Thursday, February 29, 2024

Too Much Drama, Such Low Stakes


I predicted back on Dec. 14, 2023, that a David Wheeler vs. Natasha Marcus primary for the Democratic nomination to run for Secretary of Insurance of North Carolina would not be something to celebrate but rather a unnecessarily personal and vitriolic negative campaign, primarily because of Wheeler's capacity for obnoxiousness. Wheeler has made accusations against Marcus, and Marcus operatives have fired back to the point of attracting Wheeler's litigious propensities, and he's threatening to sue for defamation.

What I dreaded happened fast and keeps getting worse.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Race Apprehension


"For a party that heavily relies on Black votes and campaigns as a champion of civil rights, these are not ideal optics."

--Lucille Sherman and Jeffrey Billman, "Josh Stein's Challenge With Black Voters," The Assembly, February 26, 2024


Lord, it hurts, but Sherman and Billman pressed their hard index finger right into the tightest muscle:

"This year, Democratic party elites have rallied not just behind Josh Stein for governor but also Jeff Jackson, Rachel Hunt, and Allison Riggs in their bids for attorney general, lieutenant governor, and Supreme Court justice, respectively. All are white and have Black primary opponents. The likely outcome is that Democrats will have a lily-white statewide ticket in November, while state Republicans will be led by Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who wants to become the state’s first Black governor."

That's a bad enough summation, but Sherman and Billman pile on the insights and opinions of Black political operatives who say the atmosphere has soured for Black voters who generally vote Democratic.

Collette Alston, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party’s African American Caucus, said she only remembers Stein showing up “whenever it was time for us to vote for him. There was no other time that there was a visit or any other kind of correspondence or anything. We haven’t seen Josh Stein out in public, around North Carolina, nowhere near as much as we’ve seen Michael Morgan” -- Stein's chief rival in the primary whom the African American Caucus endorsed.

Morgan Jackson, Josh Stein's
political advisor

It's not just Stein's aloofness that's a problem. Preacherly Mark Robinson's hellfire denunciations of queers appeals to elderly Black men, who do vote. Alston went straight to "culture" to explain Robinson's potential for earning Black votes:

“Within our culture, especially in the South, we’re gonna go to hell for certain things, because of our religious thoughts,” Alston said. “Mark Robinson can placate that type of voter. Black men can feel more empowered. And plus—he’s Black. And, you know, that’s what I’m afraid of.”

Not to worry, sez Stein's chief political guru, Morgan Jackson. Jackson runs Stein’s campaign and downplays the concerns raised by Collette Alston. Jackson and other Stein supporters believe that "every Black voter Robinson peels off will be offset by suburbanites turned off by Robinson’s rhetoric."

Dawn Blagrove, director of the civil rights group Emancipate NC, said she’ll vote for Stein if he’s the Democratic nominee. But “there is nothing about his tenure as AG that will make me, as a social justice advocate, excited about seeing him move to the governor’s mansion.”

Monday, February 26, 2024

Who Will Take On Tricia Cotham? Does It Even Matter?

Two novice Dems and one who's run before but lost (to Tricia Cotham, incidentally) are running now in the HD 105 primary to take on Tricia Cotham this fall: Nicole Sidman, Terry Lansdell, and Yolonda Holmes, all of whom I first profiled here last December 18, 2023, noting at the time that Sidman had high-level connections in the Party for fundraising (from when she ran Christy Clark's successful upset of Republican John Bradford in 2018). She has indeed raised the most moneyAccording to the Charlotte Ledger, prominent local Democrats "seem to be rallying around Sidman," and the Charlotte Observer endorsed her. She's fairly active on Facebook and she's done at least some canvassing for support. Sidman is a lawyer and outreach director at Temple Beth El in Charlotte.

Yolonda Holmes 

N.C. House District 105 contains Matthews, Mint Hill, and parts of south Charlotte. Sidman's chief rival for the nomination appears to be Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools community engagement employee Yolonda Holmes. (The mainstream media spells her first name Yolanda, but it's Yolonda on the candidate's social media.)

Back last December I couldn't find a website or any social media presence for the third candidate in the primary, nonprofit executive Terry Lansdell, and still can't as of today.

The Democrats are hot to get revenge on Tricia Cotham for her treachery, but can any of these three rally the base and win the Unaffiliated?

Yolonda Holmes is quite active on Twitter (where Sidman isn't), likes to be called "Dr. Yo" ("on the GLOW with Dr. Yo!"), and is a "featured" and "targeted" primary candidate for Lillian's List of North Carolina. That gives one pause. So much for the "establishment" support Sidman supposedly enjoys. Why did Lillian's List endorse Yolonda over Nicole?

Holmes has also been endorsed by the Progressive Caucus of NC.

She told the audience at a candidate forum recently that her campaign strategy "is a secret." “Our campaign has been very diligent and strategic, and we have been very secretive in our strategy and will remain that as much,” Holmes said.

The last time we heard about high-level "secret strategies," Richard M. Nixon was president.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Bankruptcy Declared


Surrender has turned to dependency, which has its own pathology.

Foxx is perhaps projecting because her primary opponent, Ryan Mayberry, is portraying himself as more MAGA than she.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Mark Walker, Pathetic in So Many Ways


So which is worse: Pretending you have the endorsement of the worst person in the world, or desiring to have that endorsement?

Former Rep. Mark Walker, who's running now to get back into Congress from NC6, has been caught listing Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz as an endorsee. Donald Trump Jr. is making a big deal out of it, on behalf of his BFF Addison McDowell whom Big Daddy Trump endorsed for the job Walker is also running for.

Walker is so desperate for hard right friends that he would fake a friendship with the odious Gaetz. Sad.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Magical Thinking

The high-level duo of Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings, co-chairs last year of the Governor’s Commission on the Governance of Public Universities in North Carolina, issued some eight months ago a 153-page set of recommendations for reforming the way the university system is governed. Both Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings are past presidents of the UNC system, hounded out of office, incidentally, by increasingly conservative boards of governors put in place by the Republican bosses in the General Assembly. Turns out, of course, that their recommendations for reform to remove partisanship and increase diversity were akin to pissing into the wind. To suggest that the politicians should stay the hell away from boards of trustees and governors, when they had only just recently won enough control to punish the liberals in the classrooms -- that idea was dead abirthing. Increase diversity? Ross and Spellings actually used that word, which to Christian conservatives is evidence of a plot to turn every kid gay. So the Commission report disappeared from off the earth.

So it's nice to hear that Ross and Spellings brought the whole topic up again. They talked about the dangers of vindictive partisanship in our colleges and universities during an online discussion organized by the nonprofit Coalition for Carolina. Then Joe Killian, writing about the on-line conversation for the NC Newsline, brought it to my attention.

Killian republished the Ross/Spellings report’s top-line recommendations (which get better toward the bottom):

Expand the UNC Board of Governors from 24 to 36 members – with 32 of them appointed and four standing members

Expand each campus board of trustees to 15 members

Allow the minority party of the General Assembly to appoint eight seats on the UNC Board of Governors

Reserve four seats on the board of governors and campus boards of trustees for the chairs of the faculty and staff assemblies

Mandate 16 of the board of governors’ members be appointed from eight designated parts of the state to promote geographic diversity on the board; the other 16 would be appointed at-large

Institute a one year “cooling off” period between serving in the General Assembly or being an active lobbyist and serving on the board of governors or a board of trustees

Create a new “Center for Higher Education” which would monitor the UNC Board of Governors and maintain a database of well-qualified candidates for appointment to the boards

The ruthlessness of the conservatives toward higher education -- when it's coupled in any way with progressive advocacy -- came to full flower in 2015 with the punishment of Gene Nichol, a distinguished faculty member in the Chapel Hill School of Law and past President of William and Mary College and a consistent critic of the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly. It's almost Putinesque how they targeted Nichol with specific poison pain, took away his Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity -- just shut it down because some politicos complained that Nichol was actively helping the poor with some kind of legal aide.

The conservatives are on a jihad to stamp out liberalism in higher education. They don't need no recommendations from over-educated bureaucrats.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Eddie Settle vs. Darren Staley, NCS 36


Eddie Settle

I knew naught of Sen. Eddie Settle, who represents Wilkes, Alexander, Surry, and Yadkin counties (Dist. 36) in Raleigh, except that the energizing Democratic candidate for that seat, Darren Staley, mocks the R+26 nightmare that district has become and is not averse to pointing out Settle's tiresome conservative smugness. Staley lives in a trailer, is as hardscrabble tested as Settle is privileged, and he knows which end is up (as they say in my part of the country). Staley's Twitter feed keeps me plugged in to what a Democratic campaign for democratic values ought to look like and rarely does, an uprising of working-class common sense, determination, and vision.

Democrat Staley tweeted a link to a piece of remarkable Eddie Settle prose (liberally stolen from the Wall Street Journal, as it turns out), headlining it this way: "I've spent a lot of time talking about why you should support my campaign. THIS is who I am running against. Let that sink in..." Settle's little essay, "A Biblical Look at Capitalism," was published in the Valentine's Day edition of The Wilkes Record. 

I took the bait, wondering what make of man that my man Darren Staley is running against.

Settle's profit-motive Christianity left a bad taste in my mouth, an offensive brandishing of the Bible to promote the gospel of plutocracy: "The Bible is clear on many things. It teaches about the morality of personal responsibility. It’s through this avenue that man learns to develop good citizenship that leads to happiness. The welfare state undermines this goal of personal responsibility. Proverbs teaches that man is to be productive and that he is not entitled to well-being." Let them eat wallpaper?

"The morality of personal responsibility." Really, Dude? Has Trump, past master of evading consequences, taught us nothing? "Not entitled to well-being?" Has the history of wolfish, buck-passing corporations taught you absolutely nothing, Sir? Yours is a "Bible philosophy" made to order for the already comfortable who intend to entertain no doubt nor guilt, so it's little surprise that Eddie Settle's big consuming issue is taxes on people like him.

By all appearances, Eddie Settle is a well respected Southern Baptist glad-hander in Wilkes, a former 3-term county commissioner now serving in his first term in the NC Senate. He essentially went straight out of high school (and one year studying business at Wilkes Community College) into working at and learning his father's business, Nu-Line Printing Inc. (good for t-shirt screen printing & embroidery, banners, signs & picture framing services) -- the company that Settle now owns outright and still runs today. In 1990, he got into a sideline of raising cattle and is often photographed wearing a big cowboy hat at social gatherings to prove it. He told Colin Campbell that his personal hero was Ronald Reagan, specifically "his Christian conservative leadership."

He's big on pro-life politics, organizing a vote on the Wilkes Commission to pass a resolution to designate the county "a haven for the unborn" (Whoa! Wilkes filled with very pregnant women? looking to escape the pro-abortionists?). What would a haven for the unborn entail? He also mentions Critical Race Theory on his website, calling it "pure poison." 

He's always going to vote the party line, but I wonder if he stood up to Berger over the casino gambling push. He certainly doesn't mention that Berger's failure to get more casinos into poor counties held up the budget for months. Settle sez not one word about Berger's determination to get legalized commercial gambling well situated in NC on his otherwise braggadocious wrap-up of his first year in the Senate. He can certainly brag about the $70 million in pork he got to hand out in his four counties. Pork is always a thoughtful gift.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Tucker Carlson's Red Period; Thom's Blue

Tucker Carlson is now a thing on X, posting videos of interviews with strong men admired by the militant Right. Of course, you heard about the video he posted of his recent trip to a grocery store in Moscow, praising Russia (hence, Putin) for the price of its groceries and its superior cleanliness. Earlier last week, Tucker said Moscow is “so much nicer than any city in my country.”

The sometimes liberated Thom Tillis wasn't having it. Tillis tweeted back, “Ah yes, Russia is so much better than the U.S. with all those cheap groceries and lavish subway stations. The Soviets had a term for people like Tucker: useful idiots.”

Does Senator Tillis have polling or any other data that suggests the MAGA-wing of the NCGOP isn't as powerful as it thinks, so he feels free to let loose every once in a while (in between fits of kowtowing). Tillis is a hard man to predict. But fun to watch right now.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Some Lowdown on Deanna Ballard's Candidacy for Lieutenant Governor


There are arch conservatives and MAGAts and slick campaign operatives running in the very crowded Republican primary for lieutenant governor, but there's only one Deanna Ballard, our former state senator who got double-bunked in 2022 with the wheeler-dealer Ralph Hise. We heard it was a plot to get rid of her because she was considered too soft and pliable in Raleigh for a Party that likes its politicians hard, like its laws. 

The Daily Haymaker, always on the far right of the known universe, considers Ballard insufficiently conservative and "way too close to legislative leadership" -- too establishment, in other words. That assessment was seconded by a lengthy article in The Assembly on the whole crowded field -- both Republican and Democratic -- running in both primaries for lieutenant governor (the most inconsequential job on the Council of State).

Carli Brosseau characterized Ballard's campaign this way in The Assembly:

Though Ballard has accepted the invitation extended to all GOP lieutenant governor candidates to speak on [Lt. Gov. Mark] Robinson’s rally circuit, she has avoided a full-throated endorsement of the MAGA movement.

Instead, she has positioned herself to appeal to unaffiliated voters, invoking her mother’s career as a school teacher, her seven years working in the George W. Bush administration, and her passion for improving data management.

“We could make some better policy if we had more timely data—and that’s across the board from business to education, K12, to higher education to the workforce,” she said.

On abortion, she says she supports the legislature’s recent move to ban the procedure, in most cases, at 12 weeks. Before Roe v. Wade was struck down, she sponsored a bill that would have banned most abortions at 20 weeks. Would she now like to see an earlier ban? “I believe life begins at conception,” she said, but “I don’t think it can be done in North Carolina.”

There are some indications that Ballard’s message is landing. She raised $194,000 from July through December, more than any other Republican candidate in that timeframe.

In the Republican primary, there are at least four candidates who will have formidable followings including Sam Page, the Sheriff of Rockingham, and Jeffrey Elmore, a House member from Wilkes, and Hal Weatherman, who was Dan Forest's main operative for a long time. Also Jim O'Neill, who came close to beating Josh Stein for attorney general in 2020. Ballard is up against some tough competitors. Odds are nobody gets to 30% on March 5, which means a run-off.