Friday, December 01, 2023

Self-Sacrifice in the 11th Congressional District


Caleb Rudow

Democrat Caleb Rudow, NC House member from Asheville serving his first full term in the General Assembly, has announced that he'll step down from his super-safe District 116 seat to challenge Rep. Chuck Edwards, the Republican who just last year ousted Madison Cawthorn in Congressional District 11.

Rudow grew up in Buncombe and after high school attended and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in philosophy (yes, there can be life after philosophy), because he was intending to become a rabbi. Instead, he went to the Peace Corps and served in Zambia. Building additional steam for turning his eleemosynary instincts and good heart toward public policy, Rudow did graduate work at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin.

After House Rep. Susan Fisher announced her retirement and stepped down early at the end of 2021, Rudow made it known to Democratic activists in Asheville that he was a candidate for finishing out her term. It was an opportunity, Rudow believed, to put public service together with his best intentions for bettering the lives of people. The Democratic leaders were impressed enough with him to recommend him to Gov. Cooper, who did the appointment in February 2022. Rudow easily won election in his own right that fall.

No one -- including Rudow himself -- thinks he has anywhere approaching even odds to win the 11th Congressional District. After the most recent Republican gerrymander, it's 56% Republican. So he's sacrificing himself for the sake of keeping progressivism alive in a region with growing, vibrant, progressive cities and towns, and rural neighborhoods fuller of out-of-state transplants who think differently.

“I’ve really felt called to work in service my whole life, and this next election is a really historic moment,” Rudow said. Ever since the election of 2016, Rudow said he's been concerned with ministering to "the meanness" lose everywhere in America, not just in politics (but particularly in politics). Meanness certainly comes as a side with the sandwich that Rep. Chuck Edwards serves in Congress (he happens to be "a sandwich vendor" with a string of McDonalds) -- his attempted punishment of the Eastern Band (see below), his indifference trending toward inaction on the shutting down of the Canton paper mill -- the loss of jobs, the economic and psychological wreckage left by a predatory industry -- and his curious deafness to the humans caught in the opioid crisis. 

Edwards' meanness extends very noticeably to the media covering him, especially his animus toward the Smoky Mountain News (SMN), in particular reporter Cory Vaillancourt, who is one of the best political reporters working in the state and whose persistent questioning of Edwards Edwards hasn't much liked. He banned -- cut off -- SMN as a news source, refused to answer or even respond to any question posed by it (detailed below).


If Chuck Edwards isn't currently the worst member of the NC delegation in Congress, he's at least a runner-up. His big legislative achievement of 2023 was the introduction of the Stop Pot Act, an attempt to punish the Eastern Band of Cherokees for voting to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Cory Vaillancourt generously gathered up the rest of Edwards' record:

During his 2022 campaign, Edwards failed to show for a debate hosted by The Smoky Mountain News [SMN] and Blue Ridge Public Radio after criticizing Cawthorn’s debate no-shows, opting instead to appear only on a corporate-owned right-leaning television network with whom he’d spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising....

In January, Edwards hired Macon County activist/journalist Brittney Lofthouse as an aide, but fired her in short order after complaints from his constituents about her support for the LGBTQ+ community.

In February, SMN informed Edwards of trouble at the Pactiv Evergreen paper mill in Canton, when one of the mill’s four machines was idled by management. Edwards refused to interview with SMN at the time. A month later, the mill announced it would shut down completely, and Edwards refused to tell SMN what, if anything, he’d done in the meantime to prevent the loss of around 1,000 good-paying union jobs.

In March, when decades of inaction by Congress to adequately fund the National Park maintenance backlog resulted in the implementation of a parking fee at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Edwards refused to interview with SMN about what, if anything, he’d done to prevent the cost from being passed on to visitors.

In April, when the “Back off Our Benefits” tour rolled into Asheville and asked Edwards to pledge to protect Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and veterans’ benefits, Edwards ignored them, just as he’d done the previous October.

At a town hall focusing on the impact of the Canton mill closing in June, Edwards again refused to answer questions posed by SMN about what, if anything, he’d done to save the mill after being informed of the situation by SMN a month before the closing was announced. Instead, Edwards responded by saying he’d only speak with media outlets that give him favorable coverage.

“I really reserve the right to respond to those media outlets that I’ve been able to build good relationships with that have reported the news fairly,” Edwards said at the time, without citing any examples of unfair reporting. “I didn’t respond to that question and I’m not gonna respond to this.”

At that same meeting, Edwards heard criticism from constituents when, in response to a question about how Buncombe County could help with the impact of the mill’s closing, Edwards ridiculed Asheville’s problems and refused help....

In September, Edwards threatened to withhold federal highway funding from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, a sovereign tribal government, after voters there decided to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Some, including SMN, decried Edwards’ meddling in tribal affairs. Also in September, Edwards sent a field representative to Murphy to present an award to a fringe law enforcement group that has ties to white supremacy, espouses COVID-19 conspiracy theories, embraces election denialism and advocates the thoroughly debunked “sovereign sheriff” movement....


Thursday, November 30, 2023

Cooper v. Berger Being Heard Today

The three-judge panel appointed by NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby to hear Governor Roy Cooper's "facial" constitutional challenge of S749 (e.g., "On the face of it, this law violates the constitution of North Carolina"). S749 was the sweeping bill which completely reorganized the administration of elections in North Carolina, ultimately enacted over Cooper's veto. Cooper is claiming the bill is a constitutional breach of the separation of powers and ultimately aims at nothing less than reducing drastically the access to early voting in some (many?) counties because 4-4 county boards of election are almost guaranteed to deadlock, and the existing law sez that when there's no majority on a 4-4 board, then all early voting in that county reverts to the local Board of Elections office and no place else (O my brethren!). The case was scheduled for a first hearing this morning in the Wake County Courthouse.

Carolina Journal reported the names and affiliations of the three judges that Newby picked: Superior Court Judges Edwin Wilson, Lori Hamilton, and Andrew Womble. Wilson is the lone Democrat, appointed by Roy Cooper. Hamilton and Womble are Republicans, and I suspect Newby knows their temperament (if not their temperature) and chose accordingly.

What are the odds for Cooper? Considering that the end-all and be-all of this case, no matter what the 3-judge panel decides, will be Paul Newby Hisownself and the current other four member of the Supreme Court clatch, I ain't holding my breath. The Republicans have bent themselves silly to constantly grab more power, and where they can't just outright bar certain people from voting, they'll make the very administration of voting -- especially early voting -- completely broken. It's American carnage all right.


You could have knocked me over with a dandelion head, but the 3-judge panel ruled unanimously that they sure nuf would like to have a trial over whether S749 violates Governor Cooper's constitutional rights (separation of powers), and in the blessed meantime, here's a temporary injunction on implementation of replacing all boards of elections in every county with boards made up of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats (the newest Republican scheme to put a curse on voting). With the injunction, the current administration of elections in North Carolina stays the same, which tilts all boards one vote toward the Party of the Governor. Looks like the 3-2 Democratic majority on county boards will remain in place through next March's primary.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

We Need To Leave Mark Robinson Alone Until March 6th


Y'all, we need to lay off attacking Mark Robinson. If he makes it through the March 5th Republican primary for governor, he'll offer Democrats their best shot of winning that race. He's a parade float, full of hot air just begging for a puncture, and ... WHAT DID I JUST SAY ABOUT NOT ATTACKING MARK ROBINSON?!?!

Salisbury lawyer Bill Graham, the major threat to Robinson on the Republican side, entered the primary race in October and two weeks later polled at 5%, treated by the press as a number worth noticing, considering that another Republican in the race, Treasurer Dale Folwell, has been a candidate for many months and can't crack 3%. Presumably, Graham shot into (distant) contention because he gave the Republican white base what it most craves, visions of cruelty and force. Graham's very first TV ad, launched immediately after his announcement, played on Republican fantasy fears of urban "coloreds" with clips of gunfights in the streets, a smash-and-grab burglary, a graphic clip of a convenience store shooting. Then cut to Bill Graham who promises, “As governor, I’ll put them in jail or put them in the ground.” 

Yee-haw! The unchained melody! (But that's not policy. It's posturing. A 12-year-old could see through it. Graham's chief campaign advisors are establishment Republican operatives, prone to talk the talk -- you betcha! -- but ultimately wise enough not to walk the talk. Trump, of course, was never an establishment Republican, so we can expect that we'll get the worst of what his talk is all about.)

Graham has on staff some of the brightest lights from the Thom Tillis constellation, principally Paul Shumaker as chief strategist. Shumaker has speculated out loud that Robinson's "negatives" mean he can't win the governor race, but Shumaker simply had to go dark and violent in that first TV ad just to get the attention of Republican voters who need to have their fears and prejudices confirmed constantly and directly. I'm waiting to see how Shumaker will also go negative on The Parade Float. Will he prick that thin skin and let the air out? It's possible. But so long as Trump continues to be the runaway favorite in the presidential primary in North Carolina, Mark Robinson as a novel Black fellow-traveler for Trump's planned takeover will probably benefit.

But we're watching Graham. Don't know what his ground game looks like -- if there is a ground game -- but so far he seems dedicated to pumping big money into TV ads that promote fear above everything else. The last I've seen features Graham declaring that he'll stop "Chinese infiltration" of North Carolina, language meant to send a shudder (and which echoes, just incidentally, trumpist contempt for foreigners. Hell! Shumaker's whole media pitch for Graham goes straight for the trumpist trope of "carnage" in America ).

Paul Shumaker has said in an interview that the Graham campaign will be staying completely away from abortion. The official line has become, "We're very satisfied with the heroic work of the General Assembly in grinding down abortion rights to the first 12 weeks." (Robinson, meanwhile, has said he'd ban it outright and tee-totally, or at the very least he'd settle for a 6-week "heartbeat" ban.) 

Shumaker has promised that he'll be taking a short break from all the fear and loathing contained in those first two ads (ad No.1 can be seen here). Graham's next will be on reducing taxes (lol! How predictable and how boring!). But I'm waiting for the contrast Shumaker's going to draw between Bill Graham and Mark Robinson. Could it be on abortion? I sure as hell hope not, just to preserve that soft Robinson underside for the eventual darts of the Democratic candidate.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The NC Senate District That Prompted a Lawsuit


The newly gerrymandered Senate District 2 stretches more than 160 miles from the Virginia border to Carteret County on the Atlantic Ocean. It descends diagonally southeastward from Warren County, then protrudes, like a hitchhiker's thumb, northward encompassing Washington and Chowan counties, then dips back down towards the coast.

That map "cracks" Black majority counties to give white Republicans the majority, which a Federal lawsuit alleges violates the Voting Rights Act.

Attorneys for the two North Carolina Black plaintiffs bringing the suit (from Halifax and Martin counties, respectively) also filed a motion to expedite proceedings, asking the court to finish arguments and decide on a motion for a preliminary injunction by Dec. 1 — three days before candidate filing begins.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Gov. Cooper Attacks the NC Chamber of Commerce for Racial Bias

Gary Salamido

Last Friday, November 17, Gov. Roy Cooper wrote a letter to Gary Salamido, president and CEO of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce. Reporter Billy Corriher got his hands on a PDF of that letter and linked to it on Twitter. 

In the letter the Governor acknowledges the role the Chamber has in influencing both the General Assembly and the Governor's office about acceptable candidates for certain judicial and quasi-judicial jobs, like Business Court judges, industrial commissioners, and members of the Board of Review. 

The letter reveals more about the influence the Chamber has on the Republican bosses in the G.A. The bosses have already passed laws giving themselves the power of confirmation over the jobs listed above. It's simple dominoes. The bosses have power, but the Chamber has power over the bosses, because the Chamber represents money, and money wins elections.

The Governor details one example of the Chamber's veto, the case of the failed appointment of a Black woman to Business Court who's an ex-JAG officer in the Air Force and an Unaffiliated voter. "She is a partner at one of the largest law firms in the United States, where she represents corporate clients in product liability claims, complex civil litigation and environmental litigation." This is the sort of talent Cooper is saying the Chamber vetoes because she's Black.

It's kind of a bombshell letter.

Naturally, Mr. Salamido did not like the letter, mainly, he says, because Cooper released it to the media before he himself received it. Salamido called the letter “malevolent and libelous.”

Monday, November 20, 2023

The End of Democracy


Hannah Knowles reported on the November 19 Republican Presidential Debate and on what followed the very next day as "counter-programming":

...Trump swooped into Iowa for his own event — where he lobbed insults, made crude references and casually tossed out claims designed to belittle his opponents and critics in vicious terms

Children wandered around in shirts and hats with the letters “FJB,” an abbreviation for an obscene jab at President Biden that other merchandise spelled out: “F--- Biden.”

During his speech inside a high school gym in Fort Dodge, former president Trump called one GOP rival a “son of a b----,” referred to another as “birdbrain” and had the crowd shrieking with laughter at his comments on Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who he called “pencil neck” before asking, “How does he hold up that fat, ugly face?” He brought the house down while mocking Biden, at one point baselessly suggesting Biden is using drugs and can’t get offstage “by the time whatever it is he’s taken wears off.”

...outside the packed venue, vulgar slogans about Biden and Vice President Harris were splashed across T-shirts: “Biden Loves Minors.” “Joe and the Ho Gotta Go!” One referred to Biden and Harris performing sexual acts.

 Trump’s coarseness and cruelty have come to define the Republican Party since his rise to the presidency — and many GOP voters relish and emulate the approach, while others tolerate it.

If that person is put back in that chair, he will be a dictator, cruel and vindictive. He's assembling his army. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Checking In on Mark Robinson's Main Republican Primary Challenger


Bill Graham, the Salisbury personal injury lawyer who once upon a time ran for governor in the Republican primary with Pat McCrory (polled at 9% to McCrory's 46%), got recruited this year by some establishment Republicans to challenge blowfish Mark Robinson in next March's Republican primary for governor. Graham is supposed to be the great white hope for more mainstream NC conservatives who fear Mark Robinson's chances of crashing on the rocks of his own extremism. Graham announced his candidacy less than a month ago, so it's an obligation to check in on him from time to time to see how he's doing. 

A Meredith College poll of some 755 voters -- 44% of whom said they would vote a Republican ballot next March -- published these preferences for governor yesterday:

Mark Robinson 41%

Bill Graham 5%

Dale Folwell 3%

A whopping 42% were "undecided." Graham has apparently targeted those undecideds with a scare tactic TV ad, "VIOLENCE IN OUR STREETS!" which one observer justifiably called "racist as fuck." In the ad, Graham says about "violent criminals" that he'll "put them in jail or in the ground." (Bet he was very tickled by that line.) But it's pure trumpist tough-guy posturing and smacks of white supremacy, which no doubt will be reassuring to your country club and truck cab Republicans who make up that 42% undecided. Mean and cruel at heart are apparently requirements in successful Republican primary candidates.

Monday, November 13, 2023

We'd Like To See More "Irish" in Biden


The point is to be more aggressive and show some imagination. [The Biden team] have the daring — Biden just stood on a Michigan picket line in a union cap! But there’s so many more ways to lean in.
--Jonathan Martin, in Politico


Jonathan Martin's long opinion piece, "Here's How Biden Can Turn It Around," in Politico rings a few bells -- some heavy dolesome and some tinkling bright -- and is well worth the read. Full of hard truths and good politics -- specific suggestions about where Biden needs to go and what he needs to stage and how he needs to deal with Hunter's whole mythology and his own mythic age, and what to do with "Bidenomics" (the consensus is "trash it in the nearest dumpster").

I found the following suggestion particularly hilarious, considering I haven't forgiven Rahm Emanuel for how he treated Howard Dean:

The president should call [Rahm] Emanuel [US Ambassador to Japan] back stateside and have him chair the reelection. Doing so would demonstrate a willingness by Biden to broaden his inner circle, create a manic urgency in the campaign that is Emanuel’s trademark and, by elevating one of the most ferocious operatives of our times, signal that when Trump goes low the Democrats will go fucking lower.

I like the spirit of that. 

.     .     .     .

Title above refers to a slang phrase that was popular where I grew up: "Get one's Irish up." 


    cause one to become angry.
    "if someone tries to make me do something I don't want to do, it gets my Irish up"

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Florida, Going Like Ohio?

Buoyed by last Tuesday's ballot initiative in Ohio which added abortion rights to the state's constitution, the Florida movement to get an abortion rights ballot initiative on their ballot has only until February 1st to gather another 400,000 valid signatures to make the deadline. If they make that deadline, and if a proposed constitutional amendment actually gets on the ballot in Florida, the new amendment would read in part, “No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s health care provider.”

The Florida abortion rights initiative has already gathered 500,000 verified signatures, and its fundraising has soared since last Tuesday (money used to pay petition-gatherers), as Florida women continue to react to the new 6-week abortion ban signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis and realize that they too might turn around their state with a citizen-generated movement to restore and preserve women's freedom.

The Florida initiative faces huge odds -- not just those additional 400,000 signatures. The conservative Florida Supreme Court must approve the ballot language, and Florida's Republican attorney general has  already announced a court challenge to the measure, alleging that the language is too broad, vague, and misleading. Plus ultimate passage of a citizen ballot initiative requires 60 percent of the vote. Some 57 percent of Ohio voters approved their amendment.

But if this thing actually makes it to next year's ballot, watch out! (Which reminds me that the state of North Carolina doesn't allow citizen-generated ballot initiatives -- and we ought to make a political movement out of that prohibition -- and also denies home rule to local municipalities and through "local bills" can meddle in any local issue they please, to the benefit of whom they please.)