Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Reverend Harris Trying End-Run Around the State Board of Elections

Rev. Mark Harris's lawsuit to get himself declared the winner of the NC-9 congressional seat is right now being heard by Judge Matthew Ridgeway in Wake Superior Court. You can watch live here.

Judge Ridgeway denied Mark Harris's request for certification of his election. Harris will have to wait until a new State Board of Elections is empaneled on January 31st, which will presumably schedule a hearing date for the investigators to present their evidence of what happened in the 9th Congressional District.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Thom Goolsby Plays the Hit Man on the UNC Board of Governors

Watch for it: Thom Goolsby will force a bloody awful showdown on the Chapel Hill campus over the Silent Sam Confederate monument. He's already said he intends to force the statue's return to its original location on campus, even if it takes a moat, a few guard towers, and tank traps to keep it unmolested. Goolsby leads the conservative faction on the UNC Board of Governors, which is clearly in the ascendant.

Goolsby has a history of nastiness and bullying. When he was a NC senator from Wilmington, he pushed for "vaginal wanding" of pregnant women before an abortion. He sponsored the bill to repeal the Racial Justice Act, which prohibited the imposition of the death penalty on the basis of race. He called protestors "Monday Morons" who were organized for Rev. William Barber's "Moral Mondays," which had rattled the Republican overlords. He pushed a vote on the UNC BOG to prohibit the UNC School of Law's Center for Civil Rights from pursuing legal remedies for low-income and minority groups.

Notice the good solid strain of racial politics in Goolsby's policy positions?

Goolsby graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. (venue for a good deal of *pop culture male displays), then went for an MBA at Golden Gate University. He came back to Chapel Hill for his law degree. Goolsby and a partner started Empowered Investor, handling big-buck investments and securities and doing quite well at it, and so he naturally ran for the NC Senate (Dist. 9) in that watershed year, 2010. He was reelected in 2012 and would have been a cinch for reelection in 2014, but a fiduciary scandal interceded. In a consent agreement with the Securities Division of the Secretary of State's office, Goolsby lost his licenses for doing investment and securities deals (because of, yes, fraud), and he won't get those licenses back before 2024. So, understandably, Goolsby decided against running for reelection in 2014. He actually put out a statement that said he wanted to spend more time with his family. No really. (His former seat in the Senate is now -- since November -- held by Democrat Harper Peterson.)

On the UNC Board of Governors, and in keeping with the self-image The Citadel bestowed on him, Goolsby has been a champion prick. Goolsby was appointed to the all-Republican board in August 2015 by the NC Senate (Phil Berger's joint), as a conservative counter-weight to BOG Chair John Fennebresque, a country club Republican who unilaterally fired Democrat Tom Ross from the university presidency and installed his favorite and fellow country club Republican Margaret Spellings in the chair. So Goolsby came onto the board primed for a big fight with Chair Fennebresque. Goolsby quickly demanded Fennebresque's resignation, and eventually got it, but not before Fennebresque got Spellings. (See "A Margaret Spellings Timeline") Of course, ultimately, Thom Goolsby got Spellings too, in a mortal sense.

Soon after Spellings took office -- almost immediately, in fact -- Goolsby was in the vanguard of her conservative harassment. Goolsby and his fellow travelers immediately threatened to move her comfy office out of Chapel Hill to some far-flung precinct where'd she be less comfortable (and comfitted by the Chapel Hill elite). They leaned hard on Spellings to be a no-exceptions enforcer of the notorious bathroom bill against transgender citizens. And when Spellings was caught redhanded talking to Governor Cooper about "the Silent Sam problem," Goolsby signed a letter condemning her and further threatening her future.

Spellings ended her five-year contract three years early, and in July 2018, the moderate BOG chair who had replaced John Fennebresque was himself replaced by one of the conservative hardliners. The conservatives are in full control now, and in full roar, and they're not likely to hold Goolsby back. The Citadel evidently taught dying on the ramparts, even if those barricades were built on Southern racism.

Goolsby clearly intends to force the return of Silent Sam. And because he's nasty by nature, he couldn't refrain from digging a knife into the Democratic rib-cage when he made his public proposal about bringing back Sam: "I'm even willing to add some 'two-sides-to-everything' balancing statues," he said, "the kind that inform students that Democrats are the real racists" (Jeffrey C. Billman). For example, add a statue commemorating the Wilmington insurrection of 1898, Goolsby suggested, when white supremacists, all members of the Democratic Party of that day, burned a black newspaper to the ground and overthrew the town’s newly elected black Republican government. Yes, and put up another statue dedicated to the minority women “forcibly sterilized by the Democrat Party who controlled our state for decades,” wrote Goolsby.

What Goolsby thinks we won't notice is that he would have participated in that 1898 insurrection -- probably with a fixed bayonet -- and would have voted for forced sterilizations of black people. You think he wouldn't?

Only question that's relevant right now: Will Goolsby's aggression be another Pickett's Charge? Will history finally overtake him?

*The Citadel in pop culture: I'm thinking "The Great Santini" and Frank Underwood in "House of Cards." There's more in that vein.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Thom Tillis Is With Mitch McConnell

NC House Speaker Tim Moore Sucks Up

NC House Speaker Tim Moore, whose personal corruption is visible from outer space, is warbling a new tune:
Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give you candy
Come on-a my house, my house, I'm gonna give a you
Apple, a plum and apricot-a too eh
Come on-a my house, my house a come on...
A half-minute after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi disinvited Trump to the House chamber for the SOTU, Speaker Moore took to the grandstands to invite Trump to deliver his speech in the NC House chamber, with its red carpet and gold gold GOLD chandeliers.

The ridiculousness of that invitation is possibly explained by Moore's own need to distract everyone from the news that the FBI is nibbling at Moore's ankles, which is only the most recent news indicating that Moore is an accomplished server-of-self while using his position in the government to feather his nest.

Come to think of it, Moore and Trump have several things in common, so why not a SOTU in Moore's House?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Blessed Be the Astroturfers!

What's not to enjoy about the following fable? It's got illegal Trump campaign funds. It's got Michael Cohen, Trump's crooked fixer, going into business with Christian operatives at super-Christian Liberty University, first to make himself into a sex symbol and then to make Trump into The Answer. Yum. Failure and hypocrisy on a Biblical scale.

John Gauger
No one has been a bigger Trump supporter and apologist than Jerry Falwell Jr. He's practically turned Liberty University into a neon runway for Trump. Back in the olden times when they were good fellas, employer/employee locked in a pact of mutual protection, Trump's lawyer and right-hand man Michael Cohen accompanied Trump to Lynchburg on his very first visit there in 2012. Cohen, as Trump's mouth, naturally met Liberty's chief information officer, one John Gauger, who was also a young tech hotshot (supposedly) who was also verbally ambitious to get into the politics game. The Wall St. Journal broke the story (behind a paywall, so I'm relying on 2nd-hand replays) that Cohen and Gauger kept in touch for the next six years, with Cohen ever dangling the prospect of big money in a build-up to a Trump presidential campaign.

Cohen was slow to deliver, and first he tested Gauger's talents. Cohen wanted a dummy Twitter account, Women For Cohen (no, seriously), where various professional women publicly celebrated how sexy and irresistible Michael Cohen was, and possibly the greatest legal mind in New Yawk City, all of which was actually written by a female friend of Gauger (presumably also employed by Liberty University?). Apparently, Gauger did alright because Cohen wanted him for another job. It was 2015, the run-up to the 2016 primaries.

Someone who thinks like Cohen, abetted by someone who operates like Gauger -- well the bright idea was bound to pop up: Why not rig a couple of CNBC on-line polls to show how popular Trump was? Russian-style social media manipulation before anyone knew about Russian-style social media manipulation. Gauger was more than game.

So Cohen made an oral contract [cough] to pay Gauger $50,000 to write computer programs that would vote automatically over and over, simulating the on-line popularity of one Donald J. Trump. First, in 2014 it was a poll for America's "top business leaders" (Trump didn't make the top 50) and then a poll on who ought to run for president. Trump got 5% of that vote. Gauger's tech savvy turned out to be an illusion. And so was the $50,000. Gauger showed up in person at Trump Tower to be paid, and Cohen (should have) said, "You gotta be kidding me!" But Cohen did pay him off -- $12,000 and change, in cash, in "a blue Walmart bag," which also contained (you couldn't make this up) a boxing glove once owned by a famous Brazilian athlete. (Did Cohen know Gauger was somehow a fan, or what? What's the market in Brazilian mixed-martial arts fighter memorabilia?) Anyway, that bag o' cash presumably broke at least two campaign finance laws, and Cohen has incidentally confirmed Gauger's account on Twitter (natch) and said he did all at Trump's direction and for Trump's sole benefit.

(Cohen later made up for stiffing Gauger by giving him work for another client, the chief executive of CareOne Management LLC, a New Jersey assisted-living company that had given Cohen a consulting contract. Gauger created "a positive media presence" for the CEO. Don't know how successful he was or how much he got paid.)

Cherry on This Sundae
Jerry Falwell Jr. is proudly bragging about the entrepreneurial ambition of his chief information officer. He issued an official response to the Wall Street Journal article: "John Gauger is one example among many outstanding LU employees who have made great contributions in their official roles and also enjoyed success as independent entrepreneurs, allowing them to enhance their capabilities and generate more revenue for their families while allowing the University to retain them on our team."

Falwell was getting ahead of the question ... What's an employee of Liberty University doing moonlighting for the Trump campaign? And completely ignoring the other question: What's a born-again employee of Liberty University doing committing internet fraud?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Senators Burr and Tillis Try to Please Trump, Vote to Remove Sanctions on Russian Oligarch Deripaska

Let the Russians do as they please! This roll call vote in the US Senate says so much about the values and allegiances of our two senators from North Carolina.

Those sanctions on Oleg Deripaska and his companies, imposed in 2018 by Trump's own Treasury Department, were justified, according to the Treasury's own language, because Deripaska had furthered “the Kremlin’s global malign activities, including its attempts to subvert Western democracy.”

Doesn't matter any more to Burr and Tillis, because Trump now wants those sanctions lifted because Trump owes Putin. Who do Burr and Tillis owe?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Silent Sam Has No Place To Stand Now

The granite pedestal on which Silent Sam, the white supremacy symbol at the entrance to UNC-Chapel Hill, used to stand got hauled away in the wee hours this morning, by order of Chancellor Carol Folt, who incidentally also announced she's leaving her post as chancellor at the end of this semester just ahead (we imagine) of an angry mob of UNC Board of Governors members with pitchforks and torches who apparently did not know that Chancellor Folt was going to resign and order that hunk of granite removed on the same Monday in January. The BOG is largely an adamantine bunch of Republicans, and many wanted that warped statue back up on that pedestal.

UNC BOG Chair Harry Smith was particularly outraged by Chancellor Folt's actions, perhaps because he was in the middle of conducting a phone-in meeting of the board when news of Folt's resignation reached him. The board was discussing "personnel issues," and it's no secret that some of the board were gunning for Folt. Perhaps her unexpected resignation was one of those "you can't fire me because I quit" moments. We don't know. But Smith was unamused: "We are incredibly disappointed at this intentional action," Smith said in a statement. "It lacks transparency and it undermines and insults the board’s goal to operate with class and dignity."

With class and dignity. Is that code?

Smith made his fortune selling and installing air filters, but he's also the owner of apartment buildings that rent exclusively to students, and he's been accused of trying to steer member campuses in the UNC system to build public-private student housing via a company he had "a relationship" with. Uh-huh.

Smith, described as part of "an aggressive conservative faction" of BOG members, took over as chair last July. That faction ran off UNC President Tom Ross. Then they ran off his replacement, Margaret Spellings. Now Carol Folt is leaving too. Harry Smith and his faction get to replace those people with their people, and how they ultimately decide to handle symbols of white supremacy hang in the balance, sort of like that granite pedestal. If they go all hardline, we trust it will be with class and dignity.

The UNC BOG has decided that Chancellor Folt will not be allowed to continue until the end of semester. She needs to clean out her office by January 31st, they said.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Southern White Boy Tries To Show Other Southern White Boys "There's an Exit Ramp From Your Cultural Blindness"

On May 19, 2017, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered a speech about why he ordered four statues glorifying the Confederacy removed from their public spaces. I think this speech may go down as one of the most profound of the 21st Century.

Over Christmas someone gave me Mitch Landrieu's new book, "In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History," a book I viewed with skepticism because (1) it's written by a politician and that's often a drag and (2) I knew little of Mitch Landrieu's biography or his politics and doubted he had anything to tell me. I was wrong on both counts.

I feel a kinship with Mitch Landrieu. He's younger than I by many years, but I think we shared some defining history: We were both young in a South that we came to believe was on the wrong side of history. I was young when I decided it was a good thing the Confederacy lost the Civil War, and that thought, even held silently, isolated me from my own working-class culture.

Landrieu was more fortunate, since his father, Moon Landrieu, pioneered the opening up of city jobs for black people when he was also mayor of New Orleans. Mitch grew up in an enlightened white household and went on to become mayor in his own right and take a step that his father may never have imagined, the removal of those symbols of white supremacy that had been erected to maintain the fiction that the Civil War was about honor and gentility rather than about tearing the country apart so that some men could hold others in bondage.

I'm told that Landrieu wrote the speech above. I believe he also wrote "In the Shadow of Statues." (Maybe he had a ghost editor, but I don't think he had a ghost writer.) He's good with words but not in a flashy way. He knows who he is, what he believes, and can express the truth of the moment in clear, straightforward sentences that neither fake human connection nor try to imitate it. By both explicit comment and by implication, Mitch Landrieu may just be the foil for a Twitterman who knows not truth, who has never known it, and who can not speak it on any given day and certainly not under oath.

Virginia Foxx: "A Foolish Consistency Is My Hobgobblin"

Rep. Virginia Foxx said on Friday she supports Trump’s ability to declare a national emergency in order to build his wall.

In 2014, when President Obama asserted his executive authority to protect "Dreamers," Foxx had a fit that he was acting like an emperor. Funny, now that Foxx is cheerleading Trump's boasting that he has the supreme authority to build his wall.

Criticizing Obama for trying to protect the Dreamers while seconding Trump's attempt to hurt others. That's a lovely irony for a woman like Foxx, who's built her fortune on the backs of immigrants and knew a Dreamer or two that she wouldn't stoop to help (according to the persistent rumors).

Trevor Fuller of Mecklenburg Declares His Candidacy for US Senate

Didn't see that one coming.

Trevor Fuller is a Democrat on the Mecklenburg County Commission in his fourth term, and a wild card. The Charlotte Observer this morning called him Sen. Thom Tillis's first "serious" opponent. Also "somewhat unlikely" because he's "only moderately popular in Mecklenburg."

Not at all popular, possibly, with fellow Meck commissioner and fellow Democrat Pat Cotham. Fuller helped engineer her removal as chair of the board of commissioners back in 2013. Trevor Fuller took her place as chair and lasted until 2016, when Pat Cotham engineered Fuller's removal. ("Turnabouts are fair" was the playground rule I grew up with too.) Fuller has continued as an elected at-large commissioner but not as chair of the board.

Fuller's supplanting of Cotham in 2013 largely happened as fallout from Cotham's firing of then county manager, Harry Jones.
When she led the charge to fire Jones in May, she upset people—especially Democrats and the black community. She didn’t let Jones speak that night. She didn’t let him gather his things. That upset those people more. They never let it go.  (Michael Graff)
Cotham, for her part, never backed down. So her revenge against Fuller in his 2016 ouster as commission board chair might have felt like vindication. Fuller called it "treachery."

Fuller has two Twitter accounts. One hasn't been posted to since 2016, and the other's posts stop in May of 2018. His Facebook page is a little more up to date. He last posted there on November 7th, 2018, following his reelection to the Mecklenburg Commission for his fourth term.

Getting a fix on his record, his issues, his guiding light is not easy, though the Charlotte Observer said this morning that "he would check a few important boxes for statewide voters, including a strong record on progressive issues, such as being the driving force behind Mecklenburg’s universal pre-K initiative."

Perhaps Fuller's announcement will spur some stronger candidates to get off the couch.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Watching Kamala Harris

Sen. Kamala Harris has published an old-fashioned book, a "campaign biography," the sort of book that candidates for US president used to write back when people used to read. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a campaign biography of Franklin Pierce in 1852, claiming that Pierce was uniquely qualified to be president. How did that work out?

Reviews of Harris's “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey” have not been particularly good nor encouraging. "A meandering work that lacks verve," said The Atlantic reviewer. "A rather clear attempt by Harris to preemptively defend her record on criminal justice, which has emerged as an important issue, especially on the left flank of the Democratic Party," said another, dredging up several instances when Harris defended prosecutorial misconduct as Attorney General of California.

I haven't read her campaign biography and don't plan to. (I'm too busy reading about "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs" and "The Wisdom of Wolves.") But I'm taking note of her aborning candidacy because she's been such a badass in the US Senate. She's an appealing figure and could break out of the pack (a wolf pack, you might call it), and she'll have to deal with those parts of her record that cause doubts.

I'm on that jury, and so far this jury is out.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Democratic Populism and Richard Ojeda

I agree with Kyle Kulinski: If Richard Ojeda actually makes it to a Democratic presidential debate stage, "Better watch out!"

Ojeda is carrying Bernie's message 2.0, and it's the message the Democratic party needs to embrace.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Democrats Who Don't Show Up Need a Spanking

"Showing up is 80 percent of life." --Woody Allen
When I first heard that six NC House Democrats didn't show up for an override vote on December 27 and that their six votes could have upheld Roy Cooper's veto of the elections law and ethics bill that just incidentally will keep secret any allegations of campaign finance violations brought against members of the General Assembly -- why, it was face-palm time.

Here's what we know: Republican leaders needed three-fifths of everyone present on the House floor, not the whole chamber, to override that veto. In other words, 60% of those members present. With several Republican absences on December 27 (along with those six Democrats), the House's override vote majority was 68 out of 108 total, or 63%. The six missing Democrats would have shifted the total number present to 117, which means that 68 votes for the override would have fallen short. Even with one Democrat, Duane Hall, voting with the Republicans (out of spite?).

Time for public shaming of those six hooky-playing Democrats:
Cecil Brockman (HD60), Guilford County -- He's made no acknowledgement of his error nor apologized for it on his Facebook or Twitter feed.
Susan Fisher (HD114), Buncombe County -- She's made no acknowledgment nor apology on her Facebook page.
George Graham (HD12), Lenoir and Pitt counties -- He was defeated for reelection in November by Republican Chris Humphrey.
Yvonne Holley (HD38), Wake County -- Silent. She hasn't updated Facebook or Twitter since 2012.
Jean Farmer-Butterfield (HD24), Wilson County -- Nothing on her Facebook page.
Howard Hunter (HD5), Gates, Hertford, and Pasquotank counties -- His Facebook page hasn't been updated since June.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Four Democratic Men Who Might Challenge Thom Tillis

What follows is pure speculation. None of these gentlemen have spoken publicly about running for the US Senate. We wrote previously about three North Carolina women who might make good candidates too against Thom Tillis.

Anthony Foxx, former Charlotte Mayor and former US Secretary of Transportation -- First elected to the Charlotte City Council in 2005, Foxx quickly rose in four years to be elected as Charlotte's youngest mayor in 2009 (and its second African-American mayor). Coming into office at the height of the Bush recession and in a city dominated by financial service corporations (banks) that were laying off hundreds of workers, Foxx earned props for dealing decisively and effectively with the crisis. Wikipedia: "From a transportation perspective, Foxx helped salvage the city's largest single capital project - the Blue Line Extension, which was threatened by lower than anticipated sales tax revenue; helped structure an innovative finance deal to complete the city's outer beltway; launched a new streetcar; and put forward the largest injection of street bonds in the city's history." Those successes earned Foxx his nomination as President Obama's second Secretary of Transportation in 2013.
Foxx is a native of Charlotte, graduated from Davidson College, and went on to get his law degree from New York University. From the beginning, he was always destined for greater things. After law school, Foxx returned to Charlotte to work at the Smith, Helms, Mullis, and Moore law firm, and left to become a clerk for a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Later he worked for the US Department of Justice and the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. In 2004, he was the campaign manager for Representative Mel Watt. In 2001, he returned to Charlotte to work as a business litigator for Hunton and Williams. Good background for fundraising.
Currently (according to Linked In), Foxx is chief policy officer and senior advisor to the president and CEO of Lyft, the "on-demand transportation services" company that's a chief rival to Uber. Foxx published an essay after taking that job, an essay full of big picture assessments about our runaway urbanization and the innovations in transportation that could make those urban landscapes better for struggling people. It's an essay by a man with vision committed to a new job.
That job relocated him to New York City, not an indication he was (or is) considering another political gambit in North Carolina. But he did return to Charlotte in January of 2018 to deliver a well received star turn at a Community Building Initiative luncheon that wowed Taylor Batten of the Charlotte Observer:
"This was a Foxx who had clearly found his voice. His 34-minute speech was at times personal, at times funny, at times serious and at the end, prescriptive. He delivered a message with the kind of wisdom and authority he should have done more frequently as mayor. It was the kind of message, in fact, that you’d want to hear from your U.S. senator."
After that speech, Batten asked Foxx about the Senate, and Foxx "deflected the question." Has a year changed his mind?

NC Rep Grier Martin (HD34) -- Another Davidson College graduate, where he joined ROTC and began a very long commitment to the US Army. He subsequently received his law degree from Chapel Hill. After 9/11, Martin joined the Judge Advocate General Corps and was deployed to Afghanistan. In 2004 he ran successfully for the NC House and was reelected three times through 2010 before the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly redistricted and "double-bunked" him with fellow Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross. Martin stepped aside in 2012 for Ross to take the seat. In 2013, when Ross stepped down to run for the US Senate against Thom Tillis, Martin was appointed to fill out her term. He has won reelection ever since, even while remaining a lieutenant colonel in the US Army Reserve.
Martin is one of the "best liked" members of the General Assembly, a highly respected "straight-shooter." When he stepped aside for Deborah Ross, Democratic leader Joe Hackney said of Martin, "Rep. Martin has been one of the hardest working legislators in the General Assembly during his four terms in office. His ongoing military service allowed him to quickly establish himself as an expert in legislation to protect and serve the fighting men and women who protect and serve us. At the same time, he was a progressive voice in efforts to protect our environment, women's rights and to keep North Carolina a state that leads instead of follows."
The otherwise even-tempered Martin famously flared publicly against Trump in July of 2018 after the president's remarks in Finland (while standing next to Vladimir Putin and bashing American intel personnel). "Don't come back" to the US, Martin tweeted at the time. "You are not worthy to stand on American soil made free by the sacrifices of men and women better than you.”
Here he is in a better frame of mind, introducing himself:

Read more here: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article215039905.html#storylink=cpy

Mayor Allen Joines, Winston-Salem -- Joines has been the highly successful and popular mayor of Winston-Salem since 2001. He's often run unopposed, as was the case in his last reelection in 2016. No one challenges him. He seems perfectly fitted to the job. No one would dare call Mayor Joines a progressive Democrat. He's pro-business, a pillar under the Chamber of Commerce, and he's cautious with liberal causes. (Forsyth County leans Republican. It had the worst Democratic performance last November of all heavily urban NC counties.) The Mayor's views on some social issues are largely opaque. He also seems to lack a politician's ambition for higher office, not a bad thing in an effective office-holder but a deterrent to running for something like US Senate. Joines was heavily recruited to run against Virginia Foxx in the 5th Congressional District, and was prominently mentioned for Governor in 2016, but he has resisted recruitment. Perhaps he's a hard-headed realist, also not a bad trait.
Joines is credited with presiding over the transformation of Winston-Salem from a seedy tobacco plant into a bio-tech research and medical innovation hub that is a rival to Duke University Hospital complex in Durham. An expanding 200-acre research complex—dubbed the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter—employs more than 3,100 in 65 companies and five academic institutions, and was preparing in 2016 to more than double its footprint. It wants to be a coming rival to the Research Triangle Park.
This is good ... or bad, if you're a critic of Joines's interlocking relationship with the high-rollers. Joines has been the paid leader of the Winston-Salem Alliance, a non-profit coagulation of some of Winston-Salem's most influential businesses: "Serving as mayor and president of the alliance has allowed Joines to take a very hands-on role in attracting businesses and gaining a statewide reputation for economic development deals." Some see these relationships as a political machine and those deals as fundamentally corrupt. C.P. Tew wrote in "The Winston Watchman"
"Basically, anyone who is anyone in Winston is somehow connected to Allen Joines through the W-S Alliance or a variety of other non-profits and business development groups that Joines is connected to. Most people in Winston don’t know or don’t care that their Mayor gets his six-figure salary, not from the people of Winston, but from the richest group of people in Winston -- the Winston-Salem Alliance."

NC Senator Jeff Jackson (SD37) -- Jackson may have already been cursed with "front-runner" status in the race to replace Thom Tillis. He earned that label but has not yet felt the burden of it. Nested in a heavily tilted Democratic Senate district in Mecklenburg County, Jackson chose to help other candidates. Eleemosynary good works. He criss-crossed North Carolina raising money as part of the "Break the Super-Majority" project, while also probably laying tracks for 2020.
He's young and photogenic. He's consistently raised his profile since he won appointment in 2014 to fill out the unexpired term of Sen. Don Clodfelter. Jackson went on to win his first election in 2014 and two more since then. He's been a good debater in the NC Senate, shaming his Republican colleagues for emulating Democratic tyranny from years past rather than rising above it. This video is from the 2015 debate on the Republican budget:

Jackson's star quality has certainly rattled the Republicans, with NCGOP Exec. Dir. Dallas Woodhouse already projecting how he'll go after Jackson as "an ultra-liberal." Jackson makes Woodhouse nervous.
Jackson enlisted in the Army Reserve following 9/11 as a private, was deployed to Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom and served a year there. Back home in the states, he attended law school at Chapel Hill with the help of the G.I. Bill. He remains a captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the Army Reserve. Prior to his appointment to the NC Senate, he served as as assistant district attorney in Gaston County.
In the Senate he's repeatedly introduced legislation to end gerrymandering and install an independent redistricting commission.

Monday, January 07, 2019

I Don't Want Twitterman Impeached

I want him defeated at the ballot box. I want him and those Republican office-holders covering for him -- like Thom Tillis -- trounced by voters.

Yes, I'm preaching expedience… "a regard for what is politic or advantageous rather than for what is right or just; a sense of self-interest." Expedience is the mother of caution, and if Democrats should have learned anything from the 1998 Republican impeachment jamboree of Bill Clinton, it's that caution might have tempered self-righteousness. After they impeached Clinton, the Republicans lost seats that fall. Partisan self-righteousness lacks charm.

I say it again: Trump has been a gift to progressive resurgence, the greatest generator of new Democratic leaders, the propulsive (and repulsive) instigator of a counter-movement that flipped 40 seats in the US House, several governorships, hundreds of state legislative seats, and at least one Supreme Court seat in North Carolina. That casus belli in the White House is the gift that keeps on giving.

He will continue to drive activists and voters and new candidates to the Democratic side during the next two years, and why would we unplug that energizing incubator? Why would Democrats risk making him a more popular martyr with his base and more sympathetic to independent voters who don't like hyper-partisanship? Why? It would be suicidal, especially as Mitch McConnell would stonewall any impeachment by House Democrats. I'm not that into useless, futile gestures.

And let's say House Democrats go forward and vote impeachment and let's suppose the Republican Senate by some miracle votes for conviction … you get Mike Pence, whose very fecklessness and accidental elevation to the Oval Office will invite sympathy and throttle down the resistance to The Man Who Isn't There Any Longer. Pence is a zero, but he isn't a bully, and he'll have good will on his side to pull the nation together. Or at least pretend to try to pull it together after the chaos of DJT.

Expediently speaking, that ain't a scenario a Democratic activist wants to entertain.

Leave Twitterman in office. Let prosecutors indict him after he's defeated in 2020 and then leave him to history.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Thinking Out of the Box for a Democrat Who Could Beat Thom Tillis

I'm looking at every pooh-bah's available list of "potential" Democratic candidates to take on Republican Senator Thom Tillis in 2020, and I can't help noticing that generally they're all men (and more about them in a later post). There are outstanding women in politics in this state -- let alone thousands who haven't established a public presence or profile yet -- who are not only qualified for that high office but also potentially very electable in a new world wrought in response to Twitterman. He's the first cause of global politics change, and I think we know by now that previously improbable movements can coalesce quickly around the right candidate, all other things being basically even.

The women written about here aren't necessarily interested in running for higher office. I get that. But if not one of them, then someone like them should be thinking about it.

Pricey Harrison during
Early Voting, 2018
NC House Rep Pricey Harrison (HD61) -- An attorney, Harrison represents much of Greensboro. First elected in 2004 in HD57, redistricted into HD61 last year, she won over 70% of the vote this past November. She's an environmental champion. She's also advocated for medical marijuana laws. She volunteered repeatedly for other candidates up and down the ballot, campaigning even with a broken leg and wrist. 
She's often described with the bland phrase "civic leader," which hardly does her justice. She has served as president of the Julian Price Family Foundation and in leadership with the NC Environmental Defense Fund and the Piedmont Land Conservancy.
She was very outspoken about the dangers of coal ash contamination after the Dan River spill seven years ago. She is a whistleblower of the best kind, someone in public office where her voice and her votes might make a difference. She's on top of issues, knows her facts -- especially about North Carolina's vulnerability to catastrophic climate change -- and she was outraged by the Republican super-majority's "unprecedented" power grabs.
She's good on her feet. Here she is addressing protestors against a pro-fracking bill outside the General Assembly in 2014:

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles -- Lyles won election in Charlotte only a year ago, first defeating incumbent Democratic Mayor Jennifer Roberts (who had the bad luck to preside over the city during the Republicans' bathroom bill debacle), and then going on to get almost 60% of the vote against the Republican candidate. Lyles is the first African American woman in that seat, though not the first African American (Harvey Gantt had that distinction back in the 1990s). Previously, Lyles had worked for the city of Charlotte as a budget analyst and assistant city manager. She ran for city council and won in 2013, was elected mayor pro-ten in 2015, and following the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in 2016, "she proposed a seven-point plan to reduce racial and class divisions in the city," parts of which were passed by the council.
Recently (December 2018) the Charlotte Observer said, "She has been the mayor Charlotte needed." She has received praise from Republican conservatives as a "graceful" peacemaker between city factions. "Her style is so even-handed and thoughtful and positive," said NC Senator Dan Bishop, a Mecklenburg Republican.
The Observer described her as "cautious" and as something of a brake on the city's leftward propulsion under a new and very diverse city council (ever since the bathroom bill, pushback by progressives has become more assertive). 
Some -- many? -- progressives were pissed that she advocated for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte in 2020 ("it will bring more risk than payoff," editorialized the Charlotte Observer), but by her own lights -- she was elected to advocate for the municipality, after all -- a national convention even of idiots will benefit the economic development of the city.
She's calm, composed, and well prepared as she defends her decision on the RNC before a Democratic Women's group of Mecklenburg County:

NC House Rep Deb Butler (HD18) -- An attorney long active in Democratic politics, Butler represents much of Wilmington and has become a prominent whistleblower about the toxin Gen-X in the Cape Fear River. She also fought the highly controversial House Bill 2 ("bathroom bill") in 2016. Tragically, Butler's wife of three years, Anni Parra, died suddenly and unexpectedly four days before New Year's. She was 52. This is perhaps the worst timing possible for this discussion, and I hope Rep. Butler will forgive me. 
Butler's fight for LBGTQ rights predates her service in the House. She ran in 2012 for the NC Senate (SD8) and lost to creepy Thom Goolsby. When Democratic Rep. Susi Hamilton (HD18) resigned early in 2017 to take a cabinet post, Governor Cooper appointed Butler to her seat. Though she's new to the body, she immediately stepped out (both literally and figuratively) as an effective voice of resistance to the Republican super-majority. In November's election, she took over 60% of the vote.
Butler started posting commentaries as she walked around the General Assembly building, or in near neighborhoods, where she could get some fresh air and cool off -- talking clearly and effectively, with appropriate passion and resolve, about what the Republicans were up to that day. (I wish I could post one here, but I can't. They're on Butler's Twitter feed. Her most recent, on December 7, is riveting. The Republicans were overriding Governor Cooper's veto of the VoterID Bill, trying to distract everyone from the real and present ballot fraud down in NC-9, which would not have been stopped by voter photo ID, and Butler had had it.)
Here's her "walk and talk" from 13 June, when she was leaving the General Assembly at 11:30 pm, after hours of Republican bullying. She was flourescently a-light about what had just gone on.
Aside from proving she's pretty damn agile -- I can barely walk, let alone walk while videoing myself! -- she has the presence and the smarts to start a movement. Short version: I want to listen to her.
She told the Port City Daily, "I've been accused of being perhaps too straightforward sometimes, but I just don't know any other way. There is a lot that needs fixing in North Carolina and in Washington, and I think people are tired of the arguing and are looking for intelligent, forthright, and candid representatives who focus on solutions instead of division and churning everyone up all the time."
She supports an independent redistricting commission to end the practice of office-holders' choosing their voters. She supports restoring the tax rebate program for the film industry, which worked for so many years to build businesses in Wilmington and across the state and which the Republicans repealed. The film industry took its business to Georgia and elsewhere.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

High Time We Took a Wrecking Ball to the System

In the US Congress, HR1 is a bill number traditionally reserved by the majority for its most important legislation, the bill that will shape a new era under whichever ruling party. The Democrats in the US House unveiled their HR1 yesterday, "To expand Americans' access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for public servants."

Commentators are calling it "sweeping legislation," not only in the sense of wideness of impact but in the sense of sweeping out the accumulated political corruption of a system geared to those with money (and hence, influence). "Sweeping" doesn't strike me as nearly strong enough. HR1 takes a sledgehammer to public corruption, the evils of gerrymandering, the selling of political favors, and all attempts to suppress voter rights.

When passed, this law will mandate independent redistricting commissions for all the states. It will establish automatic voter registration (which comes as a birthright), and it will end the continued disenfranchisement of felons after they've served their time.

Overwhelming majorities of Americans -- including most of those Twitterman voters -- were and still are pretty unhappy with the way our political system is working and think the whole system is rigged against them. They ain't wrong. HR1 intends to change that by mandating more transparency for the campaign finance system -- no more big-dollar anonymity -- and empowering everyday Americans "with a powerful new system that rewards and amplifies small donors" -- a public financing system that would make a 6-to-1 Federal match on small donations. That might make politicians visit living rooms in their district more frequently and private country clubs less often.

HR1 would make sure that public servants actually serve the public, not use their office for personal gain. That means strengthening ethics across all three branches of government, ending the revolving door in Washington, and reining in lobbyists. Hurray!

Mitch McConnell has already announced that HR1 will get no hearing whatsoever in the Senate. No surprise. And of course Twitterman would never sign such a law, since self-enrichment is his entire reason for breathing. But at least the new Democratic Congress has laid down a marker for where we must go to preserve some semblance of our democracy. And there's another election coming in less than two years.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Looking Forward to the Colorado US Senate Race in 2020

Yesterday, the new Democratic majority in the US House passed the exact same government funding bill that the Republican majority US Senate had passed (unanimously!) back before Trump pulled the rug out and shut down a large chunk of our Federal compact. Last night, Senate leader Mitch McConnell immediately said the Senate would not be considering that legislation and no other legislation unless Trump supports it first. No, really.

Under Mitch, the Senate is no longer a coequal branch of government.

Meanwhile, some of Mitch's Republican troops in the Senate are beginning to sweat, particularly the ones who have to run in 2020 and most especially the ones who represent states that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. Like Cory Gardner of Colorado. He sez, “I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” he said. That was yesterday afternoon even before the House passed its bill.

Cory Gardner is nervous because there's a whole bench of good Democratic candidates who might challenge him in 2020. The date for the Colorado Democratic caucus/primary hasn't been set yet, but could come as early as the first Tuesday in February. Yikes. That's barely a full year away from right now!

Here are some of the potential Democratic challengers:

John Hickenlooper, recent two-term governor of Colorado who before that was elected twice as mayor of Denver and got named in 2005 by Time magazine as one of five top mayors in the US. He's a trained geologist (see fracking, below) and has worked for the oil and gas industries. Hickenlooper started the Wynkoop Brewing Company, the first and quite successful brew-pub in Denver. As a commercial brewer perhaps it isn't surprising that as mayor he opposed the marijuana legalization referendum in Denver in 2006, and as governor he opposed the constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for the whole state in 2012, though he acquiesced in enforcing those innovations and accepting their legality. (Hickenlooper's had a knack for presiding over major economic bonanzas without necessarily helping those bonanzas happen.)
He's considered a "centrist Democrat":
"Hickenlooper’s record on oil and gas is mixed. On one hand his administration has added and strengthened regulations to protect health and the environment. The state’s ground-breaking methane rules are a prime example. His regulatory agencies also rolled out a litany of other smaller measures, often leading to grumbling among operators. As a former oil and gas geologist, Hickenlooper is also a savior of the industry, helping to keep a fracking ban off the ballot in 2014 and speaking out against a similar measure in 2018." (Colorado Public Radio)
Fracking? Say it ain't so! 
But he's progressive in a courageous way on some issues: In a state with a strong hunting tradition, he signed a law requiring background checks on all "firearm transfers" in the state, which would naturally give gun show operators -- not to mention the NRA -- a peptic flareup. He signed the law in his first term and still won reelection, while three Democratic state senators did not fare so well. They were either recalled or forced to resign by angry gun-owners in their rural districts. 
He's also not a fan of capital punishment.
Hickenlooper is striking because he could probably win the Colorado Senate primary easily, with his record and his name recognition, but he's got stars in his eyes for the presidency. Yes, he's been to both Iowa and New Hampshire. Would someone please dump some ice water on this guy and wake him up? The presidency is out of his reach, but the Senate seat squats there waiting for him.
If Hickenlooper doesn't see the light, or doesn't see it soon enough, there are other viable Democrats waiting for their moment....

US Rep Earl Perlmutter, who represents (since 2007) the 7th Congressional District, which encompasses much of the northern and western parts of the Denver-Aurora Metropolitan Area, including Golden, Lakewood, Arvada and Westminster.
“There are a couple of giants in the Democratic Party that could shape this race, and Ed Perlmutter’s at the top of the list,” said Craig Hughes, a Colorado Democratic campaign strategist.
Perlmutter has attempted a run for statewide office before. For about three months in 2017, he was the presumptive front-runner in Colorado’s gubernatorial race. However, he bowed out after colleague Rep. Jared Polis jumped into the race. At the time of his exit, Perlmutter said he didn’t have the “fire in belly” to run a statewide campaign.
That's not a good sign. "Fire in the belly" (and not the peptic kind) will be necessary to win a US Senate race.
He's a consistent progressive, with zero ratings from conservative groups and 100% (or near it) from liberal groups including Planned Parenthood and NARAL-Pro Choice America.

Speaker of the Colorado House Crisanta Duran ... a four-term member of the Colorado House from Denver and the first Latina Speaker of the House, elected unanimously by her fellow members a year ago. She's been very critical of Twitterman over his immigration biases, declaring he's on the "wrong side of history." Colorado has a sizable Latin American demographic, and if trends from 2018 hold strong, the white voting public seems more inclined to put more diversity into high office.
Said Micha Rosenoer, the executive director of Emerge Colorado, a political group that trains women to run for office, “Crisanta would be a formidable opponent for Gardner — she’s young and Latina, was extremely successful in the state Capitol, and represents a demographic [that Trump] has never been able to connect with.”
"There is a question of how much appeal and name recognition she has outside of Denver, her home base." And is she too progressive?
Nora Olabi profiled her in July 2018:
"Crisanta Duran was raised to be skeptical of politicians. Her father served as the labor union boss of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, and her mother worked on affordable-housing development for the State of Colorado. Every night around the dinner table, Duran remembers, her family would talk about the failures of government to stand up for hardworking and disenfranchised people.
"That drive to fight for working people, Duran says, motivated her through law school, her professional career as a union attorney and in her decision to eventually seek office."
A Duran candidacy (she hasn't declared any intention to run yet) could take off like a rocket in a primary, especially if her male competitors were pallid white guys. Her biggest white guy competitor might be this man...

Former state Senator Mike Johnston ... young and ambitious, with already a national network of wealthy donors who support his philosophy on public education. He was term-limited out of the Colorado Senate in 2016, subsequently ran in the Democratic primary for governor in 2018, and came in third.
"But his campaign, which focused intensely on unaffiliated voters and took him to all 64 counties, gives him statewide name recognition among the party’s base. The former Denver lawmaker is a native son of the Rocky Mountains, which lends him credibility with voters who live in the mountains and on the Western Slope." (Nic Garcia)
“He’s the kind of candidate Republicans would prefer not to face,” said independent consultant Eric Sondermann. “His challenge is going to be the Democratic primary.”
Because...? The state's public school teachers don't like him a little bit because of the controversial teacher evaluation system that he designed and pushed through the Colorado legislature. I know nothing about that evaluation system, so I can't comment on whether the teachers and their union have grounds for their spite against him.
I note, however, that he's been a hands-on teacher with a commendable track record:
"After graduating from Yale, he joined Teach For America, a nonprofit that recruits college graduates to teach for two years, typically in low-income neighborhoods. Johnston taught in Mississippi and wrote a book about the students he met." (ChalkBeat) He later got a master’s degree in education from Harvard and a law degree from Yale and was hired in 2005 as a new high school principal and became an education consultant to the Obama campaign in 2008.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

New Development in the NC-9 Congressional Seat

The previously scheduled January 11th State Board of Elections (SBOE) hearing into ballot fraud in the 9th Congressional District election is now off. There is currently no empaneled SBOE. Governor Cooper's plan to appoint an interim board to hear the evidence in the NC-9 case has been thwarted by the NC GOP, which refuses to recommend Republican members to that temporary board. (A new, fully functioning board is not scheduled to be appointed by the governor until January 31. You can thank the Republican-dominated General Assembly for that.)

Speculation abounds as to what happens now. Republican Rev. Mark Harris is trying to get a Wake County Superior Court judge to go ahead and certify his election. Harris also finally agreed to a sit-down interview with SBOE investigators, which is happening today in Raleigh. Meanwhile, the rest of Congress is being sworn in today, minus Harris. My understanding is that the US House has the power to determine who will be seated but does not have the power to order a new election.

So we wait? Until January 31st? Presumably, a new SBOE will finally schedule that hearing, presumably for sometime in February. It's beginning to look a lot like we'll be deep into 2019 before we get some closure on this chapter in our state's history.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Mitt Romney, Hall Monitor?

Newly elected Senator Mitt Romney sez he's going to bang the drum loudly "against significant statements or actions [by Twitterman] that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions."

Lordy, how's he going to have time to be a senator?

We hope Mr. Romney is not just blowing [good Mormon, non-tobacco] smoke.