Friday, February 28, 2020

More Mail Pieces

Covered up every day now with glossy mailers. Yesterday, three more from Bloomberg and two from Klobuchar.

Personally, this voter voted two weeks ago, but thanks for playing!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Did Bloomberg Buy You?

We received three pieces of mail from Mike Bloomberg at our house yesterday:
1 of 3 Bloomberg mail pieces
we received yesterday
1. A fancy, unfolding, 5-panel contraption in heavy cardstock and full color with each fold teased by a "WE WANT" headline, as though we are children clamoring at the ice cream truck. Don't worry. The rich man will give us sweets. (The photo here doesn't really do it justice -- especially the expense of producing a mailer like this.)
2. A one-page letter in a No. 10 envelope purporting to be a personal letter to us from Mike Bloomberg in which he mainly evokes 9/11 and reassures us -- though usually letters like this from candidates are asking for money -- he doesn't want a dime from us. Not one dime.
3. An oversize, glossy, folded flyer whose main pitch is anti-NRA.
Okay, we get it. The billionaire can waste this much money on voters who've already voted early in the North Carolina primary. He can't buy us but he sure as hell can bury us in paper.

But is he buying others, particularly elected Democratic office-holders who've been piling into the Bloomberg limo at a depressing clip? Vy Liles, the mayor of Charlotte. Current Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin and former Raleigh mayors Charles Meeker and Nancy McFarlane. Most recently, the two Democratic leaders in the NC House and Senate, Darren Jackson and Dan Blue. Jeez.

The inevitable and logical question: Did they get the Bloomberg gift bag? What were they promised?

Because Bloomberg himself obviously thinks in terms of buying people like assets. His slip of the tongue during last night's debate was perhaps the most iconic self-identifier we'll ever hear from the ex-mayor. In talking about how he helped about half of the Democrats who won in the midterm elections of 2018, he bragged,
Twenty-one of those are people that I spent a hundred million dollars to help elect. All of the new Democrats that came in and put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave the Congress the ability to control this president, I bough — I, I got them.

If I were one of the Democratic progressives running for a seat in the NC House or Senate this year, I would be depressed that the Democratic leaders in those chambers had put themselves so publicly in Bloomberg's pocket.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Giving Progressivism a Chance

So all three sitting Democratic congresspeople from North Carolina have endorsed Joe Biden for president -- Alma Adams, G.K. Butterfield, and David Price.

Congressman David Price
At least it wasn't Bloomberg.

Tell me it wasn't squeamishness about the possible progressive direction of the party that motivated Alma Adams and G.K. Butterfield -- really, rank fear. Adams said, “A vote for Bernie around here would mean that we’re going to lose our governor.” Butterfield said Democrats can not win the state’s electoral votes with Sanders at the top of the ticket (or Elizabeth Warren for that matter). David Price was more circumspect, said he'd support whoever won the nomination but thought Biden had the best experience for the job.

Democratic office-holders and wannabes all over the place have the heebie-jeebies over the very real prospect that a gen-you-wine progressive will be nominated for president by the Democratic Party. Haven't had a real progressive run for president since George McGovern, and you know how that turned out. Which is precisely the fountainhead source for all the inherited terror among Democratic politicians about being labeled "socialist," or anything that smacks of the Commie.

I've had that fear. I decided to overcome it.

Read more here:
Read more here:

Moderate Democrats lost presidential elections in 1980 (Jimmy Carter), 1984 (Walter Mondale), 1988 (Michael Dukakis), 2000 (Al Gore), 2004 (John Kerry), and 2016 (Hillary Clinton). They all mainly operated under Republican labels -- "liberal" or even the dreaded "radic-lib" -- while steadfastly advocating for gradualism. They stayed away from big structural reform, like McGovern had pushed for. They were always "realistic" about "gradual remedies" while mainly looking defensive and dodgy at least half the time. (I flash on Dukakis flinching at "card-carrying member of the Civil Liberties Union.") To me, the Democratic moderate is a nervous candidate -- by nature nervous about being taken the wrong way -- trying his/her best not to offend anyone (while also not exciting many), pulling punches, looking prime-time-ready while always courting money. Every Democratic moderate who ran and lost after McGovern hoped to wash the taste of McGovern's historic loss out of their collective mouths. They failed.

Ibram X. Kendi boldly suggested the McGovern's defeat as the (curable) virus that's been afflicting moderate Democrats since 1972:
Richard Nixon won 49 states and 520 electoral votes, severely wounding the spirits of countless young progressives. And I don’t think some of them ever fully recovered. “It was a generational defeat,” as BuzzFeed’s Katherine Miller wrote.
Don't I remember it! The wounding of the spirit is a serious thing. Takes time to recover, or maybe recovery is not even possible, especially when fear dominates philosophy.

Here's the myth the moderates accept, which Rachel Bitecofer cheekily nicknamed "The Chuck Todd Theory of American Politics":
About 55 percent of eligible voters are likely to go to the polls, and the winner is determined by the 15 percent or so of "swing voters" who flit between the parties. So a general election campaign amounts to a long effort to pull those voters in to your side.
How you do dat, moderates? Pull those swing voters to your side? You know how you do it. You begin to talk (and God help us! think) more like a Republican. 

Moderate Democratic organs want to talk about the 6 million Obama-to-Trump voters that won the election for Trump in 2016. They think they can win them back in 2020 but not by being too "progressive" and certainly not by being within shouting distance of "socialist." But here's a fact that Ibram X. Kendi zeroes in on: in Obama's reelection in 2012, after he'd shown himself as less a progressive warrior than a man repeatedly genuflecting to the bankers, some 4.4 million Obama voters from 2008 simply did not vote at all in 2016, uninspired by Hillary and devastated that the true progressive in the race -- Bernie -- got shut out. In 2012 another 2.3 million former Obama voters went third party, and progressivism went back in the closet but wouldn't stay there. 

Ibram Kendi
The Great Untapped (new or only occasional voters energized for major progressive change) are more likely to be younger and people of color. I'm with their rising. Given the chance, might they not take their rightful place in the power structure?

Ibram X. Kendi again:
Moderate Democrats blame progressive candidates for losses, but they can’t seem to blame moderate candidates for losses. Moderates can’t seem to reflect on the historical electability of their candidates, as they implore progressives to reflect on the historical electability of their candidates. Moderates recognize how progressive candidates alienate certain voters, but they can’t seem to recognize how moderate candidates alienate certain voters. Moderates implore progressives to give moderate candidates a chance, but they can’t seem to give progressive candidates a chance.

Monday, February 24, 2020

It Gets Worse

As a part of the Democratic Party establishment, I certainly see -- how could I miss it? -- that the party establishment and many of its leaders are having a nervous breakdown over Bernie Sanders. Like, they're on the threshold of a psychogenic fugue state, "characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality" (thank you, Wikipedia!).

Chris Matthews on MSNBC (than which there is no more corporatist-infused talking head available on your home receiver) warned on Saturday that the Bernie movement's taking of Nevada is like the Nazis army taking France. Democratic congresspeople, especially the ones elected in 2018 in former Trump districts, are singing various versions of "When I have fears that I may cease to be," little cries for help to save them from the potential "socialist" at the top of the ballot.

“In 30-plus years of politics, I’ve never seen this level of doom. I’ve never had a day with so many people texting, emailing, calling me with so much doom and gloom,” said Matt Bennett of the center-left group Third Way after Sanders' win in Nevada (Politico).

I have good and old friends in the Democratic Party far and wide, and many of them agree that Bernie Sanders is an existential threat (God how I hate that term) and that a Sanders nomination will equal a Trump second term. Many Republican Party activists and operatives also believe it, that they're headed to a GOP landslide if Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee. "Why, we could take back the House!" Can't you imagine the advertising: "Socialist! Socialist! Socialist! All the way to the bottom of the ballot."

Democrats since the Age of Reagan are terrified of being tarred by words. Lib. Libtard. Hippy extremist. Latte elite. Democrats were never as good as the Republicans at labeling the enemy. I get it. I've always understood the vulnerability of candidates, especially the ones who really don't have mature political philosophies and are already afraid of their shadows, but damn it! I also understand the folk wisdom of "sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never kill me." You either take a stand or you don't.

So some of those good old friends of mine maybe think I've slipped into early onset pudding-brain, as I acknowledge openly that a political meteor is about to smash our ground. It's too late to turn it back. A meteor doesn't brake. People are fed up. They already were in 2010 too and got what they most desired in 2016. Trump's triumph was not just Russian bots. It was also people fed up with some of the same shit I'm fed up with, only their fed-upness is layered in with God and guns and abortion, and that's not my bag. Plus they worship dictators. But can't you recognize the resistance and instinct for revolution among the MAGA crowd as at least a cousin to the new voter resistance and rebellion now fueling the Bernie Sanders movement?

Meanwhile, with some Democratic presidential candidates trying to make nice with corporate power, courting the big bucks by being "moderate," or while even being billionaires themselves, billionaires with plenty of buying power, the panic in the establishment is that the old pitches don't sell, the moderate, "Third Way," "radical pragmatism," DLC-backed brand that Bill Clinton embodied. The Democratic pragmatism that made Clinton a Wall Street co-dependant and told Obama he couldn't have single-payer healthcare. That brand of "progressivism" doesn't play any more because it was -- or became -- a fraud. 

People are fed up. Many of them haven't even bothered to vote in the past. Many aren't registered to vote, but they're getting registered -- youth, minorities, single women, and Millennial professionals who've seen their prospects trend downward. They could rise in numbers that might swamp the authoritarians now in power. Can it happen? Will it happen? I don't know. Neither do you. But that's what I'm rolling the dice for.

People are fed up. Since at least 2010, they've intended to force a reshaping and realignment of the American power structure. For Trumpsters, that means putting in a strong man authoritarian. For the new voters of 2020, it means maybe putting in a democratic socialist. Those fed-up people, maybe already an overwhelming majority, either gets a major political overhaul of the power structure, or we really do face the butt end of the Republic with a butt as dictator.

Choose what you fear. I cannot fear an emerging democratic majority.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Something's Happening Here

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
--Stephen A. Stills, Buffalo Springfield

True confession: I'm a radical at heart. It's a biblical radicalism. I learned from Jesus that upending the money-changers was a damn good idea (takes a righteous dude to pull that off, but Lord! the negative publicity!). Radicalism comes from the Latin word for root, radix, getting to the root cause of what ails you. The main premise of my radicalism (just like Jesus!): the love of money is the root of all evil.

But a long time ago, I became a regular Democrat, and not just any regular Democrat, loyal to my party through good times and gawdawful scandals, but an establishment Democrat with a party position to prove it. That status and responsibility diluted my stronger juices into a more pragmatic but weaker tea of incrementalism -- can't always have what we want and don't always get what we need. Just be patient. There's another election coming up in two years. 

Anand Giridharadas
So I actually heard myself one day advise a candidate not to go too far out, nor too far in (if you get my drift), because American conservatism has been dominant now since Reagan, and who wants to get beat to a pulp as a "liberal" Democrat, when that doesn't have to be an issue? Especially in my rural Southern district. (As a Democratic executive officer, I'm going to have to support whoever ends up as our presidential nominee, and that truth has given me the heebie-jeebies and the occasional panic-attack.)

What happened is that swerve into moderation made us sometimes unwilling participants in a system of cash, influence, and power, which was understood as the only way to thrive politically. We watched fellow Democrats go corrupt for money, and we winked. Because in a plutocracy -- which is what we've managed to allow -- money became the only way to play, so when the Clintons sold the Lincoln bedroom, they were just doing what everyone else had been doing, and when Obama hired the very economists whose plutocratic policies had taken us over the clift in 2008, why, he needed those Wall Street guys because he didn't know how the economy worked. Buying into the billionaires' headspace about finance and taxes and power, and how power is wielded and for whose benefit, has been a muddy rut for way too many contemporary Democrats for way too long. And Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar all continue to court that crowd. Didn't I hear that even Elizabeth Warren has decided to accept Super-PAC money. Buttigieg appears to be the billionaires' "top choice." 

None of that political expediency cuts it any more. Why would I decide to vote for the first time for more of the same?

"There are candidates who would leave undisturbed the opportunity to create wealth on that scale [the scale of Mike Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos, etc.] and who encourage the private solution of public problems." (Anand Giridharadas, "The Billionaire Election")

Incrementalism. Smacks of being sold out.

But something is happening here that explains both the election of Twitterman almost 4 years ago and the movement behind Bernie Sanders right now, even bigger than 2 years ago. Resentment of wealthy elites among the MAGA crowd got twisted up with an undeniable racism unleashed by the rich demagogue who once got laughed at in public by a black man who should never have gotten into the White House. With Bernie Sanders (and Elizabeth Warren too), the rage is against the whole corporate structure of American life, against government and corporate policies that are written to keep the powerful in power.

"Your health insurance hasn’t somehow, mysteriously been made too expensive; your brick-and-mortar store hasn’t somehow, mysteriously been undercut. Someone did those things to you, probably by rigging the system to secure an undeserved advantage." (Anand Giridharadas, "The Billionaire Election")

The turnout of first-time voters in the Nevada caucuses is worth looking into -- fully half of the record turnout had not voted before. New voters also drove the record turn-out numbers in the recent New Hampshire primary. Rachel Bitecofer has been predicting this for months, the surging of new voters who want to throw over the establishment, scattering the money-changers from the temple, and don't we see it happening? A blossoming of anger (an emotion stronger than mere enthusiasm) at the very system of our inequality, and an unwillingness to fall in line with Democratic incrementalism.
Today a vocal chunk of the Democratic electorate is gravitating to a strikingly different conclusion: that America would actually be better off reducing its billionaire population through taxes and profit-trimming regulations.
Ballooning anti-billionaire sentiment is galvanizing billionaires [too]. Some have been motivated to go on television to cast their critics as na├»ve and un-American. Others donate to centrist candidates like Mr. Biden, Mr. Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who serve a cocktail of down-home incrementalism shaken with wealth defense. But it took a special billionaire — Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York — to find a more direct way to thwart ascendant progressives. He is seeking to buy the election.  (Anand Giridharadas, "The Billionaire Election")
Mr. Giridharadas was a guest on "AM Joy" this morning, saying stuff like what he wrote in the editorial linked above. The host of the show, the other guests -- all of whom were rationalizing the basic fungibile virtues of a Bloomberg candidacy -- became a little panicked at his warning that "Something's happening here," and little wonder since the major news media are actually (and sometimes unwittingly) guardians of that economic status quo, whether they admit it or not. Giridharadas wrote, "Do you trust a news media that sells advertisements to corporations owned by billionaires, and sometimes to billionaire candidates directly, to inform you properly about the level of power billionaires have and what to do about it?"

No. No, I do not.

Moscow Mitch's Money Is Meddling in the NC Democratic Senatorial Primary

Jim Morrill and Brian Murphy reported in Friday's News Observer:
A group tied to the Republican U.S. Senate leader is behind the mysterious super PAC that has poured millions into TV ads for North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Erica Smith. 
The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, gave nearly $3 million to the Faith and Power PAC, according to new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. It is the PAC’s lone contributor. 
Faith and Power has spent $3 million on TV ads and mailers in support of Smith, who has lagged in her own fundraising. The PAC’s recent TV ads attack her main rival, Cal Cunningham, from the left. The newest ad says he won’t stand up to the NRA or for the LGBTQ community in addition to saying he won’t vote for Medicare for All or the Green New Deal.
We are clear that Mitch McConnell and those allied with him do not think that Erica Smith should be elected. They do not support her. They're using deceptive advertising to force Cunningham to bleed money pointing out the deception.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Tim Moore, a Self-Serving Politician, Wants To Be Chancellor of East Carolina University

Cat's out of the bag. Cat's on the hunt for an easy mouse.

Why would the second most powerful man in North Carolina -- NC House Speaker Tim Moore -- want to become chancellor of one of North Carolina's biggest universities? Perhaps because it pays in the neighborhood of a half-mil annually. The last full-time ECU chancellor, Cecil Staton, was making $450,000 when the Board of Governors (UNCBOG) ousted him. Tim Moore is no piker. He could undoubtedly negotiate that salary up a smidge if he took the job, seeing as how the men in charge of the hiring all owe Moore for their very jobs on the UNCBOG.

"Would you do me a favor, though?"

Moore is plenty tainted by self-serving during his time in the Speaker's chair. In August 2015, it came to light that Tim Moore had been appointed Cleveland County Attorney by a Board of Commissioners led by Tim Moore's own cousin, a partial sinecure worth $25,000 per annum -- $25k, whether he did a lick of actual work or not. Because as Speaker of the House, Tim Moore would have to be in Raleigh for sometimes months on end, so any legal business for Cleveland County would have to be handled by other lawyers paid their fair market rate.

Late in 2015, WBTV investigative reporter Nick Ochsner outed Moore for flagrantly ignoring campaign finance reporting rules, and by January of 2016 Ochsner was hot on Moore's trail for paying campaign rent to himself. ("Speaker Tim Moore: Big Spender But Not So Great at Reporting It")

In 2018 Moore was credibly accused of improperly intervening with Gov. McCrory's Dept. of Environmental Quality so a limited liability company he co-owned could avoid fines related to underground fuel storage tanks. Moore and his partners bought the property for $85,000 in 2013 and sold it three years later for $550,000, aided by winking DEQ officials.

Later in 2018, there was more quid pro quo action that came to light, summarized by Dan Kane in the News and Observer:
Two years after then-House Rules Chairman Tim Moore’s legislation rescued a controversial south Durham mixed-use land project [751 South] and boosted a high-end residential community [Colford Farms] next door, one of the developers took him on as his lawyer. And two years after that, the same developer, Neal Hunter, gave Moore a legal services contract for a Durham-based pharmaceutical company Hunter had recently co-founded, paying him $40,000 for four months of work largely related to how federal tax law treated such startups.
This is the sterling candidate for leading a major North Carolina university, who's been incidentally working behind the scenes to seize the prize, but who's now been outed by anonymous members of the UNCBOG who talked to reporter Joe Killian (NC Policy Watch) about the unseemliness of the whole affair. Those BOG members aren't happy about not only the appearance of double-dealing but also the actual arrogance of the man who doesn't seem to mind the appearance -- especially the live possibility that Tim Moore had his hand in the sudden and unexplained ouster of Chancellor Cecil Staton and then the ignominious fall of the interim chancellor Dan Gerlach:

“It is not an accident that Tim Moore has had his hand in every one of these major leadership changes at ECU,” one trustee told Policy Watch this week. “He wanted to be the UNC President and it became clear to him that would be too controversial and there were some members of the [UNC Board of Governors] who would not go for that. So he began looking at where he could be a chancellor and ECU looked like the best place.”

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Body Count -- DNI Joseph Maguire

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

Joseph Maguire, the current acting Director of National Intelligence, was blindsided by President Trump's decision to replace him with hyper Trump loyalist Richard Grenell, currently the ambassador to Germany. The president has been fixated on appointing people he believes are loyal to him, according to anonymous White House sources, and he was particularly fixated on placing a fiercely loyal ally atop an intelligence structure he has frequently railed against.

Maguine made it onto Trump's shitlist when he became the center of a firestorm back in September when he testified before Congress over the whistleblower complaint that led directly to Trump's impeachment. Maguire, along with the Justice Department, had actually blocked the intelligence inspector general from passing the complaint to Congress immediately as required by law. Congressional Democrats criticized Maguire for not passing along the full complaint to Congress earlier. Trump fired him for passing along the complaint at all.

“I am committed to protecting whistleblowers and ensuring every complaint is handled appropriately,” Maguire said in a statement at the time of his testimony. “I look forward to continuing to work with the administration and Congress to find a resolution regarding this important matter.”

Maguire assumed the DNI position in 2019 after Director Dan Coats resigned.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

We Weren't Waiting for Bloomberg

“You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on.”
― Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

The political slog right now feels like Waiting for Godot. We're waiting. We're always waiting for The Dude. But Godot will not be coming tonight, though he will surely come tomorrow. You know what? He ain't coming.

Samuel Beckett.
Photo Jane Bown, The Guardian
That cheerfully bitter Irishman Samuel Beckett wrote Waiting for Godot. It's bleak, but it's also funny.  It's what I've heard called "the black Irish mood," where there's also always uproarious laughter. The Beckett quote above is not from Godot, but it might as well be. Some days during this season of discontent I think I can't stand it any more -- the full blossoming of Twitterman's lawless and unaccountable power-bender in the White House, that plus the left's incessant, habitual, not to forget suicidal bashing of fellow Democrats as if they are enemies and not in fact coalitional allies -- sometimes I want to turn off all screens, change the locks, and light out for the territory. Say goodbye to political science, and even voting, in some new Crystal City.

But I'll go on. I can't go on. You must go on.

Seeing three current and former mayors of Raleigh endorse Mike Bloomberg seems like Beckett-style absurdity. It adds to my fund of experience a kind of bumfuzzled acknowledgement of the contemporary reality: Money trumps everything. The world of tomorrow demands cash. Nothing else matters. Not history. Not mindset. Not proclivity. Democrats began selling out to Wall Street decades ago. Now embracing the likes of Mike Bloomberg.

Bloomberg's relentless TV spending convinces even some of my close friends that he is The One to successfully pound Trump into atoms. I think that's the main attraction. Most Democrats of whatever brand like seeing Trump roughed up, called out, pinned on the autopsy table. Even I can be appreciative that there's this real billionaire who has the unlimited funds to run all those attack ads against Trump. But put another rich man in charge of the Republic? I don't care he's good on climate change and gun control. I cannot believe he is the man to reform structural inequality. He's not the one I've been waiting for.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Gen-Z Turning Out in NC Primary Elections

From the indefatigable Gerry Cohen just now:

NC campus early voting sites through Monday (note many votes may be faculty/staff) NCSU 1140 Duke 681 AppState 564 FayState 426 ECU 391 UNC-CH* 337 NCCU 317 UNC-C 283 UNC-G 215 WSSU 204 WCU 155 A&T 141

Additional numbers from Watauga County. Of 1,011 total voters cast at all early voting sites through Feb. 17:
45% D
19% R
36% U
Of the 359 U's who voted, 82% chose a Democratic ballot.

Another Judicial Blow Against Voter I.D. in North Carolina

The requirement to present photo I.D. at the polls had already been enjoined by a federal court at least for the 2020 primaries (going on right now), but just today, the completely separate state court system has likely outlawed it for this November too.

The Federal Lawsuit (NAACP v. Cooper)

Last New Year's Eve, federal district court Judge Loretta Biggs issued an injunction against implementation of NC's voter photo I.D. law. In a 60-page ruling that dug deep into the long history of black voter suppression in North Carolina, Judge Biggs wrote that parts of the new voter ID law “were impermissibly motivated, at least in part, by discriminatory intent.” It’s impossible to ignore, Biggs said, the state’s history of politicians' violating the rights of minorities for political gain, since “race and party are inexorably linked” in North Carolina.

Biggs' injunction covered at least the March primary -- no I.D. required to vote -- but was up in the air so far as the November General Elections were concerned, "since it’s possible this issue could go to trial before then." That would be the federal trial in the matter of NAACP v. Cooper et al., a suit brought against the state's executive branch, including the state Board of Elections, and to which the Republicans in the General Assembly, who wrote the law, are not parties.

The State Lawsuit (Holmes v. Moore)

Meanwhile, a completely different suit against voter photo I.D., Holmes v. Moore, was advancing in the state courts. Heard first by a three-judge panel last June, which denied an injunction against the law, the case reached the Court of Appeals on January 22, which today issued an injunction against implementation of voter photo I.D. probably through November ("probably" because this injunction is temporary until the case goes to trial, and it's unlikely a trial could happen before November).

Racial discrimination is also the issue in Holmes v. Moore (in which the Republican overlords in the General Assembly are very much defendants (unlike the federal case). Based on the evidence they’ve seen so far, Appeals Court judges Toby Hampson, Allegra Collins, and John Arrowood said "it appears the legislature will lose in its defense of the law." The voting rights activists who sued appear likely to be able to prove “that discriminatory intent was a motivating factor behind” the voter ID law.

Republicans can't ever stop chewing that bone. Because, surely the South will rise again, and you can't rise without stepping on a few people, amirite?

Monday, February 17, 2020

Down in Forest City

A new book about what the authors call "one of America's most dangerous cults" focuses on the Word of Faith Fellowship in Rutherford County, just down the mountain from us. The two authors were interviewed on Morning Edition today.

Democrat David Wheeler, who is running again this year against incumbent Republican Ralph Hise in NC Senate District 47, made some news in 2018 when he tried to take cameras inside the church. Wheeler accuses Hise of essentially shielding the church from meaningful scrutiny (which numerous law enforcement agencies in Rutherford County are also accused of).

The authors of "Broken Faith" talk about the leader of the Word of Faith, Jane Whaley, as a frightening scourge of God:
You have to realize they believe that Jane Whaley was a prophet, that God spoke to her and everything she said was the gospel. And one of the techniques that she used was that she had everybody inform on each other. And the reason they did that was because that was the godly way of doing things. It was, in a way, she would have them tell her their deepest, darkest secrets. And then she kept a file of those secrets. And if they threatened to leave or did something wrong, she had all the evidence she needed there to keep them in line.
A peculiar form of abuse at the church has been talked about for years, as insiders escaped and described what went on there: was something that really got worse over time. And you have to understand what her philosophy is. The doctrine is really pretty simple — devils are real. And if you're a drug addict, it's because you have this drug devil. If, you know, you're an alcoholic — the same. If you're having an affair, it's the same thing. There are lustful devils. And so what she would do is it was called Devils in Deliverance, where they would have people surround you and scream at you to get the devils out. Get out, devil. And it would go on and on and on. Perfect example is with a baby. If babies cried, it wasn't because they were hungry or they had a dirty diaper. It was because there was a devil inside them that was making them cry. So you would have groups of people surrounding an infant and screaming until that baby would just get tired and finally, you know, go to sleep....
None of the press investigative pieces or law enforcement investigations or lawsuits have seemed to make a dent:
You have the sheriff. You have the district attorney. You have all these people who have looked the other way, who know what's going on, and they're just not doing their job. This church now is thriving.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Source of His Appeal

More evidence of the rotting away of our commonweal.

Proving, once again, that irony is dead
Since Trump’s rise, his inflammatory language about people of color and the Muslim religion has seeped into schools across America. Reporters for the WashPost just documented a whole bunch of examples, like these: In Tennessee, a group of middle-schoolers linked arms, imitating Trump's proposed border wall as they refused to let nonwhite students pass. In Ohio, another group of middle-schoolers surrounded a mixed-race sixth-grader and taunted her: "This is Trump country."

"Kids as young as 6 [are] mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them."

@jbouie made this incisive observation today on Twitter:

"The extent to which children mimic and emulate Trump’s bigotry is, for me, the surest evidence that Trump’s explicit racism is the main thing that breaks through to the public and the source of his appeal." 

Nothing sets off a Trumpeter like accusations of racism. It's like touching a red hot poker to the backside of a mule. The kick could kill ya.

Truth hurts.

Our President Would Be a Better Crook If He Could Stop the Strut

In his interview with ABC News, Attorney General William Barr said it was “time [for Trump] to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.” He added that such statements from Trump “about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending here, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we’re doing our work with integrity.”

Shorter, clearer William Barr: "Listen, moron, STFU so I can help your friends and hurt your enemies without the entire effing world cluing in on what I'm doing because you can't keep your fingers off the keyboard."

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Elections of March: Democratic Primary in NCH33

Reading The Indy Week's endorsements in Wake County races for the NC Senate and House has caused me to take a closer look at the Democratic primary race in the NCH33 between incumbent Democrat Rosa Gill and her insurgent challenger Antoine Marshall. The Indy endorsed Marshall, and I can see why.

Democrat Antoine Marshall is a 33-year-old Millennial and a lawyer trained at Wake Forest. He's clearly a rising star in the Wake County Democratic Party (serving on the Progressive Caucus, among many other party offices and activist roles). As an undergraduate student at Claflin University, an HBCU in Orangeburg, S.C., Marshall worked in the congressional office of then-Majority Whip Congressman James Clyburn. He returned to Washington as a Kaiser Family Foundation Health Policy Fellow in the office of Congresswoman Donna Christensen, and also interned with the Congressional Black Caucus of the South Carolina State Legislature.

Marshall began his career as an attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina, working with low income families in the areas of landlord/tenant law, government benefits, and mortgage foreclosures. This background has made Marshall especially focused on "access to legal justice," especially in this age of Trump when there seems to be different justice depending on wealth and influence:
...roughly 3 out of 4 low income households will have at least one civil legal problem in the upcoming year. These include problems with health care, housing conditions, disability access, veterans benefits, and domestic violence, the seriousness of which could be the difference between someone receiving medical assistance, being homeless, or in some cases protection from bodily harm or death. For many of those families North Carolina legal aid programs such as Legal Aid of North Carolina, Pigsah Legal Services and the Legal Services of Southern Piedmont provided lawyers at no charge to work on behalf of low income individuals, but these programs have been woefully underfunded. ["Antoine Marshall on the Issues"]
Noted: Marshall also challenged Rosa Gill for this seat in the Democratic primary of 2018, and only got 24.7% of the vote. It's still an uphill climb, but perhaps Marshall has organized better this year and has built a following to take on an intrenched incumbent.

Democratic incumbent Rosa Gill is 75 years old and is in her sixth term in the NC House. She was appointed to the District 33 seat in 2009 by Governor Bev Perdue when Rep. Dan Blue got moved up by appointment to the NC Senate. She earlier spent two decades as a public school math teacher and then a full decade as a government employee in the NC Division of Motor Vehicles.

She was elected to the Wake County Board of Education in 2009 and was reelected in 2003 and 2007. She was serving as chair of the school board when she was appointed to the General Assembly. She's also been chair of the Wake County Democratic Party and chair of the Wake County Board of Elections, so she's a powerhouse of political networking and has a formidable history of burying both Republican opponents and Democratic primary opponents.

She's been endorsed by Lillian's List and by the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association. She failed to win another endorsement from The Indy Week because "in our questionnaire this year, she told us that trans people should not be eligible for gender dysphoria treatments under the State Health Plan, and—while we appreciate her advocacy for schools—we can do better. Antoine Marshall has less experience, but he’s also passionate—and not quite as behind the times."

"Behind the times" is a serious indictment for a Democratic incumbent in 2020, but Antoine Marshall still has an awfully heavy "lift" to make his insurgency happen.

The Body Count -- Career Prosecutors in the US Department of Justice

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

All four career prosecutors handling the case against Roger Stone withdrew from the legal proceedings yesterday — and one, Jonathan Kravis, quit his job entirely — after the Justice Department under Attorney General and Trump-enabler William Barr signaled it planned to undercut their sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime friend and confidant. 

The career prosecutors handling the case recommended that a judge sentence Stone — convicted in November of obstructing Congress and witness tampering — to between seven and nine years in federal prison. First, Trump attacked the prosecutors on Twitter. Then Barr's department, in an unprecedented interference with justice, also intervened.

One by one, the career prosecutors, two of whom had worked on Mueller’s investigation, filed notices in court of their intention to leave the case. Though none of the prosecutors gave a reason, their asking to do so was highly unusual and suggested they could not ethically affix their names to the government’s revised position. 

Former Justice Department officials and others characterized the department’s abrupt shift on the Stone case as an egregious example of the president and his attorney general manipulating federal law enforcement to serve their political interests. David Laufman, a former Justice Department official, called it a “shocking, cram-down political intervention” in the criminal justice process. “We are now truly at a break-glass-in-case-of-fire moment for the Justice Dept.,” he wrote on Twitter.

Eric H. Holder Jr., attorney general under President Barack Obama, said it was “unprecedented, wrong and ultimately dangerous.” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) said the move amounted to “obstruction of justice.”

“We are seeing a full-frontal assault on the rule of law in America,” Pascrell said. “Direct political interference in our justice system is a hallmark of a banana republic. Despite whatever Trump, William Barr, and their helpers think, the United States is a nation of laws and not an authoritarian’s paradise.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Elections of March: Democratic Primary in NCH45

Frances Jackson
North Carolina House District 45 in Cumberland County was redistricted and is now rated "Toss-Up" with a Republican incumbent, John Szoka, who was first elected to the seat in 2012. Two African-American Democrats are facing each other in the March 3rd primary, one a serious candidate -- Frances V. Jackson -- and the other apparently not (Keith Byrd, who has no campaign presence and no biography that we can detect).

Frances Jackson could be formidable -- and she'll have to be to take the seat in November -- so I was glad to see on her Facebook page that she's mounted at least one canvass in the district leading up to the primary. She's been endorsed by both the local AFL-CIO and by Planned Parenthood.

She teaches political science at Fayetteville Tech and holds a doctorate from Walden University in Minnesota. She's been active in civic life in Fayetteville. She was appointed to a seat on the Fayetteville City Council after the death of a member but was forced to resign after only a month because of a possible conflict of interest with her other appointed position as a Cumberland County magistrate.

According to Michael Bitzer, the newly drawn District 45 has a population that's 33% African-American, with Democrats out-numbering Republicans some 38% to 27%, and with unaffiliated voters holding the balance of power, accounting for 34% of registered voters. Bitzer classifies 79% of the district as "suburban voters outside a central city but inside an urban county." All of these numbers sound good for Francis Jackson ... except for this: Hillary Clinton took 47.37% of the district in 2016 to Trump's 49.93%.

Ought to be a pretty solid Democratic district. Goes wobbly, though, when the Democrat on the ballot fails to inspire.

Frances Jackson, assuming she easily wins her primary, will need an intense ground game -- especially canvassing those suburban neighborhoods -- to carry the vote come November. This could be an unanticipated Democratic pickup in the NC House is she's got the mojo, the volunteers, and the shoe leather.

Monday, February 10, 2020

NC "White Nationalist" Leader Gets in Hot Water with State Bar

Forsyth County Lawyer Harold Ray Crews, a leader of the League of the South, is scheduled for a hearing before the disciplinary commission of the NC State Bar on Feb. 21 for allegedly mishandling client funds. Crews says he has closed his law firm, and reporter Michael Hewlett with the Winston-Salem Journal says he's also disconnected his phones. The case against Crews looks pretty strong.

Hewlett's reporting:
Crews has served as the chairman of the League of the South’s North Carolina chapter. The league, which was formed in 1994, promotes white Southern nationalism and was one of the white nationalist and neo-Confederate groups that participated in the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. During that rally, white nationalist James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one person and injuring more than 20.
Crews was at the rally and two months later he obtained an arrest warrant from a city magistrate in Charlottesville for DeAndre Harris, a then-20-year-old black man who was severely beaten by a group of white nationalists. Crews alleged that Harris had hit him in the face with a flashlight. Harris was eventually acquitted of charges that he assaulted Crews. Three men were convicted of beating Harris.
The League of the South was also involved in rallying neo-Confederates to the Pittsboro protest trying to prevent the removal of a Confederate monument at the Chatham County courthouse. The league’s Mississippi state chairman used a Facebook post in October to direct members to show up in the league’s uniform – khaki cargo pants, black combat boots and black polo shirts – and be ready to fight for “our beloved Dixie” and “defend our heritage.”

Uniforms make the man.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

The Body Count -- Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Ambassador Gordon Sondland

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

Yesterday Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a decorated Iraq war veteran on the National Security Council staff and a witness at Trump's impeachment investigation who had direct evidence about the July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian president, was marched out of the White House by security guards -- as though he had stolen a laptop. Vindman’s brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an Army officer who also worked on the National Security Council staff and who had no connection to the impeachment, was also fired.

A few minutes later, Trump ordered Ambassador Gordon D. Sondland, the founder of a hotel chain who donated $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee and who was a key witness in the impeachment, recalled from his post as the ambassador to the European Union.

The White House made no effort to portray the ousters as anything other than reprisals. The president’s critics had warned that he would feel unbound if acquitted, and some said the dismissals proved their point. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, celebrated the dismissals, offering mock thanks to Congressman Adam Schiff. “Were it not for his crack investigation skills, @realDonaldTrump might have had a tougher time unearthing who all needed to be fired,” he tweeted.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican who voted to acquit the president but expressed hope that he would learn a lesson from the impeachment, said witnesses should not be punished. “I obviously am not in favor of any kind of retribution against anyone who came forward with evidence,” she said in Maine, according to The Portland Press Herald.

[The above draws on reporting by Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim, and Michael S. Schmidt]

Friday, February 07, 2020

Rachel Bitecofer Makes Me Nervous

Rachel Bitecofer is a 42-year-old political scientist who teaches -- and writes extensively, disruptively -- at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. She is rather unique among her prognosticating brethren for coming within one US House seat of nailing the Blue Wave of 2018. She predicted a Democratic gain of 42 seats. The Democrats took 41. She got it right, according to David Freedlander (, "even as other forecasters went wobbly in the race’s final days. Not only that, but she put out her forecast back in July, and then stuck by it while polling shifted throughout the summer and fall." While all the other analysts were saying, "Oh the Democrats are going to screw this up. They are overreaching. They are going to get 23 seats if they're lucky" -- Bitecofer was the too optimistic one who was right.

Reading her analysis both jazzes me and scares the God-blessed living shit out of me. Because what Bitecofer predicts for 2020 in red Trump counties -- and I'm surrounded by blood-red western North Carolina Trump counties -- is that the Trump vote will likely increase over 2016. There aren't enough "soft Republicans" to make a difference for Democratic candidates, and right-leaning independent (Unaffiliated) voters will be leaning harder right, as their hatred of Democrats congeals like lard. The Republican coalition -- mostly non-college whites, with a smattering of religious-minded voters, financiers, and people in business, largely in rural and exurban counties -- is now -- following impeachment -- not only mad as hell but they're scared, too, of what could come next after a rejection of Trump. 

With a red wall building for this November, if there's not enough left-leaning and otherwise previously disinterested voting-age population who will commit to vote in sufficient numbers to overtop that red wall, there's little hope for Democratic campaigns in districts rated "Safe Republican" (and that label applies to most of western North Carolina). What is a political "wave," anyway, but the working of "negative partisanship," an instinctive human reaction to extreme departures from the norm. Bitecofer relies on "negative partisanship" to explain the Democratic wave of 2018. She sees "negative partisanship" as an almost genetic American inheritance -- a pushing back against whoever's in power. In 2018, it became a wave of revulsion to a plain awful human being -- his cruelties, his double-dealing, his willful and destructive ignorance.

Negative partisanship is not exclusive to Democrats. In 2010, it was the Tea Party wave of revulsion against the government spending of a black man. The Tea Party wave became the Trump surprise of 2016. "...Modern American elections are rarely shaped by voters changing their minds, but rather by shifts in who decides to vote in the first place." 

Turnout explains everything. Turnout of new people entering and exiting the electorate rather than people switching sides. What drives that kind of turnout in major "change" elections? "Negative partisanship." Shorter definition: Mass expression of instinctive human emotion rejecting an ideology or a personage.

The Chuck Todd Theory of American Politics

"About 55 percent of eligible voters are likely to go to the polls, and the winner is determined by the 15 percent or so of 'swing voters' who flit between the parties. So a general election campaign amounts to a long effort to pull those voters in to your side."

Bitercofer laughs at that. The swing voter -- at least in appreciable numbers -- is largely a myth. “The idea that there is this informed, engaged American population that is watching these political events and watching their elected leaders and assessing their behavior and making a judgment -- it's just not true.”

As she sees it, it isn’t quite right to refer to a Democratic or Republican “base.” Rather, there are Democratic and Republican coalitions. “In the polarized era, the outcome isn’t really about the candidates. What matters is what percentage of the electorate is Republican and Republican leaners, and what percentage is Democratic and Democratic leaners, and how they get activated,” she said.

Isn't really about the candidates. Bitecofer has said that any one of the Tier 1 or Tier 2 Democratic candidates can -- and will -- win against Trump, but more recently on Twitter she's hedged a bit on both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, calling them the riskiest options for Democrats. Alarmingly, Sanders failed to turn out his promise of record numbers of new voters in the Iowa caucuses this week, and Biden represents too much the status quo. “If you want to win the election, you have to be able to frame your candidacy in a way that reminds voters that Trump is an abnormality that must be excised,” Bitecofer said.

I realize that Bitecofer has critics.

Bitecofer hasn’t exactly been clairvoyant: Her original Senate prediction was off in 2018. She didn’t anticipate the surge in GOP turnout that would match the surge in Democratic turnout in places where the demographics still favored Republicans. She thought Democrats would win Florida, and maybe even Texas, and that the Georgia governor’s race was winnable. What she didn’t count on at the time was that negative partisanship can work both ways, even when there is one party in power, and that no one knows how to fire up the fear factor in his coalition quite like Donald Trump. He did just that, and Blue Dog Democrats in Missouri and Indiana and South Dakota were done for.

But still, the results bore out her theory: For Democrats to win, they need to fire up Democratic-minded voters. The Blue Dogs who tried to narrow the difference between themselves and Trump did worse, overall, than the Stacey Abramses and Beto O’Rourkes, whose progressive ideas and inspirational campaigns drove turnout in their own parties and brought them to the cusp of victory.

The Democratic coalition -- people of color, college-educated whites, and people in metropolitan areas -- has got to grow in 2020, and appreciable growth in rural jurisdictions is sometimes just plain impossible.

Finding a new voting cohort -- including college students, for example -- the "step-up" voters, the previously disengaged, the young, especially the educated -- is far easier in urban areas. I don't like feeling apprehensive about that, never mind my little blue dot of Watauga County.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

The Elections of March: Dark Money Enters the Democratic Senate Primary

Erica Smith
Reporting in The Hill: "Mystery group backs outsider Democrat challenging Tillis in North Carolina."

The mystery group: Something calling itself Faith and Power PAC, which "sprang into existence only last week."

The "outsider Democrat" benefitting from the PAC's money: NC State Senator Erica Smith (NCS3), who in the latest Public Policy Polling is drawing 12% support to Cal Cunningham's 22% and who has loudly expressed her disgust with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) for backing Cunningham as the most viable option instead of her.

The Hill tracks the dark money to Republican-connected organs and groups. It's not the first time that veiled outside money has tried to elevate Smith's profile: Back last August billboards went up in the state warning that Erica Smith was "TOO LIBERAL for North Carolina," a claim that Smith "was eager to use ... as evidence that she’s the most feared challenger to Republican incumbent Thom Tillis .... But [according to Nathan Gonzales in Roll Call] Republicans were targeting Smith because they believe she’s the weaker potential general election foe, not because they’re afraid of her."

The Faith and Power PAC TV ads for Smith also play up her liberal cred: “Who’s the Democrat for U.S. Senate endorsed by progressives and unions? Erica Smith. Who’s got the courage to vote for 'Medicare for All?' Erica Smith. The number one supporter of the Green New Deal? Erica Smith again. Erica Smith is one of us,” a narrator says in the ad. “Vote Democrat Erica Smith for U.S. Senate, the only proven progressive.”

The outside meddling in our Democratic senatorial primary is merely another sign of our times -- that so much dangles on threads pulled by men with lots of money.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

The Crisis Is Ours

The Body Count -- Rear Admiral Collin P. Green

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

Special Warfare Rear Adm. Collin Green, the US Navy admiral responsible for the service's special-operations forces, is stepping down following the controversial intervention of President Trump into the court-martial of Special Warfare Operator Chief Eddie Gallagher. Green moved to withdraw Gallagher's Trident pin, which signifies membership in the Navy SEAL community, and Trump both intervened in the Navy's judicial system to free Gallagher from pretrial detention and restored his rank after the conviction.

Green in November ordered a peer evaluation of Gallagher, who had been demoted and charged with war crimes, including the murder of an ISIS prisoner of war and the shooting of two people in Iraq in 2017. Gallagher was acquitted of those counts but convicted of a lesser charge of posing for a picture with the dead ISIS fighter.

"There's a long tradition in the military," Timothy Parlatore, Gallagher's civilian attorney, said. "You don't rebel. You resign."

The incident led to other resignations by Navy leaders. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was forced to resign after expressing disagreement with Trump's actions. According to a New York Times report, Spencer and Green had threatened to resign if Trump intervened on Gallagher's behalf.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The Elections of March: Can Jay White Knock Out Fellow Republican Larry Pittman in NCH83?

The Republican primary in North Carolina House District 83 offers a marquee contest between a Trumpian, unreconstructed, Southern Battle War flag-waving representative first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and a moderate, "united by our shared values" Republican attorney who clearly sees the incumbent as an embarrassment to the district, the state, and the party. Awaiting whomever wins this primary will be Democrat Gail Young, who also ran in 2018 and who's been building her own campaign for months. (Disclosure: I've contributed to Gail Young.)

Jay White
Insurgent Republican lawyer and former Cabarrus County Commissioner Jay White ran a primary race against Rep. Larry Pittman once before, in 2012, in Pittman's first reelection campaign, and came within 244 votes of beating him. The Reverend Pittman, a Presbyterian minister trained as a Baptist, had already made a name for himself in the General Assembly as an acid-spewing conservative and theocrat willing to call down fire and brimstone on his political enemies. Approaching that election in 2012, Pittman said of Planned Parenthood that it "deals out nothing but deception, death, personal devastation, and moral degradation. Never will I agree to give that bloody, indecent, immoral organization one penny. I will not be satisfied until it is outlawed."

That comment is wholly characteristic of a state representative who also condemns LGBTQ people to hell and considers Abraham Lincoln a mere 19th-century Hitler (presumably for freeing the slaves) and who is happy to hang out with white supremacists.

Jay White's website is a studied contrast to Mr. Pittman. Nowhere does White mention Donald Trump as the leader of the GOP nor does he praise the Republican leadership in the General Assembly in Raleigh. He wants to be seen as a nice guy, words not generally applied to Pittman nor to the overlords in the General Assembly. White repeats the words shared values like he's rubbing salve into wounds: "The people of the 83rd District are my friends, you are my family. Together, united by our shared values, we can make Cabarrus County and North Carolina a better place for ourselves and our children. For too long, the 83rd District has lacked an effective voice in Raleigh. We need an experienced leader who will find solutions and deliver results."

The recent track record of moderate Republicans trying to take out far-right conservatives in North Carolina primaries does not suggest that Jay White can prevail on March 3rd. I'm thinking of moderate Republican Beth Monaghan's attempt to beat Dan Bishop in NCS39 in 2018 and of moderate Republican Holly Grange's attempt to overcome Dan Forest in the primary for governor this year. Like the others, Jay White is obviously hoping that Pittman has maybe embarrassed the people one time too many, but Republican primary voters are pretty un-embarrassable.

Gail Young
Frankly, it'll be better for Democrat Gail Young if Jay White doesn't prevail. The district is rated by Michael Bitzer as "Lean Republican," with Republican voter registration five percentage points higher than Democratic registration (35% to 30%). The balance of power obviously lies with the 34% of the voters registered Unaffiliated, the group that is often willing to punish extremism. Plus the district may be trending away from Pittman's brand of politics. Michael Bitzer rates it a high suburban concentration as District 83 abuts directly on urban Mecklenburg County to the north. Real Facts NC considers the district one of the most competitive in the state, but I think that depends on whether Pittman survives his primary.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Democratic Heroes Who Are Running Against Great Odds

I've continued to study NC House districts in the western end of the state that are rated "Safe Republican," where no matter how tinted your glasses are with rosiness (or blueness), there's little hope that a Democrat will ever win 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.

North Carolina House District 118 -- Yancey, Madison, and a majority of Haywood County 
Rated "Safe Republican." Trump won the district in 2016 with 64.60% of the vote. 
Democrat Alan Jones is a 46-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1973 and a Canton native who is the regional District 9 staff representative for the United Steelworkers, representing union workers in Haywood and Macon counties (Smoky Mountain Local 507). He also owns Alan Jones's Race Ready Motorsports LLC in Canton. He shares nothing personal about his biography and no issue positions on his Facebook page and doesn't have a website.
NCH118 is an open seat. Four-term Republican Michele Presnell decided to retire. Republican Mark Pless, a first-term Haywood County commissioner, filed for the seat.

North Carolina House District 120 -- Graham, Macon, Clay, and Cherokee
Rated "Safe Republican." Trump took the district with 73.79% of the vote.
Democrat Susan Landis is a 65-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1955 and a resident of Murphy in Cherokee County. She is president of the Democratic Women of the Tri-County and last month defended the participation of the recently formed LGBTQ Democrats of Cherokee and Clay counties marching with the Democratic Women in local Christmas parades -- participation which apparently inflamed the righteous indignation of some local Christians. Landis was quoted in Clay County's “The NC Democratic party includes many affiliate groups and caucuses such as Young Democrats and African American Democrats of NC. Our participation in the Christmas parade was not political and no different than a church group or veteran’s group. Other than the required identification of our group by banners or shirts, we simply handed out candy and bells which fit with our Polar Express theme. Although there may be some discomfort or disagreement with any group participating in a public event, our behavior, purpose, and presentation were entirely appropriate for the occasion.”
Susan Landis's Facebook page doesn't say she's running for office nor share any biographical information or policy positions. She has no website.
NCH120 is an open seat. Prior incumbent Kevin Corbin, only in his first term, has opted to run for an open NC Senate seat, and first-time Republican candidate Karl Gillespie has filed to run.

North Carolina House District 112 -- Rutherford and southern Burke
Rated "Safe Republican." Trump won the district in 2016 with 73.43% of the vote. 
Democrat Ed Hallyburton is a 70-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1949 and a resident of Connelly Springs in Burke County. According to the press release he issued on Christmas Eve, he is chair of the Burke County Board of Adjustment and a veteran educator. He was previously chair of the Burke County Planning Board and member of the board of directors of the Burke County Chamber of Commerce and was instrumental in the creation of the Valdese Economic Development and Incentive Corporation (VEDIC).
He said, “Today, the issues are real – we have a health care system that is putting the welfare of tens of thousands at risk, a minimum wage held at $7.25, homelessness, once hidden in our communities is a main street issue. A drug epidemic combined with high pockets of poverty that puts the well-being of our youth in danger. And a correction system that has serious safety issues. It’s time the State Legislature got down to business and stopped playing partisan politics. It’s time politicians went to work for the people they represent!”
Ed Hallyburton has a Facebook page, and he published a link to a website -- -- but it doesn't work.
David Rogers is the two-term Republican incumbent running for reelection.

North Carolina House District 86 -- northern Burke 
Rated "Safe Republican." Trump took the district in 2016 with 67.09% of the vote.
Democrat Cecelia Surratt is a 67-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1952. She is the African-American chair of the Morganton Human Relations Commission. In March 2018, Governor Cooper appointed her to serve on the North Carolina Commission on Inclusion, created by executive order to develop “policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation in state employment services and contracts under the jurisdiction of the office of the governor.” She previously worked for the state's Department of Health and Human Services at the J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center in Morganton.
She has a Facebook page.
The six-term Republican incumbent (first elected in 2008) is Hugh Blackwell, who is running for a seventh term.

North Carolina House District 89 -- most of Catawba County except for Hickory and Conover 
Rated "Safe Republican." Trump carried the district with 71.32% of the vote in 2016.
Democrat Greg Cranford is a 61-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1958. He also ran for this seat in 2018, getting under 28% of the vote. He filed for the seat after waiting to see if another Democrat would step forward. “There will be a choice on the ballot,” he said, and proudly embraced the label of "progressive, liberal Democrat."
He is a 1977 graduate of Newton-Conover High School and a 1981 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill. He returned home to Newton in 2016 to care for his elderly father after retiring as a social studies teacher in Orangeburg, S.C. 
He has a Facebook page.
Michael Setzer, the Republican incumbent since 1998, was once regarded, according to Cranford, as a more moderate Republican who was raised in a very Democratic family but "has sided more often with the extreme right-wing conservative Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly during the last session. He cited Setzer’s vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of what Cranford called a “very conservative” budget bill as one example of his opponent’s partisan voting.