Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Marine and the Holy Men

Dan McCready and his family
Dan McCready is an ex-Marine and is running for Congress in the 9th Congressional District. He's running as a Democrat. He's an attractive candidate, young and level-headed. He was a college freshman at Duke on 9/11, and after finishing his degree and, seemingly already on the fast track to enter and do well in business, he joined the Marine corps. He went to Iraq in the surge of 2007, and as a captain, he led 65 other Marines in that show of force. After four years in the service, McCready got his MBA from Harvard in 2011, worked for McKinsey and Co. as a management consultant, then started his own company with a fellow ex-Marine -- Double Time Capital -- which invests in solar farms in North Carolina. They've helped build 36 so far. He also founded an online operation, This Land, a retail website that sells handmade American goods.

He's a sharp tack, an entrepreneur. He knows combat. He's smart as hell. He's young. He didn't think about running for office until Trump happened, but he's quick to separate himself from the partisan herd: “We’re really not focused on Trump,” McCready said about his campaign. “I am a Marine and an American before I’m a Democrat .... The American dream I fought for overseas is under attack."

His political "strategery" is still young and unshaped, though he's admitted to being a pro-business Democrat: "I understand from being a business owner how to make a payroll, how to balance a budget, and I believe we need regulatory relief, especially for small business.” Whatevs. I've got to believe there's generosity toward humanity in this package, and he'll be better than any Republican candidate (see below for details).

But he's got to do some renovation on his talking points to overcome "the vague platitudes common among first-time candidates" (Simone Pathe). And so far I can't tell if he's got the instincts for campaigning. (When asked by a reporter from Roll Call how he planned to attack Pittenger, McCready brought up Pittenger’s vote to fast-track trade promotion authority. Huh? That's your number one issue with Pittenger's record?) But McCready did think to criticize Pittenger's votes against Obamacare, quoting the incumbent's notorious insult that people could just move their butts out of state if they didn’t like the health care available to them.

McCready has been a phenomenal money-raiser. He announced his campaign way back last May, and as of last November he had already raised about $1 million, considerably more than the incumbent. McCready's raised more by now. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (a.k.a., DCCC) added him to the party’s Red to Blue program, which provides organizational and fundraising support, and McCready's ex-Marine partner in solar farm investment has started his own Super PAC to help more military veterans get to Congress.

(NOTE: Yes, I know there'll be a Democratic primary in May between McCready and Christian
Cano, who ran at 41.82% of the vote against Pittenger in 2016, and a third Democratic candidate, a woman named Maria Collins Warren, who has not so far filed for office.)

The Holy Men
Rob Christensen has a lengthy profile in today's News and Observer of the two leading Republicans who'll be battling for supremacy in May -- incumbent Robert Pittenger and Baptist preacher man Mark Harris. Harris has become a perennial candidate. He finished third in the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate in 2014 in a race won by then-state House Speaker Thom Tillis. In 2016, he unsuccessfully challenged Pittenger in the Republican primary, losing by a mere 133 votes. I've always believed Harris would win this primary, because Republican primaries have become extended tent revivals where glib preachers shout down sin, a popular Republican activity, and Pittenger looks tired and limp.

Mark Harris is first and foremost a smooth promoter of the Freedom Caucus Gospel, lambasting
as "the most liberal Republican in Congress" for voting for Trump's tax bill. Pittenger's riposte against Harris: “Mark Harris has opposed President Trump’s agenda and is instead siding with liberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi. While I voted to support President Trump, (Defense) Secretary Mattis and our troops, Harris said no. He is standing with Pelosi and House Democratic Leadership against the President’s budget.” Once again: Real men don't eat Pelosi.

Over the holidays, Rob Christensen reports, Pittenger ran a TV commercial in which he stood in front of a Christmas tree and said: “I’ve dedicated my life to sharing God’s love through Jesus Christ. Let’s end political correctness and put the true meaning of Christ back in Christmas.” If that pasted-on piety doesn't make your skin crawl, remember how Mark Harris led the fight in 2012 to take away civil liberties from LBGT citizens with Amendment One.

I think it'll be McCready v. Harris in November, and I'll lay you odds that McCready wins it.

To contribute to Dan McCready's campaign:

Read more here:

Friday, February 16, 2018

Congressman Patrick McHenry: The Soft Underside

Congressman Patrick McHenry, that roller of big cigars, has a Democratic opponent in 2018 -- David Wilson Brown -- who'll be contesting him for the right to represent the 10th Congressional District in Congress. McHenry's district got gerrymandered after 2010 to split liberal Asheville up and move most of it out of Mark Meadows' 11th District into McHenry's otherwise solidly Republican 10th. The map reveals the cynical reach of those Republican calculations to dilute the power of Asheville (see below).

McHenry was first elected in 2004 (in the same freshman class as Madam Virginia Foxx). He was a freshman in every sense, at the time the youngest member of that body (29), and he fashioned himself as a conservative bomb-thrower. He even signed on to "birtherism" and enjoyed bashing the feminine in Nancy Pelosi. (Real men don't eat Pelosi.) He rose fast as a deputy whip and is now acting majority whip. With Paul Ryan seemingly teetering on the edge of premature retirement, McHenry's name has even surfaced as a potential rival for Speaker of the House.

McHenry, who is maybe a little squishy and can be made to blink, has been feeling the heat from his most conservative constituents (because McHenry doesn't come from the same jug of right-wing paint stripper as, say, Virginia Foxx, and he's certainly not as crazy as Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows, who used to represent Asheville):
At an event in Hickory, constituent Robbie Varney asked the congressman if he would resign, given that Congress had yet to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act or begin construction on President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico. McHenry deflected – and said he would not resign.
Deflection. He's good at deflection. But that kind of hostility from his base has got to rattle him.

He's a big "get" for the payday-lending industry and promotes their well being. He's grown rich in office and well fed, but has also developed an Achilles heel that comes from getting rich and fat: He feels entitled. He's never had a close election, and he hardly bothers with campaigning, and town
David Wilson Brown
halls like that one in Hickory have maybe made him more of a Virginia Foxx type representative, avoiding public exposure to criticism. This year might not be the year to act entitled.

Democrat David Wilson Brown 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.”

NC 10th Congressional District.
Looks like a man in a recliner

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Miss America, Running for Congress (Another Story We're Loving in 2018)

Mallory Hagan
Mallory Hagan, a native of Opelika, Alabama, who was also Miss America 2013, has announced that she's running for Alabama's 3rd Congressional District, which includes her hometown. She spent a year at Auburn University (studying biomedical science) and then moved to New York City to pursue a career in modeling and acting. She was a resident of Brooklyn when she won the Miss America competition on a platform of child sexual abuse awareness and prevention (she's probably not a Roy Moore fan). She also gave a response on the issue of gun control in which she opposed fighting violence with violence.

Late in 2017, Miss America company internal emails surfaced that revealed that top brass at the beauty pageant regularly dissed contestants and especially winners of the crown. Mallory Hagan in particular was both fat-shamed and slut-shamed. Publication of the emails led to several top resignations from the Miss America pageant.

In Hagan's Crowdpac appeal to supporters, she struck a populist note about how people are fairing in her Alabama district:
Today, the citizens of the third Congressional district of Alabama face many challenges. For instance, the once thriving city of Anniston has been transformed by the closure of Fort McClellan. In Talladega—home to the largest racetrack on the NASCAR cup circuit— roughly 31 percent of its residents live below the poverty level. And Alexander City, once the home of Russell Athletic, is now challenged by the loss of 6,500 jobs since 2012.
Even the most prosperous parts of the district face serious challenges. In Auburn—where 28,000 students reside in a town known as the loveliest village on the plains— almost 50 percent of all single mothers struggle financially to care for their children. And although my hometown Opelika has overcome significant economic and social challenges in recent years, today less than 34 percent of its K-12 students are proficient in reading.
The Republican incumbent, Mike Rogers, has won handily in the past 8 elections. He's always had a Democratic opponent, but most of them never come close to beating him. His closest race was his
Congressman Mike Rogers
first in 2002, when he won with just 50.3% of the vote.

Mallory Hagan said of Rogers, “Anyone being in a position of power for 16 straight years just goes against what our democracy is about.” She only launched an exploratory campaign last week on Crowdpac. In just a few hours, her page brought in more than $7,000. Now, that number has more than doubled, and she's in the race to stay.

Rogers has trended more and more conservative, up to and beyond buffoon level. He introduced legislation making it illegal to satirize or in any way parody the Transportation Security Administration (not making that up). In June 2016 he called for the United States' withdrawal from the United Nations in the wake of the Brexit vote by the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union. February 2, 2017, Rogers sponsored legislation to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. And so on.

May Mallory make Mike's "safe seat" very precarious!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Locked and Loaded

Phil Berger and his boys have enjoyed an overwhelming majority of Republicans in the NC General Assembly since 2013, after they got chucklehead in as governor in 2012. It was a veto-proof majority, not that McCrory was prone to veto (he rarely crossed Berger without personal humiliation, and even babies know not to touch hot stoves a second time).

The Republicans built their current impregnable fortress by way of unconstitutional gerrymandering, and they expect us to sit down and shut up and just take it. They'll mess with ballot access and throw up hurdles and yell "voter fraud" like parrots in a jungle, and I guess they'll even collude with Russkies to grab and keep power. Why, in North Carolina now, "Judges Say Throw Out the Map. Lawmakers Say Throw Out the Judges" (Pricey Harrison).

Our last resort is the ballot, and by God, we better hang onto our rights. Anybody try to take that ballot from me, they gonna get bit!

Another Special Election, More Voters 'Done With Trump!'

A special election for a Florida state House of Reps yesterday -- in a district with 13,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats -- went to the Democrat. No Democrat has won District 72 since at least 2010 (that's as far back as I looked). The last Republican incumbent won the district in 2016 by 17 points, and Trump beat Hillary here by more than 4 points.

The worm turns. Yesterday, Democrat Margaret Good took District 72 by a healthy 7 points. That's an almost dozen-point swing away from Trump, after only one full year of Colonel Bonespurs.

Margaret Good is a lawyer and first-time candidate. According to Ryan Butler, "Good's edge came from widespread support throughout the district, carrying all but four voting precincts .... Running a campaign prioritizing environmental protections, Good touted plans to combat climate change and
Margaret Good
better prepare the region in case of another storm such as Hurricane Irma. She also stressed commitments to funding public schools, health care and workforce development."

Good went to the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she served as an editor of the Florida Law Review and graduated with honors. And now she's a member of a (growing) minority in a Florida legislature very much dominated by Republicans.

Republican candidate James Buchanan (not making up that name) -- he's the son of Congressman Vern Buchanan, and he's in real estate too -- so ... connected to Republican money. During the campaign he played up his subservience to Trumpism, holding a rally where former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski carried the torch for him, and, according to Dave Weigel, Buchanan encouraged his supporters when they started chanting "lock her up" at that rally.

But look at his website. Buchanan's vanilla, country-club Republican with a questionable core.

The mirrored glasses belong to James Buchanan
Campaign photo

Bill Aceto Is His Name and Voter Suppression Is His Game

Nancy Owen and Bill Aceto
Yesterday the Republicans on the Watauga County Board of Elections, led by Bill Aceto, once again voted against an Early Voting site on the ASU campus for the May 2018 primary. Democrat Stella Anderson was the lone vote in favor.

Bill Aceto was joined by fellow Republican Nancy Owen, who last year for once voted with Democrat Stella Anderson for Early Voting at ASU for the municipal elections. Owen has obviously been disciplined and will not be making a mistake like that again.

So because the vote was split, the final decision will be made -- once again -- in Raleigh, either by a newly constituted State Board of Elections or by the Superior Court of Wake County.

The odd and ironic thing about the Republican Party's hostility to the student vote is that the students fully know it, and the more the Republicans try to shut out the students, the more determined the students are to vote. You'd think those political geniuses would finally get smart and start trying to win votes rather than alienating the voters.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Democratic Insurgents File in Catawba County House and Senate Districts

There's Blue Wave movement in Hickory, North Carolina!

Kim Bost, running in the NC House District 96
District 96 takes in a chunk of Catawba including most of Newton-Conover and most of Hickory and the dense sub-developments of St. Stephens, Long View, and Mountain View.
Incumbent Republican: Jay Adams hasn't yet announced his intentions, but another Republican, Taylor Huffman, filed yesterday. Jay Adams, first elected to the chamber four years ago, is a real estate broker who says he wants to bring back manufacturing to
Kim Bost
Hickory, presumably the furniture industry which is both a worthy goal and probably an impossibility. Adams ran unopposed by any Democrat in 2016. The other RepKiublican, Taylor Huffman, is a blank page.

Democrat Kim Bost is a design consultant who has her own small business. She moved to Catawba County over 20 years ago to work in the hosiery industry. In her work as a designer, she has partnered with entrepreneurs and local hosiery manufacturers to develop new products domestically. She is a graduate of the University of Delaware and the Fashion Institute of Technology. She is active in her community as a volunteer for many organizations including the Hickory Soup Kitchen, the Hickory Museum of Art, and the March of Dimes Foundation. She is the founder of the local opioid awareness group, Parents for Prevention and Recovery. Kim and her husband, Walter, have one son, Connor, age 13. She says, “I’m not a politician. I’m a wife, a small business owner, and a community volunteer. But most importantly, I’m a parent. And as a parent, I want all our children to grow up in a North Carolina with great schools that meet the needs of every student from preschool through college. A North Carolina that offers meaningful, fulfilling and good paying jobs."

Ric Vandett, running in the NC Senate District 42
Senate District 42 includes Catawba and Alexander counties, taking in Taylorsville, Hiddenite, Hickory, Newton-Conover, and the up-scale enclave of Bethlehem.
Republican incumbent: Andy Wells, who filed for reelection yesterday alongside the first of what will probably be two Republican primary opponents, is the owner of Prism
Ric Vandett with June Atkinson
Development, a commercial real estate company. He ran unopposed by any Democrat in 2016.

Democrat Ric Vandett is the former superintendent of Hickory Public Schools, 2006-2009. Vandett is a veteran of the Vietnam War and a leader in the Foothills Veterans Stand Down Committee and the Foothills Veterans Helping Veterans organization. He filed his candidacy yesterday and told the Hickory Record, “I’ve decided to run because I just -- I don’t like the tenor, the mood of politics in this country, in this state right now. It’s just too nasty and I don’t think that serves the citizens of our state very well.” In particular, Vandett said he wants to focus on issues like public education, veterans’ health, opioids and state spending. “I would like an opportunity to address those things in a civil manner and maintain the integrity that I think our electoral process needs.”

Monday, February 12, 2018

An Unexpected Republican Retirement from NC House

John Blust
John Blust, Republican member of the NC House (District 57), has just announced that he will not be running for reelection this year. That suddenly opens the door a little wider for Democratic challenger Ashton Clemmons (who was written about here on February 1).

That retirement seems like a pretty big deal and it comes rather late, on the opening day of filing, which means Republicans in Guilford County may be scrambling about now.

While John Blust retires, his brother David Blust intends to take another shot at Watauga County commission. He'll be running against Democrat Larry Turnbow, who beat him in 2016.

Zack Hawkins, Running in NC House District 31

After 20 terms in the NC House, legendary civil rights activist and statesman Henry "Mickey" Michaux is retiring from the General Assembly. Stepping in to run for his District 31 House seat is Zack Hawkins, well known Democratic activist from Durham. Hawkins was one of 13 "superdelegates" from North Carolina at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He's also 2nd
Zack Hawkins with Mickey Michaux
Vice Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party and works for the office of student affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously was Director of Development at East Carolina University.

In 2008, when Hawkins was chair of the North Carolina Young Democrats, he was featured in a Bob Geary article in the Independent Weekly as one of three up-and-coming African-American men in the state:
Zack Hawkins grew up in the tiny town of Chocowinity, in Beaufort County, where his grandmother and mother were school board members, church was central, and his parents always said, "Doing the right thing is the right thing to do." He caught a break when a high school science teacher plugged him into biology, which helped him land an internship at an environmental institute in RTP. He got another break in 2000 when Democrats reached out to the HBCUs—historically black colleges and universities—while he was the vice president of student government at Elizabeth City State University.
Twice bitten, he landed in Durham where he earned his master's degree in biology at N.C. Central University and a "Ph.D. in politics" by working on campaigns for U.S. Rep. David Price and U.S. Senate candidate Erskine Bowles. Four years ago, he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, where he heard Obama's stunning keynote address and felt he was "in the moment" of history.
Michaux last had a Republican opponent in the general election of 2014. He often ran for his 20 terms (first elected to the House in 1982) without Republican opposition. Since it's now an open seat, the Republicans would be crazy lazy not to put up a candidate, but at the moment there's no announced person willing to run under the GOP label.

Zack Hawkins will be hard to beat.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Another Strong Democratic Woman Running for NC Senate

Caroline Walker, running in the NC Senate District 35
District 35 is Union County, including the towns of Monroe, Waxhaw, Wingate, and Marshville.
Incumbent Republican: Open seat. The seat is currently occupied by Republican Tommy Tucker, who announced his retirement last year. Tucker was a 2010 tea partier and held the seat with no Democratic opposition in 2012 and 2014. He faced a Democrat in the election of 2016 but beat him with over 61% of the vote. Republican Todd Johnson, president of Johnson Insurance Management and currently a Union County commissioner, has announced his candidacy as a Christian conservative. Johnson ran
Caroline, Sean, Julianna, and Sean Douglas
against Robert Pittenger in the 9th Congressional District Republican primary in 2016 and made a credible showing with 30% of the vote. Pittenger won that primary with 35%.
Democrat Caroline Walker moved with her family -- husband Sean and their children, Julianna and Sean Douglas -- to Union County in 2002 where she completed her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. During college, she worked for the public school system as an after-school teacher and volunteered her time to numerous nonprofit and community organizations. After working for several years in sales and marketing for a residential home builder, Caroline suffered the economic downturn and struggled to make ends meet before starting her own business, an early childhood education center that has by now provided hundreds of children with a strong early education. In 2014 she joined an international firm as a workforce development consultant, working with large state and local government entities across the east coast. She is currently a State Account Manager and works with agencies to utilize location to improve efficiency and transparency in government. But what most animates her run for office is her concern for the future and for her two biracial children. She writes on Crowdpac: "It feels important to me that I sit and write about why I am running on today of all days. I am writing this on January 15th, 2018, the day we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ... While I have been increasingly active in politics over the past decade, I had not envisioned until recently that I may one day seek the honor of becoming a public servant myself. However, with recent events, that vision has changed. I feel compelled to take a larger part in creating the type of community and world that I want for my children .... I look into the eyes of my two beautiful biracial children every day and I want to be able to tell them that they have the whole world and every opportunity within their reach. Where we are at today, I cannot honestly do that. That starts with great school systems where every child has equal opportunities and receives a quality education from supported and well-paid teachers. That means community and economic development and improved infrastructure that is responsible, sustainable and protects our natural resources. That means everyone having access to healthcare, addiction services, medications and patient education. That means a living wage, jobs, and growth that allow for upward mobility and for all to prosper rather than just scrape by. That means equality, justice, a voice and a vote for every single citizen regardless of their skin, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, age, economic status, disability, religion or origin. Above all, that means that I can look at my children every day and speak of America’s greatness, about liberty, opportunity, equality, justice, inclusion, dignity and rights while knowing that those words that I speak are the truth."

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Four Strong Women Running Against Four Republican Men for NC Senate

Natasha Marcus, running in the NC Senate District 41

District 41 is in suburban north Mecklenburg County and is considered the "swingy-est" of the four Senate seats covered by this post.

Incumbent Republican: Jeff Tarte won by a 21 percent margin in his last non-presidential election. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in econ and has worked as a top-level exec for a number of multimillion-dollar companies. He has served as the mayor of Cornelius. (Civic office in Cornelius has been a repeat springboard for many prominent Republicans.) Tarte first ran for the senate in 2012, narrowly winning the Republican primary but running unopposed that November. He did have Democratic opponents in 2014 and 2016. In the latter, Tarte's winning percentage (54.48%) looked a little soft compared to 2014. On some topics, Tarte has at least sounded moderate. On the disruption to the state erupting out of HB2 (the bathroom bill), he told the Charlotte Observer: "Transgenders in bathrooms were not a problem." He opposed the transfer of tax
Natasha Marcus
revenues from urban to rural counties, but he is also a cheerleader for shifting the tax burden increasingly onto "consumers." He openly opposed his Republican Gov. McCrory over the I-77 toll lanes.

Democrat Natasha Marcus made an unsuccessful bid for the state House in the 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.”

Eleanor Erickson, running in the NC Senate District 8

District 8 is coastal and includes parts of New Hanover, Brunwsick, Pender, and Bladen counties.

Incumbent Republican: Bill Rabon is considered Senate leader Phil Berger’s right-hand man. Rabon first entered the chamber in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and by the 2016 General Election, he was unopposed by any Democrat. He succeeded the retiring Rules Committee dictator Tom Apodaca as the master controller of legislation entering and exiting the senate. He is a Southport veterinarian and a partner in several animal hospitals. He is said to have been mentored by former Senator Bob Rucho, so there's an air of conservative toxicity about Rabon, though some of that may be emanating from capo dei capi Phil Berger. Rabon reportedly cussed Governor McCrory's wife Ann and her goddamn "puppy mill" ban bill in 2014, saying over his dead body would it ever pass the senate. (Remember, he's the owner of animal hospitals.) He publicly criticized Ann McCrory for lobbying the General Assembly for the bill, saying at the time that she was breaking "all kinds of laws." But Rabon himself is not above steering taxpayer money to powerful business interests, particularly those that also
funnel campaign cash his way. Rabon filed the bill that would limit all judges, from the district level on up, to two-year terms in office. That jolly piece of horseshit would turn every judgeship into a partisan circus, with judges having to raise money and run every two years.

Democrat Eleanor Erickson Erickson is a long-time resident of Brunswick who works as the general manager of a local hotel. She is so new at this "candidate thing" that she doesn't yet have web
infrastructure, but it's clear that she's planning to make the pollution of the Cape Fear River an issue along with the deterioration of support for public education in the Republican dominated General Assembly. (Republicans say they love education and have lavished billions at least on the public schools, but their love looks a lot more like involuntary suffocation.) Erickson has some local renown in Brunswick County as "a pillar of the community who took initiative and built a new playground at a local park instead of waiting around for others." She is co-founder of the nonprofit group Where We Live, which raised the money for the playground and which has branched out into organizing music and arts events around Bolivia, NC, and Southport, along with regular weekly activities for working families. Through Where We Live, social media, and the Rotary Club, Erickson has become a leader among younger professionals in the county.

Ginger Garner, running in the NC Senate District 2

District 2 = Carteret, Craven, and Pamlico counties on the coast.

Republican incumbent: Norm Sanderson is a three-term senator, first elected in 2012. In 2014 and 2016, Sanderson won with about 60 percent of the vote. According to Ballotpedia, Sanderson received a B.A. in Christian education from Logos University in 2002. Logos is an on-line, Bible-based, "interdenominational" education-dispensary based in Jacksonville, Florida. Sanderson's professional experience includes working as a sheriff's deputy and a real estate business owner. He currently owns Kids Heaven School Age Care Center. In 2017, Sanderson proposed a poisonous anti-
Ginger Garner
immigrant sanctuary city law to punish the state's cities if they won't participate in rounding up brown people. Sanderson is a conservative true believer in Phil Bergerism. He has said that North Carolina is a much better place now and ever since Republican took over in Raleigh in 2011.

Democrat Ginger Garner is a doctor of physical therapy and a longtime orthopaedic clinician serving the healthcare needs of new mothers and the military (Cherry Point is in her district). She says she was born in Asheboro "to teenage parents," hardworking Republicans who instilled in her the values of hard work and thriftiness which she brings with her into running for office as a Democrat. She received her Doctor of Physical Therapy and Master of Physical Therapy degrees from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She is the founder of the Professional Yoga Therapy Institute (2000), the first interdisciplinary, medical yoga program in the world. Also established the first doctoral level medical yoga curricula, now adopted by medical schools throughout the US and Canada. She says on her website, "My story speaks for itself: for 20 years I have served our coastal community as a physical therapist, as an aid and Christian mission worker, as a volunteer, as a CEO and small business owner, and as a wife and mother of three." She mentions the opioid epidemic as a major concern of hers along with protection of the North Carolina coast from offshore drilling. 

Helen Probst Mills, running in the NC Senate District 25

District 25 takes in a swath of Moore, Richmond, Anson, and Scotland counties and two dozen little towns including Hamlet and Laurinberg.

Republican incumbent: Tom McInnis was first elected to the senate in 2014 by the skin of his teeth (50.4%). In 2016 he did considerably better against Democrat Dannie Montgomery, taking almost 64% of the vote. He makes his living as an auctioneer (Iron Horse Auction Company), real estate
Helen Probst Mills
broker, and used automobile dealer. He previously served eight years on the Richmond County Board of Education. A standard-issue conservative.
Democrat Helen Probst Mills is an attorney from Pinehurst and enters the race, 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 without having to pay tuition. 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 has opposed, like most other Republicans in Phil Berger's senate, the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act because he's afraid of catching Obama cooties.)

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Republicans Still Dragging Their Butts on Candidate Recruitment

On Ground Hog's Day, I counted 46 North Carolina House seats for which the Republicans had recruited no announced candidate. Today, I counted 48. Is it possible they're actually going backward in candidate recruitment, or is my counting just that out of whack?

Meanwhile, the Democrats are still leading in the candidate race. There are now 40 House seats with no announced Democratic candidate, down from 42 when I counted on Ground Hog's Day.


Keep it up, Democrats!

(On a more sober note, Democratic recruitment in the NC Senate may not be so energetic, but I still haven't had time to concentrate on that Phil Berger pit of despair.)

The Big Damage Done in House District 36

The ever smug Nelson Dollar
Chief Justice John Roberts (backed up by his Republican colleagues on the Supreme Court) rejected the special master's new districts in Wake and Mecklenburg counties yesterday, and here's the main negative fall-out:

A marquee Democratic primary between Matt Calabria and Jen Ferrell in House District 36, for the privilege for taking on Republican big-wig Nelson Dollar -- that primary is scuttled, because both Calabria and Ferrell are no longer in District 36, and for the moment at least, big-wig Republican Nelson Dollar is without an announced Democratic opponent. (Hattip: Jonathan Kappler's excellent 2018 Candidate Tracker.) District 36 was considered a prime pick-up opportunity under the special master's redrawn district lines.

Nelson Dollar, in his 7th term in the House, is senior chair of the House Appropriations Committee meaning he's the chief budget writer (boo!) for the extremist Republican redirection of a once-progressive North Carolina.

More New Democratic Talent Who Will Challenge the Status Quo in 2018

Susan Maxon, running in the NC House District 109

District 109 takes in part of Gaston County.

Republican incumbent: Dana Bumgardner is a retired CEO of a commercial printing company. He's a vanilla conservative, first elected to the chamber in 2012, was unchallenged in 2014, and has never failed to get at least 60% of the vote. Naturally, Bumgardner voted against the repeal of HB2 (the notorious "bathroom bill"), and he got sarcastic with one North Carolina voter when she emailed him asking him to repeal the law. "Or what? Are you gonna huff and puff and blow the house down?” Bumgardner emailed back. He then later bragged to the Gaston Gazette that the voter "was just a little snowflake." Meeee-ow!

Susan Maxon
Democrat Susan Maxon was a military kid which brought her to eastern North Carolina, where she graduated from high school. She was a first-generation college student at East Carolina University, graduating as a biology major. She went on to graduate work in biology and joined the US Department of Agriculture for a career in seed testing. In her official capacity, she worked with seed industry and state departments of agriculture to promote truthful labeling of agricultural and vegetable seeds, provided training to seed analysts working for industry and government, represented US seed interests at the national and international level, and became the laboratory supervisor and deputy director for ten years at the Gastonia USDA facility. She retired in 2013 and ran once before for this house seat in 2016, garnering slightly less than 39% of the vote against Bumgardner. She mentions her primary concerns for North Carolina government: "The General Assembly has been neglecting our public school system, which not too long ago had been widely viewed as the best in the region. Our legislators in Raleigh have enacted tax policies that disproportionately burden working families and small businesses. And they continue to ignore the need of the most vulnerable in our state for available healthcare."

Albeiro Florez, running in the NC House District 45

District 45, in Cumberland County, wraps around the urban core of Fayetteville, keeping those more Democratic voters safely away from the Republican incumbent.

Republican incumbent: John Szoka worked in the mortgage lending industry after a career in the US Army. He retired as a lieutenant colonel. The last time he even had a Democratic opponent in a general election was in 2012, when he was first elected to the General Assembly. He describes himself as an environmentalist and an advocate for renewable energy, though it's futile finding how
Albeiro Florez
those views have influenced the Republican leadership. Plus in the same interview, he denied that global climate change is linked to human activity (particularly the burning of fossil fuels). So you figure it out: Col. Szoka isn't about to buck the generals.

Democrat Albeiro Florez is the Chief Financial and Operating Officer for Walker Florez Consulting Group. He previously served in the U.S. Army, and he currently is President of Latinos United for Progress and a Board Member of the Armed Forces YMCA. Last October, Governor Roy Cooper named him to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs. In Fayetteville he has been honored as "Young Professional of the Year" and the Fayetteville Observer featured him as one of its "40 Under 40" movers and shakers. Florez organized the first-ever Latinos United for Progress Fayetteville mayoral candidate forum last fall, forcing immigrant issues into the public debate. The Hispanic population in Cumberland County has grown, and Florez is prominent.

Leslie Cohen, running in the NC House District 20

District 20 takes in some of Wilmington and then goes up-country on both sides of I-40 to Castle Hayne and beyond, stretching to the ocean from Ogden to Bayshore.

Republican incumbent: Holly Grange was first elected to the seat in 2016 after winning a fairly nasty Republican primary in March with another Republican woman who accused her of having a cozy relationship with Sidney Blumenthal (of Hillary Clinton fame). In August, when the Republican occupying the seat went ahead and resigned from it, Grange was appointed to fill out his term. Grange faced no Democratic opposition that fall and will have her first real reelection contest this year. She was an engineer officer in the Army Corp of Engineers, serving in the 20th Engineer Brigade at Fort Bragg and on the 18th Airborne Corps staff. She married a general (who was the one who had some brief connection to Sidney Blumenthal). In an interview, Grange admitted that climate change is happening and that it is impacting sea-level rise, an issue of considerable concern for her district. Her viewpoint on that will get little credit within her Republican caucus, which has decreed that sea-level rise must not be talked about.

Leslie Cohen
Democrat Leslie Cohen moved to Wilmington from Atlanta in 2013 after their two children left the nest. She became involved in local issues here when the passage of HB2 threatened the rights of their adult children. Her activism quickly spread into other issues as she became aware of the the struggles of others in her community. She had earned a degree from Georgia State University, and fresh out of college, she started a printing business with her future husband Jeff. The printing business morphed into a successful commercial graphics company. The couple designed collateral advertising for Fortune 500 companies for twelve years before transitioning their business to fine art in 2002. Leslie’s paintings are in collections across the globe. The pollution of the Cape Fear River is a big issue for her as is restoring the incentives that built the film industry in North Carolina (the destruction of which by the Republican General Assembly drove the industry to other states like Georgia). She opposes off-shore drilling (Trump's wet dream), and she is especially disturbed at how public education has suffered under Republican rule.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

"It's Unclear" -- Impact of Supreme Court's Action Yesterday on North Carolina GA Races

Those Boys--worms in the cabbage
So Chief Justice John Roberts, who hears emergency appeals from the state of North Carolina, split the baby on the Republicans' attempt to turn back the special master's redrawing of nine NC House and Senate districts. Roberts decided those redrawn districts for Wake and Mecklenburg counties can't be used in 2018 -- with candidate filing for office less than a week off.


I've been trying to keep up with new Democratic candidates announcing across the state, and I've tried to identify where their districts are, but that's becoming increasingly difficult, and I never trust the map that Google coughs up.

Phil Berger and His Boys, and Tim Moore and His Boys, have done one hell of a job at rolling North Carolina up into a giant tar ball of attempted election meddling and power-grabbing. They'll blame Democrats for the mess: "They should never have challenged our imperial will in court!" We know who's to blame for the shitstorm, and I think the voters of North Carolina will not reward them for their maliciousness.

#2018BlueWave -- Missouri Democrats Flip Another District Last Night

A young, very young (27) Democrat took an exurban St. Louis district last night in a special election for a seat in the Missouri House of Reps, beating a 59-year-old Republican by three percentage points in a district that Trump won by 28 points.

That's a 31-point swing toward Democrats since 2016 (or toward 27-year-old Anheuser-Busch beer distributors).

Among those celebrating, Senator Claire McCaskill might have been dancing with a lampshade on her head. Not saying she was. Just that she might have been. McCaskill has been considered (especially by Republicans) the most vulnerable Democratic senator. She's been blessed (once again) by a male Republican opponent who's already stepped on his weenie, and this special election in the Missouri 97th House District must surely cheer up her prospects for reelection.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Another Two Democrats Running for the NC House

Kandie Smith, running for NC House District 8
District 8 = Pitt County, which means the city of Greenville and the campus of East Carolina State University. The General Assembly was forced to redraw the district which had contained parts of both Pitt and Wilson counties but which cut out the urban core of those two counties.
Open seat. Republican incumbent Susan Martin announced last November that she was giving up the seat, and so far no Republican has stepped forward to take up the challenge.
Kandie Smith
Democrat Kandie Smith is an 8-year veteran Greenville city councilwoman, first elected in 2007. Last July, Smith — who was also serving as the city’s mayor pro tem — became the first black female mayor of Greenville after the city council voted unanimously to appoint her to fill the mayor’s seat left vacant by Allen Thomas. Smith also is the North Carolina assistant regional representative for the National Black Caucus of Elected Officials, a board member of the Pitt County Re-entry Council, and was the former president of the Greenville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She said, “During my time as mayor I had the opportunity to see things differently and had a lot more contact with our representatives in Raleigh. It made me realize how much more I can do in the General Assembly. I have always fought for the citizens of Greenville. I want to continue that fight for all of eastern North Carolina.” One of her top priorities will be the economic development of the region. “Eastern North Carolina gets overlooked a lot,” she said. “We are often an afterthought … but we have so much to offer, and I want to go to Raleigh and make sure people know that.” She ran in the Democratic primary in NC House District 24 in 2016 and lost to the incumbent, Jean Farmer-Butterfield.

Sam Edney, running for the NC House District 113
District 113 is a mountain district, taking in Brevard, Hendersonville, and Saluda.
Incumbent Republican: Cody Henson is in his first term in the NC House. He's a baby -- 26 years old -- and probably the youngest member of the House. He is married and the father of a young son. He currently works at OceanX, an Arden-based company that helps businesses create subscription programs. He thought HB2 was perfectly fine, and he told the Carolina Public Press: "I am a Christian conservative." We believe him.
Sam Edney

Democrat Sam Edney has been actively campaigning for this seat since last summer. After graduating from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in 1970, Edney worked as an industrial engineer for 18 years, the last 12 with Ecusta Paper in Brevard. In 1988, he purchased Pisgah Pest Control, a company that today has three branches and 24 employees. He served on the Transylvania County Board of Education. Currently, he is Vice Chair of the SAFE Board of Directors. Economic development in the mountains is a key issue for him: “It’s time to respond to the 15-25 percent decline in well-paying jobs in the three counties I will serve. The way to do that is to invest in public education and economic development. I believe everyone in our community should have a chance to succeed.”

Democrat Kathy Manning, Making Waves in the 13th CD

A few days ago, Jonathan Kappler tweeted about what's been happening in the 13th Congressional District of North Carolina:

Rep Ted Budd (R-) raised $183k in Q4, has $300k on hand. Kathy Manning (D) raised $564k, has $522k on hand. On paper, while GOP-leaning, this district is the most competitive of NC's 13 districts. Also keep in mind Rep Budd is serving in his 1st term.

The 13th Congressional District has had a checkered past. First created in 2003, the seat was Democrat-friendly and occupied by Congressman Brad Miller until 2012. With reapportionment after 2010 and with Republicans in control of the General Assembly, the 13th was redrawn to get rid of Miller, and it worked. He decided not to run again in 2012. Republican George Holding did and won
Ted Budd campaign photo
the seat and held it through the election of 2016, when court-ordered redistricting again changed the district's contours. It was won in 2016 by Ted Budd with 56% of the vote. We assume, after all the court action of recent months, that Budd's district remains basically the same one he won in 2016: It includes parts of Greensboro as well as High Point and Statesville. His district offices are in Advance (his home town) and Mooresville.

Read more here:
First-term congressmen of either party usually attract hungry predators looking to pick off the young, and the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) had targeted Budd even before he got the first splinter from his seat. Budd is 46. He was born in Winston-Salem but mainly grew up on a farm in Davie County. According to Taft Wireback, "he hails from a wealthy family that built its fortune in the janitorial and landscaping business." He attended and graduated from AppState. He owns a gun store and a shooting range and likes to pose with big hardware. As soon as he got to Capitol Hill, he joined the Freedom Caucus, and his votes have reflected those extreme conservative positions. He was an avid supporter of ending Obamacare, and he's a proponent of home-schooling. 

Democrat Kathy Manning is most frequently described as a "philanthropist." She was the chief fundraiser for the $78 million Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts that was dedicated in

April 2017 in Greensboro. She was the first woman to chair the board of the Jewish Federations of North America. “I’m a business-oriented moderate who believes we need to do whatever we can to provide affordable health care and the good education that will get people prepared for the jobs of the future,” said Manning, 60, who worked for years as an immigration lawyer but no longer is in practice.

Manning has criticized Budd for his support of the newly enacted Republican tax bill because of provisions that "she said would help the wealthy and big corporations, but hurt the average person in such ways as denying teachers the ability to deduct the cost of school supplies they buy for the classroom. She also criticized his support for letting banks charge retailers higher 'swipe' fees when customers use credit or debit cards."

Manning is married to Greensboro businessman Randall Kaplan, who owns Elm Street Center downtown and is planning to build a major hotel on the site. The couple has three grown children. 

Budd has been quick to call her "Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked candidate" and a "far-left" woman (gasp!) pushing a "hard-core liberal agenda." Blah blah blah. With a campaign like that, Budd may find that energizing the base in 2018 is a harder lift, especially with an assault rifle in your hand.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Justice Alito Refuses To Block Court-Ordered Redistricting in Pennsylvania

Are we shocked? Yes, we're shocked.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who hears emergency requests from Pennsylvania, turned down the petition from Pennsylvania Republicans to delay redrawing congressional lines, meaning the 2018 elections in the state will probably be held in districts far more favorable to Democrats. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled that the state’s Republican legislative leaders had violated the state Constitution by unfairly favoring the GOP. According to Robert Barnes, the Supreme Court traditionally does not interfere in cases involving state constitutions.

Previously, a court had ruled North Carolina's gerrymander of General Assembly seats an illegal redistricting for partisan advantage according to the US Constitution, and the US Supreme Court stopped the implementation of that order.

Lesson learned: We need to sue in state court to end partisan gerrymandering.

Ashe County Sheriff Resigns

Terry Buchanan
Sheriff Terry Buchanan submitted his resignation to Ashe County commissioners this morning in a deal that both dismisses the criminal charges against him and puts Buchanan's legal fees (some $71,000) on the backs of Ashe taxpayers. Watauga's Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four") was hired as Buchanan's private lawyer, and it appears that Ashe County will be paying those bills in exchange for Buchanan and his wife's releasing the county from any potential future legal claim.

If you're behind on this drama in Ashe, you can catch up here.

Democrat Bucky Absher will be filing to run for sheriff in Ashe next Monday at 1 p.m.

Two NC Senate Races to Watch

Harper Peterson, running in the 9th NC Senate District
The 9th Senate District includes most of Wilmington and the coastal towns of Kure Beach, Carolina Beach, and Wrightsville Beach.
Harper Peterson
Incumbent Republican: Michael Lee was first appointed to the chamber in 2014 to fill out the term of Thom Goolsby. He was elected in his own right in the fall of 2014 and reelected in 2016. He's a lawyer. He's young. As far as we can tell, he's never bucked his boss Phil Berger, falling into line with the Republican Senate leader on every issue, which means that Lee must own the weak response to the pollution of drinking water in the Cape Fear River (the chemical, known as GenX, was found to be coming from a DuPont spin-off business, Chemours, which covered up the contamination from down-stream drinking-water intakes). So far the General Assembly (and certainly Phil Berger's Senate) has been weak in seeking redress, failing to recommend or legislate more money so that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) can increase enforcement. Phil Berger (and his soldier Michael Lee) don't like environmental rules nor their enforcement.
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.

Naveed Aziz, running in the 19th NC Senate District
Damned if I know exactly what Senate District 19 includes under the special master's redrawn maps, but suffice it to say ... Cumberland County and probably much of Fayetteville. Beyond that, I'm not entirely sure.
Naveed Aziz

Republican incumbent: Wesley Meredith ran a landscaping business after retiring from the Army as a sergeant. He first entered the chamber in 2010 as part of the Tea Party wave, winning by a small margin of 1,000 votes. He's improved his winning margin over Democratic opponents in every subsequent reelection campaign, getting over 56% of the vote in 2016. After that most recent election, he was named by Senate Republicans as majority whip. Meredith's past campaigns have had a way of turning ugly. During a Fayetteville City Council election in 2003, charges were made that Meredith was involved in voter fraud, and in his 2010 NC Senate race (against Democrat Margaret Dickson) one of Meredith's tv ads implied that Dickson was a prostitute. In his 2014 reelection, his ex-wife spilled the beans that back in the 1990s the couple had gotten Medicaid assistance for their son for which they were ineligible (the couple’s annual income in those years was far higher than the maximum allowed). 
Democrat Naveed Aziz is a Cumberland County physician. She ran for a different senate seat in 2016, entering the Democratic primary against incumbent Senator Ben Clark. She lost and there was an official complaint that she didn't actually live in the district (a complaint that was dismissed). If she wins this election, Dr. Aziz would be only the second Muslim elected to the NC General Assembly and the first Muslim woman to serve in the legislature. Dr. Aziz is originally from Pakistan and immigrated to the United States more than 20 years ago. She has served on the Boards of Fayetteville Urban Ministries and Second Harvest Food Bank, chaired the Greater Spring Lake Chamber of Commerce, and served on Spring Lake’s Economic Development Committee. In addition to being a physician, she has dual masters degrees in Business Administration and Health Administration. Dr. Aziz runs a Free Clinic and a Free Food Program in Spring Lake, in addition to managing her medical practice. Gov. Roy Cooper recently appointed her to the North Carolina Youth Advisory Council.