Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fear as a Campaign Tactic in North Carolina

Take a look at this fear tactic coming from the North Carolina Republican Party to a voter near you:

Dirty pool. The postcard puts on display the recipient's voting history, along with people who have other near-by addresses ... to scare the bejesus out of them that if they don't vote for the Republicans' Photo ID constitutional amendment -- and their "other 5 Constitutional Amendments," please note -- then the poor put-upon voter will be subject to having their dirty little secrets made public -- which this flyer just did, incidentally, at the hands of the NC Republican Party.

Dallas Woodhouse and the termites intend that this low-information voter won't bother to ask the obvious question: What does my voting history have to do with a Photo ID required for voting? Let alone a constitutional amendment about hunting and fishing?

Why, nothing whatsoever.

What Republicans are good at: spooking irrational fear with no grounding in reality.

How Can You Tell When They're Nervous? They Sweat Money

Republicans approve of fear as good politics -- caravans of illegals looking to spread a plague of leprosy, for just one example -- so let's talk fear with one week to go. Republican fear. Oh, they're not actually afraid of brown-skinned plague-bearers. That's just a pose (or else they're as gullible as a Florida bomb maker or a synagogue murderer). What they're really afraid of right now is losing big-time.

Watching the scrambles of Republican PAC money in Washington -- now that's a study in fear.
congressional seats needed for Dems to take the House ... 23
*congressional seats held by Rs in districts won by Clinton in 2016 ... 25
deep red seats that now look flippable to blue ... ??  
Guesses vary, go as high as 70 or more. Predictions are always fantasies.

But seriously, folks, literally dozens of "comer" Democrats are running in red districts from Maine to Washington state who could overturn the tables of the money-changers, good D candidates running exceptional campaigns in deep red districts. They're muddying predictions because they're playing for keeps and playing well in districts no one thought competitive.

Republican disbelievers in a blue wave fall back on recent history: Those deep red districts aren't really flippable because Trump's base is fired up, and it's the Democrats who're an angry, impotent mob, and Congressional districts just don't change hands that much. Weren't they paying attention during all those 2017 and early 2018 special elections (save one, below) in which longtime Republican incumbents went down -- or ancient Republican state and Federal seats changed hands, often decisively, like an ice-water slap? Don't they remember that?

So news reaches us here this morning that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is rushing quick aid to a number of Republican candidates (both incumbents and newcomers) running in red districts that Trump took in 2016 by anywhere from 7 to 20+ points ... because of impressive Democrats running stronger than anyone thought possible.

Partial list of those in-trouble Rs (and their D challengers, who are pictured):

Lucy McBath
Karen Handel --first-term Republican incumbent. You may recall how Handel won her seat in a special 2017 election against young, attractive Democratic opponent Jon Ossoff. If you recall that, you'll also recall our getting excited about Ossoff, who popped onto the national radar well funded and staffed by professionals. But Ossoff lost that special election to Handel for apparently being too much the outsider, a liberal pimp. Instead of a Northern carpetbagger like Ossoff, this year the Democrats of the 6th District of Georgia picked Lucy McBath. She's very much the insider. Also black, young, and an avowed proponent of gun control. They're afraid of McBath in Georgia (let alone D.C.) and are pumping up Handel. With Stacey Abrams at the top of the Georgia ticket, McBath and Abrams would mutually benefit from voter enthusiasm if they can overcome the voter suppression.

Abigail Spanberger
Dave Brat -- in Virginia's 7th District. He's the brat who beat powerful incumbent Republican big-wig Eric Cantor in 2014. He's in trouble. Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer, has come on strong. A poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University very recently put Spanberger over Brat, 46 - 45. NRCC is pouring money in for attack ads on TV.

Leslie Cockburn
Denver Riggleman -- in Virginia's 5th District. Riggleman is running for the seat left open by retiring Republican Tom Garrett, who announced he had an alcohol problem, and the high he got from being powerful wasn't helping. Background on Garrett here. Democrat Leslie Cockburn won the primary and has been a credible candidate in a sprawling rural district that includes the university town of Charlottesville. We wrote extensively about Cockburn way back in May.

Joe Cunningham

Katie Arrington -- in South Carolina's 1st District, which includes Charleston. Arrington is Trump-blessed (he laid his holy hands on Arrington's noggin in the Republican primary after incumbent Republican adulterer Mark Sanford dared to criticize the president out loud). According to Sullivan and Weigel, "Katie Arrington has had trouble putting away her Democratic opponent, Joe Cunningham," in a district both Trump and Mark Sanford won easily. I've written admiringly of Cunningham more than once. He looks like a winner to me.

Amy McGrath
Garland "Andy" Barr -- in Kentucky's 6th. Incumbent Barr is seriously endangered by former fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who's been a favorite of mine all year. Barr is getting big TV money and consultants to try to knock those wings off McGrath. Trump carried the 6th District by 13 points. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) is flying in to campaign for Barr -- curious choice, since Ryan himself is a perfect symbol of Republican defeatism in this cycle -- Ryan retired rather than face IronStache.

* NRCC and Republican super-PACS have been pulling support for some incumbents considered too far gone to save -- throwing them to the wolves.

Friday, October 26, 2018

A Bumpy Ride: The Margaret Spellings History

News leaked yesterday and hit the News and Observer this morning that UNC President Margaret Spellings is out, or about to be out, after less than three years into a five-year contract. She's "quietly negotiated her departure" with the all-Republican Board of Governors, a snake pit where she's repeatedly felt the fangs. BOG member Doyle Parrish, yesterday: "I think it's been a very turbulent experience for her to navigate through the state's political system. Though I think she has done a fabulous job, we have a divisive board and accomplishing her goals and agendas has been difficult for her."

She's been well compensated for the pain. Three-quarters of a million dollars every year, with fat bonuses on top of that.

Her hiring in 2015 (she didn't officially enter the job until March 2016) opened to view the clash over the direction of state-funded higher education between ideological conservatives and the less doctrinaire country-club Republicans.

Here's what happened (at least, in part):

A Margaret Spellings Timeline

New Republican majorities in the NC House and Senate effectuate their takeover of the UNC Board of Governors (BOG), giving the appointment power of new BOG members -- all 32 of them -- to themselves.  Their new board hits the ground running...

January 2015 ... John Fennebresque, the Charlotte attorney and country-clubber who becomes Chair of the BOG, on his own and without consulting his fellow Republicans on the board, fires popular UNC President Tom Ross without cause to begin the Republican takeover. Ross will remain a lame-duck in office until early 2016. The conservatives -- although they applaud getting rid of a liberal like Ross -- are upset at Fennebresque's unilateralism. Said fellow BOG member Marty Kotis, “Most board members did not learn of the [firing of Ross] or the separation agreement until almost a week later ... after the deed had been done.”

February 27, 2015 ... Further flexing their muscle and amid strong student protests, the conservatives on the BOG cynically kill three "progressive" centers of study at three different universities.

2015, spring and summer ... With Tom Ross out of the way, Fennebresque appoints himself to the search committee for Ross's replacement, and with two other close BOG allies, Fennebresque claps down a dome of silence on the process, cutting out the conservatives. 'Pears that Fennebresque had fallen in love with the idea of a high-profile national Republican media figure -- and not an ideological warrior -- becoming the new president, someone with great presence and stature, like, say a former Bush cabinet secretary.

Sept. 2015 ... Countering the high-handedness of Fennebresque, the General Assembly rushes into law Senate Bill 670, which intends to force Fennebresque to present three candidates for UNC president and to do it publicly. Fennebresque ally and fellow country-clubber Pat McCrory, who's announced that he opposes the bill and is clearly teamed with Fennebresque, neither signs it nor vetoes it but sits on it. If he does nothing, the bill becomes law automatically on October 30, giving Fennebresque more than a month to get something done. But if he vetoes it, the General Assembly will quickly override. McCrory buys time for Fennebresque, who leaps into action.

October 15, 2015 ... Fennebresque calls an emergency meeting of the board for October 16, the next day, to "interview" the search committee recommendation. News has leaked that there's only one candidate and it's Margaret Spellings, of the chain of pearls and former Bush administration Secretary of Education. Hardliners are not happy. The team of Berger/Moore in the General Assembly immediately erupt with their own statement: “While the bill has not yet been signed by the Governor, calling an emergency meeting to discuss only one candidate could be viewed as the Board’s [Fennebresque's] attempt to circumvent the overwhelming will of the elected people of the State of North Carolina....” BOG members Thom Goolsby and David Powers write letters to Fennebresque demanding he resign. Goolsby: "Among other things, in your short tenure you have blocked board members from accessing university staff for public information about the system, botched President Ross’ termination, hired an incredibly controversial search consultant and barred two-thirds of the board from participating in the hiring process."

Read more here: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article39368007.html#storylink=cpy
October 16, 2015, at the UNC BOG
October 16, 2015 ... Amid chaos -- student and faculty protests and the smoldering glares of BOG conservatives -- Spellings has her coming out at Fennebresque's emergency interview. She speaks. She's good. Fennebresque is ecstatic.

October 23, 2015 ... Fennebresque reaches some accord with the conservatives. At another called meeting today, the full BOG votes unanimously to hire Spellings.

October 26, 2015 ... With the Spellings hire a done deal, John Fennebresque resigns from the BOG. That must have been the "accord": We'll vote for Spellings, but you have to go.

March 2016 ... Spellings takes the office and is faced by strong student and faculty opposition. And she's also constantly stalked by the conservatives and agents of Berger/Moore who want to begin the crack down on the universities. A slim BOG majority begins to infringe on Spellings, and they threaten to move her office completely out of Chapel Hill.

April 2016  ... Under pressure from conservatives who've in the meantime just passed their bathroom law, HB2, and who intend it to be enforced, Spellings sends a memo to all chancellors of the constituent universities, announcing that HB2 is the law and the universities must comply with that law.

May 26, 2016 ... Under new pressure from lawsuits challenging HB2, Spellings makes a stunning about-face: Declares in a court filing that UNC would not be enforcing HB2 after all, in compliance with federal law. Conservatives, not happy.

August 21, 2017 ... Spellings is caught red-handed talking to Governor Roy Cooper about Silent Sam. Protests are beginning to get organized and large. She wants Cooper's help and advice. Republican hardliners go berserk because Cooper wants the statue removed and put into a museum. The conservatives issue a strongly worded letter signed by 15 BOG members demanding that Spellings must never talk to Cooper again without telling them.

July 1, 2018 ... Spellings loses her last strong ally on the BOG -- Chair Lou Bissette (who replaced Fennebresque), who is himself replaced by conservative "hard-liner" Harry Smith. Bissette had been in on the plan to cooperate with Gov. Cooper over the final resting place for Silent Sam, so his days have been numbered for a year.

October 2018 ... Conservatives finally succeed in driving her off.

What Comes Next?
Hardliners are now ascendant on the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina system. The only thing that can change that is a handover of power to the other party, in one or both of the chambers of the General Assembly. That's the only cure.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Update on Watauga County Early Voting

As of Wednesday, October 24:

7,310 total votes (counting mail-in returns)

Percentages of that total by party affiliation:

D = 39%
R = 24%
U = 37%


"The love of Christ compels you"
2nd Corinthians 5:14

Tracy Goodrich, 48, an evangelical Christian who home-schools two of her kids in San Antonio, "quietly left" her church after the 2016 election because her church lost Christ's vision: "Literally, all of a sudden, Donald Trump — we couldn't see anything wrong with Donald Trump. It was ... now we're blind to everything."

Goodrich is pro-life and has always voted Republican. Apparently, Trump ended that. By God (we mean that literally), Goodrich has become a Christian leftist. She remains pro-life, anti-abortion, but she believes in social justice and in helping the poor and she's not inclined to Trumpism. People like Goodrich have been driven out of some churches in the Trump era.

There's a whole "Christian Left" movement (also called "the evangelical left") that's never been wholly comfortable about the unchristian ugliness of DJT, and they've become louder voices. Jim Wallis, who helped found the Sojourners in the early 1970s, wrote in March of this year:
Since he likes to put his name in ALL CAPS, we will put their name in ALL CAPS too. TRUMP EVANGELICALS are destroying the “evangel” — the “good news” of Jesus Christ....

The word “evangelical” has its origin in the word “evangel” from Luke 4:16, in which Jesus first announced his mission at Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor [the word for “good news” in the original Aramaic = 'evangel']. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.”
 A far cry from Trumpism (we mean "cry" literally too).

Jim Wallis is probably one of the more famous evangelical leftists who stand up against Trump. Another is John Pavlovitz, who runs a lively, muscular blog, "Stuff That Needs To Be Said," and who is very outspoken and active on Twitter. Pavlovitz has strong North Carolina connections. He worked for a decade as youth pastor at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, a "megachurch" in Charlotte. However, some things that "need to be said" will get you into trouble every time, so naturally Pavlovitz got himself fired from Good Shepherd in 2013, in response to "provocative" articles he'd posted. That was well before Trump. He later became a youth minister at North Raleigh Community Church.
Good ole Wikipedia: "His blog has gained a large following and media attention for articles he has written on the subjects of acceptance of homosexuality ("If I Have Gay Children," 2014), attitudes about rape ("To Brock Turner's Father, from Another Father," 2016), the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton ("Thank You, Hillary," 2016), and the character of Donald Trump ("It’s time we stopped calling Donald Trump a Christian," 2017).

Brian McClaren is a former evangelical pastor who talks straight about the hidden stress cracks in the evangelical community:

My exploration of the Christian Left led me to Red Letter Christians -- "Taking the Words of Jesus Seriously."

I was surrounding by guys like Shane Claiborne (above) when I was a college student at way-off Wayland Baptist College in Texas -- actual practicing Christians who acted out WWJD every day, good Samaritans who would literally give you the jean jacket off their backs, men and women with the spirit of good will toward everyone. Wayland Baptist College was fully integrated in the early '60s in West Texas --  black, white, Chicanos ... you name it! --  while the rest of the state, not to mention the entire South, was still very much Jim Crowland. As students we were actively taught the kind of Christianity Shane describes, and I've been eternally thankful (I mean that literally) for the Bible classes I took and every Chapel program I sat through (and we sat through three a week) and for the still living red letter of Christianity.

May God bless it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Racist House Member Steve King May Get His Comeuppance

Steve King, popular among white supremacists
We wrote about the unlikely J.D. Scholten back in the middle of June. Scholten, a former professional baseball player, is running hard in Iowa's 4th Congressional District against toxic spill, Rep. Steve King. Odds are totally against Scholten because Republicans out-number Democrats in that district by 70,000 voters.

But lookee here! Scholten's own polling shows him down by just 6 points (and, yeah, I know about internal polling), and he appears to be closing fast on King.

Wouldn't that be a kick in the pants?

Monday, October 22, 2018

Monday Update

From those good people at ProgressNC:
  • According to Democracy NC, about 431,000 North Carolinians cast their ballots during the first five days of early voting, compared to 410,000 in 2016 and just 298,000 in 2014. About 21,500 people have voted absentee by mail so far. 
  • Those early voting numbers include a 52% increase in white voters compared to 2014, a 52% increase in voters under age 26, and a 9% increase in black voters.
  • This is despite the fact that this year, only 27 counties had early voting sites open on the first Saturday of early voting, compared to 48 counties in 2016 and over 80 counties in 2014. This shows exactly why North Carolinians should vote against the proposed amendment which would create gridlock on the State Board of Elections and make it easier to roll back early voting hours even further.
  • So far about 196,000 ballots have been cast by registered Democrats, compared to 134,000 by registered Republicans and 121,000 by unaffiliated voters.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Early Voting Trend in Watauga After 3 Days

Watauga County early voting through yesterday, counting returned mail-in ballots: 4,276 total votes.

Voters by Party:

41% D
23% R
36% U

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Statewide Early Voting Trend

Courtesy BowTiePolitics:

Sign of the Times

Early Vote Totals, Day One, 2018 General Elections

Watauga County Early Voting Sites (in numerical order):
➽ Appalachian State University Plemmons Student Union 723 
➽ Watauga County Administration Building 530 
➽ Western Watauga Community Center 141  
➽ Blowing Rock Town Hall 136  
➽ Deep Gap Fire Department 99 
➽ Meat Camp Fire Department 72 

Of those 1,701 total voters yesterday in Watauga (in numerical order)...
43% Ds
34% Us (Independent)
22% Rs 

As always, the Unaffiliated hold the key in Watauga.

Cannon Fire On the Right; And Young Republican Message Fails

We do follow conservative blogs in North Carolina. It's another way to take the barometric pressure, and sometimes we learn something. Or we hear something that makes us go hmmm and wonder at the turning of the heavens like on an axle.

Brant Clifton writes The Daily Haymaker down in Moore County. His bio: "...[He's] marched to the beat of a different drum from very early in life. The grandson of a Democrat party machine boss, Mr. Clifton registered Republican at 18 and campaigned for Ronald Reagan and George Bush. He worked for the late U.S. Senator Jesse Helms in Washington during and right after college.
"Mr. Clifton took on the liberal media as an analyst with The Media Research Center, then jumped into a lengthy career with the "drive-by media". His work has appeared in local newspapers in The Carolinas. He has done on-camera work for ABC's Good Morning America, and print work for national publications such as US News & World Report and People magazine. Mr. Clifton has also worked as a correspondent for AP, UPI, Reuters and Agence France Presse." [Beaufort County Now]
Unlike the numbskulls at Watauga Conservative, Clifton can be funny. He's always cutting and brings information (the verity of which I know naught), but his blinders are Tea Party, and I'd say he's on the mean end of that danceline. He insults people. Especially Republicans he considers too soft. And the Reverend William Barber.

So here was Clifton yesterday:

House Republicans are not battling to hold a super-majority.  They’re fighting to keep a majority period.

He says he talked to Republican operatives in Raleigh to reach that opinion. There's a concession, apparently, among insider Republicans, that they're going to lose their veto-proof majority in the NC House (which means Democrats will sustain Roy Cooper's vetoes, and the Berger-Moore bulldozer will lose its gas tank). There's real terror, according to Clifton, that they could lose control of the whole House.

Clifton brought his big guns yesterday for his longtime enemies in the top echelons of the Republican Party, particularly Dallas Woodhouse and his gang at the NC Republican Party HDQs:
[The reason Republicans are losing...] It’s a leadership and management problem.
House Republicans have a leadership cabal more interested in pleasing lobbyists than keeping the promises they made to voters. They’ve become what they replaced. 
The state GOP is dominated by people who have been there since you could fit ALL the state’s Republicans in one phone booth. There’s more interest in obtaining and accruing personal power than there is in growing the party and helping the state.
That rings true, cause it's true for the Democrats too. It's true for any power that grows too big and turns crusty with age.

I guess we're calling the Tea Party the Trumpsters now, and the cracks against establishment Republicans are interesting in the middle of an election, particularly this election. Divided parties don't win.

Look at this sign that showed up all over Boone Tuesday night, on the eve of the start of Early Voting.

When I first saw that, and heard that the Young Republicans were putting them out, I assumed it was a revolt against Trumpism, a comment on Trump's rallies and his Twitter spew. Little did I know!

The signs were especially prominent on the campus of AppState, maybe because they were put out there, and all over town, by the ASU Young Republicans:

They're not Republican moderates. Apparently, the #Walkaway sign is making a cloaked reference to the Trump meme that Democrats now constitute a "mob." So I would have to grade the black sign a big ole message fail. Which is also a piece of interesting information about this current election: Republicans have no defense.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Another Day, Another Republican Law Ruled Unconstitutional

The Republican restructuring of the NC State Board of Elections got yet another black eye yesterday at 5 p.m. when the three-judge panel ruled the whole restructuring of the SBOE and the Ethics Enforcement board unconstitutional but said it could continue to function through this election.

Open question: Will Republican leaders in the General Assembly appeal the decision? Not if they get their constitutional amendment through, which will permanently lock in stalemate with a 4-4 board of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. If that amendment fails, then they'll appeal.

In the meantime, it's a decision without an effect. Which sucks.

Melissa Boughten coverage:
A three-judge panel ruled the evening before early voting that Republican lawmakers unconstitutionally restructured the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement after Gov. Roy Cooper was elected.
Provisions of a state law restructuring the State Board (including its executive director and chairperson) and county boards of elections violates the separation of powers clause in the Constitution by diminishing the Governor’s control over the agency, according to the 2-1 opinion released after 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Judges Jesse Caldwell III, a Democrat who presides in Gaston County and Todd Burke, a Democrat who presides in Forsyth County signed the opinion. Judge Jeffery Foster, a Republican who presides in Pitt County, wrote a dissenting opinion noting that he believed the issues were political questions and therefore nonjusticiable.
The split decision enjoins the parts of the law ruled unconstitutional but suspends that injunction until after the November election is certified so the election process can continue without interruption.
Supplemented by Will Doran's coverage in the News and Observer:
Currently the board has nine members, including four each from the Republican and Democratic parties and one person not affiliated with either party, who can break ties on politically contentious issues that come before the board.
That’s a less partisan setup than before 2016, when whichever party controlled the governor’s office also was guaranteed control of the elections board. The amendment on the ballot this November would permanently remove the ninth member of the board, leaving it with just four Republicans and four Democrats. The amendment would also remove most of the governor’s power to decide who sits on the board, giving that power to the legislature instead.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fired Up and Ready to Go v. Voter Suppression Laws

A new polling statistic: The percentage of both independents and younger voters who are claiming they’re absolutely certain to vote is up from October 2014:
➼ Independents determined to vote -- up from 59 percent in 2014 to 72 percent now
➼ Younger voters under 40 determined to vote -- up from 42 percent in 2014 to 67 percent now
One of the groups most in the crosshairs of North Carolina voter suppression = young voters, especially college kids at liberal universities. Those kids will be permanently sidelined from the ballot if a certain NC constitutional amendment passes, the one mandating a photo ID to vote -- but not just any photo ID, but rather the one the NC General Assembly decides is the Golden Ticket (which college students are guaranteed not to possess). I dunno. Perhaps the combination of such obvious attempts to discourage the youth vote (the Watauga County case is a prime, though not the only, example) and the proposed constitutional amendment -- "Don't Even Think About Voting in North Carolina Without the Passport We Mandate" -- perhaps those blatant attempts to suppress the vote has had the opposite effect. Because the young people I know are chomping at the bit.

Determination is the mother of results.

Last night, I learned about what's going on in North Dakota with native American voters, and I have to conclude that North Carolina maybe isn't the worst state any more for voter suppression. The North Dakota legislature has disenfranchised the native Americans in Sioux and Rolette counties by banning voter registrations with no street addresses, where most native American voters have PO box addresses, not street addresses, because most people get their mail from a p.o. and many roads aren't even named. Why did they do that? Because Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp won her seat by only 3,000 votes in 2012, votes which came from Sioux and Rolette counties, and the North Dakota Republicans in charge of the laws and interested in unseating Heitkamp intend to stop Indians from voting Democratic.

Or take Georgia, which has entrusted its fair voting system to the Republican secretary of state (Brian Kemp) who is also running for governor against a black woman Democrat (Stacey Abrams), so guess whose voter registrations have been and are being systematically nullified by the Secretary of State's office. No, guess.

The pickle their politics have put them in! The people don't like their policies, so they can't win any other way except keeping people away from the ballot. And because the public has often been ignorant or oblivious, they've gotten away with it. Have to hope -- and some of the polling today encourages the hope -- that more people are woke.

Republican elected officials are a tad touchy being asked about voter suppression, especially US Senator from Georgia David Perdue, who snatched a cell phone out of a student's hand to avoid being photographed answering the question, "Why have you endorsed a man for governor who's suppressing the vote?"

Monday, October 15, 2018

More Democratic Hopes for the NC Senate

We posted yesterday about five Democratic candidates who could break the Republican super-majority (down-column) and who are running in districts considered either competitive or "lean Democratic."

Below are videos by some Democrats running in NC Senate districts rated "lean Republican" and "strong Republican," and several of them have already made a reputation as stars in the 2018 Democratic crown. Can they win? Yes. Especially in a year like 2018 has proven to be.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Audience Laughs at Caldwell County Republican Lawmaker

At a candidate forum in the Caldwell County Public Library on October 6th, Republican NC House member Destin Hall bragged that the Republican gerrymandering of the General Assembly is the bestest gerrymandering evah:

“And I can tell you that the way the maps are drawn now are much, much, much more fair than they ever were.”

Sound right to you? Didn't sound right to the crowd in the public library, either. They laughed at him.

Destin Hall is completing his first term in Raleigh representing House District 87. He beat incumbent Republican lawmaker George Robinson in the 2016 Republican primary and faced no Democrat in the 2016 general election. He's an AppState grad with a law degree from Wake Forest. He looks to rise fast in the NC House caucus, as he has his conservative talking points down pat, and he's young in a tribe of old men.

This year he has an opponent, Democrat Amanda Bregel, a 10th grade English teacher at Caldwell Early College High School. After graduating from UNC-Greensboro in 2010, she spent two years teaching in a missionary school in Kenya before being hired in Caldwell County. She serves on the leadership team of Caldwell Women Rise, a community action organization, and is involved in her Methodist church food pantry and other community activities.

Friday, October 12, 2018

What's the Worst Constitutional Amendment of Them All?

Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.

That amendment language on the ballot is purposefully vague. Which photo ID? College ID? Out-of-state driver's license? Phil Berger and his boys in the NC General Assembly have said voters don’t need to know the details of what they’re voting on. Berger and his boys will sort that out in a lame-duck special session after the election, and you can bet they'll be looking out for everyone's rights. (Believe that, and we've got some real estate we'd like to sell you.)

Lawmakers’ last attempt at requiring photo IDs at the voting booth was struck down as unconstitutional after the March 2016 primary. “We know that well over 1,000 people were denied their right to vote in the 2016 primary because of the photo ID requirement,” said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “Since the legislature has not yet made it known which IDs they will permit in future elections, voters are being asked to give lawmakers a blank check on determining who would be allowed to vote in future elections and who would be disenfranchised. North Carolinians deserve better than that.”

Mina in the video below (also produced by the SCSJ) is precisely the kind of voter the Republicans would love to disenfranchise, and she was disenfranchised in that 2016 election because her Duke University photo ID wasn't acceptable. With young voters generally veering away from Republican policies and Republican politicians, of course Phil Berger and his boys will want to shut them out of the voting booth. Duh.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sen. Meredith Just Woke Up From His Months-Long Nap, Sez ... "Who Put That There?"

Sen. Wesley Meredith, one of Phil Berger's top lieutenants in Raleigh, just discovered ("No way! I couldn't have! I didn't!") that he voted for a really putrid constitutional amendment that takes away the governor's ability to appoint judges to vacancies and gives that power to Phil Berger. And his boys.

Or maybe Senator Meredith thinks he was egregiously misled, or blinded by the light, or was possibly dosed with a knock-out drug at the time(s) that he voted (repeatedly) to give Phil Berger the power over judgeships. Phil Berger and his boys, of which Wesley Meredith is one.

Anyway, at a public forum in the Cumberland County Public Library, Senator Meredith suddenly announced that he was against the constitutional amendment changing the way favored people get on the bench. Precisely no one at the forum asked the obvious follow-up -- "But didn't you vote for it, not only on final passage but also in committee votes, and in totally different forms -- the one ruled unconstitutional by a judge and the second version the Republicans put on the ballot November 6th along with five other putrid power grabs? Didn't you vote for that repeatedly?"

Rob Schofield at The Progressive Pulse got hold of Senator Meredith and did ask that question. Senator Meredith went into a kind of fugue state trying to explain the inexplicable. You have to read that interview.

For the election upcoming Meredith is threatened by Democrat Kirk deViere, who starred on WataugaWatch months ago. DeViere looks to be mounting an energetic campaign, while by comparison, Senator Meredith looks ... panicked. "Flummoxed" was the word Schofield used.

Deanna Ballard with NCH93 Rep. Jordan
Two more Republican lawmakers have subsequently come out against the judicial selection constitutional amendment: Sen. Rick Horner (R – Johnston, Nash, Wilson), who also voted for the amendment on final passage, and Rep. Chuck McGrady (R – Henderson).

Know who else in the Senate voted for the amendment and all the other amendments, both in committee and on the floor and who hasn't apologized for any of them? Deanna Ballard of the 45th Senate District. Over on the House side, Jonathan Jordan did as he was told and voted for all of them too. No recanting from him.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018


NC House Speaker Tim Moore Is a Cliche

Where there's smoke, there's fire.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into concerns about NC House Speaker Tim Moore’s apparently magic talent at making money appear in his office.

They know Moore's talent in Cleveland County, which he represents in the General Assembly. “Tim left for Raleigh driving a beat up Honda and he’s come back driving a Maserati” (anonymous Cleveland countian). After he became Speaker, which required him in Raleigh practically all the time, Moore got a $25,000 sinecure as county attorney for Cleveland Co., and he's been in the press for unsurprisingly vague and incomplete campaign finance reports. He's also accused of leaning on the Department of Environmental Quality to let him off some environmental violations on property he owned in Siler City. Among other questionable stuff.

Today's news brings more detail on some newer quid pro quo we'd initially heard about back on Sept. 26. Thanks to Dan Kane of the News and Observer for the handy summary:
Two years after then-House Rules Chairman Tim Moore’s legislation rescued a controversial south Durham mixed-use land project [751 South] and boosted a high-end residential community [Colford Farms] next door, one of the developers took him on as his lawyer.

And two years after that, the same developer, Neal Hunter, gave Moore a legal services contract for a Durham-based pharmaceutical company Hunter had recently co-founded, paying him $40,000 for four months of work largely related to how federal tax law treated such startups.

The implicit charge against Moore: Getting cash or cash-equivalent payback for legislative favors. Sinecures -- jobs with no duties but good compensation, like, say, County Attorney of Cleveland County -- are kind of a Tim Moore specialty. His influence is invaluable, his friendship, fungible, and his ability to pass laws and skirt regs, unsurpassed.

Naturally, Speaker Moore denies any connection between what his right hand was doing while his left hand was relaxing. And the elaborate explanations, rationalizations, and blessed sanitations that he offered to reporter Dan Kane in the News and Observer today just don't ring true.

Where there's smoke there's mirrors?

Apparently, his Democratic opponent in the 111th House District is too nice a guy to use Moore's corruption against him. He doesn't want to be a "typical politician." He doesn't want to be accused of "gutter politics." He apparently also doesn't want to win either, a mistake often endemic among nice-guy candidates. Too bad, because in a year like 2018 in North Carolina, even the Speaker of the House could be beaten, and you don't know the numbers of people in the 111th District who don't have a clue about Tim Moore.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Look at This Damn Good Democrat Running in Mississippi

For Republican Senator Roger Wicker's seat. Not to be confused with the other Mississippi seat up this year in a special election, the one once held by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, which will be filled in a special election after the November 6th election.

Way back in March -- like, a billion years ago! -- I profiled four Democrats who were talking about running at that time. One of those was David Baria, Mississippi state House minority leader. Some six Democrats eventually ran in the Democratic primary, and Baria came out on top after a run-off primary. The man sticks with it!

I like this guy! I like the way he talks and the forthrightness of his platform. Nothing mealy-mouthed about David Baria. (Dan McCready might take some lessons.) Take a look at his introductory video.

Joe Cunningham: South Carolina Needs This Eagle Scout

Delighted to see that the 1st Congressional District of South Carolina made the list of 63 competitive House districts, most of them currently held by Republicans, because I've been a fan of South Carolina Democrat Joe Cunningham since he announced. (Full disclosure: I am not a contributor. There's only so much I can afford, and almost all of it goes to candidates inside North Carolina, except for young James Lee Auman in the Alabama 4th District, which didn't make the list of competitive districts, but I don't care: I'm impressed by bravery and hard work.)

But Joe Cunningham in South Carolina ... running for the Congressional seat that Mark Sanford got booted from in this year's Republican primary. The 1st Congressional District of South Carolina hugs the coast and takes in the old Confederate Emerald City of Charleston, which is much less Confederate now but still as stodgy as freshly starched crinolines.

When a reporter asked him, "Who recruited you to run," Cunningham replied, "My own conscience." We've been hearing variations of that answer from a lot of Democratic candidates this year, especially in supposedly "safe" Republican districts.

Cunningham is actually a native of Kentucky. His father is Bill Cunningham, who sits on the Kentucky Supreme Court. Joe followed his father into the practice of law, but not immediately. First, he got a degree in ocean engineering and worked in both Florida and on the South Carolina coast before going back to law school. He now specializes in construction law.

He's come out strong against off-shore drilling, which his Republican opponent is on record supporting. (If I'd been directing that commercial, though, I would have rethought putting the candidate up to his chin in the ocean, but that's a quibble. He's good on his feet, and I think that's how voters might prefer to see him.)

His best video is on his homepage, but here's another sampling of his personality. You can see the Eagle Scout from a mile away:

I like what his father said about him: “He doesn’t scare easily. When he said he wanted to become an Eagle Scout, he focused on that, was laser-focused on it. Everything he set his mind to, growing up, he did. I’ve learned not to underestimate him.”

Some Happy News for a Change: Rev. William Barber Wins a MacArthur "Genius" Grant

Technically called the MacArthur Fellows Program, the "genius grants" have been awarded since 1981 to individuals "working in any field," who have shown "extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction." The award comes with a no-strings-attached grant of $625,000 paid over five years.

Reportedly, Rev. William Barber, who until recently headed the NC NAACP, celebrated the announcement of the honor by doing something wholly typical of him: He got arrested in a demonstration for fair wages in Chicago in front of McDonalds headquarters.

One of Rev. Barber's genius innovations: He launched Moral Mondays at the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013 to shine a public light on the many bad things the new Republican majority was doing to the citizens of this state -- voting rights, education funding, LGBTQ rights and other regressive legislation.

He's a powerful speaker and a natural leader. I've heard him many times including when he spoke on the Jones House lawn in 2014 and again in 2016 on the campus of Appalachian State University. He regularly delivered the sermon at the HKonJ assembly in Raleigh ("Historic Thousands on Jones Street," where the General Assembly meets).

He has always lifted my heart.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Berger/Moore Wants The US Supreme Court's Help. You Bet They Do!

The Berger/Moore vandals in the NC General Assembly got their champion Brett Kavanaugh on the US Supremes, so naturally they now want to appeal to that bunch for a ruling: Our gerrymandering of North Carolina is just fine, right?

A three-judge Federal panel ruled last month that the General Assembly's latest congressional redistricting was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The judges allowed this fall's election to go forward under the old maps but warned that this is the last time those maps will be used.

What an opportunity for Kavanaugh to begin repaying his partisan debts!

Friday, October 05, 2018

Statistical Update: Who's Requesting Mail-in Ballots in North Carolina?

Hattip: Michael Bitzer, oldnorthstatepolitics.com:

Kavanaugh Makes Excuses for His Temper

How long did it take Brett Kavanaugh to realize he'd laid a turd in the punchbowl last Thursday? However long it took -- a six-pack? -- you can read what resulted in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, titled by the paper, "I Am an Independent, Impartial Judge; Yes, I was emotional last Thursday. I hope everyone can understand I was there as a son, husband and dad."

He focuses entirely on emotion. “I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said.”

He published the little essay in the Wall Street Journal for a very select conservative readership (paywall protected), including probably some conservative justices on the US Supreme Court who might be looking at the prospect of Brett Kavanaugh in one of their robes the way we look at the prospect of the radiator over-heating in the Mojave.

He wants the justices to know that his emotional outburst in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee was justified by righteous indignation. "They made me do it, by attacking my character. My character is righteous, but I have a temper, and surely you can understand the combination of those two things caused me to go too far, at least in the eyes of some."

That almost sounds like an apology, but he never really apologizes. He excuses.

He does not mention this partisanship, every word of which he uttered last Thursday:
Since my nomination in July, there’s been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation. Shortly after I was nominated, the Democratic Senate leader said he would, quote, “oppose me with everything he’s got.” A Democratic senator on this committee publicly — publicly referred to me as evil — evil. Think about that word. It’s said that those who supported me were, quote, “complicit in evil.” Another Democratic senator on this committee said, quote, “Judge Kavanaugh is your worst nightmare.” A former head of the Democratic National Committee said, quote, “Judge Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come.” ...
You sowed the wind for decades to come. I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.
The behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee at my hearing a few weeks ago was an embarrassment. But at least it was just a good old-fashioned attempt at Borking.
Those efforts didn’t work. When I did at least OK enough at the hearings that it looked like I might actually get confirmed, a new tactic was needed.
Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready. This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee, and by staff. It would be needed only if you couldn’t take me out on the merits....
This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.
This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions, from serving our country.
And as we all know, in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around.... [official transcript]
I quote at length because Kavanaugh went on at length. His vitriol at "the Democrats" and the "left-wing" comes from a deep well of ... what? Resentment? Outright hatred? A dehumanizing contempt? These are the words of a partisan Republican warrior, not a fair, balanced, or impartial judge. He was delivering a warning: You will most certainly "reap the whirlwind" and "what goes around comes around." May we paraphrase? "You better watch out. You think I'm emotional now. Just you wait until I get one of your pet liberal government programs in front of me. Just you wait until the vast Federal regulatory infrastructure comes under my purview. Just you wait for my ruling on abortion and the other one on presidential powers. Then we'll see who's the snot-nosed brat."

The partisanship got no acknowledgement in the Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Virginia Foxx Voted Against Hurricane Florence Relief

The U.S. Senate voted 93-6 to approve the FAA Reauthorization Act, which included the funding for roughly $1.68 billion for the Carolinas as recovery funds after Hurricane Florence, of which the Tar Heel State is expected to receive about $1.14 billion. With Senate passage, the relief bill went to Donald Trump's desk.

The House approved the funding plan last week, and North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-5th district) voted against the bill. No, really. She was the only member of the North Carolina congressional delegation, both Democrats and Republicans, to vote against the bill.

Why do people hate this woman so much? You have to ask?

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Barack Obama Just Got My Attention

President Obama came out yesterday with a second round of his endorsements, and he included Linda Coleman, running for the US House (2nd District), and three candidates for the NC General Assembly. Two of those have been profiled previously on WataugaWatch: Natasha Marcus (here and here and here) and Brandon Lofton (here and here -- and full disclosure ... I'm a contributor to Lofton's campaign).

The third Obama endorsee running for the General Assembly was new to me -- John Campbell, a preacherman and a two-decade+ public servant on the Robeson County School Board who's running for NC Senate, District 13. (He had a Democratic primary back in May, and that's probably why I overlooked him because I hate Democratic primaries.)

NC Senate District 13 includes Robeson and Columbus counties, and according to Ballopedia, it's minority white with almost 54% of the population classified as either black or native American.

So why is Republican Danny Earl Britt representing the district in Raleigh? Britt only won the seat in 2016, beating incumbent Democrat Jane W. Smith with about 55% of the vote. Jane Smith had only held the seat for two years herself, winning in 2014 with over 60% of the vote. Before Jane Smith, there was a Democrat man who served multiple terms, so ... okay, Senate District 13 looks like a solid Democratic district, and the question remains ... how come Republican Danny Earl Britt?

Here's how:

Danny Earl Britt,
AppState Alumnus
Britt was heavily backed in 2016 by the NC Republican Senate Caucus, so his name was already out there when Hurricane Matthew hit in October 2016. Lumberton, county seat of Robeson, went under water. "The whole town was thrown into absolute chaos real quick. Roads were shut down, and there was no power. Bridges were out all over the place."

Danny Earl Britt, an attorney in Robeson and an active member of the National Guard, became a one-man rescue squad with "skills he'd acquired in relief efforts as a National Guardsman":
He didn't go out of his way to broadcast who he was during the storm. "He never wore a campaign shirt. He never did an interview," Mark Locklear, who works with Britt as a criminal investigator, told me [Daniel Allott]. "He was just busting his ass to help people, and it was being noticed. People saw this. People began to talk about it — the passion that he had to help others."
When calamity strikes, people pay attention to who shows up to help and who doesn't. In this case, one of the people who showed up to help was a local attorney who happened to be the Republican state Senate candidate. "He was going door-to-door helping everyone he could, you know, helping people get out of their houses, doing whatever he could," said Matt Walker, whom I met at his mother's restaurant, Candy Sue's Cafe. "He was rolling up his sleeves and getting dirty, and you just didn't really see that from the Democrats."

So Britt ousted the Democratic incumbent on the strength of his personality and his good deeds. Good for him. Turns out -- and I just this minute learned this -- Britt was the first Republican to take this seat since Reconstruction.

Britt hasn't let up. For Hurricane Florence, he organized a "sandbag marathon" around West Lumberton Baptist Church, and he'll be pushing for quick spending on hurricane recovery by the General Assembly. He'll get that money too, and be a hero for it. He'd already been critical of Governor Roy Cooper for the slow distribution of Matthew recovery money, and he'll make a show of his influence in Raleigh.

He deserves credit for this: Early in 2017, when the Phil Berger/Tim Moore bosses decided to make all judicial races in the state partisan, Britt broke with the brethren and voted to sustain Roy Cooper's veto of the bill.

In his campaign Britt was all about jobs and economic development for a county with a high poverty rate. But while in the General Assembly he's been forced to go along almost completely with a Republican regime that promises all sorts of trickle-down benefits from petting the already rich, while a poor county like Robeson just gets the added misery of more under-funded public education and the ham-stringing of the Affordable Care Act.

RealFactsNC lists District 13 as "Competitive." So does the NC Free Enterprise Foundation. IndivisibleNC listed the district among the "most flippable" this year. I dunno. Britt looks damn strong, plus he's got relative youth on his side.

John Campbell with
his wife, Constance Williams Campbell
Democrat John Campbell is deeply embedded in Robeson County, especially its religious and education communities. He's the Duke-Divinity-School-educated pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and he's served for over 20 years on the Robeson School Board. He's 67 years old.

Considering the General Assembly's record since 2011 -- its budget priorities, with Danny Earl Britt signing onto those priorities since he joined in 2016 -- it makes perfect sense that he's campaigning for Medicaid expansion and to “prioritize classrooms over boardrooms.”

Up Troublesome Creek: A complaint was lodged against Campbell's campaign for failing to file a required First Quarter fundraising and expenditures report with the State Board of Elections, and his campaign got accessed a penalty. Campbell said at the time that his treasurer had quit, and he had trouble finding a replacement. At this moment, he appears to be up to date on his NCSBE filings.
Campbell has complained about what he calls a “dirty” campaign being waged by Britt, who has sent out fliers in the mail showing Campbell has bounced checks in the past, been convicted of mortgage fraud, and once was forced to repay the school system for money he took to attend a conference that he did not attend.
A blue wave might win it for him. Barack Obama's endorsement seems strategic and could undoubtedly help. But I'm not betting any money.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Wipe Your Nose, Bro. They Got Your Back

Apparently -- and why not, after all? -- the FBI has been given instructions that severely shorten their leash in the Brett Kavanaugh investigation. They're not even questioning Blasey Ford. White House counsel Donald McGahn, who sat directly behind Kavanaugh at all his hearings before the Judiciary Committee, also apparently has his back through this additional investigation, limiting the people the FBI may talk to --"Kavanaugh, his first two accusers, and people who have been identified as present for the incidents."

So Kavanaugh's Yale classmate and drinking buddy, Chad Ludington, for example, who has said he has plenty of evidence of Brett's abuse of alcohol and who also said he'd be turning in his evidence to the FBI office in Raleigh this morning -- he can save his shoe leather, because McGahn has ordered the FBI to ignore everything that isn't in the narrow scope outlined above.

Are we seeing a whitewash underway?

In the meantime, and while you're waiting to see holy water sprinkled all over fratboy, you might want to Google "dry drunk syndrome" for some insight into the behavior we all saw last Thursday.