Friday, January 24, 2020

The Elections of March: The Battle for the NCH19 Open Seat

When North Carolina House District 19 (southern New Hanover County, with the suburbs of Wilmington and the beach towns of Carolina Beach and Kure and Fort Fisher and a large swath of rural Brunswick County south of the Cape Fear River, including South Port and Bolivia) was redrawn in the most recent court-ordered redistricting, the incumbent Republican House member Ted Davis got drawn out of his own district. He's now running in District 20, which Rep. Holly Grange has given up to run for governor in the Republican March primary.

So two Republicans have filed for the open District 19 seat, along with two Democrats, one of them well known to us because of her unsuccessful but close race for the seat in 2018.

Democrat Marcia Morgan
Morgan is a 74-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1946. She was an educator, became a career Army officer who retired as a colonel. She taught ROTC and did two tours at the Pentagon including a staff position with the Army Chief of Staff. She says, "I have thoroughly enjoyed retirement and the freedom to do as I please, but the current political environment has challenged me to step forward once again. I do not have a background in politics, but I DO have a strong sense of service to this community and a demonstrated ability to accomplish difficult tasks. I believe we have a commitment to improve our economy, provide equal opportunities for all and protect our environment – and one of the fundamental ways to accomplish those things is through quality education." She details her career, which took her all over the world for the Army, on her website.

Morgan has been endorsed by Lillian's List. She came within 883 votes of beating Ted Davis in 2018 in the old District 19, and she might be considered the automatic frontrunner in this primary, but she's now got large Brunswick County real estate added to her district, and they don't know her yet. Reviewing her campaign infrastructure, I have the impression that she's coasting a little on her 2018 campaign, and I'd like to see new and more evidence that she's going strong for this primary.

Democrat James Dawkins
Dawkins is a 35-year-old Millennial born in 1985 and a novice politician, but he has the full-fledged presence on the Web to suggest he's really making the effort. He's a musician who lives in Southport. He's doing local radio interviews, he's very active on Twitter and Facebook, and he's challenged Marcia Morgan to a debate. That's one sure way to attract attention when you're relatively unknown. He also got an almost fawning write-up in DemCast, which to be fair was profiling him when he was the only announced Democratic candidate in the old District 17. But at the moment he's much more active on social media than Marcia Morgan.

He offers a full panoply of progressive policy positions, including the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Republican David A. Perry
Perry is 54 years old and ran for the District 19 House seat in 2018 as a Libertarian and got 3.8% of the vote. He's big on guns. He arrived in Carolina in 2012 to live in Carolina Beach and work at Corning's Wilmington plant as a software engineer. He had been a Reagan Republican until 9/11 when the neo-con Republican policies of bigger government and international meddling made him a Ron Paul Libertarian. He has since repented:
I soon realized that while there was large contingent of like-minded folks within the Libertarian Party, there was also a large contingent of anarchists and extremists. A contingent who would never agree to anything that fell short of their ideology of eradicating or virtually eliminating government all together. I have always felt that while principles are extremely important, we need to be “realistic” about where we are, while at the same time being “optimistic” about where we are going.
Curiously, he doesn't embrace Donald Trump or even mention his name on his website.

Republican Charlie Miller
Miller is 53 years old and lives in Southport, where he was born and raised. He was Chief Deputy in the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, first beginning in 1987 under Sheriff John Carr Davis. He worked his way through the ranks of the Office and resigned in 2001 to work with Progress Energy as a Nuclear Security Specialist. He returned to the Sheriff’s Office in May 2008 as Chief Deputy when Sheriff Ingram took Office.

He was subsequently elected to the Brunswick County Board of Education in 2006 and re-elected in 2010 and again in 2018 to four-year terms. He has a Facebook page but no other web presence that I've found.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Gen-Z Is Coming For You, Thom Tillis!

Voting by university students in North Carolina is going to go up soar in 2020. They've got a high fever for participating this year because they hate the direction we've taken. They've been paying increasing attention, and they know shit from Shinola. So you got trouble, Thom Tillis. Maybe not now, but soon, and for the rest of your life. 

Interest runs high for his March's primary (and look below at the list of 14 Early Voting Election sites on college campuses starting February 13). Most of Gen-Z will be voting the Democratic ballot, particularly the presidential race. The vast majority won't even see Thom Tillis's name. They'll see the names of Tillis's would-be Democratic opponent, and they'll pick the winner. Come November, Tillis will be in their line of sight, and I think Gen-Z will not be done with voting yet.

1. AppState led the way after the 2012 Republican takeover of our election machinery by fighting for on-campus voting rights. In 2020, the Plemmons Student Union will again host Early Voting from February 13 through February 29, the entire period mandated by law. New registrations on campus are reportedly already running high. Deadline to register for the March 3rd primary: February 7.

2. UNC-Chapel Hill. The Daily Tar Heel reports that whereas the UNC campus was previously divided between five different precincts, with far-flung and difficult-to-find polling locations, the Orange Board of Elections has consolidated all on-campus student housing into a single mega-precinct with an on-campus E-Day polling place. Early Voting this February, yes, at Chapel of the Cross on East Franklin St., if not exactly in the heart of the campus then at least in its left ventricle.

3. NC A&T University, Dudley Building. Full Early Voting.

4. UNC-Greensboro, Kaplan Center for Wellness. Full Early Voting.

5. Winston-Salem State, Anderson Center. Full Early Voting.

6. Fayetteville State University, Smith Recreation Center. Yep.

7. Duke University, Brodhead Center 068 (dead center of campus). Yep.

8. North Carolina Central University, School of Law. Yes.

9. Durham Tech - North Campus. Yes.

10. East Carolina University, student union. You got it.

11. Western Carolina University. Yes.

12. UNC-Charlotte, Belk Gym. Yes.

13. Cape Fear Community College, Health Sciences Learning Resources bldg. Yes.

14. North Carolina State University, Talley Student Union. Yes.

These constitute a wave of sorts.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Elections of March: Army Infantryman v. Smarmy Self-Promoter in NCHouse 117

NC House District 117 -- Henderson County

This was Republican Chuck McGrady's safe district since the elections of 2010. McGrady was often described as a "moderate," though I rarely saw any practical application of his supposed moderation on a House Republican Caucus. He usually voted with his tribe.

When McGrady announced that he would not be running for another term, former House member (District 116) Tim Moffitt fairly leapt at the chance to get back into politics. Moffitt represented District 116 starting in 2010 and was an ambitious little tick who was always into something underhanded. He thought he might be Thom Tillis's natural born replacement as Speaker of the House after Tillis left for Washington. He also thought he could steal Asheville's water supply to privatize it. That scheme didn't go so well, and Moffitt lost his seat in 2014 to Democrat Brian Turner by a thousand votes.

Moffitt has his own primary contest against Dennis Justice, a perennial candidate in Henderson County who's run for Henderson County Commissioner twice, Board of Education three times, Mayor of Fletcher once, and once for the NC Senate in a primary against Tom Apodaca. Moffitt will probably win on March 3 and will then face Democrat Josh Remillard in November in what is considered a "Likely Republican" district.

Democrat Josh Remillard

Remillard also technically has a primary on March 3. I say "technically" because his primary opponent, Danae Aicher, withdrew her candidacy on January 15 -- though not in time to get her name off the ballot. (Aicher had a campaign up and running and looks to have been a very appealing candidate herself.) So though the outcome of the primary is more or less guaranteed in his favor, Remillard still has to go through the motions.

He's going through the motions just like the veteran infantryman he was during two tours in Iraq. He's participated in the LeadNC candidate training and he appears to be all over the place in joint appearances with other local and district-wide candidates from Buncombe and Henderson. Remillard's mountain man persona is going to present a decided contrast to Tim Moffitt's junior-exec-on-the-make vibe.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Elections of March: Why Do These Democratic Incumbents Have Primary Challengers?

Department of "Why Did They Bother To Pay the Filing Fee?"

NC House District 71 -- Forsyth
Incumbent Democratic representative Evelyn Terry (who was first elected in 2012, and who has never received less than 70% of the vote in any of her reelection campaigns) has drawn a primary challenger in Kanika Brown. Brown doesn't appear to be running a campaign. She only has a Facebook page, which is entirely devoted to missing children and doesn't even mention a race for NC House.
Once past the primary, Terry has no Republican opposition in November.

NC House District 93 -- Watauga and Ashe
First-term Democrat Ray Russell has a primary opponent in Turner Doolittle, a 21-year-old Gen-Z-er who was recently a computer science student at AppState. His Facebook page has been inactive since last May and doesn't mention anything about his candidacy.
Once Ray Russell is past the primary, he'll face Republican Ray Pickett, who was defeated for reelection to the Blowing Rock Town Council last fall. The district is rated "Lean Republican."

NC House District 44 -- Cumberland
Incumbent Democrat Billy Richardson (elected to the seat in 2016 by a margin of just 347 votes and reelected in 2018 by a more comfortable margin of 3,000 votes) has a primary with Terry Johnson, 54-year-old Army veteran and community activist, who at least has a Facebook presence.
Whatever difficulties a Democrat faced getting elected in this district in the past seem to have been majorly erased by the most recent redistricting, as projected Republican vote-share went down over 16%. If Billy Richardson prevails in the primary, he will face Republican Heather Holmes in November in this "Likely Democratic" district.

NC House District 27 -- Halifax and Northampton
Democratic incumbent Michael H. Wray (first elected in 2004) has two primary challengers on March 3rd, and I challenge anyone to find out anything about "ghosts" Jerry McDaniel and Kelby Hicks, neither of whom have any campaign infrastructure that I have found.
Once he's past the primary, Michael Wray has a Republican opponent in November, Warren Scott Nail, but this district is rated "Likely Democratic" for a good reason.

NC House District 5 -- Gates, Hertford, Pasquotank
Democratic incumbent Howard Hunter III (first elected in 2014) faces Keith Rivers in the Democratic primary in this "Lean Democratic" district. Rivers at least has a Facebook page and a skeletal website. He's a veteran of the US Navy and a community activist.
If Howard Hunter prevails in the primary, he'll face Republican Donald Kirland in November. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Elections of March: The Weirdest Democratic Primary

District 56, Orange County
Long-serving Democratic Representative Verla Insko (first elected in 1996) has no Republican opponent this year, but she does have a primary with a 28-year-old, Joe Parrish, who's apparently interesting enough to get his own YouTube interview on Triangle Talk, but he has no website or Facebook page nor discernible biography. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2014, and in 2016, as a 24-year-old, he ran for the NC House in District 2 on the coast, got 14,775 votes against Republican Larry Yarborough's 22,760. He came out in 2016 branding himself "asexual." He recently published a less-than-enlightening essay, "Why I Am Running," light on detail but peppered with verbiage that suggests confused thinking. He wants "a bold agenda of progressive reform," yet in defining "progressive Democrat" he falls back on Franklin D. Roosevelt as his model. Elsewhere he says he was a Bernie Sanders voter.

Meanwhile, if you need a handy definition of progressive legislator, you need look no further than Verla Insko.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Correction

I thought my readers should know that I've been sued for defamation by Mr. Don Blankenship, former Chairman and CEO of the Massey Energy Company of West Virginia. It appears Mr. Blankenship thinks I had something to do with his loss in the Republican senatorial primary in West Virginia in 2018.

I am one of what were originally 150 defendants. The top first-named defendant is Judge Andrew Napolitano of the Fox News Network (hence the suit is known as Blankenship v. Napolitano et al.). Others named as defendants include the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, Esquire magazine, Wonkette, the Huffington Post, Breitbart News -- the list runs to several pages. Some of these have now apparently negotiated their way out of the lawsuit.

On April 5, 2010, a huge underground explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va., took the lives of 29 miners. As head of the company, Blankenship was subsequently prosecuted by the Federal government for that explosion. In a trial in West Virginia, Blankenship was acquitted by a jury of some charges, found guilty of one charge, and spent approximately a year in Federal prison.

When he left prison, he went into politics and ran for the US Senate in the Republican primary of 2018 with two other candidates who hoped to unseat Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

According to Blankenship v. Napolitano et al., WataugaWatch referred to Blankenship in a post on April 15, 2018, as a "recent felon … who's notorious in West Virginia without necessarily being electable." On the eve of the primary, May 7, 2018, WataugaWatch again mentioned Blankenship: "Holy crap! Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin has been considered the most endangered Democrat in the US Senate, but the Republican voters in their primary tomorrow may grant him a reprieve … if they choose felon coal baron Don Blankenship to run against him." 

It turns out that although Mr. Blankenship was charged with felonies, he was only convicted of a misdemeanor. By using the word felon, I am blamed for linking to national news sources and for following the language being used at the time in the mainstream press, which some sources later corrected. I was unaware of those corrections, and I was unaware that he had only been convicted of a misdemeanor. I thought my characterization was accurate. Most of the 150 defendants in this lawsuit -- perhaps all of them -- at some point used the word felon or the word felony in the same sentence with the name Don Blankenship, as did I.
Correction: My saying that Don Blankenship was a felon instead of his being convicted of one misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards in relation to the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion -- for which his punishment was a year in jail -- was a mistake and unintentional. He was indeed acquitted of the felony charges. I meant no offense.

Blankenship lost the Republican primary on May 8 to Patrick Morrisey by 20,529 votes, coming in third in the primary out of a total of six candidates. The readership of WataugaWatch is primarily located in North Carolina, and principally in Watauga County of North Carolina. I don't know how many West Virginia voters might be reading a local North Carolina blog, but I don't think it's enough to have caused Don Blankenship to lose his primary race by over 20,000 votes.

Breaking News: On Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 -- yesterday -- a federal judge in West Virginia refused to toss the misdemeanor conviction of Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate mine safety laws.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Threat of White Populism

I'm reading Jill Lepore's "These Truths: A History of the United States," and I'm sort of hoping it never ends. I've read a lot of American history, but nothing I've read previously completely prepared me for the dish that Lepore serves up -- an American pie with a tough crust and ingredients you might just as soon not bite down on. It's essential reading, and such good writing. Her Chapter 8 alone, on the Civil War, moved me to tears in a way I wasn't expecting.

I've often considered myself a populist. If I'd been born in France in the 18th Century, there's not a doubt in my mind that I would have shown up outside Versailles with a pitchfork. In my view, Citizens United v. FEC is just another Versailles of privilege and judicial favoritism. Sure, sure I've read enough to know the dark side of populism, that agitating outside the gilded halls leads to entertainment at the guillotine. But Occupy Wall Street led to nary an execution, so far as I know.

Jill Lepore writes one paragraph that clarifies so much about American populism as variously understood by citizens who look in different directions for their enemies:
Populism entered American politics at the end of the nineteenth century, and it never left. It pitted "the people," meaning everyone but the rich, against corporations, which fought back in the courts by defining themselves as "persons"; and it pitted "the people," meaning white people, against nonwhite people who were fighting for citizenship and whose ability to fight back in the courts was far more limited, since those fights require well-paid lawyers.
The tension between those two vectors defines our Republic, and mars it, and coincidentally catches me in my own contradiction: I always wanted more populism from Barack Obama. And less from Trump (bless his heart).

I'm Counting on You, Gen-Z

The holy hell the student journalists at the Daily Tar Heel have been raising over the so-called "Silent Sam settlement" is just one more indication that the Baby Boomer Generation in North Carolina has become as moldy and full of worm holes as hundred-year-old Stilton and that our young people are our last best hope for saving us from backsliding into Lost Cause nostalgia. Among other things.

[NOTE: I'm not a Boomer, dammit! I'm older than that, born near the end of the Silent Generation's reign of indifference and smug complacency. I have my own demons.]

In case you don't follow the news out of Orange County, the UNC Board of Governors -- every last one of them a Republican Boomer appointed by the Republican bosses in the General Assembly -- did a secret deal with a white supremacist neo-Confederate group to accept $2.6 million to take the Silent Sam statue off the university's hands.

The Gen-Z journalists at the Daily Tar Heel began looking into that deal and completely scooped all the regular news outlets. What the reporters uncovered is plenty problematic, smelly enough that the Daily Tar Heel is also suing the Board of Governors for violating the state's open meetings law while arriving at their deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The 18-to-20 year olds now populating our university campuses were born when I was reaching retirement age, and the ones I've known and worked with -- several, and more all the time, because Gen-Z is nothing if it's not politically motivated to pay attention and do something -- give me inordinate hope. They say they are motivated by fear, and I can appreciate that. They've been watching the mess the Boomers created, and they can recognize a tipping point even if their elders can't.

I hear just this morning that more university campuses in this state will have on-campus polling stations this year, just like AppState fought so hard to preserve. That gladdens my heart. Just like the spectacle of the Daily Tar Heel suing the Board of Governors over violating the open meetings law brightens my gloomy day.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Elections of March: US House NC6

A First Look at what is likely a Democratic pickup next November. The winner of this Dems primary will likely be the next congressperson in DeeCee, representing all of Guilford and the most urban part of Forsyth. Greensboro and Winston-Salem -- together at last!

Democrats on the ballot March 3rd:

Bruce Davis, High Point, 62 years old, born in 1957, Baby Boomer, African-American. Perennial candidate: Going back to 2010 and 2012, he tried twice to oust Democratic NC Senator Gladys Robinson from her seat in NCS28. In 2014, he ran unsuccessfully in the primary for the old 6th Congressional District. But in 2016, Davis finally won a race -- in a crowded Democratic primary in the old CD13, he won the privilege to go up against newcomer Republican Ted Budd. Davis lost to Budd in the General, while taking a respectable 156,000 votes to Budd's 199,000. Then in 2019, he ran third in the non-partisan 2019 primary for mayor of High Point.
Rhonda Foxx, Greensboro, 37 years old, born in 1983, Millennial, African-American. First-time candidate. 2008 graduate of George Washington University Law School. Subsequently a rising attorney and congressional staffer in Washington, D.C. Until recently chief of staff to Congresswoman Alma Adams. The founder of the Black Women’s Congressional Alliance, a caucus of 175 black women working on Capitol Hill. BA from UNC-Chapel Hill. (Curiously, for such a political professional, Foxx's web presence is next to nil. An underdeveloped Facebook page. An underdeveloped Twitter account. That's all I find.)
Ed Hanes Jr., Winston-Salem, 47 years old, born in 1973, Gen-X-er, African-American. Represented District 72 in the NCHouse, 2013 to August 2018, when he resigned suddenly while under a cloud for campaign finance violations. He insisted that Winston-Salem city councilman Derwin L. Montgomery be appointed to his unexpired term in the NCHouse.
Kathy Manning, Greensboro, 63 years old, born in 1956, Baby Boomer. Ran unsuccessfully in 2018 against incumbent Republican Ted Budd in the old 13th Congressional District. Philantrophist. Self-described "business-oriented moderate." Demonstrated champion fundraiser.
Derwin L. Montgomery, Winston-Salem, 32 years old, born in 1988, Millennial, African-American. Long-serving member of the Winston-Salem city council (first elected 2009), representing the East Ward. Appointed August 2018 to Ed Hanes' unexpired term in NCHouse (Dist. 72). Won reelection in his own right to the seat in November 2018.