Friday, December 29, 2017

An NC House Race That Needs a Democratic Candidate

NC House District 3
Incumbent Republican Michael Speciale
Speciale is notorious for being unhinged in that special way of extreme conservatives: He sponsored a bill in 2017 that sought to repeal the part of the state constitution that prohibits secession. He was one of four House sponsors on a bill that would have once again made gay marriage illegal in the state, in defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. As the bill made national news, House Speaker Tim Moore said it would not be considered. Speciale loves his social media tirades and boasts, which makes him a Trump wannabe.
Speciale has drawn a (relatively moderate, compared to him) Republican primary challenger, Eric Queen, who like Speciale is a former Marine. Queen doesn't agree with Speciale about defying the Supreme Court and rewriting the state's constitution, though he's pretty much a doctrinaire Republican conservative on other issues.

So far, no Democratic challenger has announced a run for this seat, which includes Beaufort, Craven, and Pamlico counties. Come on, guys! Anything can happen in a year like 2018 is going to be. Filing will close on the last day of February.

Five More Congressional Races To Watch in 2018

Kansas 2nd Congressional District
Open seat (incumbent Republican Lynn Jenkins announced earlier this year that she would not run for reelection). The district includes the cities of Lawrence (Univ. of Kansas) and Topeka.
Insurgent Democrat: Paul Davis
Paul Davis
Davis ran for Kansas governor against Sam Brownback in 2014 and made a credible showing, credible enough that some Democratic leaders wanted him to run again for governor in 2018. Instead, Davis has opted to run for this open seat. He's well known throughout Kansas and is getting the backing of the DCCC in Washington.
Interesting fact: Davis has already said that he will not vote for Nancy Pelosi as leader, and I agree with him on that. “This is a broken Congress right now, and I think the leaders of both political parties bear responsibility for that,” Davis said. “And I think that we need new leadership in both political parties.” God bless Nancy Pelosi. She's been Gal Gadot in the House, but it's time for new blood.

Virginia 10th Congressional District
Incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock, often mentioned as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress. Cook Political Report rates this race a "toss-up." It's heavily suburban.
Insurgent Democrats: A whole tribe of them
Kimberly Adams -- educator
Julia Biggins -- scientist 
Alison Friedman -- human trafficking activist and a former Obama staffer
Dave Hanson -- Naval intelligence officer 
Dan Helmer -- veteran,  has won the backing of the Democratic veterans group VoteVets
Julien Modica -- charitably described as a "perennial candidate"
Paul Pelletier -- 9th Democrat to get into the race. A former Federal prosecutor who directed high-profile public corruption investigations of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and
Jennifer Wexton
former congressmen Robert W. Ney and William Jefferson
Michael Pomerleano -- an immigrant from Romania with a Ph.D. from Harvard in business economics
Deep Sran -- school founder
Lindsey Davis Stover --communications strategist and a former Obama staffer
State Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-Loudoun) -- already well known in the district and has the backing of most of the Democrats in the Virginia House of Delegates

California 39th Congressional District
Incumbent Republican Ed Royce, a committee chair and big target for a Democratic pick-up even though most prognosticators rate this district as leaning Republican. California peculiar primary system pits all the candidates together. Top two finishers face each other in November
Insurgent Democrats: Several
Gil Cisneros -- a Navy veteran and big lottery winner (no kidding!) who used his winnings to start college scholarships for Latino kids. He's self-funding his campaign
Sam Jammal -- former Obama Administration official and clean energy executiv
Mai Khanh TranPhil Janowicz -- former chemistry professor
Ted Rusk -- ?
Andy Thorburn -- health insurance executive who loaned his campaign $2 million "to get started"
Mai Khanh Tran -- pediatrician who emigrated from Vietnam at the age of 9, has the backing of EMILY's List

Florida 26th Congressional District
Incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo, a "moderate" who has separated himself from Trump and who polled less well than Hillary in this district in 2016. Rated a "toss-up" district.
Insurgent Democrats:
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
Ricky Junquera -- young Democratic field organizer, motivated to run by Curbelo's vote to kill Obamacare
Steven Machat -- music producer who ran as an independent in last year's Senate race
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell -- front-runner, with EMILY's List backing. She ran a "stronger-than-expected" race in 2016 for a state senate seat and has impressed movers and shakers as a winner in 2018
Steve Smith -- founder of a tech consulting firm, describes himself as a "former liberal Republican"

Iowa 1st Congressional District
Incumbent Republican Rod Blum. Some prognosticators see this district as leaning R, but Cook rates it a toss-up.
Insurgent Democrats:
Abby Finkenauer
Abby Finkenauer - A State House representative from Dubuque who announced her intention to challenge Blum way back in April. She's the 4th youngest member of the Iowa House
Thomas Heckroth -- comes from a well known Democratic family (his father was in the state senate) and was himself a staffer in the Obama administration
George Ramsey -- retired career military man
Courtney Rowe -- an aerospace engineer

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2018 North Carolina Congressional Races--Lay of the Land

Keep in mind that filing for office in 2018 doesn't end until the last day of February, so there will be flux to come in the races below, both primaries and -- hence -- general elections.

District 1
Incumbent Democrat G.K. Butterfield [safe]
Solid Democratic district.

District 2
Incumbent Republican George Holding [?]
Holding already has a primary opponent and a wave of Democrats who want to take him on. The Cook people put Holding in the "Competitive Races" category, but leaning Republican decidedly.
Allen Chesser, his Republican primary opponent, attacks Holding for not holding town halls (ping Virginia Foxx). He doesn't return phone calls. He ignores his constituents. He's never accessible. Chesser is a younger Iraq war veteran and a pretty standard foot-soldier for conservative talking points. He's a Steve Bannon wet dream, is what he is.
Sam Searcy
The Democratic primary could get even more interesting with the entry of Linda Coleman, a high-profile African American public servant and former candidate who ran twice statewide for lieutenant governor. She'll get big backing and can raise money. But the district is 74% white. Dunno if that means anything necessarily, not in a wave year.
The entry of Coleman may have persuaded ASU alum Sam Searcy, who had previously announced for the seat and was raising money, to drop out and run for an NC Senate seat instead. (Searcy has become an entrepreneur businessman and a manufacturer of a local brand of Vodka, and he might beat Tamara Barringer, the incumbent Republican state senator. He looks like a wave candidate to us.)
Other Democrats running in the 2018 primary: businessman Ken Romley and transgender veteran Wendy Ella May. (Scoff not. Remember what happened recently in Virginia?) "Romley, 52, was the CEO of Zift Solutions, a marketing software company based in Cary that employs about 200 people, until he stepped down last month to run for office."

District 3
Incumbent Republican Walter Jones [safe]
Solid Republican district. Jones, a total fuck-you maverick and hence admirable in doses, is safe unless he gets knocked off in a primary, of which there will certainly be one. Put your money on Jones.

District 4
Incumbent Democrat David Price [safe]
Richard Watkins
David Price will have a loser Republican opponent in November (whichever of at least two candidates wins the Republican primary), but he'll have his own primary too.
Richard Watkins, a young African American Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, is challenging Price. Looks like a generational contest to me, and a potentially important one. Watkins probably can't beat David Price, but I'm glad he might be a once and future candidate. We need more young scientists on the ballot.

District 5
Incumbent Republican Virginia Foxx [safe]
Yuck. The consensus is always "she can't be beat." Anyone can be beat. Anything can happen in a wave.
Two Democrats, both impressive women, are vying in the primary to take Foxx on next November. We'll know come middle of May who the candidate will be.

District 6
Incumbent Republican Mark Walker [safe]
The district is solid Republican, but there's a small gaggle of Democrats massing to challenge Walker. Walker is a charismatic Baptist preacher and the slayer of Phil Berger Jr. in the Republican primary of  2014, for which he will always be memorialized.

District 7
Incumbent Republican David Rouzer [safe]
Rated solid Republican district.
Jonah Gardner
Two Democrats so far have gotten in the race. Dr. Kyle Horton, an internal medicine doctor and a woman, announced way back in May, followed in June by Jonah Gardner, a computer programmer and IT professional. This 2018 crop of young activists of both sexes (thank you, Donald J. Trump!) inspires new confidence and old hope.

District 8
Incumbent Republican Richard Hudson [safe]
Solid Republican district (but it's a lot of suburbs, bro, and the suburbs is where the turn will come). No considerable Democrat has stepped forward yet.

District 9
Incumbent Republican Robert Pittenger [?]
Cook calls this district competitive but "likely Republican" (a moment which may be slipping away).
Pittenger may not make it through his primary with Baptist firebrand Mark Harris (who knows a special place in hell for those who disagree with the Lord him and who almost beat Pittenger in the primary of 2016).
Dan McCready
On the Democratic side: Front-runner Dan McCready, along with Christian Cano, who ran for the seat in 2016,  and Maria Warren, an attorney, will face off in May. All the smart money's on McCready, who could beat Pittenger and will beat Rev. Harris, should he prevail in the primary.

District 10
Incumbent Republican Patrick McHenry [safe]
Despite being high up in leadership in Congress, McHenry usually draws a primary opponent, and 2018 will be no different. But he also hasn't drawn a stand-out Democrat yet.

District 11
Incumbent Republican Mark Meadows [safe]
Meadows has made a name for himself in Washington as The Man Who Shut Down Government in 2013, a badge he wears happily among the conservative voters of the 11th District and unhappily among the Republican leadership in Washington. He's a pain in the ass tool of ALEC.
Meadows has a dark horse Republican by the name of Christopher Money running against him in a primary.
For awhile two Democrats wanted to run against Meadows. Matt Coffay, a leader in the Asheville chapter of Our Revolution, got into the race with a splash back in April but pulled out in July. Scott Donaldson announced in September. He's a 53-year-old urologist from Hendersonville who has made "a name for himself in certain circles with a series of YouTube videos, radio show appearances and even a published book."

District 12
Incumbent Democrat Alma Adams [safe]
Safe Democratic seat. But Adams does have one Republican announced against her. Yawn.

District 13
Incumbent Republican Tedd Budd [?]
Cook rates this district "competitive" but "likely Republican." Democrats are massing to challenge
Adam Coker
the relatively indistinctive Budd.

Adam Coker also ran for this seat in 2016 in a crowded field but lost the primary. His big issue is health insurance and he wants to win by getting Republicans to vote for him (a fool's errand). His Democratic opponents include Kathy Manning, "a former immigration lawyer who is well known in her district for her philanthropy," and Beniah McMiller, a 36-year-old African American teacher at Mitchell Community College in Statesville.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Credible Democrat Needs To Announce in Mississippi

There's one announced Democrat in the 2018 US Senate race in Mississippi -- Jensen Bohren -- but his biography (as well as any photograph) seems to be missing from the Net. He does have a website, but it looks underfunded and hence under-developed. He hits the right notes -- calls himself a "Berniecrat," supports Medicare for all, opposes the Citizens United Supreme Court case that opened up political campaigns to billionaire donors, and sees the assault on voting rights as our clearest and most present danger.

But who is he and where does he comes from? What's his history? His work experience and political allies (other than Bernie)? Hard to say.

We're interested because if Steve Bannon backs another fringe Republican whack-job against incumbent Republican Senator Roger Wicker in next June's Mississippi Republican primary, there needs to be a credible Democratic senatorial candidate cued up and ready to run like Doug Jones did in Alabama.

Roger Wicker v. Chris McDaniel?
Steve Bannon has pushed Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel to challenge Wicker, so we might see another insurgent Trumpist against a man seen as part of the "party establishment."

McDaniel already has a following among Mississippi conservatives. He ran as a Tea Party insurgent and came close to defeating Republican Senator Thad Cochran in the 2014 Republican primary. Cochran ended up beating McDaniel because of Mississippi's "open" primary rules which allowed Democrats to vote in that close run-off election, and Cochran courted the African American vote to good effect. McDaniel has a history of Trumpian utterances about race and gender.

McDaniel's defeat in that 2014 run-off against Cochran was climaxed by his refusal to concede the race on election night (video below). Yes, he looks like just the guy Steve Bannon would want to support.

Several "ifs" here: If McDaniel gets into the primary race against Wicker next year (he says he'll announce his decision in January) and if he defeats Wicker in that primary, Mississippi Democrats and moderate Republicans are going to need a presentable Democrat on the ballot. The Deep South seems ready for more awakening.

Friday, December 22, 2017

One Thing We Know for Sure

Gary Pearce, the sage of "Talking About Politics," has a straight-forward suggestion for Democratic congressional candidates running in 2018:
If I was running a Congressional race next year, I’d test this simple message in a poll:
“Trump is rash, reckless, irresponsible, unpredictable and dangerous. Somebody needs to keep an eye on him and keep him in check. My opponent won’t. I will.”
Keep it simple. Focus on the one fact people know for certain. They don’t know whether the tax bill is good or bad; taxes are confusing. They do know that Trump is rash, reckless, irresponsible, unpredictable and dangerous.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Republicans Who Voted No

These are the Republicans who voted against the tax bill on Monday, and they will likely vote against it again today when it comes up for a re-do:
Walter Jones
Rep. Dan Donovan, New York
Rep. John Faso, New York
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, New Jersey
Rep. Darrell Issa, California
Rep. Walter Jones, North Carolina
Rep. Peter King, New York
Rep. Leonard Lance, New Jersey
Rep. Frank LoBiondo, New Jersey
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California
Rep. Christopher Smith, New Jersey
Rep. Elise Stefanik, New York
Rep. Lee Zeldin, New York
The New York and New Jersey reps are probably among the most endangered Rs in the upcoming mid-terms and are justifiably trying to save their bacon. North Carolina's Walter Jones, a former Democrat and a once and future pain in leadership's ass, issued a statement saying he saw no logic in borrowing a couple of trillion dollars from China in order to give rich people a tax break. No logic whatsoever.

The Darrell Issa and Dana Rohrabacher no votes are the clearest indication you're likely to get that smart Republicans see a Democratic wave coming in 2018. Issa won reelection in 2016 with a 1,600-vote margin, a tighter than expected outcome, and he's been raising money for 2018 as fast as he can.

Rohrabacher, who second only to Trump loves Vladimir Putin more than bacon fat, has attracted plenty of negative publicity, and his reelection is already rated a toss-up (as is Issa's for that matter) before anyone even knows which of approximately 300 willing Democratic candidates will win the privilege to face him.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Senator John Kennedy and Trump's Subversion of the Judiciary

Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana became my favorite Republican office-holder when I witnessed him take down one of Trump's yoogely unqualified Federal judge candidates:

That candidate, Matthew Spencer Petersen, is history. He withdrew himself from consideration yesterday. Score one for the judiciary! Score two and three too! Senator Kennedy has been single-handedly responsible for two other scalps, both glaringly unworthy for the Federal bench but both confidently nominated by the glaringly unworthy wrecking ball in the White House -- Brett Talley, who writes horror fiction and once posted a message board comment defending the Ku Klux Klan, and Jeff Mateer, who gave public speeches advocating discrimination against the LGBT community and called transgender children proof that “Satan’s plan is working.”

Earlier in 2017, Kennedy became the first Republican senator to vote against one of Trump’s judicial nominees when he opposed Gregory Katsas for a spot on the D.C. Circuit. Katsas was confirmed 48-50, without Kennedy's vote. (Kennedy said Katsas' work in the White House created conflicts of interest that “a first-year law student could see.”)

Speaking of Trump judges, did you hear what just came out about Trump and Neil Gorsuch? Trump told close associates back in February, soon after he'd announced the appointment to the Supreme Court, that he wanted to "rescind" Gorsuch's nomination because he had heard what Gorsuch admitted to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) before his confirmation vote that Trump’s repeated attacks on the federal judiciary were “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

Based on that comment and according to Ashley Parker et al., "The president worried that Gorsuch would not be loyal."

There you have the attitude that will be the death of an independent judiciary. Do you need a roadmap for where this man intends to ditch the body?  --the mangled body of the Law, the administration itself of justice, the independence of a judiciary that is by its own ethical rules non-partisan.

Does Trump's plain disrespect for judges not remind you of what Phil Berger wants to ram through the General Assembly -- the complete subjugation of judges and the imposition of an authoritarianism that equals nothing on this side of the Atlantic in blessed memory.

The Singular Senator John Kennedy and the Fruits of Revenge
You have to admit: That name is kind of eerie

I'm indebted to James Hohmann for these details about Kennedy:
66 years old
academic degrees from Vanderbilt, University of Virginia law school, and Oxford University
served as legal counsel in the 1980s to then-Democratic Gov. Buddy Roemer
ran for attorney general of La. in 1991 as a Democrat, but lost 
was appointed state treasurer of Louisiana in 1996 and served continuously via reelection until recently, first as a Democrat and then as a Republican
in 2004, ran as a "pro-John Kerry Democrat" against Republican David Vitter for the Senate, but lost
in 2007, after a heavy courtship by the Republican National Committee, converted to Republican, and with help from Washington, ran against Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu in 2008, but lost
in 2016, ran for the seat David Vitter was retiring from, and won. So he's brand new in the Senate
In Washington, Senator Kennedy has become a favorite with reporters. He likes to talk, and he's not shy with the opinions. He complained three weeks ago to reporters that the White House was ignoring his concerns about the subpar quality of President Trump’s judicial nominees. “It’s like talking to the wind,” Kennedy said.

About nominee Petersen, Kennedy told the New Orleans TV station WWL: “Just because you’ve seen ‘My Cousin Vinny’ doesn’t qualify you to be a federal judge. And my job on the Judiciary Committee is to catch him. I would strongly suggest he not give up his day job.”


According to sources harvested by James Hohmann, Kennedy may be taking some revenge on White House Counsel Don McGahn, who early in Trump's term ignored Kennedy's wishes in picking a Trump nominee for US attorney in New Orleans. Hmmm. Diss the newly elected Republican senator from Lousy-anna, will you? Well, we'll see about that!

Both dearly departed judgeship nominees Michael Petersen and Brett Talley -- and Gregory Katsas too, who barely made it to the bench, with Kennedy voting no -- all three were closely connected to and mentored by Don McGahn. Katsas was his deputy White House counsel. Talley is married to McGahn's chief of staff.  Their sudden fall at the hands of Senator Kennedy might be a stitch too coincidental. 

More on the "Blueing" of Republican Suburbs

The NYTimes has a big article out this morning highlighting what we've been talking about since November 8, when the suburbs of Virginia and New Jersey turned out many veteran Republican lawmakers, and voters in special and in municipal elections across the nation also showed clear signs of rejection of Trump's MAGA.

Here are some of the Democratic candidates arising to challenge once safe Republican incumbents:

Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, challenging incumbent Republican John Culberson in the Texas 7th District
Texas-7 was carefully gerrymandered out of the suburbs of Houston to be Republican-friendly. Culberson won reelection there in 2016 with 56% of the vote. Fletcher is a lawyer who out-raised the incumbent during the last fundraising period, but she's also one of at least seven Democrats who'll be competing in the Democratic primary to challenge Culberson. 
Ben McAdams, challenging Mia Love in the Utah 4th District
Utah-4 takes in part of Salt Lake City (SLC) and south through the affluent suburbs of Sandy and Provo. McAdams is mayor of SLC, a liberal oasis in a sea of red, but Trump is noticeably unpopular among Mormons, especially well-educated Mormons. Love is the first black female Republican elected to Congress and the first black American elected to Congress from Utah, first elected by the thinnest of margins in 2014 and reelected in 2016 with 53% of the vote. McAdams will have a Democratic primary with at least three others.
Jim Gray, challenging Andy Barr in the Kentucky 6th District
Kentucky-6 takes in all of Lexington (including its suburbs, not to mention the University of Kentucky) and the state capitol of Frankfort. Jim Gray is the popular mayor of Lexington, but he got into the Democratic primary after Amy McGrath, a former Marine pilot who reportedly has raised more than $1 million. The incumbent Republican Barr has won both his elections to Congress with at least 60% of the vote.
Scott Wallace, challenging Brian Fitzpatrick in the Pennsylvania 8th District
Pennsylvania-8 is as white-collar Republican as you can get, taking in all of Bucks County. Democrat Wallace, a lawyer and philanthropist whose grandfather was one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice presidents, is as yet unannounced, but he's known to be considering the race. There's already an announced Democrat, Rachel Riddick, so there'll likely be a primary. Incumbent Republican Fitzpatrick, who was first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, will also have a primary.
P. G. Sittenfeld, challenging Steve Chabot in the Ohio 1st District
The Ohio-1 was gerrymandered to take in Warren County and the suburbs north of Cincinnati. It's been considered a safe Republican seat. Sittenfeld is a Cincinnati city councilman and is being heavily recruited by the US House Democratic recruitment machine. Two other Democrats are already in the race. Republican Chabot was first
elected to Congress in 1994.
Lisa Brown, challenging Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the Washington 5th District
The Washington-5 is in far eastern Washington state and takes in all of Spokane, the state's 2nd largest city. McMorris Rodgers is part of the Republican House leadership and is considered unassailable, but Democrat Brown is a former Washington state senate leader and more recently the chancellor of Washington State University's Spokane campus.
Dan McCready, challenging Robert Pittenger in the North Carolina 9th District
The NC-9 is Charlotte-centric and Surburbia Prime. Pittenger looks weak and may lose his primary to pulpit-pounder Mark Harris, who will then face Democrat and ex-Marine McCready in the general election. In North Carolina, this will be ground zero for any Democratic wave.
Kelly Mazeski, challenging Peter Roskam in the Illinois 6th District
The Illinois-6 has been considered safely Republican, as it wraps around the western suburbs of Chicago, but it rejected Trump for Clinton by 7 points in 2016. Mazeski is one of at least seven Democrats who'll go head-to-head in a Democratic primary for the privilege of taking on Roskam, who took over the 6th District from Henry Hyde in 2006.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Early Sign That Public Opposition to NCGA Power-Grab May Be Working

David Lewis
NC House Rules Chairman and Big Dawg at the General Assembly David Lewis began to damp down expectations Friday evening that Republicans would move forward in a January special session with a multi-layered takeover of the state's judicial system.

Was it increased public scrutiny? Or the pretty much universal scorn from the state's newspaper corps?

Hope it was both.

Get Ready for the Bragging, But Trump Ain't Standing Up for the Forgotten Man

1. He's going to sign that tax bill like it's the greatest achievement for "common people" since chickens agreed to die for Col. Sanders. Well, it's great for Trump and other billionaires, fer sure. It will deliver its largest benefits, "not only in dollar terms but also as a percentage increase in income," to corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Trump's own family stands to gain from tax breaks maintained or extended for corporate real estate ventures, and his heirs have reason to celebrate the doubling of the exemption from estate taxes.

2. With Rep. Virginia Foxx doing the leg-work, Trump's Education Department plans to roll back protections for college graduates saddled with student debt from sham for-profit universities. That's working-class kids who thought they'd get a leg up in this labor market by giving all their money to fake institutions of higher training, who are, in turn, giving big gobs of cash to Virginia Foxx.

3. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission, led by Trump’s new chairman, reversed the Obama-era policy known as net neutrality, over the objections of consumer groups and owners of small internet businesses, who fear that without the protection, giant internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon will charge internet companies for offering “fast-lane” speeds, slow down the content of companies that do not pay or even block them. Consumers could be charged variable rates for internet access, depending on which websites they visit. Does that look like "standing up for the forgotten man" to you?

4. Who knows if Trump even knew all the Federal regs that he rolled back, or was just signing whatever anybody put in front of him because he thinks signing his name is akin to making royal decrees. But one rule he eliminated -- out of dozens -- required retirement planners to agree that financial advice had the client’s best interest at heart, not the investment company’s. That ain't a rule any more.

His rhetoric is always about the "forgotten" Americans he's going to help. "You will never be ignored again," he told the screaming crowd in Pensacola just days before his Senate candidate in Alabama lost the race. It's all just show biz, the strutting of a reality show huckster whose act has worn thin. May the New Year kink his gut.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Suicide Should Be Painless

WARNING: Contains violence

Is it possible the GOP doesn't yet realize it's in a suicide pact?

Because they continue to do stuff that looks suicidal, yet they do them as if they're Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." (Not Robert DeNiro in The Deerhunter.) Full of earnest good resolve that they're doing the absolute right thing for America. And for themselves.

But to me, looks like playing lethal games of chance with more than one chamber loaded. Why do they continue making people hate them? In North Carolina, the Republican General Assembly went tyrannical and power-hunger and obnoxious after the 2010 Tea Party Revolution. They decided to be obvious about it because they'd gerrymandered themselves into unassailable seats of power.

Even a castle can be swamped by a wave.

More voters are watching. More nominally educated voters. And more of them are pissed. Maybe, as we enter 2018 and the end of a whole blessed year of Donald Trump, maybe NC voters are more pissed at Trump than at Phil Berger, but they're pissed enough to want to take down anybody that reminds them of Trump.

The Magic 8-Ball sez, 2018 ain't gonna be a Republican year.

So you'd think they'd be quieter about their ambitions. Less obnoxious. (Even Virginia Foxx learned to say fewer stupid, hateful things in public.) But no. The Phil Berger General Assembly has launched a new power-grab and the most obnoxious yet: He's monkeying with the judicial system, with the ultimate goal of giving himself the power to appoint the guys he wants wearing the robes.

He don't seem to care that voters are paying attention. Berger goes right on grabbing, even the blade-end of knives.

The GOP's own suburbs -- the very neighborhoods where they drive to their big houses from work in Raleigh and Charlotte and Winston-Salem and Greensboro -- are becoming less congenial. Other good candidates are announcing for office, and new faces are winning elections. Especially Democrat faces. (Virginia is for lovers!)

But there's no reactive nor self-protective toning of it down by the Republicans running the General Assembly, no discernible attempt to come back to a middle ground, no moderating. It's a sight to behold and marvel at, like a man gathering a crowd and then willfully walking off a bridge.

Now that's just North Carolina. Nationally, the Trump tax bill they're about to pass in Washington doesn't look particularly healthy for Republicans facing the voters. The voting public hates the tax bill, 2 to 1, because they're probably onto the motives and the effects. They hate it like they hated ending Obamacare. Like they should hate Twitter by now. Like they really hate the assassination of net neutrality.

Office-holders huffed on power maybe don't notice what's obvious to others. They don't hear the bullet that kills them.

Madam Foxx, We Totally Clear on Where You Stand on Net Neutrality

One of Virginia Foxx's Fifth District constituents shared a letter with me from Foxx, who was responding to the constituent's opposition to what Ajit Pai has done at the FCC -- ending "net neutrality." Foxx's letter is an appalling piece of gobbledegook in which Foxx criticizes Barack Obama (natch) and assures her constituent that the FCC is actually fixing a terrible lack of freedom on the Internet. Who knew?

Here's her letter, in its entirety:

Dear __________:

Thank you for contacting me with your support for the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) Open Internet Order and net neutrality.  It is important for me to hear from constituents and I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts.

We completely agree that the Internet should not be monopolized by the largest ISPs and internet accessibility and privacy protection should be the number one priority of federal regulators.  As you may know, on November 22, the FCC released the Restoring Internet Freedom Order (RIFO), and on December 14, the five Commission members expect to vote on its adoption.  RIFO corrects the consequences of the regulating the internet as if it were your local utility provider, which actually brings about less competition and innovation, and exposes consumers to less privacy via government regulators. 

These consequences describe what occurred with the imposition of the Open Internet Rules in 2015 when the Obama Administration reclassified the Internet as a "utility" to be regulated by the FCC rather than an "information service" which falls under the purview of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  The fact is that the FTC has the expertise in privacy protections and over 20 years of Internet oversight that the FCC did not garner in regulating static utilities such as water and electricity under the same Title II provisions.  Similar to trying to fit square pegs into round holes, this change of regulatory jurisdiction categorically upset the marketplace, discouraged industry investment, and punished all ISPs for the crimes of a few industry giants.

It is my belief that the Open Internet Order has not impacted all ISPs equally and disproportionately burdened new and small ISPs.  Regulatory burdens have prevented their marketplace entry to provide competitive alternatives to companies that take advantage of market share, charge higher prices for "fast lanes," and leave rural and low-income Americans underserved.  Even municipal providers, who often provide services for free, have struggled to comply with the overly-stringent regulations imposed by the FCC under Title II.

A faster, cheaper, and more accessible Internet-free from unlawful content discrimination and censorship-is at the forefront of the discussion for lawmakers like myself.  It is also my belief that the surest way to stifle an industry is to subjugate it to the heavy hand of government regulations.  Regulating problems should be limited to instances of genuine market failure, and I don't believe the current internet framework is failing consumers.  You do not mention specific legislation that would protect the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order, but if there is a particular bill you support, please let me know.  Rest assured, I will keep your thoughts in mind while conducting oversight of the FCC as a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and should any relevant legislation come before the House for a vote in the future.

For accurate information about RIFO, I encourage you to read the attached articles.  If you need more information or have additional concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me.  Please use my website,, as a resource to learn about constituent services, legislative information and my work in Congress.  If you haven't already, please sign up for my e-newsletter there for regular updates.  My best wishes.
Virginia Foxx

Friday, December 15, 2017

Evangelical Christianity in Crisis Over Its Political Choices

Wow. Even before the first vote was cast in the Alabama Senate race on Tuesday, Mark Galli, the editor of Christianity Today, had written an editorial that evangelical support for Roy Moore (and Donald Trump too) had tarnished "Christianity's integrity" for at least a generation.

Galli is critical of liberal evangelicals too. (Yes, Dorothy! There are liberal evangelicals in this world, though they are infrequently featured on Fox and Friends.) Galli says that liberal Christians have been too quick to condemn all conservative Christians for the "conservative idolators of political power," that handful of media whores like Franklin Graham who get all the attention:
This is not to excuse some statements by conservative leaders that cannot be interpreted in any other way than as a slur against gays, Muslims, Mexicans, and others. Some conservatives are fearful beyond reason. Some conservatives clearly worship political power as much as they do Jesus Christ. But too often, we mistake the inarticulate groanings of certain foolish conservative leaders for the actual beliefs and behavior of the mass of evangelicals who vote for Donald Trump or Roy Moore.
Galli continues:
The problem with many Christian conservatives is this: They believe they can help the country become godly again by electing people whose godliness is seriously questioned by the very people they want to influence.
According to Laura Goodstein,
The bloc [of Christianity] that has marched under the banner of the “Moral Majority” and “values voters” has now been tagged as the most reliable base of support for both Mr. Moore and President Trump, two politicians who are known for fanning racial and religious prejudices and who stand accused of sexual harassment by numerous women .... White evangelicals across the country delivered 81 percent of their votes to Mr. Trump last year, according to exit poll data, and backed Mr. Moore in Alabama by the same proportion on Tuesday.
Evangelical slavishness for the likes of Donald Trump appears to be cracking a little. According to Goodstein, "There are young evangelicals who are disavowing their elders. There are Latino, Asian, black and Native American evangelicals who are outraged at white believers for allying with a president they regard as racist and hostile to immigrants."

A poll conducted from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4 by the Pew Research Center found that the president’s job approval among white evangelical Protestants had fallen to 61 percent, from 78 percent in February.

Are some evangelicals having their moment of light like Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus

The Man Who Murdered the Internet Yesterday Thinks He's Funny

Ajit Pai, Chair of the FCC, mocking
critics of his decision to kill net neutrality
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai led his fellow Republican commissioners in a vote yesterday to kill net neutrality regulations. The three Republicans over-ruled the two Democratic commission members.

Now that they've killed it, perhaps you'd like to know what's been lost (and can be resurrected by Congress but probably won't be because Congress is controlled by the same corporations that control Ajit Pai).

What Is Net Neutrality?
Noun: The principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

Your ISP, under regulations killed yesterday by Mr. Pai, previously could not, for example, decide to slow down the streaming of a Netflix movie because they want more money from Netflix for the service. Now your ISP can do anything it wants, because it's about to be the Wild West in streaming services and other Internet products.

After Ajit Pai's action yesterday, your ISP can decide to charge you more for certain services, like access to Facebook or Google or Amazon. An ISP can decide to create tiers of service, so that your lowest-cost, most basic access might give you Fox News and Breitbart but little else. For a higher tier of service, like for the New York Times and the Washington Post and HuffPost, you would have to pay much more. Instead of a flat service rate, you can expect accelerating fees. Otherwise, why would Verizon and Charter and other ISPs be so ecstatic about their boy, Ajit Pai?

Who Is Ajit Pai
He's a free marketeer lawyer who Trump appointed to head the FCC and who used to work for -- who else? -- Verizon. As a free market true believer, he wants to unleash the big boys to make all the profit the market will bear. Sure, some "little people" will get hurt, but that's the price you pay for freedom!

Can This Be Stopped?
It will take weeks for the repeal to go into effect, so we consumers won't see changes right away. But the political and legal fight started immediately. 

Numerous Democrats on Capitol Hill called for a bill that would reestablish the rules that Ajit Pai just killed, but do we expect a Republican-dominated Congress to go against the big telecoms? Not bloody likely, even though plenty of Republicans have given lip service to net neutrality.

Several Democratic state attorneys general, including Eric T. Schneiderman of New York, said they would file a suit to stop the change. Several public interest groups including Public Knowledge and the National Hispanic Media Coalition also promised to file a suit. The Internet Association, the trade group that represents big tech firms such as Google and Facebook, said it also was considering legal action.

In the meantime, you should be asking Virginia Foxx where she stands on net neutrality.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

NC Democrats Seek Injunctive Relief Against Republican Meddling With the Judiciary

The Democratic parties in several counties (Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Orange, and Wake), along with the NC Democratic Party as lead plaintiff, sued on Tuesday in the US District Court for the Middle District for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the Republican General Assembly for eliminating judicial primaries in 2018. 

On December 16, 2016, the Republicans in the General Assembly restored partisan elections for judges and justices of the appellate courts, and on March 9, 2017, they did the same for judges of the district courts and superior courts. After 2006 judicial elections had been non-partisan.

On April 4, 2017, the Republicans filed Senate Bill 656, the ironically named Electoral Freedom Act of 2017. A Proposed Conference Committee Substitute Bill for S.B. 656, submitted on October 4, 2018, added Section 4(a), eliminating primaries for judges and district attorneys for the 2018 election cycle. On October 5, 2017, the Republicans amended the Proposed Conference Committee Substitute Bill for S.B. 656 to restore primaries for the election of district attorneys but not for the election of judges.

Partisan primaries are mechanisms by which the two major parties select from a range of candidates the single standard-bearer they want on the fall ballot. Taking away judicial primaries will deprive both Democrats and Republicans the right to vote for their standard-bearers (which is a constitutionally protected right, according to the court filing in the Middle District on Tuesday).

The elimination of judicial primaries is just one of several moves the Republicans are making to turn
Phil Berger, Republican
Boss of the NC
General Assembly
judges into obedient servants of the current ruling class. Their apparent ultimate goal: They want Phil Berger making judicial appointments, or Phil Berger's lieutenants, so they're setting up judicial elections in 2018 for chaos.

With no Republican and Democratic primaries -- with all judicial candidates pushed onto the fall ballot, bumper-to-bumper -- the voting public will be faced with long ballots of unknown and untested candidates. Winners of those races might get no more than 20% of the total vote, or less, under those circumstances.

The only way to fight back at the moment -- because General Assembly elections are still a year off, when we might throw some of these cabbage worms back over the garden fence -- is via the law, the very mechanism that Republicans are busily working to knee-cap.


RALEIGH, Dec. 13, 2017 -- Republican lawmakers asked Gov. Roy Cooper to send a representative to today’s Senate Committee on Judicial Redistricting to discuss the controversial changes that have been proposed for North Carolina’s court system.

But when former Wake County Chief Superior Court Judge Don Stephens tried to speak during the hearing, Republican lawmakers prevented him from doing so. In response, Democratic lawmakers walked out of the hearing to protest the unfair and nakedly partisan treatment of a respected member of the judiciary.

“This is far from the transparency we were promised,” tweeted Sen. Floyd McKissick, one of the Democratic senators who walked out of the hearing after his objections were overruled.

“Once again, Republican lawmakers show they have absolutely no interest in listening to the serious concerns which members of the legal community have about the partisan attacks on our court system,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action. “This so-called ‘redistricting’ plan is merely an attempt to rig the judicial system in the GOP’s favor so they can remove black judges from the bench and replace them with partisan hacks who will rule based on political ideology instead of fairness.”

In response to these attacks on our court system, a coalition of groups including the NC NAACP, NC Voters for Clean Elections, and Democracy NC have planned a day of action on January 10, when lawmakers return to the General Assembly.

“When GOP lawmakers tried to pack the State Supreme Court for partisan gain last December, hundreds of North Carolinians rose up and stopped them,” added Brenner. “If these politicians try to rig the system once again by gerrymandering the courts, North Carolina voters will once again make their voices heard -- as loudly as possible.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Who Are the Big Losers?

Yesterday was a big day, with two major developments related to voting:

1. Judge Paul Ridgeway in Wake Superior Court ended the Nathan Miller attempt to derail the Boone Town Council elections and ordered that the newly elected council members be certified and cleared for swearing into office.

2. Doug Jones won the Alabama special Senate election.

The Losers

Nathan Miller and the Watauga GOP. What will they try next to show their hatred of young voters?

Steve Bannon. His plans for a Trumpist empire look slightly crimped this morning. Twitter is reporting that Bannon aides are now saying that Steve really wanted Mo Brooks for that Senate seat, but was sort of forced to accept Roy Moore (because, uh, Moore won the Alabama primary).

Donald J. Trump. Hahahaha. Trump tweeted this morning that he was right all along about Alabama because when he was stumping the state for Luther Strange, he said in public that Roy Moore could never win the general election. Trump is 0-2 in picking candidates to campaign for, but because in his head he's always right and always a winner, he's drinking this rationalization in a great gulp.

Roy Moore. We hear his horse has applied to the witness relocation program. And before we forget seasons greetings -- Happy Hanukkah, Mrs. Moore!

Virginia Foxx. If a pro-choice Democrat can be elected to the US Senate from Alabama, then anything can happen in the year ahead. You might want to think about that, Madam Foxx. Perhaps you can get President Trump into the Fifth District to campaign for you.

Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

BREAKING NEWS -- Judge Ridgeway Rules in Favor of Boone Town Council

Judge Paul Ridgeway just agreed to grant the petition for a Writ of Mandamus from the three newly elected Boone Town Council members.

Story is still developing.

One of Those Watershed Moments

I have to admit that I'm going to miss the Roy Moore campaign. It's been a primer on where the Republican Party has parked its identity in the Age of Trump. Those reminders are both necessary and, lucky for us, numerous. Who is the Trump/Moore Republican? He's a soldier -- defiantly reactionary, divisive by prime instinct, preacher-perfect at denouncing other people's sins while personally wearing no underwear, and sentimental about slavery.

That's what made this Kayla Moore moment last night in Midland City so ... solid. The film is going to live forever.

Doug Jones can win this thing. I discount all polls on this race, including the Fox News one yesterday that had Jones up by 10 points, because how do you model who's going to actually show up and vote? The Alabama secretary of state predicted "a modest turnout of 20 to 25 percent" — surprising, given all the national media attention and the fact that voter turn-out was about 64 percent in the 2016 presidential election. Not surprising though, given the depressing downer nature of the whole campaign. The religious right is turned on by Roy Moore, and of course Democrats are ecstatic about how well Doug Jones has done, but a wide middle swath of not-particularly-engaged voters, including many educated Republicans, have been turned off by the spectacle of Moore, are embarrassed about him, and they either won't vote at all or they'll write in someone else's name (and maybe a few of them will even vote for the Democrat because they no longer believe in Hell).

Reportedly, African-American voters aren't energized about Jones, though major national political figures and celebrities like Charles Barkley have stumped the state. Last night, Jones got "an implicit boost, of a sort," from Condoleezza Rice, who without ever mentioning Doug Jones by name (or Roy Moore either), called on Alabamians to “reject bigotry, sexism and intolerance” and “insist that our representatives are dignified, decent and respectful of the values we hold dear.” Rice is a native of Alabama and maybe still has family there.

Based on what happened nationally with so many suburban, nominal Republicans and independent voters back on November 7, Jones could win it with the growing urban/suburban centers like Birmingham and Montgomery and Huntsville, especially if African-Americans don't sit at home and enough moderate Republicans either do stay at home or throw their vote in any direction but Moore's. The Democrats have been working hard while Moore's got no ground game and has been totally absent from the campaign for days at a time, including all of the past six days before his rally last night, when Mrs. Moore schooled everyone on who's a bigot. When a candidate acts like he doesn't need to work for it and doesn't show up with the public for days on end, do voters reward him with high office? Sometimes they don't.

Steve Bannon did his part at last night's rally, encouraging the booing of Republican Senator Richard Shelby, attacking both Condi Rice and Bob Corker, and then mocking Ivanka Trump's comments about Moore, that there's a special place in hell for people who sexually molest teenaged girls. Bannon has his entire reputation of king-maker and incipient political empire riding on this election today.

Nathan Miller's Attempt to Derail Boone Town Council Elections Now Hurtling Toward Resolution Today

Nathan Miller
Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway will hear the petition for a Writ of Mandamus filed by Sam Furgiuele, Marshall Ashcraft, and Connie Ulmer today, Tuesday, December 12, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. in Courtroom 3C of the Wake County Courthouse. The defendant in this action is actually the State Board of Elections, which the judge can direct to order the local board of elections to certify the November 7 election so that Furgiuele, Ashcraft, and Ulmer can be sworn in on December 21, as previously scheduled.

How We Got Here

Furgiuele, Ashcraft, and Ulmer win the Boone Town Council races on November 7; Watauga GOP through Nathan Miller files election protest over early voting site in ASU Student Union; his protest is voted down as "without merit" by the Watauga County Board of Elections; Miller appeals to the State Board of Elections (which currently doesn't exist)

State Board of Elections attorneys tell Miller he must appeal to the Wake Superior Court by a date certain; Miller misses the appeal date and says he doesn't care what the State Board of Elections attorneys tell him. He claims his protest can wait until a proper SBOE is appointed, and until then, no new municipal office-holders can be sworn in.

Furgiuele, Ashcraft, and Ulmer petition for a Writ of Mandamus to end Miller's protest and to declare their election certified. Their petition contains a motion for expedited hearing, which Judge Ridgeway granted yesterday, scheduling the hearing for this afternoon.