Friday, March 30, 2018

Christian Cano Takes Off the Gloves

Democrat Dan McCready, who is running in the NC 9th congressional district (incumbent Republican -- Robert Pittenger), has been a kind of phenomenon this year, gaining national attention and outraising most other Democrats -- and Republicans -- in North Carolina. I've written about him here -- favorably -- more than once. I've also criticized his lack of policy positions, the curious fly-weight vagueness of his campaign so far.

Christian Cano
(But what's with the hat?)
This morning his Democratic primary opponent, Christian Cano, goes after him hard in a campaign email:
As many of y’all have heard by now, our NC09 Democratic challenger, Dan McCready, pulled a Robert Pittenger and cowards out of one of our TV Debates so he won’t have to answer our real-world issues facing our working-class and struggling neighbors (again).
We've come to expect this from cowardly Robert Pittenger. As our 2016 NC 9th Congressional District Democratic Nominee he only showed up for one of our scheduled debates after the tremendous backlash from making his racist and bigoted statements about our Charlotte protesters.
But we didn't expect a so called “brave former Marine” who has spent an entire year trying to convince our Democratic base and our NC 9th Congressional District that his South Charlotte privileged, and elitist class rich kid entitlement was not true.
Let me be clear. Dan McCready is a political coward and a political opportunist of the worst kind. We shared this when we first discovered his collusion with #NancyPelosi and her political cronies and we continue to see it arrogantly on display even now just days before early voting starts.
Dan McCready can't hide forever. He will be forced to answer to our Democratic base and our Democratic values one way or another before early voting starts on April 19, 2018 for our #NCDP Democratic primary election May 08, 2018.
Rest assured, if our Democratic base must camp outside his South Charlotte house, we will force him to answer where he stands on the real-world issues facing our rich culturally diverse working-class and struggling families.
McCready has been the front-runner in the primary, virtually since he announced his candidacy. For some people, Christian Cano is old news, the Democrat who lost to Pittenger in 2016. For some people, McCready looks like a sure winner, and it's kind of expected in American politics that if you're ahead you don't debate an opponent who's far behind.

But Cano's attack does give us pause when combined with McCready's obvious reluctance to state a platform on his website.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Watauga BOE Votes Unanimously for Early Voting Plan for the May Primary Which Includes ASU Student Union

Jane Anne Hodges

Bill Aceto is gone from the Watauga Board of Elections, and it's a brave new world.

The newly constituted Watauga Board of Elections, with two Republicans and two Democrats, voted unanimously for the May primary early voting plan submitted by Democrats Jane Anne Hodges and Richard Rapfogel:

Watauga County Admin Bldg, 814 W King St. -- early voting opens on Thursday, April 19, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., and continues every weekday through Friday, May 4th, and concludes Saturday, May 5th, when the polling place will be open 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Satellite sites:

ASU Student Union -- early voting opens on Monday, April 30, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., and continues that week through Friday, May 5

Blowing Rock Town Hall -- early voting opens on Monday, April 30, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., and continues that week through Friday, May 5

Deep Gap Fire Department -- early voting opens on Monday, April 30, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., and continues that week through Friday, May 5

Meat Camp Fire Department -- early voting opens on Monday, April 30, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., and continues that week through Friday, May 5

Western Watauga Community Center -- early voting opens on Monday, April 30, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., and continues that week through Friday, May 5

Democrat Jane Anne Hodges, the former director of elections for many years, was elected chair of the board by unanimous vote. Republican Nancy Owen was elected vice chair and Democrat Richard Rapfogel, secretary.

Mississippi Gets More Interesting

Back on March 1st, we wrote about the Mississippi Republican Chris McDaniel, who wants very badly to be a US senator and who was at that time planning a primary battle against incumbent Republican Senator Roger Wicker. In some Republican camps, McDaniel is considered as unelectable as Roy Moore turned out to be in Alabama.

Since March 1st other interesting things have happened in Mississippi and in Washington:

1. The other Republican senator, Thad Cochran, suddenly retired because of ill health. Chris McDaniel ran a primary against Cochran in 2014 and almost beat him. Chris McDaniel naturally decided that he'd rather run for Cochran's seat in the special election this November to complete Cochran's term.

2. The governor of Mississippi gets to replace Cochran by appointment on an interim basis until the special election in November. The governor,  Phil Bryant (R), was lobbied by Republican Majority
Cindy Hyde-Smith
Leader Mitch McConnell to appoint himself. McConnell reckoned that Bryant would be the strongest Republican for the November ballot.

3. Governor Bryant did not appoint himself. He appointed his Commissioner of Commerce and Agriculture, Cindy Hyde-Smith, a former Democrat not that well known in Mississippi and totally unknown in Washington, DC.

4. Robert Costa et al. report that Hyde-Smith "received a frosty reception in the West Wing." They don't think she can beat McDaniel, and they think McDaniel could become another Roy Moore type embarrassment. Governor Bryant pushed the White House for a quick endorsement of Hyde-Smith. President Trump has withheld his endorsement.

5. The White House's political director, Bill Stephen, scheduled a secret visit with Hyde-Smith yesterday. "It was unclear whether the gathering would forge a thaw in the troubled relationship or move the president any closer to endorsing Hyde-Smith" (Costa et al.).

6. In November, if no one receives a majority of the vote in the special election, the top two finishers
Mike Espy
will advance to a runoff, regardless of party affiliation. "Party strategists worry about a runoff that could include McDaniel and a Democrat, giving them two undesirable choices."

7. The Democrat who might arise to challenge McDaniel: Mike Espy, formerly Mississippi's first black congressman since Reconstruction and Secretary of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton. He is currently and since 2008 an attorney with the mega-firm Morgan and Morgan in Jackson, Miss., and also runs his own consulting firm specializing in governmental relations, rural development, food and nutrition, and international agricultural development issues.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

SBEEE Will Appoint Local BOEs This Afternoon

The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement will meet this afternoon at 2:30 via teleconference, and one of their first orders of business will be the appointment of all 100 county boards of elections.

Jane Anne Hodges
If they adhere to traditional practice, they will pick the top two nominees from each party. In Watauga, that will mean Jane Anne Hodges and Richard Rapfogel for the Democrats, Eric F. Eller and Nancy Owen for the Republicans.

Nancy Owen we know already from her previous service on the board with Bill Aceto. Eric Eller is a criminal defense attorney in Boone.

Jane Anne Hodges was the elections director in Watauga for decades until the Republicans made her job unbearable after they took control in 2013 with Luke Four Eggers and Bill Aceto. Richard Rapfogel is a professional photographer and woodworker.

The local board will be holding its first official meeting later this week, and according to the statute that the Republican General Assembly passed to reorganize all the state's board of elections, the first chair should be a Democrat, until July.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Donna Quixote in NC House District 82

NC House District 82 takes in western Cabarrus County. The district borders northeastern Mecklenburg County, and according to Real Facts NC, "it has a significant college-educated population that makes it competitive."

Democratic insurgent Aimy Steele --
Aimy Steele
Aimy Steele joined Cabarrus County Schools in 2008 as a Spanish teacher at Northwest Cabarrus High School. Her leadership quickly gained recognition, and she was picked as a "principal intern" at Central Cabarrus High School before joining the leadership team at Cox Mill High School. Currently, she is the principal at Beverly Hills Elementary School.
She's fluent in Spanish and has friends -- ex-students and their families -- in the Hispanic community. A theme of her campaign, in fact, is "give a voice to those who are traditionally not represented." She knows that community. She makes allusion to "her humble beginnings" on her website. "[I] know first hand how exposure led to open doors that literally changed [my] life." "Exposure" goes undefined, and your guess is as good as mine what she was exposed to, and how, but I bet you five dollars it was provided by government agency, the open hand that Republicans have always wanted to chop off clean, like a careless paw in a circular saw.
Steele says, "I feel it is time for advocacy, required to move the needle for things that need to be done.” Pay teachers and administrators much better. Expand Medicaid. Support early childhood education and public transportation services. Give aid to local services managing the opioid crisis. In other words, dismantle the Republican budget -- throw the money-changers out of the temple -- and replace it with a budget that will change the current direction of the state.
She is the Wonder Woman mother of five, a top administrator with enormous responsibility, and now a candidate for high office in Raleigh. It's a steep hill to climb, but a wonder woman might do it. She just needs to get practical with her issues -- practical and specific.
(There are photographs of Aimy with her family that I'd like to share here. But can't. Go look.)

Republican incumbent Linda Johnson has held this seat for nine terms. That makes her a relic -- a holy relic -- in this particular Republican House, with mainly a lot of brand new Republican personnel since 2010. First elected in the George W. Bush squeaker of 2000, she's risen to be chair of the appropriations committee and chair of the education K-12 committee. She's worked professionally as a tax consultant and a computer analyst, so she's got intimidating skills. Her reelection campaigns -- at least back to 2008 -- ought to scare off potential opponents. Johnson's never gotten less than 60% against a Democrat, and she's been completely unopposed in both the primary and the general election numerous times. She's an edifice that won't crumble easily.
Linda Johnson
Internal House Democratic Caucus polling supposedly sees this seat as "on the bubble," meaning a strong Democrat with an effective campaign could win it. And Real Facts NC has it among its House races to watch. They must know something about Johnson that isn't apparent in far-away counties. Or this district exhibits those traits of contemporary educated suburbia to suggest sudden revolt, plus there's a significant percentage of eligible voters there who often don't vote at all.
Johnson lives in Kannapolis. Before she became a member of the NC House, she served eight years on the Kannapolis City Schools Board. In Raleigh she's mainly a team player, voting for all the veto overrides against Governor Cooper. But she only gets a 57% from the NRA. And in 2017, the American Conservative Union gave her only 31% favorable ratings. She's brought that up in 2018 -- back to 86%. Mainly, she's a budget hawk, by which I mean she's stingy like Miss Murdstone.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Terri LeGrand Could Surprise an "Invulnerable" Republican Incumbent

NC House District 74 takes in northern Forsyth County and includes suburbs north of Winston-Salem and the small towns of Belews Creek, Walkertown, Bethania, Pfafftown, Tobaccoville, Rural Hall. It's been considered safely suburban Republican, but it's exactly the kind of voting district that has been turning suddenly bluish in the Age of Trump, and in unlikely places, from deepest Alabama to the rusted hills of Pennsylvania. House District 74 contains a higher than average number of well educated voters, which has become in 2018 an index to Republican nervousness.

Democratic insurgent Terri LeGrand --
Terri LeGrand
I initially heard about LeGrand on the first day of this new year and mentioned her here among the first crop of really exciting new candidates running for the NC General Assembly. LeGrand has a well developed website and looks like she's built a campaign infrastructure that can generate enthusiastic volunteers.
LeGrand grew up in Galax, Virginia, in the "make-do" culture of small-town America and has translated those values to her current job at Wake Forest University, which is helping poorer students get financial aid to attend and succeed at an expensive private university. She tells her advisees, "Only borrow what you absolutely have to borrow. Work hard to finish so that you do not accumulate debt without a degree to show for it."
She trained as a lawyer and is a 1993 graduate of the Wake Forest School of Law. (She also studied Russian because she wanted to be a spy. "Then the Cold War ended.") "I became a community activist…and a mom, two roles I am passionate about. I have also been a lawyer and an advocate for children and feel fortunate to have landed in a career I love at Wake Forest University. Currently, I work hard every day so that poor kids can go to a great college and so that families that have worked hard, saved and sacrificed to send their kids to Wake Forest can keep them there even in the face of job loss, catastrophic illness or divorce. As a lawyer and through social work, I advocated for children and at-risk youth and their families, helping them navigate complex education, judicial, and social services systems."
She was a founder of the Piedmont Environmental Alliance, serves on the Women's Leadership Council of the United Way, and served on the public utilities commission for Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

Debra Conrad
Republican incumbent Debra Conrad was first elected to the chamber in 2012, first beating the incumbent Republican male in a primary. She faced female Democratic opponents in both 2014 and 2016 and easily won reelection with over 60% of the vote both times. Prior to her election to the NC House, she served for 18 years as a Forsyth County commissioner. She looks politically invulnerable.
She earned a BS in medical technology at Wake Forest in 1974 and owns Conrad Marketing Strategies. She's a doctrinaire conservative Republican ... opposes the expansion of Medicaid, opposes increasing the minimum wage, attacks "liberal activist judges" for overturning Amendment One, hedges about increased support for public education. According to, Conrad voted against funding for schools, libraries, and health care during her 18 years as a Forsyth County Commissioner, and during the Tea Party uprising of 2010 she self-defined as "a Tea Party person before there was a Tea Party.” She's virulently anti-abortion and has voted for every limitation to abortion rights that has come before the General Assembly.
In other words, she's exactly the sort of Republican incumbent who's ripe for getting surprised.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Martha Shafer, Carrying the Torch in NC House District 62

NC House District 62 now occupies western Guilford County and is one of the special master redraws that survived court action.

Democratic insurgent Martha Shafer --
Martha Shafer
Shafer is one of the new Democratic women running in 2018 who've been endorsed by Emily's List of North Carolina. She's a native of Charlotte but has lived in Guilford County for some 25 years. She's a retired hospital administrator, trained in health administration at Duke University, so she's particularly sharp on health-care issues:
"Having spent her entire career working in healthcare, Martha knows first-hand that many North Carolina families are struggling to cover basic health needs. Unfortunately, the General Assembly has decided NOT to expand access to Medicaid to 500,000 North Carolinians who would benefit under the Affordable Care Act. Not only is this immoral, it is fiscally irresponsible. Expanding Medicaid would create 43,000 jobs by 2020, both in health care and other sectors, and the state’s economy could gain tens of billions in business revenue. Most of the cost would be paid by Federal dollars, which are currently funding expanded care in thirty-one other states that have made the rational and caring choice to expand Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid will lower the amount of charity care that hospitals provide, which will put downward pressure on insurance premiums for insured patients, making expansion a win for everyone."
Shafer also highlights the shabby way public education has been treated since a Republican super-majority took over in Raleigh: "Public education is not being adequately funded; per pupil spending is down since 2008, putting us as one of the states that spends the least per student in the country. Laws that directly affect our children in the classroom are rushed through without open debate and fair hearings, leading to bad decisions."

John Faircloth
Republican incumbent: John Faircloth -- a former police chief (of both Salisbury and High Point) and former High Point city councilman, first elected to the NC House in the Tea Party wave of 2010. Elected to represent House District 61, Faircloth has been redrawn into a new district (62) where less than half the voters have ever seen his name on a ballot. He's a vanilla conservative, less obnoxious than some of his Republican House brethren, but signing on to laws that racially gerrymandered the state, relaxed environmental protections, and failed to adequately fund our public school system. He supported Republican Sen. Trudy Wade's scheme to gerrymander the Greensboro City Council (halted by court action) and the redistricting of Guildford County commissioner districts (also challenged in court). In other words, he votes with his Republican caucus, but on environmental issues especially, he's a dinosaur.

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Clear Choice in the NC Senate District 38 Democratic Primary

North Carolina Senate District 38 occupies a good solid swath of north Mecklenburg County and is described as "an extremely safe Democratic seat" and a district where Governor Roy Cooper won 75% of the vote in 2016. Its Democratic incumbent, Joel Ford, is facing stiff primary opposition from Mujtaba Mohammed.

Democrat Mujtaba Mohammed was born in South Carolina to immigrants from India. He grew up in Greenville, SC, but the family moved to Mecklenburg where Mujtaba finished high school at North Meck and went on to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and the North Carolina Central School of Law. With his law degree in hand, he returned to Charlotte in 2012 and went to work for the Council for Children's Rights. His concern for the rights of the underprivileged led him into full-time work for the public defender's office in Mecklenburg County. He is married to a dental hygienist and they have two young children.
Mujtaba Mohammed
Mujtaba criticizes the Republican General Assembly for having twisted priorities: "[The North Carolina General Assembly is] balancing budgets on the backs of poor people, expanding our sales tax, while the rich continue to be able to support their jets and their yachts and things like that," Mujtaba told Ryan Pitkin of Creative Loafing. "We’ve got to invest in our families. That’s what’s going to help public safety. That’s what’s going to help create a global economy."
Being an advocate for children, some of whom are already in serious trouble and already well into "the school-to-prison pipeline," Mujtaba sees first-hand the effects of Raleigh wrong-headedness: "I see kids when they’re already in the criminal justice system, when they already have criminal records, and it becomes a public safety issue. If we invest in our young people from the beginning, if we support our families, it’s going to save us money in the long run, and it’s going to make us a more progressive society. It’s going to prepare young people for a global economy and build a strong work force." Instead of building more and bigger prisons, North Carolina should be investing in childhood education.
Mujtaba is a fighter for justice, and he knows the realities of citizens who can't afford lobbyists.

Incumbent Democrat Joel Ford regularly votes with the Republican majority, especially on the state budgets that Mujtaba Mohammed is so critical of. Ford was first elected to the chamber in 2012, and he's never had more than token Republican opposition in any general election since, though he had a credible Democratic opponent in the primary of 2016 who got over 47% of the vote. Ford ran for mayor of Charlotte in 2016 and came in third in the Democratic mayoral primary against eventual winner Vi Lyles.
Joel Ford
Ford has received much criticism for his apparent hostility to LGBT rights. He voted for the passage of the notorious Amendment One, which attempted to make same-sex marriage illegal in North Carolina. He was one of the few Democrats to support a Republican bill to allow magistrates to recuse themselves from performing same-sex marriages. When LGBT activists criticized his record after he announced his Charlotte mayoral bid, Ford responded to the activists via Twitter with a GIF of a dog defecating in the snow. He later removed the tweet and apologized.
He has not apologized for voting with the Phil Berger majority in the NC Senate some 70% of the time. has documented "Ford’s record of looking out for himself first."

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Landscape in NC Senate District 19 Looks Rocky

NC Senate District 19 -- Republican incumbent Wesley Meredith
Wesley Meredith
This description of Meredith caught our attention in Real Facts NC's assessment of the District 19 race: "Meredith, a top lieutenant of Senate Leader Berger, now finds himself in a redrawn district where 30 percent of the voters haven’t seen his name on their ballot before. Gov. Cooper won Meredith’s new district in 2016. However, given Meredith’s deep unpopularity with folks that know him, being less well known to the voters he’ll face might be an advantage."

Meredith is a mean campaigner. He beat Democratic incumbent Margaret Dickson in his first campaign in 2010 with what many observers considered sexist attacks and innuendo. He eked out a win with 51% of the vote. His district was promptly gerrymandered to make it friendlier for a Republican, and he more easily won reelection in 2012 against a weaker Democratic opponent. In 2014, he faced a strong Democratic candidate who produced evidence that Meredith had soaked up social welfare money in the 1990s on a six-figure income, and an ex-wife of Meredith's jumped in and corroborated the charges. That scandal got Meredith a good going-over on the Wonkette website, but he won the race again anyway with some very mean TV spots aimed at his Democratic opponent.
This year Meredith is running in a court-ordered redrawing of District 19 that might not be so friendly. We would expect him to go full-bore negative on his Democratic opponent, but whoever that Democrat turns out to be (after the May 8th primary), he'll have a smorgasbord of Meredith's record to work with in his own attack ads. Let's hope he's got the will to answer every attack.
The likely Democrat in District. 19 -- Kirk deViere
Kirk deViere
DeViere has to survive a primary first with a former Cumberland County district court judge, Ed Donaldson, who was last in elective office a dozen years ago.
DeViere is a former Fayetteville city councilman (as was Wesley Meredith prior to 2010). He is president and owner of the 219 Group, a marketing and advertising company in Fayetteville. He ran more than once unsuccessfully to be mayor of Fayetteville, first as an unaffiliated voter before switching his registration to Democrat early in 2017. In the municipal elections of 2017, deViere didn't make it through the mayoral primary and was criticized for accepting the endorsement of Anthony Chavonne, a former mayor whose tenure was "littered with strife, corruption and malfeasance." 
DeViere's campaign website is woefully under-developed at the moment and needs some protein, especially for a man who makes his living as a marketer and promoter. Where's the beef?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Make a Note: Beverly Boswell Is Not a Nurse

Beverly Boswell
We profiled Republican NC House member Beverly Boswell (House District 6) on February 22, along with her Democratic opponent, Tess Judge. Since that writing, we noticed that Real Fact NC characterized her as "deeply unpopular" in the 6th District.

Her personality came through quite clearly in a recent Facebook post when she criticized high school students protesting assault rifles as "Tide pod eaters."

John Burns, a Democratic Wake County commissioner from Raleigh, told Boswell on Facebook that she should be ashamed of herself. "To denigrate these children for taking a stand is the height of arrogance and ignorance. A dangerous combination," Burns posted. "Until you solve either the arrogance or the ignorance, kindly stick to your district and mind your own business."

Then today, Boswell gets called out for impersonating a registered nurse.

Go back and read about Tess Judge who's running against her this November (if Boswell survives her Republican primary). If you've got spare change, send it Tess Judge's way:

The Action Today at the SBEEE: Republicans Cave

WEDNESDAY, March 21 -- Here was the Republican dilemma today in Raleigh as their newly designed State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (SBEEE) met for the first time. Everyone was expecting total impasse, which is what we got a lot of, at least at first, but rumor had it that Governor Roy Cooper was itching to take any 4-4 board impasse and failure to follow the law to court to prove by definitive example how wrongheaded Republican schemes are. So, on the one hand, while Republicans automatically thwart and overpower the Democratic governor at every opportunity, they could not afford to shut the process down today. Though they wanted to.

Andy Penry
Maybe they weren't counting on the strength of Andy Penry. The governor had appointed Penry chair when he appointed all eight. Penry is a Democrat, and as mandated in the Republican law, his service extends only to this July, when a Republican must take the chair and hold it through the elections of 2018.

From the beginning Penry was no nonsense and by the book, quoting the new law to his Republican friends and making them follow it, and showing every indication that he, like the governor, was fully prepared to go to court to have this entire new board thrown out for not being able to act.

Follow along:

The first gambit of the Republicans -- delay nominating anyone. Delay. But Chair Penry, again reading the language of the law the Republicans had passed, pointed out they had only 14 days to nominate the ninth member and have him/her appointed by the governor.  14 days from today, according to statute. Penry said he wouldn't support a delay, and that gambit died.

The most vocal for delay: Republican member John Malachi Lewis, who also happens to be deputy counsel for the North Carolina Republican Party and who otherwise has no visible connection to the legal community nor the community of Mount Pleasant. He makes a motion to recess the meeting for a week and in the meantime take out newspaper advertising for a job opening on the SBEEE.

Lewis's motion fails 4-4.

Josh Malcolm nominates Damon Circosta and Gerry Cohen.

Lewis jumps in and says he was getting ready to nominate Gerry Cohen himself. What? In fact, Cohen likely knew it, since he had just this week changed his party affiliation from D to U. Did Malcolm know the Republicans had been talking to Cohen? And did Malcolm deliberately call their bluff? Democrat Malcolm moved to approve Circosta and Cohen. The Republicans voted no, and the motion failed. Penry is prepared to bang the gavel and adjourn the meeting: "Is there any further business to come before the Board?"

Lewis nominates former Republican Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Burley Mitchell. Mitchell, it comes out, has also recently changed his affiliation from D to U. Lewis has no second nominee, and Penry demands it. Lewis doesn't want to say who else, and Republicans want to vote on one nominee at a time. (No mention of Gerry Cohen at this point. That's odd.) Chair Penry objects to one nominee at a time. Lead counsel to the board, Josh Lawson, says he doesn't believe there is anything barring a process of voting on one nominee at a time. Lewis therefore nominates Burley Mitchell alone. Malcolm slams that door shut: "No motion is going to pass today with only one name" (Melissa Boughten). Penry agrees. "Is there any further business to come before the Board?" He's got that gavel in his hand, ready to bring it down.

Lewis then nominates Burley Mitchell and Gerry Cohen. A 10-minute break is called.

After the break, the Republicans come back with another gambit: Republican Ken Raymond of Winston-Salem wants to put three names in a hat and draw two: Circosta, Mitchell, and Cohen. Motion fails. Penry: "Any further business?"

Then another Republican gambit (are we up to four?): Lewis moves the nomination of Burley Mitchell and Gerry Cohen. Democrats vote no. Motion fails.

Democrat Malcolm then splits the baby: He nominates Circosta and Mitchell. Dems vote yes. Republicans vote no. Motion fails.

Penry for sure is going to adjourn the meeting as a textbook example of inability to take official action, when the Republicans cave. Did they during that ten-minute break give the honor of admitting defeat to member Stacy C. Eggers IV? "In the spirit of bipartisanship," Four calls for a revote on the team of Circosta and Mitchell. All the Republicans fall in line, and the board votes unanimously for Circosta and Mitchell.

Take one guess who Governor Cooper will choose:

Damon Circosta -- 
Executive Director and Vice President of the A J Fletcher Foundation. Quoting from that website:
"Damon has been in the nonprofit sector since 2007 and headed AJF since 2012. A native of Arizona, he moved to the Triangle just as quickly as he could and has called North Carolina home since 2005. Previously, Damon led the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, an organization dedicated to improving the electoral process. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona School of Law. He is passionate about surfing, helping nonprofits thrive, his family, and the community he calls home. He is kinda-sorta thinking about a paleo diet and seeking new athletic endeavors now that his knees are asking him to give up the old ones. He vehemently opposes Daylight Savings Time."

Burley Mitchell --
Democrat Burley Mitchell had already served as an associate justice on the NC Supreme Court since 1982 when Governor Jim Hunt appointed him Chief Justice in 1995. He served until his retirement in 1999, after a total of 30 years on the court. In 2011 he was presented with the Liberty Bell Award by the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association. As a member of the UNC university system's board of trustees, Mitchell angrily demanded a full investigation of bogus classes and automatic good grades given to UNC-Chapel Hill athletes, and he recently came out strongly against the Republican plan to "reorganize" the North Carolina judiciary.  He also presumably and very recently changed his voter registration from D to U.

Republican operative Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the NC Republican Party, has already announced the Republican "remedy" for what went down today: A constitutional amendment on the ballot in November to fix the SBEEE permanently with four Republicans and four Democrats, the ninth member go hang! Because obviously 4-4 works so well.

Governor Roy Cooper has appointed Damon Circosta as the ninth member.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Thom Tillis, the First Manchurian Candidate?

In 2014, Thom Tillis beat incumbent Senator Kay Hagan by a margin of 1.7% of the vote. At the time it was the most expensive Senate race in history with total spending above $121 million.

At least $345,000 of that money went to Cambridge Analytica, the data company now accused by a whistleblower of stealing the personal information on 50 million users from Facebook to help Donald Trump get elected. That money was paid by Thom Tillis himself and the North Carolina Republican Party. Apparently, getting Thom Tillis elected two years before Trump's campaign was a kind of dress rehearsal on how to manipulate individual voters based on a Facebook personality survey. Cambridge Analytica brags about it as a "case study" on their web site and claims they raised "voter performance" by over 12%.

We say "at least $345,000" because the John Bolton SuperPAC, which spent nearly $1.5 million to benefit Tillis and damage Hagan in that 2014 campaign, also paid Cambridge Analytica some $341,000 "for messaging consulting."

The Facebook data came from an app that paid users to take a personality test but also collected data from those users' friends. The data was given by Facebook to a Cambridge University professor who was supposedly doing academic research. He passed the data to Cambridge Analytica. The professor is a Russia-born psychologist, Aleksandre Kogan, who actually built the app that gathered the personality data, so he knew exactly what he was looking for.

Steve Bannon served as the vice president of Cambridge Analytica during the 2014 Thom Tillis race and until he joined the Trump campaign in 2016, and billionaire GOP donor Robert Mercer funded the startup of Cambridge Analytica as well as the startup of Breitbart News.

Monday, March 19, 2018

New Republican Members of the SBOE

Ken Raymond

The newly appointed State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has scheduled its first meeting this Wednesday at 8 a.m. in Raleigh. The following are the Republicans on the board, which, along with the four Democrats, will be agreeing (supposedly) on the names of two unaffiliated voters to forward to Governor Cooper. One of them will be appointed as the ninth member of the board, presumably as the tie-breaker.

▪ Ken Raymond, chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Elections.
Raymond gained his seat on the Forsyth BOE immediately after the election of Governor McCrory in 2013. Very early in his tenure, he made it clear that there would be no more early voting site on the campus of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), and he floated the idea that sheriff's deputies ought to stand guard at polling places, maybe particularly those in majority black neighborhoods. He said he would recommend prosecution of any teacher or college professor who offered extra credit if students voted, particularly professors at WSSU. Soon after his swearing in, Raymond also went to work running off the hold-over elections director for Forsyth who was ultimately fired early in 2014.

Raymond graduated from WSSU in 1987 with a degree in English and a minor in mass communications. He retired in April of 2017 after serving as a Winston-Salem Police Department 911 operator and dispatcher for 28 years. In July of 2017, and at the instigation of Republican state Senator Joyce Krawiec, Raymond was appointed to the Board of Trustees of WSSU, not without vocal protest from other trustees and alumni.

He's also a homophobe.

▪ John ("Jay") Randolph Hemphill, a Raleigh attorney and partner in Hemphill Gelder and Monroe.
Jay Hemphill is a 2001 graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1998). Before entering the private practice of law, he served as a Captain in the United States Air Force’s JAG Corps at Edwards Air Force Base in California and at Pope Air Force Base at Fort Bragg. He specializes in estate planning, probate and estate administration, tax law, and general civil litigation.

▪ John Malachi Lewis, a Cabarrus County lawyer who serves as deputy counsel for the state Republican Party.

▪ Stacy Eggers IV ("Four")
Eggers revealed on September 17, 2013, as the ghost-writer of everything going forward under the new Republican majority on the Watauga County Board of Elections, including emails supposedly written by his brother Luke Eggers, new chair of the Watauga BOE, to the SBOE.
September 2014, timeline of Four Eggers involvement in voter suppression in Watauga, including his collusion with SBOE member Mark Foley.
For more, use the search engine, above left.

Friday, March 16, 2018

BREAKING NEWS--Two Wataugans Appointed to the SBOE

Intercepted press release:

BOONE March 16, 2018 -- Watauga County Board of Elections member Stella Anderson was named today by Governor Roy Cooper to the reconstituted State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

Governor Cooper is suing to have the new board declared an unconstitutional infringement on his authority by the Republican General Assembly, but he decided to make the appointments now because of the upcoming primary elections. "It is important to have a board in place for the time being to administer the upcoming elections,” said the governor's spokesman Ford Porter. Meanwhile, the governor's suit to overturn the law is pending.

Anderson has served a total of ten years on the Watauga County Board of Elections, eight of those as chair before the Republican take-over in 2013. She is a professor of management in the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University and is only one of two newly appointed board member who is not a lawyer.

Anderson is best known throughout the state as a strong and persistent voting rights advocate. She has been the lead plaintiff in a series of lawsuits which established a constitutional right of students at Appalachian State University to ballot access. The first suit in 2014 led to an order by the Wake Superior Court to open an Early Voting site in the ASU Student Union for the 2014 General Elections. That court order is still in effect.

In that Superior Court decision, Judge Donald Stephens ruled that actions by the Republican majority on the Watauga County Board of Elections (Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto) to discourage student voting was an unconstitutional infringement on their rights.

A second lawsuit just last fall reaffirmed Judge Stephens' order for an Early Voting site in the ASU Student Union for the municipal elections.

Anderson was personally targeted by Anne Marie Yates, chair of the Watauga Republican Party, who sued AppState for the production of all of Professor Anderson's emails. "This is pure harassment and a useless fishing expedition," Anderson said at the time. ASU produced her work-related emails, and the issue died.

Anderson and seven other newly appointed board members -- four Democrats total and four Republicans -- will be sworn in immediately and are madated by the contested Republican law to send two nominees to the governor for a 9th member, an unaffiliated voter, within 14 days. The full board will immediately begin appointing members of county elections boards and hearing protests and petitions from the counties.


Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four") was also appointed.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Dr. Michael Bitzer put us onto a leaked email from the NC Republican House Caucus director, projecting what the election of Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania and the coming blue wave will mean for Republican control of the NC House. The caucus director cruelly predicts that when the dust settles, there'll be just 46 Republicans left.

It's his job to scare the bejesus out of his crowd and get them motivated. But the scare tactic may turn out to be prophecy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Kicking 'em While They're Down

Lunch ladies
Robert Costa writes this morning about the limits of Trumpism, even in the heart of his base among the shuttered steel mills and depressed economy of far southwest Pennsylvania.

Trump went all in for Rick Saccone (on the left in the photo) and even sent Junior to put on funny head-gear and try to seem like a regular guy.

Nothing worked. Not the Great Tax Giveaway of 2018. Not the Spectacular Tariff Bitch-Slap of 2018. Not even a Stupendous Public Rally in District 18.

The Doug Jones win in Alabama was not an anomaly. It was a sign of things to come.

Waiting for that next wave of Republican retirements.

NC Flip Charts, from Real Facts NC

WataugaWatch has been obsessed since January 2nd with the new crop of exciting Democratic candidates running for seats in the General Assembly, especially the insurgents in what are supposed to be safe Republican districts with long-term Republican incumbents.

Glad to see another outfit jumping in to tout the possibilities -- Real Facts NC, a 501(c)(4) non-profit "dedicated to telling the real story about what is happening to North Carolina. The organization is a communications vehicle to share the most up-to-date public policy and messaging research on issues facing North Carolina...."

Real Facts NC has issued an in-depth report on the "Legislative Races To Watch in 2018" for both the NC House and the NC Senate. They make for fascinating reading, and we're tickled to see many of the same Democratic faces there that we've highlighted on WataugaWatch, including Ray Russell in House District 93 (profiled here yesterday). Real Facts NC lists 36 House seats that could flip (and to be clear, some could conceivably flip from D to R) and 13 Senate seats to watch.

I'm watching.

Real Facts NC is run by Daniel Gilligan, one sharp tack who also happens to be a progressive Democrat sufficiently grounded in North Carolina politics to offer expert analysis of the new voting districts and how they may favor one party over the other. His Linked In profile points to his ability to take "complicated issues and make them understandable to influence public opinion and policy-makers."

For an example of his analytical prowess and his ability to boil down complicated issues and cut through messaging bullshit, in 2013, when the new Republican majority in the General Assembly was rewriting state tax laws to shift the tax burden off the very wealthy and onto the middle class via new sales taxes, Gilligan wrote:
...My point is simply that while they [Republican lawmakers in Raleigh] bemoan the antiquatedness of the current tax system, this new solution that North Carolina’s Republicans are pushing is nothing new at all – in fact it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book. While they might want to dress it up as a "reform," what they’re really after is some misdirection for a little re-distribution.
Despite arguments they may want to make, twisting notions like fairness or throwing out technobabble like "disincentives for production" to make it sound like there is some of the dismal science involved somewhere, the end product adds up the same: most folks will be paying more, while the top few will be paying less. You don’t have to take my word for it, their own "tax calculator" said so....
[This is an excerpt of a longer piece, via Gary Pearce and thanks to NC Spin]

You may want to bookmark the Real Facts NC website and return there for sustenance. It's so good, it made me completely forget to crow about Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania this morning.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ray Russell Is Top Possibility for Flipping an NC House Seat

The North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation has a short list of NC House districts that "lean Republican." These eight districts (93, 9, 104, 105, 2, 7, 16, and 59) draw the attention of political operatives, because in a wave election, these might be the most flippable, red to blue.

District 93 is at the top of the list. District 93 contains Watauga and Ashe counties and is currently represented by Republican incumbent Jonathan Jordan, who was first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 on the strength of some very nasty campaigning against Democrat Cullie Tarleton. In the General Assembly, Jordan is what's known as furniture. He sits until called upon to vote, and he always votes with the Republican caucus. He supposedly lives in Ashe County.

Watauga County regularly votes for the Democratic challenger, but it's Ashe County that usually squeezes out Jordan's wins. That dynamic may change this year, with Democrat Bucky Absher on the ballot in Ashe running for sheriff. The scandal of lately resigned Republican Sheriff Terry Buchanan is expected to propel Absher into office and may splash up on the rest of the Republican slate.

Ray Russell
Democrat Ray Russell announced that he would run for the 93rd House seat almost a year ago, and he's got solid campaign infrastructure: Facebook, Twitter, and a website. He's raising money and sharpening a message and presents an energetic contrast to the lethargic Jordan: Russell, among other qualities, is a marathon runner. In 2016 he ran the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, 469 miles, to raise money for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.

Russell is locally famous as an amateur weatherman who turned his fascination with the weather into a profitable business, His local forecasts now cover most of the Blue Ridge front from Avery County up into Virginia, and most people in the High Country will always hedge when planning an event -- "What does Ray say?"

So he's a scientist, and among the motivations for deciding to run in 2018 was the growing anti-science habits of the Republican Party under Donald J. Trump. It's unacceptable to Ray Russell that the party of his heritage and his family -- he used to be a registered Republican -- should collude to reject the demonstrable truth revealed by scientific investigation. Unacceptable. And he felt he had to do something.

He's also motivated by a deep Christian faith. If he sometimes sounds like a preacher, it's because he was one, pastoring churches in Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and North Carolina. He got his bachelor's degree in Bible at Freed-Hardeman University, a private college associated with the Churches of Christ in Henderson, Tennessee. He subsequently got a Ph.D. in computer science at Georgia Tech and has been teaching computer science at AppState since the early 1990s.

In keeping with that religious grounding, Russell defines his values in terms familiar to those who know the Sermon on the Mount: “In modern history, the level of trying to scapegoat groups, trying to disenfranchise people, trying to slice and dice the electorate and the nature of the conversation has become so ugly, so rude and so disjoint from real issues,” Russell said. “In many cases, people have been so ugly in their campaigns that it puts them in a position where they cannot effectively lead as elected officials.”

“The heart of North Carolina is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ ” Russell said. “In the coming campaign and eventually in the North Carolina House of Representatives, I’ll live out that principle by demonstrating respect, listening to voices and leading with innovation and skill.”

Monday, March 12, 2018

Yates-Lockamy in House District 46

The North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation (Jonathan Kappler, really) currently lists 14 NC House seats as "competitive." Five of those seats are already held by Democrats. The other nine are currently held by Republicans, though two of them are now technically "open seats" because the Republican incumbent had planned to go fishing next year.

I've already written about several of the Democrats running for those Republican-held seats:

Ron Wesson (two days ago), District 1

Joe Sam Queen (scroll down), District 119

Terence Everitt (scroll down -- with a primary opponent), District 35

Sydney Batch, District 37

Erica McAdoo (scroll down), District 63

Julie von Haefen, District 36

Three others of the 14 districts will have Democratic primaries (including District 35, where Terence Everitt is running), and I've a hill to climb yet researching those races, as some candidates don't have a web presence. The same deficiency goes for a couple of other Democrats without primaries who haven't yet made it onto Watauga Watch (District 46 and 51). Until today.

Barbara Yates-Lockamy
Democrat Barbara Yates-Lockamy, running against a Republican incumbent named Jones in District 46.
District 46 now carves out a crescent on the eastern side of Robeson County and dips south toward the coast along the South Carolina border to take in the western side of Columbus County. It cuts out Pembroke (and its university) and clearly jerks east to keep away from Lumberton. (Looks like the map-drawer had a sudden sneezing fit.) Columbus County has over a dozen little towns and hamlets, the largest of which is Whiteville. But otherwise -- with Lumberton eliminated -- district 46 is a district without a large metropolitan magnet.
Barbara Yates-Lockamy is since 2010 a member of the Columbus County Board of Education (currently serving as chair, and she's an honorary member of the All-State School Board) and is prominent throughout the region. She serves on the Board of Directors of the NC Caucus of Black School Board Members, and in 2013 she was elected to the Board of Directors of the North Carolina School Board Association. On the Columbus Board of Education she co-exists with an otherwise all-male, all-white board. 
She lives in the county seat of Whiteville. When she was vice chair of the Columbus County Board in 2017, she supported the consolidation of Columbus County Schools with the Whiteville City Schools: "approximately 75-percent of Columbus County and Whiteville City schools facilities are over 50 years old and a gradual decline in enrollment has emphasized the need to consolidate."
The Board of Education of Whiteville City Schools fought the consolidation hard. "Whiteville City Schools Superintendent Charles Garland says the merger would not save money and would reduce state funding. Last week, Garland told [a reporter for WWAY-TV] it would be a significant loss of state dollars coming in to a poor economic county."
The opponents of consolidation went to their Republican General Assembly members, who told them that consolidation was ultimately in the hands of the seven-member county Board of Commissioners, only one of which represents Whiteville in their seven-district plan. Whiteville is feeling put upon and under-represented, and Yates-Lockamy putatively represents Whiteville on the Columbus County School Board. The school consolidation vote probably hurts her -- maybe -- with some of her base. It's curious -- in all the local press coverage of consolidation, Yates-Lockamy is never quoted. She's either very silent or simply ignored.
So far, Yates-Lockamy has no campaign infrastructure -- no Facebook, no website, no other social media at all. Someone needs to help her out.