Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Devil's Triangle

Guess who supports this:

These guys:

Here's the letter that Phil Berger and Tim Moore jointly wrote in support of Brett Kavanaugh, as though they needed to dip their wicks into that particular vat of brine.

GOP, Leaving Their Wounded on the Field

Endangered incumbent
Mike Coffman
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super-PAC serving the needs of the Republican leadership in the US House, has decided to cut off support for incumbent Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado's 6th Congressional District. The super-PAC has decided to pull back $1 million in TV advertising it was planning to spend to help Coffman keep his seat.

That's got to sting.

Coffman is a five-term loyal Republican soldier, but the guys with the money have lost confidence that he can win this year, and there are so many other Republican incumbents who have a better shot. (However, the National Republican Congressional Committee -- NRCC -- isn't giving up, says it's adding $600,000 to its TV budget in Coffman's district.)

Can't help wondering if some of Coffman's slump is due to his initial refusal to endorse Donald Trump in 2016. He supported Marco Rubio in the primaries. And then he actually called on Trump to drop out after the pussy-grabbing tape. (In 2012, Coffman backed Rick Perry for president in the primaries. The man can pick 'em, can't he?)

So who's the Democrat giving Coffman such a run?

Jason Crow was an active duty Army officer on 9/11, with the 82nd Airborne Division, and he subsequently led a division of paratroopers in the invasion of Iraq. "Shortly after returning from Iraq he joined the U.S. Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, serving two additional tours – this time in Afghanistan, as part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, where Jason served along the Pakistan border and achieved the rank of Captain." After his service, Crow was very active as a veterans advocate, and he is now a practicing attorney.

He's got the guts and the impeccable credentials to speak out on gun violence in a very pro-gun state:

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Kavanaugh Saga: Did Too Much Virginity Make Him Mean?

Most telling moment of the entire day yesterday was the very last question: Senator Kamala Harris asked Brett Kavanaugh if he watched Christine Blasey Ford's testimony that morning. "No," he answered.

If you were innocent, as he insists, wouldn't you want to watch what she was saying about you in a Senate hearing room?

Clearly, he needed to come in hot. That was the gameplan. That was what Trump wanted. So watching Blasey Ford's testimony might have done something else to Kavanaugh -- especially if it's true. Unimpaired by the sight of his accuser, Kavanaugh marched in there like a thundercloud, complete with lightning bolts and raindrops.

What to make of the tears? And the gulping of water? Gosh, I was beginning to feel sorry for the dude, but then the QandA kicked in, first with the woman sex crimes prosecutor and then with a visibly alarmed Dianne Feinstein, and we watched Kavanaugh literally begin to disintegrate.

He was clearly coached to be aggressive with a self-righteous and self-pitying script. "This is all an ambush. I should have been informed of these charges weeks ago. It's a Democrat plot to get me. Because of the Clinton thing. I was a sterling scholar in school. I was a good boy. I went to the best law school in the nation, and women love me. They really do."

Poking at that façade, the Democratic senators got back belligerence. It was combativeness like on a schoolyard -- "So's-yer-old-man!" "Takes one to know one!" He actually implied that Senator Amy Klobuchar might be a blackout drunk when she asked him if he was a blackout drunk, and he practically hissed at Sheldon Whitehouse, "Whaddya you like to drink, Senator? Whaddya you like to drink?" 

Dick Durban finally knocked him off his script, and Kavanaugh completely collapsed, physically collapsed. It's painful to watch. And it's part of the record now for eternity.

Watching this implosion of their boy, the Republican senators ditched the woman sex crimes prosecutor, and Lindsey Graham volunteered to throw the public hissy fit with the counter-allegations and the finger-pointing theatrics -- the ole Trump counter-punch -- of -- gasp! -- collusion amongst the Democrats and extreme malpractice against an upstanding young man

With that hired woman from Arizona out of the way, the Republican men all took turns doubling the charges of ambush against the Democrats or praising the choir boy before them, and thus they rallied their troops, made the Christine Blasey Ford testimony simply disappear, and probably saved Kavanaugh's ass. At least for a day.

(Lindsey Graham was so clearly talking to Senator Jeff Flake when he warned his fellow senators not to be fooled by this whole "farce." Don't even think of voting against "this fine man.")

The Only Child
When Kavanaugh said he was an only child, I sat up straight. In my experience -- and my experience is limited, granted -- only-children can sometimes be spoiled brats, entitled from birth to the best and indignant when things don't work out to their expectations. Aggressively indignant.

I suddenly saw him for what he was.

And I don't think this man belongs in a judge's robes. I seriously don't. The tantrum thrown to get his way -- topped by the tantrum Lindsey Graham threw, but never mind that! -- and the rank partisanship of dragging up Trump's election and the prosecution of the Clintons over White Water -- it all speaks to his tribal mentality. This is a not a good judge of anything.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tim Moore May Not Be the Most Corrupt Member of the NC General Assembly, But He's Definitely in the Running

NC House Speaker Tim Moore
We enumerated some of NC House Speaker Tim Moore's shady dealings back in March, when we were trying to encourage his Democratic opponent this go-round, David Brinkley, to go on the attack.

Now there's more (Moore) double-dealing and pocket-lining, detailed in this Charlotte Observer piece from yesterday, and we're too exhausted right now to go unpack the whole thing for you, and you can read, right?

Is David Brinkley willing to let this pass too?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Cruising for a Bruising?

I've been reading -- always a dangerous provocation to thinking -- about the male frat-brat culture at Georgetown Prep in the early 1980s and about the male drinking society at Yale University (particularly in the DKE fraternity, "the Dekes") in the mid-1980s, both places where Brett Kavanaugh cobbled his character, and I'm beginning to understand the "incandescent fury" that's arisen among American women about male privilege (that phrase in quotes belongs to Michelle Goldberg).

Brett Kavanaugh, standing far left.
1983, Georgetown Prep
Those entitled guys, swaggerers and takers -- haven't we all known at least one? (And where's there one, there's usually a clique.) Guys who are either completely oblivious about the feelings of anyone outside their circle, or completely indifferent. The true elites of this society, "masters of the universe" on Wall Street and everywhere else there's power, and not because they're smarter than anyone else but because they've been groomed, trained in the levers of control. They got to go to Georgetown Prep, and you didn't.

At Georgetown Prep, the elite Catholic boys school where Kavanaugh was on the football team and captain of the basketball team, the guys dated Catholic girls from nearby schools like Stone Ridge, Holy Cross, and Georgetown Visitation. Kavanaugh's football team, which included the now notoriously absconded Mark Judge (who supposedly jumped on the bed that night and inadvertently broke up the fun) -- the nine varsity football players all listed an obscure club on their senior yearbook pages: "Renate Alumnus" (that's the picture from the yearbook to the right).

The word “Renate” appears at least 14 times in Georgetown Prep’s 1983 yearbook, on individuals’ pages and in that group photo (Kate Kelly and David Enrich). "Renate" -- is that Latin? No, turns out, the key to who "Renate" was lies in this short poem popular in Kavanaugh's clique and also printed in that 1983 yearbook: “You need a date / and it’s getting late / so don’t hesitate / to call Renate.”

Okay, we get it. "Renate Alumnus" was an inside joke that all those guys had had sex with Renate Schroeder, then a student at one of the nearby Catholic girls’ schools. She didn't know she was the butt of that joke. In fact, Renate (now Renate Dolphin) didn't know about those references in the Georgetown Prep yearbook of 1983 until this week, when someone showed her.

Wanna know the big irony? Renate Schroeder Dolphin was one of those 65 women who had been induced to sign a letter testifying to Brett Kavanaugh's sterling character and his high regard for women. That was then. (About 60 of those women have subsequently rescinded their testimonials.)

“I learned about these yearbook pages only a few days ago,” Ms. Dolphin said in a statement to the New York Times. “I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means. I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way. I will have no further comment.”

I'm inclined to believe she's telling the truth.

I'm also inclined to believe Kavanaugh when he said this last night on Fox
KAVANAUGH: ...I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. And the girls from the schools I went to and I were friends -- 
MACCALLUM: So you’re saying that through all these years that are in question, you were a virgin? 
KAVANAUGH: That’s correct. 
MACCALLUM: Never had sexual intercourse with anyone in high school – 
KAVANAUGH: Correct. 
MACCALLUM: – and through what years in college since we’re probing into your personally life here? 
KAVANAUGH: Many years after. I’ll leave it at that. Many years after.
Jumping clumsily on Blasey Ford at a drunken party, with his best swordsman friend standing right there as witness and egging him on, and trying to get her one-piece down, and then what, Brett? Whattya gonna do then, Big Boy? Put your hand over her mouth, because this girl apparently didn't get the memo about your right to have sex?

The adolescent clunk-headedness of what Blasey Ford has told seems obvious to me now, if I believe what Kavanaugh said -- his actual virgin male panic of needing that first notch on the ole belt buckle, the need to prove oneself a man in a male culture that values conquest above courtship, and the need for a witness (or backup) and the flagrant use of a 15-year-old woman that he thought could be used for this purpose -- that's the only scenario I can come up with ... when I believe them all, and I believe them all, even Kavanaugh.

How totally recognizable is this pasty-faced frat-brat who bragged with the boys to fit in? I wouldn't want him making decisions about my rights if I were a woman. I don't want him making decisions about anybody's rights.

If Michelle Goldberg is correct, Brett Kavanaugh is a type that's so used to its privilege that it's blind to others not of its club. These guys never see their comeuppance coming and are outraged at its arrival.

Monday, September 24, 2018

UPDATE: The Race in the Virginia 2nd District

Elaine Luria
I was star-struck by Democratic candidate Elaine Luria way back on January 30. She was already turning heads as an ex-Navy commander running as the insurgent in a military-heavy district. Since then, she's continued and built a credible and effective campaign against a first-term Republican, Congressman Scott Taylor, a swaggering ex-Navy Seal who should have the seat sewn up by now.

But no. Taylor has been implicated in an election-tampering scandal that's dragging him down.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Should D D Adams Win?

Guest blogging: Jeanne Supin

Friends and I recently held a fundraiser for 5thDistrict Democratic congressional candidate D D Adams. Framed by our beautiful Blue Ridge vistas, we gathered outside on the deck, wine and food in hand, to hear from and celebrate an exuberant, tireless, intelligent, and delightfully warm woman who has dedicated her life to public service.

Not a horserace ... a question of character
Before, during, and after the event more than a handful of people privately asked me, “What do the polls say? Does she have a chance? Can D D win?”

At first I entertained the questions, talking about the new district’s composition, the piqued passion of new and once-disillusioned voters, the fact that Millennials are now the nation’s largest bloc of eligible voters, that certainly the 5thDistrict is as enlightened as Georgia, let’s say, or Florida, in judging candidates by the content of their policies and their character.

But those conversations about polling data and voter predictions quickly grew uncomfortable for me. I didn’t like joining the narrative equating campaigns with horse-races. I got sucked into evaluating D D Adams by calculating the electoral odds, by doing the numbers. And it quickly felt all wrong.

Elections should never be reduced to over-simplified probability, statistics, and a win-lose mentality. They should be about policy. They should be about values. They should demand thoughtful consideration of the future of our nation. They should be exalted as the deepest privilege and responsibility of a civil and democratic society.

Look, I know we all need to make choices. And I’m not naïve; I’ve been working in politics and government for 40 years. Plus I run my own business, my pockets aren’t deep, and I only have so much time and energy. So I get it. 

But I still don’t like the question Can D D Adams win? It feels calculating and cynical to me. It seems to miss the point.

Instead I’m asking: ShouldD D Adams win? I’ve decided that’show I will choose which candidates to support and which candidates deserve my time, my energy, my money, and my vote. 

And the answer to the question ShouldD D Adams win? Absolutely. Without question. Born and raised in District 5, she has spent her whole life giving back to our community, through works with her family, her profession, her faith community, and as a Winston-Salem City Council member. She’s experienced at bringing together diverse interests to help public schools, local businesses and farmers, and community groups.

She will bring to Washington tireless advocacy for policies I believe in: access to quality healthcare for all; real commitments to living wages, middle class wealth and security, and tax codes that are just and unifying; affordable education within reach to all who want to better themselves; sound immigration policies that establish clear legal rules yet also reflect our aspirations as a welcoming and humane melting pot; securing our safety and our borders through wise, firm diplomacy and policy; meaningful efforts to reverse climate change, and reclaiming values of diversity, inclusion, kindness, and equality for all.

Sure, it sounds flowery. But today, as we lead up to the election on November 6, 2018, these policies and these ideals are in grave danger. I’m 57, and I’ve never seen anything like our current political collapse. I am alarmed for me, for my community and my country, and for the future my children and their children might face.

I’m not playing anymore by the old rules: What do the polls say? What about the numbers? Can D D Adams win?I’m standing firm with the one and only question I think matters: ShouldD D Adams be our next congressional representative? And I’m committing all that I can to YES.

I invite you to do the same.

September 20, 2018

Don't Drink the Water

AP Newsbreak
AP headline, 11:35, Friday morning, September 21:

Coal ash may be flowing into Cape Fear River

Substitute "definitely is" for "may be" flowing, and this is the world we've got now, the landscape shaped by, permeated with the leavings of unregulated special interests. 

Add pigshit from overtopped shit lagoons infecting all the surface water, coating the kitchen walls of submerged houses, soaking into the dry wall. Tell me that some powerful interests aren't ruling the roost! And woe to everything that's downhill from them!

Duke Energy is trying to get out of paying damages for the Dan River spill. Duke owes, or could owe, even before Florence, $1 billion+ as a result of spills and other environmental problems at its coal-ash ponds. Duke is suing its insurance providers to pick up that bill, or some of it. Customers will probably pay for the rest. Headline from June 1: "Your utility bill could go up: Duke Energy Progress seeking 16.7% rate increase."


You watch: Those well dressed guys in Raleigh, the Phil Berger/Tim Moore troops, will never make Duke or the pigshit industry own up to its abuses. They're the guys who don't do enforcement. Don't believe in it. Against their religion.

Rep. Jonathan Jordan and Sen. Deanna Ballard bunk with those boys. All of them need to go somewhere else.

2018 Trends

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Something's Stirring in Catawba County

I'm told that Catawba County voters haven't elected a Democrat to the county commission in over 30 years. No Democrat even bothered to file for the office in 2016, and going back many election cycles on the State Board of Elections site, I found some Democrats on the ballot in various years, but none of them ever came close to taking a seat.

This year there are three Democrats on the ballot for the Catawba County Commission, all women, all exceptional in one way or another. You can read about all of them on the Catawba Democratic Party website.

Geniey Yang in action
I'm particularly drawn to Geniey (pronounced gee-knee) Yang, an Asian-American woman of 30 who's been an international teacher of English and is also an accomplished rock-climber: "I got on the rocks and never looked back. It guides my travel plans and has a key impact on how I govern my life. Rock climbing has taken me to some of the most exquisite places in the world. It has been the guiding light to my self-assurance, assessing different situations, and preparing for all things possible."

Geniey's family was part of the Hmong (the 'h' is silent) immigration to the United States in the late 1980s. The Hmong were ethnically Chinese living mainly in the mountains of Laos and Vietnam. Many of them helped American forces in the Vietnamese War, and after the Pathet Lao seized control of Laos, they began a brutal persecution of the Hmong. Hmong refugees fled to Thailand, and from there many immigrated to the United States, some of them to Catawba and Burke counties in North Carolina where they have become well established as professional workers of all kinds, farmers (they excel at agriculture), and in the case of Geniey, a candidate for public office.

I hear from insiders in Catawba that Geniey and her team of volunteers have already knocked over 4,000 doors in the county. That kind of commitment and out-reach is golden. Observing her energy and commitment, a Catawba County Democrat told me, "a young Asian woman knocking doors every day of the week in rural Catawba County is very impressive." More than impressive, I'd say. #2018BlueWave courageous!

Geniey writes, "My drive for progress and satisfaction is fearless, and it is tantamount to what I feel for my community. I have seen the proof of universal strength of community repeatedly through my travels across the world  -- people taking care of people, neighbors pulling together for the benefit of all .... we must all strive to be better than we are. I believe in self-betterment and looking after one another. To make that a reality, I am ready and dedicated to give back to my community."

I was already watching Catawba County because of candidates like Kim Bost and Ric Vandett and David Wilson Brown and DD Adams. Geniey Yang gives me a tingling sensation that 2018 ain't like any other year in Catawba and in many other North Carolina counties.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Connection Between Ballot Subpoenas in North Carolina and DJT's Ego

Well, knock us over with a feather duster! A lengthy investigative piece posted last week on Salon proves that there was past substantial voting by "illegal aliens" in a North Carolina election, only it was done to benefit a Republican candidate for Fayetteville City Council.

We've written about Wesley Meredith before, because he's now an incumbent member of the NC Senate, and a powerful one, and he has a credible Democratic opponent this year in Kirk deViere.

But back more than a decade ago, according to Steven Rosenfeld, Meredith was trying awfully hard to get onto the Fayetteville City Council. He ran once and lost. Then he ran again in 2005 and won, but not without a lot of questions and evidence of illegal registrations by non-citizens who were supposedly taking a keen interest in seeing a landscape contractor elected to city council.

Marshall Tutor, who retired in March 2018 after many years as lead investigator for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, was deeply involved investigating Meredith's 2005 win. "There are a lot of problems with that case," Tutor told Rosenfeld. "I spent a lot of time on fraudulent absentee ballot requests and non-citizens requesting absentee ballots. And it was federal crimes involved because there were absentee ballot requests made for Fayetteville citizens who knew nothing about it, that were mailed over state lines into a drop box in Virginia.”

Tutor took his evidence to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina -- "evidence showing that non-citizens tried to, and did, register and vote, and vote early. We had enough [evidence] that, had it been thoroughly investigated, there would have had to have been charges on somebody” -- but “the U.S. attorney’s office told us they would get back to us after they had time to go over the documentation. About 13 months later they sent an email saying they didn’t have enough evidence to go forward with any kind of investigation. Keep in mind Meredith was a huge fundraiser for state Republican candidates during this time.”

Robert J. Higdon Jr.,
U.S. Attorney
Eastern District of N.C.
Hmmm. Who was that Federal prosecutor who said no thanks to busting illegal voting? Why, Robert J. Higdon Jr., who is now, presently, the very U.S. Attorney who engineered the recent surprise subpoena for some 20 million ballots and voting records from 44 eastern counties of North Carolina ... 44 eastern counties where the proportion of Latinos just happens to be highest. That appears to be the point of the subpoenas and more evidence that the Trump administration is still pursuing its fraudulent claim that millions of "illegals" voted in 2016.

See, when Trump's bogus commission appointed to look into illegal voting crashed and burned -- it was led by Kris Kobach of Kansas (what's the matter with Kansas?), a sloppy partisan with no qualms who's now trying to move his conspiracy theories into the Kansas governor's mansion -- when that commission disbanded in disgrace, Kobach transferred the "hunt for illegals" to the Department of Homeland Security, which runs ICE, which made the requests to Robert J. Higdon Jr. to issue those blanket subpoenas at 5 p.m. on the Friday before Labor Day.

Threatening subpoenas delivered not only to the county boards of elections in 44 eastern North Carolina counties, but also to every DMV office, where many people register to vote, with the clear threat and implication that someone has broken the law and needs to be keel-hauled ... coming from a U.S. Attorney with a history of partisan decision-making ... well, ain't that just a kick in the pants?

We're thankful we have a State Board of Elections and an Attorney General willing and able to push back against the intimidation, the lingering penumbra of Kris Kobach, vampire hunter.

Phil Berger: Why He Won't Debate Jen Mangrum

The Boss of North Carolina, Senate leader Phil Berger, thinks if he ignores Jen Mangrum ... well, ignorance is bliss, right? Berger is not only refusing to debate Mangrum, his Democratic opponent. He even refuses to acknowledge her existence.

MYFOX8 down in the Triad (WGHP in High Point) tried to set up a debate between Mangrum and Berger, a live on-air debate. Station General Manager Jim Himes set a deadline for both campaigns to agree. (A grudge match like this one would take careful scheduling.) According to the notification Himes sent Mangrum yesterday (posted on her Facebook page), Berger never acknowledged the request. Didn't bother to respond even after Himes extended the deadline.

That's not just Berger arrogance. That's Berger flop-sweat. Jennifer Mangrum's candidacy (which I have stalked since late last year, and full disclosure, I'm a repeat contributor), Jen Mangrum has rattled the man, who can doubtless read the atmosphere like a hygrometer. He knows the polls. He fully understands the growing resistance. Which makes him a man in a hurry. Push those rewritings of North Carolina government through quickly. Rush those constitutional amendments to the public, and label them what they're not, and if the voting public votes yes, you'll have all the power forever

He'll play dirty to defeat the resistance. He sent spies to poke their noses in Mangrum's closets, after she moved to Reidsville in order to stay in the race against him. Pretend buyers of the property that Mangrum was renting tried to prove she wasn't really a resident of Berger's district. That didn't work. The State Board of Elections upheld her qualification to run, and the episode just made her stronger. 

Jen Mangrum, center
When she posted the Himes email about Berger's stonewalling, she added, "This is important. North Carolina is controlled by a bully and dictator! Hold him accountable!" She's subsequently published Berger's office phone number and asked people to call him to beg him to debate.

It'll never happen. There's no advantage in it for Berger, and traditionally, incumbents who are perceived to be well ahead of their challengers rarely agree to debate. Whether that's true of Berger, he wants to project that image -- too big to fail. And why confer status on a challenger? Why give them the stage, even if you could wipe the floor with them because of your decades of government experience? (Surely Berger thinks that!)

But 2018 isn't ordinary. Jen Mangrum isn't ordinary. She's got the fire, the smarts, and the guts to keep getting up in Berger's grill. Refusal to debate can be a political practicality. It can also be fear.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Daring the Odds in NC House District 97

NC House District 97 consists of Lincoln County in its entirety and alone. Last statistics I've seen for Lincoln revealed almost twice the number of registered Republicans as Democrats, so it has a dismal swamp sort of aspect to it. That pall of defeatism seems mirrored by the website of the Lincoln County Democratic Party, which doesn't even list its candidates for office, and one candidate in particular -- Natalie Robertson -- deserves some attention.

Democrat Natalie Robertson is attempting the heavy lift of running for the NC House District 97 with three very young children clinging to her, literally, which makes her another of those woke women who felt a call this year to stand up and "go for it," damn the odds. I've got to admire that kind of fortitude even if she's not so far mounting the most vigorous door-knocking and direct-voter-contact campaign. She seems to be getting very little team support from her fellow Democrats in Lincoln County. She needs to be encouraged for the long haul, because if she's not successful this year there's always the next year, and she might yet build a following of activists that could turn things around.

According to her website, Robertson "built a career in Information Technology working for US Airways, The Disney Corporation, United Airlines and most recently Travel Leaders Group." She's married to an executive with Wells Fargo in Charlotte (who was also a captain in the British Army and served two tours in Afghanistan). There's grit in this family to go around.

Who is Natalie Robertson up against? Just one of those big Republican dogs who've mired North Carolina in the regressive silt of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative group funded by corporations that writes "model legislation" for state legislators to introduce...

Jason Saine, clothes horse
Incumbent Republican Jason Saine, who late last year got rewarded for his regressive politics and willingness to carry water for the rich and powerful. Saine was named national chairman last December for ALEC. Big dog, with big money backing him.

ALEC is notorious, especially for influencing the flood of ultra-conservative legislation that began to flow in North Carolina following the Republican take-all in 2012. Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, "says ALEC's conferences and model legislation slip a national business agenda between legislators and the people who elected them. 'It's not listening to their constituencies. It's listening to this very narrow segment and it's all done typically in a very private way,' he says."

Saine was appointed to the General Assembly in 2011. He didn't have a Democratic opponent in 2012 nor in 2016. He steamrolled the one Democratic opponent he had in 2014.

Saine drew some negative attention in 2015 when he spent $19,000 on custom-made clothes out of his campaign funds, but he appears to have gotten away with that. Maybe the voters of Lincoln County are comfortable with that kind of padding.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Kim Bost Making (Blue) Waves in NC House District 96

It's downright edifying to watch North Carolina Democratic candidates for General Assembly seats in  "unlikely districts" proving conventional expectations all wet. When did we last see such energy on the Democratic side, such volunteerism among the rank-and-file, such blazing commitment among the resistance?

Kim Bost, running in House District 96, is just one example of in-it-to-win-it grit in a district where no Democrat even filed for the office in 2016. District 96 is a compact piece of real estate taking in some of the densest neighborhoods in Catawba County -- Hickory and Conover, principally. Think post-industrial landscape where factory jobs have been disappearing, median family incomes have not kept pace with the rest of North Carolina -- let alone the rest of the nation -- and property values have been in a slump. Trump Country, right?

Enter Kim Bost, a native of New Jersey who came to Hickory in 1999 to work as a designer for Ellis Hosiery. She's been a close observer of the struggling textile industry and has focused her campaign on North Carolina's ranking as 47th among all the states for worker wages and worker protections. That's a dismal statistic that can be laid on the Republican-dominated General Assembly.

Bost is running an energetic campaign and drawing volunteers in to help with weekly door-knocking, phone banking, and other direct voter contact. She's already passed the landmark of 1,000 doors knocked and is showing no sign of slowing down. It's like she's revved up a resistance that's just been waiting for a leader, for a standard-bearer, for a candidate willing to work hard for it. Bost is active on Twitter and on Facebook. Nothing inspires followers like a hard-working candidate with a solid platform of support for public education, worker rights, and expanded healthcare.

Meanwhile, the incumbent Republican Jay Adams looks like furniture. He votes for what his bosses tell him to vote for, which is every piece of regressive legislation that Berger/Moore came up with. Adams managed to get himself on HB2 as a sponsor, one of the most destructive bills for business in the state's history.

If anyone can break the bad Catawba habit of voting for do-nothing Republicans like Jay Adams, Kim Bost is that candidate.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

It's Not Wise To Ignore Mother Nature

When science predicts bad stuff, ban science. Yeah, that's the plan. Or at least that was the plan back in 2012 for the NC General Assembly and for the whole problem of the sea.

What set the General Assembly off in 2012 was a report two years earlier by a panel of scientists gathered together by the state Coastal Resources Commission. Those guys, from several different state universities, used computer modeling based on increased warming due to carbon dioxide and melting ice caps -- and its cumulative effects -- those scientists  issued a dire warning in March 2010, estimating that the sea levels along the state’s coast would rise 39 inches over the next century.

Jeez Louise. Real estate developers and their allies didn't like the sound of that. I mean, just the sound of that science caused The Vapors, caused new foundations to melt. And hadn't real estate interests taken enough grief in the under-water tsunami of the Great Recession? Enough of doom and gloom! There were new profits to be made, and so special interests got busy, leaned on the all too willing new Republican majority in the General Assembly, and got a law in 2012 that literally barred policymakers and developers from using up-to-date climate science to regulate coastal development.

Pat McElrath
That put a stop to effing science. And development of coastal lowlands roared ahead, unrestrained by any predictions of disaster. Coastal population has increased by almost half in the last 20 years.

The Republican who wrote that 2012 law, NC House member Pat McElraft (Emerald Isle), is still in the House, representing District 13. McElraft's top campaign contributors in 2012 were the North Carolina Association of Realtors and the North Carolina Home Builders’ Association.

McElrath's up for reelection in 2018 with no Democratic opponent. The man who filed to run withdrew, and district Democrats didn't recruit another candidate. An unaffiliated candidate, Penelope Ann diMaio, is on the ballot and supported by the Carteret County Democrats. "Pene" diMaio has a website and presumably some sort of a campaign going. But signs are not encouraging that she's fighting for it. First line in her statement about environmental issues: "I believe in science." Curiously, she doesn't even mention her opponent's role in outlawing science.

All that science-banning fiasco in 2012 got the hilarious attention of Stephen Colbert. Ain't no laughing matter this week.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Wilkes County On My Mind

Current Board of County Commissioners in Wilkes

Those guys are all not Democrats. Here is the single Democrat running for county commission in Wilkes this year -- 

Laura Beth Prevette (prefers to be called "L.B.")

Unlikely contest? Wilkes is notoriously Republican. Democrats are beaten just about every time. Sometimes Democrats don't even run. But L.B. Prevette could be Wonder Woman in horn rims. Listen to her talk. Read what she's written. She's smart, has a wry sense of humor, and talks a straight, plain English that wholly captures her intelligence. "We're the people that work," she declares and wonders why that isn't enough. 

She's native to Wilkes County down five generations of farmers, which frames a good story about return of the prodigal: "As a farm family we lived paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t have the nicest clothes, didn’t fit in, and my internal clock counted down to the day I could leave Wilkes County and never look back."

"My father died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 39 when I was just entering my sophomore year at Wingate; and that was the end of my world. Dad was my world. He was a wonderful man, the definition of a servant leader who worked on the farm all day and then came in for a glass of grape Kool-Aid before heading out to help a neighbor on theirs."

With the passing of her father, L.B. had to quit Wingate and work waiting tables to help support the family. She worked several jobs and then after a year or so she took off for Reno, Nevada, to go back to school. Being gone always helps scrub one's spectacles, and L.B. came back to Wilkes with new appreciation for home and its possibilities, and she took a job at Lowe's Home Improvement. Isn't that the "quintessential Wilkes story," L.B. asks, ironically -- "from a chicken farm to Lowe’s."

She's got vision: "The story of Wilkes County is a story of makers: makers of moonshine and music. — We made a sport [NASCAR]. We made as many millionaires per capita as anywhere in the country [Lowe's] and while we’re stubborn (sometimes to a fault), we’re creative and because of that we have a future. Wilkes hosts some of the best hiking and wineries on the East Coast. Combine that with restless energy and character and resolve. Invest in transportation, housing, hospitality and entrepreneurship, and you’ve got an economy."

"I want us to invest in ourselves (because the best jobs here were always made in Wilkes) and to give young people a seat at the table; to provide incentives for college graduates to come home; and to prioritize folks who want to work and support themselves and only need an opportunity. I want you to feel the same sense of pride — about our history, our geography, our people, and our future — and I want you to feel hope again. I want that to be our story."

L.B. Prevette is an unconventional candidate. Compare her to the male phalanx pictured above. But she's embraced by the Wilkes Democratic Party, and that's a spunky, resilient bunch, and in a year like 2018 (need I say it again?), any frigging thing can happen. But not without work. Not without connecting with a fluid voter base. I wish L.B. had a real website, and more activity on Facebook. The new voters she could energize in Wilkes are computer age millennials, many of whom probably haven't been bothering to vote (after all, Republicans, like the gentlemen above, seem set in the concrete of local habit, and will last for generations). But L.B., with her generational straight talk, could energize a whole new segment of "step-up voters."

She pushes back against the prevailing media image of Wilkes County (as a depressing post-industrial, foothills backwater), particularly an article that ran in the New York Times: "I’m angry at reporters who come to Wilkes to write about overdoses and abandoned factories — but I’m mad at myself, and everyone else who let that become our story and who accepted decline as our fate; who became ashamed to be from Wilkes whether they moved away or stayed. I didn’t always feel that pride. I had to rediscover why I cared."

Isn't this the sort of millennial we want in government? Isn't this exactly who we need?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Back to Union County

Frank Deese (in back, on left) and his family
I wrote about Democrats in Union County down-column, and some of the stand-out candidates for the General Assembly, but I missed someone else who deserves appreciation ... Frank Deese, who's running in the NC House District 55. My excuse for missing Frank is that District 55 covers only part of Union County and all of Anson County. A tough district, yes, but Frank Deese is a tough human being.

Deese has a powerful back story of personal redemption that illustrates why I love this country. Deese served ten years in prison for armed robbery, but he got his life together and came out of that experience to become ultimately the mayor of Marshville, where he's been reelected for seven terms.

From his website: "In December of 1989 I was paroled with $30 in my pocket and the clothes on my back. And as I walked out of what had been my home for more than 10 years, one thought in my mind permeated throughout my entire being: 'I am not going back there.' ”
"The rest of my life, from that point to today, I have set out to prove that we are not confined by our pasts and that we can always turn our negatives into positives. It wasn’t long before I went from hitchhiking to and from work until I could afford a car to starting my own tax business that allowed me the freedom to begin giving back to my community beyond what my conviction required. I became a Sunday School teacher in my church and counseled others to help them avoid some of my own pitfalls. Later, I began to donate my time and money to organizations like the YWCA, and, over the next few years, I was honored with several awards including the Governor’s Award for Volunteering from Governor Jim Hunt, the Union County Chamber of Commerce Minority Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the Few Good Men’s Citizen of the Year Award."
Photo: Sarah Nagem, News and Observer
Deese is running against incumbent Republican Mark Brody, first elected to the House in 2012. At that time, Brody was trailing some baggage, to which he's added other baggage. When first elected in 2012 and as a "former general contractor," he had been sued several times for failure to pay for services and materials (shades of DJT!). He tried to dodge TV cameras and claimed the suits were "politically motivated."

In May of this year, Brody threw a fit on his Facebook page about the huge rally of public school teachers planned in Raleigh on May 16, painting his pique with a broad brush:
"Let’s call this what it is, Teacher Union thugs want to control the education process! I am speaking up because I don’t want Union County schools, and for that matter all NC school systems, to turn into Chicago. Let the Union thugs get their way now and we are half way there."
That Facebook outburst ushered in several days of back-peddaling.

Mark Brody is ripe for plucking.

Friday, September 07, 2018

A David Up Against Goliath Ralph Hise

Democrat David Wheeler is running to unseat a big Republican dog in the NC Senate, Ralph Hise from nearby Spruce Pine. Senate District 47 is a difficult mix of mountain and lowland counties that wraps around Buncombe to the north and east, including all of Madison, Yancey, and Mitchell on the Tennessee border, continuing southward through McDowell, and concluding with Rutherford and Polk on the South Carolina border. Whew! How would you like to campaign over that bumpy ground?

The bulk of the population in District 47 lives in the lowland counties. Rutherford alone has more people than the three mountain counties of Madison, Yancey, and Mitchell combined. Both Democrat Wheeler and the incumbent Republican Ralph Hise live in Spruce Pine in Mitchell County. The winner this fall might be the man who hustles the most in the "downhill from home."

David Wheeler
David Wheeler looks for all the world like he's hustling votes. His Facebook feed suggests that he's mounted an active and aggressive campaign, and he got some earned media in the lowlands last month when he got asked to leave the controversial Word of Faith church in Rutherford County. That church has been a Rutherford County scandal for years, essentially enslaving and abusing its members and being winked at by local government including state Senator Ralph Hise. Wheeler's was a bold move that got him noticed. Will it also get him votes?

Sen. Ralph Hise
Incumbent Hise has set himself up for a massive fall. He's one of Senate boss Phil Berger's best boys, very active in attempting to gerrymander the North Carolina judiciary and to squeeze ballot access into something that might fit comfortably into his coat pocket. He is trailing a history of questionable and illegal campaign finance practices. As of February of this year, the NC Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement was still investigating complaints filed against Hise in 2017, and I can't find any evidence that Ethics enforcement has ever reached a conclusion.
The original complaint against Hise, filed in March of 2017 by activist Greg Flynn, detailed a variety of errors and omissions in Hise’s campaign disclosures. They include:
✿ Hise loaned about $50,000 to the campaign, but was repaid about $60,000 according to the reports. 
✿ Required information about campaign contributors – including employers and addresses – were missing from the reports. 
✿ A failure to report more than $9,000 that nine political action committees reported making to his campaign over a four year period. 
✿ A failure to provide itemized information on thousands of dollars in campaign disbursements.
If there ever was an incumbent hog feeding at the trough, it's Hise, and he needs to go. David Wheeler might be the candidate to send him packing in a year like 2018.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

David Wilson Brown in the 10th Congressional District

I'm paying close attention to direct voter contact this year and to the candidates/county Democratic parties that are blazing that trail to good effect. Nothing beats door-knocking for winning elections -- nothing! The problem is the thousands and thousands of doors that a candidate and his/her campaign may never get around to knocking, but getting out there on the ground with platoons of volunteers and trying to knock every door can produce a rift in the Matrix. Especially in a year like 2018.

David Wilson Brown in
Forest City
So I notice the impressive direct-voter contact numbers for Democrat David Wilson Brown, who's running against Patrick McHenry in the 10th Congressional District. How impressive? Of all the NC Democratic Congressional candidates this year, Kathy Manning, running in the 13th CD against first-term Congressman Ted Budd, is tops in direct voter contact. Dan McCready, running in the 9th against preacherman Mark Harris, comes in second with impressive numbers. And David Wilson Brown ranks third, which is something of a shock because the 10th is on no one's list of potentially flippable congressional districts.

I did a profile of David Wilson Brown back in February (and of the incumbent McHenry), and you'll have to pardon me for quoting from part of that here:
David was a 1990s graduate of AppState, majoring in poly sci (he did a Washington internship with then Republican Congresswoman Sue Myrick). He works now in the information technology industry. He's 43 with a wife and two kids, a boy and girl, 10 and 6, and they live in McAdenville ("Christmas Town, USA"), east of Gastonia on I-85. He grew up in Charlotte.

He's also a realist and knows what a long-shot he is to beat McHenry, but Brown is animated by the same dramatic spirit of resistance that has surged through so much of America in the Age of Trump. "I can’t sit on the sidelines and do nothing,” he told Michael Barrett of the Gaston Gazette.

He's particularly offended by the way the Republican use "the common man" as a mere prop for "making their end goals .... They use the politics of fear to keep people from getting ahead." Brown needs to focus on McHenry's enabling of the payday lenders, who rip off the common man and the little guy and the working class like smash-and-grab burglars. “When I look at the things Republicans are voting on again and again, they are against working class people who are just trying to get by,” he said.

“I think we’re at a turning point in this next election where people are going to wake up and see that Republicans have used these fringe issues, that don’t affect people’s daily lives, to make voters think they care about what’s best for them.”

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

What's Happening in Union County?

Where is Union County?
Below Charlotte-Mecklenburg, on the South Carolina line. It's historically Jesse Helms country with the towns of Monroe and Wingate. But a portion of Union could also be considered suburban Charlotte, as it lies just south of the I-485 belt line.

Democrats in Union County are organized this year and energized. Couldn't help noticing how Union stands out among the 100 counties for current direct-voter contact. They're doing more door-knocking and phone calling than our larger Democratic strongholds in Wake and Mecklenburg. Which means they're supporting the wave that could roll all the way to Raleigh (not to mention DeeCee).

Union's Star Candidates in 2018
Dan McCready, running for the 9th Congressional seat. We've written about McCready several times, and he's attracting national support. Whether the map for the 9th is going to survive current legal action is another question, but at the moment McCready looks like a winner in a flippable district (which used to be Robert Pittenger's. He was involuntarily retired in the May Republican primary).

Caroline Walker, running for the state Senate (District 35). We first noticed Walker back in February. For a year like 2018, she's got it all ... a compelling resume in both business and education, an exemplary personal life that speaks to the struggles and rewards of many ordinary Union Countians, and an inspirational vision of helping rather than hurting her fellow citizens.

No one that I know of lists Senate District 35 as "in play," but Walker is running for an open seat (a plus), she's showing canny instincts as a candidate (check out her Twitter feed), and she's obviously got an energized Democratic Party behind her.

Senator Jeff Jackson of the nearby 37th District has been raising money across the state to help flip the NC Senate -- or at least break the Republican super-majority -- and I certainly hope that some of that money goes to support Caroline Walker. Her bravery and resolve are an inspiration in a year rich with inspirational first-candidate stories.

D'Oh! Forgot Rick Foulke
Also in Union County, Rick Foulke is running for the NC House District 68 seat. We first took note of him back on January 2nd of this year.

Like Ray Russell, Foulke was until recently an Unaffiliated voter. He was a doctor in the Army before retiring as a lieutenant colonel and going into private practice as an oncologist, first in Charlotte and then in Matthews. He decided to register as a Democrat after the Republicans refused to expand Medicaid. Those and other Republican policies "got me off the sidelines and persuaded me that I really need to be in this fight," Foulke said. “I spent my career diagnosing people with cancer, telling them I can save their lives but see them die because they couldn’t afford the treatment,” Foulke said. “That’s why I’m running.”

Monday, September 03, 2018

Dianne Little in NC House District 94

Dianne Little
Few other things a candidate does will get my attention like direct voter contact ... doors knocked, phone calls made, hands shaken.

That's why I sat up when I saw the numbers of direct voter contact for Democrat Dianne Little, running next door in House District 94 (Alexander and part of Wilkes counties). Only one other candidate for the General Assembly has higher numbers, and none of this year's Democratic stars in Wake, Mecklenburg, and Guilford have come close to hustling like Dianne Little is hustling.

We like her campaign theme: "Brave Enough to Say ENOUGH!" That's aimed at the corruption and misrule flowing out of Raleigh. Here's how her platform pokes at the current Republican super majority in the NC House and Senate:
✤ They have funneled money designated for public schools – our tax dollars – into private schools; and they have allowed charter schools to increase in number while public schools have lost enrollment. 
✤ They have allowed teacher salaries to plummet to as low as 47th in the nation, taken away the due process that employees need for fair treatment, and robbed educators of professional development funding and master’s degree stipends. 
✤ Those same leaders have denied equal access to quality healthcare for all North Carolina residents and have failed to provide access to health insurance. 
✤ They watched our environment be polluted while refusing to hold the polluters accountable for the clean-up cost, and instead, passed that cost on to taxpayers. 
✤ They have placed a larger tax burden on the shoulders of the average citizen and given huge tax breaks to larger corporations.
She's a veteran educator with over 40 years active experience in teaching, so naturally she's got education at the top of her issues. She taught at Alexander Central High School for 23 years, served as assistant principal and principal at Newton-Conover High School, and now is the director of the Phillips Leadership Institute at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory.

More importantly, she's obviously got a corps of volunteers working for her, which means more than a large bank account.

Who's she running against? This dude, Jeffrey Elmore, first elected to the NC House in 2012. We remember him mainly from the Republican primary he ran against Dan Soucek in 2010 for the NC Senate Dist. 45, which Soucek ultimately won.

While Little decries the backhand that public education has suffered during Elmore's term in office, Elmore can manage only a shrug: In 2014, he said "issues with abolishing teacher tenure would have to sort themselves out." Now, there's a leader!

He's hardcore on every issue where moderation might expose some humanity.

He doesn't appear to be taking Dianne Little seriously. If his Facebook page is any indication -- he hasn't posted anything since May, which was a new profile photo -- he appears to expect to coast back into office, and his website still says he represents Allegheny County, which was under a previous map.

Smugness in an incumbent in a year like 2018 might be a stumbling block.