Sunday, May 26, 2019

The GOP Wants More Women in Congress? "Bah Humbug," Says Leigh Brown


Leigh Brown, the Republican real estate magnate who got a lot of press (including on this blog) running in the recent NC-9 Republican primary, and ended up finishing a distant fourth to bathroom monitor Dan Bishop, has some stuff to say about how the national GOP sez it wants more women in Congress but how the machinery of the party did not support her -- after encouraging her to run in the first place.

Brown uses the term "ghosted" about the politicos who encouraged her to run and then disappeared when she actually ran. (The Urban Dictionary defines "ghosted" as that moment when someone you love and put your trust in just disappears):
“That's a little frustrating to have initial conversations and then follow up and be ghosted,” Brown said in an interview with POLITICO. “I put my real estate business on hold. I've dinged my own reputation in order to put myself forward as a public servant, and then you find out exactly how lonely it is to run for office.”
'Pears now that those Republicans who want more women in Congress are pinning their hopes on Joan Perry who is facing Greg Murphy in a run-off primary in NC-3 (the Walter Jones seat). Perry is a big anti-abortion pro forced breeding Republican pediatrician who had big-dollar support from the Susan B. Anthony List as well as Winning for Women Action Fund (WFW AF), a Super PAC focused on electing more conservative women to office.

With a woman like Joan Perry, who needs Virginia Foxx?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

We'll Be Watching the Governor's Race in Kentucky This Fall


Andy Beshear
Kentucky's Attorney General Andy Beshear won the Democratic primary yesterday and will face incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who also won his primary yesterday but not by much (52% of the vote). Bevin is "deeply unpopular," and Beshear is the son of the governor who immediately preceded Bevin in office, Steve Beshear.

Kentucky is one of just three states that will be choosing governors in 2019 (including Louisiana and Mississippi).

Bevin is unpopular because of his efforts to cripple the Affordable Care Act and for pushing through cuts to public pensions for teachers and other government employees. Beshear ran his campaign as a defender of public pensions, education funding, and health care access -- those "dinner table issues" that helped Democrats take back the House last year.

Beshear had two opponents in the primary. Adam Edelen, a former state auditor who has become a solar-energy entrepreneur, ran to Beshear's left and got about 27% of the vote. Rocky Adkins from the Eastern Kentucky mountains ran as a social conservative, opposed to abortion rights and a protector of the coal industry. Adkins finished second with 33% behind Beshear's 38%.

If I were a Kentucky voter, I would probably have voted for Edelen, but I'm eager to see Beshear beat Bevin this November.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Whaaa! A Republican Who Not Only CAN Read But Who Did Read!


Rep. Justin Amash, a very conservative Republican who represents the 3rd District of Michigan, read the Mueller report -- all of it as redacted by A.G. Barr -- and made this string of comments below on Twitter yesterday. Beginning about 24 hours ago, Amash wrote what amounts to what surely will become an historical document -- a declaration of logic and principle now missing from the makeup of (pretty much) all other Republican members of Congress (Lindsey Graham, we're especially looking at you).

You've probably seen the 1st comment in this string, but have you read the whole? And can you appreciate the fortitude it took to write it?
Here are my principal conclusions: 1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report. 2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct. 3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances. 4. Few members of Congress have read the report.

I offer these conclusions only after having read Mueller’s redacted report carefully and completely, having read or watched pertinent statements and testimony, and having discussed this matter with my staff, who thoroughly reviewed materials and provided me with further analysis.

Barr’s misrepresentations are significant but often subtle, frequently taking the form of sleight-of-hand qualifications or logical fallacies, which he hopes people will not notice.

Under our Constitution, the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” While “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” is not defined, the context implies conduct that violates the public trust.

Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment.

In fact, Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.

Impeachment, which is a special form of indictment, does not even require probable cause that a crime (e.g., obstruction of justice) has been committed; it simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.

While impeachment should be undertaken only in extraordinary circumstances, the risk we face in an environment of extreme partisanship is not that Congress will employ it as a remedy too often but rather that Congress will employ it so rarely that it cannot deter misconduct.
Those who haven't read the Mueller Report have no right to attack Rep. Amash's conclusions, especially the Non-Reader in Chief. (You haven't read it either, have you, Virginia Foxx?)

Twitterman went full schoolyard bully this morning, calling Amash a "loser" and "a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy." No attempt in that juvenile rejoinder to dispute Amash's logic and his understanding of the Constitution.

"Amash, who has been described as the 'new Ron Paul' due to his Libertarian beliefs, has broken ranks with the Republican party before — and especially against Mr. Trump, whom he did not endorse in 2016. Earlier this year, he was one of 14 Republican representatives who tried to override Mr. Trump's veto over an emergency declaration for the border wall. In March, Amash did not rule out running for president as a Libertarian in 2020." [Caroline Linton]

Saturday, May 18, 2019

No-Appreciation-for-Irony Department


Republicans are clutching their pearls that Kim Strach, the 2013 Republican appointment as Exec. Director of the SBOE, was replaced by a Democrat.

Yes, it was a partisan move.

But if there's one group that lost its right to complain about partisan appointments, it's North Carolina Republicans, who -- give all of us a break! -- can go sit on tacks.

Preferably out of ear-shot.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Republican Richard Hudson (NC-8) Has a Democratic Opponent


Richard Hudson
Congressman Richard Hudson (R), who has represented the 8th Congressional District of North Carolina since the election of 2012, is pretty much a swamp creature. He's been hanging around Washington, DeeCee, and particularly Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer, for many years. He even did a term in hell as Congresswoman Virginia Foxx's chief of staff before moving on to other congressional offices and holding the bag for other congressmen. He knows how the place works -- or doesn't -- and that you go along to get a leg up.

Hudson worked for the now arrested and disgraced Robin Hayes when Hayes was the congressman from the 8th district. Hudson had moved on to DeeCee when Hayes was defeated by Democrat Larry Kissell in 2008. Hudson returned to North Carolina to oust Kissell in 2012. So the worm turns.

Hudson's association with Robin Hayes glows like a neon of his swampiness. Hudson also took lots of money from billionaire Greg Lindberg, the man behind Hayes's arrest for attempted bribery.
Among those associated with the congressman, the largest recipient of money from Lindberg was a joint fundraising committee affiliated with Hudson — the Hudson Freedom Fund. According to campaign finance reports, that group received donations of $44,300 and $33,900 from Lindberg in December [2018] and January [2019], respectively. [Josh Bergeron, Salisbury Post]
Scott Huffman
Hudson gave $15,000 of that to charities benefitting soldiers at Fort Bragg: "The GOP lawmaker says he didn't do anything wrong, but just wants to avoid the appearance of any impropriety" (Politico). The appearance lingers, as does the aroma of influence peddling.

Hudson already has a Democratic challenger in Scott Huffman, who tried once before in 2018 but lost the Democratic primary to ultimate candidate Frank McNeill, who took almost 45% of the vote against Hudson last year. Huffman is a Navy veteran and owner of a "technology business." His greater community involvement has come from founding and leading Indivisible Charlotte.

He has a website, a very active Twitter feed, and a Facebook group.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Bishop Exploits McCready's Cardboard Persona





That was some killer politics in Charlotte yesterday, with Republican Dan Bishop playing off a cardboard cutout of Dan McCready. Effective politics.

McCready better get himself in the game. He needs to be firing bullets himself, rather than dodging them.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

So It's 'Bathroom' Dan Bishop v. Dan McCready


Dan Bishop
State Senator Dan Bishop, author of the notorious "bathroom bill" that earned North Carolina so much spectacular press, won the Republican primary outright yesterday in the NC-9 special election, avoiding a run-off with Boss Hogg impersonator Stony Rushing and real estate PAC-funded Leigh Brown.

Bishop has a Chapel Hill law degree and a full legal career behind him. He served two terms in the House before opting to run for the Senate seat in 2016 when incumbent Bob Rucho gave it up.

Bishop's known in Raleigh as abrasive (obnoxious?). He's best known for the bathroom bill, as chief sponsor and main author. The passage of HB2 led to a national boycott of North Carolina by major employers, conventions, sporting events, and entertainment figures. According to RealFactsNC, "Bishop has been unrepentant." He even sought to criminalize peaceful protests with a five-year minimum sentence after former Gov. McCrory got chased down the street by LGBT protesters at the Trump inauguration. Bishop had faced protests too, and he was fed up. (Can you spell a-u-t-h-o-r-i-t-a-r-i-a-n?)
Dan McCready

Bishop fingers the usual suspects behind all his troubles: "There is a hostile media and a special interest or two that are interested in creating controversy instead of prosperity for all of North Carolina.” If people would only just shut the hell up about being discriminated against!

In late March of 2017, the General Assembly passed a compromise retreat that repealed most of HB2, and Governor Cooper signed it, but Dan Bishop lashed the compromise on the Senate floor. “This bill is at best a punt. At worst it is a betrayal of principle,” Bishop argued. The Senate passed the compromise anyway, 32-16.

Meanwhile, Democrat Dan McCready has had time to raise money. He had no primary, and he's already well known from his close second-place finish to Rev. Mark Harris last November (before that election was thrown out for fraud). I've had my doubts about McCready, and disappointments with his lack of fortitude (ex-Marine!). With Bishop now the official opponent, they're coming after McCready as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's BFF and a "socialist rubberstamp." McCready should laugh in their face, but he'll probably cringe.

The election vote will be September 10.

UPDATE
So -- yep! -- Dan Bishop comes out swinging at McCready's own campaign office in Charlotte today, accusing him of being a closet socialist, etc. When is McCready gonna show some Marine resolve and clean this clown's clock? He's gotta stop flinching.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Kim Strach Will Be Replaced at State Board of Elections on Monday


Gov. Pat McCrory appointed a new Republican-dominated Board of Elections after his election in 2012, and that Republican board chose Kim Strach as the new SBOE Executive Director, replacing Gary Bartlett who had held the job for many years. Like any Democratic blogger worth his bile, I was suspicious of Kim Strach and paid close attention to her decisions. I have to admit now, with a newly ascendant Democratic Board of Elections moving irrevocably toward replacing her on Monday, that she's been a good executive director.

Oh, I criticized her for her failure to stop the appointment of Matt Snyder as local director of the Watauga BOE, and I was doubtful she could be wholly independent from her aggressively partisan husband, lawyer Phil Strach (the independence of George Conway from his aggressively partisan wife Kellyanne Conway has rewritten that template), but Kim Strach has shown plenty of even-handedness and even political courage in many matters I have followed since 2013 (the following list not in any chronological order):
The detailing of inappropriate behavior by SBOE member Paul Foley, shortly before Mr. Foley got removed from the board. 
The schooling of UNC System General Counsel Thomas Shanahan on what the college "attestation" form required for certifying student IDs for the purposes of voting. 
Her refusal to allow Stacey C. "Four" Eggers, working remotely through his brother Luke Eggers as chair of the Watauga BOE, to combine the Boone 1, Boone 2, and Boone 3 precincts into one mega-precinct with a polling location at the Agricultural Conference Center. 
Her overruling of Watauga BOE Chair Bill Aceto in the November 2017 municipal elections, when Aceto wanted the Boone 2 polling place at the Legends nightclub. Strach said it had to be in the Student Union. 
Her conduct throughout the investigation into balloting fraud in the NC-9 and her examination of witnesses at the February hearing this year.
When Governor Roy Cooper finally regained control of the SBOE, it was an inevitability that Strach would be replaced as executive director, and the news is out this morning that the Democrats on the SBOE will make that move in a teleconference Monday morning.

I'm conflicted about that, given Strach's strong record of performance, and I hope the Democratic majority choose a replacement with professional credentials and no whiff of partisan odor. Nothing less would be acceptable.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

We're Skeptical But Also Prepared to Be Amazed by Sen. Richard Burr


For the first time a subpoena has been issued to a member of the Trump family, to Don Junior, by Senator Richard Burr's Intelligence Committee. Burr's already announced he will not be running for reelection in 2022 when his term ends. He perhaps feels a little freer to exercise those atrophied personal integrity muscles.

Because ... evidently (and according to the Mueller Report) Don Junior lied to Senator Burr's staff when he appeared for an interview last year, lied about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. According to the reporting of Ashley Parker et al., "...the Intelligence Committee has been trying to schedule a second interview with Trump Jr. for weeks, according to people familiar with the negotiations .... As negotiations over Trump Jr.’s testimony dragged on, committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) became increasingly frustrated and believed that Trump Jr. was defying the committee’s authority and not honoring his original agreement...."

Increasingly frustrated and pissed enough to issue a subpoena to the Crown Prince. Impressive.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Thom Tillis Draws a Primary Challenger. Oh My!


The Raleigh News and Observer (specifically, Brian Murphy) broke the news yesterday that Raleigh businessman Garland Tucker III, senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation, and author of "Conservative Heroes: Jefferson to Reagan," filed paperwork to run in the March 2020 Republican primary against incumbent Senator Thom Tillis. Of note: Carter Wrenn, conservative strategist who was at Jesse Helms's elbow for decades, has signed on to advise the Tucker campaign.

Here's where it gets immediately intriguing: Tillis instantly attacked Tucker as an "anti-Trump activist." Bold words there, Senator, from the man who opposed Trump for his position on immigration, protecting the special counsel, and Trump’s national emergency declaration. (Murphy does point out that Tillis has voted with Trump 94.7 percent of the time. But still.)

Tucker does look pretty anti-Trump, and the Tillis people are fanning that coal:
Tillis’s team pointed to a 2016 News & Observer column in which Tucker said he was begrudgingly voting for Trump, whose nomination he had “stoutly resisted” during the primary. 
“Trump is a twice-divorced, self-acknowledged adulterer who has, in the course of this campaign, uttered some of the most unkind, disgusting comments ever made by any American politician,” Tucker wrote in the piece. “Sadly, Clinton offers no personal moral superiority.” 
In May 2015, Tucker hosted a 250-person luncheon in his backyard for then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign for the Republican presidential nod.
Tucker's hiring of Carter Wrenn is another signal of anti-Trumpism, as Wrenn has made no secret on his blog of his disdain for Twitterman. And Wrenn efficiently drilled his stubby finger into Tillis's weak spot: "...Tillis is a Washington politician, who talks a good game, but when you look at how he votes, it doesn’t match up,” Wrenn told a reporter from The Hill. “He has his finger to the air and he flip flops” on the issues.

At the moment no big name Democrat has announced a campaign for the Tillis seat. We hope that changes. And soon.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Virginia Foxx Does Stand-Up Comedy in Mount Airy


So Virginia Foxx showed up at Riverside Park in Mount Airy on Saturday for Kidsfest, grabbed a microphone, and did a set of pure comedy:

All my life I have been a strong environmentalist, she announced to guffaws.

People will tell you right now, I go out of my way... Yeah, for free food at the buffet, a heckler added.

I recycle. Doesn't that make me an environmentalist?

“The Paris climate accord doesn’t do anything to move us in the right direction globally," Foxx said, having just come from Washington where she voted with the rest of the Republicans to uphold Trump's decision to withdraw from the accord.

Now that's funny.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Even Donny Lambeth Knows When To Take His Hand Off a Hot Stove


Donny Lambeth
NC House Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) has withdrawn his "local bill" that would have remapped Winston-Salem's city council districts ... obviously, to eliminate some undesirables, mainly black women and Dan Besse, the Democrat who ran against Lambeth for the NC House last fall:
The new [city council] wards created in the Lambeth bill would have placed three black council members in one ward. The ward plan would have also placed Council Member Dan Besse, who ran against Lambeth in 2018, into a ward with Robert Clark, the council's only Republican. [Wesley Young]
 Lambeth apparently reached a compromise folded like a cheap suit in negotiations with Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, agreeing to a "study commission" (to be named by Joines, I kid you not!) to determine if there's any real need to change the mapping of Winston-Salem's city council districts.

That's what I call a giant cave.

And a good thing too (though we would have enjoyed the campaign against Lambeth in 2020, based on his Winston-Salem meddling).

Sen. Deanna Ballard Wants to Unleash Digital Billboards in North Carolina


The billboard industry in North Carolina has tried at least three times in recent years to get massive new power to override local laws and local governments and put their massive signs pretty much anywhere they want to. They're trying again this year with simultaneous bills in NC House (H645) and Senate (S534), "Revisions to Outdoor Advertising."

The industry's revisions (and have no second thoughts about who wrote or dictated the language of this bill) will allow more tree cutting around billboards, force taxpayers to pay billboard companies more to remove existing signs for public works projects, and allow billboards to be relocated from one part of a community to another even if local ordinances prohibit them. Worst of all, the bill will unleash a new scourge, digital billboards, the garish lighted eyesores the industry wants to replace their old billboards with.

Talk about distracted driving.

Sen. Deanna Ballard of Watauga is a secondary sponsor of the Senate bill. You gotta ask yourself, on those occasions when Sen. Ballard is pushing some new law, what's in it for Franklin Graham? Dunno. Why is unleashing the billboard industry -- to override existing municipal laws -- of such burning interest to Deanna Ballard?

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The Wrong Man Won the Democratic Primary in the NC-3 Special Election, But On the Other Hand, Who Cares?


Allen Thomas
Allen Thomas won the Democratic primary yesterday in the NC-3 special election with slightly over 50% of the vote over his nearest rival, ex-Marine fighter pilot Richard Bew. I was pulling for Bew. Since filing for office, Thomas, who's a strongly pro-business Democrat, has been tarred by a bad audit report on the North Carolina Global TransPark. He was executive director of the TransPark during the period of the audit but stepped down to run for this office.

Oh well. The NC-3 has never been considered anything but "safe Republican."

Naturally, with 17 Republicans running in their primary yesterday, there was bound to be a run-off on July 9th. Two medical doctors finished 1st and 2nd in that primary, with 22.54% and 15.44 percent of the vote respectively -- Dr. Greg Murphy of Greenville, a currently serving member of the NC House, and Dr. Joan Perry of Kinston. They'll face off in a second primary.

Perry is a big anti-abortion pro forced breeding Republican pediatrician who had big-dollar support from the Susan B. Anthony List as well as Winning for Women Action Fund (WFW AF), a Super PAC focused on electing more conservative women to office. She'll probably lose to Murphy in the 2nd primary.

I confess that I have lost all interest in this particular special election.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Republican 'Big Tent' Is CLOSED, but Anglin Fights Back


The endlessly entertaining
Chris Anglin
From WRAL:
RALEIGH, N.C. — A candidate for the Republican nomination in a still-vacant North Carolina congressional seat is suing the GOP after being barred from debates and access to internal party data. Republicans call him a Democratic plant who cost them a seat on the state's top court last year. 
Candidate Chris Anglin of Raleigh said Monday that he wants a state court to force the state Republican Party to give him access to voter lists, calendars and other data already provided to nine others in the 9th Congressional District field. Anglin also has been barred from participating in Republican candidate forums or debates. 
Anglin's lawsuit acknowledges that the state Republican Party is a nonprofit organization, but he claims the GOP also has a public role as one of the two major political parties enshrined in law. Taxpayers also pay for the party's nominating primaries, Anglin said. 
The party also is violating its internal rules not to choose favored candidates in primary elections, Anglin said. 
"Chris Anglin's frivolous lawsuit to access a private organization's data and resources is nothing more than a publicity stunt," state GOP spokesman Jeff Hauser wrote in an email.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

#NCGA Races to Watch in 2020


Ray Russell
Thanks to Real Facts NC for opening the window a crack on what NC House and Senate races might be in most contention next year.

Real Facts lists 14 House seats currently held by Republicans that might be subject to flips. Many of those 15 were highly anticipated flips in 2018, but that didn't happen. The situation and the ground games will be considerably different in 2020, what with the president and the entire NC Council of State on the ballot. We'll be following the Democrats who announce for any of these seats.

Real Facts lists 14 House seats currently held by Democrats that might be in danger of going back Republican. Ray Russell's District 93 is one of those.

On the NC Senate side, ten Republican seats appear worth watching. Deanna Ballard's 45th District seat isn't one of them.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Headline in What the NCGOP Submitted to the FEC


As I spend most of my time these sun-lit days distinguishing Stellaria media from Baptisia australis, and not (mos def) reading finance reports submitted by the North Carolina Republican Party to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), I'm perfectly and always happy for someone else to read them and then let me know what's what.

The NCGOP was left with just over 4 thousand dollars (no freaking way!) by the time Chair Robin Hayes' got himself arrested for attempted bribery and Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse got shown the door following him. At the end of the First Quarter of 2019 (April filing deadline), Woodhouse and Co. boasted a "balance (receipts – expenditures) of $4,137.09 at the end of the quarter."

Holy Implosion, Batman!

And with two special elections for Congress happening right now too, in the 3rd and the 9th districts. Some strong Democrats running in both. Meanwhile, the eventual Republican winners in the primaries will be dangling out there without strong party support.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

North Carolina Teachers Are About to Paddle Some Bad Boys


Next Wednesday, thousands of North Carolina public school teachers will march in Raleigh, demanding increased funding for what they do to improve all our futures in this state. They are animated by what the Republican General Assembly under the control of Berger/Moore did during the last several years:
The N.C. Teaching Fellows program was eliminated, textbook funding cut by $77 million, classroom supply funding sliced by $45 million and extra pay for master’s and advanced degrees stripped away, while millions were diverted to private schools through the state voucher programs.
Senate President Phil Berger calls them "far-left" agitators who need to stay home. Fellow Republican and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson, whose major job should be support for teachers, urged them to cancel their march next Wednesday and pick a day in June instead. Which prompted a response from a Durham school teacher who happens to be both Republican and a Southern Baptist:
“You, of all people should be supporting us, not asking us to sit back and just take what is thrown at us," teacher Angela Coffman wrote to Johnson. "You can choose to stand with us and fight for what is right or you can choose to continue belittling us, making us feel we are not worth fighting for.”
 We know from recent history in other states that when public school teachers get stirred up, their stirring can create a vortex of trouble for the People in Power. Their cause is just, their anger is righteous, and their hour is coming round next Wednesday in the streets of Raleigh.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

We Offer Total Amnesty and Sanctuary for Recanting Republican Lawmakers


Meagan Flynn reporting:
DES MOINES -- Iowa’s longest-serving Republican legislator, state Rep. Andy McKean, ditched the GOP on Tuesday as he offered a searing renunciation of President Trump, saying he could no longer support Trump as the party’s standard-bearer because of his “unacceptable behavior” and “reckless spending." 
McKean revealed he would join the Democratic Party, a decision he described as “very difficult” after spending nearly a half-century as a registered Republican and 26 years in the legislature. But ultimately, he said, “I feel as a Republican that I need to be able to support the standard-bearer of our party.” 
And “unfortunately,” he said, he could not bring himself to support Trump. 
“Unacceptable behavior should be called out for what it is,” he said during the news conference at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines, “and Americans of all parties should insist on something far better in the leader of their country and the free world.” ...

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Dan Forest Now Admits He Accepted Help From Wheeler-Dealer Charged in Bribery Scheme


Dan Forest
Stop the presses! Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has amended his campaign finance reports. He now admits that he took "in-kind" help from Greg Lindberg in the amount of $3,761. Small potatoes, you say?

Yes, but previously Forest was putting distance between his campaign and Lindberg. Forest neglected to even mention on his reporting forms that a fundraiser had been mounted for him at a Lindberg home, with Lindberg picking up the cost of catering and "refreshments."

Lindberg also donated $1 million to building a Forest juggernaut in 2017, money that was laundered through a super-PAC, and that ain't small potatoes.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Richard Burr Says He Can't Remember


Some guys can't keep a secret.

On March 9, 2017, FBI Director James Comey briefed the "Gang of 8" on the progress of investigations into Russia's involvement in our elections. The Gang of 8 includes the heads of Senate and House intelligence committees, of which Sen. Richard Burr is one, in his official role as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Burr and the others learned from Comey that four, maybe five individuals were under active investigation, including Paul Manafort, Gen. Mike Flynn, “the Greek Guy” Papadopoulos, and Carter Page.

That was highly secret information. But turns out Senator Richard Burr is a gossipy little bitch.

According to meticulous notes taken by White House Counsel Don McGahn (or by his assistant), Burr talked to McGahn via phone on March 16 and spilled those names to McGahn, who presumably passed them on to Twitterman.

The Mueller Report documents all of that transaction in footnoted detail.

What does Burr have to say about that inappropriate leaking? "I can't recall." Followed by "if specific individuals were discussed" -- opening a crack in his denial as wide as a church door -- "it was just people that everybody already knew were being investigated." Really. Here's Burr's statement in part:

"Chairman Burr does not recall this specific conversation with Mr. McGahn in March of 2017; however, any conversations between the two would have been in reference to the need for White House personnel to voluntarily comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation," Caitlin Carroll, a spokeswoman for Burr, told NBC News in a statement. "If specific individuals were discussed, they would have been those known to the Committee, the White House, and the media. The Chairman’s stewardship over the Committee’s bipartisan and fact-based investigation over the last two years speaks for itself."

Burr's March 2017 spilling of beans to the White House was not the first time he carried water for Trump. In February 2017, Burr told The Washington Post that he had conversations with the White House about Russia-related news reports and had contacted news organizations to dispute articles by The New York Times and CNN. “I felt I had something to share that didn’t breach my responsibilities to the committee in an ongoing investigation,” Burr told the Post.

A lack of integrity and personal responsibility in protecting Twitterman from justice is going to be the death of the Republican Party.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Wish He Hadn't Done That


Ex-Marine and Democrat Dan McCready, running in the NC-9 special election, has become, IMO, the poster child for craven politics. Also stupid politics. Scared out of his wits by a Republican attack from NC Sen. Dan Bishop (who's also running for the NC-9 seat in a crowded primary), McCready simply folded. Bishop claimed that McCready must be a far-left loony bird, not to mention probably soft on anti-semitism, because he had accepted a $2,000 donation from Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, one of only two Muslim women in the US Congress who has been racially profiled and targeted by none other than our Crook in Chief. Omar gets lots of death threats, so why wouldn't Bishop pile on like the bully he is?

The congresswoman made the donation to McCready's campaign on Election Day last fall. Republican Dan Bishop found out about it and attacked McCready in a web ad titled "Crazy." The ad is unfair, bigoted, ridiculous, and it apparently sent shivers down McCready's spine. So he returned the Omar donation, and issued this statement:
...McCready refunded the donation because he believes there is no place for divisiveness in politics, and McCready did not feel it is appropriate to accept the donation.
"No place for divisiveness in politics" may just be the stupidest thing I've heard a would-be politician say since practicing politician Ronald Reagan said "Facts are stupid things."

Instead of caving and running away from the Dan Bishop "divisiveness," McCready might have turned and faced down Bishop for his history of bigotry against gay and trans people and for his underwriting of white supremacy. McCready could have stood and fought back, like, say, a Marine. There was nothing wrong with the Omar donation, and she's the victim of a racially and religiously motivated Republican mob. In effect, McCready joined the mob.

I was bothered last year by McCready's "flyweight vagueness" on issues, his unwillingness to take clear stands on controversial issues. That shyness now looks like marrow-level weakness and fear. If he's not ready to take on "divisiveness," he's not ready for public office.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

When All You Got to Run on Is a Wall


The primary for the special election in NC-3, Walter Jones's old district, comes on April 30th. Early voting has been going on since April 10th.

The Club for Growth has just endorsed Celeste Cairns, a certified public accountant and a first-time political candidate, for the seat, which may mean a lot, especially if the Club is planning a media blitz for her. She's pretty unknown compared to others in the race like Michele Nix, former vice chairwoman of the NCGOP, and current sitting members of the NC General Assembly Michael Speciale, Greg Murphy, and Phil Shepard. There are 17 total Republicans running.

Cairns is stepping forward as a Trumpist with this TV ad:




On the Democratic side, there's been a pretty energetic race between Richard Bew and Allen Thomas, though Democratic performance so far in the primary does not suggest a Blue surge coming.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What Sound Does a Hollow Log Make?


The Central Committee of the North Carolina Republican Party reportedly met for seven solid hours on Sunday, arguing over what to do about their top leadership. The state party chair, Robin Hayes, was recently arrested for attempted bribery of the state's insurance commissioner and is now under five federal criminal indictments. Hayes has been allowed to step aside from his duties, appoint an interim leader (Aubrey Woodard, who chairs the 11th Congressional District Committee)but also retain the title of "chairman" until the state party's convention in June.

Executive Director of the NCGOP, Dallas Woodhouse, is also being allowed to resign at the conclusion of the June state convention. Woodhouse has been the pugnacious and rambunctious executive director since 2015 and has left plenty of roadkill in his wake. “I am under contract through the convention. When my contract expires I am moving on, which is always what I had in mind,” Woodhouse said.

Woodhouse admits that he testified to the grand jury in the Hayes bribery case but is not mentioned in the indictment. He has also claimed that the party did nothing wrong in laundering a large contribution from Greg Lindberg into the campaign account of the insurance commissioner.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Could the Realtor PAC Up-End the Republican Primary in the NC-9?


Looks like the Republican primary in the 9th Congressional District special election is about to get explosive. A national realtor PAC is putting at least a half-mil into TV ads to make Leigh Brown the irresistible choice. Jim Morrill in the Charlotte Observer says spending might reach $900,000.

Who is Leigh Brown? A locally prominent Concord RE/MAX executive, a well known and apparently very funny motivational speaker using her successful business career as grist. She's written two books, “Outrageous Authenticity” and “The 7 Deadly Sins of Sales.” People apparently seek her out and want to listen to her common sense, her "outrageous authenticity." She's self-described as "a sassy Southern woman."

She's not on my list of Republicans Most Likely to Win the Primary, which include Dan Bishop and Fern Shubert and maybe Matthew Ridenhour, but not Leigh Brown. (Reminder: the 9th District is where preacherman Mark Harris flamed out. Democrat Dan McCready, who might have won last November save balloting fraud in Bladen County, has no primary opponent. McCready will face the winner of the Republican primary on September 10, if there's an outright Republican winner -- must get at least 30% -- or November 5 if there has to be a primary run-off.)

Ten Republicans are running in the primary. Five of those ten don't live in the 9th District. One of those five is the aforementioned Leigh Brown, or "Leigh Thomas Brown" as she appeared on the ballot (unsuccessfully) for the NC House (District 82) in 2014, the other time she's run for public office.

What gives one pause ... she's something of a "brand" herself and eminently marketable.

People in the metro Charlotte viewing area are about to get a big dose of her, if they have their TVs on. The National Realtors Association PAC ("RPAC" to be exact) has paid for a major saturation campaign about Leigh Brown. Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer reported on Friday that they had already committed at least $400,000 for TV ads in the Charlotte market. "Records show that the group is spending $88,325 on ads at Charlotte’s WCNC. A spokesperson for WBTV said the buy there is $328,000." None of the other nine Republican candidates are competing on that level (though others may get the benefit of outside money).

According to housingwire.com, Brown has been a major fundraiser for RPAC and serves as the chair of the RPAC Fundraising Trustees. In other words, she's kind of got the zipper in her hand that opens the purse.

Will that TV spending work to catapult Brown into the top ranks of the primary? Maybe for Leigh Brown, it's the only move that will work.

Why does it matter?
Leigh Brown ran for the NC House in 2014 against Larry Pittman, one of the more notorious Republican conservatives in the NC House, another preacherman who's especially exercised against homosexuality and gay marriage. Leigh Thomas Brown challenged him in 2014 and got a bit under 38% of the vote as the antidote to crazy conservatism.

Leigh Thomas Brown was a moderate. And she still looks to me like one of those smart Republican women who find Twitterman an appalling embarrassment. But she knows she has to at least pretend to kiss the emperor's ring.

Reading through her (very slim) website is like watching a contortionist reach for a flag without ever quite grasping it. I want to know her issues, but she twists herself around her own back. Brown says as little as possible about her political philosophy, or any political philosophy (other than the need for more affordable housing, which some people think has a Democratic aroma to it). What she does eke out emphasizes mainstream Republican Gospel -- "create jobs, cut taxes, and reduce regulatory overreach." Sure 'nuf, she uses the "C word" --  conservative -- but without any demonstrable conviction. She's certainly free of the usual conservative icing on top.

How does she deal with DJT? She finally gets around to (barely) mentioning "President Trump" in the next-to-last paragraph of her very sparse biography, "About Lee": "...I will work with President Trump to keep our economy on track." That's it. The safe stuff, keep the economy growing, but no nothing about what defines Trumpism -- no Wall, no "fake news," no exaggeration about how great the tax break was, no climate change denial. No Trumpism anywhere to be seen, and no praise of the man.

But still, so what? Moderate Republicans don't win in North Carolina. More affordable housing is not a big rallying cry for Republicans in the 9th District, is it?

Friday, April 12, 2019

A Legislative Fix for the Student Photo ID Fiasco Passed the NC House Yesterday. What Will the Senate Do?


Rep. Ray Russell
H 646 passed the NC House on a vote of 100 to 9 (wow). It's titled AN ACT TO CLARIFY THE APPROVAL PROCESS FOR STUDENT AND EMPLOYEE IDENTIFICATION CARDS FOR VOTING PURPOSES; TO PROVIDE AN ADDITIONAL WINDOW FOR APPROVAL OF STUDENT AND EMPLOYEE IDENTIFICATION CARDS FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS; AND TO PROVIDE FLEXIBILITY IN THE NUMBER OF HOURS OF EARLY ONE-STOP VOTING IN ODD-NUMBERED YEAR ELECTIONS.

It would do much to alleviate the recent disenfranchisement of college students (and college/university employees) across the state, primarily because no longer would the college be responsible for taking the actual photos. The last clause in the title above refers to more flexibility for local BOEs to set up early voting sites for municipal elections. Gerry Cohen, our guru on election matters, tweeted on April 9, "It looks like a good bill."

Ray Russell of Watauga County has been a prime mover on this issue from the beginning of the crisis, joined by Zack Hawkins of Durham. They're both primary sponsors. Powerful Republican Chair of the Rules Committee, David Lewis, also signed on and actually introduced the bill, which accounts for those Republican votes (along with the creeping fear that the entire law could be thrown out by an advancing lawsuit if drastic action isn't taken).

All attention now turns to the Senate. Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Spruce Pine), one of the co-chairs of the Redistricting and Elections Committee in the Senate, had already said he liked the original law just like it was, but WRAL reported that he may have moved a little. He said "he has some questions about the bill, including language on confirming the identities of people whose ID's have self-taken pictures." Another co-chair of that committee, Sen. Warren Daniel of Burke County, said that the House and Senate agree on "the broad strokes" of Lewis' bill. Whatever that means.

Perhaps the chances of getting this "fix" through the NC Senate have improved. We've never felt sanguine about that prospect, but we're prepared to be amazed.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Watauga BOE Makes Long Overdue Precinct Polling Place Changes


As of last night's meeting of the Watauga County Board of Elections, the precinct polling place for New River 3, one of Watauga's largest (suburban Boone) precincts, will no longer be located on the far rural margin of the precinct, at a church known for its partisan Republican activities. The polling place is being moved back to the National Guard Armory in town, a much more accessible, neutral place for the largely municipal precinct.

The marquee at the New River 3 precinct polling place
on Election Eve, 2016


The other precinct polling place that was moved last night by a 3-2 party-line vote ... Boone 2, which will move from the Legends nightclub on the edge of the ASU campus back to the Plemmons Student Union, where it used to be before the Republican Eggers-Aceto duo took over the administration of county voting in 2013.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

R D Huffstetler in the 5th District of Virginia


We first took note of the young ex-Marine running as the Democratic insurgent in the 5th Congressional District of Virginia back in January of 2018 ... Roger Dean ("R.D.") Huffstetler. I wrote about him at that time and included a map of that heavily Republican district.

Huffstetler was challenged for the Democratic nomination by an equally impressive Democratic woman, Leslie Cockburn, who had plenty of money backing her, and in a district-wide nominating convention, Cockburn had sewn up enough support to win. Huffstetler bowed to the inevitable, dropped out of the race on the eve of the convention, and endorsed Cockburn. Cockburn went on to lose in November to Republican first-time candidate Denver Riggleman.

R. D. Huffstetler is back for 2020. He announced a week ago. He was an impressive fundraiser in 2018, and the news on Twitter last night was that he's already raised $100,000 in that first week.

I like that he's strongly working class in background, born in Gaston County, NC, to a blue-collar, textile-mill-working family. His father drove an 18-wheeler. He talked frankly in his 2018 introductory video about his parents' struggle with addiction to painkillers, and about his own sense of calling to defend his country after 9/11. He joined the Marines, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and after his service got a leg up with the G.I. Bill for higher education at the Harvard Business School. He and his OB/GYN wife and daughter live in Charlottesville.

He might be the one to flip that district in 2020.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Rule of Thumb: In North Carolina, the More Pious the Politician, the More Prone to Corruption


On the website for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association you'll find a proclamation that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is "Representing Christ on the Front Line." "His career and life are rooted in faith in Jesus Christ," we are told:
“My faith instructs everything I do every single day,” he said. “God has given us a very clear plan of how to order our lives, how to order our families, how to order our government and how to order the church. Those things are directed by His Word, and that’s what we try to uphold.”
Forest believes the Lord has him in the political arena “for such a time as this” and that, similarly, the church must embrace its divinely destined role in a culture that has, in many ways, turned its back on God.
Forest knows exactly how everyone should be leading their lives, but he's become personally pretty dodgy on his connections to Greg Lindberg -- trying to distance himself from the high-rolling political donor now indicted for attempted bribery of a public official. Forest's spokesman told the News and Observer that Lindberg has never contributed to Forest’s official campaign account, yet Lindberg gave $1.4 million to the North Carolina Republican Council of State Committee, which Forest chairs, and Lindberg was listed on a Forest fundraising email as a maxed out contributor.

Plus Forest and Lindberg were obviously tight during the fall of 2017. The News and Observer found at least three events where they were hip-to-hip and the money was flowing:
An August fundraiser at what appears to be Lindberg’s house.
A September ribbon-cutting for one of Lindberg’s insurance companies.
An October 50th-birthday party fundraiser for Forest, the invitation of which listed Lindberg as "co-chair."

What does the Bible say about the love of money?

Saturday, April 06, 2019

When Even the Russians Think You're Too Corrupt


Charles H. Taylor
Republican Charles H. Taylor represented the 11th Congressional District of North Carolina from the election of 1990 until he was defeated by Democrat Heath Shuler in 2006. He had a big interest in Russia and in Russian money. He made 11 documented trips to Russia on the government dime between 1997 and 2005 (Wikipedia). And at some point during that period (2003) he bought himself a Russian bank.

During his 2006 campaign for reelection, Rolling Stone reported that “Taylor built much of his fortune while serving in Congress, partnering with a former KGB general to form the first American bank in post-Soviet Russia.” 

So this news broke yesterday (and how corrupt do you have to be to get sanctioned by Russia?):
A regional Russian bank owned by a former U.S. congressman had its license revoked Friday for violations that included breaking rules against money laundering.

Commercial Bank of Ivanovo, in which Republican former North Carolina Representative Charles Taylor owns an 80 percent stake, regularly broke anti-money laundering regulations, misrepresented the size of its provisions and used “schemes” to artificially inflate its capital, according to a central bank statement....
Incidentally, in September 2006, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Taylor one of the "20 most corrupt members of Congress," saying his ethics issues arose "from his lucrative outside business interests."

Friday, April 05, 2019

He Did It For Money. Lots of Money


Congressman Mark Walker,
NC-6
Congressman Mark Walker (NC-6) received at least $233,600 from Greg Lindberg, owner of Eli Global, and dutifully made at least one phone call to praise Lindberg to the NC Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. Apparently, this didn't break the law. But it sure as hell rings the corruption bell.

Laura Leslie lays out the sequence of events:
November 30, 2017 -- Lindberg gives $44,300 to the Walker Freedom Fund PAC 
December 1, 2017 (the next day) -- Lindberg gives $5,400 -- the max allowed -- to Walker's campaign committee. (There's no money max on "satellite" spending, like on PACs formed for single candidates) 
January 16, 2018 -- Lindberg gives $33,900 to Walker Freedom Fund PAC 
February 5, 2018 -- One of Lindberg's indicted associates texts his boss: "to say he had talked to Walker about their problem with Causey." That same day, according to the indictment, Lindberg wrote a $150,000 check to a second Walker fundraising PAC 
February 7, 2018 -- Congressman Walker puts in his bought-and-paid-for call to Insurance Commissioner Causey, praising Lindberg for "doing good things for North Carolina business" 

Good things. Not to even mention the good things Lindberg did for bank accounts of sitting congressmen.

Walker's corrupt and/or eminently corruptible.

He's a preacher, incidentally, sort of like Rev. Mark Harris was a preacher.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Government Employee of the Year


North Carolina's Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey might just be a candidate for poster child of the year, something titled "Incorruptible Public Official."

As more information comes out about the indictment of big-bucks donor Greg Lindberg and his facilitator, Robin Hayes, Chair of the NCGOP, Causey emerges as a rock-solid honest man. Here's a relevant passage from the reporting by Paul A. Specht et al. published yesterday morning:
Causey said his involvement with Lindberg began in 2017 when the insurance department was conducting a routine financial examination of one of Lindberg’s companies.... 
“There were questions on some of the financials,” Causey said. 
Lindberg, fast on his way to becoming one of the largest campaign donors in the state, donated $10,000 to Causey’s campaign in early 2017. Causey said the donation came “out of the blue,” but he directed his campaign finance director to return the money. 
“It might not look right,” he said.

Later that year, Causey said he was told that Lindberg wanted to host a fundraiser for him. Causey declined. 
“We were still engaged in the ongoing financial examination,” Causey said. “And it just didn’t look right.” 
By then, he said, officials at the department had questions about the practices and financial health of Lindberg’s companies.

“There were loopholes being exploited,” Causey said.
Lindberg was throwing around the money, especially to Republicans (but why not? They were in charge of most everything) but also to prominent Democrats like Wayne Goodwin, who might want about now to be giving that money back.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Did Mike Causey Wear a Wire for the Feds?


Fascinating reading, this unsealed indictment of NCGOP Chair Robin Hayes and three others. Because it seems pretty obvious that NC Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey not only cooperated with federal law enforcement but also helped make recordings of a crime in progress.

Greg Lindberg, now famous as "NC's biggest political donor" and founder of Eli Global, a multinational corp that "provides information and financial services," had a sit-down meeting in Commissioner Mike Causey's office, asking for some "regulatory favors."

Travis Fain's reporting: "Lindberg allegedly wanted Causey to fire or reassign an unnamed deputy commissioner causing problems for some of the businesses Lindberg owns, and he offered up to $2 million in political donations to get it done."

Congressman Mark Walker (NC-6)
Photo AP / J. Scott Applewhite
Lindberg specifically wanted Causey to hire his man Joe Palermo as his assistant. Palermo not only works for Eli Global; he's chair of the Chatham County Republican Party.

From the indictment, where Causey got Lindberg to speak plainly about bribery:
38. The COMMISSIONER asked to speak to LINDBERG alone, and during that portion of the meeting, the COMMISSIONER asked LINDBERG, “What’s in it for me? What can you do to help that’s not gonna be…under the radar screen?” LINDBERG responded that he would create an independent expenditure committee to support the COMMISSIONER’s re-election and fund it himself with $1 million to $2 million.
Another shoe waiting to drop?
Congressman Mark Walker is implicated as "Public Official A" for receiving $150,000 for help in putting pressure on Causey. He seems to have escaped indictment, but he'll have to give the money back, and he has some 'splaining to do.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

The New Frontrunner for NCGOP Chair


Robin Hayes has been chair of the NCGOP since April 30, 2016, when the Republican executive committee ousted Hasan Harnett from the job. Hayes had been NCGOP chair before, from 2011-2013, and he had served ten years in the US House, from 1999-2009. Hayes was "Republican establishment" all the way, while Hasan Harnett was Tea Party conservative, backed by the rowdier elements and movement conservatives. Most observers thought -- up until yesterday -- that Robin Hayes would run again for the party chairmanship and that he could probably win (with the help of Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse), but Hayes has suddenly dropped out of the running, citing "issues with his mobility" (following hip-replacement surgery and a recent fall at the Cabarrus County GOP Convention).

That suddenly throws the chairmanship of the NCGOP open for a cantankerous and entertaining contest, with Lee County Republican agitator Jim Womack probably emerging as the leading anti-establishment contender. The chairmanship will be decided by the NCGOP state convention in June. Womack ran against Robin Hayes in 2017, was defeated by double digits, but has never stopped his campaign to remake the state party and put it on a "war-footing": "We will campaign on all fronts– in the media, in government circles, and especially in the trenches –where we will encounter the most ardent socialists and anarchists. We will prevail!" ("We Are at War," by James Womack, April 4, 2017)

Those armored columns of "ardent socialists and anarchists" are figments of imagination that have apparently taken on some ample flesh in Mr. Womack's head: He also alleges that "the democrats [sic] have hired agitators who roam from venue to venue seeking to disrupt conservative groups and political events." If you can talk yourself into that fantasy, you'll also believe that millions of "illegals" are always voting against The Right.

Did we say "agitator"? Womack and about a dozen other "grassroots activists" put paper sacks on their heads "in peaceful protest" at the 2016 GOP state convention "each time the convention chairman or central committee staff were perceived to be manipulating the proceedings to disadvantage grass roots candidates running for office, or when resolutions and platform changes were being suppressed" ("Wearing a Paper Bag at Convention").

Womack was elected to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and served four colorful years (he called his critics "libtards," which gives you a sense of his level of discourse). He was a frequent target for criticism on the blog "The Rant: News Out of Sanford, North Carolina."

As the appointed chair of the state's Oil and Gas Commission, Womack has been a vociferous advocate for fracking, and when the Lee County Commission -- on which Womack no longer served -- passed a moratorium on fracking, Womack went jihad in defense of five Lee County landowners who claimed their rights were being infringed by the moratorium. The five, turns out, had written (or had ghostwritten for them) identical letters, all addressed to Womack, and all five, turns out, were Womack's buddies. Lisa Sorg attended that meeting of the Oil and Gas Commission:
...Jim Womack, the agency’s controversial chairman, seemed agitated, frantic even, to attend to what he deemed as Very Important Business: to hear from disgruntled people who want the commission to overturn Lee County’s fracking moratorium.

“I’m a little bit motivated,” said Womack, a long-time fracking proponent, as he pressed the commission’s attorney for more legal leeway on hearing the complaints.
There's plenty more to this guy's history.

Robin Hayes
He's gonna make a fine chair for the NCGOP!

But side benefit: If he makes it, Dallas Woodhouse will be gone as executive director!

UPDATE
This previously sealed indictment became public this afternoon, after the above was posted: Robin Hayes, along with three others, federally indicted for bribery, or more specifically, "of directing illegal political donations to North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey in an effort to bribe him." Here's more news about it.

So "mobility" did turn out to be a disqualifier for Hayes to run again for NCGOP chair, since he surrendered himself to federal authorities today.

Wow.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Shivving Winston-Salem ... Because They Can


Rep. Donny Lambeth,
forcing himself to smile
Currently, the city of Winston-Salem elects eight members to its city council (plus a mayor who only votes to break ties). Currently, seven of them are Democrats and one is a Republican. Currently, four are white and four are black. Forsyth County Republican reps in the General Assembly filed a vicious little bill last Thursday (March 28) to change that council in radical ways.

The bill would reduce council districts (wards) from eight to five. Three black incumbent women (D.D. Adams, Vivian Burke, and Annette Scippio) would be shoved into the same district, to run against each other. Incumbent white male Dan Besse would also be double-bunked with the lone Republican. The three dissolved ward seats would become "at large" council seats, the mayor would be given a vote on every measure before the council, and all terms of office would be reduced to two years.

Chaos.

The two House sponsors of this snide innovation, Donny Lambeth and Debra Conrad, might relish the punishment they're meting out to their partisan enemies in the urban core of Winston-Salem. But they might want to take note of what happened in Guilford County after a vicious little attempt to upend the Greensboro city council in a similar way (see last paragraph below). Neither Lambeth nor Conrad won reelection last fall by unassailable margins. As a matter of fact, Lambeth beat his Democratic opponent, Dan Besse (where have I heard that name before?), by just over 2,000 votes, and Debra Conrad's Dem opponent, Terri LeGrand, came within 3,200 votes in a much more rural section of Forsyth. (Full disclosure: I contributed to both the Besse and the LeGrand campaigns.)

One of the black council women targeted with triple-bunking, D.D. Adams, ran against 5th District Congresswoman Virginia Foxx last fall, and she "emphatically denounced" Lambeth and Conrad to the Winston-Salem Journal "for what she described as a racist payback for the Democratic activism of black women":

"Everybody thinks we are going to hold hands and sing Kumbaya — it's not going to happen that way," Adams said a day after learning of the bill. "This is one of those times when we are going to have to fight."
Her message to Lambeth and Conrad: "How dare you?" ... repeated. "How dare you!"

Said Dan Besse: "It is no coincidence that they drew me into the only Republican-leaning district ... When you look at the fact that I challenged Donny, and D.D. challenged Virginia Foxx -- that has to flag the city on the radar of the Republican party structure."

No kidding, the arrogance. "I don't know what problem they are trying to solve," said the lone Republican on the council, Robert Clark, referring to Lambeth and Conrad. "I think the city council should be consulted before anything moves forward. They don't talk with anybody, they just do it ... I am absolutely puzzled." That's what the Republican thought.

Remember that Republicans in Raleigh also overreached for partisan advantage in a proposal to redistrict the city government of Greensboro. How did that attempt work out for them? In this last election, Guilford County saw a net gain of one Democrat in the NC House (Ashton Clemmons) and one Democrat in the NC Senate (Michael Garrett). Garrett actually beat the author of the Greensboro redistricting attempt, Sen. Trudy Wade, a comeuppance that could instill a little humility in Lambeth and Conrad.