Friday, August 30, 2019

Who Produced This Campaign Video? It's Genius!

Here's M.J. Hegar's "(Re)Introduction" for her campaign for US Senate in Texas against John Cornyn ... just because I can't stop watching it and because it's the new gold standard for what candidate videos ought to accomplish -- personality over prescription. It's even better than her "Doors" introduction when she ran for Congress in 2018.

Of course, M.J. Hegar has a primary to get through to take on Cornyn (on March 3rd, Super Tuesday), and she's up against some other strong Democrats (at least seven others, at last count, with more in the wings still considering it).

Good videos don't necessarily translate to votes, but they certainly don't hurt. They can help people decide to write checks, if nothing else.

I'm told that Putnam Partners did the video, which probably means that North Carolina's own Frank Eaton had a hand in it.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Don't Do It, Jon, Or If You Do It, Do It Better

Photo: Dustin Chambers, Ossoff for Congress
Maybe you'll recall Georgia insurgent Democrat Jon Ossoff who ran the most expensive US House election ever (up to that time) for the 6th Congressional District seat in 2017. We gave him space here in March 2017. It was a special election for a vacant seat and the first of what would become a series of special elections in which Democrats won what should have been very Red seats. But Ossoff ended up losing to Republican Karen Handel by a fairly narrow margin. Karen Handel went on to lose her so recently gained seat to Democrat Lucy McBath in November 2018.

Maybe there was a lesson in that: Lucy McBath was a bold progressive, making gun control her signal issue. Jon Ossoff had, by contrast, run a "Republican lite" campaign in 2017. Said a decidedly more-progressive-observer-than-Ossoff, “He didn’t have a core progressive message and that ultimately is why he lost. The Democratic party could spend $100m and he would still lose. Because he didn’t stand for anything."

Democrats have empty suits the same as Republicans.

Now news reaches us this morning that Ossoff is seriously considering a run for the Georgia Senate seat that Johnny Isakson is resigning from.

Oof. What went wrong in 2017 for Ossoff might just as likely go wrong in 2020, but on a bigger scale.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On Being a Partisan Democrat in the Age of Bernie

The Times of Israel
I was just reading about the plight of Maine Senator Susan Collins, running for her 5th term in the US Senate while dragging the heavy steamer-trunk baggage of her vote putting party-boy Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. I actually found myself feeling sympathy for her. I feel sympathy because she's a good person saddled with loyalty to her party (loyalty to the point of saying she'd still again vote for Mitch McConnell as her Majority Leader). 

I take some heat for loyalty to my party. I've been called "just another partisan Democrat" by conservatives, and that's the absolute truth. But I'm not a partisan hack. I break with the leaders when breaking's called for, like over principle -- I still have some -- or over political realities. Obama pissed me off more times that I can now remember, and there was plenty of evidence of that on this site. Obama was wrong -- or weak -- as Obamacare got hammered out. He was right and strong about many other things. 

I'm loyal to my party but not to the extreme of a Susan Collins, not to the point of putting a tookus lingus like McConnell in charge of the Senate or an arrogant prick like Kavanaugh on the Supremes.  

But because I purportedly act on principle at least some of the time, my failure to do it all the time -- that's where I take the most heat, especially from activists who declare "It's Bernie or Bust!" Because I voted for Bernie in the 2016 primaries and generally approve of his ideas, some of my closest friends assume that I should be supporting him for president in 2020 -- I'm not, nor am I yet supporting anyone. 2016 was then. This is now. New actors, new scenery, new plot.

I'm accosted daily that Biden -- not to mention every other Democratic presidential candidate whose name isn't Bernard Sanders -- is, and has always been, a conservative dupe about radical change, like every "moderate" who's fooled about what "moderation" really amounts to -- shoring up a corrupt status quo. Biden's a resister of real change because he's as indebted to the corporate masters as any Republican hack -- just like Hillary was -- which makes Joe Biden just another part of the problem not the solution. I'm warned daily that if the nominee is Biden, none of the Bernie supporters will follow that parade, nor will "the young people," and Trump will surely be reelected. 

About me, truth is if Biden is the nominee, I'll be working for him as hard as I ever worked for Hillary, or for Obama before her, because I'm a loyal Democrat (who incidentally believes that a broken clock would be better in the White House that what we have now, who isn't even right twice a day).

Loyalty means taking the not-pure on faith as something incrementally better than what we have. I have sympathy for those demanding purity of purpose as well as purity of personal history -- I've been there. I was young. I wouldn't compromise. I was an absolutist with fire in my eye. If any politician ever said anything wrong ever in his life, it meant I could hold it against him for the rest of his life.

I ain't quite like that any longer.

I'm not big on conspiracy theories, and I'm not big on purity. Clearly, some of the people running for president right now under the Democratic label are unacceptable to me, but they're not threats to anyone, really (unless national polling and big assumptions turn out to be totally and palm-facedly wrong). Any of the top current five or six, I could support and work for, though I'll be a lot more rattled and nervous if it's Biden.

He's too old, and now his fumbles with language seem like the fumbles of old age and advancing superannuation. He looks obsolete, especially when he starts defending Obamacare. Who wants to hear that? Not in an age of other, more interesting health-care proposals.

Biden's a good man (just like Susan Collins is a good woman). I've always liked him, his working-class pimples and warts, his straight-arm counter-punches, even when some of them go wide. He's got a good heart, and I care about heart.

But Generations Y and Z don’t really know him that way. They were teenagers, or younger, when he was vice president -- which just makes him some vague appendage to the big man Obama, about whom they remember much more (and virtually none of it negatively, like I do).

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Four Women To Watch in North Carolina in 2020

This announcement appeared on Twitter yesterday:

Lillian's List candidates in North Carolina get significant financial support and a boost from a network of activists and opinion-shapers across the state.

I've written here about Leslie Cohen back in July, because she's running again in 2020 in the House district currently occupied by Republican Holly Grange, who at the time of that writing was only considering a campaign for the Republican nomination for governor. Grange is now in that race against Dan Forest, leaving her House District 20 in Wilmington an open seat. Cohen has an excellent shot at that.

I wrote about Julie Mayfield in June. She had announced for the Senate District 49 that is being left open by incumbent Democrat Terry Van Duyn's decision to seek election as lieutenant governor. Mayfield has the makings of a Democratic star. She's currently serving on the Asheville City Council and is an environmental lawyer deeply invested in MountainTrue, an advocacy group that stretches through several North Carolina mountain counties.

Jessica Holmes is new to me. She's running for Labor Commissioner, a seat being left open by the retirement of Republican Cheri Berry. Holmes is well qualified to take on that department. She was a first generation college student who graduated from UNC's law school and became a labor and employment law attorney. She was elected to the Wake County Commission in 2014 as the youngest member ever and is now serving in her second term. After reelection she was chosen by her fellow commissioners as chair of the county commission. You can read much more about her accomplishments on her website.

Christine Kushner is also new to me, although I inadvertently stumbled onto her when I wrote encouraging Mack Paul, the almost-successful Democratic candidate in 2018 for the NC Senate District 18, to try again in 2020. What I didn't know at the time, but quickly found out, was that Mack Paul was endorsing Christine Kushner for that seat and an old friend of ours was running her campaign. Kushner has been a popular member of the Wake County Board of Education since 2011. She was a Moorhead Scholar at Chapel Hill, graduating with a degree in journalism (which she pursued professionally for a while) and political science. She went on to earn a master's degree at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton and has spent many years working and advising on health care policy, grants management, and public health programs throughout North Carolina. Her website.

Good first crop of Lillian List endorsees -- accomplished and strong women with every prospect of helping make 2020 a Blue Wave.

Monday, August 26, 2019

OMG, BMDs in GA and NC Too! WTF?

Damon Circosta,
new chair of the NC SBE

The Election Systems and Software (ESandS) balloting machinery that Damon Circosta declared last Friday is safe enough for him, and then voted to certify for use in North Carolina counties in 2020 -- those machines are also known in the industry as BMDs, "ballot-marking devices." After a voter touches his choices on a display screen, the machine produces a piece of paper with barcodes representing those choices along with a printed list of what those barcodes purport to mean -- the names of candidates.

The problem is that there's no way to verify that indeed the barcode actually matches the printed list.

In the Age of Trump, verification is all.

Chair of the SBOE Damon Circosta knows why he voted the way he voted. I don't. Apparently, he had ulterior motives that I don't fully understand -- something to do with what might happen in the General Assembly if certain vendors are denied their business interests in North Carolina. Maybe that's a legitimate concern. I don't know. But I've never thought it a compelling argument to worry about what other people might do if I do the right thing.

Here's where North Carolina is today following those votes last Friday: We're now in the same bad place as Georgia. On August 15, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg banned Georgia’s current untrustworthy touchscreen voting machines. You may recall the huge uproar following the close 2018 election for Georgia governor between Ga. Sec'ty of St. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. In Georgia, the Secretary of State runs the election machinery, maintains the voter rolls, and tallies the vote. Brian Kemp held onto that power until the day after last November's election, when he resigned the office. The voting in Georgia was done on very hackable touchscreen machines, the ones Judge Tottenberg ruled out on August 15, not that anyone has proven that hacking took place in the 2018 Georgia governor race. What did take place and was ultimately worse perhaps was the disenfranchisement of black voters: "3,000 people were wrongly flagged by the state as being ineligible to vote, and 53,000 voter registrations were delayed by Kemp's office without adequately notifying the applicants" (Wikipedia).

(The General Assembly of North Carolina had already passed legislation banning touchscreen machines that produce no paper record, making their use impossible in 2020. The ESandS BMD's, with their printed barcodes, are now certified as legit replacements.)

And guess what -- Judge Tottenberg's ruling came in Georgia coincidentally on the heels of the new Republican Secretary of State's announced intent to purchase BMDs for use in Georgia in 2020 (some or most from ESandS?). That decision is causing a very similar outcry down there among balloting watchdogs and experts. For example, Richard DeMillo (the Charlotte B. and Roger C. Warren Professor of Computing, former dean of the College of Computing and Director of the Center for Information Security Research at Georgia Tech and previously Chief Technology Officer at Hewlett-Packard) warned yesterday in the Atlanta Constitution:
History is poised to repeat itself. There is a growing consensus among experts that the BMDs slated to replace the current system have all the cyber vulnerabilities of the old system plus some appalling new wrinkles like forcing voters to cast bar-coded ballots that are unreadable by human beings. The lone cybersecurity expert on the governor’s own election security task force strongly urged the legislature to reject BMDs. Experts from the U.S. National Academy of Science (NAS), Verified Voting Foundation, the National Election Defense Coalition, Freedom Works, Common Cause, and many others, agreed and wrote letters urging rejection of BMDs. Conservative Republicans like national security expert Tony Shaffer joined Libertarians, Democrats, and Independents in condemning the use of BMDs.
Those same objections to BMDs were voiced quite clearly last Friday in North Carolina too, and Damon Circosta supposedly heard them quite clearly before he voted to ignore the warnings. He knows best why all that testimony meant exactly zero to him, and so far he has failed to tell us why.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

So What's Damon Circosta's Deal?

Foreign intrusions into the 2016 elections have been proven. I'm not just talking Facebook manipulation and Wikileaks. Also proven: Russian hackers attempted penetration into the actual voting machinery of 21 states in 2016 -- no kidding! -- and although we were told that none of those hacks actually gained access to the ability to change vote tallies, those worms burrowed deep into the heart of our cabbage.

For one example, "In 2016, the Illinois Board of Elections acknowledged that voter data had been breached. Hackers were inside the system for several weeks and were downloading data when they were caught, though they did not alter any files."

So relax, the hack wasn't successful. That's what we were told back early in 2018. We're told a lot of things.

In this current national reality of greatest insecurity, there's only one explanation I can think of (but see below) for Republican officials' refusing to take steps to increase the security of our balloting systems: They welcome an intrusion that helps their side win. They must assume that any hack by the current crop of foreign computer malefactors would be in the greater GOP's favor, while not also considering for a moment that there's more than one nation of hacker nerds wanting to play havoc with us. Republicans have something to gain -- they think -- from insecure voting systems. They're playing the odds in a very dangerous game.

Do you have another credible, logical explanation for why two Republican members of the NC State Board of Elections (SBOE) -- David Black and Ken Raymond -- would vote yesterday afternoon against requiring vendors to guarantee their systems can be audited -- audited first, and visually, by the voter on a paper ballot and then by the Elections Board counting machinery? Why would two Republicans on that very Elections Board want to allow systems that are 100% unauditable? At a time when computers and bar codes manage our lives and clever black hats know how to penetrate via Internet any computer on the planet and there make mischief -- why wouldn't Republican guardians of the public trust want to increase trust?

I don't want to think of Republicans as stupid -- which, let's face it, is actually another credible explanation for the David and Raymond votes yesterday. I know they're not stupid. Therefore, they must have corrupt intent.

But why did Democrat Damon Circosta lead the "no" vote?

Damon Circosta
Why would the newly appointed Chair of the SBOE, a kind of folk hero among left-leaning non-profits and do-gooders everywhere, on his very first action after being appointed by Governor Roy Cooper, why would he vote against demanding greater accountability from voting machine vendors?

Carolina Public Press (CPP) reported:
After the meeting, a reporter asked Circosta if he agreed with the security concerns. 
“I disagree,” Circosta said. “I fundamentally disagree.” 
Members of the board were asked to identify the information and experts they used to come to their decisions. CPP asked Circosta for references to the research he used to form his decision. He did not respond, but instead provided, through the board’s press secretary, links to the Davie and Transylvania county statements advocating that system certifications not be changed.
I listened in on that SBOE meeting yesterday. I heard every word that Damon Circosta uttered leading up to the vote when he suddenly went against Stella Anderson's well publicized motion. He said he had been contacted by election board officials in different counties -- well, Transylvania and Davie, to be precise -- and otherwise he offered no rebuttal evidence against the expert testimony presented in Stella Anderson's initiative. Nor did he address the unanimous urging of public speakers -- 20 of them -- some of them also expert in voting machine technology as well as representatives from the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, DemocracyNC, and other public advocacy groups that are already discussing immediate litigation.

(The only person who spoke against Anderson's motion was the rep of the very voting machine vendor that can't certify an audit of their machines -- Election Systems and Software (ESandS). That company stands to make millions selling those machines in North Carolina, because Circosta also voted, a little later in the meeting and along with the two Republicans again, to certify ESandS as a legit vendor. The state's 100 county boards of election can choose to buy those 100% unauditable electronic machines, with absolutely no worries.)

Stupid, in this case, does immediately come to mind. And images of surfer dudes.

I don't think Damon Circosta is stupid. Some on social media are calling him a "sell-out," which implies he has something to gain. I don't believe that either. So I'm flummoxed. Maybe he just wants to be seen as completely independent, which in this case also looks very much like being completely untethered to reality.

Governor Roy Cooper is already getting blamed for this latest malfunction of democracy. Brad Friedman on Pacifica Radio sarcastically thanked North Carolina's governor for appointing such a brilliant new chair to the SBOE. (Here's the audio -- bashing of Roy Cooper for appointing Damon Circosta occurs soon after minute 22.)

Cooper has been singularly unlucky in the chairs he's appointed to the SBOE. His first pick, Andy Penry, had to resign for posting partisan shit on social media. His second, Josh Malcolm, was unjustifiably hounded by Republicans for having private conversations with county elections officials in the notorious Bladen County ballot fraud case -- hounded until the governor lost confidence in him and Malcolm voluntarily withdrew. (Malcolm was the best chair -- maybe ever -- and should have been made chair again instead of Damon Circosta, IMO.) Malcolm was followed by Bob Cordle of Welsh Cow fame.

Now we have an SBOE Chair of mysterious and indecipherable certitude, while North Carolina voters in counties where Election Systems and Software reigns can have no trust in the outcome.

Friday, August 23, 2019

BREAKING: Damon Circosta Votes With the Republicans on Ballot Security

Good Lord.

A vote of 3-2 against Stella Anderson's first motion to change the certification demands for electronic voting equipment.

Did Governor Cooper know that Damon Circosta was going to throw a clod in the churn over the certifying of voting equipment that many people can't and won't trust?

The Worst Member of the NC House

Larry Pittman
Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus County represents District 83 in the NC House. He first got his seat by appointment late in 2011 and then won election in 2012 and has easily won again every general election since then. He had his first genuine threat to reelection in 2018 in the candidacy of Democrat Gail Young, who came within 1,559 votes of beating Pittman (Pittman 14,798 v. 13,240 Young).

Gail Young has already declared that she's going after Pittman's job again in 2020.

The 83rd House District is mainly in central Cabarrus County (Kannapolis and Concord) but also extends northward into southern Rowan County. The average population of NC House districts is mandated at 79,462; according to Ballotpedia, District 83 had 78,419 citizens as of the 2010 Census, yet only 28,038 of those residents opted to vote in the District 83 race in 2018 -- which suggests that Gail Young has plenty of opportunity there for expansion.

Gail Young
For comparison, in the House District 93 race -- Dem Ray Russell v. Repub Jonathan Jordan -- some 35,983 votes were cast out of basically the same size population base as District 83 (which means that in District 93, almost 8,000 more votes were cast than in District 83). In the District 37 House race in Wake County -- Dem Sydney Batch v. Repub John Adcock -- some 45,680 votes were cast, a whopping 17,642 more votes than in District 83. Clearly, District 83 was underperforming in 2018 something awful, even though it had a credible Democratic candidate running for the first time.

If my voter registration numbers are correct for District 83, the problem for Gail Young is not just general underperformance by all voters but particular underperformance by voters registered as Democrats:

Partisan Registration in NC House District 83
If there is a Republican lean among registered Ds in that district, there may also be a "Larry Pittman fatigue" factor in the 83rd very similar to the Trump fatigue phenomenon, though the turnout by Trump enthusiasts in 2020 isn't expected to slump noticeably. If Trump voters remain enthusiastic, a Democratic win in districts like the 83rd will still be very difficult. I hope the Gail Young campaign is raising money and identifying those voters who are disaffected with Trump -- no matter how they're registered -- and making plans to door-knock or call them. It's going to take large troops of boots-on-the-ground for a Democrat to win in many rural districts in the next presidential year.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Who Got the NCGA Office That Rep. Ray Russell Was Evicted From?

That would be Rep. Jake Johnson, the newest (and now youngest) member of the NC House, appointed at the end of July to finish out the term of Rep. Cody Henson (previously the youngest member). Henson resigned his seat after admitting in court to cyber-stalking his estranged wife.

Jake Johnson is a pet of the Republican establishment, and we can see why. He's a rare bird, a talented millenial who's all in for the conservative brand. Johnson checks all the boxes: acidly pro-life, pugnaciously pro-NRA, and piously pro-family.

He's also politically accomplished: Ran for county commish of Polk County at the age of 19, lost but came back in two years to run again and win (highest vote-getter among commish candidates). It wasn't long before his fellow commissioners voted him chairman of the board, making him officially in Republican circles A Force To Be Reckoned With. He was the obvious choice to replace the other conservative millenial, the out of control Cody Henson, in the NC House -- that cow palace on Jones Street in Raleigh where the newest Republican wunderkind was going to need an office, which -- turned out -- was just coincidentally already occupied by Rep. Ray Russell, who also just coincidentally needed punishment for being a too uppity freshman legislator.

Jake Johnson claimed that he went to college (the year after he lost that first race for co commish) to get a degree in business administration but that Barack Obama in the White House was the straw that broke his business back. He switched to political science out of revenge for Obama and became an avowed partisan warrior against what America was becoming under a president who might have been -- probably was -- born in Kenya. I found on-line where he was scheduled to speak to the Asheville Tea Party back last January on the "steps we are going to have to take to get younger people into conservative politics." (I wish I'd heard that rap!)

Here's the passage in Johnson's biography that's almost forgotten: He says he served as "field director" for the successful congressional campaign of Mark Harris. That would be the Reverend Mark Harris, whose winning campaign against Democrat Dan McCready in November of 2018 was called back to be redone because of massive ballot fraud committed -- wait for it -- in the field operation.

Question: Did Jake Johnson know McCrae Dowless? Did he as Field Director know what McCrae Dowless was up to? And does his experience on the Mark Harris campaign still deserve prominent mention in his resume?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

This Is Not the Texas I Grew Up In

As a son of the Texas Panhandle, I take more than passing interest in what looks increasingly like a resurgence of Democratic prospects back there for 2020 -- not in the actual Panhandle of Texas, which is redder than a baboon's ass, but in the urban centers and their suburbs where most of the voters live.

Take the 22nd Congressional District of Texas, the district that Tom Delay used to represent and is now a bizarre gerrymander to the south and west of the beltline expressway around Houston known as Texas 8.

District 22 contains most of Pearland and Sugarland and all of Rosenberg. I-69 cuts through the heart of it, linking Houston to its southwest burgeoning suburbs. District 22 used to be solid Republican country. (Tom DeLay was its maester for many years before he succumbed to the White Walkers.) But with the sudden retirement of its incumbent Republican five-term Rep Pete Olson back near the end of July, the Cook Political Report moved the district to tossup. (Rep. Olson is one of several Texas Republican congressmen who has chosen early retirement over the headwinds his political heavy-weather radar sees building in the atmosphere.)

Multiculturalism: The Texas Threat to Everything Dan Forest* Holds Sacred
The Democrat already in the Texas-22 race -- he also ran in 2018, and snuck up on Pete Olson in a heartstopping insurgency, losing by a comfortable-enough 14,500 vote margin to Olson (47% to 51%), but considering his heritage and brown pigmentation, the 138,153 votes that Sri Preston Kulkarni earned in 2018 were pretty damn impressive. He promises to do better in 2020, and the Cook Political Report obviously agrees.

Sri Preston Kulkarni
Who is Sri Preston Kulkarni? He's the son of an Indian immigrant father -- "Sri" being a Hindu honorific -- and a mother -- Margaret Preston -- who's a direct descendant of Sam Houston hisownself. No kidding! A son of a brown immigrant wearing a Hindu headlight for a name gets 47% of the vote in red Texas, not only because Sri Preston Kulkarni also carries a direct bloodline to the Texas Revolution but because Sri Kulkarni was a gawd-damn accomplished foreign service officer with 14 years of experience and a speaker of English, Spanish, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian, and Mandarin Chinese.

Incidentally, Texas-22 has evolved into a kind of multicultural haven, and is still evolving. "The district is 26 percent Hispanic, 19 percent Asian and 12 percent black, and 43 percent of adults hold college degrees, among the highest in the state" (David Wasserman, Cook Political Report). Not good soil any more for Trumpist seeds. More fertile for a candidate like Sri Preston Kulkarni. Take a look at his website -- Kulkarni for Congress.

The Texas-22 goes on my list of most avidly watched flippable districts in the #2020BlueWave.

*Dan Forest is the Christian Right Republican frontrunner candidate for Governor in 2020. He has a Republican primary first (in March 2020) against moderate Republican NC House Rep. Holly Grange. He has made an issue of "multiculturalism," claiming it means the death of the country he wants to run. He's not wrong about that.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Is Marcia Morgan Considering Another Race Against Ted Davis in NCHouse District 19?

Marcia Morgan
NC House District 19 includes much of south Wilmington and all of Fort Fisher, Kure Beach, Carolina Beach, and Wrightsville Beach. The incumbent Republican Ted Davis Jr. had been a New Hanover County commissioner until he was appointed to the seat in 2012. At the time of his appointment, Ted Davis was most famous to us for voting to turn down a grant of $8,899 from the North Carolina state government for "family planning" supplies and services, particularly contraceptives for young women who wanted or needed them. Ted Davis said at the time, "If these young women are being responsible and didn't have the sex to begin with, we wouldn't have this problem to begin with."

That pretty much tells you everything you really need to know about not-quite-extinct dinosaurs.

Retired Army Colonel Marcia Morgan ran against Ted Davis in 2018 and came within 883 votes of beating Davis. I profiled her on this site in January 2018.

She would seem to be a natural pick to try again (though I confess I haven't met her and don't know what sort of campaign she ran ... but I tend to trust those 2018 numbers, since Ted Davis had not previously had Democratic opposition when he ran for reelection).

Morgan's Twitter account has lain idle since the election last November until a single tweet on August 7:

Ted Davis hasn't had time to review HB 86 to reduce gun violence, yet they have wasted legislators' time and taxpayers' money by calling sessions for 25 days that last for only 20 minutes to discuss trivial issues. What did they do the other hours in those days? #MakeTimeTed
8:31 AM · Aug 7, 2019Twitter Web App

If she's beginning to bestir herself as a political tweeter, might an election announcement for 2020 be far behind?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

I Never Pay Attention to Polls

I took a vow approximately 45 quad-shot skinny lattes ago not to pay attention give any actual credence to polling about any election that is more than a year away hasn't happened yet, but okay I get weak sometimes, and this new Fox News poll has caught my attention and not only because it's FOX NEWS, though that's a lot of it.

It's a poll testing potential general-election matchups for Twitterman. He trails Joe Biden by 12 percentage points (50% to 38%), Sen. Bernie Sanders by nine points (48% to 39%), Sen. Elizabeth Warren by seven (46% to 39%), and Sen. Kamala D. Harris by six (45 to 39). Trump's fat ass can't crack 40% against anybody.

But there's something else interesting: Although he gets 38 to 39% in all four matchups, his approval rating is actually 43%. "That means roughly 4 percent of registered voters say they approve of Trump but they’re not ready to vote for him" (Aaron Blake).

Some are calling it "Trump fatigue." People even slightly to the left of Louie Gohmert worry that people won't stay woke to all the outrages -- because when everything's an outrage, there is no outrage -- and hence will forget to vote next November. I don't think that's a legitimate worry.

The Fox News poll suggests that Trump fatigue may be working more directly on the minimum wage waitress who thought she'd "give Trump a chance" back in 2016. How did that work out for her? Maybe she doesn't actually hate immigrants and brown people, and how has the constant romper room hissy fits by the toddler in the White House actually improved her situation?

Everyone's not as dumb as Trump thinks we are.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

When Political Billboards Get Too Clever By Half

NC State Senator Erica D. Smith (Dist. 3 in the lowlands), one of at least three declared Democratic candidates who'll be in the 2020 primary to take on incumbent Republican US Senator Thom Tillis, is trying to make campaign hay ($$) out of this billboard that recently went up in Raleigh.

It's a curious message, psychologically elevating Smith to frontrunner status when she is a distant challenger to frontrunner Cal Cunningham, who has raised almost 3-quarters of a mil to her $85,000. Turns out that this billboard -- and several others just like it that are popping up in other states -- is a psychological ploy to give a boost to a Democratic candidate that the Republicans would prefer to run against.

According to Nathan L. Gonzales in Roll Call, "Smith was eager to use the billboard as evidence that she’s the most feared challenger to Republican incumbent Thom Tillis .... But Republicans were targeting Smith because they believe she’s the weaker potential general election foe, not because they’re afraid of her." Ouch.

And she took the bait, bragging about her fearsomeness on her Twitter feed.

'Course, when Cal Cunningham wins the primary, they'll use that same billboard message against him. Because that's as far as their imagination goes.

Big Trouble for Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates

Short, unkind story
The courts recently threw out Republican-drawn maps for the Virginia House of Delegates. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, with the Republican leaders in the Virginia House arguing vociferously that they had not racially gerrymandered the maps. Courts said, yes you did, and now you'll have new maps drawn by a special master. (The Virginia Senate maps were not part of the litigation.)

Virginia Democrats were already within two seats of controlling both the House and the Senate. They made huge gains in the last elections in 2017, and they intend to take both houses in the elections of  2019. Yeah, Virginia is for lovers.

Kirk Cox,
Speaker of the Virginia
House of Delegates
One of those Republican legislative leaders who went to the Supremes for reprieve, and who was going to be most devastated by remapping, happened to be Kirk Cox, the speaker of the House, "the most powerful Republican in Virginia" (WashPost). Cox's 66th House District suddenly went from R+25.5 to D+6.5. His former District had been 76 percent white. Now it's 58 percent, with 34 percent black citizens. Cox has 30,000 new constituents he doesn't know.

Good reading about Kirk Cox in the WashPost. Interesting politician, and a strong one. He's "a reserved Christian conservative steeped in the intricacies of policy and parliamentary procedure. He supports gun rights and opposes abortion. But he has mostly tried to keep a lid on social legislation that has caused problems for his party, most notably in 2012, with an uproar over a bill that would have required most women seeking an abortion to first undergo a vaginal ultrasound. He has had certain hot-button bills — from conservatives and liberals alike — killed in committees."

Not only moderate but courageous at times, and personable. He spent his working life as a teacher of social studies in middle schools. He taught -- successfully and with good vibes -- many African-American children of parents and aunts and uncles and cousins of some of those 30,000 new constituents. He relates well. According to Laura Vozella, he's showing up directly in the black neighborhoods he's now inherited, talking directly to black voters, and winning black votes. “It’s a challenge,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity. You have to look at it that way ... I always say, ‘I’d like to earn your vote.’ ”

Sheila Bynum-Coleman
The Democratic Challenger
Sheila Bynum-Coleman is a young (47) African-American woman who almost won a seat in the Virginia House in 2017. She came within 815 votes of beating a Republican incumbent in a different district (against whom she had also run in 2015 and got trounced). She's been remapped for 2019 into Cox's district, and she's coming on strong.

"Bynum-Coleman is a building contractor." I had to read that line twice, and then I went looking. She's indeed listed on the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation as a "single-family residential contractor" and as a member of the Virginia State Licensing Board for Contractors. That's pretty powerful in its own right. She's got to be tactically smart and knows what she's doing.

She has a political science degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and tells an impassioned personal story -- "A son with a learning disability. A daughter who was shot. A cousin rejected by a landlord because she is married to another woman .... ‘We don’t rent to y’all,’ she says her cousin was told. 'Right here in Richmond, Virginia. How is that possible in 2019?' ”

Crystal Balling
If hardcore Trumpists in Cox's district are as insane about moderate Republicans as they are in North Carolina, and consequently have no enthusiasm for coming out to vote on November 5 for Cox...

And if the strong blue wave is still rolling in Virginia in 2019 like it was in 2017...

Then the remapping of Cox's District 66 will have been the fatal blow and the last straw.

But if Republican hardliners hang with him, and if the fabled blue wave of 2017 has fizzled in 2019, Cox can survive on his deep community commitments and his personality.

Cox is not the only Republican incumbent in both House and Senate who has strong Democratic challengers. Even if Cox can hold onto his seat, he may not hold onto the speakership.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Nine BIG Questions for NC House Speaker Tim Moore

Tim Moore

From ProgressNC:

As Republican leaders continue to stall and obstruct on their state budget standoff with Governor Roy Cooper, House Speaker Tim Moore has been hard to track down. Here are a number of questions we have for Moore, should he ever poke his head out to speak to voters on the budget:
1. Is it true that Gov. Cooper sent you a compromise budget proposal over a month ago that Republicans have refused to meet with the governor to discuss? 
2. 51 out of 55 House Democrats have promised to sustain Gov. Cooper’s budget veto. Even if all four of the remaining Democrats sided with the Republicans, you still don’t have enough votes to override the veto. Why are you still trying to override the veto if there’s no way for you to get enough votes to do so? 
3. It seems like Republicans have two options here: You can override Gov. Cooper’s budget veto, which you don’t have enough votes to do, or you can negotiate with Democratic leaders for a budget they can support, which you’re not doing. Why are you continuing to stall and obstruct? 
4. How long are you prepared to hold out before admitting you don’t have the votes and finally sitting down to negotiate with Democrats for a budget that works for everyone?

5. School is going to start in a few weeks for most students in North Carolina. School districts are being forced to set their fall budgets with no idea how much money they’ll be getting from the state. Teachers are being forced to buy classroom supplies without the pay raises they were promised. Why are you once again making things harder for our schools? 
6. Over 600,000 North Carolina would gain affordable health care access from Medicaid expansion. But every year we wait, there are an estimated 1,000 unnecessary deaths because people can’t afford life-saving treatment. How many people have to die before Republicans put people over politics and expand Medicaid? 
7. Tens of thousands of educators marched in Raleigh on May 1 with five simple requests for lawmakers. The Republican budget doesn’t meet any of them. How can you expect teachers to support you if you won’t even listen to them? 
8. When you adjust for inflation and enrollment, teacher pay and classroom funding is down compared to a decade ago. Politicians had to make a lot of hard budget decisions during the recession, but the recession is over. Why are Republicans forcing our schools to experience a permanent recession by refusing to restore education funding? 
9. You’ve described Medicaid expansion as “Medicaid for All” when you know full well that Medicaid expansion would bring healthcare only to people making less than 138% of the federal poverty level. How can you be trusted with your budget claims when your description of Medicaid expansion is so grossly exaggerated?

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Only TV I'm Watching Is Candidate Propaganda

John Hickenlooper must be in a quandary (a quandary, incidentally, is an off-brand, 3-wheeled vehicle that tends to follow ruts). His campaign for president is going nowhere. People have been screaming at him to run for US Senate instead, because Republican incumbent Cory Gardner is ripe for the picking. Last Monday in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Hickenlooper signaled he's open to a proposition: "Hickenlooper Cracks Door Open To Challenging Cory Gardner."

Maybe Charles Schumer, who controls a whole bunch of bundled money earmarked for US Senate races, is blowing in his ear. Plus Hickenlooper's own internal polling, according to a leak in Politico, shows him pulling 60% of the vote in any primary. He was a popular governor (for reasons I'm not going to research, so don't even think of asking), and all signs now point to a Senate race. Au revoir, White House, and Godspeed!

But now comes the barrage of a new reality -- the "buzz saw" Hickenlooper faces from Democrats already running in the Senate primary. WashPost's headline on that topic three days ago delivered a double-ouch: "Hickenlooper's possible retreat to Senate race in Colorado could be rocky." A rocky retreat. Those people know how to draw blood! (The Colorado Senate race primary will flame out on Super Tuesday, March 3rd, on the same day that North Carolina will also be fulminating -- Thom Tillis's showdown with Republican challenger Tucker Garland and maybe Holly Grange's challenge to Republican frontrunner Dan Forest for the governship slot.)

Back last January, we wrote here -- waaaay in advance of anything concrete developing in the Senate race and when all kinds of people were getting mentioned as formidable candidates, some of whom had no intention whatsoever of running -- a list of potential Dem primary contenders, and Hickenlooper was at the top of it, along with Earl Perlmutter, Crisanta Duran, and Mike Johnston.

By May there were fully 10 declared candidates listed by, with several more rumored to be considering it. Mike Johnston was the only name from our January speculation to survive late winter/early spring. Here are the 10 from mid-May:
Climate activist Diana Bray
Economist Ellen Burnes
Former state Sen. Mike Johnston (scroll down)
Community organizer Lorena Garcia
Former House Majority Leader Alice Madden
Navy veteran Keith Pottratz
Former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff
Professor Stephany Rose Spaulding
Former U.S. Attorney John Walsh
Scientist Trish Zornio
So I, being damn Dem curious, went looking at the crop. Politico said that Mike Johnston already has $2.6 million cash on hand, followed by former ambassador Dan Baer with $1 million. John Walsh and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff have war chests in the high-six figures. "They’ve already carved out endorsements and strategies to guide them over the coming months, whether Hickenlooper runs or not."

Andrew Romanoff hasn't made a video (at least, I can't find one) but I looked at Mike Johnston's, which proved to be a disappointing and static talking-head. Someone with over two-and-a-half mil ought to have a more professional production. I looked back at what we found out about him last January, and it's clear -- despite the time and effort put into that video -- he'll be a formidable challenger to Hickenlooper, probably aiming for similar or the same moderate voters:

I looked into money-chase runner-up Dan Baer and found a very accomplished production that tells a candidate's story well:

Dan Baer would be the first openly gay US Senator. In Colorado it could happen. Baer's career experience -- well documented in the video -- would make him strong on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a chair Cory Gardner already occupies. Footnote: Baer had been all-in for the 7th Colorado Congressional seat early in 2018. He got in early because the incumbent Democratic Rep Earl Perlmutter said he was going to quit the House and run for governor, and Baer raised a lot of money quickly. But in October 2017, Perlmutter suddenly reversed course and said he had decided to stay put in the House. In deference, Baer suspended his campaign that same month and let Perlmutter keep it. Now he's back for something bigger, and he looks pretty well put together.

I looked at John Walsh too, a former prosecutor who seems older than either Johnston or Baer above:

The Walsh production tells a story, a little ham-handedly at times, but he might be a contender too.

Alice Madden looks strongest among the many women running, if video presence is actually any tell. She's at least an experienced, tough office-holder who knows what a campaign has got to do, and I instantly liked her personality: She says, "From 'you can't do it' to 'it can't be done, I've heard it all and overcome worse." If Colorado women united behind her, she could beat all the men:

Climate activist Diana Bray's video is excellently done, tells a story of imminent hazard, but I don't see any mention of her in Colorado media to suggest she has a shot:

Friday, August 09, 2019

J.D. Scholten Taking on Iowa's Steve King Again in 2020

Steve King
You might think that because Republican representative Steve King, from Iowa's 4th Congressional District, has been ostracized by the Republican caucus in Washington for his outspoken racism, you'd think that the voters of the 4th District might want to replace him with someone who's welcomed in the club house and who can do good things for his district. Those voters will have the chance -- again -- next year with the Democrat J.D. Scholten, a former professional baseball player who ran against King in 2018 and came within 3.4% of beating him.

The Iowa 4th is heavily Republican, which is why a toxic spill like Steve King has been reelected over and over. There are some 70,000 more Republicans than Democrats in the district, but Scholten only lost to King in 2018 by 10,430 votes. Now, that's some margin-cutting!

After a career playing professional baseball in Canada for the Saskatoon Legends, in Sioux City for the Explorers, and finally in Europe, Scholten changed careers to work as a litigation para-legal specializing in intellectual property. For the 2018 campaign against King, Scholten travelled to every one of the 39 counties in the 4th district at least three times, putting over 35,000 miles on his personal vehicle and an additional 24,000 miles on the now-famous “Sioux City Sue” — his Winnebago RV which was actually made in the district.

His 2020 announcement video (below), released on Monday this week, has gotten a good deal of attention. And, yes, that's Kevin Costner doing the narration.


Thursday, August 08, 2019

Gov. Cooper Appoints Damon Circosta to the SBOE

Yesterday Governor Roy Cooper appointed Damon Circosta, executive director of the charitable A.J. Fletcher Foundation, to replace Bob Cordle on the North Carolina Board of Elections (SBOE). Circosta was officially an unaffiliated voter when Cooper previously appointed him in March 2018 to the 9-member SBOE, a board that was later dissolved because of legal action. Circosta changed his political affiliation to Democrat to be appointed yesterday.

Cue the Republican outrage. Sen. Ralph Hise, who knows plenty about partisan power grabs, whined that Cooper chose “power politics” over legitimacy and fairness by not appointing someone all parties respect. “Governor Cooper isn’t even pretending that he cares about good government. By appointing Damon Circosta to the Board today as the tie-breaking Democrat, he’s admitting that his previous appointment of Circosta as an ‘unaffiliated’ member was a sham.”

Circosta is a lawyer. Previously, he led the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, an organization dedicated to improving the electoral process. He serves as a professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. 

With the SBOE back at full membership, they will have to meet and elect a chair. Then on August 23rd, they will be voting on member Stella Anderson's motion to amend the certification process for electronic voting machines in the state.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Primarily Speaking, It Could Get Rough for Long-Time Democratic Office-Holders in 2020

I first read about Lindsey Boylan, Democratic candidate running in the New York 10th Congressional District, yesterday morning. She's one of several insurgent Democrats that the Washington Post gave some ink to. Then late yesterday, a video of hers showed up in my Twitter feed. I reposted that video here (see down-column), so astonished was I by the fire leaping out of her eyes.

Lindsey Boylan is a first time candidate though she's spent her adult life in public service -- first as an assistant to a city planner, then years managing operations and business development for the 10-acre Bryant Park "and several other major public spaces in the city." She took a detour through the Columbia Business School and worked in nailing down municipal finance for urban centers across the country, and then joined New York State's economic development arm and rose to chief of staff, directly overseeing regional economic development for all of New York State.

Seems like a pistol all her life. Meanwhile, amidst that drive and accomplishment, she had time to make a family -- husband and baby girl. She's got moral clarity, no lie.

(NOTE ON HER VIDEO PRESENCE: Boylan is arresting enough to pull off old-fashioned "talking head" messages, which have been increasingly replaced by flashy storytelling with lots of visual variety and surprises. I've become a connoisseur of candidate videos.)

I'm following her. She's the kind of Democratic candidate I want to see, the kind that Trump's America has inspired to stand up and make a declaration. Plus she's raising money like crazy -- already a quarter of a mil -- and she convinced Hillary Clinton campaign veteran (for digital media) Peter Daou to join her campaign.

She's running in the April 28th, 2020, Democratic primary against Democratic incumbent Jerry Nadler. Ouch. Nadler's an institution himself, currently chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee who'll preside over impeachment inquiries if it ever comes to that. If it ever comes. The fact that it hasn't come to that and with Nadler being so generously deferential to Nancy Pelosi (though he personally favors impeachment, they say) -- the dithering motivated Boylan and gave her race a not-so-subtle undertone of fury. She's the first credible primary contender Nadler has had in many years.

Nadler's been a Democratic lion of the house, and under normal circumstances we would regret seeing him taken out. These are not normal circumstances. Boylan's chances of doing the previously unthinkable seem pretty strong ... except there are also two other Democratic women already running, and a divided vote among Nadler's opposition will mean Nadler can hang on to his seat. The other two women -- Amanda Frankel and Holly Lynch -- have raised much less money, though I know nothing about their biographies and their potential to split significant votes with Boylan.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

You'll Always Be a Small Man, Donny

Lindsey Boylan, candidate for Congress (NY-10)

Teleprompter Trump

We're not sure who you are, but have you met Twitterman? Or MAGA rally man?

The flat affect and monotone suggest that you've been drugged and that you're having trouble reading the text that someone else wrote for you. Either that, or you can't even fake empathy. Some of your words just make our skin crawl--

"precious little children"

"praying and grieving"

"we will never forget"

"Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul."

Yes, I think we can see the evidence of that right in front of our eyes.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Provocateur and Cheer-Leader

Consciousness of Guilt

Trump Deletes Tweets Referring to Migrant ‘Invasion’

Samuel Robinson reports that tweets from President Trump that contain forms of the word “invasion” when referring to migrants at the Southern border are being deleted.