Thursday, July 18, 2019

Tarheel Fantasia: The President Preaches Unity and Reconciliation

GREENVILLE, N.C. — President Donald J. Trump held a campaign rally last night where the crowd responded to his calls for unity and reconciliation with chants of “We're all one! We're all one!”

The crowd’s response to the president echoed the remarks he has aimed in recent days at white supremacists for making hateful comments about four US Congresswomen of color, particularly one of them, Congresswoman and naturalized citizen Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, setting off a controversy that led the Democrat-controlled House to vote to formally praise the president for trying to restore civility to public discourse.

The rally here on the campus of East Carolina State University made clear that the president plans to use his Christian witness for spreading the compassion of Christ and preaching national unity as a rallying cry during his 2020 campaign as he seeks to frame the election around a sense of national healing from racial animus. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

We Have Our Own Roy Moore in North Carolina

Judge Paul Newby,
a partisan Republican
Some Supreme Court justices in some Southern states swing high and swing wide. Roy Moore as chief justice of the Alabama Supremes decided he was God's gift, defied a federal court's order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments in the state's judiciary building that he placed there because God told him to and then defied the US Supreme Court over same-sex marriage. Because when you have the One True Truth, you don't have to follow the law.

He was legally removed from the Supreme Court of Alabama. He's been in a political snit ever since, running (unsuccessfully) in a US Senate special election last year. He says he'll run again in 2020. He'll run until God Almighty puts him where he knows he deserves to be, in the marble halls of the US Senate.

North Carolina Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Paul Newby is also in a snit ever since Governor Roy Cooper did not appoint him Chief Justice, appointing a black woman in Cheri Beasley instead. Now, through the hilariously inept machinations of Phil Berger and the Republican majority in the General Assembly, Newby is the last remaining Republican on the seven-member state Supreme Court, and boy, is he ever pissed.

He made a campaign speech last Saturday in which he dissed all six of his fellow justices, comparing them to the current Democratic demon-du-jour, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), especially Anita Earls who was elected to the court in last fall's campaign. "Imagine seven 'AOCs' on the state Supreme Court," Newby told the Republican crowd. "Well, folks, we got six," he said to laughs. "It's six to one."

So Newby is running against Chief Justice Cheri Beasley in next year's election. He has the One True Truth behind him, and all those brown women are not going to stop him from bringing Republican partisanship to the high court.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Trial in NC House and Senate Gerrymandering Case Underway in Raleigh

Yesterday was the first day of what is expected to be a two-week trial of Common Cause v. Lewis, the suit alleging excessive partisan gerrymandering of General Assembly seats. The trial is taking place at the Campbell School of Law in Raleigh before a three-judge panel of Paul Ridgeway from Wake County, Joseph N. Crosswhite who serves Alexander and Iredell counties, and Alma C. Hinton from Halifax.

Will Doran has the most comprehensive report (that I've seen) on yesterday's testimony and argument.

This trial is our last shot at fair House and Senate districts for the 2020 elections.

Whatever decision the three judges reach, the case will no doubt go on appeal to the NC Supreme Court.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Is Mack Paul Considering Another Run for NC Senate in District 18?

Well, he should consider it. He hasn't made any public pronouncements about running again -- at least not that we can discover -- but he would be well positioned to capitalize on his name recognition from the 2018 race.

Mack Paul had the closest loss of any Democrat running for any NC Senate seat in 2018, losing to incumbent Republican John Alexander by 2,639 votes out of 103,804 total votes cast, the highest turnout for all NC Senate races. District 18, weirdly gerrymandered into downtown Raleigh but taking in mainly northern Wake County (and the town of Wake Forest) and all of much more rural Franklin County, was considered "lean Republican" in 2018, which means that Mack Paul did exceptionally well in that election.

Mack Paul
Paul is a real estate lawyer (Columbia University School of Law), a founding partner of Morningstar Law Group, and a past chair of the Wake County Democratic Party. As Democratic Party chair in 2011, Paul was very active in helping elect progressive members of the Wake County School Board which had been taken over by extremely conservative Republicans in 2009. The Republicans had dumped the longstanding diversity policy which the newly elected Democrats began restoring.

Republican John Alexander was first elected in 2014 in Senate District 15 by a very narrow margin (50.4% v. 49.6%), won reelection with just 50.01% in 2016, got double-bunked in 2018 with another Republican (who decided to retire) into District 18, and managed to hold onto a senate seat against a strong tide running in Mack Paul's direction. With Trumpism turning to wormwood and gall in that part of North Carolina, John Alexander looks ever more ripe for the plucking in 2020.

Just heard that Christine Kushner, who won a seat on the Wake School Board in that 2011 race, will be running for this Senate seat in District 18. She'll be a strong candidate. I'm told that Kushner is "very squared away. Also can raise money."


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dan Besse Running Again for NC House in Forsyth County

Many of the Democratic rising stars who made good showings but still lost in 2018 laid the groundwork for coming out stronger, wiser, more organized, and better funded in the 2020 races ahead of us. I'm talking here specifically about the outstanding army of progressives who rattled the doors on the NC General Assembly last year and are back already for 2020.

Dan Besse, on the right
Our friend Dan Besse came within 2,000 votes of beating incumbent Republican Donny Lambeth in NC House District 75. The 75th is entirely inside Forsyth County and largely suburban. It creeps along Forsyth County’s southern border with Davidson County, from Kernersville in the east to Clemmons in the west, with a finger reaching into southwest Winston-Salem, including the Ardmore neighborhood.

Dan is an attorney, a graduate of UNC Law School, and a five-term member of the Winston-Salem city council.  He's made good (and alternative) transportation a special focus of his terms in office, including safe streets, good public transit, and a growing network of safe biking and pedestrian paths, greenways, and sidewalks. (Dan takes full advantage of those paths, greenways, and sidewalks because he's a pretty damn impressive athlete, competing in bike rides and foot races in that Forsyth County heat). He also represents Winston-Salem in leadership roles on the urban area Transportation Advisory Committee, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, and the National League of Cities. I contributed to Dan's campaign in 2018 and have again for the 2020 contest.

In his law practice, Dan has sought out cases dealing with environmental law and public health, clean energy and utilities, and fair employment, housing, and health care access for working families. He has taught classes in environmental law and policy, and in government, at colleges from N.C State University to Winston-Salem State University and Forsyth Technical Community College.

So ... no surprise he recently posted this on his Facebook page:
I focus a lot of attention on the need to change some of the most egregious failures of this Republican-led legislature: its refusal to close the health care coverage gap or protect coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions; its disrespect for our teachers and failure to pay them what they deserve or fund a good public education for every child; its outrageous attacks on voting rights, civil rights, and human rights.
But there's another Republican legislative failure that is hurting the health of our people today and jeopardizing our future: its rollbacks of clean air and water protections, its refusal to make polluters pay to clean up their messes, its baffling attacks on clean energy development, and its willful ignorance in the face of impending climate disaster.
I've spent much of my public service career working to cut pollution and protect public health and our natural environment. I understand in detail just how much damage this legislature is doing to us all now, and to the prospects for a good future for our children and grandchildren. And I understand how to go about repairing that damage and getting our state back on track as a leader in clean energy and a clean environment.

Donny Lambeth
Meanwhile, incumbent Donny Lambeth won his seat in 2012 with people suggesting he'd be a "moderate." Whatever that word meant when applied to Republican office-holders pre-Trump, it's become something of a joke now. (To Trump, a "moderate" is a limp dick.) But, really, moderate? Lambeth recently tried to wipe out Dan Besse, his 2018 election opponent, as a Winston-Salem city councilman in a "local bill" to redistrict the council seats, double-bunking Dan with a Republican member, while also incidentally punishing the four African-American women on the council. That proposed redistricting bill produced a fire storm, and Lambeth quickly withdrew it.

Even more recently Lambeth played a more obvious "moderate card" as chief sponsor of an (ultimately doomed?) Republican-lite Medicaid expansion bill that suddenly passed a Republican committee last week. The timing's everything, with the Republican majority currently thwarted in passing a vetoed budget until they cave to the governor on Medicaid expansion. That Lambeth bill passed its committee but has yet to reach the House floor, and so far the Big Boss, Mr. Berger in the Senate, has shown no affection for it. Lambeth, who always looks like the act of smiling is physically painful, of course stuck a work requirement into his legislation, because why would a "moderate Republican" pass up an opportunity to further humiliate the already working poor.

The day after the election last fall, Dan hinted on Facebook that he would run again: "This race was not the end of our efforts, but the beginning. You can look for more news over the coming month." If he ever made a formal announcement about running again in 2020, I can't find it. But he's obviously running. The post excerpted above about a new emphasis on the environment was prelude to inviting everyone to a fundraiser for the 2020 campaign.

Dan is currently very active on Facebook, has a Twitter account but doesn't use it. He needs to up his game.

He also needs a campaign manager, preferably one with experience. He needs boots on the ground, lots of them. He needs a strategy (based on data) for identifying those Republican voters who're weary of Trumpian conduct wherever it takes place.

Forsyth County was one of the most under-performing urban counties in all of North Carolina in 2018. All Democratic candidates running in all races in 2020 need to hold a private summit and figure out why and what to do about it before 2020 actually dawns.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Leslie Cohen Is Running Again in NC House District 20

NC House District 20 is a jigsaw gerrymander in New Hanover County, taking in some of Wilmington, Ogden, Porters Neck, Bayshore, Murraysville, and Castle Hayne -- many I-40 neighborhoods going into Wilmington. It's listed as "strong Republican" by the NC Free Enterprise Foundation.

Holly Grange
Republican incumbent: Holly Grange was first elected to the seat in 2016 after winning a fairly nasty Republican primary in March with another Republican woman who accused her of having a cozy relationship with Sidney Blumenthal (of Hillary Clinton fame). In August, when the Republican occupying the seat went ahead and resigned from it, Grange was appointed to fill out his term. Grange faced no Democratic opposition that fall and had her first real reelection contest in 2018 against Democratic insurgent Leslie Cohen.
Holly Grange was an engineer officer in the Army Corp of Engineers, serving in the 20th Engineer Brigade at Fort Bragg and on the 18th Airborne Corps staff. She married a general (who was the one who had some brief connection to Sidney Blumenthal). In an interview, Grange admitted that climate change is happening and that it is impacting sea-level rise, an issue of considerable concern for her district. Her viewpoint on that gets little credit within her Republican caucus, which has decreed that sea-level rise must not be talked about. She also voted to repeal the notorious HB2, which might put her on a collision course with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (see below).
Democrat Leslie Cohen moved to Wilmington from Atlanta in 2013 after their two children left the nest. She became involved in local issues when the passage of HB2 threatened the rights of their adult children. Her activism quickly spread into other issues as she became aware of the struggles of others in her community. She had earned a degree from Georgia State University, and fresh out of college, she started a printing business with her future husband Jeff. The printing business morphed into a successful commercial graphics company. The couple designed collateral advertising for Fortune 500 companies for twelve years before transitioning their business to fine art in 2002. Leslie’s paintings are in collections across the globe. The pollution of the Cape Fear River is a big issue for her as is restoring the incentives that built the film industry in North Carolina (the destruction of which by the Republican General Assembly drove the industry to other states like Georgia). She opposes off-shore drilling, and she is especially disturbed at how public education has suffered under Republican rule.
Leslie Cohen came within 5.32% of beating Holly Grange last fall, or 1,918 votes short of winning -- not too shabby for a Democratic artist in a "strong Republican" district. On that strong showing, she's decided on giving it another go in 2020.

News Flash: Holly Grange Considering a Run for Governor
See this article in the National Journal and other on-the-ground reporting in North Carolina, particularly by Colin Campbell.

If Holly Grange does indeed challenge Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in a primary for governor, won't that open the House District 20 seat a little wider -- perhaps a lot wider -- for Leslie Cohen?

We hope Holly Grange takes the plunge, not only because it will help Leslie Cohen but also because it will offer a credible alternative to a medieval Republican who thinks God wants him to be governor.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Rep. Ray Russell Supports Governor Cooper's Budget Proposal

Yesterday, Gov. Roy Cooper released his compromise state budget proposal. It includes healthcare coverage for nearly 500,000 working poor North Carolinians, a larger increase in teacher and state employee pay, more funding for school construction, additional spending for clean air and water, and restored funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

This offer from Gov. Cooper is an investment in our people and our future. We must devote resources to education, healthcare, and protecting the environment.

The proposal keeps the corporate and franchise taxes at their current low rate, and retains the General Assembly (GA) plan to increase the standard deduction on state taxes to help working families. The Governor’s plan includes $700 million for the Rainy Day Fund and $110 million for hurricane relief.

Gov. Cooper is being fiscally responsible with his compromise proposal. Under his plan the state would spend the same as the General Assembly proposed for this year, but it actually reduces spending compared to the General Assembly plan during the following year.

Some highlights of Gov. Cooper’s compromise proposal:

Local projects:
·      App State’s Wey Hall renovation funding restored.
·      Appalachian Theatre.
·      West Jefferson sign project.
·      Blowing Rock streetscape project.
·      Watauga River Paddle Trail.
·      Removal of Ward’s Mill Dam on the Watauga River.

·      Public school construction funded by an additional $500 million over the GA plan and would allow a referendum on school bonds by voters. Ashe County Schools would receive more than $11.5 million in funding ($775,000 more than the GA plan), and Watauga County Schools would get nearly $12.5 million (an additional $1.2 million over the GA proposal).
·      Smart Start would have increased funding by $10 million each year.
·      Statewide pre-K slots increased by 2 percent, phasing into 8 percent in the future.
·      Community college instructors would receive a 4 percent raise (compared to the 2 percent offered by the GA).
·      UNC system SPA employees to receive 5 percent raise (2 percent in the GA plan). UNC faculty receive a 1 percent raise.
·      Teacher pay increased by an average of 8.5 percent over two years with pay raises for all teachers (3.8 percent in GA plan).
·      Teachers with master’s degrees get higher compensation.
·      Teachers would not have to pay a fee to have a substitute teacher work for them when they take personal leave days.

State employees and retirees:
·      Retirees receive a 2 percent raise (compare to 1 percent in the GA plan).
·      Most state employees receive a 5 percent pay raise (non-certified personnel included).

Medicaid expansion:
·      Medicaid expansion would cost the state nothing while bringing healthcare to more than 500,000 North Carolinians.
·      Expansion would benefit Ashe and Watauga counties with $64 million in economic growth over two years starting in 2020. 
·      This is a life-and-death issue for some North Carolinians who can’t afford healthcare coverage.

·      Rural high-speed internet service would get a boost with a $30 million investment.
·      State agencies, including the Department of Environmental Quality, would see a restoration of $6 million in cuts from the GA budget
·      The Department of Health and Human Services would see restoration of funding cuts reflected in the GA plan. This is crucial as DHHS transitions to Managed Medicaid.
·      $800 million in funding for statewide water/sewer projects restored.

There is no good reason why all parties can’t come together and accomplish our goals. What we all want is a prosperous and secure North Carolina where our children receive the best education, our residents are healthy, and our environment is protected.

Erica McAdoo Came So Close in 2018. She's Running Again in 2020

Democrat Erica McAdoo's candidacy in 2018 for NC House District 63 (Alamance County) was a heartbreaker on the night of November 6. She came within 299 votes of beating incumbent Stephen Ross in a district that was rated "competitive." McAdoo made it competitive by mounting a ground campaign of plenty of door-knocking and direct-voter contact. It takes volunteers to do that, which also takes the ability to warm the heart and stir enthusiasm.

That enthusiasm has got to reappear and grow in 2020, 'cause Erica McAdoo is running again.

District 63 is one of those gerrymanders engineered by advanced computer technology.

That fish-hook appendage on the left side above -- the tentacle into the Boone Station township (Elon) -- why, it's mostly over 97% white, O my brethren, which might give you a hint that the mapmaker needed that jog to offset the 31% black population in the Pleasant Grove township (the northernmost rectangle in the map above) and in south Burlington.

The most affluent townships in District 63: Melville, Boone Station, and Thompson (Melville and Thompson together make up much of the easternmost and southernmost portion of the district).

The townships with the highest educational attainment: Boone Station, Melville, and Thompson.


If I were running McAdoo's ground game, I'd run a telephone and text poll of all voters in Boone Station, Melville, and Thompson with one question: "Do you support President Donald J. Trump." That's it. That single question is going to turn up surprises of which voters to door-knock in 2020. Also which voters to avoid. (See, there's more than one use for computers!)

She'll have to be just as active in Pleasant Grove and in other black neighborhoods with direct voter contact (and voter registration!). If African-American voters aren't energized in 2020, all else is lost.

McAdoo is evidently running on the same themes as 2018, particularly support for schools, support for small business, and support for expanding Medicaid (judging from the too-long announcement video above). I think I'd flip that order, magnify health care and the incumbent Ross's fealty to a party that is still resisting Governor Cooper's attempt to expand the Affordable Care Act in North Carolina. The resistance is just meanness, especially on the part of Senate President Phil Berger. (By yesterday, there was a watered-down Medicaid expansion bill brought to a House committee by Republican Rep. Donny Lambeth and voted out favorably. It's sudden appearance signaled a softening on the issue among House Republicans. Is incumbent Ross among the melted? I would bet he is. Donny Lambeth's Medicaid-lite bill has a work requirement, which is unnecessary as the vast majority of those without any access to medical insurance are the working poor.)

But maybe before I did any of the above, say tomorrow, I'd ask my own campaign people, "How's the oppo research coming on Representative Ross's record in Raleigh?" He's got many votes to highlight, especially if he suddenly decides he's in favor of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Does It Matter If the Conservative Wears a Skirt?

The primary run-off today between two Republican conservatives down in the NC-3 has turned into a contest into whether the GOP likes or wants women in Congress. Many high-profile Republican women, including Virginia Foxx, are verbally supporting Joan Perry, an anti-abortion pediatrician, while high-profile conservative men like Congressman Mark Meadows from the NC-11 are supporting Greg Murphy. The New York Times has covered the race ("A Battle of the Sexes") and so has the Washington Post.

The winner of the primary run-off today is expected to win the September election against Democrat Allen Thomas.

Greg Murphy won this primary run-off with around 60% of the vote.