Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Elections of March: Democratic Primary in NCS48

Until March, we'll be focusing our attention on coming primaries that might signal strong Democratic contenders who could conceivably flip Republican districts next November. NC Senate District 48 includes eastern Buncombe County (but not Asheville) and all of Henderson and Transylvania counties -- discouraging ground for a Democratic insurgent. This was the district occupied for many terms by Republican iron first Tom Apodaca before he retired in 2016.

In March, former Democratic House member and former chair of the NC Democratic Party Patsy Keever announced that she would be running for the District 48 Senate seat in 2020. Keever's well known in western NC and might have been the instant frontrunner for the nomination, but she was actually late to announce her candidacy. Democrat Brian Caskey was already in the race. He had announced his intention to run all the way back in February. Then another court-ordered redistricting dealt Keever a fatal blow. The most recent remapping of NC House and Senate districts drew Keever out of the 48th, leaving the field to Caskey. But he's now been joined by two other Democratic hopefuls who are competing with him for the nomination.

Brian Caskey

Caskey is a 48-year-old Gen-X-er (born in 1971) and a town council member (the first Democrat ever!) for the little town of Mills River in Henderson County. He and his wife Stacey own Biltmore Tutoring which employs professionals to "help many students improve grades, achieve higher SAT and ACT scores, and earn admissions (and scholarships) to prestigious colleges throughout the world." As a Mills River councilman, Caskey has been particularly active with environmental enhancements, supporting the establishment of walking trails and greenways and the restoration of streams. He has also served on the Henderson County Transportation Advisory Committee, the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the Carolina Veterans Coalition.

From all appearances, Caskey is running an energetic and effective campaign and is probably the frontrunner in the primary. He has a website, a Facebook page, and a very active Twitter account.

Najah Underwood

Najah Underwood is a 23-year-old millennial idealist ("The Voice for the Voiceless") born in 1996. She has an under-developed website (which includes no information about her background, her education, her working life) and a Facebook page. She thinks inspirationally about "uplifting" her community but seems pretty unprepared for a political campaign.

Cristal Figueroa

Figueroa is a 25-year-old millennial born in 1994. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants, a 2018 graduate of UNC-Asheville, and she says she is currently working three different jobs -- as a legal aid to an immigration attorney, as a registered behavior technician who works with children with learning disabilities, and in retail. She's also driven by idealism and a fierce determination to be heard: "Cristal, like so many of us, has been told that she doesn’t deserve a seat at the table. Well, she’s decided to build her own. Pull up a chair and join her."

In addition to her website, Figueroa has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

The Republican Incumbent -- Chuck Edwards

Edwards was appointed to the Senate seat in 2016 upon Tom Apodaca's retirement and subsequently ran that same year in his first successful election. He was easily reelected in 2018. He's a 59-year-old boomer (born in 1960). He owns a string of McDonald's franchises and is otherwise a standard-issue western North Carolina conservative Republican.

District 48 remains a "Lean Republican" seat.

Monday, December 30, 2019

More Intrigue in the 11th Congressional District of NC

We previously followed the speculation by conservative blogger Brant Clifton that Rep. Mark Meadows' sudden decision to retire from his NC-11 congressional seat might have been an effort to advantage one of his own staffers, Wayne King.

Lynda Bennett
If new reporting by Ally Mutnick for Politico is true, that theory was all wet -- soaking, saturated, and dripping. Mutnick is reporting that Meadows' actual scheme was meant to advantage his wife's friend, Lynda Bennett, who appears to have had advance notice of Meadows' decision:
Online records revealed her campaign website domain had been registered on Oct. 28 by a Scott Meadows, who appears to be the brother of the congressman. The campaign's Facebook page was created on Dec. 18, a day before the retirement. And shortly after midnight on Dec. 19 — about five hours before Meadows announced — Bennett posted photos of herself with the congressman and his wife at local GOP events in the state.
After launching her run, Bennett was quickly endorsed by the Asheville Tea PAC, a local organization which said in a release that its board convened for a 6:15 a.m. conference call on the day of Meadow’s announcement to throw support behind a successor.
"It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this happened. It just doesn’t," said Jeff Miller, a city councilman in Hendersonville, who was the 2010 GOP nominee in the district. "It just looks very suspicious."
"It was very discourteous to other Republicans who were respecting Congressman Meadows and not primarying him for him to pull out this close to it and leave everybody in a lurch," Miller said.
So what about Meadows' own deputy chief of staff Wayne King, who registered to run just after Meadows announced his retirement and who doesn't actually live in District 11?
Meadows' plans were kept so secret that Wayne King, the congressman’s deputy chief of staff and district director who has been eyeing the seat, did not learn about the retirement until shortly before the public announcement. He said he was asked to break the news to the district staff on Dec. 18, a Wednesday and the day the House voted to impeach Trump.
So Lynda Bennett is the chosen one. We'll see if Republicans in the 11th District agree on March 3rd.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Elections of March: Democratic Primary in NCS39

This NC Senate district should be another easy pickup for Democrats next November, so profiling the Democrats who have filed for the March 3rd primary seems essential. Senate District 39 is Republican Dan Bishop's old homebase, before he made the jump to the US Congress in a special election this year, and it's been redistricted to rank as "Likely Democratic." Two Democrats are running.

DeAndrea Salvador

On paper Salvador looks like she could be the frontrunner. She's a 29-year-old millennial (born 1990) without political experience but with demonstrated commitment to community-building. She graduated from UNC-Charlotte (econ and anthro), studied energy and environmental design with the U.S. Green Building Council, and founded the Renewable Energy Transition Initiative (RETI) to help educate low-income households to cope with high energy costs. She did a TED talk about that effort in 2018 which was perhaps stronger on inspiration than on science, but the exposure might just propel her into the NC Senate.

She has a campaign web URL but so far no content, and her social media presence is de minimis (other than Facebook). We expect all of that to blossom soon (it better!). Her RETI website is much more developed, but from the content I can't assess just how successful she's been in helping poor people cope with high energy costs. The website boasts of at least one low-income household getting solar panels installed free, through a partnership arrangement, but other concrete accomplishments are not immediately obvious.

She's been recognized in Mecklenburg County as a rising star. In 2018, UNC-Charlotte listed her as an Alumna of the Year and SouthPark Magazine called her a "Woman To Watch." We're watching!

Darrell Bonapart

Bonapart is a Gen-X-er, born in 1969. He's been far more active with the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party than Salvador (given his age, perhaps), and he's tried unsuccessfully for public office several times in the past. He first ran for a Charlotte City Council at-large seat in 2015, was defeated in the primary and then ran again in 2017 and did better, making it to a primary run-off before he lost. The campaign flyer pictured to the right makes it clear that he ran as an anti-abortion rights Democrat who also apparently supported HB2 (or at least opposed Charlotte's bathroom ordinance that prompted HB2).

Bonapart had also put himself forward in 2014 as a possible replacement for Sen. Dan Clodfelter, who quit the senate to become mayor of Charlotte, but current incumbent Jeff Jackson won the appointment.

He has even less campaign infrastructure so far than Salvador -- no website that I can find and only a Facebook page.

The Republican on the Fall Ballot -- Josh Niday

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will face Republican millennial Josh Niday. He's 26, born in 1993. Niday previously ran for the NC House in 2018 in District 99, getting just over 17% of the vote against Democrat Nasif Majeed. He graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 2016 with a degree in poly sci. He has a Facebook page but little else that I can find.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Elections of March: Democratic Primary in NCS18

District 18 of the North Carolina Senate, which covers parts of Wake and Franklin counties, ought to be a fairly easy net pickup for Democrats next November, though Michael Bitzer still calculates it as "competitive." The incumbent Republican, Sen. John Alexander, got redistricted in an unhelpful way. Dist. 18 is now majority Democratic. So Alexander opted to retire. The primary on March 3rd -- actually, on both sides -- could be determinative.

The Democratic Primary -- Sarah Crawford v. Angela Bridgman

Because this is the perfect NC Senate pickup opportunity for Democrats next year, there's been an avid game of thrones among potential and even declared candidates, including Mack Paul, who ran in 2018 and came very close and could have won next year, but who stepped aside in favor of Wake School Board member Christine Kushner, who lo and behold got drawn out of the district before she could run in it.

Then came Sarah Crawford. I wrote about her back on October 2 and was pretty hard on her campaign -- the message and how it was being delivered. She's now been endorsed by Lillian's List and by a group calling itself Now Or Never North Carolina: "We are committed North Carolinians who know our state to be a place of reason and moderation." In keeping with that vision, Crawford is running a safe campaign (with extra vanilla), a dialed back, almost somnolent campaign that eschews progressive hot-buttons. She must be pro-choice -- Lillian's List ain't somnolent -- but she nowhere admits that on her campaign page.

So Angela Bridgman presents a decided contrast. If Crawford is establishment, Bridgman is non-establishment and decidedly insurgent in the ways of progressivism in this Age of Trump. Bridgman is out there. She's very publicly transgender. The News and Observer recently profiled her and a transgender man also running for the state senate, and Bridgman is using the publicity to raise money. She was vocal back in the day about HB2 and is of course still strong on LGBTQ rights. She's been a precinct chair for the Wake Dems but has never run for office before. She has a "home business" (?).

And she really doesn't look ready for this campaign. Very little infrastructure except for a barebones website and a Facebook page. No Twitter at all.

The Republican Primary -- Scott McKaig v. Larry Norman

Scott McKaig
Scott McKaig is a trained lawyer (Campbell University Law School) and is general counsel and CFO for the Lincoln Network, a 501(c)3 nonprofit specializing in messaging, "analytics," and web design -- which doesn't really reveal much. Wikipedia does better: Lincoln Network is a member org of the Koch-funded State Policy Network (SPN) -- "a web of right-wing 'think tanks' and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of October 2019, SPN's membership totals 162. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party."

McKaig has a Facebook page . He mocks "social justice warriors" and makes bold to list his favorite Xmas movies: "1. Die Hard 2. Christmas Vacation 3. Charlie Brown Christmas 4. Rocky IV 5. Love Actually (I know, I know)." What does he know? He's embarrassed to like Love Actually? If he has a website, I can't find it, nor a Twitter feed.

Fellow Republican Larry Norman (as Scott McKaig points out) waited until the last minute to file, which doesn't sometimes betoken greater preparation ... because the Larry Norman for Senate campaign is plenty invisible on the World Wide Web. I can't find out anything about him. No website. No FB. No Twitter.

Gosh, it's almost like the Republicans aren't even trying for this seat.

Third-Party Candidate

Whoever wins the primaries above will also face Libertarian Jason Loeback next November.  Loeback is also a blank page.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Who's the Frontrunner in the 11th CD Republican Primary?

Wayne King
Last post down-column about all the Democrats and Republicans (not to mention Libertarian and Green) candidates who want to represent the 11th Congressional District in Congress:

Turns out (according to conservative blogger Brant Clifton) that incumbent Congressman Mark Meadows timed his super-late withdrawal from the race to advantage the candidacy of his congressional aide Wayne King, who doesn't even live in the 11th District. He's from Gaston County, which is now in the 5th.

Wayne King, according to Clifton, is disqualified because he's an establishment type who's got a history of being hostile to true conservatives.


What does appear obvious by now is that Meadows was working behind the scenes to set up King as The Chosen One. Minutes after King filed to run last Friday, eight county sheriffs in the 11th came out with endorsements.

Maybe King's the frontrunner in the Republican primary. Dunno. The Tea Party wants Lynda Bennett. Probably the old-line party regulars will be more comfortable with former state Senator Jim Davis. And maybe that Asheville investments manager Matthew Burril will spend the money and sneak up on everybody.

Monday, December 23, 2019

North Carolina's Biggest Accretion of Candidates -- The 11th CD

The pile-up in the 11th Congressional District of both Democrats and Republicans who want to go to Congress makes total sense. For Democrats, it's the possibility that the re-inclusion of Asheville into the district could lead to a flip. For Republicans, the sudden stepping down of incumbent Mark Meadows opens the door for those across the state who felt a wild hair about running for Congress and who had the $1,740 to waste on the filing fee. The lists are below.

The Democrats

Moe Davis
First, there were three men (which we profiled here):
Steve Woodsmall
Michael O'Shea
Moe Davis
Then a woman, Republican-recently-turned-Democrat (profiled here):
Gina Collias
Now add a fourth man:
Phillip G. Price -- also ran for this congressional seat in 2018 against Meadows and did poorly. Here's what we said about him in 2018.

Full disclosure: I've contributed to the Moe Davis campaign.

The Republicans

Might as well pour yourself a second cup because this is gonna take a while. Seven of these dozen filed candidates don't live in the 11th District. The most viable candidates -- by virtue of actually living in the 11th District -- are highlighted in boldface. While congressional candidates technically are not required to live in the district they seek to represent, it's generally not a road to success. In the ballot order decreed by the State Board of Elections:
Jim Davis,
formerly of the
NC Senate
*Lynda Bennett -- a 61-year-old Maggie Valley baby-boomer (born 1958) who's engaged in the real estate and vacation rental industry. She's strong Tea Party and vice chair of the Haywood County Republican Party.
*Jim Davis -- a 72-year-old Macon County boomer (born 1947) who only just retired from the NC Senate after four terms. He was first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010. There's some indication that he was recruited by some party leaders in the 11th.
*Chuck Archerd -- a 62-year-old Asheville boomer (born 1957) who also ran in the 2018 Republican primary against Meadows, getting just 13.7% of the vote. Archerd is a certified public accountant and real estate investor. He also ran unsuccessfully for Buncombe County Commissioner in 2016.
Dan Driscoll -- a 33-year-old Gen-Y-er who's now registered to vote in Caldwell County (which is not in the 11th). 
Joey Osborne -- a 59-year-old Hickory boomer (born 1960) who's also not in the 11th.
Steve Fekete Jr. -- a 61-year-old boomer (born 1958) who lives in Lenoir, still not in the 11th.
Dillon S. Gentry -- a 27-year-old Gen-Y-er (born in 1992) who actually lives in Watauga County, which is not in the 11th. He also ran in a congressional primary against Virginia Foxx in 2018.
Wayne King -- a 39-year-old millennial (born 1980) who's registered to vote in Gaston County, outside the 11th.
*Madison Cawthorn -- a millennial 24-year-old male (born 1995) from Hendersonville. His Facebook page says he's worked at the US House of Representatives.
*Matthew Burril -- a 60-year-old boomer from Asheville. He's an investments manager for Brick Street Equity Management in Asheville and chair of the Asheville Airport Board.
Vance Patterson -- a 69-year-old boomer who lives in Morganton in Burke County, which is not in the 11th.
Albert Wiley Jr. -- an 83-year-old member of the silent generation who lives waaay outside the 11th at the beach in Carteret County. Go figure.

Third Party Candidates

Whoever wins the Democratic and Republican primaries on March 3rd will also face candidates from two other parties on the November 2020 ballot:
Tamara Zwinak, Green Party -- a 67-year-old boomer (born in 1952) from Franklin.
Tracey deBruhl, Libertarian -- a 40-year-old Gen-X-er who lives in Asheville.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

March 2020 NC Senate Primaries -- Complete List

This is Part II on a complete rundown of NC General Assembly partisan primaries on North Carolina ballots on March 3rd, 2020.

NC Senate primaries in both Democratic and Republican parties on March 3. Some of these will not be serious contests; others will be. An * below indicates a district worth watching. I've accepted the electability ratings proposed by political scientist Michael Bitzer based on partisan registrations in the newly drawn General Assembly districts.

Dist. 6, Jones and Onslow -- Incumbent Republican Senator Harry Brown is retiring, and two Republicans want the seat: Bob Williams and Michael Lazzara. Winner will face Democrat Ike Johnson in November. Rated "Likely Republican."

*Dist. 7, Lenoir and Wayne -- Incumbent Republican Louis Pate resigned earlier in the year. Jim Perry was appointed to replace him and is in a primary with Billy Strickland. Winner will face Democrat Donna Lake. "Competitive -- Republican Favored."

*Dist. 11, Johnston and Nash -- Incumbent Republican Rick Horner is stepping down. Three Republicans want the seat: Patrick Harris, Lisa Stone Barnes, and Dennis Nielsen. Winner will face the winner of the Democratic primary: either Allen Wellons or Albert R. Pacer (who also ran in 2018). "Competitive -- Republican Favored."

*Dist. 18, Franklin and Wake -- Incumbent Republican John Alexander opted not to seek reelection because of redistricting. Two Democrats are running in this "Competitive -- Democratic Favored" district: Sarah Crawford and Angela Bridgman. Winner will face one of two Republicans: either Scott McKaig or Larry Norman. Also on the Nov. ballot: Libertarian Jason Loeback. 

*Dist. 20, Durham -- Because incumbent Democrat Floyd McKissick opted to take an appointed seat on the Utilities Commission, there's a scrum of Democrats running for this "Likely Democratic" seat: Pierce Freelon, Natalie Murdock, and Gray Ellis. Winner will face Republican John Tarantino in Nov.

Dist. 29, Davidson and Montgomery -- Incumbent Republican Eddie Gallimore must get past Steve Jarvis in March before encountering Democrat Duskin Lassiter next Fall. "Likely Republican."

Dist. 33, Rowan and Stanley -- Democrats Tarsha Ellis and Geoffrey Hoy competing to take on Republican incumbent Carl Ford next Nov. "Likely Republican."

*Dist. 38, Mecklenburg -- Democratic incumbent Mujtaba Mohammed (first elected last year) faces fellow Democrats Laura Anthony and Roderick Davis before facing Republican Jack Brosch next Nov. "Likely Democratic."

*Dist. 39, Mecklenburg -- Republican Dan Bishop's old district (he's now in the US House), heavily redistricted to become "Likely Democratic." DeAndrea Salvador and Darrell Bonapart are competing on the Democratic side. Winner will take on Republican Josh Niday in Nov.

*Dist. 48, Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania -- Three Democrats -- Brian Caskey, Najah Underwood, and Cristal Figueroa -- are competing to challenge incumbent Republican Chuck Edwards, who was appointed to the seat to replace Sen. Tom Apodaca. "Lean Republican."

*Dist. 49, Buncombe -- Incumbent Democrat Terry van Duyn is stepping down to run for Lt. Governor. Three Democrats are competing for the seat: Julie Mayfield, Travis Smith, and Ben Scales. Winner will face Republican Bob Penland in Nov. "Likely Democratic."

Dist. 50, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain -- Incumbent Republican Jim Davis announced his retirement (but may now be the favorite in the crowded Republican primary in the 11th CD). Competing to replace Davis are Republicans Kevin Corbin and Sarah Conway. The winner will face Democrat Victoria Fox and Libertarian Clifton Ingram next Nov. "Likely Republican."

March 2020 NC House Primaries -- Complete List

Whole lotta primarying going on here!

Both Democratic and Republican NC House incumbents have primaries on March 3. Some of these will not be serious contests -- maybe most of them. An * indicates a district worth watching for a possible incumbent ouster or winners suggesting a possible flip next November. I've accepted the electability ratings proposed by political scientist Michael Bitzer based on partisan registrations in the newly drawn General Assembly districts.

NOTE: NC Senate primaries will be profiled in a subsequent post.

Dist. 3, Craven -- Arch conservative Mike Speciale is retiring, so there's a pile-up of Republicans who want to replace him: Jim Kohr, Steve Tyson, Guy Smith, and Eric Queen. Winner will face Democrat Dorothea White. Rated "Lean Republican."

*Dist. 5,Gates, Hertford, and Pasquotank-- Democratic incumbent Howard Hunter III (1st elected 2016) will face Keith Rivers, president of the Pasquotank chapter of the NAACP. Winner will face Republican Donald Kirland in this "Lean Democratic" district.

Dist. 6, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, and Pamlico -- Republican Bobby Hanig (elected 2018) will face Rob Rollason. Winner will face Democrat Tommy Fulcher in the general. Rated "Likely Republican."

*Dist. 9, Pitt -- Democrats Brian Farkas and Jake Hochard vie for the privilege of facing off against incumbent Republican Perrin Jones (appointed to the seat Sept. 2019). Rated "Competitive -- Lean Democratic."

*Dist. 12, Pitt and Lenoir -- Democrats Lenton Credelle Brown, Deonko Brewer, and Virginia Cox-Daugherty contend for the right to take on incumbent first-term Republican Chris Humphrey. Rated "Competitive -- Lean Republican."

Dist. 14, Onslow -- Republican incumbent George Cleveland (1st elected in 2004) will face Cindy Edwards. The winner will take on Democrat Marcy Wofford in November. Rated "Likely Republican."

Dist. 15, Onslow -- Republican incumbent Phil Shepard must get by Mark Price in this "Likely Republican" district to face Democrat Carolyn Gomaa in November.

*Dist. 19, Brunswick and New Hanover -- Open seat created by redistricting, so primaries on both sides. Republicans David A. Perry and Charlie Miller; Democrats Marcia Morgan (who also ran in 2018) and James Dawkins. Rated "Lean Republican."

Dist. 20, New Hanover -- Incumbent Republican Ted Davis Jr. (1st elected 2012) must get by Justin LaNasa before facing Democrat Adam Ericson. (We're surprised that Democrat Leslie Cohen decided not to run again.) Rated "Lean Republican."

*Dist. 21, Sampson and Wayne -- First-term incumbent Democrat Raymond Smith Jr. must face challenger Eugene Pearsall before encountering Republican Brent Heath. Rated "Lean Democratic."

Dist. 22, Bladen and Sampson -- Two Democrats, Albert Kirby and Martin "Tony" Denning, vie for the right to take on incumbent Republican Bill Brisson (1st elected 2006 as a conservative Democrat). Rated "Lean Republican."

Dist. 24, Wilson -- Incumbent Democrat Jean Farmer-Butterfield (1st elected 2002) faces John G. McNeil. Winner will go up against Republican Mick Rankin. Rated "Lean Democratic."

*Dist. 25, Nash -- Two Republicans, John Check and Steve A. Matthews, will struggle for the privilege of running against first-term incumbent Democrat James Gailliard. Also on November ballot: Libertarian Nick Taylor. Rated "Competitive -- Lean Democratic." 

Dist. 26, Johnston -- Republican incumbent Donna McDowell White must defeat challenger Justin Tate before facing Democrat Linda Bennett. Rated "Likely Republican."

Dist. 27, Halifax and Northampton -- Incumbent Democrat Michael H. Wray (1st elected 2004) faces two other Democrats -- Jerry McDaniel and Kelby Hicks. Winner will go up against Republican Warren Scott Nail. Rated "Likely Democratic."

Dist. 33, Wake -- Incumbent Democrat Rosa Gill (1st elected 2008) must overcome Antoine Marshall before facing Republican Frann Sarpolus next fall. Also on November ballot: Libertarian Sammy Brooks. Rated "Likely Democratic."

Dist. 35, Wake -- Two Republicans, Alma Peters and Fred Von Canon, compete for the right to run against incumbent first-term Democrat Terence Everitt. Also on Nov. ballot: Libertarian Michael Nelson. Rated "Competitive -- Lean Democratic."

Dist. 36, Wake -- Two Republicans, Kim Coley and Gil Pagan, compete to take on incumbent first-term Democrat Julie von Haefen. Also on Nov. ballot: Libertarian Bruce Basson. Rated "Competitive -- Lean Democratic."

*Dist. 37, Wake -- Three Republicans -- Erin Paré, Jeff Moore, and Anna Powell -- compete to take on first-term Democrat Sydney Batch. Also on Nov. ballot: Libertarian Liam Leaver. Rated "Competitive -- Lean Republican."

*Dist. 38, Wake -- Democratic incumbent Yvonne Holley is quitting to run for Lt. Gov. Two Democrats want her seat -- Quanta Monique Edwards and Abe Jones. Winner will take on Republican Kenneth Bagnal. Also on Nov. ballot: Libertarian Richard Haygood. Rated "Likely Democratic."

*Dist. 43, Cumberland -- Primaries on both sides. Democratic incumbent Elmer Floyd (1st elected 2008) faces Kimberly Hardy. The two Republicans -- Clarence Goins Jr. and Diane Wheatley. Used to be a heavily Democratic seat before the most recent redistricting. Now rated "Competitive -- Lean Republican."

Dist. 44, Cumberland -- Incumbent Democrat Billy Richardson (1st elected 2014) faces Terry Johnson. Winner will be up against Republican Heather Holmes. Rated "Likely Democratic."

*Dist. 45, Cumberland -- Two Democrats, Frances Vinell Jackson and Keith Byrd, want the right to oppose incumbent Republican John Szoka. After redistricting, rated "Competitive -- Lean Republican."

Dist. 52, Moore -- Republican incumbent James "Jamie" Boles Jr. (1st elected 2008) must overcome Bob Temme before facing Democrat Lowell Simon (who also ran for the seat in 2018). Rated "Likely Republican."

Dist. 53, Harnett -- Two Democrats, John C. Fitzpatrick Sr. and Sally Weeks Benson, compete for the opportunity to lose to incumbent Republican David Lewis. Also on Nov. ballot: Libertarian Zach Berly. Rated "Likely Republican."

*Dist. 56, Orange -- Incumbent Democrat Verla Insko (1st elected in 1996) must get by Joe Parrish and then there's no Republican opponent for November.

*Dist. 59, Guilford -- Incumbent Republican Jon Hardister faces Allen Chappell in March before going up against Democrat Nicole Quick in November. Rated "Competitive -- Lean Republican" after redistricting.

Dist. 60, Guilford -- Two Republicans, Frank Ragsdale and Ryan A
Blankenship, want the right to go up against Democratic incumbent Cecil Brockman. Rated "Likely Democratic."

Dist. 64, Alamance -- Incumbent Republican Dennis Riddell (first elected 2012) must get by Peter McClelland before facing Democrat Eric Henry next November. Rated "Lean Republican."

*Dist. 66,MontgomeryRichmond, and Stanly-- Two Republicans -- Ben Moss and Joey Davis -- are battling to take on incumbent Democrat Scott Brewer (appointed to the seat in May 2019). Rated "Lean Republican."

Dist. 71, Forsyth -- Incumbent Democrat Evelyn Terry (1st elected 2012) must get by Kanika Brown to sail home with no Repub opponent in November.

*Dist. 72, Forsyth -- Two Democrats, Amber Baker and Lashun Huntley, are running for this open seat. Former Democratic incumbent Derwin Montgomery withdrew to run for US Congress in the 6th CD. Primary winner will face Republican Dan Lawlor in November. Rated "Likely Democratic."

Dist. 75, Forsyth -- Incumbent Republican Donny Lambeth (first elected 2012) must shrug off fellow Republican Jacob Baum before facing the winner of the Democratic primary: perennial candidates Gardenia Henley and Elisabeth Motsinger. "Likely Republican."

*Dist. 80, Davidson -- Republican incumbent Steve Jarvis is stepping down to run for NC Senate. Three Republicans want the seat: Sam Watford, Haley Sink, and Roger Younts. Winner faces Democrat Wendy Sellars (who also ran in 2018). "Likely Republican."

*Dist. 82,  Cabarrus -- Long-serving Republican incumbent Linda Johnson is stepping down. Three Republicans want the seat: William G Hamby Jr., Parish Moffitt, and Kristin Baker. So do two Democrats: Aimy Steele (who previously ran in 2018) and William F. Pilkington. "Lean Republican."

*Dist. 83, Cabarrus and Rowan -- Bless his heart, incumbent Republican Larry Pitts (serving since 2011, when he was appointed to the Dist. 82 seat. After redistricting, was elected in Dist. 83). Pitts might pulverize fellow Republican Jay White before having a return match with Democrat Gail Young in Nov. She ran also in 2018. "Lean Republican."

*Dist. 93, Watauga and Ashe -- Incumbent first-term Democrat Ray Russell has a late-filing challenger, Turner Doolittle. Republican in the race: Ray Pickett, former town commissioner of Blowing Rock. "Lean Republican."

*Dist. 102, Mecklenburg -- Sumthin's in the water! Incumbent Democrat Becky Carney (first elected 2002) has three primary challengers: Leroy Dean, Jonathan Peebles, and Anthony E.
Forman. Also a Republican opponent in November: Kyle Kirby. "Likely Democratic."

*Dist. 117, Henderson -- Long-serving Republican incumbent Chuck McGrady is retiring. Fellow Republicans Tim Moffitt (previously served in the House 2010-2015) and Dennis Justice want the seat. So do Democrats Josh Remillard and Danae Aicher. "Likely Republican."

*Dist. 119, Haywood, Jackson, and Swain -- Incumbent Democrat Joe Sam Queen (previously served in the House; reelected to the seat in 2018) must wait to see which Republican he'll face next November -- either Mike Clampitt (who previously also held the seat) and Ron Mau.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Uncontested NC House and Senate Races in 2020

Candidate filing in North Carolina for the 2020 General Elections ended yesterday at noon. North Carolina Democrats did better at recruiting candidates than the NCGOP. Here are the uncontested NC House and Senate races:

One correction to NC Senate District 41 noted below:

NC House

Democrats Running Unopposed
District 29 -- open seat (Democratic incumbent Mary Ann Black is retiring) -- candidate Vernetta Alston, unchallenged -- Durham County 
District 30 -- incumbent Marcia Morey, unopposed -- Durham County 
District 39 -- incumbent Darren Jackson, unopposed -- Wake County
District 50  -- incumbent Graig Meyer, unopposed -- Caswell and Orange counties 
District 56 -- incumbent Verla Insco, unopposed -- Orange County 
District 61 -- incumbent Pricey Harrison, unopposed  -- Guilford County 
District 71  -- incumbent Evelyn Terry, unopposed -- Forsyth County 
District 106  -- incumbent Carla Cunningham, unopposed -- Mecklenburg County
Republicans Running Unopposed 
District 67 -- incumbent Wayne Sasser, unopposed -- Cabarrus and Stanly counties
District 94 -- incumbent Jeff Elmore, unopposed -- Alexander and Wilkes counties
District 110 -- incumbent Kelly Hastings, unopposed -- Cleveland and Gaston counties

NC Senate

Democrat Running Unopposed
District 41 -- incumbent Natasha Marcus, unopposed by a Republican but she does have a Constitution Party candidate filed against her --  Mecklenburg County
Republicans -- All Have Democratic Opponents 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Earthquake in the NC-11

Woke this morning to news that Rep. Mark Meadows of the NC 11th Congressional district is stepping down and won't run for reelection. Why he would wait until one day before the close of filing -- deadline in North Carolina is tomorrow at noon -- is unclear, but isn't it entertaining to imagine the Republican machine in the 11th in full panic mode this morning? They probably knew, right? Surely Meadows shared his plans so the party could come up with a strong contender. But I'm giddy, thinking of the possibilities.

One answer is here: "Meadows told Politico that it’s possible he could leave the House before his term ends in January 2021." There's the plan. They'll appoint the winner of the now certain 2020 Republican primary to the seat, and ... advantage goes to the incumbent. We will be watching which candidates get filed by noon tomorrow, including, we bet, a bunch of conservative wildcats (Hendersonville, we're looking at you) who aren't in on the Meadows Plan (whatever that is). I bet there's a death-scramble to the state Board of Elections --- by guys who aren't on Mark Meadows' short list -- that might keep me off the highway. No telling who'll file.

The other side of certainty -- prospects for the eventual Democratic primary winner tics upward with Meadows gone. (More on the latest Democrat to file in the 11th, see below.)

To explain his going at this time, consider this assessment of Meadows: "...he does not enjoy being in the House minority and spends much of his time at the White House huddling with Trump." He's become the Trump Whisperer, which just happens to coincide with his search for a lucrative bump-up in salary. Possibly he's bored that he can't jerk kinks like he used to:
The Meadows Bio
Meadows plotted a rapid rise to power and influence in Republican Washington, one propelled by his early willingness to challenge the GOP establishment. He almost instantly leaped from anonymous backbencher to oft-quoted conservative insurgent in 2015.
Just before the House left for its summer recess — and on his own birthday — Meadows filed a motion to remove then-Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) from his perch, seizing on years of growing dismay on the hard right. Within two months, Boehner would announce his resignation.
Meadows, as a co-founder and later chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, went on to play a pivotal role over the speakership of Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) — inserting himself and the Freedom Caucus into virtually every major legislative decision in the House. This made Meadows a power player rivaling only the speaker himself. [reporting by the team Wagner, Costa, and DeBonis]

Lynda Bennett is first out of the gate. Is she the Chosen One? The Asheville Tea Party supports her.

The New Democrat in the Race

[On December 12th, I did a quick and preliminary profile of Democrats who've already been running in the 11th: Steve Woodsmall, Michael O'Shea, and Moe Davis. Moe Davis, especially, might be catching fire. His speech at the pro-impeachment rally in Asheville on the 18th got wide social media attention.]

Now add Gina Collias, (announced yesterday), lawyer and real estate broker from Cleveland County (Shelby), same county that Speaker Tim Moore sprang from. But get this: until recently she was a registered Republican. She actually ran in the 2018 Republican primary against Patrick McHenry in the 10th CD, got less than 14% of the vote (to McHenry's 70% -- yikes). Maybe it was because she was defending the Affordable Care Act and other "moderate" positions to Republican primary voters who do not "heart" RINOs, primary voters who like a little carbolic on their morning cereal.

Collias ran as a moderate Republican, no kidding. She defines herself on her website:
Gina had been a Republican for much of her life. After the 2016 election, however, Gina became concerned over the tone, discourse, and direction of the country. In her effort to bridge differences and bring people together, Gina founded the national group “Rational Republicans” on Facebook [private group]. Gina envisioned the site as a place where Democrats, Republicans, and Independents could have civil discourse. It was a success, and the dialogue and conversation continue to this day.
Although Gina is moderate on issues such as fiscal policy, she realized that, as a woman who has always held positions that are socially progressive, her values and ideology more closely mirrored the Democratic Party.
Gina is a pro-choice, pro-civil rights, pro-education, and pro-environment advocate. She has spoken at the Woman’s March, advocated for sensible gun laws, appeared at union conferences and believes all Americans have the right to decent health care.
These are the positions that the Democratic Party has fought for and principles Gina has always held.
Gina Collias's home in Cleveland County was recently remapped out of the 10th CD and into the 5th (same thing happened to David Wilson Brown who has now filed against Virginia Foxx). Don't know when exactly Collias signed the paper to change her party affiliation, but it had to be within the last two months. Because on her website as of October 7th she was still running as a Republican against Patrick McHenry in the 10th.

Her over-long introductory video is wily (either in a clever way or an actionable way) in that Collias invokes Lillian's List, with historic photos of Lillian Exum Clement, the pioneering Democratic woman from Asheville who became the first woman elected to the NC House (at a time that women couldn't even vote). The assumption might sprout in an unwary mind that Lillian's List, the powerful statewide Democratic women's PAC, has endorsed Collias, which ain't the case. Lillian's List doesn't endorse in Federal races.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Body Count -- Ambassador Bill Taylor

A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

Bill Taylor is being pushed off. Acting ambassador to Ukraine, Taylor, who was a star witness during the House impeachment inquiry against President Trump, will step down from the position after the Republican Senate refused to extend Taylor's approval beyond early January (ambassadors are Senate-confirmed). Officially, Senate Republicans made no mention of Taylor’s participation in the impeachment inquiry for playing a role in their decision to allow his temporary assignment as ambassador to expire. Do you believe it was not an important factor?

Taylor was assigned to the post in June following Trump’s abrupt dismissal of then-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Both Taylor and Yovanovitch gave testimony to the House during its impeachment inquiry. Both testimonies proved to be important to the drafting of the pair of articles of impeachment filed last week. During his testimony, Taylor said that one of his staff members overheard the telephone conversation between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump allegedly asked Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, in exchange for the release of military aid.

Taylor also testified that he lodged a complaint about the proposal to withhold the military aid, characterizing the idea as “crazy.”

Acting ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, who was a star witness during the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, will step down from the position, it was announced this week.

Taylor was assigned to the post in June following Trump’s abrupt dismissal of then-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Republicans in the Senate declined to extend Taylor’s role beyond early January.

Both Taylor and Yovanovitch gave testimony to the House during its impeachment inquiry. Both testimonies proved to be important to the drafting of the pair of articles of impeachment filed last week. During his testimony, Taylor said that one of his staff members overheard the telephone conversation between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump allegedly asked Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, in exchange for the release of military aid.

Taylor also testified that he lodged a complaint about the proposal to withhold the military aid, characterizing the idea as “crazy.”

Trump’s personal lawyer and former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, previously accused Taylor of deliberately denying visas for Ukrainians with “direct evidence” that would verify claims that Hunter Biden and Democrats were involved in a “criminal conspiracy” in the Eastern European nation.

It is unclear whether Taylor’s participation in the impeachment inquiry played a role in Senate Republicans’ decision to allow his temporary assignment as ambassador to Ukraine to expire, but it was likely an important factor.

Acting ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, who was a star witness during the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, will step down from the position, it was announced this week.

Taylor was assigned to the post in June following Trump’s abrupt dismissal of then-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Republicans in the Senate declined to extend Taylor’s role beyond early January.

Both Taylor and Yovanovitch gave testimony to the House during its impeachment inquiry. Both testimonies proved to be important to the drafting of the pair of articles of impeachment filed last week. During his testimony, Taylor said that one of his staff members overheard the telephone conversation between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump allegedly asked Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, in exchange for the release of military aid.

Taylor also testified that he lodged a complaint about the proposal to withhold the military aid, characterizing the idea as “crazy.”

Trump’s personal lawyer and former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, previously accused Taylor of deliberately denying visas for Ukrainians with “direct evidence” that would verify claims that Hunter Biden and Democrats were involved in a “criminal conspiracy” in the Eastern European nation.
It is unclear whether Taylor’s participation in the impeachment inquiry played a role in Senate Republicans’ decision to allow his temporary assignment as ambassador to Ukraine to expire, but it was likely an important factor.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Here's What To Do When Voters Don't Like Your Candidates and Hate Your Agenda

This is happening right now in Wisconsin: Judge Paul V. Malloy of the Ozaukee County Circuit Court has thrown the state into chaos by issuing an order that the Wisconsin Elections Commission forthwith and immediately remove some 215,239 registered voters state-wide from the voting rolls, individuals located disproportionately in large Democratic cities and in counties with major universities.

215,239 sinners who will be cast out of the Kingdom of Heaven. Their sin? They were flagged by a national database as having possibly moved their residence. Tsk tsk. They should re-register at the new address. More, a rightwing group decided to exercise their imaginations in pressing for the harshest penalties of the law for failing to update residence. And thereby hangs the lawsuit which led to Judge Malloy's ruling (see more below).

So the Wisconsin Elections Commission, being good stewards of citizen rights, mailed -- snail-mailed, mind you -- in October 234,039 letters to addressees that had been picked out by the national Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a multistate partnership that shares voter registration information, as possibly having moved their residences since the last election. (Some 29 states plus DeeCee belong to the ERIC network and share data. North Carolina does not belong.)

It's one of ERIC's specialities -- identifying people who may have moved -- whether just upstairs to a bigger apartment or to a different state. Place of residence is the great and universal touchstone for ballot access, and people who move need to re-register.  That's reasonable, especially if enforcement is based on something more reliable than the accuracy of snail-mail. (And you might notice the disparity in numbers above -- 215,239 targeted for removal out of 234,039 letters sent out. That's because some 18,800 voters did return confirmation of their residence. The numbers were likely rounded up by Mark Joseph Stern, but thank gawd for his detailed reporting!)

Those Elections Commission letters were based on addresses of record, which were in turn based on hand-written voter information (often illegibly scrawled) on voter registration forms, which is in turn entered into a massive database by human technicians who are, yes, only human. Small errors can lead to big consequences. 234,039 letters went out into The Great Silence, bearing possible penalties for silence.

The Elections Commission planned -- until they got sued by a conservative group -- to spend the next 12 to 24 months "working with local officials to assess individuals who do not respond to the notice. If officials make an 'individualized determination' that there is 'sufficient reliable information' that a voter has moved, their registration will be 'deactivated' ” (Stern). In other words, the commission was going to investigate each case before removing anyone, and in any event, no action would come until after the 2020 primary election (at least).

The Lawsuit That Judge Malloy Exploited

That was the Wisconsin Elections Commission plan before the Bradley Foundation, which reportedly "bankrolls reactionary causes," saw an opening and filed a lawsuit in deep red Ozaukee County before a Republican judge. Its lawsuit was based on a complaint filed by another reactionary group, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. The institute cited a state law which says: “Upon receipt of reliable information” that a voter has moved, the commission (or municipal clerk) must send them a letter saying, in short, “We think you have a new address.” If the voter does not respond “within 30 days of the date the notice is mailed,” they must be deactivated.

That language depends entirely on the words reliable information. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty claimed that the ERIC "Movers Report" constitutes reliable information -- no need for Wisconsin Elections Commission investigation -- and Judge Malloy bought that argument. Along with the argument that the commission shirked its duties by not removing those 200,000+ people on the 30-day mark from their October letter. Thirty days, long expired. The judge was delighted to say his hands were tied. Jigs up for voters who don't answer their mail.

The Elections Commission is fighting back, claiming irreparable harm and the potential for 2020 chaos as would-be voters find out at the last minute that they're no longer registered. Plus the suit is based on the capricious and arbitrary claim that ERIC's data-mining constitutes "reliable information" under Wisconsin statute. The Elections Commission argues that its own mandated responsibility to maintain voter rolls can't be outsourced to non-state agencies.

The commission will appeal, but everyone is pointing out that it'll eventually land with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which is 5-2 majority conservative. The conservative argument against "irreparable harm": Wisconsin allows election-day registration. The only problem: same-day registration also requires proof of residence, and most voters don't carry around electric bills in their pockets.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Abandoning the Life Raft for a Sinking Ship

I'm trying to understand the thinking of Congressman Jeff Van Drew of the New Jersey 2nd District. News leaked over the weekend that he had gone to the White House and had told the Twitterman that he would leave the Democratic Party and become a Republican. Because he disagrees with impeachment.

He's also reportedly got very low polling numbers, with some 58% of his constituents already wanting a different congressperson. A poll of likely Democratic primary voters was even worse after he announced that he would not be voting for impeachment (even though he promised at the time to remain a Democrat).

The bad polling may be the only explanation that makes any sense, especially since Trump likely told him he'd personally campaign for him if he became a Republican. Van Drew is willing to join the corrupt party of Trump in a bizarre attempt to save his own skin.

His staff did not react well to the news. They're not willing to follow him onto that political Titanic. Six top staffers have resigned: Van Drew's legislative director and deputy chief, two other deputy chiefs of staff, his communications director, a legislative staff assistant, and his director of constituency relations have all signed a resignation letter: “Sadly, Congressman Van Drew’s decision to join the ranks of the Republican Party led by Donald Trump does not align with the values we brought to this job when we joined his office.”

Van Drew is a dentist. He previously served in both the New Jersey General Assembly and the state's senate before running for the open NJ-2 seat in 2018, taking almost 53% of the vote. Technically, he's been in the U.S. Congress for less than a year -- he only took office on January 3 of this year. That's fast for pulling a party switcheroo, but ... bless his heart!

There's already a Democrat, Brigid Harrison, who announced that she was considering a primary run against Van Drew. His switch of parties will open a wide path for her to seize the nomination.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Body Count -- Several at the Pentagon

A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

On December the 12th, the Pentagon confirmed that its top Asia policy official, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver, plans to leave the department after being in the role since January 2018.

Inside Defense reported:
Schriver ... will be the latest in a series of senior-level departures from the Defense Department's civilian policy shop run by Under Secretary John Rood, which has yet to replace David Trachtenberg, Rood's former deputy who resigned in July, and Robert Karem, who left his post as the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in October.
Additionally, in November, Mark Mitchell resigned as acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict. He succeeded Owen West, who resigned after 18 months on the job.
In May, Schriver warned U.S. companies about the risks of doing business with the Chinese government or entities backed by Beijing amid the onset of new U.S. supply chain security initiatives.
On December 13th, Jimmy Stewart, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, announced his resignation after a little over a year on the job, making him the second top official this week to say they would step down.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper did not give a reason for Stewart's leaving.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Damon Circosta Voted Yes

SBOE Chair Damon Circosta
Background here on the sudden last-minute switcheroo of ESandS electronic voting machines by a company that seems to have sandbagged the State Board of Elections (SBOE) into accepting what experts say is untested and eminently hackable voting equipment.

Congrats, Mecklenburg County! These machines are what your local elections officials will be using in 2020.

And, as expected, SBOE Chair Damon Circosta sided with the two Republicans on the board and split with his fellow Democrats.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Bird That Defecates in the Nest Before Leaving It

Matt Bevin, campaigning (unsuccessfully)
with Donald Trump
Matt Bevin, the Republican jerk who was governor of Kentucky until he was defeated last month by Democrat Andy Beshear, has issued 428 pardons and commutations since his defeat, including these:
A man convicted of reckless homicide. 
A convicted child rapist
A man who murdered his parents at age 16. 
A woman who threw her newborn in the trash after giving birth in a flea market outhouse. 
A man who was convicted in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy at a party. 
A man who was convicted on two counts of murder for killing a pastor and his wife while driving under the influence in 2011. The pardon came while the man was on probation for a separate assault offense.
Bevin has been particularly benevolent toward those whose close relatives have hosted fundraisers for him:
A man who was convicted in 2017 of reckless homicide, robbery, impersonating a peace officer, and tampering with evidence for his role in a 2014 home invasion that resulted in the death of Donald Mills -- the man had served just two years of his 19-year sentence when Bevin pardoned him to time served. The pardoned man's brother had hosted a fundraiser for Bevin and donated to him over the years.
Naturally, since Bevin is Bevin, the former victims of the pardoned ones were apparently not notified that their victimizers were coming out of jail. They found out about the pardons through the press, along with local prosecutors.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Coming Democratic Primary for Congress, 11th District

Not a fan of Democratic primaries when there are multiple strong/talented/divinely inspired candidates struggling to out-do one another. It can be a waste of energy, money, resources, but I'll also admit it can also be a chance for an unknown to get known in a valuable way, especially if the unknown candidate is running against an entrenched incumbent. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, anyone?

Then there's a Democratic primary like the one in the NC 11th, where three (so far) Democrats are vying for the privilege of getting the snot beat out of them by Republican incumbent Rep. Mark Meadows. Meadows has made himself into a national figure, which means he can raise money merely by farting on Fox News. Never mind that he's earned a reputation as a dumb-as-a-box-of-hammers ass-kisser --  it don't matter (it's a law that a grammarian can be ungrammatical when it pleases him!). Meadows has his tribe. They'll voodoo him to the fourth dimension no matter what.

'Course, the recent court-ordered redistricting of the 11th substantially diluted the congressman's tribe. He now has all of Buncombe and all of liberal Asheville back in his district. I'm waiting for poly sci prof Mitchael Bitzer to do his demographic analysis of the new 11th, to know exactly how formidable Meadows (still) looks on paper, but I suspect he's still got the numbers on his side (if for no other reason because he now has Republican-saturated Avery County in his district).

What defines us Democratic activists is eternal hope. Hope springs. Hope springs eternal. There is evidently great hope bubbling in the hearts of these three Democrats who've already filed for the March 3rd primary in the 11th CD, and depending on who wins the primary, Meadows might have a harder-than-usual fight on his hands.

Steve Woodsmall
Woodsmall, a retired Air Force major (a veteran, like so many other new Democratic candidates in the Age of Trump), has been a candidate for this office since 2017. He ran in the 2018 Democratic primary for the same seat -- also in a 3-person field -- and came in second to Phillip Price -- losing the primary by just over 3,000 votes (out of 33,257 total votes cast). The third candidate, Scott Donaldson, trailed distantly. Winner Phillip Price went on to lose to Mark Meadows by 61.5 thousand votes. Ouch.

So Woodsmall is back for another shot, and he's been running an energetic campaign since last February. I follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He's an unabashed progressive, and he's getting out there among allied groups and has teamed up with other district candidates for NC House and Senate  -- not to mention the US Senate -- for joint events in Asheville and elsewhere. That's good practice, building wide and deep ballot support for the Democratic side (and, I hope, recruiting boots-on-the-ground volunteers) ... except some of those other candidates have primaries of their own and may well lose, and do you see the problem with that?

Michael O'Shea
A recent college graduate (WCU, BA in philosophy), O'Shea touts himself as a "millennial progressive." He also touts his Appalachian bona fides; his pre-Revolutionary ancestors have been in the Western North Carolina mountains for many generations. He's also a P.K. (preacher's kid). His father was pastor for decades of the Unity of the Blue Ridge non-denominational church in Mills River. The pastor's son did not follow his father into the ministry. From the candidate's website:
Michael has spent the last decade primarily in the music industry. After college he auditioned for a 7-piece afrobeat/funk band and toured with them playing drums, his primary instrument. He is also a vocalist and a multi-instrumentalist who has released over 75 songs of solo electronic rock material where he plays and produces every sound. Most recently he has been touring as the drummer for a female-fronted electronic rock duo in Asheville.
His first time to vote was in the presidential year of 2008. He voted in the 2016 presidential primary but not in the general (which probably means something, but I'm not gonna guess). He did vote in the 2016 General Election. But he appears to be new to political activism as he's not appeared on the radar screen of Henderson County Democrats up until now.

Not quite ready for primetime? That's the generous opinion of retired USAF Major Richard J. Mueller (and to be fair, Mueller characterized O'Shea in an endorsement email for his friend Steve Woodsmall, so ... go figure):
In my opinion [Michael O'Shea] is very well intentioned, and represents the feelings so many of us have about current politics, but his time is not now. The times in which we live demand seasoned professionals. With more experience, his future is bright, and his day will surely come.

Morris "Moe" Davis
An ex-military man (also USAF, like Woodsmall), but with higher rank (he retired as a colonel), has also a higher pre-candidacy national profile, because Davis served two years as Chief Prosecutor of the Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay and resigned in protest because his superiors in the Air Force Judiciary and the General Counsel of the Department of Defense overruled his decision to disallow evidence obtained via CIA torture. In resigning his position, Davis declared that he wasn't going to take orders from people who think "waterboarding is A-Okay."

He's a hard-nose. Read his Wikipedia entry. He's got a clear pattern of courting controversy, or at least not skirting around it when it blocks his path of moral certitude (he said the Supreme Court was "meddling" when it chose to review the Military Commissions Act). He's not afraid to defy authority when he thinks he's right, and you've got to admire his fortitude. He's been on all the broadcast and cable news programs as a recognized expert in national security, especially security from terrorists who he thinks should be prosecuted the fair way and not via the CIA torture wheel, but he's also defended Guantanamo as a "humane" detention center.

He's almost running to the left of Steve Woodsmall. He endorses universal health care ("whether it is called Medicare For All or any other name"), access to abortion, legalizing marijuana, and income equality. His website is no-nonsense and straight to the kisser, sort of like his military career.