Friday, January 31, 2020

"Proven," But I'm Okay With It

Hear the new recording of Trump talking about his Ukrainian ambassador in April 2018. "Take her out," the president is heard saying to his henchmen, referring to Marie Yavanovich.

It's what a mobster would say. A mobster did say it.

A man who thinks like a mob boss and acts like a mob boss, and does it successfully even while president of a constitutional republic, well now -- it's discouraging to contemplate the moral and ethical compromises his followers have made.

Take Lamar Alexander for just one recent example. Very recent. Last night in the Senate, he said: "...there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven .... There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter; he said this on television on October 3, 2019, and during his July 25, 2019, telephone call with the president of Ukraine. There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this with what they call a 'mountain of overwhelming evidence.' ... It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law...."

There was more. All by way of saying, no, I'm satisfied with the mob boss as our president and as the leader of my party, and I will not vote for more evidence and the hearing of witnesses, and I will not vote for his removal.

And does Senator Alexander's party still have ethical, moral, and constitutional values they wish to impose on the rest of the country? I personally can't wait for November to tell that party what I think of their values.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Let's Hear It for the Hopeless Cases

I've been looking at the NC House districts that abut on Watauga County, districts where the vote for Trump in 2016 was 74% and up, where no matter how tinted your glasses are with rosiness (or blueness), there's little hope that a Democrat will ever win those districts against such great odds. So that the very act of filing to run as a Democrat is signing on for a suicide mission, and such bravery, self-sacrifice, and commitment deserves recognition.

House District 87, Caldwell County -- rated "Safe Republican" for 2020 -- Trump took the district with 74.16% of the vote in 2016
Democratic candidate Corie Schreiber is a 33-year-old Millennial born in 1987 and lives in Hudson. She earned a degree at AppState in 2018 and currently works as a server at FATZ in Lenoir. From the evidence on her Facebook page, she's a single mom. In her final year at AppState, she created a personal blog, "Democratic Girl in a Republican World," as a project for an internet communication class in which she encouraged young people to vote in the 2018 midterms. She posted project videos to YouTube.
Schreiber is running against another Millennial, incumbent Republican Destin Hall, who was first elected to the seat in 2016.

House District 90, part of Wilkes, all of Alleghany, part of Surry -- rated "Safe Republican" for 2020 -- Trump took it in 2016 with 74.38%
Democratic candidate Mary Beth Shaw from Elkin is a 53-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1967. She doesn't have any web presence that I could find, but she was profiled in the Elkin Tribune early in 2017 for attending the Women's March in Washington on the day after Trump's inauguration:
“As soon as I heard about it, I knew I wanted to be there and take my girls,” said Beth Shaw, who lives in Elkin and traveled to the march with several friends and their daughters. “I felt like it was important that we be heard. And heard is really the key word. I never felt like this was a protest, it was a march. It was a march to bring forward what’s important to us, what we value, what we want the new administration to know and to acknowledge.”
As a mother with young daughters, the issue of women’s dignity was an important one for Shaw and one of the main reasons she wanted to participate in the march. Trump’s demeaning comments towards women have been largely reported, including his vulgar statement about grabbing women by their genitalia.
“I want my daughters to feel like they are in a world that treats them respectfully,” Shaw said....
Shaw said a powerful moment happened for her family later in the evening following the march. Having left from dinner and still in the heart of D.C., Shaw and her daughters happened to be at a crosswalk with a man wearing one of Trump’s campaign hats with the slogan “Make American Great Again.” The man asked Shaw’s daughters if they had enjoyed the march and wished them a good trip back.
“That little moment of one person in a Trump cap who was kind and friendly, that 30-second encounter gave me hope that there’s goodness in all of us and we can find it,” Shaw said.
Shaw is running against powerful Republican incumbent Sarah Stevens, first elected in 2008.

House District 85, Avery, Mitchell, and McDowell counties -- rated "Safe Republican" -- Trump took it in 2016 with 75.83%
Democratic candidate Ted Remington is a 73-year-old resident of Marion. I think this is his Facebook page, but he doesn't say a thing about being a candidate. I think he may be this Ted Remington: “Shaggy Dog Stories and Other Feghoots: An Evening with Storyteller Ted Remington” (as advertised in the McDowell News).
Remington is running for an open seat against Republican Dudley Greene, a first-time candidate himself. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Belly Dancing for Donald Trump

I count 37 North Carolina Republicans who want to go to Washington, or who want to remain in Washington -- Republicans who have filed for either the US Senate seat currently held by Thom Tillis and Republicans who have filed in one of our 13 Congressional districts (including seven Republican incumbents). I went looking to see which ones wrap themselves most theatrically around Donald Trump, and which ones keep a more antiseptic distance. This is a survey based on cursory evidence -- a quick tour of candidate websites and/or social media feeds.

We know Senator Thom Tillis as a conspicuous Trump toady, a lickspittle who's been trying to take back that one moment of independent thought he had about Trump's state of emergency at the southern border, but the one person you don't see on Tillis's website is Trump. Nor hear his name. However, the Tillis Twitter feed is a different story -- littered with little coos of @RealDonaldTrump and pictures of Dear Leader and links to articles about how deaf, blind, and dumb the Democrats are for failing to recognize the greatness of Trump. His Twitter feed looks like a burlesque act for an audience of one. He puts tassels on his tits and twirls them for Trump.

In the Republican primary for Congressional District 1 -- and the privilege of getting to lose to Democratic incumbent G.K. Butterfield -- Republican candidate Sandy Smith, who likes to refer to herself as the "Little Red Firecracker," is in a pro-Trump class all to herself. She had intended to run against Thom Tillis in the senatorial primary, but -- well, I'll let her explain:
Why not continue to primary Thom Tillis? I originally ran against Thom Tillis for the US Senate in order to defeat him for his horrible anti-Trump rhetoric, opposing the border wall, supporting gun control, among other liberal positions.
It was not long after I filed for Senate that he began to change his tune and passionately support President Trump. He even changed his vote in support of the border wall, even though he publicly said he would not support it previously.
Then, President Trump endorsed Thom Tillis for reelection. Like many of you, I am skeptical of Tillis’ “newly found support” and my entire reason for running was to hold Thom Tillis accountable for being a roadblock to the America-first agenda. Then last week President Trump reaffirmed his endorsement of Tillis. President Trump very clearly wants Thom Tillis to be reelected.
Thom Tillis now owes President Trump for helping him clear the field, and honestly, Tillis can’t win reelection against the Democrats without President Trump’s help. So I have a feeling he will remain a supporter of the president, at least until November. By 2020, there should be more conservative senators in office to counter Thom Tillis if he decides to go back to his old ways.

The Little Red Firecracker has some competition in the CD-01 primary from Michelle Nix, who says she's running against Butterfield because he voted to impeach Trump and brags that she was a Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016 and says she traveled the state on Trump's behalf. "Trump" is all over her issues page, along with his photograph.

Greg Murphy was only just elected to Congress in CD-03 last year, so I was curious how he would play Trump. He's a medical doctor, and what I see on his website looks like a quarantine to lessen infection. Under the heading "Greg Murphy on the issues," he headlines this: "SUPPORT PRESIDENT TRUMP." The wording of what follows is equivocal while ostensibly kissing ass:
President Trump is one of the few Presidents in recent memory who is attempting to do exactly what he said he was going to do on the campaign trail. If Senate Republicans had supported him, Obamacare would have been repealed. I will support the Trump agenda because it is the people’s agenda, especially Eastern North Carolina that voted so overwhelming in his favor."
Short version: When the people cease to support Trump, so will I.

For a celebrity hound who is famous for photo-bombing President Trump, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (CD-05) stays strictly separate from the Prez and never mentions his name on her website and social media accounts. Go figure. She's been photographed multiple times standing practically in his armpit.

David Rouzer in the CD-07 is adamant on his official website: "Rouzer Lays Out Case Against Impeachment Sham." On Facebook he has been a warrior against Democrats over impeachment, for which he sometimes suffers significant anti-Trump blow-back from his constituents. Rouzer is constantly defending Trump on his Twitter feed.

Big contrast on Trumpiness between Congressman Richard Hudson (CD-08) and newly installed Congressman Dan Bishop (NC-09). Bishop on his Twitter feed obviously feels his Trumpy oats, adding to the echo chamber that anyone who supports the impeachment is disloyal to America, while Hudson nowhere mentions Trump -- ever.

Congressman Patrick McHenry (CD-10) rivals Thom Tillis for coochee dancing for Trump's benefit on Twitter, though, like Foxx, he clearly doesn't have a use for Trump on his campaign website.

Here ends this survey, because there's only so much punishment a body can take in one morning, and I'm out of coffee.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Elections of March: Generational/Gender Challenge in NCH43

North Carolina House District 43 -- Cumberland County

Perhaps no other Democratic primary on March 3rd will more encapsulate the generational and gender challenge that new Democratic candidates are posing for the old political order in North Carolina.

Democratic incumbent Elmer Floyd is a 76-year-old member of the Silent Generation (born in 1943) who's held this NC House seat since 2008. Until this year's most recent redistricting, the district was considered safe Democratic. Floyd has often had no Republican opponent in the General Election and only rarely a Democratic opponent in a primary. Not any more.  In some circles Elmer Floyd is considered endangered -- perhaps the most endangered current Democratic incumbent in the House.

The new district gained some 20% in expected Republican vote-share, and is now rated "Competitive -- Lean Republican." The winner of the Republican primary (see below) may well go on to win in November. The new District 43 has less of Fayetteville, fewer black voters, plus the more Republican-friendly rural areas north of the city and east of the Cape Fear River.

Floyd, with seven terms in the House to his credit, has a vast advantage in the primary over his newcomer opponent. But after 14 years in the House, is Floyd considered an effective representative? Or "furniture" (though he was successful in getting House budget writers to add in money for enhancement to the Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Fayetteville). Or worse, is he considered disloyal to the Democratic caucus and to Democratic values? According to Paul Woolverton in the Fayetteville Observer, "Democrats criticize Floyd because he occasionally votes with Republicans on controversial matters. Floyd says he is voting the will of his constituents in District 43." Not forgiven: Floyd voted for the passage of HB2. To counteract an impression that he was opposed to expanding Medicaid coverage in North Carolina, Floyd came out very vocally for expansion back last July.

Floyd, educated at Fayetteville State University in law enforcement and at the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill, spent 28 years in the Human Relations Department for the city of Fayetteville, retiring as director (in 2016?). He brags on his website about his ability to steer pork into Cumberland County, which actually ain't nothing to ignore.

In the hyper-partisan climate we're in, Floyd's vote for HB2 alone could amount to his Achilles heel, especially if there's a dynamic and accomplished Democratic alternative in the primary against him, and a woman to boot.

Democrat Kimberly Hardy is a 48-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1972. She trained as a social worker -- holds a doctorate in it from Morgan State University in Baltimore -- and is currently an assistant professor of social work at Fayetteville State University. One of her areas of special interest and research is "the intersection of social work and faith with a particular emphasis on African-Americans and the institution of the Black Church in both a historical and contemporary context." Her current research focuses on breast cancer and breast health awareness models in urban Black Churches. Hardy has written and presented extensively in the area of religion, spirituality, and social work and currently serves as the Board Secretary for the North American Association of Christians in Social Work (NACSW).

She's challenging incumbent Floyd as "A New Voice for Cumberland County," and according to her Facebook page, she's putting leather to pavement in canvassing neighborhoods in the district. Boots-on-the-ground can indicate energy and support from a cadre of activists, which is essential when trying to overcome the advantages of incumbency.

The Republican Primary

Republican Clarence Goins Jr. is a 40-year-old native of Cumberland County. He was actually a candidate in the notorious Republican primary of 2018 for the US House seat in the 9th Congressional District. Goins was barely a blip against dominant Republican candidates Mark Harris and Robert Pittenger, but having run so unspectacularly in that primary and showing up again in this primary suggests that Goins is a perennial candidate in the making.

Goins is rare in North Carolina politics -- a Republican of color. Not so rare, he's also a banker from Eastover, a manager with First Citizens. He got his education at Campbell University. He has virtually no campaign infrastructure and nowhere announces a platform for us readers of platforms.

When he was running in 2018 in the CD9 Republican primary, he filled out an iVoteValues questionnaire that will knock your socks off, though the iVoteValues panel deigned to rate him only "Somewhat Conservative" -- which is an everlasting hoot.

Republican Diane Wheatley is a 68-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1951. I would have assumed that as the woman in this primary, Wheatley would naturally be the front-runner, but her campaign -- such as it is -- looks more sodden than Goins's. She has virtually no web presence, only a Facebook page that mainly parades her religion and doesn't even mention that she's seeking public office. She says she's a former registered nurse at Ft. Bragg and formerly owned a small business, which deeper research revealed to be Wheatley Motor Co. in the little Cumberland County town of Linden.

But apparently Wheatley is well known in Cumberland County as a former (and long-time) Board of Education member and member of the Cumberland County Commission (including serving as chair). The Fayetteville Observer is hidden behind a paywall (and I'm paying waaay too many digital subscriptions now to add another), so I haven't been able to nail everything down. Wheatley certainly isn't cooperating with a website or any other public listing of her biography. Ballotpedia says she ran in 2012 in the Republican primary for NCH45 and got 42% of the vote against the Republican incumbent. Eight years later, she's trying again for a House seat in a new district.

And Wheatley apparently intends to coast into office on her reputation. Maybe she will.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Elections of March: The Battle for the NCH19 Open Seat

When North Carolina House District 19 (southern New Hanover County, with the suburbs of Wilmington and the beach towns of Carolina Beach and Kure and Fort Fisher and a large swath of rural Brunswick County south of the Cape Fear River, including South Port and Bolivia) was redrawn in the most recent court-ordered redistricting, the incumbent Republican House member Ted Davis got drawn out of his own district. He's now running in District 20, which Rep. Holly Grange has given up to run for governor in the Republican March primary.

So two Republicans have filed for the open District 19 seat, along with two Democrats, one of them well known to us because of her unsuccessful but close race for the seat in 2018.

Democrat Marcia Morgan
Morgan is a 74-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1946. She was an educator, became a career Army officer who retired as a colonel. She taught ROTC and did two tours at the Pentagon including a staff position with the Army Chief of Staff. She says, "I have thoroughly enjoyed retirement and the freedom to do as I please, but the current political environment has challenged me to step forward once again. I do not have a background in politics, but I DO have a strong sense of service to this community and a demonstrated ability to accomplish difficult tasks. I believe we have a commitment to improve our economy, provide equal opportunities for all and protect our environment – and one of the fundamental ways to accomplish those things is through quality education." She details her career, which took her all over the world for the Army, on her website.

Morgan has been endorsed by Lillian's List. She came within 883 votes of beating Ted Davis in 2018 in the old District 19, and she might be considered the automatic frontrunner in this primary, but she's now got large Brunswick County real estate added to her district, and they don't know her yet. Reviewing her campaign infrastructure, I have the impression that she's coasting a little on her 2018 campaign, and I'd like to see new and more evidence that she's going strong for this primary.

Democrat James Dawkins
Dawkins is a 35-year-old Millennial born in 1985 and a novice politician, but he has the full-fledged presence on the Web to suggest he's really making the effort. He's a musician who lives in Southport. He's doing local radio interviews, he's very active on Twitter and Facebook, and he's challenged Marcia Morgan to a debate. That's one sure way to attract attention when you're relatively unknown. He also got an almost fawning write-up in DemCast, which to be fair was profiling him when he was the only announced Democratic candidate in the old District 17. But at the moment he's much more active on social media than Marcia Morgan.

He offers a full panoply of progressive policy positions, including the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Republican David A. Perry
Perry is 54 years old and ran for the District 19 House seat in 2018 as a Libertarian and got 3.8% of the vote. He's big on guns. He arrived in Carolina in 2012 to live in Carolina Beach and work at Corning's Wilmington plant as a software engineer. He had been a Reagan Republican until 9/11 when the neo-con Republican policies of bigger government and international meddling made him a Ron Paul Libertarian. He has since repented:
I soon realized that while there was large contingent of like-minded folks within the Libertarian Party, there was also a large contingent of anarchists and extremists. A contingent who would never agree to anything that fell short of their ideology of eradicating or virtually eliminating government all together. I have always felt that while principles are extremely important, we need to be “realistic” about where we are, while at the same time being “optimistic” about where we are going.
Curiously, he doesn't embrace Donald Trump or even mention his name on his website.

Republican Charlie Miller
Miller is 53 years old and lives in Southport, where he was born and raised. He was Chief Deputy in the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, first beginning in 1987 under Sheriff John Carr Davis. He worked his way through the ranks of the Office and resigned in 2001 to work with Progress Energy as a Nuclear Security Specialist. He returned to the Sheriff’s Office in May 2008 as Chief Deputy when Sheriff Ingram took Office.

He was subsequently elected to the Brunswick County Board of Education in 2006 and re-elected in 2010 and again in 2018 to four-year terms. He has a Facebook page but no other web presence that I've found.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Gen-Z Is Coming For You, Thom Tillis!

Voting by university students in North Carolina is going to go up soar in 2020. They've got a high fever for participating this year because they hate the direction we've taken. They've been paying increasing attention, and they know shit from Shinola. So you got trouble, Thom Tillis. Maybe not now, but soon, and for the rest of your life. 

Interest runs high for his March's primary (and look below at the list of 14 Early Voting Election sites on college campuses starting February 13). Most of Gen-Z will be voting the Democratic ballot, particularly the presidential race. The vast majority won't even see Thom Tillis's name. They'll see the names of Tillis's would-be Democratic opponent, and they'll pick the winner. Come November, Tillis will be in their line of sight, and I think Gen-Z will not be done with voting yet.

1. AppState led the way after the 2012 Republican takeover of our election machinery by fighting for on-campus voting rights. In 2020, the Plemmons Student Union will again host Early Voting from February 13 through February 29, the entire period mandated by law. New registrations on campus are reportedly already running high. Deadline to register for the March 3rd primary: February 7.

2. UNC-Chapel Hill. The Daily Tar Heel reports that whereas the UNC campus was previously divided between five different precincts, with far-flung and difficult-to-find polling locations, the Orange Board of Elections has consolidated all on-campus student housing into a single mega-precinct with an on-campus E-Day polling place. Early Voting this February, yes, at Chapel of the Cross on East Franklin St., if not exactly in the heart of the campus then at least in its left ventricle.

3. NC A&T University, Dudley Building. Full Early Voting.

4. UNC-Greensboro, Kaplan Center for Wellness. Full Early Voting.

5. Winston-Salem State, Anderson Center. Full Early Voting.

6. Fayetteville State University, Smith Recreation Center. Yep.

7. Duke University, Brodhead Center 068 (dead center of campus). Yep.

8. North Carolina Central University, School of Law. Yes.

9. Durham Tech - North Campus. Yes.

10. East Carolina University, student union. You got it.

11. Western Carolina University. Yes.

12. UNC-Charlotte, Belk Gym. Yes.

13. Cape Fear Community College, Health Sciences Learning Resources bldg. Yes.

14. North Carolina State University, Talley Student Union. Yes.

These constitute a wave of sorts.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Elections of March: Army Infantryman v. Smarmy Self-Promoter in NCHouse 117

NC House District 117 -- Henderson County

This was Republican Chuck McGrady's safe district since the elections of 2010. McGrady was often described as a "moderate," though I rarely saw any practical application of his supposed moderation on a House Republican Caucus. He usually voted with his tribe.

When McGrady announced that he would not be running for another term, former House member (District 116) Tim Moffitt fairly leapt at the chance to get back into politics. Moffitt represented District 116 starting in 2010 and was an ambitious little tick who was always into something underhanded. He thought he might be Thom Tillis's natural born replacement as Speaker of the House after Tillis left for Washington. He also thought he could steal Asheville's water supply to privatize it. That scheme didn't go so well, and Moffitt lost his seat in 2014 to Democrat Brian Turner by a thousand votes.

Moffitt has his own primary contest against Dennis Justice, a perennial candidate in Henderson County who's run for Henderson County Commissioner twice, Board of Education three times, Mayor of Fletcher once, and once for the NC Senate in a primary against Tom Apodaca. Moffitt will probably win on March 3 and will then face Democrat Josh Remillard in November in what is considered a "Likely Republican" district.

Democrat Josh Remillard

Remillard also technically has a primary on March 3. I say "technically" because his primary opponent, Danae Aicher, withdrew her candidacy on January 15 -- though not in time to get her name off the ballot. (Aicher had a campaign up and running and looks to have been a very appealing candidate herself.) So though the outcome of the primary is more or less guaranteed in his favor, Remillard still has to go through the motions.

He's going through the motions just like the veteran infantryman he was during two tours in Iraq. He's participated in the LeadNC candidate training and he appears to be all over the place in joint appearances with other local and district-wide candidates from Buncombe and Henderson. Remillard's mountain man persona is going to present a decided contrast to Tim Moffitt's junior-exec-on-the-make vibe.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Elections of March: Why Do These Democratic Incumbents Have Primary Challengers?

Department of "Why Did They Bother To Pay the Filing Fee?"

NC House District 71 -- Forsyth
Incumbent Democratic representative Evelyn Terry (who was first elected in 2012, and who has never received less than 70% of the vote in any of her reelection campaigns) has drawn a primary challenger in Kanika Brown. Brown doesn't appear to be running a campaign. She only has a Facebook page, which is entirely devoted to missing children and doesn't even mention a race for NC House.
Once past the primary, Terry has no Republican opposition in November.

NC House District 93 -- Watauga and Ashe
First-term Democrat Ray Russell has a primary opponent in Turner Doolittle, a 21-year-old Gen-Z-er who was recently a computer science student at AppState. His Facebook page has been inactive since last May and doesn't mention anything about his candidacy.
Once Ray Russell is past the primary, he'll face Republican Ray Pickett, who was defeated for reelection to the Blowing Rock Town Council last fall. The district is rated "Lean Republican."

NC House District 44 -- Cumberland
Incumbent Democrat Billy Richardson (elected to the seat in 2016 by a margin of just 347 votes and reelected in 2018 by a more comfortable margin of 3,000 votes) has a primary with Terry Johnson, 54-year-old Army veteran and community activist, who at least has a Facebook presence.
Whatever difficulties a Democrat faced getting elected in this district in the past seem to have been majorly erased by the most recent redistricting, as projected Republican vote-share went down over 16%. If Billy Richardson prevails in the primary, he will face Republican Heather Holmes in November in this "Likely Democratic" district.

NC House District 27 -- Halifax and Northampton
Democratic incumbent Michael H. Wray (first elected in 2004) has two primary challengers on March 3rd, and I challenge anyone to find out anything about "ghosts" Jerry McDaniel and Kelby Hicks, neither of whom have any campaign infrastructure that I have found.
Once he's past the primary, Michael Wray has a Republican opponent in November, Warren Scott Nail, but this district is rated "Likely Democratic" for a good reason.

NC House District 5 -- Gates, Hertford, Pasquotank
Democratic incumbent Howard Hunter III (first elected in 2014) faces Keith Rivers in the Democratic primary in this "Lean Democratic" district. Rivers at least has a Facebook page and a skeletal website. He's a veteran of the US Navy and a community activist.
If Howard Hunter prevails in the primary, he'll face Republican Donald Kirland in November. 

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Elections of March: The Weirdest Democratic Primary

District 56, Orange County
Long-serving Democratic Representative Verla Insko (first elected in 1996) has no Republican opponent this year, but she does have a primary with a 28-year-old, Joe Parrish, who's apparently interesting enough to get his own YouTube interview on Triangle Talk, but he has no website or Facebook page nor discernible biography. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2014, and in 2016, as a 24-year-old, he ran for the NC House in District 2 on the coast, got 14,775 votes against Republican Larry Yarborough's 22,760. He came out in 2016 branding himself "asexual." He recently published a less-than-enlightening essay, "Why I Am Running," light on detail but peppered with verbiage that suggests confused thinking. He wants "a bold agenda of progressive reform," yet in defining "progressive Democrat" he falls back on Franklin D. Roosevelt as his model. Elsewhere he says he was a Bernie Sanders voter.

Meanwhile, if you need a handy definition of progressive legislator, you need look no further than Verla Insko.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Correction

I thought my readers should know that I've been sued for defamation by Mr. Don Blankenship, former Chairman and CEO of the Massey Energy Company of West Virginia. It appears Mr. Blankenship thinks I had something to do with his loss in the Republican senatorial primary in West Virginia in 2018.

I am one of what were originally 150 defendants. The top first-named defendant is Judge Andrew Napolitano of the Fox News Network (hence the suit is known as Blankenship v. Napolitano et al.). Others named as defendants include the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, Esquire magazine, Wonkette, the Huffington Post, Breitbart News -- the list runs to several pages. Some of these have now apparently negotiated their way out of the lawsuit.

On April 5, 2010, a huge underground explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va., took the lives of 29 miners. As head of the company, Blankenship was subsequently prosecuted by the Federal government for that explosion. In a trial in West Virginia, Blankenship was acquitted by a jury of some charges, found guilty of one charge, and spent approximately a year in Federal prison.

When he left prison, he went into politics and ran for the US Senate in the Republican primary of 2018 with two other candidates who hoped to unseat Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

According to Blankenship v. Napolitano et al., WataugaWatch referred to Blankenship in a post on April 15, 2018, as a "recent felon … who's notorious in West Virginia without necessarily being electable." On the eve of the primary, May 7, 2018, WataugaWatch again mentioned Blankenship: "Holy crap! Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin has been considered the most endangered Democrat in the US Senate, but the Republican voters in their primary tomorrow may grant him a reprieve … if they choose felon coal baron Don Blankenship to run against him." 

It turns out that although Mr. Blankenship was charged with felonies, he was only convicted of a misdemeanor. By using the word felon, I am blamed for linking to national news sources and for following the language being used at the time in the mainstream press, which some sources later corrected. I was unaware of those corrections, and I was unaware that he had only been convicted of a misdemeanor. I thought my characterization was accurate. Most of the 150 defendants in this lawsuit -- perhaps all of them -- at some point used the word felon or the word felony in the same sentence with the name Don Blankenship, as did I.
Correction: My saying that Don Blankenship was a felon instead of his being convicted of one misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate mine safety and health standards in relation to the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion -- for which his punishment was a year in jail -- was a mistake and unintentional. He was indeed acquitted of the felony charges. I meant no offense.

Blankenship lost the Republican primary on May 8 to Patrick Morrisey by 20,529 votes, coming in third in the primary out of a total of six candidates. The readership of WataugaWatch is primarily located in North Carolina, and principally in Watauga County of North Carolina. I don't know how many West Virginia voters might be reading a local North Carolina blog, but I don't think it's enough to have caused Don Blankenship to lose his primary race by over 20,000 votes.

Breaking News: On Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 -- yesterday -- a federal judge in West Virginia refused to toss the misdemeanor conviction of Don Blankenship for conspiring to violate mine safety laws.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Threat of White Populism

I'm reading Jill Lepore's "These Truths: A History of the United States," and I'm sort of hoping it never ends. I've read a lot of American history, but nothing I've read previously completely prepared me for the dish that Lepore serves up -- an American pie with a tough crust and ingredients you might just as soon not bite down on. It's essential reading, and such good writing. Her Chapter 8 alone, on the Civil War, moved me to tears in a way I wasn't expecting.

I've often considered myself a populist. If I'd been born in France in the 18th Century, there's not a doubt in my mind that I would have shown up outside Versailles with a pitchfork. In my view, Citizens United v. FEC is just another Versailles of privilege and judicial favoritism. Sure, sure I've read enough to know the dark side of populism, that agitating outside the gilded halls leads to entertainment at the guillotine. But Occupy Wall Street led to nary an execution, so far as I know.

Jill Lepore writes one paragraph that clarifies so much about American populism as variously understood by citizens who look in different directions for their enemies:
Populism entered American politics at the end of the nineteenth century, and it never left. It pitted "the people," meaning everyone but the rich, against corporations, which fought back in the courts by defining themselves as "persons"; and it pitted "the people," meaning white people, against nonwhite people who were fighting for citizenship and whose ability to fight back in the courts was far more limited, since those fights require well-paid lawyers.
The tension between those two vectors defines our Republic, and mars it, and coincidentally catches me in my own contradiction: I always wanted more populism from Barack Obama. And less from Trump (bless his heart).

I'm Counting on You, Gen-Z

The holy hell the student journalists at the Daily Tar Heel have been raising over the so-called "Silent Sam settlement" is just one more indication that the Baby Boomer Generation in North Carolina has become as moldy and full of worm holes as hundred-year-old Stilton and that our young people are our last best hope for saving us from backsliding into Lost Cause nostalgia. Among other things.

[NOTE: I'm not a Boomer, dammit! I'm older than that, born near the end of the Silent Generation's reign of indifference and smug complacency. I have my own demons.]

In case you don't follow the news out of Orange County, the UNC Board of Governors -- every last one of them a Republican Boomer appointed by the Republican bosses in the General Assembly -- did a secret deal with a white supremacist neo-Confederate group to accept $2.6 million to take the Silent Sam statue off the university's hands.

The Gen-Z journalists at the Daily Tar Heel began looking into that deal and completely scooped all the regular news outlets. What the reporters uncovered is plenty problematic, smelly enough that the Daily Tar Heel is also suing the Board of Governors for violating the state's open meetings law while arriving at their deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The 18-to-20 year olds now populating our university campuses were born when I was reaching retirement age, and the ones I've known and worked with -- several, and more all the time, because Gen-Z is nothing if it's not politically motivated to pay attention and do something -- give me inordinate hope. They say they are motivated by fear, and I can appreciate that. They've been watching the mess the Boomers created, and they can recognize a tipping point even if their elders can't.

I hear just this morning that more university campuses in this state will have on-campus polling stations this year, just like AppState fought so hard to preserve. That gladdens my heart. Just like the spectacle of the Daily Tar Heel suing the Board of Governors over violating the open meetings law brightens my gloomy day.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Elections of March: US House NC6

A First Look at what is likely a Democratic pickup next November. The winner of this Dems primary will likely be the next congressperson in DeeCee, representing all of Guilford and the most urban part of Forsyth. Greensboro and Winston-Salem -- together at last!

Democrats on the ballot March 3rd:

Bruce Davis, High Point, 62 years old, born in 1957, Baby Boomer, African-American. Perennial candidate: Going back to 2010 and 2012, he tried twice to oust Democratic NC Senator Gladys Robinson from her seat in NCS28. In 2014, he ran unsuccessfully in the primary for the old 6th Congressional District. But in 2016, Davis finally won a race -- in a crowded Democratic primary in the old CD13, he won the privilege to go up against newcomer Republican Ted Budd. Davis lost to Budd in the General, while taking a respectable 156,000 votes to Budd's 199,000. Then in 2019, he ran third in the non-partisan 2019 primary for mayor of High Point.
Rhonda Foxx, Greensboro, 37 years old, born in 1983, Millennial, African-American. First-time candidate. 2008 graduate of George Washington University Law School. Subsequently a rising attorney and congressional staffer in Washington, D.C. Until recently chief of staff to Congresswoman Alma Adams. The founder of the Black Women’s Congressional Alliance, a caucus of 175 black women working on Capitol Hill. BA from UNC-Chapel Hill. (Curiously, for such a political professional, Foxx's web presence is next to nil. An underdeveloped Facebook page. An underdeveloped Twitter account. That's all I find.)
Ed Hanes Jr., Winston-Salem, 47 years old, born in 1973, Gen-X-er, African-American. Represented District 72 in the NCHouse, 2013 to August 2018, when he resigned suddenly while under a cloud for campaign finance violations. He insisted that Winston-Salem city councilman Derwin L. Montgomery be appointed to his unexpired term in the NCHouse.
Kathy Manning, Greensboro, 63 years old, born in 1956, Baby Boomer. Ran unsuccessfully in 2018 against incumbent Republican Ted Budd in the old 13th Congressional District. Philantrophist. Self-described "business-oriented moderate." Demonstrated champion fundraiser.
Derwin L. Montgomery, Winston-Salem, 32 years old, born in 1988, Millennial, African-American. Long-serving member of the Winston-Salem city council (first elected 2009), representing the East Ward. Appointed August 2018 to Ed Hanes' unexpired term in NCHouse (Dist. 72). Won reelection in his own right to the seat in November 2018.

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Elections of March: Can an Insurgent African-American Man Take Out a 9-Term White Woman in NCH102?

The Carney-Peebles Primary in NC House District 102

Becky Carney
Dist. 102 in north Charlotte is considered "Likely Democratic." No lie. Expected Democratic performance in a general election -- 79% of the vote (Bitzer).

Democrat Becky Carney has represented the district since 2002. She's a classic. Liberal Democrat, 75 years old, born in 1944, which makes her late-stage Silent Generation (same as me). I've seen Carney's employment listed as "homemaker." She's proud to be the mother of six and the grandmother of 14. And guess what? She represents a majority black district. She's a political power with an impeccable image and reputation.

She's also a survivor in the rawest, realest sense of that word. She suffered something called "sudden cardiac death" in 2009, the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness (according to the Mayo Clinic), and had successful open heart surgery in 2015. "Doctors implanted a left ventricular assist device. The LVAD is a mechanical pump that delivers blood from the left ventricle to the aorta and on to the rest of the body." (Charlotte Observer) Then she had a lumpectomy in June of 2018 and went on to win reelection to her seat that fall with 83% of the vote.

She's always mainly won reelection without any primary opposition (and with only spotty Republican opposition). She did have a primary opponent (weak ) in 2018 who got less than 19% against her. She seems invincible, especially considering that she was once also Outstanding Public Servant of the Year for the Charlotte NAACP, and a 2005 inductee into the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs Inc., Charlotte Club Women’s History Hall of Fame, and she served as a legislator on the founding board of the Minority Golf Museum and Hall of Fame (which maybe didn't pan out). And hey you hipsters, she's for the legalization of marijuana.

2020 Is Gonna Be Different
She has a formidable primary challenger this year in African-American Democrat Jonathan Peebles (and still more primary challengers in the margins who don't seem very significant, unless one of them splits the black vote -- see below). Peebles is a 32-year-old Millennial, and does he ever look ready for a campaign! With all the bells and social media whistles in place, including a useful introductory video for getting to know the guy (I'm including the 2 minute-plus version below, which contains more biography; there's a shorter 40-second version too):

Peebles has only been in Charlotte since 2012, but he's broken out as a community leader and organizer. He works in the world of non-profits, for the Latin American Coalition as its development and operations director. Bio from the Charlotte Post:

"A native of Springfield, Virginia, a suburb of Washington D.C., Peebles graduated Old Dominion University in Norfolk and ... he decided to pursue a master’s degree in public administration at UNC Charlotte, where he gained experience working in areas of nonprofit services, equity, and economic development."

He's also a member of the Black Political Caucus, president of the Young Democrats of Mecklenburg, and a member of something called the Eastside Education Think Tank Committee. Maybe more important than any of the rest for overtaking Becky Carney is Peebles' visible activism in the Mecklenburg Democratic Party. He's a part of the State Executive Committee, active in his precinct, a leader of other Millennials -- all of which could seriously erode Carney's party base for the first time.

Peebles campaign sites:;;; and

Kyle Kirby
Other Democrats in the Carney-Peebles Primary

Leroy Dean, a 51-year-old African-American who's completely invisible to the searching eyes of Google.

And Anthony E. Forman, a 66-year-old African-American who at least has a Facebook presence. He has no history with the Democratic Party and only started voting after the election of Trump. That's a prevalent sign of the times among some -- many? -- of the sudden candidates for office.

The Eventual Republican Sacrificial Lamb

On the ballot in November for NCH102 will be Republican Kyle Kirby, a 34-year-old Millennial who's running on the slogan "Love Your Neighbor." No kidding. That's a local Republican slogan in the Age of Trump. Kirby's also gay-friendly, says he's for LGBTQ+ rights, and he's also for legalizing recreational marijuana (while also taxing it, for revenue, and who says Republicans can't see clearly on a Wednesday?).

Hardly a Republican in the mold of Trump -- let alone the Berger-Moore type currently serving in the General Assembly.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

The Elections of March: Democrat Aimy Steele Has This, But Which Republican Will She Face in November?

NC House District 82 -- Cabarrus County

Republican incumbent Linda P. Johnson was first elected to the NC House District 83 in 2000 and was reelected in that district until redistricting turned it into District 82, and she was reelected in that district until she decided to retire ahead of the 2020 elections. She didn't publicly announce her decision to retire until December 19, though she had let her chosen successor know. Ultimately, three Republicans filed to replace her. Two Democrats also want the seat, which is now rated "Lean Republican" with a predicted Republican vote-share of 55.70% (even though the most recent redistricting removed 1.60% of that Republican base).

The Democrats

Aimy Steele ran for this seat against Linda Johnson in 2018 and did not stop running for a re-match throughout 2019 and into 2020. She's a 40-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1970. In 2018, Steele left her job as principal of Beverly Hills STEM Elementary School in Concord, N.C., to run unencumbered for the NC House. She out-performed Democratic expectations, earning 47.25% of the vote and losing to incumbent Johnson by 1,978 votes out of almost 36,000 total votes cast. (As of January 2018 there were 62,444 registered voters in the district. More on that number below.)
Steele announced way back in January of 2019 year that she "wouldn't be returning to the school house" because she intended to try again in 2020, "buoyed by her experience as a candidate and what she learned along the way." I went back to read what I wrote about Aimy Steele in 2018. Based on her personal history, I called her a "wonder woman," but I also acknowledged the giant windmill that an entrenched incumbent like Linda Johnson was going to represent. I titled the piece "Donna Quixote."
FlipNC rated the 82nd in its second tier of 2020 most flippable districts, saying they expect Democratic prospects to improve there by 3 points in 2020. I dunno. Michael Bitzer's calculation about the new district is included above in the headnote in the last sentence. Still a big windmill for Aimy Steele to tilt against.
But lookee here: In the 2018 election, some 26,484 registered voters didn't bother to show up in District 82. A total of only 35,960 votes were cast, out of 62,444 registered voters. Wow. That's an untapped source for any candidate who can stir some enthusiasm among the disaffected, the uninterested, the turned-off voters of Cabarrus. That poor voter turnout in 2018 appears to be not just typical of off-year elections in the 82nd, but plain typical. Turnout was higher in 2016, a presidential year, but not that much higher -- 42,636 total votes cast. Still a lot of disengaged votes left on the table (though clearly, from her losing margin in 2018, Aimy Steele got to some of them).
When Steele launched in January last year, she told Education Week that she would be using "two of the biggest lessons from the 2018 campaign to guide her this time around: start fundraising early and have a better ground game, with early organization and door-knocking in neighborhoods and precincts." With reference to the first, I intend to contribute to her campaign. (She's incidentally also been endorsed by Lillian's List and by the new Long Leaf Pine Slate.) With reference to the 2nd, "better ground game" is music to my ears. Retail politics. Knock on those doors of voters who aren't typically voting.
But first, you've got to find them. I hope Steele has a talented computerized data operative as well as a finance director.

William F. Pilkington is a 68-year-old Baby Boomer and retired CEO and Public Health Director of the Cabarrus Health Alliance, a 38-year job experience that's impressive on the face of it and under normal circumstances might look like a good foundation on which to build a political campaign. But considering Aimy Steele's commitment and past performance, I can't help thinking of Mr. Pilkington's entry into the primary as something akin to a "spoiler" candidacy. 
Because he seems utterly unprepared for a campaign. I haven't found a scrap of campaign infrastructure -- no website, not even a Facebook page. He's the invisible man, and white to boot, which suggests a certain assumption of privilege which I hope I'm completely wrong about.

The Republicans

Here's where it gets interesting, because there's an "anointed one" and a couple of insurgents who evidently didn't get the memo.

Parish Moffitt, the "anointed one," is a 45-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1974 who's been incumbent Linda Johnson's Cabarrus "liaison," which seems to mean that he represented her at meetings she didn't want to attend. He says that Johnson recruited him to run in her place, and she put out an endorsement message for him on the same day that she announced her retirement -- Dec. 18, near the close of candidate filing. If that late announcement was meant to keep down the competition, the plan didn't work.
Moffitt says he's an American Airlines pilot who also owns Aero Crews LLC, which appears to be mainly a pilot employment agency. His website is de minimis on content, so if you're looking for his political philosophy, the plastering of the word conservative will have to do as answer to all your questions. Oh, okay, say no more.
He has a Facebook page where he wears "Endorsed by Rep. Linda Johnson" like a beauty pageant sash.
I reckon this Republican primary will be a test of the power and influence of Linda P. Johnson, because Parish Moffitt hasn't offered much on his own.

Kristin Baker is a 56-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1963 and a psychiatrist with impressive credentials. She was Morehead Scholar who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Chapel Hill and went on to earn her medical degree from the UNC School of Medicine. She's been practicing for over 20 years and has served as medical director for Hospice of Cabarrus County. On her Facebook page, she wants you to know that she's a "Pro-Life Psychiatrist," which conjures for me certain memes that fill me with hilarity. Also fun: her campaign slogan of "Rooted. Ready. Real." Those periods are like thunderclaps, aren't they? 
She also parades the word conservative even more than does Parish Moffitt. "Conservative, conservative, conservative." But she throws in, for good measure, "political outsider," perhaps in reaction to the political annointment of Parish Moffitt for the seat by an incumbent who's perhaps been incumbent for too long.

Judge Hamby in 2012, with Marco Rubio
William G. Hamby Jr. is a 63-year-old retired chief district judge (first elected in 1993) and a boomer. He's been an attorney in Cabarrus County since 1983 and is perhaps resting on the laurels of a long legal career because he hasn't bothered to establish any campaign infrastructure for inquiring political minds -- no website, no Facebook page, no nuttin. If he offers any contrast to the above two, it's impossible to know it.
His retirement in 2018 occasioned a thumbnail biographical sketch about him in the Concord Independent Tribune:
"Judge Hamby has dedicated his entire adult life to public service. After Graduating from UNC- Chapel Hill, he began his career as a middle school teacher until he was called for jury duty for a second degree murder trial. This piqued his interest in the judicial system and led him to alter dramatically his life’s plans. He applied and was accepted to Wake Forest University Law School, where he graduated in 1983.
"After graduation, Judge Hamby moved to Cabarrus County and opened a thriving law firm. He then ran and was elected as a Cabarrus County Commissioner, where some of his most notable successes included improving the tourism industry, creating the Concord Regional Airport and building water supply stations throughout the county."
Sounds like a reasonable guy. The NCGOP could use more judicial temperaments.
Hamby served as a North Carolina delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2012 and helped nominate Mitt Romney for the presidency. He doesn't look like a Trumper. But is his mojo distinguished enough in Cabarrus to overcome the anointed one and the pro-life psychiatrist? 

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The Elections of March: Brian Farkas v. Jake Hochard in Pitt County

NC House District 9 -- Pitt County

Former incumbent Republican NC House member Greg Murphy ran successfully last year for the US Congress in NC-3 in a special election. Republican Perrin Jones was appointed to his empty seat in the NC House and is running for election. Two Democrats have also filed and will face one another in the March 3rd primary. Following the most recent remapping of General Assembly districts, NCH9 lost over 6% of its likely Republican vote, so the district is now rated "Competitive -- Lean Democratic." This district ought to be one of the easier "flips" this year, but everything depends on whom the Democrats nominate.

Democrat Brian Farkas is a 32-year-old millennial born in 1987, raised in Pitt County, and he's running an energetic campaign and attracting some significant support. Freshman Rep. Zack Hawkins of Durham County gave the keynote at the Farkas launch party (Rep. Joe Sam Queen of western NC also attended along with Jenna Wadsworth, who is making some waves herself as a new kind of candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture). Farkas has been endorsed by Now Or Never NC, an organization that backs candidates who support public education, redistricting reform, voter access, and local governance, and by the Long Leaf Pine Slate, a project by Blair Reeves to help favored Democratic candidates raise money.
Four years ago, while he was still in his 20s, Farkas challenged Greg Murphy for this seat. Farkas understood the importance of a good ground game for an under-funded campaign, and he got 17,000 votes to Murphy's almost 23,000 -- a loss, yes, but a loss that showed some promise for the future, especially considering Farkas's age at the time.
He's a graduate of UNC-Charlotte and earned a Master's of Public Administration at Chapel Hill. He interned with Congressman Brad Miller in DeeCee in 2007, worked almost three years in the US Attorney's office in Charlotte, spent ten months as a graduate assistant in the School of Government at UNC, worked 20 months as a program specialist with the National Institute of Environmental Health at Research Triangle Park before joining the JKF Architecture firm in Greenville as Director of Client Relations and Development, where he's been since 2013. A man on the move, picking up experience in all sorts of real world arenas.
He's also been very active as a volunteer with many local development and eleemosynary orgs including the Greenville Museum of Art, the Rocking Horse Therapeutic Riding Program, and the Greenville-Eastern North Carolina Alliance for economic empowerment.

Democrat Jake Hochard is also a 32-year-old millennial born in 1988 and an economics professor at East Carolina University. He earned his bachelor's degrees in economics and environmental studies from Gettysburg College in 2011, and a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Wyoming in 2015. He did not start voting in North Carolina until the 2018 mid-terms, and he's never run for office before. 
Hochard's career experience includes working as a poverty and environmental economist, and he served as a technical and scientific expert for the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuarine Partnership, and as a research fellow with the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute and the Center for Natural Hazards Research. 
He wrote about himself for a Ballotpedia candidate survey: "Like many ECU students, Jake is from a blue-collar family, is a first-generation college student and self-financed his education. Jake specializes in the study of economic conditions that alleviate poverty while promoting growth and has brought nearly $1 million in research funding to ECU, taught 800+ students and employed 30+ students to better understand conditions of poverty, healthcare and natural disasters in eastern North Carolina."
Hochard offers a contrast to Farkas, certainly in style and image in not in basic democratic beliefs. Both, we suspect, will be trying to mobilize student voters at East Carolina University. Hochard may have the edge there, but Farkas has more of the volunteer base of the local Democratic Party.

Republican incumbent (since October 2019) Perrin Jones has the advantage of incumbency. Plus perhaps an advantage of status as a respected anesthesiologist and some might say an advantage of age -- he's a 47-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1972 in Charlotte. He was educated at UNC-Chapel Hill and at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest. He also has the advantage of serving such a short time in the NC House that he doesn't have his name on any controversial legislation and is virtually a blank slate.
As far as I can tell, he has no campaign website and only a Facebook page, to which he's posted infrequently and certainly nothing controversial. That lack of campaign infrastructure will likely change after the Democratic primary, along with his image as a "soft Republican."
How Trumpy will be go? 

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The Elections of March: Why a Democratic Primary in NCS38?

NC Senate District 38 -- Mecklenburg County

Primary challengers have popped up in some unlikely races this year, none perhaps more surprising than the two Democratic challengers to the incumbent Democratic senator in this Mecklenburg district. The winner of the primary is almost guaranteed to take the seat against weak Republican opposition next November.

Incumbent Democrat Mujtaba Mohammed is a 35-year-old millennial (born in 1985 in Toledo, Ohio, to immigrant parents from India) who earned his law degree from NC Central and who works primarily as a public defender. He took over 81% of the vote for the seat in 2018, which is why this district is rated "Likely Democratic." But before he got to the fall election in 2018, he had taken out three-term incumbent Democrat Joel Ford, who had regularly inserted his thumb in his caucus's eye by voting repeatedly with the Senate Republicans.
Mohammed has been active in the Senate as primary sponsor for bills relating especially to the welfare of children and to education. Never mind that the Republican overlords often maroon those bills in the Rules Committee. He was primary sponsor for bills to restore a child care tax credit, restore a bump in teacher salaries for a Master's degree, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill to Reinstate the Earned Income Tax Credit, a bill to raise the minimum wage in North Carolina, a bill to fully fund school counselors and psychologists, and a full repeal of HB2 (among others).

Democrat Laura Anthony is a 50-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1970 who appears to have been spurred to political activity by the Rise of Trump. As far as I can tell, she voted for the first time ever in 2016 and then again in 2018, but her Twitter feed strikes resonate progressive themes. She wrote on December 12, "Going into politics was not my plan. But our democracy is at risk. Access to healthcare is at risk. Women Rights are at risk. Free and Fair elections are at risk And that’s why I’m asking you to join me." Her first run for any public office.

Democrat Roderick Davis is a 36-year-old millennial born in 1984 and a perennial candidate. He ran for mayor of Charlotte in 2015, for the NC Senate seat in both 2016 and 2018, and for an at-large seat on the Charlotte City Council in 2017. In the 2018 primary for the senate seat, he got 631 votes out of 13,284 total votes cast. 

Republican Jack Brosch is a 61-year-old baby boomer born in 1958. He previously ran for Congress against Mel Watt in 2012, so self-immolation is sort of his MO.

Monday, January 06, 2020

The Body Count -- Eric Chewning, Chief of Staff to SecDef

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

Eric Chewning, chief of staff to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, will step down at the end of this month, his exit apparently accelerated by Trump's latest wild swings against Iran. 

Chewning, a former Army intelligence officer and combat veteran, joined the Pentagon in 2017 and was later promoted to chief of staff by then-Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan.

Chewning will return to the private sector where rational decision-making is still practiced.

The Elections of March: This "Safe" Democratic Seat in Buncombe Will Likely Be Decided in the Primary

NC Senate District 49 -- Buncombe County

Incumbent Democrat Terry Van Duyn is stepping down to run in the March primary for lieutenant governor. The most recent redistricting reduced Republican voting strength in District 49 even more than it was already, so it's rated "Likely Democratic." The primary between three Democratic contenders will likely decide who ultimately takes the seat, though there is a Republican in the race (see below).

Democrat Julie Mayfield might justifiably take the honors of "frontrunner." She declared her candidacy almost a year ago -- last March. She's a 53-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1967 and since 2015 a member of the Asheville City Council and one of the foremost leaders of MountainTrue, an environmental advocacy nonprofit. She helped co-found MountainTrue in 2015, the same year she made it to the city council. MountainTrue was a merger of environmental advocacy groups in Henderson, Jackson, and Macon counties and has become the official home for both the French Broad Riverkeeper and the Watauga Riverkeeper.
Julie Mayfield got her law degree from Emory University in 1996, which apparently fueled an inherent gene for pro bono and public good advocacy. She directed the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law where she represented environmental groups, civic associations, and individuals in public interest environmental law cases. From 2003 to early 2008, she was Vice President and General Counsel for the Georgia Conservancy. She arrived in Asheville in 2008 and by 2011 she was appointed by Governor Bev Perdue to the Mountain Resources Commission, where she served until the legislature dissolved the Commission in 2013. She also served on the North Carolina Conservation Network board for six years, chairing it for two.
On the Asheville City Council, she's pushed a new program for down-payment assistance for prospective homeowners and she's shown a commendible curiosity about how the Tourism Development Authority spends tourism tax revenues. Prior to MountainTrue, Mayfield worked for Amnesty International USA and for the Atlanta Community Food Bank and for the Georgia Justice Project. She advocated for people caught up sometimes in a meat-grinder of law enforcement, which accounts for Mayfield's active participation in rewriting the use-of-force rules for the Asheville City Police, a policy-rewrite that Mayfield says has led to a 61% reduction in use-of-force incidents.
She's been endorsed, incidentally, by Terry Van Duyn.

Democrat Travis Smith is a 36-year-old millennial who was born in Canada, immigrated here 11 years ago, and presumably became a citizen, but I can find no evidence that he's ever voted in any election including in the 2016 presidential year when he said he phonebanked for Bernie Sanders. He works as an IT consultant for
Here's his introductory video message:

Democrat Ben Scales is a 55-year-old baby boomer born in 1964. He also announced his candidacy in March of 2019. Like Mayfield, Scales is also a lawyer and has run unsuccessfully twice for Buncombe district attorney, once as an unaffiliated candidate. Scales came out early for the legalization of marijuana and staked out other progressive positions: "Health care is a right, climate change needs rapid solutions now, education is for everyone, gender is a spectrum, immigrants are welcome, domestic violence won’t be tolerated, women are equal, agriculture and innovation is vital, elections should be fair and voter registration automatic, the cash bail system, mass incarceration and the war on drugs must end."
He says that "As an attorney, he has represented the underrepresented, often pro bono, such as protestors and activists associated with Occupy Asheville, Asheville Black Lives Matter, Southerners On New Ground, and Veterans for Peace." He's been particularly active as an attorney for victims of domestic violence. He's a do-gooder in the venerable Democratic tradition and apparently a pretty decent guitarist.

Republican Bob Penland is a 77-year-old resident of Candler, NC, who was born in 1942 at the tail-end of the Silent Generation. He has no campaign infrastructure whatsoever that we can find, and hence no accessible biography.