Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Helpful Guide To Where the 2018 Blue Wave May Break

Real Facts NC has updated its NC House races to watch, which we find very helpful. And very hopeful. Here's where some of the surprises will be, come November, and also some of the heartbreaks. You can read more here.

"Races to Watch," Real Facts NC

Monday, July 30, 2018

Jonathan Jordan Testing Attack Lines Against Ray Russell

Ray Russell
We're hearing from several people in the 93rd House District that they've gotten push-poll calls that were obviously testing lines of attack against weatherman Ray Russell, who is challenging incumbent Republican Jonathan Jordan for the seat.

You know how those "polls" go, right? "Would you be more/or less inclined to vote for Ray Russell if you knew he eats raw chicken and kicks puppies?"

Jordan, who gets most of his campaign money from special interest PACs (in the Second Quarter, Jordan reported raising only $4,850 from individual contributors and $11,300 from PACs), has depended on third-party dark-money groups to do his dirty work, like Real Jobs NC which pumped in the bucks in 2010 for Jordan by smearing Democratic incumbent Cullie Tarleton.

Compare Ray Russell's campaign. Russell has almost 600 individual contributors, the majority of which are from the 93rd House District.

If you'd like to help the Russell campaign against the Jonathan Jordan smears to come, click this link.

Friday, July 27, 2018

What's Afoot in the 32nd Congressional District of Texas?

You might want to know about Colin Allred, the Democratic insurgent running in the 32nd Congressional District of Texas against one of the most powerful Republican incumbents in the whole country, Congressman Pete Sessions.

Allred is a former NFL player-turned-attorney and ex-Obama administration official (a special assistant in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of General Counsel under then HUD Secretary Julian Castro). Son of a single mom. On a winning trajectory. Why? The 32nd CD is one of those classic suburban districts (Dallas, y'all!) with plenty of upscale, well educated Republicans who have been souring on Twitterman faster than milk left out in August.

Incumbent Republican Pete Sessions' big claim to fame? He presided over the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee in the last wave election of 2010, when Tea Partiers flipped 63 House seats. Sessions is now chair of the powerful Rules Committee. Big target for a flippity-dippity-do!

We hear that Allred is attracting national support in both big bucks and personal appearances in the district by big-name politicos. Paul Begala just hosted a fundraiser for him.

Guess who lives in the district -- former president George W. Bush. That's the sort of Republican who may not be inclined to further the Trump agenda or vote for the Trump troops.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

How Desperate Are Republicans About the NC Supreme Court

Barbara Jackson, the Republican
who wants to be the ONLY
This desperate:

After Republicans in the NC General Assembly finished seizing power from the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission yesterday, they turned their attention to manipulating the ballot to favor the Republican incumbent running for reelection to the NC Supreme Court this year, Justice Barbara Jackson.

Not making this up: They passed a law, Senate Bill 3, decreeing that the other Republican running for Barbara Jackson's seat, Chris Anglin, would not be listed on the ballot as a Republican. Barbara Jackson will be listed as a Republican. Anita Earls will be listed as a Democrat. But Chris Anglin -- who changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican as a protest, following the law on party-changing that the same Republican General Assembly had passed -- well, Chris Anglin would have no party identification on the ballot at all, but rather a printed, scolding note saying that party affiliation is listed only for candidates who did not change registration 90 days before the end of the filing period. In other words and without naming Chris Anglin, the Republicans flush him down a whirlpool of political retribution for foiling their excellent plans for winning Barbara Jackson.

If this isn't a clear-cut case of denying Chris Anglin due process of law under the 14th Amendment, changing the rules in order to hurt him and hurt him only, then I'd hate to actually see a more clear-cut case. Senate Bill 3 is practically a bill of attainder (outlawed by the US Constitution, incidentally) in that it finds Chris Anglin guilty of the crime of impersonating a Republican and punishes him for it without a trial or any due process.

Chris Anglin, the other
Republican who's been
told he can't be a Republican
(We wrote about Chris Anglin here on July 5th -- if you want background and more primer on the law that the Republicans themselves had passed that made his candidacy not only possible but also kind of inevitable.)

Chris Anglin issued a statement last night following passage of Senate Bill 3:
This evening GOP leaders of the Legislature are once again demonstrating that they have forgotten what it is to be Constitutional Conservatives.
They are so frightened by our campaign and message, that in a stunning act of cowardice, they are taking steps to misrepresent who I am on the ballot. They made the rules, I followed them. This is another example of them changing the rules in the middle of the game. They will stop at nothing to hand pick their judge and undermine our democratic process.
This invites a debate about who decides who is a Republican and what it means to be one. I welcome that.
I chose to run as a Republican for a reason. To be a voice for Republicans who are appalled at these types of shenanigans that attack our rule of law and the checks and balances of our Republic. I’ve just begun the fight.
 I trust that last sentence is a promise that Chris Anglin will sue their pants off.

Anita Earls, the Democrat running for NC Supreme Court

Movement Is All in the Democratic Direction

Political prognosticator Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia issued new Crystal Ball ratings yesterday. They show movement, and all of it is in the direction of the Democrats. Here's the chart I found most interesting because we've focused on WatWatch on some of these Republican incumbents and their Democratic challengers. See discussion below the chart.

Crystal Ball House ratings changes

Member/DistrictOld RatingNew Rating
French Hill (R, AR-2)Likely RepublicanLeans Republican
Vern Buchanan (R, FL-16)Likely RepublicanLeans Republican
Charlie Crist (D, FL-13)Likely DemocraticSafe Democratic
Steve King (R, IA-4)Safe RepublicanLikely Republican
David Young (R, IA-3)Leans RepublicanToss-up
Peter Roskam (R, IL-6)Leans RepublicanToss-up
Trey Hollingsworth (R, IN-9)Safe RepublicanLikely Republican
Jackie Walorski (R, IN-2)Safe RepublicanLikely Republican
Andy Barr (R, KY-6)Leans RepublicanToss-up
Mike Bishop (R, MI-8)Leans RepublicanToss-up
NM-2 Open (Pearce, R)Likely RepublicanLeans Republican
Steve Chabot (R, OH-1)Leans RepublicanToss-up
OH-12 Special (Tiberi, R)Leans RepublicanToss-up
Mike Kelly (R, PA-16)Safe RepublicanLikely Republican
John Carter (R, TX-31)Safe RepublicanLikely Republican
John Culberson (R, TX-7)Leans RepublicanToss-up
WV-3 Open (Jenkins, R)Leans RepublicanToss-up

*The movement in notorious Steve King's 4th Iowa District might startle the horses, unless you've been paying attention to his Democratic challenger J.D. Sholten. We wrote about him on June 16.

*Andy Barr's seat in Kentucky's 6th District has moved to a toss-up between him and Amy McGrath, about whom we've written several times. She's one of the stand-out stars of 2018.

*In the 12th Congressional District of Ohio, with a special election coming on August 7 for an open seat, Democrat Danny O'Connor is now rated a toss-up to take the seat.

*John Culberson's 7th Congressional District in Texas is now rated a toss-up. We took quick note of his Democratic challenger Lizzie Pannill Fletcher way back on December 19 of last year. She's obviously making waves.

*Finally, the open seat in West Virginia's 3rd District is suddenly now a toss-up. We took notice of the Democratic challenger, Richard Ojeda, on June 19. There hasn't been a viable Democrat in that district of West Virginia in many years.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Jonathan Jordan Is One of the Dickheads

NC House District 93 representative Jonathan Jordan (Ashe and Watauga) was one of the members down there who signed onto the request for today's special session of the General Assembly.

He's not getting away with this.

It's time for him to find a new hammock

The 'Trump Effect' in West Virginia

The Washington Examiner posted this just before 5 p.m. yesterday:
Republican Don Blankenship is filing to run for Senate in West Virginia, taking on the state's sore loser law that prohibits candidates who lost in the primary from running in the general election.
The Blankenship campaign acknowledged that the West Virginia secretary of state's office was unlikely to certify his candidacy, but described his plan to file papers as a first step toward getting around state law and earning the right to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in the midterm elections as a third party candidate.
Blankenship, a felon coal mine operator who came in third (last) on May 8th in the Republican primary for US Senate, makes it a habit to stick his thumb in the establishment's eye. We posted here on the eve of the May 8th primary:
Holy crap! Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin has been considered the most endangered Democrat in the US Senate, but the Republican voters in their primary tomorrow may grant him a reprieve ... if they choose felon coal baron Don Blankenship to run against him. National Republicans are so worried about that outcome that they induced Corporal Bonespurs to tweet this morning a warning to WVa voters not to vote for Blankenship. "Remember Alabama," DJT tweeted.
Being dissed by the Twitterman is ironic, isn't it? Because Blankenship fancies himself another Trump. In fact, "trumpier than Trump!" -- similar appetites, personality, and carelessness with the truth.

If Blankenship is able to throw a clod into that West Virginia churn, Manchin's prospects will get much brighter. Manchin is perhaps our least favorite Democrat in the US Senate, but we'll take him over any Republican on most days.

The Dickheads in the General Assembly Escalate Their Dickishness

Tim Moore and Phil Berger intend to put themselves in control
of every goddamn lever of power in North Carolina
So you saw it coming, right? The Republicans are reconvening the General Assembly today at noon in a super urgent special session for the sole purpose of messing with the November ballot a little more, because they're afraid that information about their true designs is leaking out to the voting public.

It's all about those six constitutional amendments they rushed through the GA a few weeks ago. Those contain a one-two-three punch of "suppressing the vote, picking their own judges, and appointing their own regulators" (Ford Porter). If passed, those amendments will constitute unprecedented destruction of the whole fabric of the separation of powers in this state.

Their justification for this special session? Rep. David Lewis of Lillington has been the prime mover. He chairs the Rules Committee and is responsible for all sorts of past innovations including voter I.D and the miracle of gerrymandering. Lewis actually wrote to Speaker Tim Moore, in words on paper, his barefaced motives for wanting a special session: “It appears that the Commission [charged with writing amendment descriptions for the ballot] may be falling to outside political pressure, contemplating politicizing the title crafting process, including using long sentences or negative language in order to hurt the amendments’ chances of passing."

Let's clear that up: "A special session is needed to keep my party’s politically motivated amendments from being politicized" (Ford Porter).

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who chairs the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission and is a Democrat (clearly "the enemy" to David Lewis), wrote a strong rebuttal to the representative's presumptions and suspicions:
... I was astonished this weekend to find out that Representative Lewis has cast aspersions on the upcoming meeting of the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission ....

... the Commission scheduled a meeting on July 31st to provide simple and commonly used caption language well ahead of that deadline [Aug. 8]. Any assertion to the contrary is false. In fact, Representative Lewis’s proposal for a special session will take much longer and cost the taxpayers a whole lot of money.

Second, I have had no outside groups or pressure tactics aimed at me or used against me. None. If either of the other two commissioners have received such pressure, they have not indicated such to me. In any case, I am publicly stating it has not happened to me. 
Third, the Commission’s job is not to promote or oppose proposed amendments. The Commission did not write these amendments and takes no position on them. It has not asked the voters to approve or reject them. In fact, it is the General Assembly that wrote them, approved them, and has now asked the voters to change our North Carolina Constitution by adding them....
You can read Marshall's entire backbone-of-steel letter here.

In an interview with WRAL's Laura Leslie, Tim Moore hinted that seizing the power to write amendment captions may not be all they intend to grab: "Tim Moore says they may also take up a bill requiring a majority vote for a judicial election, which looks suspiciously like a response to the fact that another Republican candidate has entered the 2018 Supreme Court race in which incumbent R Barbara Jackson is trying to hold onto her seat. 50 percent would force a (low-turnout, base-driven) runoff if Earls doesn't get a majority vote the first time. Shenanigans, anyone?"

They keep trying new shit. They never stop. The voters must stop them.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Strongman David Lewis Wants To Seize More Power in North Carolina

Strongman David Lewis
Harnett County Representative David Lewis has been in the NC General Assembly since 2002. He's now the Republican chair of the Rules Committee, and he wields power like a junior dictator. He had an outsized hand in gerrymandering the General Assembly to put Republicans in power for a millennium, and he's the chief architect of photo IDs to keep the wrong people (young people and blacks) from voting.

Right now he's hysterical that the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission might tell the public what's really in the six constitutional amendments that Republicans put on the fall ballot. So Lewis is calling for yet another special session of the General Assembly right now this very minute to grab the power of writing those ballot descriptions for himself and his Republican bunkmates. Because (ahem) he fears the descriptions might be politicized.


Republicans like David Lewis know no shame, no limits to their ambitions to rule the world, no humility before the hard eye of history.

If you had no other reason to vote against all six of those noxious amendments to our state's constitution, David Lewis just gave you a big one.

Friday, July 20, 2018

More Democrats Making Money Waves in North Carolina

Slogging through Second Quarter candidate finance reports on the state Board of Elections site isn't my favorite form of entertainment, though I've spent some hours looking at the Democratic candidates for the General Assembly that I'm most interested in -- and at their Republican opponents (see various posts, down-column) -- so I'm relieved that the News and Observer today saves me some work on candidates I hadn't yet gotten to. The NandO spotlights some I've already written about on WataugaWatch, but here are a few new ones:

In House District 104, Democrat Brandon Lofton has $95,500 cash-on-hand to first-term Republican incumbent Andy Dulin's $50,900. The 104th is a dense wedge pretty much in the south-central middle of Mecklenburg County.
Democrat Brandon Lofton first came to our attention back on January 14 of this year as one of the potential stars of this cycle (full disclosure: I'm a contributor to his campaign). 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." He's got volunteers door-knocking for him and volunteers calling for more volunteers to door-knock. That's what we light to see!

In House District 23 (Alamance County), Democrat Erica McAdoo is up over Republican incumbent Stephen Ross, a member of House leadership seeking his fourth term, $58,700 to Ross's $20,300.
Democrat Erica McAdoo was also written up on WataugaWatch on January 14. Love seeing this in her Twitter feed today: "Last weekend's stats: 951 doors knocked, 60+ volunteers. Join us as we canvass again this weekend on July 22nd." And I applaud this stand on redistricting: "It's time for creation of an independent redistricting commission!" McAdoo is the 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."

In Senate District 18, Democrat Mack Paul has outraised incumbent Republican John Alexander by an astonishing $305,100 to Alexander's $36,100. District 18 takes in all of Franklin County, the northernmost tier of Wake County, and a very weird descending hook of land that invades the northern suburbs of Raleigh.
Democrat Mack Paul was another of those Democrats I wrote about on January 14 who were making me "anticipate November like Christmas morning." Paul is a Raleigh real-estate attorney and former Wake County Democratic Party chair. He 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. Back in the middle of June, he posted a Facebook ad for interns in communications, finance, and field operations. He can certainly afford to pay a big team of young people.

In House District 103, Democrat Rachel Hunt is up over four-term Republican incumbent Bill Brawley $132,700 to $88,600. District 103 lies in the southeasternmost part of Mecklenburg County and hugs the Union County line.

Democrat Rachel Hunt waited until the last week of filing to jump into the race, but she has plenty of Democratic juice supporting her. She is one of former Governor Jim Hunt's daughters, so she is already networked in a helpful way. Like her father, Rachel has been and will continue to be a champion for public education. She is a board member of the NC Foundation for Public School Children, and she started two companies that help parents and students, including those with disabilities, find a good school and quality education. “I’ve spent my life helping North Carolina grow into a beautiful, inspiring state that looked out for the little guy and put strong public education above everything else, but lately, that shared vision has been threatened. I am running because I can no longer stand back and watch this great state that my family and so many other families like ours worked so hard to build be undermined by politicians in Raleigh.” She has served as the chair of Generation Nation and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Youth Lead and Youth Councils. She trained as a lawyer. Governor Roy Cooper recently appointed her to the Education and Workforce Innovative Council.

In House District 62, Martha Shafer has outraised four-term Republican incumbent John Faircloth $96,700 to $10,700. District 62 is a big wedge of Guilford County along the Forsyth County line.

Democrat Martha 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." https://marthashafer.com/ 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."

In Senate District 17, Democrat Sam Searcy looks to be overpowering three-term incumbent Republican Tamara Barringer, $373,500 to $48,800. Senate District 17 takes in the biggest chunk of southern Wake County including Cary, Fuquay-Varina, and Holly Springs.

Democrat Sam Searcy has a law degree, but he's gotten people's attention through his entrepreneurial activities. In 2016 Searcy teamed up with some of his previous business partners and a new guy with an old-world recipe for long-grain rice distilled vodka, and they formed Graybeard Distillery in Durham, which now touts its success as "the largest grain-to-glass distillery in North Carolina." Searcy's life story to get to that success was no bed of roses. “I’ve seen first-hand what happens when North Carolina families struggle to make ends meet,” said Searcy. “My family lost our home when I was in 7th Grade, and I began working to help support my family when I was fourteen. Too many families in North Carolina are facing the same challenges we did." "Sam Searcy grew up in the small town of Hendersonville, NC. His mother was a teacher’s assistant in public schools and his dad worked in the factories. Sam became the first person in his family to graduate from a four-year college. With the help of student loans and on-campus jobs, he put himself through Appalachian State University. Sam worked a few different jobs until the Great Recession hit. He, like many North Carolinians, found himself laid off. He took a job at Lowe's garden center to support his family. Eventually, he helped start two local companies which continue to employ people right here in North Carolina." One of his campaign issues that should resonate with struggling North Carolinians: "Having worked in the healthcare industry and helped build a successful medical services company, I believe we can and should do more to lower costs. But, Republicans in Raleigh have put the health of thousands of North Carolinians at risk by refusing to expand access to Medicaid. I will work to ensure that every person in North Carolina has access to quality, affordable healthcare."

In House District 37, Democrat Sydney Batch is outraising her Republican opponent for this open seat, $91,900 to $68,000. The former Republican incumbent in this district (which is pretty much entirely inside Sam Searcy's Senate District 17 in southern Wake -- see above) waited until near the end of candidate filing to decide not to run.
Sydney Batch with husband J. Patrick Williams
and their two sons
Democrat Sydney Batch got written up on WataugaWatch way back on January 2nd, when she was among the first wave of new Democrats announcing their plans to run in 2018. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, with both a master's degree in social work and a law degree. She and her husband J. Patrick Williams opened their own law firm in 2005. She has wide and intense experience in child welfare advocacy and family law. She says on her website, "I fight every day for families across Wake County who are worried about their future. Whether stressed about sending their kids to a good public school, paying back their student loans, or affording quality health care and finding a good, well-paying job, too many people feel the deck is stacked against them. Despite these struggles, I also get to see the many common values that bind us. People want affordable, accessible health care, quality and affordable education, safe air to breathe, clean water to drink, and a fair paycheck. Most of all, they want their children to live a more prosperous life than they have. I’m running because I want to make a difference for those people who feel stressed, and to work with them through our common shared values to make a better Wake county. There’s no doubt that the challenges facing us are great. However, so is our will. I humbly ask for your support.” Glad to see that Batch has been teaming up with the Sam Searcy campaign for direct voter contact in their overlapping districts.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

More Good Fundraising News from NCGA Candidates

In House District 6, Democrat Tess Judge outraised Republican Bobby Hanig in both the First Quarter and the Second Quarter for what is now an open seat. (Hanig beat out incumbent Republican Beverly Boswell in the May primary.) In the Second Quarter especially, Judge raised $63,583.23 to Hanig's $13,050. The 6th District was redrawn this year to encompass Dare, Currituck, Hyde, and Pamlico counties on the North Carolina coast.

Democrat Tess Judge was helping her husband Warren Judge run against Beverly Boswell in 2016 when he tragically died in the last week of that campaign, practically on the eve of the election. Democratic leaders wanted Tess to replace her husband on the ballot, but it was too late for making that change, and even deceased, Warren Judge got 48.17% of the vote against Boswell. Tess is back this year running in her own right. Tess Judge has worked in hospitality management her entire career and is well known in the coastal community for serving on the Board of Directors of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce. She and her late husband Warren were named Co-Citizens of the Year by the Chamber in 2011. “As someone who has operated small businesses in our community for years, through good times and bad, I know how to manage a budget while also creating jobs .... Our people are our greatest resource – it’s time to listen and invest in them. We need to make public education a priority again. For years we have been asking our great teachers to do more with less and our schools and community colleges are underfunded. I’m running to ensure that our investments in public education result in more opportunities for our students and a workforce trained for the jobs of the future,” she said. She also currently serves on the Board of the Outer Banks Hospital and is Chair of the Outer Banks Hospital Development Council. She's been outspoken in opposition to off-shore drilling.

In House District 98, Thom Tillis's old seat in north Mecklenburg County, now held by Republican incumbent John Bradford, spunky Democrat Christy Clark has outraised Bradford in combined First and Second Quarters $70,890.47 to $17,165.62.

Democrat Christy Clark currently works as an intellectual property and business law paralegal at the law firm founded by her husband in Charlotte. She received her undergraduate degree in English at Roanoke College and her Certificate in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. She's been particularly involved with gun violence prevention, serving as the North Carolina Chapter Leader of Moms Demand Action. In that role, she says, she has spent many hours lobbying lawmakers in Raleigh, attending both committee meetings and House/Senate sessions. As a paralegal she's very familiar with the Secretary of State's office and is well informed on what's required for entrepreneurship in North Carolina. "Working with a wide range of individuals and businesses from all across the state has given me the insight into what is needed to grow a business." She lists education at the top of her issues page (as do 99.9% of the Democrats running in North Carolina this year), and she's for expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (as are ditto). Her campaign is organizing neighborhood canvasses (sometimes in 90-degree heat), which speaks volumes about energy in that district. Not to forget the fundraising.

In House District 93, "weatherman" Ray Russell, the Democrat, is leading incumbent Jonathan Jordan in total fundraising ($92,961.81, over both quarters, to Jordan's $46,152.42), but has also spent a lot already (signing on with the House Democratic Caucus has some steep costs). Still, Weatherman Ray still has more cash on hand at the end of the Second Quarter -- $27,426.08 to Jordan's $21,476.63. The 93rd District consists of Ashe and Watauga counties. The last time it was in Democratic hands = 2010.
Democrat Ray Russell is not your standard Democrat (non-standardization is the standard of 2018!). He used to be a Republican. He's also a preacher who attended a Bible college and has pastored several churches. But he's also a climate scientist with a deep reverence for scientific truth. He launched Ray's Weather, the on-line forecast site for the mountains of western North Carolina, in 2000, using his higher training as a computer scientist and a keen hobbyist's enthusiasm. He now employs four meteorologists and stretches his weather coverage from Asheville to Wytheville, Va. Russell announced his candidacy early in 2017 and went to work, and he's got solid campaign infrastructure: a manager and an army of volunteers and Facebook, Twitter, and website presence. 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.

In House District 119, Democrat Joe Sam Queen has outraised incumbent Republican Mike Clampitt by a good country mile. Queen has cash on hand of $56,683.66 to Clampitt's $17,491.14 (Clampitt only raised $21,850 during the Second Quarter). Queen used to own this seat, and Clampitt ran against him unsuccessfully at least twice before taking the seat in the Twitterman Wave of 2016. District 119 takes in a lot of mountain landscape -- from Waynesville, Cherokee, and Bryson City, down through Sylva and Cullowhee and south through Cashiers to the lowlands along the South Carolina border.
Democrat Joe Sam Queen is an architect in Waynesville. He provides color, and politically,  he's got plenty of grit. His family speaks to his values: "My wife, Dr. Kate Queen, is a rheumatologist for Haywood Regional Medical Center. My daughter Sara is an outstanding young architect and professor at NCSU, as well as a new mom to my first grandson Cole. My son Charlie, a chemist, is the Lab Director for Panacea, a North Carolina start up company in the field of personalized medicine. Both are graduates of the University of North Carolina system. As a united Methodist, I've taught Sunday school for over 20 years, led Boy Scouts, and coached youth soccer. And, like my granddaddy before me, I call the Appalachian Square Dance." He's served in both NC House and Senate. He won the 47th Senate District in 2002, lost it in 2004, and came back and won it again in 2006 and kept it through the election of 2010. That's grit. After he lost the Senate seat, he ran and won the House seat in 2012 and kept it through reelection in 2014. He was a vocal leader in the call to expand Medicaid in North Carolina and raise teacher pay. He is strongly against fracking in North Carolina and has made strong public remarks against it.

In House District 1, Democrat Ron Wesson, a county commissioner in Bertie County, is running against Republican Eddy Goodwin, a county commissioner in Chowan County, for an open seat on the Carolina coast. In a low-dollar campaign, Wesson has outraised Goodwin and has a cash-on-hand advantage, $17,765.43 to $7,361.50.

Democrat Ron Wesson is impressively qualified to win the seat. He's been elected and then reelected as a Bertie County commissioner, and he's served as both the chair of the board of commissioners and currently as vice-chair. He was born and raised in Bertie County, and he's married to a psychiatrist in private practice, Dr. Patricia W. Wesson. Ron completed his undergraduate work at UNC-Chapel Hill and his graduate studies at The Sloan School of Business, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then joined the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation where he served for more than 31 years, retiring as a senior vice-president and Global Leader. In 2004, Black Enterprise Magazine named Wesson one of the 50 most Influential Minorities in Business. Returning to Bertie County after retirement, he threw himself into community service, became chair of the Bertie County Chamber of Commerce, joined the Rotary Club, the Bertie County Community Foundation, and the Bertie County Schools Foundation. He moved into public service in 2012, running for and winning his seat on the county commission. He was actively recruited for this race by the Democratic House Caucus. He says on his website, "Any success that I have had in business and in life, can be directly traced to the investment that others have made in me. I have always been encouraged to look beyond one’s self and seek to support others in ways that I have been supported. My Mother once said to me…'Son, God has blessed you with enough sense to do pretty much anything you set your mind to do. You will find that there are a lot of much smarter people out there, but never let anyone out work you to achieve your goals.' I have endeavored to live by this advice, and if given the opportunity, I look forward to working hard for the citizens of North Carolina’s 1st House District."

Republicans on Watauga BOE Refuse

At the meeting of the Watauga Board of Elections yesterday, Republican members Nancy Owen and Eric Eller refused to move three election day precinct polling stations out of local churches and relocate them more in the center of population.

Democratic member Jane Anne Hodges "spoke about the challenges of having polling locations at churches, noting that the elections board office has a handshake agreement with the churches not to campaign on their property" (Watauga Democrat).

The worst church is Mount Vernon Baptist, the polling location for New River 3. It's parking lot is actually in Blue Ridge precinct, and it's far away from the center of population in the precinct. But you probably already know that.

Republicans obviously think that having polling places in churches gives them an advantage in those precincts ... since God is so obviously, indubitably in their pocket.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Democrats on Forsyth County Board of Elections Cave to Republicans

Democrats on the Forsyth elections board wanted an early voting site at Winston-Salem State University (where one has been in the past, until Republicans took over elections in 2013). Republicans were dead set against it.

Had the Forsyth board failed to reach unanimous agreement, the decision would have gone to the state Board of Elections, where there would have been a good chance of getting early voting on the campus of WSSU.

But the Democrats gave up and voted for a "compromise" plan that was actually a retreat, and WSSU will not have early voting this fall.

That's too bad.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dems #ncga Candidates Catching Fire All Across the State

I wrote about Democratic NC House candidate Terri LeGrand showing some fundraising strength in Forsyth County yesterday. Today brings plenty more fundraising news in that same vein. If campaign fundraising is a barometer -- and it is -- then these General Assembly candidates below are looking gooder and gooder for this November.

In House District 52, Lowell Simon out-raised Republican incumbent Jamie Boles $11,987.68 to $8,450 during the Second Quarter of 2018. Those are low numbers on both sides but still interesting. Boles may be suffering from over-confidence, since he's had no opponent at all for ten years. But he's lugging some serious baggage -- evidence of self-dealing and other corruption.
Democrat Lowell Simon looks viable. He is a recently retired high school math teacher, a profession he came to late in his career after many years in business. First in New York state and then in North Carolina, he managed chains of convenience stores. He was vice president of operations for Quick Chek, a chain of about 30 convenience stores based in Troy, which brought him and his family to Seven Lakes to live. He later bought into Southern Pines based Fuel Mate, which had six BP stores. During his time teaching math at Union Pines High School, the superintendent tapped him to start an entrepreneurship program for students. "Simon has served on the boards of Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust. A political appointee of three different state House speakers from both parties, he has helped draft key legislation, including the formation of the NC Lottery .... He currently serves on the boards of Moore Regional Hospital and Moore Forward, and is president emeritus of the Sandhills Jewish Congregation" (ThePilot.com).

In Senate District 1, Democrat D. Cole Phelps raised $73,788.04 to Republican opponent Bob Steinburg's $48,417.50 during he Second Quarter. Senate District 1 hugs the coast in the northeastern corner of the state. Steinburg is currently a member of the NC House looking to move up in the world. Tea partiers consider him a cuck.
Democrat Cole Phelps is a young lawyer. How young? When he was elected to the county commission of Washington County at 24, he was the youngest member of any county commission in the state. He's serving his second term now at the age of 29. He was the first in his family to go to college, first to East Carolina for a degree in Family and Community Services and then to NC Central School of Law. He got a leg up to get that good education, and it says something about him that he immediately turned around and established a scholarship program for deserving first-generation, college-bound students in several east Carolina counties. From his very first campaign for county commission, he was pumping education and the need to keep kids in school and make college more possible. He's been named a William C. Friday Fellow. That's a prestigious group of 200 citizens deemed crucial leaders in their local communities. For the record (and this particular issue looks decisive on the coast), he's an outspoken opponent of Twitterman's scheme to drill for oil in North Carolina waters.

In Senate District 25, Democrat Helen Probst Mills outraised Republican incumbent Tom McInnis $87,933.80 to $64,642.52 in the Second Quarter. McInnis is propped up by PAC money. He was also propped up by the Republican leadership in the House during a destructive primary in May against Tea Party opposition. When you're propped up that much, you run the risk of becoming a prop.
Democrat Helen Probst Mills has been on our radar since the second week of February. She's an attorney from Pinehurst and entered politics this year, she says, in part to simply provide an option. “The reality is that I walk in on Election Day to the polling booth here in Pinehurst and there are no Democrats for me to check. We need a choice,” Mills said. “There needs to be an opportunity for an individual to stand up and to make him crystalize his position on issues and policies and to defend the votes he has taken.” Mills says she grew up a daughter to a single mother and is herself the mother of three and a cancer survivor who moved to North Carolina with her husband, Stuart, in 2006. She is licensed to practice law in Illinois. Last year, Mills was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees. She also serves on the college’s Foundation Board, where she helped develop a program allowing high school graduates to attend for two years tuition-free. She serves as development chair for the Northern Moore Family Resource Center in Robbins, which has opened a preschool and is developing a community center. She credits the overcoming of breast cancer to having health insurance: “Everyone, no matter their background or how much money they make, should have access to affordable, quality health care. Yet too many politicians in Raleigh put petty partisan politics over policies that would help thousands. That is wrong for my community and for North Carolina.” (Republican incumbent McInnis opposed, like most other Republicans in Phil Berger's senate, the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.)

In House District 36, Democrat Julie von Haefen outraised Republican incumbent and powerful chair of the House Budget Committee Nelson Dollar $70,281.64 to $38,800 in the Second Quarter. Rep. Dollar, in terms of what his pelt will fetch, is a rhino, a bull elephant, and a giraffe all in one. This is a Wake County district that was spitefully redrawn to cut out Democratic stars who had wanted to run against him, leaving the current Democratic challenger to screw up her courage and step forward to the challenge.

Democrat Julie von Haefen is president of the Wake County PTA Council and has three school-age children in the Wake County public schools. She scorched Dollar in her filing announcement for what his state budgets have done to public education: "From the expansion of school vouchers and charter schools to the failure to pay our teachers and principals what they deserve, Representative Dollar and his legislature have harmed our students and our schools. Most recently, their reckless and unfunded K-3 class size mandate caused unnecessary stress for school districts across the state. It is time to put our teachers and our children ahead of partisan politics. North Carolina's students deserve better than they are getting from our legislature. They deserve increased funding for school counselors and nurses. And they deserve a public school system with the funding and resources it needs to prepare them for the future. We owe it to our students, and to the economy, and to the state." Von Haefen is married to an NC State professor, and they have lived in Apex for the last 13 years. She trained as a lawyer and practiced law for 10 years.

In House District 51, Democrat Lisa Mathis has seriously outraised Republican incumbent John Sauls during both quarters of 2018 -- $24,963.53 to $3,500 in the First Quarter, and $49,495.26 to $5,050 in the Second Quarter.
Lisa Mathis was a "military kid" who says that repeatedly moving all over the country taught her "courage, adaptability, and a deep respect for the sacrifices of our service members and their families." She trained as an artist and graphic designer and opened a small graphic design business in Sanford, N.C. Deeply involved in community and profoundly appreciative of putting down deep roots in a single place, she started a second small business in 2003, ArtStudio in downtown Sanford, "a place for children and adults to explore their creativity." Especially children. She is a strong advocate for education spending and for expanding Medicaid. She talks on her website about helping working families and encouraging small businesses, especially in areas previously devastated by the Bush recession. She's got boots on the ground -- a good following of willing volunteers -- and a field organizer. Always a good sign.

In Senate District 9, Democrat Harper Peterson raised $52,316.03 to Republican incumbent Mike Lee's $36,300 in the Second Quarter. Lee had 20 Second Quarter donors, 11 of which were special interest PACs.
Democrat Harper Peterson has been a leader in the reaction to the GenX pollution crisis and helped start the community watchdog group Clean Cape Fear. He's also a former mayor of Wilmington and city councilman. He announced that he was running for this seat back last September. He says, "Unfortunately, in recent years, the basic needs and guaranteed rights of North Carolinians have taken a backseat to the interests of politicians and their big donors. Specifically, they have spread distrust among North Carolinians while trading to their donors our excellent public schools, quality healthcare and natural resources for tax giveaways. The games at our expense have to stop. I now have the time and energy and the full support of my family and friends to serve and be a voice for common sense in our state legislature." Peterson is critical of current Republican legislative priorities: "Too many of our representatives ignored the governor’s request for $2.6 million in emergency funds for the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health and Human Services to vigorously address GenX and other cancer-causing compounds that have been dumped into our river. Additionally, tax giveaways to corporate interests have been paid for through slashed budgets and staffing for the state agencies who could have been proactive in defending us from this poison in our water." He also wants to bring back the film industry, which the General Assembly essentially ran out of North Carolina in one of its budget bills.

In Senate District 41, Democrat Natasha Marcus raised $113,802.53 from 375 donors during the First Quarter, while the Republican incumbent Jeff Tarte raised $35,456.34 from 53 donors. In the Second Quarter, Tarte went ahead of Marcus by $7,300, but for the year Marcus is still ahead of Tarte. She has hundreds of donors. Tarte has far fewer, many of which are special interest PACs.
Democrat Natasha Marcus has been on my radar since early in February. She made an unsuccessful bid for the state House in her Cornelius neighborhood in 2014, when Republican John Bradford III defeated her 55 to 45 percent. “The policies that touch our lives most closely often come from the state level,” Marcus told WUNC. “Federal politics is important, but what happens at the General Assembly in Raleigh – from public school funding, to healthcare, to whether we’re going to have to pay tolls here in the North Mecklenburg area is also important." According to Ballotpedia, Marcus earned her B.A. in public policy from Hamilton College and her J.D. from Duke University School of Law in 1994. Her professional experience includes working as a lawyer for Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard; as Judicial Clerk for the Honorable Frank W. Bullock, Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Greensboro; and as a founding member of DavidsonLearns, a non-profit providing senior citizen learning and enrichment. Marcus intends a fight for the seat: “Cuts to public pre-K through higher education, unconstitutional laws, politicians who put polluters over our clean air and water, policies that make healthcare more expensive and less accessible, and expensive toll lanes on I-77 have taken us backwards. Like many people in our community, I am fed up with being ignored by Raleigh Republicans and am ready to take a stand.”

Two of the candidates above -- Lisa Mathis and Cole Phelps -- are new to this blog. I've written about the others before and -- full disclosure -- I have cannibilized those earlier postings for the one above.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Terri LeGrand, Igniting in NC House District 74

NC House District 74 is a wrap-around. It packs itself into the northern nooks of Forsyth County and forms a vise around the urban core of Winston-Salem. It's reportedly 82.34% white. It nevertheless contains plenty of what gets defined as suburbia. It has a three-term Republican rep in the NC House, Debra Conrad, who is the kind of well groomed, country club Republican that Forsyth tends to elect and reelect over and over.

Then comes Democrat Terri LeGrand in 2018, just one of the large group of energized Democratic insurgents storming the Bastille of the Raleigh General Assembly. I wrote about LeGrand's prospects way back in March.

Terri LeGrand
How's she doing? You might say ... just fine! She's outraising Debra Conrad by a country mile. According to a press release from the LeGrand campaign, she raised $86,497 in the second quarter compared to $23,015 raised by Conrad. And she's gots boots on the ground, demonstrating once again that in 2018, newly minted Democratic candidates are out-raising, out-hustling, and out-door-knocking the matrix.

When I wrote about this race back in March, my impression of District 74 made it one of the hardest nuts to crack in this year's insurgency. Actual statistics soften that view (ht, KR): 18,616 Dem, 23,949 Reps, and 17,505 Unaffiliateds. In other words, and quite obviously, the winning margin for LeGrand in District 74 = the independents. Not to mention that when the Dems get energized, that 5 thousand voter-registration advantage of the Rs can deplenish itself quickly.

One cautionary note on LeGrand's fundraising superiority: We know from the Jonathan Jordan example in District 93 that outside groups -- third parties and super pacs -- always step in for their favored Republican incumbents. Jonathan Jordan is a lazy fundraiser, but his Dem opponent always seems to get plenty of nasty negative abuse. That'll likely be the same for LeGrand.

Bottomline this year: money is no advantage over enthusiasm anyway, and boots on the ground. Money's essential, but it's the army of volunteers who'll always take down the castle.

Phil Berger Looking for Something -- ANYTHING! -- To Use Against Jen Mangrum

Very obviously, NC Senate overlord Phil Berger -- or someone closely allied with him -- has hired the opposition research specialists at America Rising to dig up any dirt they can find on his Democratic challenger Jen Mangrum.

Mangrum just got reaffirmed as Berger's legitimate challenger by the state Board of Elections last Thursday, so Berger's team is upping its game.

America Rising was started by Mitt Romney's campaign manager after Romney's failed 2012 presidential run. It specializes in opposition research on Democrats its clients consider annoying. For example, it recently conducted research on career employees of the Environmental Protection Agency who had criticized Trump's policies and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's behavior.

Jen Mangrum got notice from the provost at UNC-Greensboro that the university has received a Freedom of Information Act request for a long list of documents relating to Mangrum's employment at the university. Can a demand for all her email be far behind?

You can rest assured that this is only the beginning of the fishing. Probably isn't even the beginning but somewhere in the middle.