Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Cordle Gone ... What's Next?

NC State Board of Elections Chair Bob Cordle resigned about sundown yesterday, a few hours after he had called a special meeting of the board for tomorrow for the purposes of rescinding its 3-2 vote on Monday to require greater accountability and cyber security from voting machine manufacturers. Republican David Black wanted to change his vote from Monday, when he had voted with the two Democrats to delay certification. He's now champing at the bit, evidently, to push through certification of three voting machine vendors, one of whom could not promise to produce a voter-readable paper ballot as proof of how the voter voted.

The meeting on Thursday is apparently going forward even without Cordle, and with a 2-2 stalemate likely between the remaining Democrats and Republicans, the vote on Monday can't be rescinded, and that's a good thing. Stalemate will leave in place a new criteria going forward for all voting machinery, proposed by board member Stella Anderson:
"An electronically assisted ballot marking device or other ballot marking equipment shall produce human-readable marks on a paper ballot. The voter must be able to verify his or her intent as evidenced by the mark on the ballot. The mark shall be tabulated as the voter's selection."
Beyond that, who will Roy Cooper appoint as the new chair of the state Board of Elections?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

How Did Bob Cordle Get To Be Chair of the NC State Board of Elections?

At the opening of the State Board of Elections Training Conference yesterday morning in a cavernous meeting room at the Embassy Suites in Cary, and in front of some 700 boards of election officials from all 100 counties, Chairman of the State Board Bob Cordle reportedly told a version of the wholly misogynistic "The Welsh Cow" joke, in which he compared women to cows unwilling to be mounted from behind, in front, or from the side. Hundreds of people heard it.

The classic goes like this (and we don't know exactly how Mr. Cordle may have shortened or changed it, but the punchline certainly survived):
The only cow in a small town in Ireland stopped giving milk. Then the town folk found they could buy a cow in Wales quite cheaply. So, they brought the cow over from Wales. It was absolutely wonderful. It produced lots of milk every day and everyone was happy.
They bought a bull to mate with the cow to get more cows, so they'd never have to worry about their milk supply again. They put the bull in the pasture with the cow but whenever the bull tried to mount the cow, the cow would move away. No matter what approach the bull tried, the cow would move away from the bull, and he was never able to do the deed.
The people were very upset and decided to go to the Vet, who was very wise, tell him what was happening and ask his advice. "Whenever the bull tries to mount our cow, she moves away. If he approaches from the back, she moves forward. When he approaches her from the front, she backs off. If he attempts it from the one side, she walks away to the other side."
The Vet rubbed his chin thoughtfully and pondered this before asking, "Did you by chance buy this cow in Wales?" The people were dumbfounded, since no one had ever mentioned that they had brought the cow over from Wales. "You are truly a wise Vet," they said. "How did you know we got the cow from Wales?"
The Vet replied with a distant look in his eye: "My wife's from Wales."
What exactly was the point of telling this joke at a conference on election training, with a preponderance of women in that room? What possible relevance does this demonstration of male prerogative have at a training seminar for voting administrators?

Bob Cordle was an appointee of Governor Roy Cooper. Maybe only Roy Cooper could discipline him or, better, ask for his resignation.

BREAKING: Uproar at State Board of Elections, as Republican David Black Wants To Change His Vote

Noticed just minutes ago from the State Board of Elections: They'll be holding a special meeting this Thursday, August 1, in Raleigh, and here's the printed agenda:
Motion to rescind decision to notice meeting to amend NC Election Systems Certification Program G.S. § 163A-1166 
Consideration of certification of voting systems G.S. § 163A-1115(a) and NC Election Systems Certification ProgramAdjourn
This can only mean that Republican board member David Black, who was on the winning side last night with Democrats Stella Anderson and Jeff Carmon, intends to change his vote to side with Democratic Chair Bob Cordle and Republican Ken Raymond and to rush forward without demanding that electronic voting machines produce a paper ballot that can confirm a voter's choices.

Former SBOE lead counsel Josh Lawson, who knows better than anyone the need for cyber security in the state's voting process, just tweeted this comment:
now noticing a mtg to “rescind decision” from last night. #ncpol If human-readable paper ballots were *right* for security, *right* for budgets, and *right* for public confidence, what could have possibly changed since last night? Doesn’t instill confidence.
What kind of pressure was applied to David Black? Does Bob Cordle have a prior relationship to ESandS that he isn't telling us about? What the actual fuck is going on here? And are we going to stand for the SBOE certifying electronic touch-screen machines that don't produce a voter-verifiable paper ballot?


Twitter, you devil!

Watauga's Stella Anderson To the Rescue for Ballot Security

SBOE members Stella Anderson, far left,
and Jeff Carmon listen to presentation
by an officer of Election Systems & Software.
Photo Dan Kane, News and Observer
The State Board of Elections met last night for the purpose of certifying new voting equipment for all North Carolina polling places in 2020 and beyond. Instead, on a motion by Watauga County board member Stella Anderson, the decision was put off another 15 days until the SBOE can change its requirements to insist that vendors will guarantee that any touch-screen type machine also produces a paper ballot that a voter can read. (One of the big dogs in the election machine business, Election Systems and Software, offered a machine that produces a barcode. "I don't read barcode!" said Chris Telesca at a public hearing on Sunday night.)

Anderson's exact language in the motion that passed 3-2 (hattip Travis Fain):
"An electronically assisted ballot marking device or other ballot marking equipment shall produce human-readable marks on a paper ballot. The voter must be able to verify his or her intent as evidenced by the mark on the ballot. The mark shall be tabulated as the voter's selection."
In the speech Anderson made prior to her motion, she said, "I think I speak for all board members in saying voter trust and confidence in the security and integrity of any voting system we put in use in North Carolina is vital. Part of promoting that confidence requires that voters are able to verify their choices and know those choices are what will be tabulated."

Amen, Sister.

But here's where the wicket got sticky last night. Delaying the certification, the board automatically triggers a 15-day public comment period before any final vote can be taken. The board had already been through one delay while foreign ownership of any potentially certifiable voting machine was probed for unwanted influence. The Department of Homeland Security cleared the vendors of any foreign ownership. So Bob Cordle, the Democratic chair of the State Board of Elections, was antsy, and he didn't want to wait any more, cyber-security be damned. Neither did Republican member Ken Raymond of Winston-Salem.

Let's get it done, argued Cordle and Raymond.

Let's get it right, replied Anderson, joined by Jeff Carmon, the other Democrat. “This vote wasn’t taken lightly,” Carmon said. “Our state’s been in the news enough.”

Read more here:
In the end and coming as a surprise, Republican David Black voted with Anderson and Carmon.

Why is Bob Cordle so all-fired determined to certify equipment that nobody trusts? Nobody? Well, in truth, Cordle trusts it, and so does Raymond, and the companies wanting to make big bucks on the State Board's certification trust their own product (you bet!), but on what actual grounds (let alone reality) anyone is supposed to trust cyber equipment that can't be verified...  no thanks.
Every reporter is crediting Cary veteran poll worker Lynn Bernstein for arguing persuasively at Sunday's public hearing against machinery that produces barcodes. But the opposition to the barcode equipment on the board was already building before Sunday night. Because the actual final vote was supposed to have happened at the end of that public hearing on Sunday night, not last night. The delay came because on Sunday night, Republican Ken Raymond was missing. Cordle apparently knew that fellow Democrats Anderson and Carmon would vote no on rushing certification, leaving him with a probable tie if Republican David Black voted with him. So he delayed the final vote to last night when Raymond could be there. In the meantime, Republican David Black upended that applecart by voting with Anderson and Carmon. Whaddya know! A Republican that takes cyber threats seriously!
Meanwhile, one Democrat on the SBOE doesn't appear to care so much.

Bob Cordle's curious defense of electronic voting machines, particularly those made by Electronic Systems and Software (ESandS), goes back at least to the SBOE meeting on July 11th when Lynn Bernstein first raised issues with those machines. From reporting by Aditi Kharod:
“Remote-access software and modems on election equipment is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner,” said Bernstein, quoting a statement Sen. Wyden made to Motherboard. Bernstein argued that a company that had repeatedly lied about the nature of its machines and had only revealed the truth after being caught in its lies could not be trusted to help keep North Carolina’s elections safe.
“This begs the question: why is this board trusting ES&S’ word that these machines are secure and accurate?” asked Bernstein.
Bob Cordle, the chair of the SBE, pushed back against Bernstein’s arguments.
“In my experience… we had more problems with hand ballots than we did with any other ballots,” said Cordle. “There was more lying, cheating, and stealing going on… and also questions about… there were lots of questions about whether the oval was filled in, whether both ovals were filled in, so there are problems with hand ballots, too.”
“The research showed that 0.007% of ballots have stray marks,” said Bernstein. “That’s very, very few.”
“All I know is we saw a number of them,” said Cordle. “But I don’t wanna’ argue with you."

Monday, July 29, 2019

The 'Hipster Mayor' Enters the Democratic Senatorial Primary in Georgia

Ted Terry
You know me. I'm a sucker for new Democratic candidates running improbable races in impossibly sanguine environments.

Ted Terry is not as young as he looks, though he does have the best hair. He's the 36-year-old mayor of Clarkston, Georgia, which touts itself as the most ethnically and racially diverse municipality in Georgia and "the Ellis Island of the South." That won't be a plus in the eyes of several Georgia voters who think multiculturalism is next to satanism, but they weren't ever going to vote for a Democrat anyway.

Ted Terry has announced he's running in the 2020 Democratic senatorial primary in Georgia to take on incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue.

Terry has been mayor of Clarkston since his first election in 2013 as a 30-year-old idealist who was working in the nonprofit sector after doing field organizing for the Democratic National Committee. He's now in his second term. Clarkston is a suburb of Atlanta on its eastern side, smack on the I-285 corridor. As mayor Terry pushed "a strong progressive agenda," including decriminalization of cannabis, a $15 / hour minimum wage for city employees, 100% clean energy by 2050, and participatory budgeting. He's proud that Clarkston is now commonly referred to as "the most diverse square mile in America."

He's also director of the Georgia Sierra Club, which will at least give him a little broader name recognition. He came out of the gate with a professional introductory video -- "Too young. Too soon. Too unrealistic. That's what they said when I ran for mayor of Clarkston. But I didn't listen. And I won."

He's also known as the “hipster mayor,” and not without cause. He appeared in the last episode of Season 2 of the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye, in an episode titled “Make Ted Great Again” in which Jonathan Van Ness convinced him to ditch his beard. He has been supportive of the LGBT community, and according to his campaign website, he oversaw Clarkston becoming “the third city in Georgia to pass a sweeping non-discrimination ordinance,” and “signed on to the Amicus Brief on LGBTQ+ Employment Discrimination.”

I'm also a sucker for cops doing the lip-synch challenge, so for a little taste of Clarkston, here's the Clarkston P.D. lip-syncing Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." Mayor Ted appears in the video along with other citizens:

For the record, former Columbus, Ga., Mayor Teresa Tomlinson is already in the race for the Democratic nomination. Yeah, she's more mainstream and was mayor of a bigger city.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Surviving Liberty University (and finding liberty)

Will E. Young,
from his Twitter feed
I've just been reading Will E. Young's account of struggling for press freedom at Liberty University -- "Inside Liberty University's 'Culture of Fear': How Jerry Falwell Jr. Silences Students and Professors Who Reject His Pro-Trump Politics." Young was the student editor in chief of The Champion, the student weekly newspaper on campus, during the time Liberty's president, Jerry Falwell Jr., began promoting and defending Donald J. Trump.

Will Young was trying to learn how to be an investigative reporter and soon learned that he couldn't investigate Liberty University nor any of Falwell's friends (including a local member of the Virginia House of Delegates). After two of his fellow editors on the paper were fired for trying to report on a group critical of Falwell, the Red Letter Christians, who had planned a Lynchburg rally to oppose Falwell's "toxic evangelicalism," Will Young himself resigned in protest. He would be the last student editor of the paper, because soon after that the Falwell admin seized complete control of the paper and turned it into an official house organ.

[Background on Red Letter Christians, which organized even before the rise of Trump to counter the politicizing of Christianity, here and here.]

Young, who's become an editorial assistant at Sojourners, writes: "I’m realizing the extent to which I internalized the fear tactics; I still sometimes self-censor my thoughts and writing. How can a college education stifle your freedom of thought? When people ask me if I regret going to Liberty, as many do, I usually pause. I don’t know."

The long piece Young wrote is new insight into the culture of Trump acquiescence among otherwise good Christian believers. It made me reevaluate my own history, because, O my brethren, I attended a Southern Baptist College in West Texas and had a wholly different experience with free thought and dissent.

I had to attend mandatory "chapel" services three times a week (at Liberty University, it's only twice a week). I had to take a required course in Bible and religion. I had to check in and out of my men's dorm, and women could not under any circumstances be out of their dorms past 10:30 p.m. Any form of alcohol was strictly verboten.

Yet I felt very free there and got a good education, especially in the humanities. It was a classic education, and my professors inspired inquisitiveness. My favorite history professor would declare in class with a wink that there were certain books we probably shouldn't read, like Voltaire's Candide. I promptly went looking for Candide and immediately found a paperback copy in the college's own bookstore. He also put me onto The Decameron, and I happily read the raciest parts to my dorm mates, and they happily listened.

I got into Sartre and Camus and the French existentialists, and in a reading group founded by my journalism professor, I wanted to read John Updike's Rabbit, Run, which was making literary news at the time, and we did read it and no one complained to the thought police.

I worked on the student newspaper, and when a group of my guy friends wanted to start a fraternity -- which were banned on our little campus -- I wrote a strongly worded editorial defending their right, and no one called me on the carpet. The guys started their fraternity. I now feel extremely dubious about carrying the torch of freedom for Chi Omicron, but we've all got to start somewhere.

The one time I remember the college administration trying to squelch strong student juices was over the insurgency of a charismatic group -- and naturally, I went to their meetings too, because I always jumped into anything new and dangerous. In those prayer-and-praise meetings we were being encouraged to go around the church, especially the church hierarchy, to have tongues of fire to denounce hypocrisy where we saw it, so naturally we were a threat to the established order of things.

My favorite literature professor admonished his students to "keep the windows of your soul wide open so that the light shines in from many different directions." That's what I did through four years, sampling every philosophy, every viewpoint, every radical departure that crossed my path, and I'm so thankful I had a safe environment to do it. No Jerry Falwell Jr. No attempt to bend religion and thought to satisfy the veering path of an unprincipled national political figure.

I don't know what that Baptist college is like now. I hope it hasn't become "Liberty-ized." But the example of Will E. Young, and my own experience, makes me believe that freedom of thought has a way of breaking out in the most unlikely places and under the most adverse circumstances. I cling to that belief in this dark time.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Justice Paul Newby Goes Full Partisan

Justice Paul Newby
We recently compared NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Paul Newby to disgraced Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. How rude! But it's actually worse, as I've seen more of the speech Newby made to some Wake County Republicans a couple of weeks ago. I'm indebted here to Matt Naham at Law & Crime:
The only registered Republican on the state Supreme Court in North Carolina said two weekends ago in a roughly nine-minute speech “If we [Americans] are as bad as the other side says we are, I will buy you a ticket to leave. I mean, just leave.”
In the speech, Justice Paul Newby – reportedly the longest-serving member of the court – asked his audience right out of the gate to “Imagine seven AOC’s on the state Supreme Court.” This was, of course, a reference to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), but it was also a reference to the other members of the state Supreme Court, himself excluded — “Well folks, we’ve got six. It’s six to one. As my daughter Sarah said, I am the last man standing.”
What was the purpose of this speech? According to local news outlet WRAL, which first reported on Newby’s speech, Newby was “upset when Gov. Roy Cooper appointed [Chief Justice Cheri] Beasley to the top spot on the court to fill a vacancy earlier this year. He’s running against her for the seat next year in one of three Supreme Court races on the ballot, all of which are likely to be well-funded partisan affairs.”
Newby began his speech by asking a question and answering it: “Sue till you’re blue. Sue till you’re blue. What do you think the most dangerous branch of government is? The judicial branch is the correct answer.”
From here, Newby said that big spending on the state Supreme Court was a strategy that could be traced to former President Barack Obama and “those who were part of his inner circle to stack the state Supreme Court”:
"In 2018, the left put $1.5 million to get their AOC person on the court. Is this unique in North Carolina? No. According to a recent article in the Washington Times, this has been a long term strategy by Obama and those who were part of his inner circle to stack the state Supreme Court for that day when the U.S. Supreme Court would say, well, that is not a federal issue, we’ll give it back to the states."
According to NC Policy Watch, the “AOC person” he was referring to was Justice Anita Earls. The same article said that “State judicial code makes discipline unlikely for Justice Paul Newby.”
Newby went on to say, however, that something could be done about stacking of the courts:
"Well one is, we can have some really good candidates. Now there will be three seats open on the North Carolina Supreme Court, OK. I’m running for Chief Justice. The Governor had an opportunity to do the right thing and appoint the senior associate that’s been done pretty much throughout history — but this will shock you, I hope you’re sitting down, those of you that can’t find a seat, get ready for this — this Governor that we have now is a political preacher who does what politics mandates over what is right for the state.
"We the people can change that. We can elect the senior associate [me, Paul Newby] for chief justice. Tamara Barringer, Phil Berger Jr. will be running for the Supreme Court — we can go to 3-4 or we could be 0-7. This will be November 2020."
Newby eventually appealed to the Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address before saying people coming to America “illegally or any other way” are doing so to escape socialist countries:
"I want you to think about President Lincoln’s closing prayer in his Gettysburg address. He says that this nation under God might have a new birth of freedom, and that a government of the people, by the people for the people would not perish from the face of the earth. Why are people trying to get into this country — let’s use common sense — why are people trying to get into this country illegally or any other way? Because it is freedom and liberty, folks. And what countries are they leaving? Socialism. I’m sorry, we may not be perfect, but we’re the best nation in the world and why don’t we just use common sense?
"If we’re as bad as the other side says we are, I will buy you a ticket to leave. I mean, just leave. You’ve got freedom here in America to leave. We don’t build laws to keep you in. We ought to have a wall to keep you out if you’re trying to get here illegally. That’s wrong, OK? So that’s my prayer."

As Judge Newby was speaking these words the day before Twitterman tweeted the infamous "go back where you came from" series of rants against members of the US Congress and several days before the crowd at the rally in Greenville turned the sentiment into a racist chant, it appears that Judge Newby was exceptionally prescient in catching the Trumpian wave before it crested.

As Rob Schofield pointed out yesterday, Judge Newby not only violated a basic standard of decency, continuing to bash a female member of Congress who is already under death threats, but he also appeared to violate a canon of judicial conduct: "A judge should … conduct himself/herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” By impugning the integrity of his fellow justices and implying they are "socialists" ("seven AOCs"), Newby was hardly promoting "public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."

Republican Cody Henson Resigns His Seat in NC House

Background on Rep. Cody Henson from March, when he was merely under sheriff's investigation for cyberstalking his estranged wife, who had incidentally been granted an order of protection against Mr. Henson. His sudden resignation today, reported by Aditi Kharod:
Rep. Cody Henson (R-Transylvania) announced his resignation Wednesday morning, one day after he pleaded guilty to one count of cyberstalking, accepting a deal for 18 months of probation and deferred prosecution. 
Henson is already under a domestic violence order of protection preventing him from contacting his estranged wife, Kelsey Meece. As part of the deal, Henson will also have to get mental health treatment, domestic violence abuser treatment, and complete a substance misuse assessment. He will not have access to firearms for his probation period. 
At the time, the North Carolina Department of Justice accepted a condition of Henson’s: that he be allowed to leave the state for legislative business despite his probation. A prepared statement by Henson’s attorney stated that Henson intended “to fulfill his commitment to represent his district” and that he did not plan to resign his seat. 
Henson announced his resignation on his Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Charlotte City Council Condemns Trump's Racism But Does Not Rescind RNC

Last night the Charlotte City Council voted 9-2 to condemn Donald J. Trump's "racist and xenophobic comments," but it did not take the action that many citizens wanted -- breaking the contract to host the Republican National Convention in August of 2020. On advice of counsel.

Reporting by Felicia Sonmez:
Some audience members at Monday’s meeting urged the city council to try to back out of its contract to host the convention. One local resident, Diana Levitt, received a standing ovation from many in the crowd when she urged the council to reconsider.
“The hate has since grown louder, and yet you continue to sit quietly,” she told the council members. “Our community has asked you to revoke this invitation, and you sit quietly.”
Despite the calls to reconsider hosting the convention, it appears the city’s options are limited.
The Charlotte city attorney, Patrick Baker, said he had examined the contract and determined that the city probably would not be able to walk away from it, even if it were willing to suffer the financial penalties of doing so.
“I’m not in a position to recommend that you terminate the contract,” Baker said, noting that a potential breach could trigger a lawsuit that would result in the city being forced to follow through on its contractual obligations.
We'll find out next August whether the cost of breaching the contract would have been less than the loss of reputation and the damage to infrastructure and the citizenry when Twitterman brings his white nationalism circus to town.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Look Who's Running for Congress in Texas

Wendy Davis got nationally well known for double-digit hours in 2013 spent filibustering a Texas abortion bill. Texans know how to do extreme, and Wendy Davis was up for fighting them. She was a member of the Texas Senate representing District 10 (Tarrant County, i.e., Fort Worth), in her second term, and she was what Texas men traditionally label "a handful." She became an instant media star in her pink running shoes.

She opted not to run for her Senate seat again in 2014 and instead went after the governorship against Republican Greg Abbott (who's currently still in that office), and that project turned out to have been unwise, because she did very poorly, losing to Abbott by 960,952 votes. Plus she earned much criticism for running a desperation TV ad that made politics out of the wheelchair to which Abbott is permanently confined. Ouch.

She lives now in Austin where she started a non-profit, Deeds Not Words, and she's just announced a bid for Congress in the 21st House District. The 21st is a fantastic extrusion of fine-grained gerrymandering. It begins in Austin, takes in neighborhoods on the south and southwest sides of town, then runs south along the western side of Interstate 35 into San Antonio's northern neighborhoods and into Alamo Heights. It then juts out west into the Hill Country, taking in Fredericksburg and Kerrville. The district includes Bandera, Blanco, Gillespie, Kendall, Kerr, and Real counties as well as areas of Bexar, Comal, Hays, and Travis counties. The most recent updated Cook Political Report rates it "lean Republican." It used to be Lyndon Baines Johnson's seat of power.

Davis is high-profile, and she can raise money the way a dust devil raises dust. She's going up against a first-term Republican in Chip Roy, who's made himself a Washington pariah in just a year-and-a-half. In May Roy single-handedly blocked $19 billion in disaster aid (much of which would have come to Texas). He was carrying water for Twitterman who was mad because the disaster aid bill didn't include money to build more wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. "The spending bill ultimately passed, but not before Roy's delay frustrated lawmakers on both sides" (Paul J. Weber).

The grotesquely gerrymandered 21st Congressional District of Texas 

If she's going to win this district, Davis is going to have to do at least passably well in those hill-country counties where the population is sparser and the opinions run strongly to the right. Don't know if this cosmopolitan star is going to shine as brightly out there to the west. That's ranching country.

Petition to Charlotte City Council: Please Rescind the Republican National Convention

A little over a year ago, on July 16, 2018, the Charlotte City Council voted 6-5 to invite the Republicans to hold their 2020 National Convention in the city. It was a contentious as well as a narrow vote: "Council members debated whether Charlotte could host President Donald Trump without endorsing him and his administration’s controversial policies, but they ultimately decided that the potential benefits outweigh risks to the city" (Steve Harrison, Ely Portillo, and Katie Glueck).

Wonder how those six pro-invitation voters feel now after last week's Republican display at ECU.

Activists think that the Republican National Convention will give Charlotte a black eye, if not a bloody nose, tarnish it's reputation as a progressive Southern city, roil racial animus, and spark a backlash. Those activists have mounted a petition drive to induce the Charlotte City Council to rescind its invitation. "President Trump’s re-election strategy centers on stoking hatred, resentment, fear, and division. For his personal political benefit, he is determined to stir-up his most ardent supporters in a way that will invariably lead to violence and destruction in our city," the petition reads in part.

I'd call that Republican Convention from August 24 to August 27, 2020, a clear and present danger. The business community that intends to profit off all those visitors probably won't see it that way, but maybe the elected overseers will.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Erica McAdoo Withdraws, Endorses Ricky Hurtado

Recently wrote here about Erica McAdoo, running again in 2020 in House District 63.

She announced yesterday that she's withdrawing from the race and endorsing Ricky Hurtado instead.

Hurtado is the son of Hispanic immigrants, the product of North Carolina public schools, and a first-generation college graduate. "He serves on the steering committee for Alamance Achieves, an innovative education initiative in Alamance County; is Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for NC Child, a statewide child advocacy organization; is a Commissioner for MyFutureNC, a commission to advance college attainment and workforce development across North Carolina; and is a member of the Board of Directors of the United Way of North Carolina."

Is Booing Sen. Thom Tillis a 'Thing' Now with Republican Audiences?

Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

Oh Carolina! You make us so proud! You've been en-chant-ed and are rising magically into the Carolina Blue skies, like avatars.

But set those people aside. They know not how they're being used. Look instead at others who were in that room and who understand exactly what's going on, and who know how they're personally being manipulated into good little dogs, and who hope to profit from it by-and-by.

Like Senator Thom Tillis. He was there. Slightly before the rally began he bragged on Twitter that he's the "NC Honorary State Chair" for the Donald Trump reelection campaign, fulsomely welcoming the president to his state, and he tweeted a string of in-arena photos during the rally, gushing about what a great crowd it was. Afterward, he tweeted a photo taken from Marine One as he accompanied Trump back to DC. Him and Trump -- see, they're tight. You do see that, right?

When Trump did the obligatory stage introduction of Tillis on Wednesday night, there were some boos in the audience. That's become a thing, hasn't it? Republicans booing Tillis. Didn't it happen at the GOP state convention earlier this year. They don't like him because they think he's phony. Which he is.

When asked later about the chanting, Tillis defended the president and essentially threw that booing audience under the bus. “Any one of y’all that have been to a rock concert or other venues, somebody starts up, somebody else thinks . . . I mean, to be fair to the audience, they’re in a mode where they’re energized,” said Tillis. They were being idiots, in other words, like people at a rock concert -- said the man voted least likely to be seen at a rock concert.

Tillis sold his soul for Trump's approval, and he's got to own it now.

Rep. Mark Walker of the 6th Congressional District was also at the rally. He's a reverend. He says he "struggled" personally with that "Send her back!" chant, but thank the Good Lord! He wrestled and overcame the adversity of personal doubts to continue to kowtow to his president.

Dan Bishop, running for the House in the 9th District special election, was not only there. He got to speak at the podium. He stoked Twitterman's ego like a pro, evoked "crooked Hillary" (no kidding!), and pointed out that his Democratic opponent Dan McCready took money from Ilhan Omar (boo! boo! boo!).

Dan Forest was there too, the theocrat running for governor, and he got an approving shout-out from Trump. Wonder how NC House Rep. Holly Grange from Wilmington feels about that, since she announced the day after the ECU Trump rally that she was running in the Republican primary against Forest, and she came out of the gate with a launch video that proudly shows her with Donald Trump (why, did you know she "led the Pledge of Allegiance" twice for the president? -- What personal heroism!) and signs off with her declaring she's "a law-and-order, Trump-supporting conservative."

Interesting, since her reputation in Raleigh is more of a "moderate" Republican, whatever that means in 2019.

Someone said on Wednesday night that they saw Holly Grange at the Trump rally (trying to get near the stage?). I don't know if she was there, but after Trump's public embrace of Dan Forest, the propaganda expressed in the video above might be labeled extremely bad timing.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Tarheel Fantasia: The President Preaches Unity and Reconciliation

GREENVILLE, N.C. — President Donald J. Trump held a campaign rally last night where the crowd responded to his calls for unity and reconciliation with chants of “We're all one! We're all one!”

The crowd’s response to the president echoed the remarks he has aimed in recent days at white supremacists for making hateful comments about four US Congresswomen of color, particularly one of them, Congresswoman and naturalized citizen Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, setting off a controversy that led the Democrat-controlled House to vote to formally praise the president for trying to restore civility to public discourse.

The rally here on the campus of East Carolina State University made clear that the president plans to use his Christian witness for spreading the compassion of Christ and preaching national unity as a rallying cry during his 2020 campaign as he seeks to frame the election around a sense of national healing from racial animus. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

We Have Our Own Roy Moore in North Carolina

Judge Paul Newby,
a partisan Republican
Some Supreme Court justices in some Southern states swing high and swing wide. Roy Moore as chief justice of the Alabama Supremes decided he was God's gift, defied a federal court's order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments in the state's judiciary building that he placed there because God told him to and then defied the US Supreme Court over same-sex marriage. Because when you have the One True Truth, you don't have to follow the law.

He was legally removed from the Supreme Court of Alabama. He's been in a political snit ever since, running (unsuccessfully) in a US Senate special election last year. He says he'll run again in 2020. He'll run until God Almighty puts him where he knows he deserves to be, in the marble halls of the US Senate.

North Carolina Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Paul Newby is also in a snit ever since Governor Roy Cooper did not appoint him Chief Justice, appointing a black woman in Cheri Beasley instead. Now, through the hilariously inept machinations of Phil Berger and the Republican majority in the General Assembly, Newby is the last remaining Republican on the seven-member state Supreme Court, and boy, is he ever pissed.

He made a campaign speech last Saturday in which he dissed all six of his fellow justices, comparing them to the current Democratic demon-du-jour, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), especially Anita Earls who was elected to the court in last fall's campaign. "Imagine seven 'AOCs' on the state Supreme Court," Newby told the Republican crowd. "Well, folks, we got six," he said to laughs. "It's six to one."

So Newby is running against Chief Justice Cheri Beasley in next year's election. He has the One True Truth behind him, and all those brown women are not going to stop him from bringing Republican partisanship to the high court.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Trial in NC House and Senate Gerrymandering Case Underway in Raleigh

Yesterday was the first day of what is expected to be a two-week trial of Common Cause v. Lewis, the suit alleging excessive partisan gerrymandering of General Assembly seats. The trial is taking place at the Campbell School of Law in Raleigh before a three-judge panel of Paul Ridgeway from Wake County, Joseph N. Crosswhite who serves Alexander and Iredell counties, and Alma C. Hinton from Halifax.

Will Doran has the most comprehensive report (that I've seen) on yesterday's testimony and argument.

This trial is our last shot at fair House and Senate districts for the 2020 elections.

Whatever decision the three judges reach, the case will no doubt go on appeal to the NC Supreme Court.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Is Mack Paul Considering Another Run for NC Senate in District 18?

Well, he should consider it. He hasn't made any public pronouncements about running again -- at least not that we can discover -- but he would be well positioned to capitalize on his name recognition from the 2018 race.

Mack Paul had the closest loss of any Democrat running for any NC Senate seat in 2018, losing to incumbent Republican John Alexander by 2,639 votes out of 103,804 total votes cast, the highest turnout for all NC Senate races. District 18, weirdly gerrymandered into downtown Raleigh but taking in mainly northern Wake County (and the town of Wake Forest) and all of much more rural Franklin County, was considered "lean Republican" in 2018, which means that Mack Paul did exceptionally well in that election.

Mack Paul
Paul is a real estate lawyer (Columbia University School of Law), a founding partner of Morningstar Law Group, and a past chair of the Wake County Democratic Party. As Democratic Party chair in 2011, Paul was very active in helping elect progressive members of the Wake County School Board which had been taken over by extremely conservative Republicans in 2009. The Republicans had dumped the longstanding diversity policy which the newly elected Democrats began restoring.

Republican John Alexander was first elected in 2014 in Senate District 15 by a very narrow margin (50.4% v. 49.6%), won reelection with just 50.01% in 2016, got double-bunked in 2018 with another Republican (who decided to retire) into District 18, and managed to hold onto a senate seat against a strong tide running in Mack Paul's direction. With Trumpism turning to wormwood and gall in that part of North Carolina, John Alexander looks ever more ripe for the plucking in 2020.

Just heard that Christine Kushner, who won a seat on the Wake School Board in that 2011 race, will be running for this Senate seat in District 18. She'll be a strong candidate. I'm told that Kushner is "very squared away. Also can raise money."


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dan Besse Running Again for NC House in Forsyth County

Many of the Democratic rising stars who made good showings but still lost in 2018 laid the groundwork for coming out stronger, wiser, more organized, and better funded in the 2020 races ahead of us. I'm talking here specifically about the outstanding army of progressives who rattled the doors on the NC General Assembly last year and are back already for 2020.

Dan Besse, on the right
Our friend Dan Besse came within 2,000 votes of beating incumbent Republican Donny Lambeth in NC House District 75. The 75th is entirely inside Forsyth County and largely suburban. It creeps along Forsyth County’s southern border with Davidson County, from Kernersville in the east to Clemmons in the west, with a finger reaching into southwest Winston-Salem, including the Ardmore neighborhood.

Dan is an attorney, a graduate of UNC Law School, and a five-term member of the Winston-Salem city council.  He's made good (and alternative) transportation a special focus of his terms in office, including safe streets, good public transit, and a growing network of safe biking and pedestrian paths, greenways, and sidewalks. (Dan takes full advantage of those paths, greenways, and sidewalks because he's a pretty damn impressive athlete, competing in bike rides and foot races in that Forsyth County heat). He also represents Winston-Salem in leadership roles on the urban area Transportation Advisory Committee, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, and the National League of Cities. I contributed to Dan's campaign in 2018 and have again for the 2020 contest.

In his law practice, Dan has sought out cases dealing with environmental law and public health, clean energy and utilities, and fair employment, housing, and health care access for working families. He has taught classes in environmental law and policy, and in government, at colleges from N.C State University to Winston-Salem State University and Forsyth Technical Community College.

So ... no surprise he recently posted this on his Facebook page:
I focus a lot of attention on the need to change some of the most egregious failures of this Republican-led legislature: its refusal to close the health care coverage gap or protect coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions; its disrespect for our teachers and failure to pay them what they deserve or fund a good public education for every child; its outrageous attacks on voting rights, civil rights, and human rights.
But there's another Republican legislative failure that is hurting the health of our people today and jeopardizing our future: its rollbacks of clean air and water protections, its refusal to make polluters pay to clean up their messes, its baffling attacks on clean energy development, and its willful ignorance in the face of impending climate disaster.
I've spent much of my public service career working to cut pollution and protect public health and our natural environment. I understand in detail just how much damage this legislature is doing to us all now, and to the prospects for a good future for our children and grandchildren. And I understand how to go about repairing that damage and getting our state back on track as a leader in clean energy and a clean environment.

Donny Lambeth
Meanwhile, incumbent Donny Lambeth won his seat in 2012 with people suggesting he'd be a "moderate." Whatever that word meant when applied to Republican office-holders pre-Trump, it's become something of a joke now. (To Trump, a "moderate" is a limp dick.) But, really, moderate? Lambeth recently tried to wipe out Dan Besse, his 2018 election opponent, as a Winston-Salem city councilman in a "local bill" to redistrict the council seats, double-bunking Dan with a Republican member, while also incidentally punishing the four African-American women on the council. That proposed redistricting bill produced a fire storm, and Lambeth quickly withdrew it.

Even more recently Lambeth played a more obvious "moderate card" as chief sponsor of an (ultimately doomed?) Republican-lite Medicaid expansion bill that suddenly passed a Republican committee last week. The timing's everything, with the Republican majority currently thwarted in passing a vetoed budget until they cave to the governor on Medicaid expansion. That Lambeth bill passed its committee but has yet to reach the House floor, and so far the Big Boss, Mr. Berger in the Senate, has shown no affection for it. Lambeth, who always looks like the act of smiling is physically painful, of course stuck a work requirement into his legislation, because why would a "moderate Republican" pass up an opportunity to further humiliate the already working poor.

The day after the election last fall, Dan hinted on Facebook that he would run again: "This race was not the end of our efforts, but the beginning. You can look for more news over the coming month." If he ever made a formal announcement about running again in 2020, I can't find it. But he's obviously running. The post excerpted above about a new emphasis on the environment was prelude to inviting everyone to a fundraiser for the 2020 campaign.

Dan is currently very active on Facebook, has a Twitter account but doesn't use it. He needs to up his game.

He also needs a campaign manager, preferably one with experience. He needs boots on the ground, lots of them. He needs a strategy (based on data) for identifying those Republican voters who're weary of Trumpian conduct wherever it takes place.

Forsyth County was one of the most under-performing urban counties in all of North Carolina in 2018. All Democratic candidates running in all races in 2020 need to hold a private summit and figure out why and what to do about it before 2020 actually dawns.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Leslie Cohen Is Running Again in NC House District 20

NC House District 20 is a jigsaw gerrymander in New Hanover County, taking in some of Wilmington, Ogden, Porters Neck, Bayshore, Murraysville, and Castle Hayne -- many I-40 neighborhoods going into Wilmington. It's listed as "strong Republican" by the NC Free Enterprise Foundation.

Holly Grange
Republican incumbent: Holly Grange was first elected to the seat in 2016 after winning a fairly nasty Republican primary in March with another Republican woman who accused her of having a cozy relationship with Sidney Blumenthal (of Hillary Clinton fame). In August, when the Republican occupying the seat went ahead and resigned from it, Grange was appointed to fill out his term. Grange faced no Democratic opposition that fall and had her first real reelection contest in 2018 against Democratic insurgent Leslie Cohen.
Holly Grange was an engineer officer in the Army Corp of Engineers, serving in the 20th Engineer Brigade at Fort Bragg and on the 18th Airborne Corps staff. She married a general (who was the one who had some brief connection to Sidney Blumenthal). In an interview, Grange admitted that climate change is happening and that it is impacting sea-level rise, an issue of considerable concern for her district. Her viewpoint on that gets little credit within her Republican caucus, which has decreed that sea-level rise must not be talked about. She also voted to repeal the notorious HB2, which might put her on a collision course with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (see below).
Democrat Leslie Cohen moved to Wilmington from Atlanta in 2013 after their two children left the nest. She became involved in local issues when the passage of HB2 threatened the rights of their adult children. Her activism quickly spread into other issues as she became aware of the struggles of others in her community. She had earned a degree from Georgia State University, and fresh out of college, she started a printing business with her future husband Jeff. The printing business morphed into a successful commercial graphics company. The couple designed collateral advertising for Fortune 500 companies for twelve years before transitioning their business to fine art in 2002. Leslie’s paintings are in collections across the globe. The pollution of the Cape Fear River is a big issue for her as is restoring the incentives that built the film industry in North Carolina (the destruction of which by the Republican General Assembly drove the industry to other states like Georgia). She opposes off-shore drilling, and she is especially disturbed at how public education has suffered under Republican rule.
Leslie Cohen came within 5.32% of beating Holly Grange last fall, or 1,918 votes short of winning -- not too shabby for a Democratic artist in a "strong Republican" district. On that strong showing, she's decided on giving it another go in 2020.

News Flash: Holly Grange Considering a Run for Governor
See this article in the National Journal and other on-the-ground reporting in North Carolina, particularly by Colin Campbell.

If Holly Grange does indeed challenge Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in a primary for governor, won't that open the House District 20 seat a little wider -- perhaps a lot wider -- for Leslie Cohen?

We hope Holly Grange takes the plunge, not only because it will help Leslie Cohen but also because it will offer a credible alternative to a medieval Republican who thinks God wants him to be governor.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Rep. Ray Russell Supports Governor Cooper's Budget Proposal

Yesterday, Gov. Roy Cooper released his compromise state budget proposal. It includes healthcare coverage for nearly 500,000 working poor North Carolinians, a larger increase in teacher and state employee pay, more funding for school construction, additional spending for clean air and water, and restored funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

This offer from Gov. Cooper is an investment in our people and our future. We must devote resources to education, healthcare, and protecting the environment.

The proposal keeps the corporate and franchise taxes at their current low rate, and retains the General Assembly (GA) plan to increase the standard deduction on state taxes to help working families. The Governor’s plan includes $700 million for the Rainy Day Fund and $110 million for hurricane relief.

Gov. Cooper is being fiscally responsible with his compromise proposal. Under his plan the state would spend the same as the General Assembly proposed for this year, but it actually reduces spending compared to the General Assembly plan during the following year.

Some highlights of Gov. Cooper’s compromise proposal:

Local projects:
·      App State’s Wey Hall renovation funding restored.
·      Appalachian Theatre.
·      West Jefferson sign project.
·      Blowing Rock streetscape project.
·      Watauga River Paddle Trail.
·      Removal of Ward’s Mill Dam on the Watauga River.

·      Public school construction funded by an additional $500 million over the GA plan and would allow a referendum on school bonds by voters. Ashe County Schools would receive more than $11.5 million in funding ($775,000 more than the GA plan), and Watauga County Schools would get nearly $12.5 million (an additional $1.2 million over the GA proposal).
·      Smart Start would have increased funding by $10 million each year.
·      Statewide pre-K slots increased by 2 percent, phasing into 8 percent in the future.
·      Community college instructors would receive a 4 percent raise (compared to the 2 percent offered by the GA).
·      UNC system SPA employees to receive 5 percent raise (2 percent in the GA plan). UNC faculty receive a 1 percent raise.
·      Teacher pay increased by an average of 8.5 percent over two years with pay raises for all teachers (3.8 percent in GA plan).
·      Teachers with master’s degrees get higher compensation.
·      Teachers would not have to pay a fee to have a substitute teacher work for them when they take personal leave days.

State employees and retirees:
·      Retirees receive a 2 percent raise (compare to 1 percent in the GA plan).
·      Most state employees receive a 5 percent pay raise (non-certified personnel included).

Medicaid expansion:
·      Medicaid expansion would cost the state nothing while bringing healthcare to more than 500,000 North Carolinians.
·      Expansion would benefit Ashe and Watauga counties with $64 million in economic growth over two years starting in 2020. 
·      This is a life-and-death issue for some North Carolinians who can’t afford healthcare coverage.

·      Rural high-speed internet service would get a boost with a $30 million investment.
·      State agencies, including the Department of Environmental Quality, would see a restoration of $6 million in cuts from the GA budget
·      The Department of Health and Human Services would see restoration of funding cuts reflected in the GA plan. This is crucial as DHHS transitions to Managed Medicaid.
·      $800 million in funding for statewide water/sewer projects restored.

There is no good reason why all parties can’t come together and accomplish our goals. What we all want is a prosperous and secure North Carolina where our children receive the best education, our residents are healthy, and our environment is protected.