Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Coming Democratic Primary for Congress, 11th District

Not a fan of Democratic primaries when there are multiple strong/talented/divinely inspired candidates struggling to out-do one another. It can be a waste of energy, money, resources, but I'll also admit it can also be a chance for an unknown to get known in a valuable way, especially if the unknown candidate is running against an entrenched incumbent. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, anyone?

Then there's a Democratic primary like the one in the NC 11th, where three (so far) Democrats are vying for the privilege of getting the snot beat out of them by Republican incumbent Rep. Mark Meadows. Meadows has made himself into a national figure, which means he can raise money merely by farting on Fox News. Never mind that he's earned a reputation as a dumb-as-a-box-of-hammers ass-kisser --  it don't matter (it's a law that a grammarian can be ungrammatical when it pleases him!). Meadows has his tribe. They'll voodoo him to the fourth dimension no matter what.

'Course, the recent court-ordered redistricting of the 11th substantially diluted the congressman's tribe. He now has all of Buncombe and all of liberal Asheville back in his district. I'm waiting for poly sci prof Mitchael Bitzer to do his demographic analysis of the new 11th, to know exactly how formidable Meadows (still) looks on paper, but I suspect he's still got the numbers on his side (if for no other reason because he now has Republican-saturated Avery County in his district).

What defines us Democratic activists is eternal hope. Hope springs. Hope springs eternal. There is evidently great hope bubbling in the hearts of these three Democrats who've already filed for the March 3rd primary in the 11th CD, and depending on who wins the primary, Meadows might have a harder-than-usual fight on his hands.

Steve Woodsmall
Woodsmall, a retired Air Force major (a veteran, like so many other new Democratic candidates in the Age of Trump), has been a candidate for this office since 2017. He ran in the 2018 Democratic primary for the same seat -- also in a 3-person field -- and came in second to Phillip Price -- losing the primary by just over 3,000 votes (out of 33,257 total votes cast). The third candidate, Scott Donaldson, trailed distantly. Winner Phillip Price went on to lose to Mark Meadows by 61.5 thousand votes. Ouch.

So Woodsmall is back for another shot, and he's been running an energetic campaign since last February. I follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He's an unabashed progressive, and he's getting out there among allied groups and has teamed up with other district candidates for NC House and Senate  -- not to mention the US Senate -- for joint events in Asheville and elsewhere. That's good practice, building wide and deep ballot support for the Democratic side (and, I hope, recruiting boots-on-the-ground volunteers) ... except some of those other candidates have primaries of their own and may well lose, and do you see the problem with that?

Michael O'Shea
A recent college graduate (WCU, BA in philosophy), O'Shea touts himself as a "millennial progressive." He also touts his Appalachian bona fides; his pre-Revolutionary ancestors have been in the Western North Carolina mountains for many generations. He's also a P.K. (preacher's kid). His father was pastor for decades of the Unity of the Blue Ridge non-denominational church in Mills River. The pastor's son did not follow his father into the ministry. From the candidate's website:
Michael has spent the last decade primarily in the music industry. After college he auditioned for a 7-piece afrobeat/funk band and toured with them playing drums, his primary instrument. He is also a vocalist and a multi-instrumentalist who has released over 75 songs of solo electronic rock material where he plays and produces every sound. Most recently he has been touring as the drummer for a female-fronted electronic rock duo in Asheville.
His first time to vote was in the presidential year of 2008. He voted in the 2016 presidential primary but not in the general (which probably means something, but I'm not gonna guess). He did vote in the 2016 General Election. But he appears to be new to political activism as he's not appeared on the radar screen of Henderson County Democrats up until now.

Not quite ready for primetime? That's the generous opinion of retired USAF Major Richard J. Mueller (and to be fair, Mueller characterized O'Shea in an endorsement email for his friend Steve Woodsmall, so ... go figure):
In my opinion [Michael O'Shea] is very well intentioned, and represents the feelings so many of us have about current politics, but his time is not now. The times in which we live demand seasoned professionals. With more experience, his future is bright, and his day will surely come.

Morris "Moe" Davis
An ex-military man (also USAF, like Woodsmall), but with higher rank (he retired as a colonel), has also a higher pre-candidacy national profile, because Davis served two years as Chief Prosecutor of the Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay and resigned in protest because his superiors in the Air Force Judiciary and the General Counsel of the Department of Defense overruled his decision to disallow evidence obtained via CIA torture. In resigning his position, Davis declared that he wasn't going to take orders from people who think "waterboarding is A-Okay."

He's a hard-nose. Read his Wikipedia entry. He's got a clear pattern of courting controversy, or at least not skirting around it when it blocks his path of moral certitude (he said the Supreme Court was "meddling" when it chose to review the Military Commissions Act). He's not afraid to defy authority when he thinks he's right, and you've got to admire his fortitude. He's been on all the broadcast and cable news programs as a recognized expert in national security, especially security from terrorists who he thinks should be prosecuted the fair way and not via the CIA torture wheel, but he's also defended Guantanamo as a "humane" detention center.

He's almost running to the left of Steve Woodsmall. He endorses universal health care ("whether it is called Medicare For All or any other name"), access to abortion, legalizing marijuana, and income equality. His website is no-nonsense and straight to the kisser, sort of like his military career.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Congressional Redistricting Claims a Democratic Casualty

The remapping of North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District threw incumbent Republican Congressman George Holding under the bus. Now it's also claimed the candidacy of a promising Democratic up-and-comer, Scott Cooper.

Retired Marine fighter pilot Cooper announced back in June that he would challenge George Holding in 2020 in what was then the 2nd CD. When the district was remapped to be contained within Wake County alone, and after former Senatorial candidate Deborah Ross announced that she would run, we speculated that maybe Cooper would choose to run in the 8th District rather than challenge Ross for the nomination and thus sap the strength of both candidates (which would be a crying shame).

Cooper announced this morning that he's suspending his campaign and won't be running in any CD in 2020. We hate to see him go and hope to see him return as a candidate for some public office in 2022.

It's a sign of the Trump times, isn't it, that Democrats have so many good and promising contenders? And chivalrous gentlemen, to boot.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Outside Group Will Target NC in 2020

The Chicago-based Progressive Turnout Project (PTP) announced its 2020 targets, and North Carolina is high on the list, primarily because of the Tillis Senate seat. PTP will be opening six offices (two in Charlotte, two in Raleigh/Durham, one in Greensboro, and one in Winston-Salem) with hired staff, and will be recruiting hundreds of volunteers to door-knock citizens who have spotty voting records.

In 2018 PTP targeted 17 US House districts (none in North Carolina) with an investment of $8 million and saw several of those targeted districts flip red-to-blue. In 2017, PTP ran successful voter-turnout programs in five Northern Virginia House of Delegate districts, with stunning results.

In 2020, PTP is promising an investment of $45 million to knock on 7 million doors in 15 different states. Nothing's more productive than those boots on the ground, all that one-on-one contact, and the ripple effect for down-ballot races will be significant.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

WTF Is Going on at the NC Board of Elections?

Back on August 23rd, in a controversial 3-2 vote, the NC State Board of Elections (SBOE) certified electronic voting equipment made by Elections Systems and Software (ESandS) even though everyone agrees that a voter's ballot choices can't be audited. Not everyone agrees that the inability to audit the votes on those machines is any big deal, like the 3 on the SBOE in favor of certification -- two Republican members and Chair Damon Circosta.

NEW PROBLEMS WITH ESandS Electronic Machinery
A long investigative piece this week by Jordan Wilkie in the Carolina Public Press uncovers this:

Karen Brinson Bell,
Exec. Dir., SBOE
1. ESandS lobbyists -- and please note that word lobbyists -- informed the SBOE legal staff just before Thanksgiving that -- oops! -- the company can't fulfill its obligations to the state in 2020 for the voting machines certified on August 23rd. Only about 1/6th of the machines needed are available to meet the demand.

2. ESandS lobbyists suggest a different machine, an "upgrade," which was not tested and certified by the SBOE.

3. By waiting until last month to inform the SBOE that it can't meet its obligations, ESandS has effectively sandbagged the board. So the lobbyists -- the lobbyists -- suggested that since new testing and certification on the substitute machines couldn't be completed in time for use in 2020, why couldn't the administrative staff just go ahead and approve the new machinery, bypassing the appointed 5-member SBOE? Just "wave the new system through."

4. SBOE Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell recommended that the Board of Elections approve the ES&S request -- inaccurately describing, by the way, the technical changes in the new machines that raise legitimate concerns about ballot security. I mean, Brinson Bell seriously misrepresented the technical changes in the new machines in an apparent attempt to rush the SBOE into approving them, according to Jordan Wilkie's reporting.

Damon Circosta,
Chair, SBOE
5. "No way," said SBOE member Stella Anderson, who's been a consistent whistleblower about the safety of electronic voting machines. "Holding on to the information of an equipment shortage until the last minute, the irregular channel of communicating that information [lobbyists], inaccurately disclosing the location where the machines are manufactured and not notifying the board of problems with the current system until after it was certified are all part of a 'clear pattern of actions on the part of ESandS that represent a fundamental lack of candor in the certification process,' ” Anderson wrote her fellow board members in an email. Anderson's whistleblowing has prompted a special SBOE meeting next week to hash this out.

6. The big question for next week: Will SBOE Chair Damon Circosta continue his unaccountable soft spot for ESandS electronic equipment? Will he vote with the Republicans to certify new equipment that hasn't been adequately tested or hasn't gone through the normal mandated certification process?

Friday, December 06, 2019

George Holding in the NC2 Opts for Retirement Because of Redistricting

US Congressman George Holding's District 2 became Wake County and Wake County alone (greater Raleigh) in the most recent round of court-ordered redistricting. Whereas Holding was initially elected and reelected via very Republican-heavy mapping, he's suddenly been thrown into one of the most blue-trending counties in the state, with strong Democratic contenders for that congressional seat already either announcing or already well underway. Who said, "Discretion is the better part of valor"? Was it a fat man in armor? George Holding announced a couple of days ago that he wouldn't run in another adjacent district if it already had a Republican rep. So today he opted out entirely, said he's retiring from Congress.

There's already a potentially invigorating Democratic scrimmage for the seat. On Tuesday, Deborah Ross, the former Democratic candidate for the US Senate (she ran against Dick Burr in 2016 and got over 45% of the vote statewide), announced that she would seek the seat. She'll be formidable. But retired Marine "top gun" aviator Scott Cooper also looks strong, and he's been building a campaign against Holding since last year.

Shame to watch Cooper and Ross duke it out, so it's relieving to hear this morning that Cooper might be reconsidering, might jump over to the new 8th District, which runs south of Wake through Harnett, Cumberland, and Lee counties, then due west through Moore, Montgomery, Stanly, and Cabarrus. On the face of it, the new 8th looks considerably less friendly to Democrats, though an ex-Marine fighter pilot like Scott Cooper might be the man to change that. (For the record, the rumor of Cooper's maybe switching his campaign to the 8th might be nothing more than rumor. Cooper's Twitter feed certainly doesn't indicate anything other than "full throttle up" for the 2nd.)

In the environment we're currently occupying, every weather-front creates more weather. Democrat Scott Huffman has been running an energetic campaign already for months in the 8th against incumbent Republican Richard Hudson, and the forecast that Scott Cooper might move his campaign south could seem like a bad cold front blowing in (and I've exhausted the weather metaphor).

Lots of ferment since the court approved the new NC congressional districts for 2020. Sometimes it's just going to come down to the better candidate prevailing.

Respect His Authoritah

Michael Whatley
So if you're a registered Republican voter in North Carolina who's also not in love with Donald Trump -- I know there are at least six of you! -- your state GOP leadership wants to make sure you won't have choices on your Republican primary ballot in March. They intend to disappear Bill Weld and Joe Walsh. No lie.

News broke yesterday that NCGOP chair Michael Whatley submitted only the name of President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican Primary ballot, ignoring the other Republicans who've announced -- Weld and Walsh (Mark Sanford already dropped out).

"Parties are required to submit a list of candidates to the State Board of Elections this week, including all 'candidates whose candidacy is generally advocated and recognized in the news media throughout the United States or in North Carolina.' ”

The Democrats submitted 15 names. The Libertarians, 16 (including the evergreen Vermin Supreme). But Mr. Whatley couldn't think of any other Republicans but Trump.

What's a ballot with only one choice when that "choice" is decreed by the bosses?

Yeah. Whatever Trump's got has spread to the little Trumps in states like North Carolina. It appears to be an incurable disease, immune to inoculation and resistant to antibiotics. Evacuation may be the only treatment ... like the three Republican county commissioners in Transylvania County who left the Republican Party en masse yesterday and re-registered as independents. Evacuation like that.

But Whatley actually doesn't have the final word. The State Board of Elections has the power to add names by majority vote of the board. They'll meet in January.

Larry Pittman Draws a Credible Primary Opponent in 2020

Larry Pittman, the Republican incumbent in House District 83, is one of the most extreme Republican members of the NC General Assembly. He has regularly made headlines with various off-the-rails pronouncements, and he's good at invoking God because he's also Preacherman Larry Pittman. In 2017 he wanted to repeal a provision in the state's constitution so that North Carolina could secede from the Union. No, really. Pittman also introduced a bill in 2017 that would end North Carolina's recognition of same sex marriage in defiance of the US Supreme Court, citing the Bible as the legal authority. Speaker of the House Tim Moore scuttled that plan, for which I think Pittman may have called down fire from heaven on Tim Moore's head.

In short, he's been a regular embarrassment to the Republican establishment.

Jay White
Now he's drawn what may be his first credible primary opponent from the Republican establishment, Concord attorney Jay White who has previously served two full terms on the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners and nearly six years as its chairman. He seems sane.

Not a hint of Trumpism in his written announcement: “I am seeking the Republican nomination for House District 83 because my experience and my proven record of leadership and community involvement will enable me to serve our District. The people of the 83rd District are my friends; you are my family. Together, united by our shared values, we can make Cabarrus County and North Carolina a better place for ourselves and our children.”

Democrat Gail Young ran against Larry Pittman in 2018 and did better than anyone might have expected, drawing over 47% of the vote, and she's been building the infrastructure for another campaign for the District 83 seat in 2020. She might prefer to run against Larry Pittman rather than Jay White, who has an established name and who is, like I said, sane.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Earthquake in Transylvania County

Transylvania County in red
Awoke to news posted on the Transylvania Times that three Republican county commissioners in Transylvania County have left the Republican Party en masse and changed their voter registrations to "unaffiliated." Two of those commissioners, Mike Hawkins and Page Lemel, are currently up for reelection in 2020. If they choose to run again (according to Derek McKissock), they'll have to get onto the ballot via petition. Mike Hawkins is currently the chair of the board. Commissioner David Guice, the third member who announced he was leaving the Republican Party, is vice chair but is not up for reelection in 2020.

The statement the three issued is open to interpretation but pregnant with implications about the current leadership of the Republican Party, from DeeCee to Raleigh. Just an excerpt:
...Naturally, citizens may be curious about our choice to disassociate from the Republican Party. Our reasoning falls along three broad areas.
First, we have clear notions of conservatism. To be conservative is to honor and preserve the fundamental institutions, processes, structures and rule of law, which have enabled the United States to be history’s greatest success story. To be conservative is to be financially prudent while also investing in common groundworks that support individual success for all citizens. To be conservative is to be welcoming and inclusive, understanding that all of us share the same human aspirations; conservative tenets of self-determination cannot be exclusive. To be conservative is to have a strong moral compass and the willingness to challenge wrong regardless of its source. We believe all of these are not merely conservative principles but American principles.
Next, we believe elected officials have a special duty to conduct themselves beyond reproach and make genuine efforts to represent all their constituents. Elected officials must strive to conduct all public and private actions with honor and integrity. Elected officials must value objective truth and, in turn, be truthful in their own statements and interactions. And elected officials must continually work to hear the voices of all while making hard decisions on behalf of their fellow citizens....

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

And the Race Is On!

Much happened yesterday in the world of North Carolina politics. The big thing was the court approval of the redistricted maps for the 13 Congressional seats in our state. Which seems to have set off something of a land rush. Deborah Ross announced for the 2nd CD in Wake County (where there are already other strong candidates running). Kathy Manning announced for the 6th CD in Guilford (where there are and will be others competing). And there's a virtual pileup of Democratic candidates in the 11th, which now again includes all of Buncombe County.

We'll be sorting through all the candidate filings in the weeks (and months) ahead with special emphasis on the NC House and Senate districts that got remapped in a more competitive way for Democrats in 2020.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Garland Tucker Has Ended His Campaign for U.S. Senate

And just like that ... he's out.

Says he hasn't been able to raise the money he needs to complete the primary.

In his announcement letter, "Tucker took several shots at Tillis and did not offer an endorsement."

Make of that what you will. We were talking about Tucker just yesterday...

Read more here:

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Garland Tucker's Investment in Dick's

Republican conservative Garland Tucker announced back in May that he would be entering the Republican primary in 2020 to challenge Sen. Thom Tillis. Senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation and author of "Conservative Heroes: Jefferson to Reagan," Tucker convincingly played the old-fashioned, rock-ribbed, Christian gentleman when he blasted Trump during the 2016 primaries, out loud and in print in the Raleigh News and Observer: “Trump is a twice-divorced, self-acknowledged adulterer who has, in the course of this campaign, uttered some of the most unkind, disgusting comments ever made by any American politician,” Tucker wrote.

As pious as you could want. Also remarkably truthful. He even looks like every Southern Baptist deacon.

Tucker co-founded a business development and investment company, Triangle Capital, which "took on hundreds of millions in taxpayer-backed Small Business Administration (SBA) loans during the Obama administration, investing the money in private companies. In 2011, Triangle Capital invested $12 million in Dick's Last Resort (DLR), a chain of restaurants known for using vulgar and demeaning language toward guests, including children" (investigative reporting by Collin Anderson).

Setting aside Triangle Capital's complicity in taking taxpayer money as a private interest, Dick's Last Resort, as a high-dollar investment for one Garland Tucker, is even more inexplicable. Because Dick's Last Resort is exactly what it sounds (and looks) like ... one long (hee!) penis joke. "Dick's Last Resort is a bar and restaurant chain in The United States, known for its intentional employment of an obnoxious staff." Wikipedia continues: "Dick's Last Resort teaches its servers to be obnoxious. In addition to the staff, the decor is considered to be 'wacky.' The restaurant uses picnic-style tables and no tablecloths. Patrons of Dick's are expected to be insulted, or placed in uncomfortable situations. Adult bibs and large, hand-made, paper hats are given to diners to wear during their stay. There are no napkins on the tables: they are generally thrown at the customers by the serving staff." Photos are abundant. One young woman: "I'm like a pothole. Everyone's hit it." On a child: "I eat Skittles and fart rainbows."

Collin Anderson again: "Other accounts of Dick's detail 'jokes' including telling a 13-year-old girl to 'go back to the ghetto to get her hair done again,' calling a 16-year-old a 'fat fuck,' and writing 'I spread my legs more than barbie' on a four-year-old girl's hat. The restaurant's vulgarity is also reflected in its merchandise, which includes 'I Heart Dick' underwear, 'Chicks Love Dick's' t-shirts, and 'Beverage Babe' koozies."

It's the merchandise, baby! That's where the money is.

DLR is Hooters without clean tables and with much less cosseting. And -- actually ... let's be honest here -- harmless entertainment for those who want such entertainment. People go 'cause they want the thrill of un-PC public transgression. They like the deliberate gunge. And why not?

I'm looking right now for the closest Dick's Last Resort. 'Pears to be in Gatlinburg, with another'n close by in Pigeon Forge. (Those Tennesseans! They always get the good stuff first.) Also one in Myrtle Beach. There are only 13 in the whole nation (at last count), starting in Dallas, but with three clustered in East Coast working-class resort areas, I detect deliberate marketing to a receptive demographic. And good for them! (Omitted here: Any attempt to link the one-upping of "respectable"  or elite dining establishments to the election of Donald J. Trump.)

But how does the pious Garland Tucker justify the investment? The Tucker campaign is staying mum. No one responded to a request for comment from Collin Anderson. It's a minor embarrassment for Tucker, no big scandal. Being identified as a hypocrite, though never very pleasant, has become a standard feature of life for conservative Republicans in the Age of Trump. Because Dick's Last Resort obviously makes money, and looks good for future expansion -- that's why Garland Tucker put $12 million into it. Duh. "DLR has a consistent history of strong operating performance and has demonstrated its ability to move successfully into new markets throughout the country," commented Tucker in a press release from Triangle Capital. The vulgarity? Doesn't exist if you don't see it. I'd be willing to bet that Garland Tucker has never -- not in a million zillion years -- never sat at one of those picnic tables nor wore a silly hat. His official position: "DLR offers a unique dining experience with an interactive wait staff that entertains customers throughout the meal with tasteful humor."

A good Christian conservative gentleman can wink at anything -- we already knew that, didn't we? --and so we float ourselves on rafts of lies for the pursuit of money.