Thursday, September 19, 2019

What Are the Most Flippable NC Senate Seats for 2020?

Numero Uno Democratic Pickup Opportunity for 2020
Republican Dan Bishop's NC Senate District 39. Bishop just got elected to the US House. His successor to fill out his NC Senate term has not yet been named. Whoever it is will face a stark new reality: NCS39 has gone from "Strong Republican" (according to ratings by the NC Free Enterprise Foundation in 2018) to "Likely Democratic" in Michael Bitzer's analysis of the new court-ordered maps.

Look for spirited competition for this seat in the 2020 March Democratic primary.

"Competitive, Democratic Favored"
One Republican incumbent is the sitting duck here: John M. Alexander. Or rather his district 18, since Alexander himself has already seen the writing on the proverbial wall and announced he will not be running again.

Democrat Christine Kushner, who was planning to run in the 18th, is now in the redrawn 16th District with incumbent Democrat Wiley Nickel (rated "Likely Democrat"). Democrat Matt Cox, who was already running in the 18th, has also been drawn out of the new district. I hear the name of Democrat Sarah Crawford rumored for the now open 18th District.

Flippable Republican Incumbents
If it's a Blue Wave again in 2020, then these districts deserve dollar targetting and/or smart Democratic recruitment:
"Competitive But Republican Favored"
Republican Louis Pate, District 7 -- Pate has already announced his retirement, and Democrat Donna Lake, who's already up and running, seems a good prospect to flip the district if she sharpens her policy positions.
Republican Rick Horner, District 11 -- Horner won in 2018 with over 56% of the vote against Democrat Albert Pacer, who says he's running again in 2020. Pacer may not be the strongest Democratic candidate.
Republican Joyce Krawiec, District 31 -- Krawiec romped to reelection in 2018 with 61% of the vote against Democrat John Motsinger Jr. A stronger Democratic recruitee might make a race of it.

"Lean Republican"
Republican Rick Gunn, District 24 -- Gunn beat Democrat J.D. Wooten by just over 6,000 votes in 2018, and Wooten is already in the race for a rematch. 
Republican Danny Earl Britt, District 13 -- Won reelection in 2018 with 62.50% of the vote. He's probably unbeatable.
Republican Bob Steinburg, District 1 -- Steinburg beat Democrat D. Cole Phelps in 2018 with 53.21% of the vote to 46.75%. That's a hill that looks climbable to me.
Republican Tom McInnis, District 25 -- McInnis took 57% of the vote against Democrat Helen Probst Mills in 2018. Which was discouraging.
Republican Rick Edwards, District 48 -- Edwards took 56% of the vote against Norm Bossert in this Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania district in 2018.

What Are the Most Flippable NC House Districts for 2020?

Catawba College Political Scientist Michael Bitzer has obligingly produced the first analysis of possible partisan outcomes from the most recent court-ordered redistricting in North Carolina. He's a numbers guy, and his numbers give me the first glimpse into the 2020 crystal ball. Here's his criteria for labeling the new (and the old, unchanged) districts for the NC General Assembly:
Those districts with greater than 60 percent for one party: "likely" party district
Those districts with between 55 and 60 percent vote share for one party: "lean" party district
Those districts with between 50 and 55 percent vote share for one party: "competitive but favor one party" district
I'm using Bitzer's tally but only concentrating on the NC House districts today (will return in coming days to Bitzer's analysis of the Senate districts).

The Worrisome Republican Lean in Western North Carolina
Democrat Ray Russell (NC93) was in a "lean" Republican district when he was elected in 2018. He's still in a "lean" Republican district. Question in 2020 will be: Will it be leaning harder in 2020 than in 2018. Probably. It's going to take hard, on-the-ground work for the Russell campaign.

Same goes for Joe Sam Queen in the 119th (Haywood, Jackson, Swain).

One other Democrat -- former chief district court judge Scott Brewer in the 66th -- currently occupies a "lean" Republican seat (but it's down in the middle of the state -- Montgomery, Richmond, Stanley). Brewer was just appointed to the seat last May after a resignation, and he'll also have to muster the troops in 2020.

"Competitive But Democratic Favored"
The only Republican in such a district was Greg Murphy, who just won a seat in the US Congress (NC3) in a special election on September 10. So far the Republicans in Pitt County have not chosen an appointee to fill the District 9 seat. This will be a major pickup opportunity for Democrats next year, and with progressives still smarting there that Twitterman used an arena at East Carolina University to make "Send Her Back" infamous worldwide, we'd expect a healthy Democratic primary next March.

"Competitive But Republican Favored"
These districts will likely be in the eye of the 2020 storm. These are the "flippable" districts, six of them occupied currently by Republicans but four of them currently by Democrats.

The "flippable" Democrats first:
Sydney Batch, Dist. 37, who beat her Republican opponent in 2018 by 944 votes.
Christy Clark, Dist. 98, who beat her Republican opponent in 2018 by 415 votes.
Charles Graham, Dist. 47, who won in 2018 with almost 59% of the vote but whose district has been made more Republican obviously by the redraw. He's been in the NC House since the election of 2010.
Elmer Floyd, Dist. 43, who won in 2018 with a whopping 74% of the vote but whose district is now considerably more Republican.
The "flippable" Republicans:
Stephen M. Ross, Dist. 63, who beat Democrat Erica McAdoo by only 298 votes in 2018. McAdoo is already running again. 
John Szoka, Dist. 45, who easily beat Democrat Albiero Florez in 2018. 
Edward C. Goodwin, Dist. 1, who beat Democrat Ron Wesson 53% to 47%. 
Chris Humphrey, Dist. 12, who beat Democrat George Graham by a comfortable margin (56%). 
Jon Hardister, Dist. 59, who beat Democrat Steven Buccini with 56% of the vote. 
Debra Conrad, Dist. 74, who beat Democrat Terri LeGrand by a surprising 3,000 votes. 

If I were in the candidate recruitment business, I'd be looking especially hard in those last six House districts for a prime-time-ready Democrat who can raise money and generate enthusiasm.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

New NC House Map

You can view this House map more clearly here. The Senate map can be viewed in more detail here.

Most of the Western North Carolina House districts were unchanged, including the 93rd, except in and around Asheville.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

New NC Senate Map

The full impact of this new NC Senate district map will take some time to reveal itself.

Will note here that Senate District 7, in which Democrat Donna Lake is already a declared candidate, did not change. Neither did Deanna Ballard's 45th Senate District.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Donna Lake, Running for NC Senate, District 7

Democrat Donna Lake of Goldsboro announced her candidacy for the North Carolina Senate on July 29th. She's another of a distinct trend among new, insurgent Democratic candidates in the Age of Trump: A woman combat vet stepping forward to run in a forbidding new combat zone. Donna Lake is not only a retired USAF Colonel, with two Bronze Stars, holding a freakin' Ph.D. to boot in Health Care Management, but she's also a clinical nursing professor at the ECU College of Nursing where she says she's taught 450 students, not to mention another 85 faculty, in patient safety principles, leadership, and finance skills. Her expertise in health care management contributed to the awarding of a $5M grant to train and place "advanced practice registered nurses" into primary care facilities in Eastern North Carolina rural communities. A vital and motivating statistic for Donna Lake: Of the 41 Eastern NC counties combined, 28 (68.3%) have fewer than 5 primary care physicians per 10,000 residents. She wants to change that.
She lives in Goldsboro with her husband, a retired USAF pilot, where they raised their two grown children. 

Curiously (because of her experience in health care management), her website doesn't say a word about the importance of expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. In fact, her website dishes up mere pabulum on "issues" and nothing specific on pretty much anything. You'd certainly expect more sinew -- political protein -- from an Air Force combat veteran twice decorated "for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone" (what a Bronze Star represents).

Senate District 7
Don't know for sure, but I doubt NC Senate District 7 -- Wayne and Lenoir counties -- will be changed by the most recent round of court-ordered redistricting. (It was already significantly redrawn just prior to the 2018 elections into its present Lenoir plus Wayne configuration. Any more redrawing this year would seem just plain cruel.) 

The 7th contains the urban and semi-urban municipalities of Goldsboro and Kinston, and embraces the sprawling Seymour Johnson Air Force Base as well. The district used to be racially gerrymandered like a writhing Chinese dragon through three different counties. It's compact now and at least numerically on paper it ought to be a pickup opportunity for Democrats.

Partisan Voter Registration for Wayne and Lenoir Counties (NCS7):
Democrats 47,934
Republicans 32,411
Unaffiliated 26,290
Democrats should be able to win Senate District 7, especially with grandfatherly Louis Pate gone from the picture. Pate had been the 5-term Republican incumbent who won the redrawn, more heavily Democratic district in 2018 and retired in January. Pate lucked out last year when the recruited Democratic candidate Barbara D'Antonio withdrew after the primary, and was replaced late (in August) by a perfectly nice retired District Court Judge David Brantley, who even coming into the race late and being perfectly nice, got 46% of the vote against Pate. Can a strong Democratic woman flip the district in 2020?

The Current Republican Incumbent
Jim Perry from Kinston, a retired rep for the dental industry, CEO of a "Dental Service Org with 240 locations in 40 states and over 2,500 employees," and personnel consultant for the Acute Care Industry, was appointed to Louis Pate's seat last January. We frankly wouldn't expect a senator with that business background -- very much on the corporate end of health care -- to come out for expanding Medicaid to poor people.

What he has been a big supporter of in his few months in the Senate is House Bill 370 -- a law that would force county sheriffs in North Carolina to do the work of ICE agents, with specific provisions to make sheriffs subject to removal from office for refusing to help ICE -- the bill which Governor Cooper vetoed on August 21 with the following statement:
"This legislation is simply about scoring partisan political points and using fear to divide North Carolina. As the former top law enforcement officer of our state, I know that current law allows the state to jail and prosecute dangerous criminals regardless of immigration status. This bill, in addition to being unconstitutional, weakens law enforcement in North Carolina by mandating sheriffs to do the job of federal agents, using local resources that could hurt their ability to protect their counties."
If you need any further evidence of the psychic headspace occupied by Senator Perry, he's been heartily endorsed by Lieutenant Governor (and governor candidate aborning) Dan Forest. And why not? They were obviously separated at birth.

Jim Perry, left, and Dan Forest, right

Friday, September 13, 2019

This Friday the Thirteenth Might Be the Unluckiest Day for Jerry Falwell Jr.

Jerry Falwell Jr. with his behavioral model.
Photo by Shealah Craighead/Wikimedia Commons

What's happening up at Liberty University today in Virginia? A student protest, that's what. Organizers are saying that if even 60 students show up, it'll be a massive show of resistance to a school president increasingly exposed for evident corruption of Christian principles, a kind of religious strong-man who has ruthlessly suppressed dissent on his campus in the past.

The students are reacting to a blistering investigative piece published by Politico on Monday of this week. That, plus what has been passed around on campus in the form of hot rumors for years about Falwell's behavior (including sexual pole-vaulting and authoritarianism). The students organizing today's protest "have seen a shift in the student body against Falwell that hasn’t been seen in the school’s recent history. 'The mood is changing from "We wish Jerry would keep quiet" to "We wish we had better representation for our school,' " [one of the student leaders] said. 'Jerry doesn’t have our best interests at heart. He doesn’t share Liberty’s mission statement to train champions for Christ.' ”

The article about the protest published by the Religion News Service prompted me to go back and find the Politico article that sparked it, and it's a doozie:

More than two dozen current and former high-ranking Liberty University officials and close associates of Falwell ... don’t think he’s the right man to lead Liberty University or serve as a figurehead in the Christian conservative movement....
...they depicted how Falwell and his wife, Becki, consolidated power at Liberty University and how Falwell presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell’s decision to hire his son Trey’s company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell’s advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell’s awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends.
“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”
My concern now shifts to Falwell's local Gestapo -- the Liberty University Police. Will they shut down the student protest? How many will show up and be brave? We'll be looking for news about this during the rest of today and into tomorrow.

Footnote: One of the best things about the Religion News article is that it was written by Will Young, the former student editor of the Liberty University newspaper whom Falwell censored. We wrote about Will back in July -- "Surviving Liberty University (and finding liberty)."

Look like more than 60 students to you?

NC Still in the Wilderness Over Potentially Unsafe Electronic Voting Equipment

A new letter addressed this week to the NC State Board of Elections (SBOE) from electronic voting machine experts and fair voting advocates charges that in its certification of new machinery for NC elections -- the vote on August 23rd when new SBOE Chair Damon Circosta voted with the Republicans -- the SBOE violated North Carolina law. "The law requires a security review of the source code of all voting systems before they are certified for use in the state." According to the experts, no security review of source code was conducted. According to Carolina Public Press,
The experts in question, including Duncan Buell, a professor of computer science at the University of South Carolina, reviewed testing documentation from the state and from the federal government.
“You read all of that, and it’s clear,” Buell said. “There was no source code review conducted. That would certainly seem to suggest that things are not in accordance with North Carolina law.” 
The law details an extensive list of components to be reviewed, including “application vulnerability, application code, wireless security, security policy and processes … security organization and governance, and operational effectiveness.”
Just last week, on September 5, SBOE member Stella Anderson got Circosta to vote with her to demand that SBOE staff produce any documentation of source code review. The SBOE next meets on October 1, and Carolina Public Press reports that SBOE staff is striving to supply the information requested in Anderson's September 5 motion. That's "too long to wait," claimed the computer experts who wrote the most recent letter:
In order for counties to buy the new equipment, each county’s board of elections needs to attend a demonstration of the voting systems, recommend one to their county commissioners for purchase, test that system in the October or November elections, then purchase and deploy them by the March 2020 primaries. 
Counties are moving quickly to enter into multimillion-dollar contracts to purchase this equipment. 
“What the state board is doing is irresponsible in letting these counties proceed as if they are going to go to contract and not letting them know that there is a serious black cloud over the certification,” [Marilyn] Marks [Coalition for Good Government] said.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

What We Lefties Want -- Only "The Last American Hero"

Raleigh News and Observer
The Blue Wave of 2018 in North Carolina was Christmas morning all over again. The lust for the ballot among Democrats and liberal-minded independents beat anything I've seen in a while. Yes, 2006 was an enthusiastic year too. So was 1990, with Harvey Gantt on the ballot against Jesse Helms. And 2008. But since 2008? Not so much … until Donald J. Trump became president. In 2018 we nailed a decade "high." The Gospel Truth: That Democratic surge must last through 2020, and any sign of waning enthusiasm, any slight drying up of the Democratic sap, worries the everlasting daylights out of me.

I've heard or read, "Oh, the Blue Wave of 2018 played itself out, and Democratic enthusiasm for new elections and new candidates ain't what it used to be. And besides that, the Party's split between Biden conservatives and Bernie socialists, and they'll never reconcile. If the socialists gain the upper hand, you can kiss your 200-year-old Party goodbye." 

You hear that in the mainstream press -- prophets and prognosticators trying to divine public moods. I actually agree with some of it, the potential for a split in the Party, but I still warm my fingers and toes at the smoldering fire, the group vow to defend democracy in this critical hour -- resist with everything we've got both the bunch running DeeCee and the bunch running Raleigh, no matter the hap. That lighter-knot of a hot coal is just waiting for some air.

The Dan McCready loss in the 9th CD special election wasn't a sign of Democratic dehydration to me. Oh, Democrats stayed home in droves, yes. Robeson County, majority Democrat by a wide margin, didn't turn out for McCready. That was the case in other counties. Would they have caught fire if the candidate wasn’t shy to strike sparks on the flintstone? Would they have turned out for a more progressive fighter? Would they have churned at the polls for the North Carolina version of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

There's a whole wing of Democratic campaign operatives who preach moderation. Don't get too far out on any liberal limb because the Republicans will go apeshit and call you a "socialist" and cause moderate, rural Dems to turn away from you as a threat to their very way of life. Because they're capable of believing your average con artist.

Here's my beef with that version of reality: They're gonna label you, dear ole Democrat, no matter whether you fight on principle or not. And depending on the candidate, moderation becomes mildness, which projects weakness. Even in an ex-Marine. In his gingerly handling of issues big to Democrats, McCready always seemed to be dodging imaginary bullets. Nice guy. With nice-guy flexibility. 

I'm sorry it's happened, but the Trump model of bullying masculinity -- authoritarianism -- has demanded a manly and O make no mistake, womanly fortitude to resist, to take down the bully on the playground to save the littler kids. That's what Democrats want right now in a candidate for public office. And so do "soft" Republicans currently nauseous at the sight of Trump.

Here's what I've been leading up to…

Just when we might fall to worrying that Democratic enthusiasm is fading, the Republican bosses in Raleigh, the Moore-Berger duopoly, pull a breathtaking stunt that is so nakedly dishonest and unfair that it wakes thousands in an instant, reminds them what they're fighting for, and what against, and calls them to the ramparts to preserve any last vestige of honesty, fair-dealing, respect, a sense of ethics, any streak of humanity still remaining in the administration of our state's legislative body.

Progressives who've grown silent since 2018 are suddenly talking, shouting, on social media and in social gatherings. They're excited by a Deb Butler in the House, who became the instant Town Crier on alert yesterday morning, and got loud and stood in Speaker Tim Moore's metaphorical face. That's what we want to see. That's what we need, incidentally, in a U.S. senatorial candidate.

Ironically for the Republican bosses, the sneak vote on overriding the Governor's veto of the budget was the wind we needed to blow the smoldering coal back into life. When have the Republicans ever accurately calculated the public reaction to one of their power-grabs?

I am fully aware that the Blue Wave of paragraph one became the smoldering fire of paragraph three -- only to prove, O My Brethren, that I can miraculously combine fire and water.

Statement from Rep. Ray Russell on the Core Dishonesty of Republicans in the NCGA

House Republican leaders intentionally deceived House Democrats, the press, and the public about a session held at 8:30 AM, September 11, 2019, and they rammed a vote on the state budget through the House.

At the end of a non-voting session Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee Chairman Lewis, who presided over the session, told Minority Leader Jackson that no votes would be taken in the 8:30 AM session Wednesday. The Minority Leader communicated this information to House Democrats via email.

Rep. Lewis also texted reporters that there would be no votes in the 8:30 AM session Wednesday. (Copies of the text have circulated widely in news reports and social media.) I presume the purpose was to keep reporters from being on the floor to cover what would happen.

To add context, the House has scheduled scores of “No Vote Sessions” since January. This is normal operating procedure to dispense with parliamentary procedures that do not require the presence of members.

Wednesday morning, 55 Republicans arrived along with only a handful of Democrats (who were there only because of 9 AM Finance Committee Meeting). The House Speaker rammed through a vote on two veto overrides in minutes, including the state budget. He refused to allow any Democrats to speak on the bill (which would have given time for most Democrats to arrive). A video of what happened is available on social media. [Click here for the video]

The veto override passed on a 55-9 vote—64 of the 120 members being present.

House Democrats have been incredibly vigilant in being on the floor and ready to vote on every occasion a voting session was called. Members have been there in spite of surgery, cancer treatments, family crises; they have missed vacations, family time, you name it. House Democrats have been here. Personally, I had NOT MISSED EVEN ONE VOTE since January until today when this deceptive vote was taken.

The two most contentious items have been House Bill 966 (the committee report on the state budget vetoed by Governor Cooper) and House Bill 655 (Medicaid Expansion). Both of these bills have been on the House Calendar since July 8. House Democrats have hung together tenaciously in favor of Governor Cooper’s compromise proposal. Neither vote has ever been called … until 8:30 AM, September 11, 2019.

In spite of intense pressure, House Democrats have held strong. The Budget impasse was mostly over five issues: Democrats favor covering over 500,000 North Carolinians with health care coverage, better pay for teachers and other state employees, better school facilities, more funding for public infrastructure projects, and adequate funding for the NC Division of Health and Human Services.

House Democrats could not be beaten in a fair, honorable process. Instead, House Republicans resorted to a level of deception unprecedented in NC History.

So the veto override goes to the NC Senate. NC Senate Democrats are committed to the same principles as House Democrats and will take up the cause.

Who loses because of today’s deceit? Democracy lost. The institution of the House of NC lost. Integrity lost. Honor lost. Honesty lost. But more importantly … people in the Medicaid Gap lost. Children lost. Teachers lost. Most state employees lost. Schools lost. Communities lost. And finally North Carolina lost in that House “Leadership” stooped to a new low get their way.

Remember, House Democrats received over 51% of the vote statewide in 2018. These 65 Republican are in control in spite of getting a minority of North Carolinians’ votes.

On what was supposed to be a Day of Remembrance, the actions of House Republicans dishonored the day and every person who has sacrificed for freedom and democracy. Their action was a sneak attack, dishonest at its core, and not worthy of the people of North Carolina.

North Carolinians deserve better.  As your representative, I will continue to work for a better state and a better House of Representatives.