Friday, July 31, 2020

Another Longshot Star in South Carolina: Adair Boroughs in CD2

I'm continuing to explore the Democratic talent recruited to run for Congress this year in the state directly to the south of us, and I'm impressed. Take a look at Adair Boroughs, running against the notorious Republican Joe Wilson in CD2:

She's willing to take the fight right up in Wilson's grille. I like that in a candidate, especially one running in a district that the Cook Political Report rates R+12. CD2 is the area in robin's egg blue below, and you might notice how most of the big city of Columbia is carefully gerrymandered out:

Here are some "fast facts" about the district provided on Boroughs' website, and they provide rich material for strategic political thinking:

South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District has a population of approximately 700,000 people
46% of eligible SC-02 voters cast ballots in the 2018 midterm election
75% of SC-02 is under the age of 65
25% of SC-02 is African-American
The 2nd district is majority women

If you've got volunteers and a ground game, those statistics offer a lot of room for turning things around, especially that wide pool of voters who haven't been voting. (As far as I can tell, incumbent Joe Wilson has never faced a strong Democrat before.) Aggressive voter registration, number one. Aggressive outreach, even in the Age of COVID, via phone-calling, texting, high-saturation social media. I get a tingle thinking about it.

Clearly, Adair Boroughs is whip smart and a fighter and a highly trained lawyer who could be making big bucks but who chose instead to run a nonprofit to help people with legal problems who can't help themselves: "...with an eye toward supporting hard-working, low-income families like those she grew up with, Adair helped launch Charleston Legal Access, a nonprofit law firm that provides affordable legal services to those in the middle—those who don’t qualify for free legal services but cannot afford the high cost of private attorneys. Since its founding in 2016, CLA has put over $1.5 million back in the pockets of working-class families through its representation."

I have new respect for a rising class of Democratic talent in South Carolina. Adair Boroughs joins Moe Brown in the 5th CD (written about here a couple of days ago) and Joe Cunningham in the 1st CD (whom I profiled during his 2018 surprise win along the coastal strip of South Carolina including Charleston). Boroughs and Brown could join Cunningham in Washington next year.

Our Incumbent Senator's Body Language Suggests He's Lying

Rapid eye-blinking is often a sign of stress. When Thom Tillis answers this journalist's questions, his blinking is many times a minute. Many times.


Here's some free advice for Senator Tillis from the Body Language Project: "Avoid rapid blinking when you think you will be judged on your honesty as many people attribute a high blink rate to stress, and stress, to lying."

Did Jesse Helms Put a Curse on His Senate Seat When He Left It?

Cal Cunningham looks to be doing to incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis what Thom Tillis did to Kay Hagan in 2014. Tillis beat Hagan by 45,608 votes out of 2,915,281 total votes cast.

Kay Hagan made Senator Elizabeth Dole a one-termer in 2008, beating her by a much wider margin, some 361,801 votes. Elizabeth Dole had easily taken the open seat in 2002 following the retirement of Sen. Jesse Helms.

It's almost like ole Jesse cursed the seat or something, for it's produced a line of one-term senators ever since he left it.

We expect Thom Tillis to fall to that curse, come November, and we also expect Cal Cunningham to break that curse once he's our new senator from North Carolina.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

This Man Could (Surprise!) Win a South Carolina Congressional District

Watch Moe Brown's introductory video first, and then we'll talk:

Speaking as a former political operative who's seen a lot of up-and-comers, I have to say that Moe Brown is one of those candidates, one of those you'd relish working for, a successful and attractive young man running as a Black "moderate" but in a mostly White, rural South Carolina Congressional district. Yikes.

The 5th CD of SC ain't no picnic. It's currently represented by up-scale real estate developer Ralph Norman, Republican winner of a special election in June 2017 to replace Congressman Mick Mulvaney (who -- let's face it -- has been diminished by the Trump presidency). After Norman got to Congress, in April 2018, "he was meeting with constituents at a diner in Rock Hill ... when he noticed a gaggle of women in the room wearing red
T-shirts, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. So what did Ralph Norman do? He pulled a handgun out of his jacket pocket and placed it on the table, where it remained for the next several minutes." 

Norman also defended the racism of Congressman Steve King, before King was kicked out of the House Republican caucus. More recently, Norman appeared as a cheerleader "in a viral live-streamed video [just two days ago] that featured doctors downplaying the threat of the coronavirus and claiming to have found a cure." That video got banned from social media for appalling misinformation. 

In other words, Norman's a giant dick in the Mulvaney tradition (with a little Sperm Thurmond thrown in for flavor).

But (see below) Norman won that special election against feisty Democrat Archie Parnell with only 50.04 percent of the vote. (Parnell challenged Norman again in 2018, but did worse, getting only 41.49 percent. Very old assault allegations against Parnell had surfaced.) Despite the close election of 2017 and because of his easy reelection in 2018, Norman looks secure (exceptions cited below). Cook Political Report rates the district R+9, "Solid Republican."

Moe Brown's Candidacy

His video stopped me in my tracks and made me reassess. Maybe the 2017 special-election squeaker that put Norman into office with only 50.04 percent of the vote was closer to the real potential of the 5th District, than was the Nov. 2018 loss by Parnell (whose past had tracked him down. I profiled Parnell approvingly in April 2018).

Moe Brown's personal story is compelling. It's up by your bootstraps by pluck and vinegar, reflecting virtue and will power, and Southern White people used to honor that, at least in themselves. But he's also an athletic star, wide receiver and captain of the Gamecocks, playing the quintessential game of Southern manhood. He's also got the engaging personality ("infectious" according to The State) and the obvious smarts to get things done at a high level. He himself is a suburban Charlottean, commuting to his professional job in the city. He correctly brags in his intro video about personally making development deals for Governor Nikki Haley through the six years he worked in her Commerce Department that brought in over a $1 billion and 5,000 jobs to the state (a factoid repeated on his website).

The rap against Moe Brown is that he's probably too corporate. FITSNews, a center/right news aggregator that nevertheless has a good reputation for accuracy, doesn't believe Moe Brown won't raise taxes, and "if middle class taxpayers are going to experience the sort of advancement upper class taxpayers have experienced under the administration of Donald Trump," then we need more of a reduction in taxes, not just a freeze. (Weird slap at Trump there! This site earns its banner declaration: "Independent. Unapologetic.")

The FITSnews editorialist doesn't trust Moe Brown's progressive promise: "...his announcement release fails to mention how much those [5,000] jobs cost taxpayers in the form of crony capitalist incentives. Because there was (and is) a cost to taxpayers every time government makes such 'economic development' announcements … of course the current occupant of this office [Ralph Norman] knows all about crony capitalism, too." That does give me pause. I chalked up Moe Brown's success as an expression of his personality, hoping it's not also an expression of his values.

The district is more suburban/urban in the north (neighborhoods just south of Charlotte, NC and around Rock Hill), more rural in the south. Is there enough progressive voter strength in the north, and enough untapped voters in the south, to give Moe Brown a shot at this? Am I wildly optimistic to say yes?Things are changing in South Carolina. Jaime Harrison is a lion going after the gazelle, Lindsey Graham, right now, and there's already a Republican Black US Senator, Tim Scott. If Moe Brown is registering voters all throughout those rural counties, he might have a shot at a long forward pass.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Proves That a Long Name Is No Deterrent From Winning a US Senate Seat

Honestly, John Hickenlooper was not my choice to win the Colorado Democratic primary for US Senate, but the people of Colorado seem to want him. And Cory Gardner, the incumbent Republican, is widely considered the most vulnerable US Senator this year, except maybe for Doug Jones in Alabama.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Wouldn't It Be Fun If Jaime Harrison Beat Lindsey Graham?

Another Sleeper Race: Gloria Harrington Overcash in NC House Dist. 55

House Dist. 55 consists of Union and Anson counties down on the South Carolina line, and it's represented in Raleigh by one of the jerkier Republicans in the NC House, Mark Brody, first elected in 2012. He called public school teachers in a May 2018 mass demonstration in Raleigh "thugs," he's been sued multiple times as a general contractor for not paying his bills, and he cosponsored with Rep. Larry Pittman a law to nullify the courts' rulings on gay marriage.

Union County is by far the center of gravity in the district, with some 91 percent of the population (though Democratic candidate Gloria Harrington Overcash is from much smaller Anson Co.). In the district overall, Republicans out-number Democrats 39 percent to 28 percent, but Unaffiliated (33 percent) and Democratic voters together out-number Republicans. I wrote about Union County Democrats in 2018 for posting high numbers of direct voter contacts. They were working hard for Dan McCready (running for US Congress) and Caroline Walker (running for the NC Senate) and others -- most of whom lost their races that fall. Perhaps that knocked the wind out of them, as losses after great effort are prone to do, but if all signs are pointing to an even bigger blue tsunami this year, they need to be banking their fires and keeping the faith. I think they are.

(In 2016, Trump took 56 percent of the vote in this district. That advantage makes the district "Lean Republican," but with Trump's credibility dropping like an anvil in a horse tank, that so-called advantage seems as mealy as old cake.)

Gloria Overcash has a campaign video, rare among Democratic candidates for the NC General Assembly, and I could envision her as a force to be reckoned with if she can translate personality into voter enthusiasm. But she seems pretty determined to keep anything smacking of progressive issues off her website. She's all about jobs (which in my experience has always been a loser issue for Democrats), and although she hit on the expansion of Medicaid in her maiden interview with the Anson Record, nowhere on her campaign website does she mention any support either for Medicaid expansion or for education funding. She also says she supports the 2nd Amendment, a wholly gratuitous feint toward looking "Republican lite."

She said she was recruited to run by Democratic leaders in Raleigh, perhaps based on her long career as an employee and administrator in the NC courts system as a victim's advocate and a trial coordinator. Or perhaps she was known to them as a past chair of the Anson County Democratic Party.

Both Union and Anson counties overlap with another high-profile race by an insurgent Democrat, Cynthia Wallace (running for Congress in the 9th CD), who might provide some extra boost to Overcash if she is, as rumored, catching fire down there.

Monday, July 27, 2020

A 'Sleeper' NC House Race That Could Produce a Surprise Blue-to-Red Flip This November

NC House District 22 consists of Bladen and over half of Sampson County with their county seats of Elizabethtown and Clinton. It's been represented in the NC House for many terms by former Democrat now turned Republican William Brisson, who regularly stuck his thumb in Gov. Bev Perdue's eye and earned a spot on what was then called The Five Goobers in the NC House. Brisson is the last of the Goobers still serving, and he really really does need to spend more time with his family.

Running against Brisson this fall is Judge Albert D. Kirby Jr., who was appointed by Governor Cooper to the bench as Senior Superior Court Judge in Sampson County to finish an unexpired term but then lost the seat in the election of 2018. He had previously served two 4-year terms as a Sampson County commissioner.

Kirby attended Clinton High School, went on to college at Wake Forest University and to law school at Campbell. He served as an assistant prosecutor for district attorneys in Cumberland, Hoke, and Pitt counties before opening his own law firm in Clinton. He's also taught criminal justice at East Carolina University.

The 22nd House district is rated "Lean Republican," and the NC Free Enterprise Foundation gives it a Republican edge of only +2. Kirby had to win a primary in March against a white opponent, so one might think that his current profile is fairly high and that a general uptick in Democratic enthusiasm would -- could -- turbo-boost his candidacy. But I can't tell from his Facebook page that he's mounting an aggressive campaign. First, he has to believe that he can actually beat William Brisson and then others will believe it too and volunteer to help out.

Come November, This Is the Man Who'll Replace Martha McSally in the US Senate

Former astronaut Mark Kelly brings a hell of a resume to his race in Arizona for the US Senate. 

Incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally was appointed in January 2019 to finish Sen. John McCain's term, after losing her previous Senate race to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in November 2018, the first Republican to lose a Senate race in Arizona in three decades. 

Mark Kelly has been leading McSally in most polling by a wide margin. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

An Unexpected and Surprising Republican Retirement at the General Assembly

David Lewis, Republican chair of the NC House Rules Committee, chief architect of voter suppression laws and the extreme partisan gerrymandering of General Assembly seats, announced yesterday that he would not be seeking reelection after all to his District 53 seat. He filed to run for reelection back in December 2019, and his dropping out now is puzzling, all the more so because he says he intends to spend more time with his family, an ancient and unconvincing dodge. He's just 49, one of the most powerful lieutenants in the Berger-Moore machine for turning back progressivism in North Carolina.

It's almost like there's another shoe waiting to drop.

District 53 (Harnett County) is rated "Likely Republican," even without David Lewis on the ballot. Republican leaders in that county will have to name a replacement for him, and muy pronto. One would assume that whoever is chosen will instantly become the favorite to win.

There is a Democrat running, Sally Weeks Benson, a retired US Navy commander. She actually had to win a March primary to make the ballot, and she does have some campaign infrastructure, a website and a Facebook page, but whether she's positioned to take advantage of this suddenly open seat is another matter.

There is a functioning and apparently organized Democratic Party in Harnett County, which could provide volunteers and fundraising help. And the boomlet congressional campaign of Patricia Timmons-Goodson in the 8th CD overlaps onto most of Harnett County and could perhaps provide some coattail effect, if everyone is fired up. Short story: there's suddenly an opportunity in Harnett County for some revolutionary change.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Sauce for the Goose: NC Dems Utilize 'Dark Money' Too

Important piece of sleuthing by Travis Fain for WRAL News: Former NC Democratic Senator Linda Garrou (Dist. 32, Forsyth) is leading a 501(c)(4) effort called Education Now. She's raising anonymous money to target six NC Senate Republican incumbents for defeat, which (all things remaining equal otherwise) would give Democrats control of the Senate and send Phil Berger to the bleachers.

In other words, tit for tat. (A Republican dark money group, Citizens for a Better NC House, is targeting Democrats including Rep. Ray Russell of the 93rd. It was described a few days ago here.) Republican dark money, at least in the case of Citizens for a Better NC House, waxes crude and insulting. They want everyone to see Democrats -- at least Rep. Russell -- as comic book villains.

The Republican targets that Linda Garrou will be attacking -- make no mistake -- also provide rich material, especially for satire, though we trust that Linda Garrou will have better taste.

I don't like dark money in politics. I want the law changed. My dilemma consists of also applauding Democrats for having the balls, for taking a gun to a gunfight.

Who's Linda Garrou?

Sen. Garrou spent some 14 years in the Senate and rose to chair the Appropriations Committee and then became Minority Leader after the Tea Party wave of 2010. But by 2012, Berger and the Boys had redrawn Garrou's district to suit themselves. Garrou announced her retirement. How strongly Democratic had been her old district? She won reelection in the Tea Party Wave with 65 percent of the vote.

If you recall, the redistricting of the General Assembly following the election of 2010 included a concerted effort on Berger's part to get rid of incumbent women. There were only six women in the Senate going into 2012, and Berger's redistricted map double-bunked three of them, including Garrou. (The scene was even worse in Tim Moore's House. Some 22 Democratic women reps were either double-bunked or drawn into districts with incumbent Republicans. All of this redistricting in both Senate and House was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the courts.)

So, what can we say about Garrou's waiting two presidential cycles after her targeted elimination to take such action with such a leadership role -- except, by Gawd, revenge really does taste sweeter when it's cold.

The Republican incumbents Garrou is gunning for:

The Democrat challengers on that list have all been touted multiple times by several prognosticators as good prospects for flipping a red district. Garrou's dark money can help perhaps. It might improve Dem performance, no? Or depress Republican turnout, which is really the metier of the 501(c)(4), isn't it?

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

How Big a Tsunami in November? Democrat Cynthia Wallace in NC09

Something's happening in the 9th Congressional District of North Carolina. The Cook Political Report recently moved the ratings of some 20 US House districts to show a trend toward a Democratic blue wave this November, the NC 9th among them, moving it from "Solid R" to "Likely R." That might not seem very definitive, but movement of any kind is often indicative of massive shifts in direction which, like faith, produce evidence of things not seen.

Some of us had high hopes that Democrat Dan McCready was going to win the district in last September's special election there, and he did come close, losing to Republican Dan Bishop by 3,788 votes (out of 190,506 total votes). But McCready failed to really energize new voters or re-engage only-sometime voters, as I wrote about after his loss. The district map has been redrawn since that special election, losing Cumberland County but gaining more precincts in southern Mecklenburg.

More than the changed map, perhaps, in accounting for shifting expectations in the 9th is the change of candidates, for Democrat Cynthia Wallace seems freshly minted to energize those underperforming Democrats that Dan McCready failed to win over. I've been spending time on her website and on her social media, and she seems both highly qualified and brimming with confident energy. She earned a mathematics degree at Spelman College in Atlanta, a master's degree in statistics, and she works in the high pressure financial services industry in Charlotte as an expert in risk management and government regulations.

Perhaps overlooked in accounting for her surging candidacy is her deep involvement in Democratic Party activism. She's currently the Democratic chair of the 9th Congressional District, which means she's well known in all her counties among progressive activists, giving her a network of volunteers and a base of support that Dan McCready had to build from the ground up.

It perhaps also helps her standing that she's up against incumbent Republican Dan Bishop, recently a senator in the General Assembly and pretty widely known as a dick. He was the chief author of NC's notorious "bathroom bill" and has never retreated an inch on being proud of what he did. Shortly after he took his congressional seat following the special election in Sept. 2019, Bishop became the first member of Congress to divulge the purported name of the whistleblower whose memo sparked the House impeachment inquiry.The federal Whistleblower Protection Act makes it illegal to divulge the name of a whistleblower, but so far as we know, Bishop has suffered no consequences for what he did.

Maybe Cynthia Wallace will deliver the comeuppance that Dan Bishop so richly deserves.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: Democrat Jen Mangrum, Running for State Superintendent of Schools

Jen Mangrum is running for an open seat which will put her on the Council of State. The previous Superintendent of Public Instruction, Republican Mark Johnson, had bigger ambitions. He opted not to run for reelection in 2020 and ran instead in a crowded Republican primary field for Lieutenant Governor, an office much favored by rising politicians in North Carolina (and by some empty suits). Mark Johnson finished 3rd in the primary (out of 9 candidates) with 12 percent of the vote.

His tenure since 2016 as Superintendent was fraught. The scandal over Johnson's attempt to force a contract for Istation, instead of a competitor reading program called Amplify (as I don't know the ins and outs of this hardware, I won't attempt to characterize the machinery), stirred up a hornet's nest of teacher pushback against Johnson's dictatorial and unqualified decision-making. Well known educator and NC education blogger Justin Parmenter wrote:
So yeah, there were definitely bad actors involved in the Istation contract controversy. Superintendent Mark Johnson himself was chief among them.
The Istation scandal was not the only scandal Johnson produced in his sad term as superintendent (think iPads), but it was the one that stunk the most. 
It also perfectly encapsulated his failed leadership of our public schools in that it boiled down to an appalling disregard for the insight of experienced educators in making important decisions that impact our students. 
Johnson simply didn’t care what teachers thought.
I think I can speak for the majority of North Carolina’s public school educators when I say: Superintendent Mark Johnson will not be missed.
Jen Mangrum won her Democratic primary against four competitors with 33 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a run-off. I've been a fan of hers since she ran against Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger in the 2018 mid-terms. She brought the heat and showed a commitment to public service that I can only admire in an age of self-serving politicians. Mangrum had to fight to get on the ballot, and she never stopped fighting the Phil Berger machine. In fact, her race for Superintendent of Public Instruction can be thought of as a continuation of her crusade to dismantle Berger's terrible influence over education:

"Public education is the core of our democracy," Mangrum says, and Phil Berger has presided over the systematic dismantling of that core in North Carolina. Mangrum has spent her entire life in classrooms, 15 of those years as a public school teacher. She's now teaching at a higher level at UNC-Greensboro, helping to train young people for the classroom. She recently earned the endorsement of the Network for Public Education, which called Phil Berger "the worst enemy of public education in the North Carolina General Assembly .... Berger has used his position as leader of the Senate to promote the privatization of North Carolina’s public schools. His policies have been harmful to the dedicated teachers of the state."

Mangrum's Republican opponent, Catherine Truitt, gets a "moderate" rating from the Heritage Alliance, the conservative org that produces the iVoterGuide. Truitt says she "agrees" with "school choice, including voucher programs, tax credits, charter schools, private schools, and home schools," and she checks the expected conservative box on right to life (anti-abortion). But she also said she disagreed with this statement: "Governments should define marriage as between one man and one woman; no other definition of marriage should be legalized or supported with taxpayer or public funds."

Truitt -- on paper at least -- is far more qualified for the job than Mark Johnson ever was.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

They're Going after Ray Russell and Ray Pickett Ain't Embarrassed

The basically silly attacks on Rep. Ray Russell (HD93) by an anonymous group calling itself "Citizens for a Better NC House" -- see immediately down-column -- are meant to help advantage Ray's Republican challenger, Ray Pickett, an ex-Blowing Rock town commissioner, local inn-keeper, and....

Hold it right there. "Ex-Blowing Rock town commissioner" sent me on an extended search of State Board of Elections (NCSBE) data to find out when Ray Pickett previously served on the B'Rock Town Commission. Here's the somewhat confounding facts I found:

2011 -- Ran for Town Commission as "Phillip R. Pickett." (Assume that's Ray; if not, I apologize.) Finished 4th behind winner Albert Yount with 155 votes out of a total of 953 cast.

2013 -- Ran again, finished 3rd behind Doug Matheson but took a 2-year seat with 279 votes out of 1,663.

2015 -- Did not run again. At least he's not listed as a candidate on SBOE "Elections" page for that fall.

2017 -- Despite what is not shown for 2015, Pickett was indisputably a sitting Commissioner during the election of 2017, finishing 4th with 222 votes out of 1,237. Ousted by Virginia Powell.

2019 -- Ran again, finishing 3rd with 159 votes out of 814 cast -- failing again to win a seat.

I can't account for the gap between 2015 and 2017, how someone not on the ballot in 2015, after winning a 2-year term in 2013, can show up in all press stories as a sitting town commissioner all through 2017. Appointment to an unexpired term, maybe? I dunno. And I'm not going to spend any more time on this, except for this conclusion: Ray Pickett served on B'Rock town council for either 2 or 3+ years and did not grow his base. 155 votes, his first time out; 159 votes, his last try.

Maybe someone in the NCGOP, or allied orgs, promised him this year that if he'd just sign up to run against first-termer Ray Russell, he'd get campaign help from 3rd parties with lottsa bucks. Besides, Bruh, rest assured that a Trumpy House district like the 93rd still "leans Republican," according to all the people who count beans, and Trump's reelection is really gonna bring out the Republicans (supposedly). Persuasive talk for an ambitious politician, but I dunno. After trying to locate the Ray Pickett campaign, I'm keyed to ask, "Leans Republican, Despite the Candidate"? 

Truth be told, Ray Pickett looks like he needs help. He listed a single contribution from Friends of Tim Moore ($5,400) in Feb. on his 1st Quarter report, and so far as we can tell, he's submitted no 2nd Quarter report. (Ray Pickett is also listed as his own treasurer. When did they change the law on that?) He doesn't seem to be trying all that hard. Relying on the dirty work by "Citizens for a Better NC House" to get him elected? 

His Facebook page has 71 "likes," 76 "follows," and to date, since its launch on Jan. 6 of this year, just 16 updates (and a half-dozen of those were repetitions of the campaign cover page). Among those roughly dozen original postings: Commendably, he met with officials of the Blue Ridge Conservancy and was lobbied on conservation issues, and he gave blood, but he also doesn't see the problem with a statue of Teddy Roosevelt subordinating an Indian and a Black man. He was against wearing facemasks on June 16, as a tyrannical oppression by government, and he thought it awfully important to pass on a list of conservative principles, No. 6 of which is "Trump is the President and doing a great job!" and No. 16, "All fear is fueled by the media, this is a fact."

Ray Pickett knows the crap they're shoveling at Ray Russell. He legally can't have connections -- certainly not approval -- of that shoveled crap, but there's such a thing as tacit approval. He perhaps thinks that 3rd-party attacks will be the way he'll win if he wins at all. 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

How the Dark Money Is Attacking Rep. Ray Russell

These are really bad, like Trump-era dumb-and-bad, like pre-schoolers set loose with scissors and paste bad. They're actually so bad they're laughable, like Trump-era laughable. Also non-sensical. They smell of desperation.

The Nasty 'Dark Money' Arrives in #NCGA Races

An outside expenditure group calling itself "Citizens for a Better NC House" is unloading a flood of slick and nasty mailers against NC House Rep. Ray Russell (HD93), and if he's being targeted, so are other Democrats who won close races in 2018. (This group may also be the source of push-polling against Russell that we're getting reports of.)

The group is registered with the state Board of Elections with one name on the registration papers, that of a treasurer, Phillip A. Painter, and a PO Box address in Raleigh. The only Phillip A. Painter I can find in North Carolina lives in Gastonia.

As treasurer, he has a nice pile to play with, some $1,200,000 in "outside source" funds (all anonymous) that have miraculously appeared via electronic transfer. In addition to the attacks on Ray Russell in HD93, meant to boost the chances of Republican Ray Pickett, the group is also targeting these House and Senate races:

HD20, where Democrat Adam Ericson is challenging Republican Ted Davis. I wrote about Ericson on June 22 as one of the best bets to flip a Republican district this year.

HD82, where Democrat Aimy Steele is a real threat to flip an open Republican seat. I also wrote about Steele on June 22nd.

SD9, where Democrat Harper Peterson, who flipped this senate seat in 2018, is trying to hold on against Republican Mike Lee, who's trying to get his seat back with the help of dark money.

HD1, where Democrat Emily Bunch Nicholson is challenging incumbent Republican Ed Goodwin. This is another of those closely watched races that could flip the NC House to Democratic control. I wrote about Nicholson on June 21.

SD1, where Democrat Tess Judge is trying to unseat Republican incumbent Bob Steinburg. I put Judge in the "3rd tier" of potential red-to-blue flippers of NC Senate districts. Clearly, the dark money is worried about her chances of taking out Steinburg.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Too Bad So Sad -- Mark Meadows Finds the Worm in His Cabbage

Big story in Politico this Monday morning about how Congressman Mark Meadows' apotheosis as Chief of Staff to Twitterman has turned out to be a longterm migraine and not the picnic Meadows apparently thought he was being gifted with. "Three-and-a-half months in, he has told people he is struggling with the chief’s job and that if Trump wins reelection, he’ll stay in the role only for an additional year, if that long."

If that long. Indeed.

Like any good fiscally conservative Republican, he says he likes all the perks of flying on Air Force One, the presidential mess, the little match books with the presidential seal that he can pocket for his friends. It's good being crammed into the armpit of the most powerful individual on earth, so far as the trimmings are concerned, but not so good presiding over the great dumpster fire of a failed and still failing presidency.

“Look at what has happened on Meadows’ watch: the walk to Lafayette Square, the complete mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis, the defense of the Confederate flag and the botched handling of the intelligence on the Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers. We could go on and on. It has been one of the worst stretches of the Trump presidency,” said Chris Whipple, who's written extensively on White House chiefs of staff. “He took the job, so he owns it. That was his first big mistake.”

When did you first discover you had traded a safe seat in Congress in perpetuity for a thankless post in charge of sitting outside Jared Kushner's door? "...Meadows quickly learned to yield to the existing power structure rather than trying to commandeer it. That means essentially recognizing the West Wing is Jared Kushner’s domain...."

D'oh! Second fiddle to the boy genius! Does the upholstery on Air Force One really make up for that humiliation?

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Danny Britt, COVID Poster Boy in the NC Senate

Danny Britt
So Friday morning NC Senate leader Phil Berger said, "Oh, by the way, a Republican member of the Senate has tested positive for COVID-19," without naming him, and the said senator was apparently on the floor of the Senate the day before without a mask -- few Republicans wear them, in obeisance to Trump and the Trumpists. By Friday afternoon, Republican Senator Danny Britt (Dist. 13 -- Robeson and Columbus counties) 'fessed up -- it was me who tested positive and who might have spread the virus to other legislators.

Real Facts NC had listed Britt's Senate district as one to watch for a possible red-to-blue flip. The Democratic candidate there, Barbara Yates-Lockamy, has been in my eye since 2018, because Real Facts had touted a possible flip in HD46 in 2018 whereYates-Lockamy was running against incumbent Republican Brendan Jones. She lost badly, 36.65% to 63.35%.

So I had opted to ignore the SD13 race this year, based on Yates-Lockamy's track record for that House seat in 2018, and especially considering that Danny Britt actually has a kind of hero status in Robeson County as a "one-man rescue squad" during the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. District 13 is a minority majority district, with 54% of the population classified as either Black or Native American. You would think that would give Yates-Lockamy an advantage, but it didn't help Danny Britt's Democratic opponent in 2018, John Campbell, even though Barack Obama named Campbell among his "candidates to watch" that year.

I've taken another look at Yates-Lockamy's web presence, and she does seem to be running more of a campaign this year than in 2018. Her website is better, and she's active on Facebook. Her Twitter account, however, only calls attention to her lack of Twitter activity, with one measly post since 2018, and she's still describing herself as a candidate for the NC House.

Lord knows I'm cynical. But I also have a fairly boundless capacity for hope, and I can hope for Yates-Lockamy's success in 2020, along with hoping for a speedy recovery for AppState alum Danny Britt and additional hope that he didn't infect more North Carolina lawmakers.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Where Do We Go Now for Justice?

The only thing worse than a Trump is a Barr and a Trump.

If you like that combo for its boogaloo, then you go right ahead and vote for it. The majority of the rest of us won't be joining you. We actually think that our participation on November 3rd is our last chance to save the Republic. Our much touted "rule of law" has morphed -- just since Barr got confirmed as A.G. in Feb. 2019 -- into a kind of Soprano Family reality series, without the charm. Boss Donnie has an endless appetite for "a favor though" -- he often needs his henchmen sprung and there's some people who need whacking. William Barr has been there to pull the levers and make the hit.

The outrage of only last night -- the commutation of the seven felony convictions for Roger Stone (what! no outright pardon?) -- sprouted from Stone's loyal soldier act, his refusal to rat out the boss to save himself from prison. Rule of Law? No. One law for the boss and his associates, another for the rest of us.

William Barr laid the predicate for that inevitable outcome. He had overruled the sentencing recommendations for Stone made by his department's own career prosecutors -- with Boss Trump celebrating on Twitter like an Adderall-snorting Tony Montana -- which prompted four Justice Dept. career prosecutors to resign from the Stone case (one left the DOJ entirely). At Roger Stone's sentencing hearing, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that it was pretty obvious to her that the president had been trying to subvert the rule of law by publicly attacking her, the jurors, and the Justice Department lawyers, all with the generous enablement of William Barr.

Gangster fashion
And that's really the least of it. Barr has been systematically decapitating U.S. Attorney offices in the jurisdictions currently conducting investigations of Boss Trump and his associates -- the Washington, DeeCee, office and the Southern District of New York. For Washington's US Attorney office, Barr got rid of the competent woman in charge and put in his right-hand aide Timothy Shea. The Washington office was handling both the Roger Stone and the Michael Flynn prosecutions, and Shea has been helpful there, strewing the floor with marbles.

Barr also got rid of Geoffrey Berman in the Southern District of New York. Berman was investigating hush-money payments to various goomahs not to mention the "business activities" of Boss Trump's consigliere Rudy Guiliani.

We cannot stand for this, not as a people, not as a nation, not as a citizenry that has been brought up to believe in justice.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

The Tea Leaves Are There for Reading

"In a closed-door [Republican] party lunch last week, veteran GOP pollster Frank Luntz advised Republican senators to not disavow the president, but to put some daylight between themselves and Trump, according to two people familiar with his presentation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private remarks. Luntz also warned that this November’s congressional results could be similar to the 2006 midterms, when Democrats wrested control of both chambers away from the GOP after President George W. Bush’s popularity fell as a result of the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina. Luntz did not respond to a request for comment."

"Daylight." Explains why Sen. Thom Tillis has disappeared his allegiance to Trump in his TV ads. He's rather showcasing his humble roots in a trailer park. Shades of Virginia Foxx-ism!

“Republicans in the Senate might be trying to disappear Donald Trump from their campaign ads, but they can’t erase their records in Washington of enabling the White House’s attacks on health care in the middle of a pandemic or their refusal to hold the president accountable as he divides a nation in crisis,” said Stewart Boss, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

ReOpenNC Wants Governor Cooper Impeached

The notoriously reckless Reopen NC co-founder Ashley Smith, who does not live in Boone (as far as we know), is circulating a petition calling on state lawmakers to impeach Gov. Roy Cooper because he issued shutdown orders restricting commercial activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition cites a lack of concurrence from the Council of State -- Republican members Dan Forest, Dale Folwell, Cherie Berry, Steve Troxler, and Mark Johnson, who apparently liked better the cavalier refusal to take the coronavirus seriously, like the governors of Florida, Texas, and Arizona. Ashley Smith's petition for impeachment accuses the governor of infringing on North Carolinians' rights of free speech and the enjoyment of the fruits of their labor.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is already suing Governor Cooper over the same issue.

Impeachment would have to begin in the NC House. Republican House Speaker Tim Moore "did not return requests for comment on the petition. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger's office said it would be out of turn for Berger to comment, given that any impeachment proceedings would have to start in the House."

In other words, don't hold your breath, Ashley Smith.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Jacksonville Not Looking So Sunny After All

Trump threw a snit when Governor Roy Cooper refused to guarantee a full arena in Charlotte for Twitterman's re-coronation at the end of August, so Trump moved south to Jacksonville, which at the time was touting a 15,000-seat arena and a Republican mayor and a Republican governor who would be wide-open to a Trump mass rally.

But not so fast there. That was then. Now Florida is experiencing one of the worst spikes in virus infections, and its governor's poll numbers -- along with Trump's -- are sagging noticeably in the Sunshine State.

Yesterday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally, refused to say whether he would lift a rule mandating that indoor gatherings stay under 50 percent capacity — which would hold the Jacksonville convention to 7,500 people. Plus Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry issued a mandatory mask order last week.

What a bummer, if Trump has to look down on just a half-capacity auditorium of people wearing masks, or not wearing masks in defiant solidarity with the stupidest and most dangerous one-term president in American history.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: Democrat Ronnie Chatterji, Running for State Treasurer

Ronnie Chatterji
ran in the March Democratic primary against two other strong Democrats. When I researched them all before voting, I was impressed by their individual credentials. It's a technical job, managing North Carolina's financial portfolio and its health-care system. They all looked qualified to me. And to a lot of other primary voters, too:

March 3rd primary vote totals:

Ronnie Chatterji 411,732 -- 35.81%
Dimple Ajmera 390,888 -- 33.99%
Matt Leatherman 347,226 -- 30.20%

I ended up voting for Dimple Ajmera -- primarily because of what I considered her stronger base in Mecklenburg County -- but I looked hard at Chatterji. I'm grateful now for the profile did on Chatterji last March (reproduced here without all the internal links):

Chatterji is a 42-year-old Gen-X-er who lives in Durham. He’s an economist and tenured professor in the Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He served on the White House Council of Economic Advisors under President Obama and he has offered economic advice to a number of other presidential and senatorial campaigns. He’s also an appointee of Governor Roy Cooper to the Entrepreneurial Council.

Chatterji has authored several op-ed pieces in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and writes widely for management and policy audiences with several recent pieces in Harvard Business Review and for the Brookings Institution. His new book, co-authored with Michael Lenox, is “Can Business Save the Earth?” (Stanford University Press).

If elected treasurer, Chatterji promises to “invest responsibly in companies that expand opportunities across our state. We can lead the fight to protect our environment and increase equity. We can expand access to financial services for all North Carolinians. We can make our healthcare system a model for the nation. The Treasurer can do so much for our state and I am ready to get to work.”

Highly qualified, and he has adorable kids: 

Incumbent Republican Treasurer Dale R. Folwell

Folwell is an old political hand from Forsyth County. He served several years on the Forsyth School Board before being elected to represent NC House Dist. 74 in 2004, and after the 2010 Tea Party takeover, he rose to be Number Two in the House as Speaker Pro Tempore under Speaker Thom Tillis. (House Dist. 74, incidentally, is the seat that Winston-Salem City Councilman Dan Besse is running for now -- a ripe prospect for flipping.) Folwell tried to move up to lieutenant governor in the elections of 2012, but he finished third in the primary against the eventual winner, Dan Forest. In 2013 he was appointed by Gov. McCrory to head the state's Division of Employment Security. By 2016 he was running for state treasurer against Democrat Dan Blue III:

General Election of 2016:

Dale R. Folwell 2,373,022 -- 52.70%
Dan Blue III 2,129,762 -- 47.30%

In the House, Folwell was a standard-issue conservative in perfect step with the Tea Party takeover. In 2009, Civitas Action rated him the most conservative member of the House. He kissed the Koch ring by loyally attending American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meetings. He was a hawk for new hurdles on voting and helped get through anti-gay marriage and bathroom monitor bills that did so verrry much to improve North Carolina's economic standing in the free world -- then had the gall to run for treasurer.

He's been the most vocal opponent of one of Governor Cooper's executive orders, banning city-owned utility providers from disconnecting or fining non-paying customers during the COVID pandemic -- a humane provision, with so many out of work, to keep victimized workers from being thrown out on the street. But every good deed, it seems, has a worm in the bud: Some city-owned utilities could literally go bankrupt because of non-payment. That's the situation in Elizabeth City, incidentally, which was in desperate straits under the governor's order. Some 30% of its customers weren’t paying their utility bills. Without a waiver, the city would go broke in the fall, and its customers could end up paying a 10% to 46% hike in electric rates, according to Richard Olson, Elizabeth City's city manager (as told to the conservative Carolina Journal). 

Elizabeth City therefore applied to the state for a waiver to Gov. Cooper's order, and after waiting two weeks for any sort of reply, announced that they had no choice but to defy the governor and start charging again for in arrears utilities on July 1st. Immediately, the state got off the dime and granted the waiver. Folwell wants that waiver extended to all other such utilities, and he's demanding a face-to-face meeting of the Council of State today to debate the issue and force a vote. Unclear whether the Council of State can actually override the governor, but it can certainly cause trouble.

Both Folwell's and the governor's are rational positions, and both have merit. People shouldn't be thrown out of their homes during a state emergency which cost them their jobs. Cities shouldn't have to go bankrupt, either, which might actually lead to higher utility rates for all customers. It's a merciless dilemma, and I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.

I can agree with some issues Folwell has been strong on. His statement on hospital pricing transparency: "...I’m calling on all North Carolina hospitals to be transparent and to publish their pricing so consumers can make informed decisions regarding health care. I’m also calling for the United States Department of Justice and the North Carolina Department of Justice, on behalf of the State Health Plan, to recover the potentially hundreds of millions overcharged to consumers by hospital management from this illegal activity.”

Pricing transparency is perhaps another brick in Folwell's wall against spending on social programs, especially on healthcare, especially for some 720,000 state employees, both retired and active now. In January of 2019, and as administrator of the state's Health Care Plan, Folwell proposed cutting spending some $300 million on health care for state workers, a move which Partners for Innovation in Health Care claimed would "ration care and access, jeopardize the quality of care, cripple local operations and services in every single healthcare system across the state and cause employee layoffs." For his part, Folwell pointed to the hidden and even deceptive prices charged by hospitals, usually in concert with insurance companies.

Late last March, just as COVID-19 was getting a foothold in North Carolina, Folwell was diagnosed with a serious case of the virus and spent five days in hospital recovering. Despite that experience, Folwell has been one of the more vocal members of the Council of State -- along with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest -- to push back against the governor's various shutdown orders.

He's definitely a mixed bag sort of treasurer. While I can appreciate his thinking on some issues, I'm holding his days in the NC House against him.

Monday, July 06, 2020

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

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

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

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

Dan Forest is a idiot. Also a ass.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: The Statewide Judge Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open because Associate Justice and Democrat Linda McGee retired.

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

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

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

Open because Associate Justice and Democrat Wanda Bryant retired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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