Tuesday, June 30, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nevertheless, RealFactsNC considers this a race to watch.

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

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

Monday, June 29, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

"Easy Pickup" (FlipNC.org)

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Easy Pickup" (FlipNC.org)

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

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Body Count: Tomas Philipson

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

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

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

Art Pope Will Be Appointed to the UNC BOG Today

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The "Wow" Factor

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

Madison Cawthorn

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

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

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

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

Cameron Webb

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

Updated June 23, 2020100% reporting

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

54,931 votes, 328 of 328 precincts reporting

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Body Count -- Kevin Hassett

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

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, is leaving his post. He became somewhat notorious earlier this Year of Pandemic for authoring a "cubic model" that forecasted coronavirus deaths hitting zero by May 15. That model immediately sparked a massive backlash among other economists when it was posted May 5th on the Twitter account for the Council of Economic Advisors. The model quickly proved to be astoundingly wrong.

Hassett has served as the White House's chief economist since September 2017. A longtime "movement" conservative, Hassett helped shape the 2017 Republican tax law and -- despite being a staunch free trader and immigration moderate -- distinguished himself as a loyal defender of the president’s policies. Most memorably, he repeatedly appeared in interviews defending the administration's position that, thanks to the Trump tax cuts, sustained 3% growth would be possible.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: The Second Line of Dems Who Could Flip Control of the NC House

Dan Besse (Dist. 74)

Prof. Bitzer rates the district "Competitive Lean Republican." Trump won it in 2016 with 53.03% of the vote. The seat is open in 2020.

"Besse has spent his career as an attorney focusing on environmental issues and serving five terms on the Winston-Salem city council. Like so many districts, this once grossly gerrymandered district has been redrawn, making it more competitive, which prompted the incumbent Republican [Debra Conrad] not to seek another term. As a familiar figure in the area, Besse is a very promising candidate." (The Long Leaf Pine Slate)

"The newly drawn NC-H74 has been slowly trending blue, and 2020 primary turnout in Forsyth County was up 29% over 2016 primary turnout, making this an excellent target to flip in 2020. Dan Besse, the Democratic candidate, ran in the former NC-H75 in 2018 and overperformed the expected margin in that district by several points. Besse is a North Carolina native, an attorney, and a five-term Winston-Salem City Council member. Besse is focused on high-quality public schools, Medicaid expansion, jobs for working families, and clean water and air." (FlipNC.org)

Besse will face Lewisville Town Councilman and Republican Jeff Zenger, who bills himself as "a principled conservative" (as distinct from a Trumpist?). He couldn't resist the urge to include a pict of himself firing a gun on his website (but what! no pict of him holding a Bible?).

Nicole Quick (Dist. 59)

Bitzer sez "Lean Republican." Trump took the district with 53.06% of the vote in 2016.

WataugaWatch covered Quick's coming-out-as-a-candidate fundraiser back last September and was impressed by the star power of other successful Democratic office-holders who came out to support her.

"Quick is a 20-year resident of Guilford County and former manufacturing executive. As a parent of a child with autism, she is passionate about education quality, the environment and voting rights .... This district in the Greensboro suburbs has leaned slightly Republican in the past, but with Democratic turnout likely to increase in 2020, is ripe for a strong challenger like Quick." (The Long Leaf Pine Slate)

"Under the new NC House map, NC-H59 is about 9 points more favorable for Democrats, making it an excellent target to flip in 2020 .... Republicans’ performance has only been possible because Democratic turnout has significantly lagged Republican turnout in the district. The great news is that 2020 primary turnout was up 20% in Guilford County over 2016, and there is ample room to reverse the slight Republican lean in this district in recent elections by building on that momentum to turn out sporadic Democratic voters here this fall.  Democrats are fielding a strong challenger in NC-H59 in Nicole Quick. Born in southeastern North Carolina, she currently resides in eastern Guilford County. Quick’s history as a business leader includes time forecasting and budgeting at Guilford Mills. When her son was diagnosed with autism, she decided to undergo training to provide daily occupational therapy for him. Quick went on to lead teacher instruction and workshops focused on working with children with autism in inclusive classrooms." (FlipNC.org)

Quick is up against Republican incumbent Jon Hardister, the Republican Whip in the House who has an earned reputation as a snake. He was a prime operative in the veto override ambush pulled off by Speaker Tim Moore early on the morning of September 11. 

Aimy Steele (Dist. 82)

Bitzer ... "Lean Republican." Trump took the district with 54.94% of the vote.

WataugaWatch has been following Steele since she ran for the seat in 2018, taking on powerful long-time Rep. Linda Johnson (here). Johnson abruptly decided not to run again because of illness and then tragically passed away from an aggressive brain cancer, leaving an open seat. I wrote about Steele's chances for 2020 in November 2019 and again in January of this year. In other words, I've been anticipating her ascension to Raleigh for a long time.

"As a former school principal and mother of 5, Steele is passionate about educational quality and equity." (The Long Leaf Pine Slate)

"Cabarrus County has been trending blue over the past several election cycles. In 2018, Democratic challenger Aimy Steele came within 6 points of upsetting the Republican incumbent in NC-H82 [Johnson], greatly improving on Gov. Cooper’s 2016 performance in the district – and NC-H82 has since been redrawn to be 3 points more favorable for Democrats. And 2020 primary turnout increased 32% in Cabarrus County over 2016 – a great sign for Democrats! Steele is running again, this time with greater name recognition and a campaign organization already in place." (FlipNC.org)

Steele is up against Kristin Baker, a female "physician who has practiced psychiatry in various settings including as a hospice medical director." Her impressive professional credentials and her relentless use of the "conservative" self-identifier means she could be a formidable opponent for Steele in a district not quite ready to turn blue.

Adam Erickson (Dist. 20)

Bitzer minces no words: "Safe Republican." Trump won the district with 55.09% of the vote. The most recent remapping double-bunked two incumbent Republicans in this New Hanover County district -- Holly Grange, who opted to run for governor against Dan Forest in the Republican primary, and Ted Davis, who's represented Dist. 19 for several terms. Holly Grange went down in her primary; Ted Davis remains on the ballot in a district which doesn't know him as well.

"Adam Ericson is a public high school teacher. He believes that the governed deserve real representation, but do not have it today in North Carolina. He is running a bold campaign to invest in North Carolina's education, fight for worker's rights, make health care affordable and ensure a livable climate for our state's next generation." (The Long Leaf Pine Slate)

"Gov. Cooper lost the newly constituted NC-H20 by just 5 points in 2016, and the NC House race was just as close in 2018. The new map draws out the district’s former incumbent [Grange] and draws in NC House Rep. Ted Davis, Jr. (R), formerly of NC House District 19. The pool of left-leaning voters who stayed home in NC-H20 in 2018 was about 14 points more left-leaning than the folks who came out to the polls, and the great news is that 2020 primary turnout was up 30% over 2016! This district is flippable if we can get enough left-leaning voters to the polls in November." (FlipNC.org)

Erickson is up against an old possum in Ted Davis, who was appointed to his seat in 2012. At the time, he was most famous to us for voting to turn down a grant of $8,899 from the North Carolina state government for "family planning" supplies and services, particularly contraceptives for young women who wanted or needed them. Ted Davis said at the time, "If these young women are being responsible and didn't have the sex to begin with, we wouldn't have this problem to begin with."

Jason Cain (Dist. 51)

Bitzer rates it "Safe Republican," though FlipNC calls it "within reach" for Cain and REAL FACTS NC calls it "competitive." Trump took the district in 2016 with 55.54%.

"NC-H51 has a similar profile to NC-H1 [where Democrat Emily Bunch Nicholson is running as a first-liner], with Black and Latinx voters comprising the majority of left-leaning voters. Like NC-H1, flipping this district will require candidates and a statewide strategy that brings the Democratic base to the polls. Democrat Jason Cain, a 10-year Army veteran who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan five times, is challenging Republican John Sauls in NC-H51. His platforms include expanding access to Medicaid, ending the school-to-prison pipeline by providing equal access to a high-quality education, and championing economic development in the central region." (FlipNC.org)

Republican John Sauls has a controversial history: "Incumbent Republican John Sauls returned to the House in 2016 after a previous stint from 2003 to 2007 when he joined the coalition of rebel Republicans who voted for Democrat Jim Black for the co-speakership. Black was later indicted for corruption. Sauls seeks another term representing Harnett and Lee counties." (RealFactsNC)

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: Six Who Could Put the NC House in Democratic Hands

The number six is operable here only if all Democratic first-termers elected in the wave of 2018 hang onto their seats in 2020, a shaky assumption that I wouldn't bet my morning cereal on. But you have to start somewhere. Therefore noted: It will take a net gain of six Democrats to take control of the NC House. The bench of political talent is deeper than six this year, but below are listed the six most promising potential flips in 2020 (numerically arrived at based on how badly Trump did in the district in 2016). Caveat: Some of these six are currently running lackluster campaigns (IMHO).

I'll get to other promising candidates by-and-by, who could also flip their districts because Trump took less than 60% there, sometimes way less.

I've already written about two other NC House candidates who are working hard and who intend to flip their districts -- Gail Young (Dist. 83) and Sam Edney (Dist. 113). That's why they're not included here.

Assessments/endorsements and material contained within quotation marks come from the following sources, unless otherwise noted:

The Long Leaf Pine Slate http://longleafpineslate.org

District demographic and voting stats come from Dr. Michael Bitzer https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1mlb2UwP2TRlrWCqZXHGN7xGyRZmO2lu3k-2DAjejB7U/edit#gid=0

The Six

Ricky Hurtado (Dist. 63)

Michael Bitzer says the district is "competitive" but still "leans Republican." Long Leaf Pine Slate says it now leans Democratic after the most recent redrawing. Trump took the district with 50.01% of the vote.

WataugaWatch covered Hurtado twice before, when Erica McAdoo dropped out and he stepped forward to replace her on the ballot (here and here).

"Hurtado is the son of working-class immigrants and a first-generation graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and Princeton. He is a tireless advocate for educational and racial equity, economic security for working-class families, and child well-being." "Hurtado was a Morehead-Cain Scholar who is now a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill."

He's matched up against incumbent Steve Ross, a former Wells-Fargo exec. The potential implications of this race seem manifest for a Hurtado win, considering the cultural and political tides.


Virginia Cox-Daugherty (Dist. 12)

"Lean Republican." Trump took 51.94% of the vote.

"A retired educator and eastern North Carolina native, Dr. Cox-Daugherty’s past volunteer service includes the United Way, Greene Lamp, Banneker Literary Club, Lenoir County Board of Elections, and the Board of Directors of the Greater Kinston Credit Union. The daughter of a sharecropper, Cox-Daugherty wants to prioritize the agricultural concerns of the county."

It's disturbing to me that I can't find a website nor even a Facebook page for her. Her campaign is invisible on-line.

Cox-Daugherty is matched up against a Republican first-termer, Chris Humphrey.

Frances Vinell Jackson (Dist. 45)

"Toss-Up." FlipNC.org says it now leans "slightly Democratic." Trump took only 49.93% of the vote there.

"A Fayetteville native, long-time public servant, and local magistrate." "A longtime Hope Mills resident, government planner, and professor at Fayetteville Technical Community College. Her key priorities include increasing teacher pay, assuring water safety in the Gray’s Creek area, and protecting women’s reproductive rights."

She's matched up against incumbent Republican John Szoka.

Emily Bunch Nicholson (Dist. 1)

"Lean Republican." Trump took the district with 52.09% of the vote.

"A native of Edenton and a mother of three young children. Nicholson is a former high school and community college educator who has served 10 counties of northeastern North Carolina for the past five years as the assistant director for the Northeastern Workforce Development Board. She is committed to growing the economy, ensuring that rural residents have access to the health care they need, and improving public schools."

"Black voters make up the vast majority of left-leaning voters in NC-H1, in eastern North Carolina, and the pool of untapped voters – registered voters who did not vote in 2018 – leans Democratic by almost 30 points. In recent elections, Democrats have lost this district, and underperformed in others like it across the state, as rural Black voters stayed home. Winning this district will depend on whether candidates – both locally and at the top of the ticket – can connect with and turn out the majority-Black Democratic base."

Nicholson has a Twitter account, a Facebook group, and a website. 

Incumbent Ed Goodwin, former state ferry director and Chowan County Commissioner, "will have an uphill climb to hold onto his seat in 2020" (REALFACTSNC).

Brian Farkas (Dist. 9)

"Toss Up." Trump actually lost this same real estate in 2016, 48.24% to Clinton's 48.77%.

"A Pitt County native who works at a local architecture firm." "He’s also worked for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, where he specialized in emergency management measures." "He has a long record of public service and is a vocal proponent for independent redistricting reform."

"With the elimination of the extreme Republican gerrymander in Pitt County, a strong Democratic candidate is favored to win NC-H9 in Greenville. The district leans about 10 points further left than it did in 2018."

Farkas has a slim resume, is quite young-looking, but he's been making a real campaign of it.

His Republican opponent, Dr. Perrin Jones, was only appointed to the seat just last September, has virtually no political experience, and looks pretty young himself.

Kimberly Hardy (Dist. 43)

"Toss Up." Trump squeaked by with only 49.82% of the vote here.

WataugaWatch discovered Hardy back before the primary, when she was the only candidate in North Carolina to knock off a long-time Democratic incumbent.

She's endorsed by Lillian's List, and she has the full panoply of campaign tools including a Twitter account, Facebook, and a website.

"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 .... 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)." (WataugaWatch)

Hardy is up against Republican Diane Wheatley, a former (and long-time) Board of Education member and member of the Cumberland County Commission (including serving as its chair).