Monday, July 06, 2020

Dan Forest Doesn't Know What He's Talking About

So Dan Forest, running for governor of North Carolina like he had a clue, showed up Saturday among 500 mainly unmasked supporters in Henderson County and said words, some of which were these:

"There have been multiple comprehensive studies at the deepest level held to scientific standards in controlled environments that have all said for decades, masks do not work with viruses. That's why we've never used a mask for a coronavirus before, ever."

In the great Trump tradition, that's just ignorant. Also dangerous. Rob McMillan reports that many cities in the 1918 flu pandemic mandated masks and fined people who didn't wear them. There's plenty of visual archival evidence too (see below).

Dan Forest is a idiot. Also a ass.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: The Statewide Judge Races

Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court (Seat 1) Democrat Cheri Beasley (Beasley appointed Chief by Gov. Roy Cooper in February 2019, following the retirement of Mark Martin

Beasley is the first Black woman to serve as Chief Justice in North Carolina, following a long career as a district court judge in Cumberland Co., then as a judge on the NC Court of Appeals (elected 2008 as the first Black woman elected statewide to any office), and then as an associate justice on the Supreme Court (appointed to fill out an unexpired term in 2012 and elected to a full term in her own right in 2014).

Beasley's opponent, Associate Supreme Court Justice Republican Paul Newby, has made a name for himself as the most nakedly partisan Republican judge on the high court.

Associate Justice of the NC Supreme Court (Seat 2) Democrat Lucy Inman, for an open seat

Open because Associate Justice Paul Newby is running against Cheri Beasley for Chief.

In 2010, Inman was appointed to the superior court as a special judge by Governor Bev Perdue. She won election to the Court of Appeals in 2014, defeating District Court Judge Bill Southern in a race to replace retiring Judge Robert C. Hunter. Interestingly, she is the great-granddaughter of Josephus Daniels, the editor of the Raleigh News and Observer at the turn of the last century and an avowed white supremacist, whose statue was recently removed from a Raleigh park with the assent of his descendants.

Her opponent, NC Court of Appeals Justice Republican Phil Berger Jr., has been pushed up the ladder of political advancement by his daddy, Phil Berger Sr., the boss of the NC Senate, and is a kind of poster child of nepotistic thumb-on-the-scales special dealing.

Associate Justice of the NC Supreme Court (Seat 4) Democrat Mark A. Davis (appointed March 2019 to fill out Cheri Beasley's term after she was elevated to Chief)

Davis earned his J.D. degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law where he was a member of the North Carolina Law Review. Davis was appointed by Governor Beverly Perdue to serve on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, taking office in January 2013. He was appointed to fill the vacancy caused by Judge Cheri Beasley's appointment to the North Carolina Supreme Court. 

His opponent, Republican Tamara Barringer, is an attorney educated at UNC-Chapel Hill and was an NC state senator from 2012 until she was defeated in the 2018 Blue Wave election by Democrat Sam Searcy.

Associate Justice of the NC Court of Appeals (Seat 4) Democrat Tricia Shields, for an open seat

Open because Associate Justice and Democrat Linda McGee retired.

Shields was born in Elizabeth City. She earned a bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University in 1982 and her law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 1985. Shields' professional experience includes serving as a law clerk with the North Carolina Court of Appeals. She worked with litigation firm Bailey and Dixon, international law firm Troutman Sanders, LLP, and litigation firm Hedrick, Gardener, Kincheloe, and Garofalo. Shields has also served as an adjunct faculty member at the Campbell Law School, teaching trial advocacy. She has been associated with the Wake County Bar Association and the North Carolina Bar Association. Shields also served as a member of the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys and acted as its president from 2011 to 2012.

Her opponent, Republican April C. Wood, is a district court judge from Lexington. She was first elected to the district court in 2002 and serves as the Davie County truancy judge and is a certified juvenile court judge.

Associate Justice of the NC Court of Appeals (Seat 5), Democrat Lora Christine Cubbage, for an open seat

Open because Associate Justice and Democrat Wanda Bryant retired.

Lora Cubbage was born and raised in Shenandoah, Va. After relocating to Greensboro, NC, she worked for 17 years as a barber before returning to school at the age of 29 at NC A&T. After earning her degree there, she went on to law school at UNC-Chapel Hill. She's served as an Assistant District Attorney in Guildford County, an Assistant Attorney General in Raleigh, as both a district court judge and (currently) a superior court judge in District 18A (Guilford County).
Her opponent, Republican Fred Gore

Associate Justice of the NC Court of Appeals (Seat 6), Democrat Gray Styers

Styers is a partner at the large corporate law firm of Fox Rothschild, helping businesses develop strategies for navigating government regulation and public policy issues. He began his legal career as a judicial clerk for Chief Judge Sam J. Ervin III on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He serves as chair of the North Carolina Museum of History Associates, has chaired the Wake County Industrial and Pollution Control Facilities Financing Authority since 2000 and has been a member of the Board of Visitors of Wake Forest University's School of Divinity since 2012. He has also served on the Government Affairs Board for the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and is active in the Kiwanis Club of Raleigh, the North Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society and the Regional Transportation Alliance. He is a member of Raleigh Moravian Church and has served in various roles with the Moravian Church of America, Southern Province. In 2014, he was elected to serve as President of the Wake County Bar Association and the Tenth Judicial District Bar.

His opponent, Republican Chris Dillon, incumbent since he won his election to the seat in 2012, is running for a second term on the court.

Associate Justice of the NC Court of Appeals (Seat 7), Democrat Reuben F. Young (appointed in April 2019 by Gov. Cooper to replace retiring Justice Bob Hunter)

At the time of his appointment to the court, Young was Chief Deputy Secretary for Adult Corrections and Juvenile Justice at the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. He previously served for five years as a Special North Carolina Superior Court Judge and, before that, as Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. Young also served as Chief Legal Counsel in the Office of the Governor under Mike Easley. Young received his undergraduate degree from Howard University and his law degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law.

His opponent, Republican Jeff Carpenter, is Senior Resident Superior Court Judge for Union County.  He is a former North Carolina state trooper and trial attorney. He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the superior court bench in Union County by Governor Pat McCrory in 2016. Carpenter was subsequently elected to an 8-year term in November of 2016.

Associate Justice of the NC Court of Appeals (Seat 13), Democrat Chris Brook (appointed in April 2019 by Gov. Cooper to replace Justice Mark Davis, whom Cooper had appointed to the Supreme Court) 

At the time of his appointment, Brook was the top lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina, with no judicial experience. He is a UNC-Chapel Hill law school graduate and previously worked as an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Brooke became ACLU legal director in 2012. He was prominently involved in litigation successfully challenging North Carolina’s constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage, and he sought to overturn the state’s Republican-approved “bathroom bill,” as well as a replacement measure.

His opponent, Republican Jefferson G. Griffin, was born and raised in Nash County. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003. After graduating from UNC, he earned his United States Coast Guard captain’s license and worked as a charter fisherman on the North Carolina coast. In 2008, Griffin graduated from North Carolina Central School of Law and began practicing law in Kinston. In 2010, Griffin joined the Wake County District Attorney’s Office, and in 2015, he was appointed by Governor McCrory to be a district court judge in Wake County. He was elected to a four-year term in the 2016 general election in Wake County. He also serves as a Captain in the North Carolina Army National Guard as a JAG Officer. 

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Trumpism's Achilles Heel -- Disaffected Republicans

The 30-second ad below will run on Fox News on Saturday during Trump's July 4th Salute to America. It features the face of former NC House member and Matthews, NC mayor, Shawn LeMond, saying, “The Republican Party that I knew and loved was an honorable party. What’s taken over our party is wrong. And as a Republican, as a Christian, we simply cannot allow this man to be re-elected.” (SORRY! Every attempt to embed the ad into this post screwed the hell out of the text. See the ad here.)

The ad was produced by a group calling itself Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT). Their website is not forthcoming about who they are -- the names of individuals leading this effort -- but it contains a calvacade -- dozens and freakin' dozens -- of Republican testimonials about loss of faith in Trump, from all over the country. A bracing stew of discontent.

RVAT was founded in May 2020 as an auxillary PAC to Defending America, the brainchild of Bill Kristol and a small group of oher disaffected conservatives (Mona Charen, Linda Chavez, et al.) and veteran Republican campaign operatives (Sarah Longwell, Tim Miller). RVAT appears to have been created to target specifically North Carolina, along with Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, and Florida, with anti-Trump ads aimed at white college-educated suburban voters (Wikipedia).

Meanwhile, other conservative Republicans have been organizing other expressions of disgust, including Judge Bob Orr in North Carolina who helped launch a whole new would-be National Republican Party in the fall of 2019. Republicans for the Rule of Law and The Lincoln Project also sprang up.Yet another group, Republicans for a New President, plans to bring all the disaffected together in Charlotte for "an alternate convention" to Trump's renomination in Jacksonville. The website for Republicans for a New President also does not list its members, the names of its organizers, but says it's "A Project of Stand Up Republic." Stand Up Republic is a 501(c)(4) launched in January 2017 by Evan McMillan, a 2016 independent candidate for president.

Anyway, all these guys and gals are planning to get together August 24-27 in Charlotte for "The Convention on Founding Principles," a convocation of all the #NeverTrumpers, the location obviously chosen because the Republican National Convention was supposed to be there. After Roy Cooper pissed off Donald Trump, and the RNC moved itself to Jacksonville, Republicans for a New President didn't move. They stuck with Charlotte (though much of their "convention" is now likely to be "virtual"). The question: Can they get noticed enough? Get out a message? Present a salutary contrast to Trump's mob on the issue of COVID-prevention. Influence the election?

Trump continues to say (believe?) that 95% of Republicans love his ass, but the truth is he's been shedding Republican support at an accelerating pace. While early in the year some polls found Trump with 90% support among registered Republicans, by May a Rasmussen poll could find only 70% of Republicans enthusiastic about Trump's reelection. Some 23% explicitly wanted someone else to run for president. A Pew Research poll this week gives Trump 78% of the Republican Vote, down from 85% in March. (For comparison, George W. Bush was down to 75% support among Republicans by the end of his term.)

GOP strategist Larry Shaheen of Mecklenburg County said that ads like the one above are "not designed to move Republicans. They're designed to make the Unaffiliateds in urban areas more comfortable not voting for Trump and voting for Biden." That's Trumpism's Achilles heel, the independents.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Did a Republican Primary in Colorado Open a Door for an Insurgent Democrat?

Yesterday, a gun-totin', conspiracy-theory-promotin', COVID-denying political novice named Lauren Boebert beat a five-term Republican incumbent (and suspected "moderate") named Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District of Colorado. Trump had endorsed Tipton but quickly pivoted to praise Boebert for her win.

Boebert, a young 33-year-old, is the owner of Shooter's Grill in Rifle, Colorado, and if you sense an almost mythic piling up of firearm references, you wouldn't be wrong. Boebert enjoys posing with a handgun strapped to her thigh, and she reportedly encourages her wait staff to wear sidearms too. She's popular with white men. She defied COVID restrictions and kept her restaurant open despite state-wide orders, until the local sheriff got a cease and desist order against her. She likes the QAnon conspiracy movement for promoting the belief that "deep-state traitors" are Trump's biggest problem -- not his abyssmal ignorance, his imperial arrogance, or his obvious subservience to Vladimir Putin.

Oh, she's a spectacle all right. In a state that has imposed new gun restrictions following mass killings, she's a cheerleader for assault rifles. At a town hall meeting in Aurora, she yelled at Beto O'Rourke about his pledge to outlaw them. That made the news too.

But the 3rd Congressional District of Colorado seems like safe ground for Boebert's theatrical gun cosplay. It's rated "Solid Republican" by Cook's Political Report. It's a huge swath of western Colorado containing ranches, farms, mountains, and lots of guns.

But Boebert's surprising win in the primary yesterday sent me looking for the Democratic candidate in the race -- Diane Mitsch Bush -- and whether she might be exactly the right antidote to the self-parody of a restaurant owner who knows no embarrassment.

Diane Mitsch Bush
Bush served a term as a Routt County commissioner before being elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 2012, serving until late 2017 when she resigned to mount a campaign against incumbent Scott Tipton for the 3rd CD. She got almost 44% of the vote in that 2018 congressional campaign, which is a solid base to build on. She's experienced and by now pretty well known as a level-headed, informed public servant.

She offers many stark policy contrasts to Boebert, not least of which is her stand on guns. In 2013, Bush voted for universal background checks and magazine limits in Colorado. She continues to support universal background checks, long-term assault weapons ban, and a ban on purchasing bump stocks. She also supports funding for national research for gun use, safety, and violence prevention through the Center for Disease Control. A number of violence prevention groups have recognized her for her record on combating gun violence, including Colorado Ceasefire, Moms Demand Action, and LEAP Forward.

Guns may become THE campaign issue in the Colorado Third. Boebert's dress-up accessorizing may determine that. But another issue that could play even stronger is health-care, especially in the context of the Trump admin's total bungling of the pandemic response. Boebert's cavalier refusal to protect her customers and her staff from the threat may play hard against her.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: 3rd Tier of Potential Red-to-Blue Flips in NC Senate

Dist. 1 (Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, Washington, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, Gates, and Hertford counties)
Democrat Tess Judge v. Republican Bob Steinburg (incumbent finishing 1st term in Senate, previously served 3 terms in NC House)

Rated "Lean Republican." Trump took the district with 54.84% of the vote in 2016. (Michael Bitzer)

A "Pivotal Race" and "extremely competitive" ( RealFactsNC and Long Leaf Pine Slate agree it's a "race to watch."

We were keen about Tess Judge when she ran in 2018 in NC House District 6. She has worked in hospitality management her entire career and is well known in the coastal community for serving on the Board of Directors of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce. She and her late husband Warren were named Co-Citizens of the Year by the Chamber in 2011. She also currently serves on the Board of the Outer Banks Hospital and is Chair of the Outer Banks Hospital Development Council. Her concern over environmental protections for a fragile coast sets her apart from most candidates on the other side. Long Leaf Pine Slate: "Judge's deep connections with communities across Eastern NC will prove invaluable in dislodging a widely unloved incumbent who is relying on Raleigh PAC money to fund his campaign."

That "widely unloved incumbent," Bob Steinburg, has a rap sheet. Wikipedia: "Steinburg has been arrested twice, once for disorderly conduct and once for assault on his opponent's campaign manager. The charges were later dismissed. He has received heavy criticism for his temper, even being called 'unfit for state Senate seat' by Senator Bill Cook. Cook, R-Beaufort, chose not to seek re-election [in 2018] after court-ordered redistricting put him outside of a redrawn Senate District 1. Cook endorsed Steinburg's primary opponent Clark Twiddy and contributed money to his campaign .... Steinburg missed 1 out of 5 votes during the 2014-2015 and 2017-2018 sessions in the NC House. The only members of the House of Representatives who have missed more votes were Representatives who resigned while in the middle of their term or those appointed to fill the remaining term. His missed votes were due to his absence during the House session." Just today, the Long Leaf Pine Slate exposed the "dark, sad swamp" of Steinburg's Facebook page, which is filled with "racism, conspiracy theory and extremism — but mostly racism."

Dist. 24 (Alamance and the eastern half of Guilford counties)
Democrat J.D. Wooten v. Republican Amy Galey, for an open seat

Open because ... five-term incumbent Republican Rick Gunn waited until two weeks before filing began last December to announce he wouldn't be running for reelection in 2020. 

Rated "Lean Republican." Trump took the district with 54.93% of the vote. (Bitzer)

A race to watch for both RealFactsNC and Long Leaf Pine Slate.

I enthusiastically followed Wooten's attempt to gain the seat in the blue wave of 2018. He got 46.14% of the vote against Tea Party incumbent Rick Gunn -- a loss by 6,000 votes, a sobering number. But a damn good base to build on, and Wooten seemed willing to do the work when he announced he would try again in 2020.

The trend with partisan shifts in 2018 -- the higher the income and/or the education, the more likely the flip from Republican to Democratic -- that trend is expected to hold in 2020, and the burgeoning suburban sprawl along the I-40 and I-85 corridors which slice through the district would appear to fit the bill. Wooten himself lives in the I-40 corridor in eastern Guilford, the little suburb of Whitsett. Over in Alamance, Burlington and Graham are the major urban centers. In terms of income, Alamance's richest township is Coble, south of I-40, followed in wealth by Melville Township (both I-40 and I-85 adjacent), Albright, and Boone Station. Boone Station also shows up in the statistics as the most educated in the county.

In 2018 Wooten evidently ran an active campaign, and an effective one, or he wouldn't have done as well. He had a pretty relentless canvassing program (judging from Facebook posts) and was effective raising money enough to be a threat to an incumbent who had probably grown a little complacent. Republican Gunn had easily won reelection in 2016 and didn't even have a Democratic opponent in 2014. Is it not telling that he dropped out at the last minute rather than run again in 2020?

Wooten's Republican opponent this November, Amy Galey, looks formidable. Galey is a young 52. She ran for the Alamance Commission first time in the 2016 Republican primary, fell short by 40 votes, but won a special election the next year for an unexpired commissioner's seat and was promptly elected chair of the commission. She won reelection in her own right in 2018 as the top vote-getter. Alamance is a very red county, though Galey sounds like a moderate: "I have supported public education while expecting accountability for taxpayer investment, supported farmland preservation, and worked on smart growth answers to Alamance County’s challenges." Talks like a pro-growth Democrat -- the importance of education, farmland preservation, and "smart growth." According to Isaac Groves, Galey is "often the swing vote" on the Alamance County Commission, "sometimes siding with the conservatives on the board" (interesting way to put it). "She also joined the 3–2 majority in June to approve an 8-cent property tax rate increase to fund the voter-approved $189.6 million education bond package and long-range capital plan County Manager Bryan Hagood introduced." Not the type of rural Republican we're used to these days. More of an urban type.

Dist. 25 (Anson, Richmond, Moore, and Scotland counties)
Democrat Helen Probst Mills v. 3-term Republican incumbent Tom McInnis

Rated "Safe Republican" by Bitzer (ouch). Trump took the district with 56.30% of the vote.

Nevertheless, RealFactsNC considers this a race to watch.

We followed Helen Probst Mills when she ran the first time for this seat in 2018. She did not quite make it to 43% of the vote that year. She trained as an attorney in Illinois and lives now in Pinehurst. She entered the race in 2018, she said, in part to simply provide an option. “The reality is that I walk in on Election Day to the polling booth here in Pinehurst and there are no Democrats for me to check. We need a choice." Mills says she grew up a daughter to a single mother and is herself the mother of three and a cancer survivor who moved to North Carolina with her husband, Stuart, in 2006. In 2017, Mills was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees. She also serves on the college’s Foundation Board, where she helped develop a program allowing high school graduates to attend for two years without having to pay tuition. She serves as development chair for the Northern Moore Family Resource Center in Robbins, which has opened a preschool and is developing a community center. She credits the overcoming of breast cancer to having health insurance: “Everyone, no matter their background or how much money they make, should have access to affordable, quality health care. Yet too many politicians in Raleigh put petty partisan politics over policies that would help thousands. That is wrong for my community and for North Carolina.”

Her Republican opponent, Tom McInnis, is a good ole boy auctioneer not above cutting deals, and he drew a primary challenge in 2018 from the very conservative mayor of Whispering Pines in Moore County (which had been added to McInnis's district by remapping). According to, McInnis never took a college class, and his only education above the high school level was auctioneer school. Curiously, he lists no religious nor denominational affiliation,

Monday, June 29, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: 2nd Tier of Potential Dem Pickups in NC Senate

North Carolina Democrats need a net gain of five seats to remove Phil Berger as president pro-tem of the NC Senate. If we count the gain of two seats that seem very probable (last post down-column), and assuming no losses among Democratic freshmen senators, then three more flips of Republican districts would end Mr. Berger's baleful reign. Here are the three who have grappled their way to the top of the list:

Dist. 7 (Wayne and Lenoir counties)
Democrat Donna Lake v. Republican Jim Perry, for an open seat

Open because ... incumbent Republican Louis Pate resigned mid-term because of declining health. Perry appointed to finish out the term.

Rated both "Lean Republican" and "Competitive, Republican Favored." Trump took 53.49% of vote in 2016. (Michael Bitzer)

"Race to Watch" (RealFactsNC and Long Leaf Pine Slate)

Lake is a 64-year-old retired USAF Colonel and health-care professional. She announced her candidacy for the North Carolina Senate last year on July 29th. She's another of a distinct trend among new, insurgent Democratic candidates in the Age of Trump: A woman combat vet with two Bronze Stars stepping forward to run in a forbidding new combat zone. Donna Lake also holds a freakin' Ph.D. to boot in Health Care Management and works as a clinical nursing professor at the ECU College of Nursing where she says she's taught 450 students, not to mention another 85 faculty, in patient safety principles, leadership, and finance skills. Her expertise in health care management contributed to the awarding of a $5M grant to train and place "advanced practice registered nurses" into primary care facilities in Eastern North Carolina rural communities. A vital and motivating statistic for Donna Lake: Of the 41 Eastern NC counties combined, 28 (68.3%) have fewer than 5 primary care physicians per 10,000 residents. She wants to change that, and her work is an answer to Jim Perry's complaint that there aren't enough primary care providers for the expansion of Medicaid.

Her Republican opponent, Jim Perry from Kinston, is a retired rep for the dental industry, CEO of a "Dental Service Org with 240 locations in 40 states and over 2,500 employees," and personnel consultant for the Acute Care Industry. He opposes the expansion of Medicaid. In his short time in the Senate, he became a big supporter of HB 370 -- a law that would force county sheriffs in North Carolina to do the work of ICE agents, with specific provisions to make sheriffs subject to removal from office for refusing to help ICE -- the bill which Governor Cooper vetoed on August 21.

Dist. 31 (eastern Forsyth plus Davie counties)
Democrat Terri LeGrand v. Republican Joyce Krawiec (1st elected 2014)

Recently remapped (which lost it Yadkin Co.) and now rated both "Lean Republican" and "Competitive, Republican Favored." Trump won the district with 53.61% of the vote. (Michael Bitzer)

"Pivotal District." The partisan lean has shifted 14 points to the left after remapping ( RealFactsNC lists it as a race to watch along with Long Leaf Pine Slate.

LeGrand trained as a lawyer and is a 1993 graduate of the Wake Forest School of Law.  She works as a financial aid administrator at Wake Forest University.  In 2018 she ran a very active race in House District 74, improving Democratic performance to 45%, which was better than expected, and she proved to have impressive fundraising chops. She was a founder of the Piedmont Environmental Alliance, serves on the Women's Leadership Council of the United Way, and served on the public utilities commission for Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

Her opponent, Joyce Krawiec, is a Tea-Party Trumpist with all the identifying pockmarks.

Dist. 11 (Nash and nearly half of Johnston counties)
Democrat Allen Wellons v. Lisa Stone Barnes, for an open seat  

Open because ... incumbent Republican Sen. Rick Horner (1st elected in 2016) decided not to run again after the most recent remapping made the seat more Democratic-friendly. “Much to my regret, it simply is not in the best interest of my family to seek re-election in 2020.”

"Lean Republican" and "Competitive, Republican Favored." Trump won the district with 53.97% of the vote in 2016. (Michael Bitzer) After remapping it's 4 points more favorable for Dems: "The pool of untapped voters in this district – registered voters who did not vote in 2016 or 2018 – is also sharply Democratic leaning, suggesting that a strong candidate could flip the district if Democrats can energize their base in 2020" (

A "race to watch" (both RealFactsNC and Long Leaf Pine Slate). A "Pivotal Race" (

Allen Wellons, a 70-year-old baby-boomer born in 1949, is a Smithfield lawyer with Wilkins Wellons Coats. He's a 1971 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a B.A. and a 1975 graduate of NC Central School of Law in 1975. He formerly served three terms in the NC Senate so long ago -- from 1996 to 2002 -- that few voters younger than the boomer class might remember him. He was decisively defeated for reelection to his 4th term in 2002 by Republican Fred Smith, and he's been out of public life ever since. The Long Leaf Pine Slate says that Wellons is a powerful local name. In the Year of Biden, Wellons also seems safe and stable, which may be the winning formula this year.

His Republican opponent, Lisa Stone Barnes, has been a rising star in her party and qualifies as something of a "moderate." Will that hurt her? She previously served a couple of terms as a Nash County commissioner and then moved up to the NC House (District 7) in the elections of 2018, defeating incumbent Democrat Bobbie Richardson in the rare blue-to-red flip that year. It didn't take her long to opt for further advancement when Rick Horner announced his retirement. She's also clearly somewhat out of step with other North Carolina Republicans because she nowhere plays the Trump card and she doesn't parade the label "conservative." She strikes a much more moderate tone and is clearly more interested in economic development for her rural district than she is in conservative social hot-buttons (she's pushed the expansion of broadband in rural areas). That does not mean, however, that she's ever shown any interest in bucking her Republican caucus in the NC General Assembly.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: Two Easy Peasy Dem Pickups in the NC Senate

Let's count our chickens before they're hatched. Because that's never unlucky.

The people I read and pay attention to consider NC Senate districts 18 and 39 lead-pipe cinches for flipping to Democrat.

Dist. 39 (southern Mecklenburg)
Democrat DeAndrea Salvador v. Republican Josh Niday for an open seat.
Open because ... former incumbent Republican Dan Bishop was elected to Congress to represent the 9th CD. Then Republican Rob Bryan, appointed to serve out Bishop's term in Senate, was subsequently mapped out of Dist. 39 by the last court-ordered redistricting.

Now rated (after remapping) as "Safe Democratic." Trump took only 38.l1% of the vote in 2016. (Prof. Michael Bitzer)

"Easy Pickup" (

Salvador is a 29-year-old millennial (born 1990) without political experience but with demonstrated commitment to community-building. She graduated from UNC-Charlotte (econ and anthro), studied energy and environmental design with the U.S. Green Building Council, and founded the Renewable Energy Transition Initiative (RETI) to help educate low-income households to cope with high energy costs. She did a TED talk about that effort in 2018 which was perhaps stronger on inspiration than on science.

Profiled on WataugaWatch before the primary. I complained at the time that her web presence was de minimis, but now she has all the campaign bells 'n' whistles. 

Her Republican opponent, Josh Niday. is 26, born in 1993. Niday previously ran for the NC House in 2018 in District 99, getting just over 17% of the vote against Democrat Nasif Majeed. He graduated from UNC-Charlotte in 2016 with a degree in poly sci.

Dist. 18 (northeastern Wake and Franklin counties)
Democrat Sarah Crawford v. Republican Larry Norman for an open seat (Libertarian also running)

Open because ... incumbent Republican John Alexander opted to retire following the last map-drawing.

Rated (after remapping) as "Toss-Up" and then as "Competitive, Democrat Favored." In 2016 Clinton (48.61%) actually edged out Trump (48.31%). (Michael Bitzer)

"Easy Pickup" (

Crawford is not a political neophyte. She ran against Republican incumbent Chad Barefoot in 2014 in what was then Senate District 18, and she carried 47.1% of the vote -- a very respectable showing -- finishing 3,785 votes behind Barefoot out of 65,507 votes cast. (In 2018, Barefoot voluntarily stepped down and allowed his "double-bunkee" John Alexander to take the seat. Alexander had been serving in the Senate since 2014, representing Senate District 15. He got remapped out of 15 and into 18. Redrawing maps to screw with people seems to happen a lot to this North Raleigh and Franklin County district.

Her Republican opponent, Larry Norman, a Louisburg lawyer, waited until the last minute to file, which forced a primary, which Norman narrowly won.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: Yvonne Lewis Holley, Running for Lieutenant Governor

I voted for one of the other Democratic primary candidates for lieutenant governor back on March 3rd. I was actually quite surprised that Holley came in on top of a very crowded field, mainly because I didn't know much about her. Here was the primary final tally:

Yvonne Lewis Holly 309,274
Terry Van Duyn 237,885
Chaz Beasley 219,503
Allen Thomas 219,229
Bill Toole 111,843
Ron Newton 65,970

She didn't meet the threshold for winning it outright (she got 26.58% of the vote and needed 30% to avoid a runoff), but her nearest competitor, state Senator Terry Van Duyn, opted not to demand a run-off, which was her right.

This is the profile of Holley that ran on Pam's Picks ( prior to the primary:

Holley announced her candidacy on February 27, 2019. She’s a Baby Boomer born in 1952. She grew up in Wake County, was a front-line elementary student in the desegregation of the Raleigh school system, excelled and went to Howard University. She spent her entire working career in state government, retiring as a state procurement and contract agent. She ran for and easily won her seat in the NC House (District 38) in 2012 and has never gotten less than 79.9% of the vote in any of her reelections. 

Holley has not been “a mover and a shaker” in the House. She represents an older style of  politician — reverent of institutions, a calming presence, standing respectfully but with a spine made of hardened steel. She’s very much in the moderate tradition of her father, J.D. Lewis, the first African-American TV broadcaster in the Raleigh/Durham market and Director of Minority Affairs for WRAL-TV (which had also been the editorial home until 1972 of one Jesse Helms). J.D. Lewis “is remembered today as having contributed significantly to the positive dialogue between polarized sectors during an epic time in the nation’s history” (Holley’s website). 

Her Campaign: Holley states a platform of affordable housing, economic development, food security, reliable public transportation, and strong support for public education. She offers a too barebones website (which unaccountably doesn’t provide links to her Facebook and Twitter accounts), but she makes a good video impression and should do more.

I'm happy to see that she is doing more video:

The lieutenant governor's chief duty is presiding over the state Senate (a duty the current lieutenant governor, Dan Forest, has reportedly been chronically absent from). I'd like to see her in that chair.

While Holley has been promoting the hashtag #JustWearTheDamnMask, her Republican opponent for lieutenant governor, Mark Robinson, is known for showing up and mingling in the ReOpenNC protests without a mask (and social-distancing be damned!). Jeffrey C. Billman tracked Robinson's social media (Facebook) denialism about the coronavirus and summarized it this way:

1. The (ahem) globalists are taking advantage of a pandemic to destroy the president, who is great.
2. We shouldn’t fear the coronavirus. We should fight the people who are lying about the coronavirus.

3. Socialism is scarier than a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands of Americans this year.

Republican Party operatives seem to be giddy that they have a Black, conservative bomb-thrower on their statewide ticket, but Billman points out that in their glee, no sane Republican operative thought to demand that Robinson scrub his Facebook page of this stuff:

...while he most certainly loves his guns and looooooves his Trump, he really, really does not like gay people. Or trans people. Or the homosexual agenda. Or the Obamas. Or the Clintons. Or the movie Black Panther. Or social justice. Or abortion rights. Or marijuana legalization. Or Mitt Romney. Or Democrats, who are communists—i.e., satanists....

Whatever happens in November, North Carolina is going to have a Black lieutenant governor for the first time in history. We trust it'll be Yvonne Holley.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Body Count: Tomas Philipson

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

Tomas J. Philipson, acting chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, will leave his post by the end of June, the White House said in an email. The resignation is abrupt and seems particularly untimely in the middle of an economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philipson announcement comes two days after Kevin Hassett, a senior White House economic official and Philipson’s predecessor as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, announced he would also be stepping down.

Art Pope Will Be Appointed to the UNC BOG Today

What? The University of North Carolina governing board wasn't already partisan enough?

The Republican boss of the NC Senate -- Phil Berger -- is putting Art Pope on the Board of Governors today, as is his goddamn right, because the Republicans in the General Assembly passed the law that gave them the right to appoint every goddamn member of the UNC Board of Governors. 

Pope owns a chain of low-end retail stores, which funds his multifarious political activities. He is a founding member of Americans for Prosperity and was a major donor/operative for the 2010 Republican takeover of the General Assembly. That takeover allowed Pope to be "in the room — literally — when dark money-funded groups worked behind the scenes with Republican state legislators and operatives to draw up the redistricting maps which led to the party’s sweep of state and federal legislative races...." Pope became the state budget director under former Gov. Pat McCrory, a man easy to manipulate.

Rob Schofield sticks a pin in what is known about Art Pope's policy "vision": "...when it comes to higher education, North Carolinians should have no doubt what that “vision” entails. For years now, people funded with Pope contributions at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal (formerly the Pope Center for Higher Education) have churned out a torrent of hard right propaganda — relentlessly attacking supposed left-wing biases in American colleges and universities, calling for less public spending on higher education, arguing that too many young people attend college in the first place, lamenting the supposed suppression of conservative voices, and, well, you get the picture."

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The "Wow" Factor

Two primary candidates in two different states made us go "wow" last night when we checked voting results, one of them here in the 11th Congressional District of North Carolina, a Republican, and the other, a Democrat, in the 5th Congressional District of Virginia.

Madison Cawthorn

Republican Madison Cawthorn buried Lynda Bennett in the 11th CD, 30,444 to 15,806. Bennett had been endorsed by President Trump and by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, but maybe the Republican voters in the 11th District were unamused by the way the former holder of this seat, Rep. Mark Meadows (now of the White House staff) tried to engineer a coronation for Bennett.

Cawthorn is a paraplegic from a catastrophic car accident in 2014 when he was 18 years old. He told the story to the Washington Examiner: He was riding back to the North Carolina mountains from a springbreak beach trip. His friend was driving. Cawthorn was asleep in the front seat. Unfortunately, so was the driver, who hit a concrete barrier going 70 miles an hour: "...the impact snapped [Cawthorn's] spine. The accident burned him, shattered his ankle, broke his pelvis, and cost him a kidney. His internal organs were pushed up into his chest, crushing his lungs. 'Both my lungs collapsed, so I couldn't speak for a very long time,' he said, recalling how he learned to communicate with sign language. Only his head escaped injury. The doctors were amazed he survived."

He says he was left with over $3 million in medical debt, which is why improving the healthcare system has been his number one issue. How he intends to improve the system remains vague, especially as his number two issue is protecting the U.S. from "socialism." He also loves him some Donald Trump, the endorser of Lynda Bennett. (The ironies are piling up!)

He lists his "occupation" as "motivational speaker." If elected, he would be the youngest member of the U.S. Congress, barely old enough to serve, in fact. The Democrat in the race, Moe Davis, has a distinguished background of military and legal service and is about three times older than Cawthorn. I don't know what knowledgeable Democrats are now saying about Davis's chances (Cook Political Report still rates the district "solid Republican" at R+14), but a knowledgeable Republican, Judge Bob Orr, was leading the cheers for Moe Davis on Twitter last night: "Moe Davis ... [is] the clear favorite now. Opponent barely qualifies to run - turns 25 before the election; virtually no work experience; the 11th now has Asheville back in it; and Trump's getting rolled. National $$ headed Moe's way."

Cameron Webb

A little over a week ago I profiled the Democratic primary candidates in the Virginia 5th District. Lord have mercy! Dr. Cameron Webb absolutely buried all three of his rivals:

Updated June 23, 2020100% reporting

Cameron Webb36,23266.0%
Claire Russo10,15418.5
R. D. Huffstetler5,4579.9
John Lesinski3,0885.6

54,931 votes, 328 of 328 precincts reporting

The district is rated "lean Republican." But it's also an open seat, and the Republican candidate presents as stark a contrast to Webb as you could get. The question remains: Will the 5th CD of Virginia elect a Black man to Congress? We're tingling all over at the prospect.