for Congress" signs, from the smallest towns to good-sized cities. Anthony Flaccavento is the Democrat running against the incumbent Republican Morgan Griffith, whose reputation at least among the folks I spoke with is aloofness from his district and a disassociation from its problems. He was first elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave and shares those lack-of-sympathy values. The constant complaint I heard about Griffith: He never comes back to the district. He never holds townhall meetings with his constituents. (Sound familiar, Virginia Foxx?)

Anthony Flaccavento
Flaccavento is a farmer in Washington County. He ran against Griffith once before, in 2012, and didn't come close. I hear he's much more organized this time around and is working that huge district from one end to the other. He's recruiting 1,000 foot-soldier volunteers and holding 100 town meetings. He's got a populist message for those who'll listen. According to Carmen Forman:
Flaccavento is critical of the Democratic establishment because as he sees it, the party has abandoned working people, especially in rural areas.
“I am going to shout at the Democrats the whole way through this campaign because that needs to change,” he said. 
Flaccavento argues that progressives should not ignore rural communities. He launched a website called Rural Progressive Politics this summer to help make his case. 
His platform stresses that land, livelihood and community shape the way rural voters see politics and the world, and his campaign will focus on fostering healthy local communities. Flaccavento is an organic farmer, and much of his message stems from his consulting work devoted to growing healthy, sustainable regional economies.
“When we invest in local communities, when we invest in small, independent businesses and mid-size businesses, when we invest in innovative manufacturers, we get much, much, much more bang for the buck than the corporate giveaways that have become the foundation of most state and local economic development policies,” he said.

Vigorous local economies means fewer tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and lower taxes for small businesses, instead of significant tax breaks for major corporations that can afford to pay them, Flaccavento said.
Flaccavento is also an author and has a website which predates his campaign, "Bottom Up Economy, 'Cause Trickle Down Doesn't," where he advances the cause for a resurgence in rural America. His book on rural issues, "Building a Healthy Economy From the Bottom Up," was published by the University of Kentucky Press last year.

The 9th CD of Virginia is still considered "Safe Republican" territory, but we're pulling for Anthony Flaccavento to turn that around in 2018.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Blue Skies, Smilin' At Me!

Eileen Higgins, center
Photo Sam Navarro, Miami Herald

Democrats have won three consecutive special elections in Miami-Dade County (Florida duh) over the past nine months.

“The blue wave is not coming. The blue wave came,” said Jesse Manzano-Plaza, a veteran Republican political consultant who was reacting to the latest coup, the election of a Democratic woman in previously and dependably Republican Little Havana, to a county commission seat. 

Not only a Democrat but a non-Hispanic woman who jokingly referred to herself as "La Gringa."

Meet Eileen Higgins. She's a young 53, a well-off marketing executive who once worked for the State Department. But she famously likes to ride the bus. And she's fluent in Spanish.

"Ms. Higgins’s win cemented the belief held by Democrats — and, privately, by many Republicans" — that the 27th Congressional District, which includes all of Eileen Higgins’s county commission district, will likely also flip red-to-blue this November (Patricia Mazzei). The seat is currently held by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban-American who has publicly broken with Twitterman over immigration and called him "bully." She publicly opted six months into his presidency not to run for reelection. 

People speculate why. Not because she's afraid of Trump supporters. More likely she quickly took the pulse of her constituents -- who are majority registered Democrats after all, and who had good cause
Donna Shalala
being turned off by Trump, and who voted decisively for Hillary in 2016. Ros-Lehtinen saw the trend, the unpopularity of Trumpism in Little Havana, and stared at her inevitable defeat. Better to simply retire from the field. And pray a runaway golf cart takes out the president. 

Patricia Mazzei writes an interesting article about whether the win for Eileen Higgins also signals something deeper and more significant in the Cuban community -- that it's bindings to the national Republican Party have frayed and are giving way to something else. The Democrat considered a shoo-in for Ros-Lehtinen's seat is also non-Hispanic, Donna Shalala (yes, that Donna Shalala, the former Clinton administration health and human services secretary and more recently the president of the University of Miami). If (when) elected in November, she'll be at 77 probably the oldest person ever elected for the first time to the US House.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

NC GOP Tries To Excite Its Base By Knee-Capping the State Constitution

Who's responsible? Your local Republican reps in Raleigh.
In our case ... Jonathan Jordan and Deanna Ballard.
They take action against us. We can take action against them.
When you care enough to monkey with our foundational document to keep your power...

This is a rundown of the six constitutional amendments the Republicans in the General Assembly are adding to your fall ballot:
Voter ID (H1092) -- The "Make It Harder for People To Vote Act" will require voters to present photo identification to vote. And trust the Overlords: they won't set the rules for which photo IDs will qualify until after the election, but be assured: Your college ID won't be one of them
Income tax rate cap/TABOR (S75) -- Sets a 7 percent cap on income tax. "TABOR" stands for "Taxpayer Bill of Rights." The only state that has enacted this bad idea was Colorado, which had to repeal parts of it in 2005 in order to provide basic state services. Who wants this? Rich people. Who will it benefit? Rich people.
Judicial vacancies (S814)-- Allows the Overlords in the General Assembly to appoint who would fill judicial vacancies rather than the Governor. Because justice.
Bipartisan Ethics and Elections Enforcement (H913) -- Allows the NCGA to choose the members of the Bipartisan Ethics and Elections Enforcement board rather than the Governor, along with members of all other state boards and commissions. Trust them! They just want the "most efficient" elections possible.
Hunting and fishing (S677) -- Preserves the right to hunt and fish via the state constitution. What? You didn't know the Commies were planning to limit hunting and fishing?
Strengthening Victims’ Rights/Marsy’s Law (H551) -- Adds legal rights to victims of felony crimes
I intend to vote against every last one of these unnecessary provocations.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

I Think Continually of Voting

Nothing matters as much as this fall's General Election.

With the five conservatives on the US Supreme Court decreeing that DJT can discriminate on the basis of religion, how long will it be before he officially discriminates on the basis of race, and they say that's all right too, Bro, because you're doing it to keep us safe.

Democrats need the US Senate as a check on a would-be dictator who's already a full-time fool.

In North Carolina, Phil Berger and Tim Moore are offering six modifications to the state's constitution in an effort to keep themselves and their ilk in power forever. They're hoping that their power-play will rev up their lackadaisical troops to turn out and vote for them and "their boys" this fall.

Those constitutional amendments (my personal favorite: a measure to make it impossible to sue a hog-shit-sprayer for messing up the enjoyment of your property) may backfire on them. I'm possibly more revved to vote against their crap than their target audience is revved to make them King and continue the backward tumble of our state.

Democrats need at least enough seats in either chamber of the General Assembly to break the Republican majority and uphold Governor Cooper's veto. Majority control of at least one chamber would be even better, and that's clearly in reach.

Who's to blame for the misdirection of our state?

Rep. Jonathan Jordan, left, and
Sen. Deanna Ballard, right