Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Trial in NC House and Senate Gerrymandering Case Underway in Raleigh

Yesterday was the first day of what is expected to be a two-week trial of Common Cause v. Lewis, the suit alleging excessive partisan gerrymandering of General Assembly seats. The trial is taking place at the Campbell School of Law in Raleigh before a three-judge panel of Paul Ridgeway from Wake County, Joseph N. Crosswhite who serves Alexander and Iredell counties, and Alma C. Hinton from Halifax.

Will Doran has the most comprehensive report (that I've seen) on yesterday's testimony and argument.

This trial is our last shot at fair House and Senate districts for the 2020 elections.

Whatever decision the three judges reach, the case will no doubt go on appeal to the NC Supreme Court.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Is Mack Paul Considering Another Run for NC Senate in District 18?

Well, he should consider it. He hasn't made any public pronouncements about running again -- at least not that we can discover -- but he would be well positioned to capitalize on his name recognition from the 2018 race.

Mack Paul had the closest loss of any Democrat running for any NC Senate seat in 2018, losing to incumbent Republican John Alexander by 2,639 votes out of 103,804 total votes cast, the highest turnout for all NC Senate races. District 18, weirdly gerrymandered into downtown Raleigh but taking in mainly northern Wake County (and the town of Wake Forest) and all of much more rural Franklin County, was considered "lean Republican" in 2018, which means that Mack Paul did exceptionally well in that election.

Mack Paul
Paul is a real estate lawyer (Columbia University School of Law), a founding partner of Morningstar Law Group, and a past chair of the Wake County Democratic Party. As Democratic Party chair in 2011, Paul was very active in helping elect progressive members of the Wake County School Board which had been taken over by extremely conservative Republicans in 2009. The Republicans had dumped the longstanding diversity policy which the newly elected Democrats began restoring.

Republican John Alexander was first elected in 2014 in Senate District 15 by a very narrow margin (50.4% v. 49.6%), won reelection with just 50.01% in 2016, got double-bunked in 2018 with another Republican (who decided to retire) into District 18, and managed to hold onto a senate seat against a strong tide running in Mack Paul's direction. With Trumpism turning to wormwood and gall in that part of North Carolina, John Alexander looks ever more ripe for the plucking in 2020.

Just heard that Christine Kushner, who won a seat on the Wake School Board in that 2011 race, will be running for this Senate seat in District 18. She'll be a strong candidate. I'm told that Kushner is "very squared away. Also can raise money."


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dan Besse Running Again for NC House in Forsyth County

Many of the Democratic rising stars who made good showings but still lost in 2018 laid the groundwork for coming out stronger, wiser, more organized, and better funded in the 2020 races ahead of us. I'm talking here specifically about the outstanding army of progressives who rattled the doors on the NC General Assembly last year and are back already for 2020.

Dan Besse, on the right
Our friend Dan Besse came within 2,000 votes of beating incumbent Republican Donny Lambeth in NC House District 75. The 75th is entirely inside Forsyth County and largely suburban. It creeps along Forsyth County’s southern border with Davidson County, from Kernersville in the east to Clemmons in the west, with a finger reaching into southwest Winston-Salem, including the Ardmore neighborhood.

Dan is an attorney, a graduate of UNC Law School, and a five-term member of the Winston-Salem city council.  He's made good (and alternative) transportation a special focus of his terms in office, including safe streets, good public transit, and a growing network of safe biking and pedestrian paths, greenways, and sidewalks. (Dan takes full advantage of those paths, greenways, and sidewalks because he's a pretty damn impressive athlete, competing in bike rides and foot races in that Forsyth County heat). He also represents Winston-Salem in leadership roles on the urban area Transportation Advisory Committee, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, and the National League of Cities. I contributed to Dan's campaign in 2018 and have again for the 2020 contest.

In his law practice, Dan has sought out cases dealing with environmental law and public health, clean energy and utilities, and fair employment, housing, and health care access for working families. He has taught classes in environmental law and policy, and in government, at colleges from N.C State University to Winston-Salem State University and Forsyth Technical Community College.

So ... no surprise he recently posted this on his Facebook page:
I focus a lot of attention on the need to change some of the most egregious failures of this Republican-led legislature: its refusal to close the health care coverage gap or protect coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions; its disrespect for our teachers and failure to pay them what they deserve or fund a good public education for every child; its outrageous attacks on voting rights, civil rights, and human rights.
But there's another Republican legislative failure that is hurting the health of our people today and jeopardizing our future: its rollbacks of clean air and water protections, its refusal to make polluters pay to clean up their messes, its baffling attacks on clean energy development, and its willful ignorance in the face of impending climate disaster.
I've spent much of my public service career working to cut pollution and protect public health and our natural environment. I understand in detail just how much damage this legislature is doing to us all now, and to the prospects for a good future for our children and grandchildren. And I understand how to go about repairing that damage and getting our state back on track as a leader in clean energy and a clean environment.

Donny Lambeth
Meanwhile, incumbent Donny Lambeth won his seat in 2012 with people suggesting he'd be a "moderate." Whatever that word meant when applied to Republican office-holders pre-Trump, it's become something of a joke now. (To Trump, a "moderate" is a limp dick.) But, really, moderate? Lambeth recently tried to wipe out Dan Besse, his 2018 election opponent, as a Winston-Salem city councilman in a "local bill" to redistrict the council seats, double-bunking Dan with a Republican member, while also incidentally punishing the four African-American women on the council. That proposed redistricting bill produced a fire storm, and Lambeth quickly withdrew it.

Even more recently Lambeth played a more obvious "moderate card" as chief sponsor of an (ultimately doomed?) Republican-lite Medicaid expansion bill that suddenly passed a Republican committee last week. The timing's everything, with the Republican majority currently thwarted in passing a vetoed budget until they cave to the governor on Medicaid expansion. That Lambeth bill passed its committee but has yet to reach the House floor, and so far the Big Boss, Mr. Berger in the Senate, has shown no affection for it. Lambeth, who always looks like the act of smiling is physically painful, of course stuck a work requirement into his legislation, because why would a "moderate Republican" pass up an opportunity to further humiliate the already working poor.

The day after the election last fall, Dan hinted on Facebook that he would run again: "This race was not the end of our efforts, but the beginning. You can look for more news over the coming month." If he ever made a formal announcement about running again in 2020, I can't find it. But he's obviously running. The post excerpted above about a new emphasis on the environment was prelude to inviting everyone to a fundraiser for the 2020 campaign.

Dan is currently very active on Facebook, has a Twitter account but doesn't use it. He needs to up his game.

He also needs a campaign manager, preferably one with experience. He needs boots on the ground, lots of them. He needs a strategy (based on data) for identifying those Republican voters who're weary of Trumpian conduct wherever it takes place.

Forsyth County was one of the most under-performing urban counties in all of North Carolina in 2018. All Democratic candidates running in all races in 2020 need to hold a private summit and figure out why and what to do about it before 2020 actually dawns.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Leslie Cohen Is Running Again in NC House District 20

NC House District 20 is a jigsaw gerrymander in New Hanover County, taking in some of Wilmington, Ogden, Porters Neck, Bayshore, Murraysville, and Castle Hayne -- many I-40 neighborhoods going into Wilmington. It's listed as "strong Republican" by the NC Free Enterprise Foundation.

Holly Grange
Republican incumbent: Holly Grange was first elected to the seat in 2016 after winning a fairly nasty Republican primary in March with another Republican woman who accused her of having a cozy relationship with Sidney Blumenthal (of Hillary Clinton fame). In August, when the Republican occupying the seat went ahead and resigned from it, Grange was appointed to fill out his term. Grange faced no Democratic opposition that fall and had her first real reelection contest in 2018 against Democratic insurgent Leslie Cohen.
Holly Grange was an engineer officer in the Army Corp of Engineers, serving in the 20th Engineer Brigade at Fort Bragg and on the 18th Airborne Corps staff. She married a general (who was the one who had some brief connection to Sidney Blumenthal). In an interview, Grange admitted that climate change is happening and that it is impacting sea-level rise, an issue of considerable concern for her district. Her viewpoint on that gets little credit within her Republican caucus, which has decreed that sea-level rise must not be talked about. She also voted to repeal the notorious HB2, which might put her on a collision course with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (see below).
Democrat Leslie Cohen moved to Wilmington from Atlanta in 2013 after their two children left the nest. She became involved in local issues when the passage of HB2 threatened the rights of their adult children. Her activism quickly spread into other issues as she became aware of the struggles of others in her community. She had earned a degree from Georgia State University, and fresh out of college, she started a printing business with her future husband Jeff. The printing business morphed into a successful commercial graphics company. The couple designed collateral advertising for Fortune 500 companies for twelve years before transitioning their business to fine art in 2002. Leslie’s paintings are in collections across the globe. The pollution of the Cape Fear River is a big issue for her as is restoring the incentives that built the film industry in North Carolina (the destruction of which by the Republican General Assembly drove the industry to other states like Georgia). She opposes off-shore drilling, and she is especially disturbed at how public education has suffered under Republican rule.
Leslie Cohen came within 5.32% of beating Holly Grange last fall, or 1,918 votes short of winning -- not too shabby for a Democratic artist in a "strong Republican" district. On that strong showing, she's decided on giving it another go in 2020.

News Flash: Holly Grange Considering a Run for Governor
See this article in the National Journal and other on-the-ground reporting in North Carolina, particularly by Colin Campbell.

If Holly Grange does indeed challenge Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in a primary for governor, won't that open the House District 20 seat a little wider -- perhaps a lot wider -- for Leslie Cohen?

We hope Holly Grange takes the plunge, not only because it will help Leslie Cohen but also because it will offer a credible alternative to a medieval Republican who thinks God wants him to be governor.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Rep. Ray Russell Supports Governor Cooper's Budget Proposal

Yesterday, Gov. Roy Cooper released his compromise state budget proposal. It includes healthcare coverage for nearly 500,000 working poor North Carolinians, a larger increase in teacher and state employee pay, more funding for school construction, additional spending for clean air and water, and restored funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

This offer from Gov. Cooper is an investment in our people and our future. We must devote resources to education, healthcare, and protecting the environment.

The proposal keeps the corporate and franchise taxes at their current low rate, and retains the General Assembly (GA) plan to increase the standard deduction on state taxes to help working families. The Governor’s plan includes $700 million for the Rainy Day Fund and $110 million for hurricane relief.

Gov. Cooper is being fiscally responsible with his compromise proposal. Under his plan the state would spend the same as the General Assembly proposed for this year, but it actually reduces spending compared to the General Assembly plan during the following year.

Some highlights of Gov. Cooper’s compromise proposal:

Local projects:
·      App State’s Wey Hall renovation funding restored.
·      Appalachian Theatre.
·      West Jefferson sign project.
·      Blowing Rock streetscape project.
·      Watauga River Paddle Trail.
·      Removal of Ward’s Mill Dam on the Watauga River.

·      Public school construction funded by an additional $500 million over the GA plan and would allow a referendum on school bonds by voters. Ashe County Schools would receive more than $11.5 million in funding ($775,000 more than the GA plan), and Watauga County Schools would get nearly $12.5 million (an additional $1.2 million over the GA proposal).
·      Smart Start would have increased funding by $10 million each year.
·      Statewide pre-K slots increased by 2 percent, phasing into 8 percent in the future.
·      Community college instructors would receive a 4 percent raise (compared to the 2 percent offered by the GA).
·      UNC system SPA employees to receive 5 percent raise (2 percent in the GA plan). UNC faculty receive a 1 percent raise.
·      Teacher pay increased by an average of 8.5 percent over two years with pay raises for all teachers (3.8 percent in GA plan).
·      Teachers with master’s degrees get higher compensation.
·      Teachers would not have to pay a fee to have a substitute teacher work for them when they take personal leave days.

State employees and retirees:
·      Retirees receive a 2 percent raise (compare to 1 percent in the GA plan).
·      Most state employees receive a 5 percent pay raise (non-certified personnel included).

Medicaid expansion:
·      Medicaid expansion would cost the state nothing while bringing healthcare to more than 500,000 North Carolinians.
·      Expansion would benefit Ashe and Watauga counties with $64 million in economic growth over two years starting in 2020. 
·      This is a life-and-death issue for some North Carolinians who can’t afford healthcare coverage.

·      Rural high-speed internet service would get a boost with a $30 million investment.
·      State agencies, including the Department of Environmental Quality, would see a restoration of $6 million in cuts from the GA budget
·      The Department of Health and Human Services would see restoration of funding cuts reflected in the GA plan. This is crucial as DHHS transitions to Managed Medicaid.
·      $800 million in funding for statewide water/sewer projects restored.

There is no good reason why all parties can’t come together and accomplish our goals. What we all want is a prosperous and secure North Carolina where our children receive the best education, our residents are healthy, and our environment is protected.

Erica McAdoo Came So Close in 2018. She's Running Again in 2020

Democrat Erica McAdoo's candidacy in 2018 for NC House District 63 (Alamance County) was a heartbreaker on the night of November 6. She came within 299 votes of beating incumbent Stephen Ross in a district that was rated "competitive." McAdoo made it competitive by mounting a ground campaign of plenty of door-knocking and direct-voter contact. It takes volunteers to do that, which also takes the ability to warm the heart and stir enthusiasm.

That enthusiasm has got to reappear and grow in 2020, 'cause Erica McAdoo is running again.

District 63 is one of those gerrymanders engineered by advanced computer technology.

That fish-hook appendage on the left side above -- the tentacle into the Boone Station township (Elon) -- why, it's mostly over 97% white, O my brethren, which might give you a hint that the mapmaker needed that jog to offset the 31% black population in the Pleasant Grove township (the northernmost rectangle in the map above) and in south Burlington.

The most affluent townships in District 63: Melville, Boone Station, and Thompson (Melville and Thompson together make up much of the easternmost and southernmost portion of the district).

The townships with the highest educational attainment: Boone Station, Melville, and Thompson.


If I were running McAdoo's ground game, I'd run a telephone and text poll of all voters in Boone Station, Melville, and Thompson with one question: "Do you support President Donald J. Trump." That's it. That single question is going to turn up surprises of which voters to door-knock in 2020. Also which voters to avoid. (See, there's more than one use for computers!)

She'll have to be just as active in Pleasant Grove and in other black neighborhoods with direct voter contact (and voter registration!). If African-American voters aren't energized in 2020, all else is lost.

McAdoo is evidently running on the same themes as 2018, particularly support for schools, support for small business, and support for expanding Medicaid (judging from the too-long announcement video above). I think I'd flip that order, magnify health care and the incumbent Ross's fealty to a party that is still resisting Governor Cooper's attempt to expand the Affordable Care Act in North Carolina. The resistance is just meanness, especially on the part of Senate President Phil Berger. (By yesterday, there was a watered-down Medicaid expansion bill brought to a House committee by Republican Rep. Donny Lambeth and voted out favorably. It's sudden appearance signaled a softening on the issue among House Republicans. Is incumbent Ross among the melted? I would bet he is. Donny Lambeth's Medicaid-lite bill has a work requirement, which is unnecessary as the vast majority of those without any access to medical insurance are the working poor.)

But maybe before I did any of the above, say tomorrow, I'd ask my own campaign people, "How's the oppo research coming on Representative Ross's record in Raleigh?" He's got many votes to highlight, especially if he suddenly decides he's in favor of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Does It Matter If the Conservative Wears a Skirt?

The primary run-off today between two Republican conservatives down in the NC-3 has turned into a contest into whether the GOP likes or wants women in Congress. Many high-profile Republican women, including Virginia Foxx, are verbally supporting Joan Perry, an anti-abortion pediatrician, while high-profile conservative men like Congressman Mark Meadows from the NC-11 are supporting Greg Murphy. The New York Times has covered the race ("A Battle of the Sexes") and so has the Washington Post.

The winner of the primary run-off today is expected to win the September election against Democrat Allen Thomas.

Greg Murphy won this primary run-off with around 60% of the vote.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Democratic Losers in 2018 May Be Reborn as 2020 Winners

Could losing a high-profile Congressional race in 2018 actually fuel a Democratic candidate into winning a 2020 Senate race?

That's the question facing two women who were favorites of ours last year: Amy McGrath in Kentucky and M.J. Hegar in Texas. Both veterans of the military -- McGrath an ex-fighter pilot and Hegar an ex-helicopter pilot -- they were also both remarkably good at making an impression and raising money.

McGrath lost her race to incumbent Republican Congressman Andy Barr in the Kentucky 6th by 9,700 votes out of almost 303,000 total votes cast. M.J. Hegar lost to incumbent Republican Congressman John R. Carter in the Texas 31st by 8,300 votes out of 286,000. Both significantly closer than should have been expected, because the Kentucky 6th was rated R+10 and the Texas 31st, a whopping R+21. Pretty good damn showing for first-time novice candidates.

Politico reported back in February -- but I just found it today -- that Sen. Chuck Schumer was trying to recruit McGrath to go after Mitch McConnell's Senate seat. That would excite a lot of people, but McGrath underperformed in the rural precincts of the 6th District and would need a new plan for running statewide, which is majorly rural. The urban-rural divide is the battle line right now, and the McGrath campaign would have to grapple with why there's resistance to her among rural people -- despite her being an accomplished warrior for America, a Marine, one of the first female fighter pilots in U.S. history, a wife, and a mother.

Here's the best part for Amy McGrath, if she decides to run again: Mitch McConnell is underwater in his own state, and has been for some time. His approval rating in Kentucky was 33% this past February, with a 56% disapproval. In 2017, he had an 18% approval rating.

M.J. (Mary Jennings) Hegar describes herself as "an ass-kicking, motorcycle-riding Texas Democrat." She's an actual war hero. She has a Purple Heart (as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor) for combat in Afghanistan, where she piloted rescue helicopters. She's married now with two young children and lives in Round Rock. And she's got an Expert Marksman rating with both handgun and rifle.

The "ass-kicking" part came across loud and clear in her introductory video:

Hegar is already in as a candidate. She announced in April. She'll have to get past Joaquin Castro in a primary (along with a host of lesser-known Democrats). Joaquin is twin brother to Julian of presidential debate fame and the mayor of San Antonio. He's probably better known than Hegar statewide, so that primary will be no picnic. I don't think that will deter M.J. Hegar in the least.

Amy McGrath announced she was running against McConnell on July 9.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Will Cunning Republicans in the General Assembly Succeed in Bribing Democrats To Override Gov. Cooper's Veto?

According to Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), Republican budget-writers in the General Assembly dropped in 477 dollops of free money, "earmarks" for specific projects in favored districts, totaling $353 million dollars. This is the budget that Governor Cooper just vetoed.

Some of those earmarks were strategically aimed at getting Democratic votes, and it worked for seven Democrats who did vote for final passage of the budget. (Who and what they got has been detailed by Colin Campbell of NCInsider fame.)
Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford)
Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham)
Sen. Don Davis (D-Pitt)
Rep. Howard Hunter (D-Hertford)
Sen. Toby Fitch (D-Wilson)
Sen. Ben Clark (D-Hoke)
Rep. Elmer Floyd (D-Cumberland)
(For the record, Sen. Davis also voted for S359, the anti-abortion bill "that would criminalize doctors, shame patients, and disproportionately impact black women," and he also helped the Republicans to override the governor's veto. The veto has held so far in the House.)

The question now moves to this: Will these seven Democrats also vote to override the governor's veto of the budget? (I think we have an inkling of what Sen. Davis is likely to do.)

Gotta hand it to Berger-Moore, and we should have foreseen these outright bribes-for-votes. It's a smart strategy to make up for losing their super-majorities last fall. Should have seen it coming, but it's hard to out-think a bunch who don't think past their ability to grab more power.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Exploiting Cracks in the NC Republican Wall

In the 2018 midterms for NC Senate, two "lean Republican" districts went Democratic, districts 17 (southern Wake County) and 27 (a C-section of Guilford surrounding Greensboro). Those districts were won by Sam Searcy and Michael Garrett, respectively, riders of the 2018 NC blue wave.

J.D. Wooten
Womble Bond Dickinson photo
The only other "lean Republican" district in 2018 where a Democrat came reasonably close to winning ... District 24, where Air Force veteran J.D. Wooten got 46.14% of the vote against Tea Party incumbent Rick Gunn -- a loss by 6,000 votes, a sobering number. But a damn good base to build on if you're willing to do the work.

The trend with partisan shifts in 2018 -- the higher the income and/or the education, the more likely the flip from Republican to Democratic candidates. That trend is expected to hold in 2020. NC Senate District 24 encompasses eastern Guilford and all of Alamance counties and the burgeoning suburban sprawl along the I-40 and I-85 corridors which slice through the district. Wooten himself lives in the I-40 corridor in eastern Guilford, the little suburb of Whitsett. Over in Alamance, Burlington and Graham are the major urban centers.

In terms of income, Alamance's richest township is Coble, south of I-40, followed in wealth by Melville Township (both I-40 and I-85 adjacent), Albright, and Boone Station. Boone Station also shows up in the statistics as the most educated in the county.

In 2018 Wooten evidently ran an active campaign, and an effective one, or he wouldn't have done as well. He had a pretty relentless canvassing program (judging from Facebook posts) and was effective raising money enough to be a threat to an incumbent who had probably grown a little complacent. Republican Rick Gunn had easily won reelection in 2016 and didn't even have a Democratic opponent in 2014.

Wooten apparently sees a way forward for making up that 6,000-vote deficit in 2020 because he announced back in May that he's in for another go at Gunn next year. I'm glad to hear it. But (cue the ominous chords -- dum dum DUM) ... watching Wooten's announcement video, my heart sank -- didn't flutter in a good way -- because it's standard, lifeless candidate-talking-directly-to-the-camera boilerplate. In an age of amazing candidate announcement videos, Wooten's goes splat.

He's got the bio, the list of accomplishments, the North Carolina policy positions to produce an impressive and engaging video biography, and he needs to do that soon.
Partial biography, gleaned from his own website: "J.D." Wooten is actually John David Wooten IV. He traces his family back dozens of generations to the Jamestown settlement of 1607. (I learned that factoid somewhere last year, but see no mention of family history on Wooten's current website). He was nominated to the U.S. Air Force Academy by Jesse Helms and Congressman David Price, received his appointment in 2003 (studied aeronautical engineering), served a decade in the Air Force as an engineer and program manager for the Situation Awareness Data Link, an air-to-ground radio system used extensively in close air support and homeland defense missions. He earned the Gladys Noon Spellman Fellowship Award to attend the University of Maryland School of Public Policy where he earned a Master of Public Policy in International Security and Economic Policy. Following his service in the Air Force, Wooten got his law degree at Wake Forest and now specializes in intellectual property law for Womble Bond Dickinson.
Who the hell am I to tell the candidate to do anything? Just a far-from-innocent bystander who'd like to see the guy win. Coming across as an effective personality in social media is just part of the even bigger push Wooten's going to need in 2020, because the suburbs are still ground zero for flipping political loyalties. Some 85.2% of Alamance households have a computer, and 73.5% are broadband subscribers.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

In Your Face, Duke Energy! Democrat Brian Caskey Bringing Heat in NC Senate District 48

You wanna see the new Democratic determination to change things in Raleigh? Look no further than Brian Caskey of Mills River in Henderson County. He's been an announced candidate for the NC Senate since February of this year, and he's built out an impressive Facebook feed and website that display a full-blown and serious campaign.

He's certainly gotten the attention of Duke Energy:
"You know you’re pushing the right buttons when you link Duke Energy to corruption and immediately get a letter from them. I added the part in the middle to show how much they gave [Republican incumbent Senator] Chuck Edwards last year."

Brian Caskey
There is no disputing that Duke Energy has powerful friends in the NC General Assembly who are always maneuvering to let Duke Energy off the hook for coal ash pollution, and there's no disputing that Duke Energy gives them lots of cash. You can call that "cake icing" if you want to, but I think you'd be justified in calling it "corruption" of the legislative process.

Caskey looks like a scrapper, and we like that in a Democrat. He's an elected member of the Mills River town council, and he introduced the resolution to support the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in North Carolina. "I am determined that my daughters will have a level playing field, and that they will know that they are equal to men in the classroom as well as in the work environment."

Meanwhile, the incumbent Republican Chuck Edwards looks like a tool (and not just with reference to the Duke Energy campaign contributions). As co-chair of the Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee, Edwards helped kill (just yesterday!) a House bill that would have banned the use of handheld cellphones while driving.

Chuck Edwards
A few days ago while Edwards was chairing the Senate Commerce Committee, the bill to allow alcohol sales in shopping malls statewide came up for consideration, and interestingly (in light of the many Republican teetotalers in Edwards' district), he pushed the bill forward despite the committee's majority vote against it. According to Lauren Horsch, "A voice vote on the bill was divided, with seemingly more “no” votes than “aye” votes, but Chairman Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, ruled in favor of supporters and moved the bill forward. There are no recorded or roll call votes in state Senate committees."

That looks like corruption too, O my brethren!

Edwards was appointed to the Senate late in 2016 to replace the retiring Tom Apodaca, then won on his own in November 2016, and ran for reelection in 2018 and got 56% of the vote. That frankly looks like a soft percentage for a Republican in that district, but it's still an uphill haul for Caskey. We'll be watching how he pulls that load and wishing him the best.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Vlad the Impaler

Vlad III Dracula, the real-life 14th Century Romanian potentate who became the inspiration for the fictional vampire of Bela Lugosi fame, hated immigrants too. In his case, it was Ottoman Turks, coming up from the south and threatening to overrun the kingdom. Vlad III Dracula had them impaled by the dozens, by the hundreds, if you believe contemporaneous accounts.

Habitual cruelty. A taste for blood.

Nothing is clearer than this: Twitterman's whole reelection pitch to the masses is that he's prepared to be increasingly cruel to immigrants from the south. Rachel Maddow reported last night on a new inspector general report exposing inhuman conditions at border detention facilities, "and the mounting outrage among Americans as new cruelties are revealed daily, a dynamic Donald Trump welcomes and encourages as a means of agitating his base of supporters."

Vlad thinks impaling people makes him more popular. Didn't work out that way in history. The invaders from the south ended up dismembering him.

Overcrowding of families observed by the Office of the Inspector General on June 10, 2019, at Border Patrol’s McAllen, TX, Station.

With a Rally at ECU, Twitterman Will Attempt To Distract Us from Mueller

Williams Arena
Twitterman has scheduled himself a campaign rally on the same day -- July 17 -- that former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is scheduled to deliver "highly anticipated public testimony to Congress." Trump's campaign has chosen the Williams basketball arena at East Carolina State University, seating capacity 8,000.

Built in 1968, renovated in 1994, with 25 years on top of that of constant use (scoreboards especially, we hear, need an update), and, wait! You got the Reality TV star Who Is President coming to stomp the joint!? There'll be 8,000 people there on July 17, you can bet on it, and they'll be full of energy and full of themselves. They think they know Donald Trump from watching The Apprentice, and they think they know him for a successful, decisive chief executive who happens to share their opinion about those people trying to sneak into our country, and who doesn't put up with pussy-footing. Strong man. (With the scruples of a fencer fencing stolen goods. They don't care.) Those thousands will be there to scream their support and chant their chants and jump to their cheerleader.

It'll be a scene at the Williams arena.

But a rally like that has limited power. It doesn't so much sway the general electorate but pumps up followers to volunteer for the campaign, to put skin in the game and get out there and knock doors, make telephone calls, and go in front of the public to carry the banner. Are Trump's fans those types of potential volunteers? Dunno, but maybe they're not.

If Twitterman is aiming to distract everyone else from the Mueller testimony, it ain't gonna work. Unless he's going to hold his rally in the morning ... 'cause Mueller's a morning person, and that's when he'll be testifying. Trump will speak at twilight, I bet, and by then everyone will either have seen the Mueller testimony or will have heard about it. Trump's rally may blunt, or dilute, the news of Mueller finally talking, but as "counterprogramming" (Trump thinks strategy like a creature of TV), it's weak because it's a "re-run."

When the fans have seen an act so often that the act is beginning to seem like an act, what do you do for new material? Or rather, what does Trump do? He says something more outrageous than the last thing he said, and all the liberals jump medium high and talk yak-yak-yak about the outrageousness of it on cable news, and Trump's not-expanding base meanwhile hardens even while it also contracts.

It'll work for some of those who'll be crammed into Williams arena, a welcome distraction from the fucking fake news.

When news broke about this coming event, ECU students and faculty began raising objections, and ECU officials felt obliged to deny that they invited Trump. “ECU is not hosting this event, serving as a sponsor or endorsing this specific candidate in any way,” ECU said in a statement Wednesday. “We are simply renting the facilities to the Donald J. Trump Campaign in accordance with the ECU Use of University Property Regulation.”

Better get that money up-front, chumps. Twitterman has a long history of failing to pay.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Bonfire of the Vanities

On July 4th Corporal Bonespurs wants a big military show of force on the National Mall, with more fireworks than ever seen before, to rival what he saw in France in 2017 on Bastille Day. He thought all the gold and red and precision marching in costume made French President Macron look six inches taller. Twitterman felt envy (not for the first time).

He was gonna get himself a Bastille Day Parade.

Or what's a military for? Every strongman in every banana republic knows how to parade his muscle-in-uniform, and we know how Trump admires a strong man. So he's decreed tanks ("Abram," Trump called them) and armored personnel carriers and Bradley Fighting Vehicles strategically stationed around him as he speaks at the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday. He also bragged on camera, “We have the brand-new Sherman tanks.” No one in the military seems to have an idea what the living hell he's talking about, because Sherman M4 tanks haven't been in use since the 1950s.

Fantasies are expensive, but damn the expense! Trump wants an Air Force One flyover (cost: $140,000 per hour). Also the Navy's Blue Angels (cost: $10,000 per jet per hour). And Marine Helicopter Squadron One (cost: unknown). And the piece de resistance (President Macron would approve!), the F-35 stealth fighter (cost: $30,000 per hour).

They'll have to shut down Reagan National Airport for more than two hours on Thursday. But all the really important people will have already jetted in to sit at Trump's feet in the VIP section. Trump wants hierarchy in the seating, with up-front, roped-off spots for his once and future big donors.

The onus is on the US Park Service to satisfy Twitterman's ego. The Park Service is already operating with a maintenance backlog of more than $11 billion. Our national parks and monuments are falling apart from neglect in some instances, but oval-office knob polishing comes first. An Abrams Tank will make serious divots on the Mall.

According to Juliet Eilperin et al., "The Defense Department has not released any estimates of how much the celebration could cost. But the use of numerous aircraft could drive it well into the millions of dollars when counting fuel and maintenance." The cost of the first military parade Trump had planned for Memorial Day last year was about $92 million, including $50 million in Defense Department costs, defense officials said at the time. "The parade was scuttled after the potential costs became public."

Gosh. This self-infatuation of Trump's might actually rival in cost this week what a couple of golfing vacations cost at Mar-a-Lago. We're paying for that shit.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Oh Dan Forest, You're So Predictable

A week ago yesterday, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who wants Roy Cooper's job, preached a sermon in Salisbury that's been the talk of the town. The gist: A Christian nation can't be multi-cultural, and diversity is the enemy of the people.

The man is as up-tight as the clasp on Miss Murdstone's coin purse. To listen to him preach -- and when is he not preaching? -- you can't help recalling H.L. Mencken's definition of puritanism: “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

Forest spouts absolutist, theocratic fantasies all the time. In January of this year, he was telling students at Wilson Christian Academy:
“America was founded on basic founding principles that all focus back to God and the foundation of our country is established on God’s truths and absolute truths being what it is about,” Forest said. “So we live in a culture today that is about relative truth. People say ‘Well, that ain’t true for you, but it’s not true for me.’ Or ‘That absolutely can’t be true for everybody all the time, so it must not be true at all.’ Reality is that there is such a thing as absolute truth and it is important to know.”
Tell that to Donald Trump, will you? and report back.

Forest was behind the formation of a non-profit, which registered as "The Faith-Driver Consumer" with the state's Secretary of State in 2011, that rated the apparent "Christianity" of many public businesses, especially for Christmas shoppers. Sear's got downgraded because it features women wearing lingerie. No, really.

This theocrat wants to be the next governor of North Carolina. We should be so unlucky!