Sunday, September 15, 2019

Donna Lake, Running for NC Senate, District 7

Democrat Donna Lake of Goldsboro announced her candidacy for the North Carolina Senate on July 29th. She's another of a distinct trend among new, insurgent Democratic candidates in the Age of Trump: A woman combat vet stepping forward to run in a forbidding new combat zone. Donna Lake is not only a retired USAF Colonel, with two Bronze Stars, holding a freakin' Ph.D. to boot in Health Care Management, but she's also a clinical nursing professor at the ECU College of Nursing where she says she's taught 450 students, not to mention another 85 faculty, in patient safety principles, leadership, and finance skills. Her expertise in health care management contributed to the awarding of a $5M grant to train and place "advanced practice registered nurses" into primary care facilities in Eastern North Carolina rural communities. A vital and motivating statistic for Donna Lake: Of the 41 Eastern NC counties combined, 28 (68.3%) have fewer than 5 primary care physicians per 10,000 residents. She wants to change that.
She lives in Goldsboro with her husband, a retired USAF pilot, where they raised their two grown children. 

Curiously (because of her experience in health care management), her website doesn't say a word about the importance of expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. In fact, her website dishes up mere pabulum on "issues" and nothing specific on pretty much anything. You'd certainly expect more sinew -- political protein -- from an Air Force combat veteran twice decorated "for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone" (what a Bronze Star represents).

Senate District 7
Don't know for sure, but I doubt NC Senate District 7 -- Wayne and Lenoir counties -- will be changed by the most recent round of court-ordered redistricting. (It was already significantly redrawn just prior to the 2018 elections into its present Lenoir plus Wayne configuration. Any more redrawing this year would seem just plain cruel.) 

The 7th contains the urban and semi-urban municipalities of Goldsboro and Kinston, and embraces the sprawling Seymour Johnson Air Force Base as well. The district used to be racially gerrymandered like a writhing Chinese dragon through three different counties. It's compact now and at least numerically on paper it ought to be a pickup opportunity for Democrats.

Partisan Voter Registration for Wayne and Lenoir Counties (NCS7):
Democrats 47,934
Republicans 32,411
Unaffiliated 26,290
Democrats should be able to win Senate District 7, especially with grandfatherly Louis Pate gone from the picture. Pate had been the 5-term Republican incumbent who won the redrawn, more heavily Democratic district in 2018 and retired in January. Pate lucked out last year when the recruited Democratic candidate Barbara D'Antonio withdrew after the primary, and was replaced late (in August) by a perfectly nice retired District Court Judge David Brantley, who even coming into the race late and being perfectly nice, got 46% of the vote against Pate. Can a strong Democratic woman flip the district in 2020?

The Current Republican Incumbent
Jim Perry from Kinston, a retired rep for the dental industry, CEO of a "Dental Service Org with 240 locations in 40 states and over 2,500 employees," and personnel consultant for the Acute Care Industry, was appointed to Louis Pate's seat last January. We frankly wouldn't expect a senator with that business background -- very much on the corporate end of health care -- to come out for expanding Medicaid to poor people.

What he has been a big supporter of in his few months in the Senate is House Bill 370 -- a law that would force county sheriffs in North Carolina to do the work of ICE agents, with specific provisions to make sheriffs subject to removal from office for refusing to help ICE -- the bill which Governor Cooper vetoed on August 21 with the following statement:
"This legislation is simply about scoring partisan political points and using fear to divide North Carolina. As the former top law enforcement officer of our state, I know that current law allows the state to jail and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status. This bill, in addition to being unconstitutional, weakens law enforcement in North Carolina by mandating sheriffs to do the job of federal agents, using local resources that could hurt their ability to protect their counties."
If you need any further evidence of the psychic headspace occupied by Senator Perry, he's been heartily endorsed by Lieutenant Governor (and governor candidate aborning) Dan Forest. And why not? They were obviously separated at birth.

Jim Perry, left, and Dan Forest, right

Friday, September 13, 2019

This Friday the Thirteenth Might Be the Unluckiest Day for Jerry Falwell Jr.

Jerry Falwell Jr. with his behavioral model.
Photo by Shealah Craighead/Wikimedia Commons

What's happening up at Liberty University today in Virginia? A student protest, that's what. Organizers are saying that if even 60 students show up, it'll be a massive show of resistance to a school president increasingly exposed for evident corruption of Christian principles, a kind of religious strong-man who has ruthlessly suppressed dissent on his campus in the past.

The students are reacting to a blistering investigative piece published by Politico on Monday of this week. That, plus what has been passed around on campus in the form of hot rumors for years about Falwell's behavior (including sexual pole-vaulting and authoritarianism). The students organizing today's protest "have seen a shift in the student body against Falwell that hasn’t been seen in the school’s recent history. 'The mood is changing from "We wish Jerry would keep quiet" to "We wish we had better representation for our school,' " [one of the student leaders] said. 'Jerry doesn’t have our best interests at heart. He doesn’t share Liberty’s mission statement to train champions for Christ.' ”

The article about the protest published by the Religion News Service prompted me to go back and find the Politico article that sparked it, and it's a doozie:

More than two dozen current and former high-ranking Liberty University officials and close associates of Falwell ... don’t think he’s the right man to lead Liberty University or serve as a figurehead in the Christian conservative movement....
...they depicted how Falwell and his wife, Becki, consolidated power at Liberty University and how Falwell presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell’s decision to hire his son Trey’s company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell’s advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell’s awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends.
“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”
My concern now shifts to Falwell's local Gestapo -- the Liberty University Police. Will they shut down the student protest? How many will show up and be brave? We'll be looking for news about this during the rest of today and into tomorrow.

Footnote: One of the best things about the Religion News article is that it was written by Will Young, the former student editor of the Liberty University newspaper whom Falwell censored. We wrote about Will back in July -- "Surviving Liberty University (and finding liberty)."

Look like more than 60 students to you?

NC Still in the Wilderness Over Potentially Unsafe Electronic Voting Equipment

A new letter addressed this week to the NC State Board of Elections (SBOE) from electronic voting machine experts and fair voting advocates charges that in its certification of new machinery for NC elections -- the vote on August 23rd when new SBOE Chair Damon Circosta voted with the Republicans -- the SBOE violated North Carolina law. "The law requires a security review of the source code of all voting systems before they are certified for use in the state." According to the experts, no security review of source code was conducted. According to Carolina Public Press,
The experts in question, including Duncan Buell, a professor of computer science at the University of South Carolina, reviewed testing documentation from the state and from the federal government.
“You read all of that, and it’s clear,” Buell said. “There was no source code review conducted. That would certainly seem to suggest that things are not in accordance with North Carolina law.” 
The law details an extensive list of components to be reviewed, including “application vulnerability, application code, wireless security, security policy and processes … security organization and governance, and operational effectiveness.”
Just last week, on September 5, SBOE member Stella Anderson got Circosta to vote with her to demand that SBOE staff produce any documentation of source code review. The SBOE next meets on October 1, and Carolina Public Press reports that SBOE staff is striving to supply the information requested in Anderson's September 5 motion. That's "too long to wait," claimed the computer experts who wrote the most recent letter:
In order for counties to buy the new equipment, each county’s board of elections needs to attend a demonstration of the voting systems, recommend one to their county commissioners for purchase, test that system in the October or November elections, then purchase and deploy them by the March 2020 primaries. 
Counties are moving quickly to enter into multimillion-dollar contracts to purchase this equipment. 
“What the state board is doing is irresponsible in letting these counties proceed as if they are going to go to contract and not letting them know that there is a serious black cloud over the certification,” [Marilyn] Marks [Coalition for Good Government] said.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

What We Lefties Want -- Only "The Last American Hero"

Raleigh News and Observer
The Blue Wave of 2018 in North Carolina was Christmas morning all over again. The lust for the ballot among Democrats and liberal-minded independents beat anything I've seen in a while. Yes, 2006 was an enthusiastic year too. So was 1990, with Harvey Gantt on the ballot against Jesse Helms. And 2008. But since 2008? Not so much … until Donald J. Trump became president. In 2018 we nailed a decade "high." The Gospel Truth: That Democratic surge must last through 2020, and any sign of waning enthusiasm, any slight drying up of the Democratic sap, worries the everlasting daylights out of me.

I've heard or read, "Oh, the Blue Wave of 2018 played itself out, and Democratic enthusiasm for new elections and new candidates ain't what it used to be. And besides that, the Party's split between Biden conservatives and Bernie socialists, and they'll never reconcile. If the socialists gain the upper hand, you can kiss your 200-year-old Party goodbye." 

You hear that in the mainstream press -- prophets and prognosticators trying to divine public moods. I actually agree with some of it, the potential for a split in the Party, but I still warm my fingers and toes at the smoldering fire, the group vow to defend democracy in this critical hour -- resist with everything we've got both the bunch running DeeCee and the bunch running Raleigh, no matter the hap. That lighter-knot of a hot coal is just waiting for some air.

The Dan McCready loss in the 9th CD special election wasn't a sign of Democratic dehydration to me. Oh, Democrats stayed home in droves, yes. Robeson County, majority Democrat by a wide margin, didn't turn out for McCready. That was the case in other counties. Would they have caught fire if the candidate wasn’t shy to strike sparks on the flintstone? Would they have turned out for a more progressive fighter? Would they have churned at the polls for the North Carolina version of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

There's a whole wing of Democratic campaign operatives who preach moderation. Don't get too far out on any liberal limb because the Republicans will go apeshit and call you a "socialist" and cause moderate, rural Dems to turn away from you as a threat to their very way of life. Because they're capable of believing your average con artist.

Here's my beef with that version of reality: They're gonna label you, dear ole Democrat, no matter whether you fight on principle or not. And depending on the candidate, moderation becomes mildness, which projects weakness. Even in an ex-Marine. In his gingerly handling of issues big to Democrats, McCready always seemed to be dodging imaginary bullets. Nice guy. With nice-guy flexibility. 

I'm sorry it's happened, but the Trump model of bullying masculinity -- authoritarianism -- has demanded a manly and O make no mistake, womanly fortitude to resist, to take down the bully on the playground to save the littler kids. That's what Democrats want right now in a candidate for public office. And so do "soft" Republicans currently nauseous at the sight of Trump.

Here's what I've been leading up to…

Just when we might fall to worrying that Democratic enthusiasm is fading, the Republican bosses in Raleigh, the Moore-Berger duopoly, pull a breathtaking stunt that is so nakedly dishonest and unfair that it wakes thousands in an instant, reminds them what they're fighting for, and what against, and calls them to the ramparts to preserve any last vestige of honesty, fair-dealing, respect, a sense of ethics, any streak of humanity still remaining in the administration of our state's legislative body.

Progressives who've grown silent since 2018 are suddenly talking, shouting, on social media and in social gatherings. They're excited by a Deb Butler in the House, who became the instant Town Crier on alert yesterday morning, and got loud and stood in Speaker Tim Moore's metaphorical face. That's what we want to see. That's what we need, incidentally, in a U.S. senatorial candidate.

Ironically for the Republican bosses, the sneak vote on overriding the Governor's veto of the budget was the wind we needed to blow the smoldering coal back into life. When have the Republicans ever accurately calculated the public reaction to one of their power-grabs?

I am fully aware that the Blue Wave of paragraph one became the smoldering fire of paragraph three -- only to prove, O My Brethren, that I can miraculously combine fire and water.

Statement from Rep. Ray Russell on the Core Dishonesty of Republicans in the NCGA

House Republican leaders intentionally deceived House Democrats, the press, and the public about a session held at 8:30 AM, September 11, 2019, and they rammed a vote on the state budget through the House.

At the end of a non-voting session Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee Chairman Lewis, who presided over the session, told Minority Leader Jackson that no votes would be taken in the 8:30 AM session Wednesday. The Minority Leader communicated this information to House Democrats via email.

Rep. Lewis also texted reporters that there would be no votes in the 8:30 AM session Wednesday. (Copies of the text have circulated widely in news reports and social media.) I presume the purpose was to keep reporters from being on the floor to cover what would happen.

To add context, the House has scheduled scores of “No Vote Sessions” since January. This is normal operating procedure to dispense with parliamentary procedures that do not require the presence of members.

Wednesday morning, 55 Republicans arrived along with only a handful of Democrats (who were there only because of 9 AM Finance Committee Meeting). The House Speaker rammed through a vote on two veto overrides in minutes, including the state budget. He refused to allow any Democrats to speak on the bill (which would have given time for most Democrats to arrive). A video of what happened is available on social media. [Click here for the video]

The veto override passed on a 55-9 vote—64 of the 120 members being present.

House Democrats have been incredibly vigilant in being on the floor and ready to vote on every occasion a voting session was called. Members have been there in spite of surgery, cancer treatments, family crises; they have missed vacations, family time, you name it. House Democrats have been here. Personally, I had NOT MISSED EVEN ONE VOTE since January until today when this deceptive vote was taken.

The two most contentious items have been House Bill 966 (the committee report on the state budget vetoed by Governor Cooper) and House Bill 655 (Medicaid Expansion). Both of these bills have been on the House Calendar since July 8. House Democrats have hung together tenaciously in favor of Governor Cooper’s compromise proposal. Neither vote has ever been called … until 8:30 AM, September 11, 2019.

In spite of intense pressure, House Democrats have held strong. The Budget impasse was mostly over five issues: Democrats favor covering over 500,000 North Carolinians with health care coverage, better pay for teachers and other state employees, better school facilities, more funding for public infrastructure projects, and adequate funding for the NC Division of Health and Human Services.

House Democrats could not be beaten in a fair, honorable process. Instead, House Republicans resorted to a level of deception unprecedented in NC History.

So the veto override goes to the NC Senate. NC Senate Democrats are committed to the same principles as House Democrats and will take up the cause.

Who loses because of today’s deceit? Democracy lost. The institution of the House of NC lost. Integrity lost. Honor lost. Honesty lost. But more importantly … people in the Medicaid Gap lost. Children lost. Teachers lost. Most state employees lost. Schools lost. Communities lost. And finally North Carolina lost in that House “Leadership” stooped to a new low get their way.

Remember, House Democrats received over 51% of the vote statewide in 2018. These 65 Republican are in control in spite of getting a minority of North Carolinians’ votes.

On what was supposed to be a Day of Remembrance, the actions of House Republicans dishonored the day and every person who has sacrificed for freedom and democracy. Their action was a sneak attack, dishonest at its core, and not worthy of the people of North Carolina.

North Carolinians deserve better.  As your representative, I will continue to work for a better state and a better House of Representatives.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Lesson for Democrats in Raleigh: Republicans Always Lie and Don't Play Fair


House Speaker Tim Moore suddenly called a vote on over-riding Governor Cooper's veto of the Republican budget while almost half the House was attending other events on this 18th anniversary of 9/11. The override passed 55-9. This was after Moore had indicated to various Democratic leaders that no votes would be taken today.

For Republicans, the General Assembly is Thunderdome, and they're wearing impenetrable armor (they think).

I want revenge. We'll get it too. I want small-minded, shriveled-heart, bile-belching revenge. If that's the way they play it.

Rep. Deb Butler expressed the anger of all the Democrats in the NC House.

Dan McCready and (lack of) Democratic Enthusiasm in the 9th Special Election

Dan McCready and Republican winner last night,
Dan Bishop
I'm sorry that Dan McCready lost, but I'm not surprised. Full disclosure -- I contributed to the McCready campaign, not enough to buy a billboard, but I wanted him to win. However, I never believed in the McCready strategy of going soft on progressive issues to appeal to "soft" Republicans. Election numbers from yesterday suggest that a sizable number of 9th District Democrats didn't believe in it either.

You might be forgiven for believing -- given national media attention and McCready's aggressive fundraising -- that Democratic enthusiasm was running high down along the border with South Carolina. Actual election results suggest something very different when polling numbers for McCready yesterday are set side-by-side with numbers from 2018:

Mecklenburg County 
2018 vote for McCready 51,856
2019 vote for McCready 36,986
Cumberland County 
2018 vote for McCready 13,452
2019 vote for McCready 7,441
Richmond County 
2018 vote for McCready 7,138
2019 vote for McCready 4,276

I could go on, county by county, but the point seems clear enough: Democratic enthusiasm for McCready sagged like a soft mattress. (I heard last night on MS-NBC that McCready was actually doing better in Meck than he did in 2018, but Steve Kornacki must have been talking percentages rather than actual numbers. Anyway, the numbers above are actual votes.)

Would a Stacey Abrams have won that district? Would a Democrat not afraid of embracing Democratic issues have won? McCready always struck me -- going back into the 2018 campaign -- as a man walking a mine field, fearful that every step was going to blow him sky-high. I don't believe that "soft" Republicans -- shorthand for Republicans who are disgusted with Trumpism -- necessarily want a soft Democrat. They want strength of conviction the same as Democrats do.

What does this special election say about Trump's chances next year? Probably not what Trump thinks it says, and which he's already strutting about.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Senator Thom Tillis Once Again Gets Boos From Trump-Lovers

Will Sommer reports that Senator Thom Tillis was booed not once but twice at the Fayetteville Trump rally last night.

Oh, the grief, the torture of never being able to achieve forgiveness for once upon a time writing an op-ed against Twitterman's policies.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Sign of the Times?

The Republican booth at the Mountain State Fair in the WNC Agricultural Center near Asheville yesterday:

Vs. the Democratic booth yesterday:

Photos courtesy of Brian Caskey.

Blindman's Poker in Raleigh

Rep. Chuck McGrady
Lot of members from both parties in the NC General Assembly all of a sudden appear willing to do "redistricting reform." Well, some from both parties. The major sponsor of HB 140, the "FAIR Act," is Republican Chuck McGrady from Hendersonville -- he actually introduced two different bills, one less extreme than HB 140 (which would amend the state's constitution) -- but so far House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Phil Berger have shown no interest in anything other than painting old scabs. Nothing moves without the bosses' say-so.

Maybe they're still feeling the shock waves of last Tuesday's trial court decision that threw out some 50-odd NC House districts and 21 NC Senate districts as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. The stink is on gerrymandering, so you might expect a few "moderate" Republicans (rara avis, indeed) to be looking over their shoulders. New districts will follow the Census of 2020. If Democrats should win House or Senate outright next year, Democrats would no longer be armless in the redistricting battles. (Whether they also had the strong stomach for a fight -- why, that's another anatomical question altogether.)  McGrady's HB 140, while offering some tangible reform, can also look a lot like a last-ditch hedge by putting it in the state's constitution that no independent redistricting commission is ever gonna get its mitts on North Carolina.

Bottomline: HB 140 would amend the constitution, which makes it more extreme. Thankful to Will Doran for parsing HB 140's other provisions:
The FAIR Act would not create an independent redistricting commission, like some other states use. It would allow the state legislature to retain control over the drawing of the maps, but it would add some extra layers of oversight to the process and institute rules banning politicians from protecting incumbents when drawing new maps. It would also ban them from using any sort of demographic or political data like people’s voting history.
The last sentence contains the best parts -- call those proposed new rules "The Hofeller De-flect" --  but the main takeaway is that HB 140 still leaves politicians in charge of drawing their own districts. That's not what we call reform.

So a poker game is underway. Former Attorney General Eric Holder has come out publicly against HB 140 (“...does little to improve the status quo"), and so has Guilford County Rep. Pricey Harrison (“I share Eric Holder’s concerns. HB 140 is not the way N.C. should undertake redistricting reform — ... and it sure doesn’t belong in our constitution”). Mary Wills Bode, executive director of the bipartisan group North Carolinians for Redistricting Reform, supports it. According to Doran, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, Chatham County Rep. Robert Reives, is one of the bill’s lead sponsors. "Numerous other Democrats" also support it. But with Holder and Harrison ringing the alarm bell, other progressive Democrats may peel off. Would HB 140 pass without strong Democratic support?

Some Republican asses are going to be pinched by closing doors in 2020, mainly because of that court-imposed remedy to partisan gerrymandering and the continuing Blue Wave enthusiasm among Democrats and independents. New maps in those 70-odd General Assembly districts are supposed to be final by September 17, but until then, no one can predict anything very concretely. A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a Heaven for? Do the Republican bosses risk losing one chamber of the General Assembly next fall and thus much of their leverage to pass proposed constitutional amendments, or do they release HB 140 for legislative action and protect their everlasting butts while giving up some control over the process? Phil Berger and Tim Moore could certainly go suddenly soft and romantic about HB 140, which would signal a generally weak hand for poker.

What's the best course for Democrats? Decline to support HB 140 -- if it should ever show up on the floor -- and rather trust to the continuing Blue Wave in 2020? Partisan energy plus new maps combined could give Democrats the NC House next year (and/or the Senate?) without also signing onto a bill that would in effect ban independent redistricting commissions via the state's constitution.

Read more here:
Read more here:

Stella Anderson's Motion To Enforce Cyber-Security for Voting in North Carolina

Text of the motion made by Stella Anderson at the conclusion of last Thursday's state Board of Elections (SBOE) meeting. The purpose and the effect of her motion were discussed here, also last Thursday, and the particulars of the 3-2 vote that passed it.

It's technical and specific in forcing the state to verify certain safety checks on electronic voting machines:

State Board staff shall provide documentation of the State’s post-EAC testing/examination to meet each of the following requirements of G.S. 163A-1115 (e):The State Board’s (or independent expert’s) review of the vendors’ source code in the following required areas of focus:
  • Security
  • Application vulnerability
  • Application code
  • Wireless security
  • Security policy and processes
  • Security/privacy program management
  • Technology infrastructure and security controls
  • Security organization and governance
  • Operational effectiveness
If documentation is unavailable, please provide the rationale, or waiver granted.
  • Provide documentation of source code delivery placed in escrow (when delivered, current custody).
  • State Board staff shall also provide a response to the following: NCSBE’s Elections Systems Certification Program – states “The voting system or equipment must meet the requirements contained in the most recent version or versions of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) currently accepted for testing and certification by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).” Why would NCSBE certify equipment EAC-certified under VVSG 1.0 (2005), rather than VVSG 1.1 (2015)?

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Today's SBOE Action -- Republican Members Continue To Line Up Against Voting Machine Security

SBOE Chair Damon Circosta reluctantly agreed to vote for Democrat Stella Anderson's motion -- which passed 3-2 -- for SBOE staff to properly test and subsequently ensure that all NC-approved voting machines meet the security requirements of state and federal law. I say "reluctantly" because Mr. Circosta started the discussion by stating he thought the motion might be better contained in a "directive" to the staff. Anderson wanted a vote of the Board, and she got it.

Her motion was much more technical and involved than the first sentence above reflects, but I think I caught the gist of it.

Lynn Bernstein of Transparent Elections had charged that "NC didn't follow their own requirements for certification of election systems. This cannot be disregarded by the state and will not be ignored by election security advocates & voters." Anderson's motion would appear to be reaction to that charge, and is commendable anyway for trying to ensure that ESandS voting machines, for example, are not merely safe but really most sincerely safe.

The two Republican members of the SBOE -- David Black and Ken Raymond -- voted against Anderson's motion and offered no reasons for their votes.

The meeting was conducted via telephone, and no public comments were taken.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Gutless Wonder Gets Support from Headless Horseman

NC Republican Senator Thom Tillis wrote an op-ed on February 25 condemning Twitterman’s announced plan to redirect federal funds to border walls in defiance of Congress. Sen. Tillis said his conscience required him to put principle over party.

Two weeks later the senator abandoned his principles and publicly endorsed Trump's plan.

Trump then paid off Tillis in June, telling his nearly 64 million Twitter followers that Tillis had “really stepped up to the plate.” (When he can't get dictators to fawn over, Trump'll love up on abject toadies who kiss his ass.)

So, natch, Tillis appears to be floundering in his reelection bid. He may not even make it to November. Conservative Garland Tucker is challenging him in the March primary and seems to be gaining traction. Nobody loves Tillis, except maybe the former executive director of the NC GOP, Dallas Woodhouse.

So today, Twitterman throws Tillis another bone (life-raft?) by injecting partisanship into Hurricane Dorian preparations. Trump tweeted that he was granting an Emergency Declaration to North Carolina because Tillis requested it, thereby dissing Governor Roy Cooper who requested it. A governor of a state has to request an Emergency Declaration, not a stupid senator.

It was a lame-ass move to boost up Tillis, FWIW -- which ain't much.

The Postman Turned On His Magic Beam: SBOE Gets a Letter

Damon Circosta
The State Board of Elections (SBOE) will meet this Thursday, September 5th. It's not gonna be a quiet meeting (see below for how to hear it). Turns out, there's gonna be plenty pressure on it from a coalition of election security advocates alleging that North Carolina law was not followed in the August 23rd vote of the board to certify the voting equipment of ESandS and two other vendors. The advocates, including Lynn Bernstein of Cary, have written a strongly worded letter to Chair Damon Circosta and to the other four members urging them to revisit that vote.

They say that certain electronic voting equipment isn't safe from hacking. Damon Circosta claims it is. The letter warns that the rights of the people to fair elections isn't being properly shielded, and those rights should come first, and pronto.
"The certification of the voting systems occurred August 23, only 10 days ago. The State Board should immediately revisit the decision before counties and vendors expend resources and make expensive irreversible decisions based on flawed certifications."
To recap recent history: It was a surprise 3-2 SBOE decision on August 23rd, with newly appointed Democratic Chair Circosta joining the two Republican members in opposing a motion made by Democrat Stella Anderson to demand voter-readable proof of ballot choices from electronic machinery. Anderson and fellow Democrat Jeff Carmon were voted down. Virtually every progressive in the state went "Huh?" Some went stronger. It's written up here

Advocates who signed the letter:
Marilyn Marks, Coalition for Good Government, Charlotte
Susan Greenhalgh, National Election Defense Coalition, New York
Lynn Bernstein, Transparent Elections NC, Cary
They ask that the hearing on Thursday not limit public comment and that each speaker -- many of them experts who'll be brought in by the advocate groups listed above -- be given 3 minutes instead of 2.

In its most potentially litigious passage, the letter warns the board that excessive use of closed attorney-client meetings, with the public shut out of the discussion, will be challenged:
"...There is no pending litigation that would justify closed door litigation strategy discussions with the Board’s attorneys. The topics that are so sensitive as to require private sessions are quite limited when it comes to the public’s voting systems. Any attempt to liberally construe the Board’s opportunity to conduct executive sessions without strict compliance with the law will be carefully monitored and subject to legal challenge."
If stuff gets discussed in executive sessions, it'll take a whistle-blower on the inside to demand the sun shine in. No one on the outside of those meetings will know what's being said.

The meeting in Raleigh on Thursday is at 1:00 pm in the Dobbs Building. Anyone can listen by phone, and it's free: Dial: (415) 655-0052 and enter on prompt the Code: 212-929-441.

State Judges Order Redistricting of General Assembly Seats Because of "Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering"

A three-person panel of North Carolina trial judges yesterday whacked the Republican General Assembly upside the head over their most recent gerrymandering of NC House and Senate districts, saying the legislators took "extreme advantage" in drawing voting districts to help elect a maximum number of Republican lawmakers and in the process violated the state constitution's guarantee of free speech and association. The ruling was unanimous and included one Republican judge from Iredell County.

Recently, the US Supremes said that partisan gerrymandering was beyond their powers and said it was up to the states to determine when gerrymandering gets so bad that reasonable men and women have to do something about it.

The ruling yesterday applied to the most recent redistricting in 2017 that was mandated by Federal courts because of extreme racial gerrymandering. The Republicans in the General Assembly answered that court order by doing a different kind of extreme gerrymandering, because they're termites who never lose their taste for the sweet, sweet wood of democracy.

The judges gave the Republicans only two weeks -- until September 18 -- to redraw the maps. Specifically, the ruling applies to nearly half of the state's 120 House districts and 21 of its 50 Senate districts.

Furthermore, the judges imposed new rules on the mapmaking apparently based on past Republican behavior: "The new mapmaking must start from scratch, all map-drawing must occur at public hearings with computer screens visible to everyone, and any consultants hired by lawmakers must be approved by the court." Ouch. (Source: Emery P. Dalesio)

Remarkably, Republican boss on the NC Senate Phil Berger is quoted in this morning's News and Observer saying he doesn't plan to appeal the ruling and that he and his boys would begin redrawing the maps.

This ruling will greatly reshuffle the 2020 elections, and many potential candidates will be studying the new maps like treasure-seekers.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Another 2019 Bellwether Election: Governor of Kentucky

Republican Matt Bevin is the Governor of Kentucky. Elected in 2015, he's coming to the end of his first term. Used to be ... Kentucky didn't allow their governors a second term, but that was repealed in 1992. So Bevin is running for reelection as a rare bird, as only the third Republican Governor of Kentucky since World War II. The only Republican governor before him who was eligible for reelection to a second term, Ernie Fletcher, was defeated by Democrat Steve Beshear in 2007. One-term-and-out. That's the pattern for Republican governors of Kentucky, and Gov. Bevin looks right now like he ain't gonna deviate from the pattern.

According to Patrick Caldwell, Bevin's reelection campaign is "flailing." He's unpopular -- last listing I saw said Bevin's approval rating is at 33% -- and he's pissed off the lieutenant governor (a fellow Republican), the attorney general (a Democrat, son of the last Democratic governor, and the man running against him this year) and worst of all, he pissed off Kentucky's teachers.

A lot of the establishment Kentucky Republican Party doesn't like him either. His first dive into Kentucky Republican politics -- as an acid-washed Tea Partier in 2014 -- was to challenge the supremacy of Mitch McConnell. Yes, Bevin ran against McConnell in the Republican primary and got his ass whipped good. McConnell beat him by 25 points after calling him an “East Coast con man” (Bevin's a native of New Hampshire. No kidding). Bevin got so mad at McConnell's counterattacks he refused to endorse McConnell for the fall election. That kind of shit leaves stains. Bevin whined: “You can’t punch people in the face, punch people in the face, punch people in the face, and ask them to have tea and crumpets with you and think it’s all good.” Make a note of the whining. It'll show up again.

How to put this nicely? Bevin is amazingly trumpy. (His introductory campaign ad is about Twitterman almost as much as it's about Bevin.) He casually reveals his prejudices even while pretending empathy for people he clearly has zero interest in. Here he was in July, in that section of town:

Enjoyed meeting the members of the West Louisville Chess Club at Nativity Academy at St. Boniface...Incredible kids with incredible minds.

295 people are talking about this

Ignorance just naturally goes nicely as a side-dish to open prejudice. Bevan's an aggressive anti-vaxxer. He blamed video games for the Parkland school shooting. He can be a jerk and whine at the same time (Facebook video where he goes on and on about how unfair the attacks on him are). His own Republican lieutenant governor is suing him. “Pray for me as I battle dark forces,” she tweeted. Bevin retaliated and dropped her from his ticket. He was booed at the Kentucky Derby last May.

"But Bevin’s biggest mistake may be spending the past two years picking fights with public school teachers. He successfully pushed a law to allow charter schools, saying he wanted to 'end the monopoly that exists in Kentucky’s school system,' and he’s attempted to weaken pension benefits for public employees" (Patrick Caldwell). As teachers pushed back, they got organized and they got strong. They joined other striking teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona in 2018 and essentially shut down a special session Bevin called of the legislature, a special session dedicated to cutting teacher pensions. Teachers gathered by the hundreds in the state capitol in Frankfort, and the legislature folded -- just like that. They went home, their tails tucked. Through all the teacher protest, Bevin responded by insulting ever more people in ever more personal ways.

Here's the kicker: According to a past president of the Kentucky Education Association, more than half of KEA's members are Republicans. They belong to Republican families -- sometimes extended families -- in Kentucky's grassroot counties. The biggest local employer is the school system in many of those counties. If teachers take a disliking to you, you might begin to smell like toast.

Bevin's Democratic Opponent This November

Andy Beshear is the elected Attorney General of Kentucky, and as such, he's spent a fair amount of his time challenging Governor Bevin's initiatives in court. He came to the aid of higher education and of public school teachers, defending them from what he said in court was Bevin's overstepping his constitutional role. Now they're in a virtual death-match for governor.

The 42-year-old Andy is son of Steve Beshear, the last Democratic governor (who incidentally got reelected to a second term). He's no flaming liberal. He's got an 86% rating by the NRA. And if anything he's in the pro-business branch of the Democratic Party. As a young lawyer (UVa School of Law), he represented the developers of the Blue Grass Pipeline through the state, and those were fracking dollars. But he's also repeatedly sued opioid manufacturers on behalf of the victims, and he's defended Obamacare, which was initially responsible for getting thousands of people insured before Gov. Bevin started yanking the rug out.

He might be the brand of business-friendly, gun-friendly yet crusading attorney that can win in conservative Kentucky. While governor for two terms, his father built up a Democratic support network that no doubt benefits the son. Hard to put a dollar value on that network.

Most recent poll I've seen (Gravis Marketing) has Bevin leading Beshear by 6 points, but with Beshear doing better than Bevin among women and college-educated voters. That overall lead for Bevin doesn't comport with a 33% approval rating, and as we near November, I expect to see that 6-point lead shrink. If Bevin loses, it'll be seen as a bellwether for Trump's 2020 prospects.

Monday, September 02, 2019

The 125th Labor Day

Today is the 125th official national Labor Day. It was created as a federal holiday by Congress in 1894, though it had been celebrated by organized labor unions since at least 1882 and was recognized as a holiday by the state of Oregon in 1887 (those West Coast lib'ruls!).

It was created to celebrate the working men and women -- as opposed to The Bosses and the 1% -- who built the nation and kept it running. Its creation was testimony to the growing strength in the late 19th century of the union movement, in which workers banded together to demand better working conditions and living wages. Early Labor Day celebrations always featured large parades of union members demonstrating their allegiances and their solidarity.

Although many individual states followed the lead of Oregon after 1887 and declared their own state holidays to honor workers, the last-straw impetus for the federal holiday followed closely on the heels of the May 11, 1894, Pullman railway sleeping car strike outside Chicago. Employees of mastermind George Pullman went on strike over wages and were joined in a show of solidarity by the American Railway Union — 150,000 strong and led by famous socialist Eugene Debs. The strikers refused to operate Pullman train cars, snarled mail delivery, and prompted President Grover Cleveland to send in federal troops to break up the strike. Rioting and arson broke out, and it evolved into what’s now considered one of the bloodiest episodes in American labor history.

Labor Day as a federal holiday passed Congress within weeks, a kind of sop thrown at workers following the use of troops to put them down.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Who Produced This Campaign Video? It's Genius!

Here's M.J. Hegar's "(Re)Introduction" for her campaign for US Senate in Texas against John Cornyn ... just because I can't stop watching it and because it's the new gold standard for what candidate videos ought to accomplish -- personality over prescription. It's even better than her "Doors" introduction when she ran for Congress in 2018.

Of course, M.J. Hegar has a primary to get through to take on Cornyn (on March 3rd, Super Tuesday), and she's up against some other strong Democrats (at least seven others, at last count, with more in the wings still considering it).

Good videos don't necessarily translate to votes, but they certainly don't hurt. They can help people decide to write checks, if nothing else.

I'm told that Putnam Partners did the video, which probably means that North Carolina's own Frank Eaton had a hand in it.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Don't Do It, Jon, Or If You Do It, Do It Better

Photo: Dustin Chambers, Ossoff for Congress
Maybe you'll recall Georgia insurgent Democrat Jon Ossoff who ran the most expensive US House election ever (up to that time) for the 6th Congressional District seat in 2017. We gave him space here in March 2017. It was a special election for a vacant seat and the first of what would become a series of special elections in which Democrats won what should have been very Red seats. But Ossoff ended up losing to Republican Karen Handel by a fairly narrow margin. Karen Handel went on to lose her so recently gained seat to Democrat Lucy McBath in November 2018.

Maybe there was a lesson in that: Lucy McBath was a bold progressive, making gun control her signal issue. Jon Ossoff had, by contrast, run a "Republican lite" campaign in 2017. Said a decidedly more-progressive-observer-than-Ossoff, “He didn’t have a core progressive message and that ultimately is why he lost. The Democratic party could spend $100m and he would still lose. Because he didn’t stand for anything."

Democrats have empty suits the same as Republicans.

Now news reaches us this morning that Ossoff is seriously considering a run for the Georgia Senate seat that Johnny Isakson is resigning from.

Oof. What went wrong in 2017 for Ossoff might just as likely go wrong in 2020, but on a bigger scale.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On Being a Partisan Democrat in the Age of Bernie

The Times of Israel
I was just reading about the plight of Maine Senator Susan Collins, running for her 5th term in the US Senate while dragging the heavy steamer-trunk baggage of her vote putting party-boy Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. I actually found myself feeling sympathy for her. I feel sympathy because she's a good person saddled with loyalty to her party (loyalty to the point of saying she'd still again vote for Mitch McConnell as her Majority Leader). 

I take some heat for loyalty to my party. I've been called "just another partisan Democrat" by conservatives, and that's the absolute truth. But I'm not a partisan hack. I break with the leaders when breaking's called for, like over principle -- I still have some -- or over political realities. Obama pissed me off more times that I can now remember, and there was plenty of evidence of that on this site. Obama was wrong -- or weak -- as Obamacare got hammered out. He was right and strong about many other things. 

I'm loyal to my party but not to the extreme of a Susan Collins, not to the point of putting a tookus lingus like McConnell in charge of the Senate or an arrogant prick like Kavanaugh on the Supremes.  

But because I purportedly act on principle at least some of the time, my failure to do it all the time -- that's where I take the most heat, especially from activists who declare "It's Bernie or Bust!" Because I voted for Bernie in the 2016 primaries and generally approve of his ideas, some of my closest friends assume that I should be supporting him for president in 2020 -- I'm not, nor am I yet supporting anyone. 2016 was then. This is now. New actors, new scenery, new plot.

I'm accosted daily that Biden -- not to mention every other Democratic presidential candidate whose name isn't Bernard Sanders -- is, and has always been, a conservative dupe about radical change, like every "moderate" who's fooled about what "moderation" really amounts to -- shoring up a corrupt status quo. Biden's a resister of real change because he's as indebted to the corporate masters as any Republican hack -- just like Hillary was -- which makes Joe Biden just another part of the problem not the solution. I'm warned daily that if the nominee is Biden, none of the Bernie supporters will follow that parade, nor will "the young people," and Trump will surely be reelected. 

About me, truth is if Biden is the nominee, I'll be working for him as hard as I ever worked for Hillary, or for Obama before her, because I'm a loyal Democrat (who incidentally believes that a broken clock would be better in the White House that what we have now, who isn't even right twice a day).

Loyalty means taking the not-pure on faith as something incrementally better than what we have. I have sympathy for those demanding purity of purpose as well as purity of personal history -- I've been there. I was young. I wouldn't compromise. I was an absolutist with fire in my eye. If any politician ever said anything wrong ever in his life, it meant I could hold it against him for the rest of his life.

I ain't quite like that any longer.

I'm not big on conspiracy theories, and I'm not big on purity. Clearly, some of the people running for president right now under the Democratic label are unacceptable to me, but they're not threats to anyone, really (unless national polling and big assumptions turn out to be totally and palm-facedly wrong). Any of the top current five or six, I could support and work for, though I'll be a lot more rattled and nervous if it's Biden.

He's too old, and now his fumbles with language seem like the fumbles of old age and advancing superannuation. He looks obsolete, especially when he starts defending Obamacare. Who wants to hear that? Not in an age of other, more interesting health-care proposals.

Biden's a good man (just like Susan Collins is a good woman). I've always liked him, his working-class pimples and warts, his straight-arm counter-punches, even when some of them go wide. He's got a good heart, and I care about heart.

But Generations Y and Z don’t really know him that way. They were teenagers, or younger, when he was vice president -- which just makes him some vague appendage to the big man Obama, about whom they remember much more (and virtually none of it negatively, like I do).

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Four Women To Watch in North Carolina in 2020

This announcement appeared on Twitter yesterday:

Lillian's List candidates in North Carolina get significant financial support and a boost from a network of activists and opinion-shapers across the state.

I've written here about Leslie Cohen back in July, because she's running again in 2020 in the House district currently occupied by Republican Holly Grange, who at the time of that writing was only considering a campaign for the Republican nomination for governor. Grange is now in that race against Dan Forest, leaving her House District 20 in Wilmington an open seat. Cohen has an excellent shot at that.

I wrote about Julie Mayfield in June. She had announced for the Senate District 49 that is being left open by incumbent Democrat Terry Van Duyn's decision to seek election as lieutenant governor. Mayfield has the makings of a Democratic star. She's currently serving on the Asheville City Council and is an environmental lawyer deeply invested in MountainTrue, an advocacy group that stretches through several North Carolina mountain counties.

Jessica Holmes is new to me. She's running for Labor Commissioner, a seat being left open by the retirement of Republican Cheri Berry. Holmes is well qualified to take on that department. She was a first generation college student who graduated from UNC's law school and became a labor and employment law attorney. She was elected to the Wake County Commission in 2014 as the youngest member ever and is now serving in her second term. After reelection she was chosen by her fellow commissioners as chair of the county commission. You can read much more about her accomplishments on her website.

Christine Kushner is also new to me, although I inadvertently stumbled onto her when I wrote encouraging Mack Paul, the almost-successful Democratic candidate in 2018 for the NC Senate District 18, to try again in 2020. What I didn't know at the time, but quickly found out, was that Mack Paul was endorsing Christine Kushner for that seat and an old friend of ours was running her campaign. Kushner has been a popular member of the Wake County Board of Education since 2011. She was a Moorhead Scholar at Chapel Hill, graduating with a degree in journalism (which she pursued professionally for a while) and political science. She went on to earn a master's degree at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton and has spent many years working and advising on health care policy, grants management, and public health programs throughout North Carolina. Her website.

Good first crop of Lillian List endorsees -- accomplished and strong women with every prospect of helping make 2020 a Blue Wave.

Monday, August 26, 2019

OMG, BMDs in GA and NC Too! WTF?

Damon Circosta,
new chair of the NC SBE

The Election Systems and Software (ESandS) balloting machinery that Damon Circosta declared last Friday is safe enough for him, and then voted to certify for use in North Carolina counties in 2020 -- those machines are also known in the industry as BMDs, "ballot-marking devices." After a voter touches his choices on a display screen, the machine produces a piece of paper with barcodes representing those choices along with a printed list of what those barcodes purport to mean -- the names of candidates.

The problem is that there's no way to verify that indeed the barcode actually matches the printed list.

In the Age of Trump, verification is all.

Chair of the SBOE Damon Circosta knows why he voted the way he voted. I don't. Apparently, he had ulterior motives that I don't fully understand -- something to do with what might happen in the General Assembly if certain vendors are denied their business interests in North Carolina. Maybe that's a legitimate concern. I don't know. But I've never thought it a compelling argument to worry about what other people might do if I do the right thing.

Here's where North Carolina is today following those votes last Friday: We're now in the same bad place as Georgia. On August 15, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg banned Georgia’s current untrustworthy touchscreen voting machines. You may recall the huge uproar following the close 2018 election for Georgia governor between Ga. Sec'ty of St. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. In Georgia, the Secretary of State runs the election machinery, maintains the voter rolls, and tallies the vote. Brian Kemp held onto that power until the day after last November's election, when he resigned the office. The voting in Georgia was done on very hackable touchscreen machines, the ones Judge Tottenberg ruled out on August 15, not that anyone has proven that hacking took place in the 2018 Georgia governor race. What did take place and was ultimately worse perhaps was the disenfranchisement of black voters: "3,000 people were wrongly flagged by the state as being ineligible to vote, and 53,000 voter registrations were delayed by Kemp's office without adequately notifying the applicants" (Wikipedia).

(The General Assembly of North Carolina had already passed legislation banning touchscreen machines that produce no paper record, making their use impossible in 2020. The ESandS BMD's, with their printed barcodes, are now certified as legit replacements.)

And guess what -- Judge Tottenberg's ruling came in Georgia coincidentally on the heels of the new Republican Secretary of State's announced intent to purchase BMDs for use in Georgia in 2020 (some or most from ESandS?). That decision is causing a very similar outcry down there among balloting watchdogs and experts. For example, Richard DeMillo (the Charlotte B. and Roger C. Warren Professor of Computing, former dean of the College of Computing and Director of the Center for Information Security Research at Georgia Tech and previously Chief Technology Officer at Hewlett-Packard) warned yesterday in the Atlanta Constitution:
History is poised to repeat itself. There is a growing consensus among experts that the BMDs slated to replace the current system have all the cyber vulnerabilities of the old system plus some appalling new wrinkles like forcing voters to cast bar-coded ballots that are unreadable by human beings. The lone cybersecurity expert on the governor’s own election security task force strongly urged the legislature to reject BMDs. Experts from the U.S. National Academy of Science (NAS), Verified Voting Foundation, the National Election Defense Coalition, Freedom Works, Common Cause, and many others, agreed and wrote letters urging rejection of BMDs. Conservative Republicans like national security expert Tony Shaffer joined Libertarians, Democrats, and Independents in condemning the use of BMDs.
Those same objections to BMDs were voiced quite clearly last Friday in North Carolina too, and Damon Circosta supposedly heard them quite clearly before he voted to ignore the warnings. He knows best why all that testimony meant exactly zero to him, and so far he has failed to tell us why.