Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Trey Gowdy Is Out, And There's Already a Democratic Woman Running for His Seat

Another shocking Republican retirement just minutes ago when Trey Gowdy, the man who helped tar Hillary Clinton, announced he wouldn't be running for reelection to South Carolina's 4th Congressional District.

The 4th is in the upstate of South Carolina bordering North Carolina and is said to be one of the wealthiest because of the big businesses located along the I-85 corridor between Spartanburg and Greenville. It's also supposedly very conservative, which would account for Trey Gowdy.

But 2018 is a shake-up year, and there's a Democratic woman who was already running for the seat before Gowdy's announcement today, and she's got spunk -- Lee Turner, a business entrepreneur and tax specialist (who incidentally has a great deal of criticism for the recent tax legislation that Gowdy championed and voted for -- Trump's "tax reform" = "the fleecing of America"). Lee is nationalizing the campaign: the election in the 4th District is all about Donald Trump and the damage he's doing to our Republic.

From her website:
Lee Turner
In December of 2017, our current Congress passed tax reform that will cost America 1.4 trillion dollars. In essence, every man, woman, and child in America is being forced to borrow over $4,300 to fund corporate tax cuts. Prior to this reform bill, the corporate tax rate was 35%, but the effective tax rate, due to loopholes, was a reported 18%. Now, the corporate tax rate has been lowered to 21%, and the loopholes have remained. Corporations received a 40% reduction and small businesses received a 20% reduction while wage earners received none.
It’s true that overtaxing strangles an economy, but it’s also true that demand determines supply. The theory behind December’s tax reform is that supply creates demand. The only segment of American society not spending is the segment that doesn’t have the money to do so; it’s the people who can’t afford to buy a car, pay a copay, buy a home, or even fill their pantry with groceries, those who are forced to survive on a wage that is barely more than half the average cost of living. These are the people who need tax relief.
Lee Turner is feisty and blunt and she just might catch fire.

She Could Become the First Latina Member of Congress From Texas

We all should be interested in the US Senate race in Texas, where Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke is running what is called "a long shot" race against incumbent acid-wash Ted Cruz. Some polling shows O'Rourke already just single digits behind Cruz. O'Rourke is exactly the kind of young and dynamic Democratic insurgent who may be making miracles happen this year. (WataugaWatch has noticed him before.)

O'Rourke is currently in his third term as a US Congressman from the Texas 16th House District, representing El Paso -- one of the few solidly Democratic districts in Texas -- and his vacated seat is attracting its own bevy of Democratic primary candidates. The Texas primary will be March 6.

Veronica Escobar
The front-runner Democrat to replace O'Rourke -- Veronica Escobar, the former El Paso County chief executive officer -- would become the first Latina member of Congress in the Lone Star State’s 172 year history. She filed her federal paperwork to run back last August, so she's been in this campaign for months already. O'Rourke has endorsed her.

Escobar said she "was driven to run for Congress out of concern for the impact decisions made under President Donald Trump are having on El Paso, Texas' largest border city. There's a 'very dark cloud over our nation right now,' she said."

Escobar's chief rival in the Democratic primary appears to be Dori Fenenbock, the former El Paso school board president. It's more of the "Trump effect" -- so many high-quality female candidates looking to make a difference. Make that so many high-quality female and male candidates, as a matter of fact.

Escobar got the backing of Emily's List last October.

NC House District 83: A Democratic Primary Takes Shape

Larry Pittman, the man to beat
I used to hate Democratic primaries, especially on the local and district level, because they sap resources needed for the General Election and they can be unnecessarily divisive. In this Year Of The Donald, Democrats don't need more division, but "the Trump Effect" means more willing public servants crowding onto primary ballots despite an obvious lack of dollar incentive -- members of the NC General Assembly make less than $14,000 a year.

But primaries can also be opportunities for opposing candidates to sharpen their platforms, polish their presentations, generate volunteer enthusiasm, and deeply learn their districts. Opportunities for Democratic voters too. This year they're fired up to make a difference, and they want winners. Voters will be watching with keener eyes.

Who's the Republican incumbent in House District 83? Just one of the most extreme Republican members of the NC General Assembly, Preacherman Larry Pittman, who last year wanted to repeal a provision in the state's constitution so that North Carolina could secede from the Union. No, really. Pittman fancies himself the Scourge of God, and he has certainly proven to be made of rawhide. Pittman also introduced a bill last year that would end North Carolina's recognition of same sex marriage in defiance of the US Supreme Court, citing the Bible as the legal authority. Speaker of the House Tim Moore scuttled that plan, for which I think Pittman may have called down fire from heaven on Tim Moore's head.

That's the guy to beat, and it won't be easy for a Democrat. Except ... the Republican leadership might just as soon see Pittman gone. In the last round of court-ordered Republican redistricting, Pittman was double-bunked with another Republican (who opted to run for a NC Senate seat instead), and now the special master's redrawn districts makes Pittman's 83rd a little friendlier for Democrats, taking in more urban and suburban areas of Kannapolis and Concord.

Gail Young
There's going to be a Democratic primary for the opportunity to take on Pittman, and two women have stepped forward. The first was Gail Young, a Cabarrus County social activist who I wrote about earlier. The second, Senah Andrews of Concord, announced on Monday.

Andrews is a mental health specialist: "My work has been built on public service in North Carolina. I began in Raleigh at Dorothea Dix Hospital where I served women and men living with severe and persistent mental illness. Later, my husband and I moved to Concord where I have served in several roles including psychologist for group homes, psychology faculty at Rowan Cabarrus Community College and Emergency Behavioral Health Clinician working night shift in the ER of CMC Northeast. Currently I run a small practice in Concord."

In July 2003, the giant Pillowtex plant in Kannapolis closed, putting 4,800 mill workers out of work in a single day, the largest single-day layoff of workers in North Carolina history, so House District 83 had seen the worst of the economic downturn even before the stock market crash of 2008. Senah Andrews saw that devastation from up close:
Senah Andrews (center) and her family
I was teaching at RCCC at the time and was on the front line as we absorbed thousands of displaced workers into the college to build new skills and prepare for a changing labor force. Those were scary times. Fear of change, worry for the future and low morale were daily reminders that our world had shifted. The aftershock throughout our community has been felt for well over a decade. Many folks continue to struggle to earn a living wage after losing their well paying mill jobs. Morale continues to be low as hard working individuals have felt left behind. Many have struggled with substance abuse and mental illness related to extreme stress. As an emergency behavioral health clinician working in the ER at CMC Northeast I have served on the front line witnessing the personal crises that plague so many of our citizens. I have listened to the people who have become addicted to opioids and other substances and have tried to understand their pain. Professionally, I have been forced to deal with the lack of quality community resources to help folks get back on their feet or manage a psychiatric illness or addiction effectively so that they can become productive members of society. I have held mothers who have lost their children to suicide or overdose and know in my heart that the system has failed so many of our own good people.
This is going to be an interesting primary (and a constructive one, we hope), and we want to see a strong General Election candidate emerge against Larry Pittman next November.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Inescapable

Last night, Trump's State Department announced it would not impose Russia sanctions that Congress overwhelmingly passed in mid-2017.

What does that look like to you?

Yeah. I think so too.

More US Naval Academy Grads Running as Democrats

I've already written here about Democratic congressional candidate Amy McGrath in Kentucky, one of three female graduates of Annapolis, and I'm happy to find out about two other kick-ass women and US Naval Academy graduates who are trying to be part of the #2018BlueWave. With candidates like these, who's afraid of Donald Trump?

Elaine Luria, running in the 2nd Congressional District of Virginia
Elaine Luria with her family
The 2nd CD of Virginia encompasses all of Accomack and Northampton counties and the city of Virginia Beach -- the largest city in Virginia -- and parts of the cities of Norfolk and Hampton. It includes the HDQs of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.
Incumbent Republican: Scott Taylor is in his first term in what is considered a safe Republican district. Taylor easily beat his Democratic opponent in 2016. He was previously a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and perhaps more important for a Congressional district that includes large naval installations, he was a Navy SEAL and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Politico gave him an admiring write-up for the masterful way he could handle a hostile audience at one of his town halls. If both Luria and Taylor win their respective primaries (and, yes, there's a raft of Democrats running), then it'll be Navy veteran (man) v. Navy veteran (female) in the general election. Game on!
Elaine Luria joined the Navy at the age of 17. Michael Tackett profiles her in today's New York Times. Luria chose to focus on surface warfare at the Naval Academy, rose to commander rank, and served for 20 years before retiring. "Luria said that she felt the pull to run for office after Mr. Trump’s election, and that her husband quit his job to help take over household duties so she could focus on campaigning .... she had earned a black belt in taekwondo, passed all the required endurance tests and flourished in the classroom .... After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, she said, she felt compelled to stay in the Navy. She had a letter of resignation stuck in her desk, but never submitted it." Luria has the backing of the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), which is useful ($$$).

Mikie Sherrill, running in the 11th Congressional District of New Jersey
Mikie Sherrill and her family
The 11th CD of New Jersey has been considered a Republican district. Trump won the district by less than a percentage point in 2016, but last fall the 11th experienced an astounding "blue wave," with 39 insurgent Democrats winning races for seats on boards of education, municipal councils and freeholder boards. The 11th also went for Democratic governor candidate Phil Murphy.
Incumbent Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen just announced yesterday that he would not run again, making this an open seat. Frelinghuysen, considered one of the Republican moderates and also considered one of the most endangered Republicans in 2018, had been refusing to face his constituents (many of whom were angry that he was voting with Trump) at a public town hall. The entry of Mikie Sherrill into the race may have tipped Frelinghuysen into retirement.
Mikie Sherrill is not only a graduate of Annapolis (served as a Navy helicopter pilot) but she is also a former federal prosecutor and the mother of four. She also has the strong backing of the DCCC, and according to Michael Tackett, she is favored to win her primary. She has focused her criticism of Trump on the new tax law and on Trump's effort to weaken the Affordable Care Act. She says she is simply “fed up” with the president’s agenda. “I talked to friends and thought if we broke through our own glass ceilings, we would progress, yet we now see again and again we simply haven’t made the gains we thought we made. My children’s future is in peril.”

More Democratic Hope for North Carolina

Christy Clark, running in the 98th NC House District
Christy Clark
District 98 takes in north Charlotte suburbs and the Mecklenburg towns of Huntersville, Cornelius, and Davidson. It was Thom Tillis's old seat, and we know what happened to him.
Incumbent Republican: John R. Bradford III, a real estate investor and residential property manager, was first elected to public office in 2011 as a Cornelius town commissioner (again, following in Thom Tillis's footsteps). He's risen fast in the NC House Republican leadership, becoming right out of the gate the Freshmen Majority Whip. He's young and photogenic (think Dan Soucek, but with gainful employment.)

Democrat Christy Clark is newly announced (just yesterday) and has not yet built out a campaign platform in social media, but she's on Twitter and has a Facebook page. Quoting from the latter, "I’m running for office because I care about North Carolina and her citizens. I want to bring my dedication and determination to the General Assembly to focus on what is essential -- economic growth, good paying jobs, supporting our public schools and teachers, and affordable healthcare." She appears to be one of those "super volunteers" that every community needs, always selflessly working for others. This campaign is going to be more of the same.
If you would like to contribute to Christy Clark's campaign, here's her ActBlue page.

Joe Fowler, running in the 76th NC House District
Joe Fowler
District 76 takes in a lot of very rural Cabarrus and Rowan counties but also includes parts of the cities of Salisbury, Concord, and Kannapolis and the village of Mount Pleasant, where Cline's Country Antiques is a major entertainment draw.
Incumbent Republican: Harry Warren, first elected to the NC House in the Tea Party wave of 2010, and he's voted like a Tea Partier. He worked as a human resource specialist for the largest Wendy's franchiser in the state and appears to be retired now.
Democrat Joe Fowler was a state wildlife officer until 1993, when he began work with the National Wild Turkey Federation. He has started a business in Salisbury, Open Season Foods, selling locally sourced foods such as sweet potato butter, jalapeno butter, and more. One of his guiding values is improving public education. Joe Fowler's father was elected to the General Assembly in the 1950s and sponsored the state community college bill with Terry Sanford, so Fowler feels he has a generational commitment to continue the work of his father. According to the Salisbury Post, Fowler has been hearing from mayors in District 76 that actions by the Republicans in the General Assembly have hurt the towns and cities of the state (and don't we know that in Boone!).
Joe Fowler doesn't appear to have built out a social media presence yet, but stay tuned!

Steven Buccini, running in the 59th NC House District
District 59 wraps around the eastern edge of Guilford County, taking in Burlington and part of Greensboro and many of the neighborhoods along the I-40 corridor like Gibsonville. 
Incumbent Republican: Jon Hardister ran unopposed in the 2012 general election and swamped his Democratic opponent in the elections of 2014 and 2016. Hardister is the Majority Whip, which makes him a prize pelt for a Democratic insurgent but also a difficult quarry to bring down, as he also has access to all sorts of campaign cash. He's one of the young ones. He's a vice president of First Carolina Mortgage and has the pitiless gaze of a repossessor. 
Democrat Steven Buccini is a software engineer with Affirm in Greensboro who has also worked for Apple and Uber. He's a native of Guilford County who learned his computer science at Berkeley. "He was heavily involved in the entrepreneurship community in Silicon Valley at all levels from skills education, to acquiring venture funding, to day-to-day execution." He's a brand new candidate and hasn't fully developed positions and a platform, but I believe he'll get there.
If you would like to contribute to Steven Buccini's campaign, here's his Act Blue page

Monday, January 29, 2018

Dan Besse Announces for NC House Seat

Our friend Dan Besse, a Winston-Salem city councilman, announced today that he is running for the District 75 NC House seat which is currently held by Republican Donny Lambeth. Dan is an attorney, a graduate of UNC Law School, and a five-term member of the Winston-Salem city council. He's a righteous dude and is going up against a powerful Republican in Donny Lambeth, who has connections to all sorts of Republican money.

Dan says, “Our state legislature has forgotten how to cooperate. We need a new set of priorities working for us at the state level: improving our schools, helping our people stay healthy, protecting clean water and air, and creating jobs. I’ll bring to this task the lessons I’ve learned serving in local government—it’s all about neighbors working together to help our communities.”

Lambeth was on the Forsyth School Board for a number of years before taking a seat in the NC House in 2013. He's sometimes been regarded as a moderate, so far as moderation goes with the NC GOP, and he was even mentioned a few years ago as the Forsyth Republican who could successful challenge Virginia A. Foxx for her US House seat. (He might be a vast improvement.) Despite the reputation, he's been a total foot soldier for the extremist leadership in the NC General Assembly.

According to the Triad City Beat, the NCGA's high-handed and dictatorial attitude toward our state's municipalities explains at least part of Dan's motivation for running this year. Besse "experienced the heavy hand of Raleigh up close and personal last year when his proposal to name Winston-Salem a 'welcoming city' was scuttled under the threat of punitive legislation that would withhold tax revenues from the city.​"

The 75th House District is "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."

If you'd like to contribute to Dan Besse's campaign -- and you should like to very much! --

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Wild, Wonderful Way That Judges Use the Language

Good Lord Almighty! Hell for me would be forever reading court documents in constitutionality cases in North Carolina.

I've got the blind staggers after spending much of the day on the text of Judge Ervin's decision in Roy A. Cooper v. Philip E. Berger and Timothy K. Moore, a landmark case, but gawd! the language, the terminology, the "magic words"! A tar-pit, if you'll forgive the all-too-obvious reference. Nevertheless, I've often been engrossed in it, and sometimes nonplussed. 

Phil Berger and Tim Moore.
It appears that "on its face,"
they fell flat on theirs
To boil it down: A three-judge panel appointed by Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court Mark Martin especially to hear the governor's suit against the legislature last October -- in which the governor claimed that Berger/Moore violated the separation of powers provision of the state constitution in restructuring the boards of election and ethics and taking away the governor's ability to appoint the members of those boards as he pleases -- those three judges entered an order on Halloween Night, 2017, determining that it "lacked jurisdiction to reach the merits of the Governor's claims" ... leaving the General Assembly's power-grab in place and punting the issue to a higher court.

The Supreme Court caught the ball: "We'll take it from here."

I've learned a lot today about "the political question doctrine" and "justiciability," which was the foundation on which the 3-judge panel refused to act. LawBrain defines a "political question" as "an issue that the courts refuse to decide because it properly belongs to the decision-making authority of elected officials" and is therefore not a matter appropriate for court review -- "non-justiciable."

The NC Supreme Court did not agree with that reasoning and asserted its constitutional right to review the General Assembly's restructuring of the Board of Elections and Ethics and its cutting the governor out of the ability to appoint and control that combined board. It is not a political question, Ervin's decision asserts, because what the General Assembly did is also a fundamental violation of the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branches of government, and on the face of it is an unconstitutional usurpation of power.

That's another word I've learned: facially. On its face. So obvious it hurts.

Much of the Cooper v. Berger and Moore decision focuses on the separation of powers and on the Supreme Court's ability -- nay, responsibility -- to test and check the General Assembly's power-grabbing ambitions -- the power of "judicial review."

Under that power, the Supreme Court yesterday reviewed what Berger and Moore did to the Board of Elections just hours after they watched a Democrat win the governship in the late fall of 2016 -- they combined elections and ethics enforcement boards and recomposed it with equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, so that stalemate is all but guaranteed in matters like Early Voting plans in all the counties -- something we know about in Watauga -- and the Democratic majority on the Court found it just on its face an unallowable infringement on the executive:
The General Assembly cannot ... structure an executive branch commission in such a manner that the Governor is unable, within a reasonable period of time, to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” because he or she is required to appoint half of the commission members from a list of nominees consisting of individuals who are, in all likelihood, not supportive of, if not openly opposed to, his or her policy preferences while having limited supervisory control over the agency and circumscribed removal authority over commission members. 
I can read that, and understand it very clearly, and so can Berger and Moore.

Friday, January 26, 2018

BREAKING: NC Supreme Court Rules Remaking of NC Board of Elections Unconstitutional

Here's the decision, written by Justice Ervin with separate dissents by Chief Justice Martin and Justice Newby. Haven't been able to read all of this yet, but the weekend yawns before us!

Here's Anne Blythe's brief notice in the News and Observer. Tomorrow's papers will be full of analysis (we hope!).

Another Republican Scandal, Another Democratic Opportunity

Rep. Patrick Meehan, Republican representative from the 7th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, a powerful member of the Ways and Means Committee, has just announced that he won't be running for reelection after it came to light that he paid off (with taxpayer money, natch!) a much younger female employee for whom he had a romantic crush (unreciprocated, evidently).

So another open seat in a Philadelphia suburban district that Hillary Clinton carried by two percentage points.

You wanna talk gerrymandering?

It's an open question whether the 7th will still look like this, come November, as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recently struck down all the Pennsylvania congressional districts as illegal partisan gerrymanders and ordered new districts to be drawn immediately -- by February 9.

(Pennsylvania Republicans have asked the US Supremes to step in and stay the order. Considering their recent track record on these issues, The Supremes will probably comply. But how long are they prepared to allow this crap to continue?)

So I'm poking around now to see which Democrats have announced that they'll be running for the seat. First, I discover that the presumed front-runner, a state legislator named Daylin Leach, has already stumbled himself out of the running over -- can you guess? -- inappropriate female touching and "sexualized jokes."

Other Democrats who've announced they're planning to run include Daniel Muroff, a lawyer and former city ward leader; Molly Sheehan, a bioengineer; Drew McGinty, an IT professional with gay parents; and Elizabeth Moro, a real estate broker. Muroff has been endorsed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, but otherwise this crop of Democrats doesn't appear to be well known. Yet. That can certainly change.

Shelly Chauncey
Then early this week along comes a former CIA officer named Shelly Chauncey who announced her candidacy on Monday and who may well upend the race. The Philadelphia Inquirer gave her some valuable press, and the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) is apparently very interested in her. And get this: She grew up on a "small family farm" in North Carolina, and she graduated from Meredith College with a degree in political science.

Chauncey is 37 and the mother of three. She decided to make a bid for the Seventh because she “can’t sit back and watch our representative go to Washington and support an administration that’s taking away our health care and destroying the quality of our education.”

According to the Inquirer, "On paper, at least, Chauncey has qualities that many Democratic leaders want in candidates: She’s a woman with a national security career and a working-class background."

This will be one important Democratic primary to watch.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Another Marine Running as a Democratic Insurgent

Roger Dean Huffstetler is running for the US House from the 5th District of Virginia. He inspires confidence.

The 5th District of Virginia was gerrymandered to benefit a Republican. It includes the city of Danville but skirts Roanoke and Lynchburg and stretches on up the largely rural eastern slope of the Blue Ridge to Warrenton. Charlottesville and the University of Virginia is very much in the district.

Most observers consider it reliably Republican, but it was represented by blue dog Democrat Virgil Goode for years, who switched parties to Republican and promptly lost to Democratic progressive Tom Perriello in 2008, who in turn lost the seat to a Republican tea partier in 2010. It's been Republican ever since but with a lingering tendency to "swing." We have relatives and friends in the Virginia 5th, in Amherst and Nelson counties (where there's still some very fine moonshine produced).

Who is the current Republican incumbent?
Tom Garrett, a legislator without much of a profile other than being an enthusiastic member of the hard-conservative "freedom caucus," chose to raise his profile in 2017 by meeting with the organizer of the Charlottesville white supremacy rally shortly before that event led to the death of a young woman.
Tom Garrett
Photo Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Garrett was soon claiming that he didn't know the political identity of the man he met with, but the cat was already out of the bag: Garrett is a coddler of white supremacists, much like the president he wants to be close to.

As a freedom caucus member, Garrett is currently joining in on the trashing of the FBI -- the real enemy of the people! -- and helping lay the groundwork that any indictment of the president by the Mueller investigation must be bogus because of a "secret society" of Comey allies (who nevertheless managed to throw the election to Trump by reopening an investigation into Clinton emails just days before the 2016 election. That's one inept secret society!).

In other words, Garrett is a conservative tool and an idiot, while Roger Dean Huffstetler is not.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Southern Conservatives Blink

Alan Blinder has an article in this morning's NewYorkTimes which highlights a growing nervousness across Southern states and in their Republican-dominated legislatures to pass more laws aimed at punishing LBGT citizens. In South Carolina, a "bathroom bill" similar to North Carolina's is stuck in committee and going nowhere. In Tennessee, a lawmaker who wanted another bathroom bill for public schools suddenly withdrew his proposal just eight days after introducing it. Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia vetoed a law "to shield religious groups from repercussions if they refused to employ or serve gay people."

“There’s been a slow IV drip of common sense to legislators, and you have lots and lots of people speaking to them and saying, ‘It’s not viable to do an extreme thing,’ ” said a law professor who has been studying recent extreme things and the extreme people who enact them.

Blinder thinks -- not without good cause -- that the example of what happened to North Carolina after it passed its bathroom bill (not to mention HB2 which attempted to outlaw gay marriage for eternity) has dissuaded many Southern lawmakers in other states from attempting to punish people for their sexual orientation. North Carolina lost business, lost investment, lost tourism, lost respect.
...though the [anti-LBGT] bills have often been popular with conservative voters, they go down very poorly with another important constituency: big business. Officials in states hoping to attract major investments from out-of-state corporations — like Amazon’s second headquarters — say they drew a lesson from the boycotts and cancellations that North Carolina suffered over its bathroom bill.
Blinder curiously does not mention another big "pucker factor" at work right now: It's an election year, shaping up to be a vicious gauntlet for some Republicans, and when there are so many fired-up voters who want to throw you overboard, it might be wiser not to rock the boat.

Not that the Republican masters in the North Carolina General Assembly have ever been wary of boat-tipping, since they gerrymandered themselves into cork-filled life-preservers.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

2018 Women's March -- Thousands Across North Carolina

Boone, NC
January 20, 2018
Photo by Lonnie Webster

Winston-Salem, Corpening Plaza
Photo Walt Unks, Winston-Salem Journal

Asheville, Pack Square Park
Photo Carol Spagnuola, Asheville Citizen-Times

Uptown Charlotte
Photo Charlotte Observer

Saturday, January 20, 2018

More NC Redistricting News ... Good This Time!

Hattip: Progressive Pulse

A federal court has ordered that a special master’s legislative redistricting plan be adopted for the 2018 elections.

Stanford Law Professor Nathaniel Persily redrew nine of the 28 state House and Senate districts found to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders after the General Assembly’s maps didn’t remedy the violations, according to the court.

The three-judge panel’s decision to use Persily’s plan was unanimous and explained thoroughly in the 92-page order. It affects Senate districts in Cumberland, Hoke and Guilford counties and House districts in Bladen, Sampson, Wayne, Mecklenburg, Guilford and Wake counties. All other districts will remain as adopted by the legislature.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Supreme Court Surprises Precisely No One

As we predicted, the US Supreme Court yesterday put a stay on a decision by a three-judge panel ordering the NC General Assembly to redraw the 13 North Carolina congressional district maps. The order was issued January 9, and the three-judge panel earlier this week refused to stay their own order.

This means that the US congressional districts that were ruled unconstitutional gerrymanders will be used again this fall to elect representatives from North Carolina to the US Congress.

Sounds about right.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Why Trump Is Going to Southwestern Pa Today

Take a good look at that map above, a rank example of partisan gerrymandering, the 18th US House District of Pennsylvania, which will be ground zero for electoral politics from now right on through March 13th, when a special election will decide who replaces Republican Rep. Tim Murphy in Congress. Murphy, as I'm sure you remember, resigned after it became known that he had urged his mistress to have an abortion.

The 18th District was gerrymandered in 2013 for a Republican, and up until now it's delivered. The map-drawers deliberately skirted around Pittsburgh, but they managed to include some very affluent suburbs south of Pittsburgh. Hmmm, suburbs.

Congressional Republicans are so worried about the district that they've got Trump going there today to campaign for the Republican, Rick Saccone. And Mike Pence will follow along on Ground Hog Day to campaign for Saccone. Will Pence see his shadow, or will he squeeze his eyes tightly shut in silent prayer? Everyone already knows it's going to be many more weeks of winter for the Party of Trump.

I wrote about the Democratic candidate, Conor Lamb, weeks ago. He's another of those rising stars, a candidate who "fits his district," an assistant US attorney, and an ex-Marine. (Have you noticed how many retired military are now running for office as Democrats?) Lamb has said that he would not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House, a position that used to be the kiss of death for party support and a position I happen to agree with. If anything is clear about the BlueWave of 2018, the Democratic party is in need of new, younger leadership.

What's funny is that "a group of well-financed outside Republican groups is planning to unleash a biting advertising campaign against Conor Lamb," claiming he'll be the stooge of Nancy Pelosi. Hahahaha! "We will explain why he is a Nancy Pelosi rubber stamp,” vowed Corry Bliss, who runs the Congressional Leadership Fund. Gosh. With political opponents as dense as that... (you finish the sentence.)

Rick Saccone
Photo Marc Levy, AP
Meanwhile, Republican candidate Rick Saccone looks like day-before-yesterday's politics. Even among Republicans, he's considered "lackluster." Which is why Washington politicians are rushing to prop him up and why Trump will be in the district today and Mike Pence on Ground Hog Day. Saccone is playing his part. He's bragged that "I was Trump before Trump was Trump," whatever the hell that means, but we assume it means he's a fool and an idiot. He was, after all, a public supporter of dearly departed Roy Moore in Alabama.

Saccone was picked in a nominating convention and on the second ballot, apparently because the Republicans in the room were drinking undiluted gall that day and Saccone was the most conservative candidate running. He's a state representative from Allegheny County.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Amy McGrath, A Democratic Star Rising in Kentucky

Wow. So many newly minted Democratic candidates across this nation are catching fire and beginning to get their message out: We can do better, and we will.

Very few of those new candidates are as impressive as 22-year Marine veteran Amy McGrath, who was also a Marine fighter pilot and who is challenging Republican Rep. Andy Barr in the Kentucky 6th.

Take a look at this interview with McGrath, which includes her introductory video:

McGrath's strength of purpose and personality have shot her to the top among congressional fundraisers. By October -- she announced last August -- she had raised more than $770,000. A majority of that money came from small donors — she raised more than $400,000 in donations of under $200. That's called catching fire.

Republican incumbent Andy Barr: Barr came very close to defeating incumbent Democrat Ben Chandler for the seat in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and did beat him in 2012 with 50.6% of the vote. The 6th District should nominally be a Democratic district, so far as voter registrations go (which obviously don't go very far these days), and it has a majority of women, 51.5% to 48.5% men. No Democrat has come close to beating Barr since 2012.

FiveThirtyEight rates Congressman Barr a super Trumpian, but he actually looks more like a super Foxxian to me, voting with Virginia Foxx to deny hurricane relief to the victims of Harvey and to the devastated citizens of Puerto Rico.

If you'd like to contribute to Amy McGrath's campaign, go to, where you'll find the DONATE button.

"Underdog" Becomes Top Dog: Long-Shot Democrat Wins Special Wisconsin Senate Seat

Patty Schachtner
AP reporting: Patty Schachtner defeated Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow for an open state Senate seat Tuesday in an upset victory for struggling Wisconsin Democrats, signaling voter anger toward President Donald Trump that could cost the GOP more legislative seats in the fall elections.
...Schachtner, the St. Croix County medical examiner and a Somerset school board member, had entered the race in northwestern Wisconsin’s traditionally conservative 10th Senate District as the clear underdog.
The Republicans fought hard for the seat, nominating a young state representative to carry the Trumpian message. Plus Americans for Prosperity poured in the bucks along with the Republican State Leadership Committee. But nothing helped turn back the blue wave.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

One More Reason We Need New Members of the NC General Assembly

November can't get here fast enough!

If you're not paying attention to the clown car in Raleigh, you may not know that the Republican overlords called another "special session" last week -- the seventh (?) or eighth (?) in a series since November 2016, when Republican Senate boss Phil Berger began knee-capping newly elected Governor Roy Cooper even before he was sworn in. Each special session costs taxpayers a minimum of $42,000, just for starts, and untold millions in tatters to North Carolina's progressive reputation.

The most recent special session on January 10 caused an uproar because the word got out that the Republicans were going to reorganize the judiciary to make it more congenial for them and their unconstitutional power-grabs. The session was called for a three-day legislating marathon which was also supposed to address the contamination of the Cape Fear River (see below), but lasted exactly one day when the best laid plans of Phil Berger crumbled under public pressure.

Phil Berger dismissed his senate in a snit without taking up the Cape Fear River pollution, but Tim Moore over on the House side decided that maybe they should do something -- some little thing -- about the Chemours plant (previously operating as Dupont). Chemours had been dumping GenX, an ingredient in Teflon coverings for cookware, into the Cape Fear River (until the state Department of Environmental Quality revoked their permit in November), along with other noxious chemicals. The Cape Fear supplies municipal drinking water for towns and cities from Fayetteville to Wilmington.

Chemours is possibly the worst corporate entity operating in North Carolina (and the competition for "worst" is pretty stiff). They had kept secret a lot of their dumping and had failed to report a spill on Oct. 6 that “caused a nearly 100-fold increase in the concentration of GenX” in the river.

Tim Moore and his House of Representatives passed a by-partisan bill that mandated several studies and provided $2.3 million to the DEQ for extra staff and equipment to research potentially dangerous chemicals. According to Colin Campbell, "The key problem with GenX and related chemicals is how little scientists know about them — they might give you cancer, but we don’t yet know for sure."

Safely back in Rockingham County, Berger felt empowered to throw stones at what the House did, without offering to do anything useful himself, and since you know that it takes action by both House and Senate to pass legislation, the Cape Fear River continues to be polluted, the state's judiciary remains unchanged (so far), and if it's not about power-grabbing and dismantling any claim North Carolina once had to being the most progressive state in the South, then Phil Berger wants nothing to do with it.

Could a Democrat Beat Texas Senator Ted Cruz?

Yes. Yes he could, especially if he is Beto O'Rourke.

O'Rourke will probably end up in a Democratic primary, but he's been energizing Texas voters since he announced 10 months ago and he's probably way ahead in any primary race.

If he ends up facing Ted Cruz in November, better watch out.

Monday, January 15, 2018

More New Hopes on the Horizon

Marcia Morgan, running in the 19th NC House District
Marcia Morgan
District includes Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach and parts of Wilmington, all within New Hanover County
Incumbent Republican: Ted Davis Jr., an attorney, originally appointed to the seat in 2012 and reelected to the office since then without Democratic opposition. The most that can be said about him is that he's a seat-warmer who votes as he's told by the bosses.
Democrat Marcia Morgan was an educator, became a career Army officer who retired as a colonel. She taught ROTC and did two tours at the Pentagon including a staff position with the Army Chief of Staff. She says, "I have thoroughly enjoyed retirement and the freedom to do as I please, but the current political environment has challenged me to step forward once again. I do not have a background in politics, but I DO have a strong sense of service to this community and a demonstrated ability to accomplish difficult tasks. I believe we have a commitment to improve our economy, provide equal opportunities for all and protect our environment – and one of the fundamental ways to accomplish those things is through quality education."
If you would like to contribute to Marcia Morgan's campaign:

Terence Everitt, running in the 35th NC House District
Terence Everitt
District includes the town of Wake Forest and some northeastern suburbs of Wake County
Incumbent Republican: Chris Malone has served on the Wake Forest town board, the Wake County Board of Education, and was elected to his current seat in the GA in 2012. He was criticized for inventing a tax increase lie (rated by PolitiFact as "Pants on Fire") about his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election, Terence Everitt, who came very close to defeating Malone. Malone famously voted for HB2 and then famously sent out a mailer saying he didn't support it, and he even more famously had a notorious romantic affair with fellow Wake School Board member Debra Goldman which didn't end well
Democrat Terence Everitt is challenging Malone for the second time. He lost to Malone in 2016 by just under 3,000 votes. Everitt is a Wake Forest attorney. In 2016, Everitt's top campaign issue was school funding: "We need to fully fund our public schools and pay our teachers a salary that is at a minimum at the national average. Mr. Malone has voted time and again to underfund our schools. Many of our teachers are working two jobs to make ends meet or even leaving the state to find work for better pay. North Carolina has fallen to among the lowest in the nation in per-pupil spending and teacher pay. And yet, year after year, Mr. Malone has voted for budgets that do not adequately fund our local schools -- all while cutting taxes for large out-of- state corporations and millionaires."
Note: Everitt will have at least one Democratic opponent in next May's primary -- Adam Wright, a business entrepreneur (and may the best candidate come out on top!).
If you want to contribute to Terence Everitt's campaign, here's the link (

Ayoub Ouederni, running in the 105th NC House District
Ayoub Ouederni
District includes neighborhoods in south Charlotte and the towns of Pineville and Weddington
Incumbent Republican: Scott Stone, who was an unsuccessful Charlotte mayoral candidate and who got appointed to the NC House seat in May of 2016 and won his first election in November of 2016. In other words, Stone doesn't have much of a record in the House but appears to be a dutiful foot-soldier for the bosses.
Democrat Ayoub Ouederni is a Charlotte native and is a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill where he was the president of the UNC Muslim Students Association. He would be one of the youngest members of the General Assembly. He became a very outspoken opponent of Trump's Muslim ban last year. Ayoub says, "Our great State has always been home. It has given me my happiest memories, provided me with unparalleled opportunity, and I am forever indebted to my fellow North Carolinians for striving to make this the best state in the Nation. However, we have slowly lost our status as the beacon of the South. Seeing the deterioration of our state institutions has been disheartening. From lowballing our public school teachers and refusing Medicaid expansion, to politicizing our judiciary and disenfranchising minority communities, the state legislature in Raleigh -- the General Assembly -- has refused to set aside partisanship to pursue policies that improve the lives of North Carolinians. I am running for the General Assembly because we need thoughtful leadership and an injection of fresh, new ideas into our politics. Our elected officials must embody our core values of dignity, equality, and respect, and carry the burden that is entrusted onto them with honor and a sense of duty. We need a General Assembly that works proactively to improve the lives of our citizens and strengthen our State."
If you would like to contribute to Ayoub Ouederni, here's your link:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Four More Reasons To Anticipate Next November like Christmas Morning

With new polling showing a 16-point "motivation gap" (67%-51%) between Democrats and Republicans itching to vote in 2018 elections for the North Carolina General Assembly, we shall proceed in this space with celebration of some of the first-time Democratic candidates who are announcing they'll run this year:

Brandon Lofton
Brandon Lofton, running in the 104th NC House District
District currently covers much of south Charlotte and has been "reliably Republican"
Incumbent Republican: Andy Dulin, newly elected in 2016 to replace Ruth Samuelson (who was sometimes a "moderate" R). Dulin's an Appalachian State graduate (1984), with a bachelor’s in travel, tourism, and marketing. He was previously on the Charlotte city council, 2005-2013, and he told the Observer in 2016 that he wouldn't support the repeal of HB2. Just yesterday, the Charlotte Observer pointed out that if the court accepts the redrawn GA district maps produced by the special master, Dulin's 104th becomes considerably less congenial to The Party of Trump.
Democrat Brandon Lofton is a lawyer and a partner at Robinson Bradshaw, concentrating on public finance. Quoting from the Robinson Bradshaw website: "He regularly serves as bond counsel, underwriter's counsel, borrower's counsel and bank counsel for tax-exempt and taxable financings. Brandon represents municipalities, counties, hospitals, universities, nonprofits and underwriters in the financing and refinancing of capital improvements. He also represents clients in a variety of public finance transactions, including general obligation bonds, revenue bonds, installment financings and limited obligation bonds."
Lofton graduated from Chapel Hill with his bachelor's in 2001 and then earned his law degree at New York University in 2004, trailing service awards and academic honors along the way. Lofton was honored by his law school as the featured representative and speaker for the class of 2004. He described "his childhood dream of being a lawyer, explaining how he wanted to be a source of positive social change and to emulate legal heroes such as Thurgood Marshall."
If you want to contribute to Brandon Lofton's campaign, click here: Act Blue Directory (scroll down). 

Erica McAdoo, running in the 63rd NC House District
Erica McAdoo
District covers Alamance County
Incumbent Republican: Stephen M. Ross, a Wells-Fargo banker (hiss!) and previously the mayor of Burlington, first elected to the General assembly in 2012. He recently voted to eliminate judicial primaries in the state (bad!), but some of his other ratings make him look like a squishy moderate: the American Conservative Union rated his usefulness at 42%, and the National Rifle Association put his slavishness to their special interests at 57%.
Democrat Erica McAdoo is "Firm Manager" for The Paynter Law Firm in Hillsborough and teaches at Guilford College and Meredith College (while simultaneously working on an MBA at ECU). She earned a Master's of Music from Appalachian State, a paralegal certificate from Meredith, and a B.S. in piano from Campbell University. According to the Paynter website, McAdoo previously "worked in the legal industry as a litigation paralegal where she was frequently responsible for legal research, document drafting, employee training, office and file organization, client recruitment and retainment, implementation of firm-sponsored community events, identification of marketing opportunities, and development of marketing materials."
If you want to contribute to Erica McAdoo, click here

Mack Paul, running in the 18th NC Senate District
Mack Paul
District 18 under the latest redistricting maps includes northern Wake County, Franklin County, and a small section of Raleigh
Incumbent Republicans: John Alexander and Chad Barefoot, double-bunked by those same redistricting maps. Barefoot, a conservative dick (his attempt to redistrict Wake's Board of Education was thrown out by the courts as unconstitutional), already announced his retirement, so holding the seat for the Republicans is all on John Alexander, the owner of a trucking company first elected to the GA in 2014 (barely) and reelected in 2016 with 50.01% of the vote. For a Republican he expresses hesitance at best and a dangerous moderation at worst on some issues like the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.
Democrat Mack Paul is a Raleigh real-estate attorney and former Wake County Democratic Party chair. Paul says his campaign will focus on economic issues affecting the middle class, and he says the Republican-dominated Senate has “been focused way too much on issues that divide us.” He was a founding member of Triangle Growth Strategies and the Triangle Smart Growth Coalition, two groups that brought together homebuilders and environmentalists on growth issues. As a partner at Morningstar Law Group, he has represented big developers who were defeated in their plans by local opposition, but Paul says he does not support recent legislation backed by developers to limit local governments’ planning and zoning powers. “I feel like it’s important that our local governments have authority to implement the policies that they need because they understand the issues at the local level,” he said. I want to believe him.
If you want to contribute to Mack Paul, go to Act Blue

Wendy B. Sellars
, running in the 80th House District
Wendy Sellars
District covers Davidson County
Incumbent Republican Sam Watford has announced that he'll move over and run for a senate seat, so technically this is now an open seat. (Republican Kevin Speight, the finance chair of the GOP's 13th U.S. Congressional District, announced last month that he will represent the Republicans on the ballot for the seat.)
Democrat Wendy Sellars is an adult probation and parole officer for the N.C. Department of Public Safety and was elected for her second, two-year term on the Thomasville City Council in November. She was previously a member of the Davidson County Board of Education. She criticizes the Republicans’ refusal to expand Medicaid and sufficiently address the opioid crisis: “For too long, Republicans in the General Assembly have failed to adequately address the issues facing our community. Our leaders should fight every day to make sure people have access to a quality education and affordable health care, including lifesaving answers to the opioid and mental health crises. It’s time we fight for those who are in need and stop catering to those at the top .… Everyone deserves a representative who will be their constituents’ voice and speak up for the voiceless among us – I intend to be that representative for Davidson County.”
If you want to contribute to Wendy Sellars, here's the link