Monday, August 31, 2020

Does Madison Cawthorn Think He's Cute?


Madison Cawthorn, the 25-year-old Henderson County Republican who induced a widespread media swoon by winning the Republican primary for Congress in the NC-11, is not the first American politician to base his electoral prospects pretty much exclusively on his looks, nor will he be the last. He's very aware that he's got head-turning handsomeness on his side. He says in one video I've seen that he used to be 6'3" tall before his automobile crash -- "I stood out," he said. Explains a little the air of privilege that surrounds him, the expectation, despite a tragic car crash, that you can take what you want because. More than one young Christian girl has complained publicly that Cawthorn seemed to think that they owed him some romantic compliance. 

He has said that his big ambition is to be the new young avatar for an aging Republican Party, and he told a reporter that his secret weapon is his "packaging."

“...I believe I can carry the message of conservatism in a way that doesn’t seem so abrasive – that has better packaging, I would say, better messaging.”

I'm a very shallow person, I admit, and judge most candidates first by their surface appearance, but it's a trifle off-putting to hear the candidate admit that the surface is what there is. That he seems to think he can sell sandpaper for Kleenex if he's charming and pretty. Cawthorn is all-American boy with the thousand-watt smile, and his political calculation is this: He's pimping policies that no Millennial would select for themselves unless the salesman is a seducer.

He handles himself pretty well in media interviews. He has his talking points down pat. He's never, or rarely, at a loss for words. He knows his role -- tragic young voice of conservatism struggling to his feet to stand up for freedom despite all odds (while the choir at Fox News faints dead away). But when he gets into policy, he fades quickly into vagueness and illogic. He says he wants his main contribution to be the reform of our health care system, based on his own near-death experiences, but his "reform" looks puddle-deep and contradictory to me -- encouraging more competition among insurance companies is going to make health-care more affordable for the "forgotten people"? The "free market" would have healed his wounds faster? I think a wholly unfettered free market might have discarded both Madison Cawthorn and his hospital bed. 

He has expressed regret that the Republican majorities in Congress did not repeal Obamacare during Trump's first two years, though he, like his hero Trump, does not have a replacement plan. So his "free market" sloganeering looks not only shallow but also quite harmful.

The evident shallowness makes quite credible the creeping fear that he's aligned with white nationalism, with its toxic disdain for weak and unattractive "cucks," though I've never thought his Instagram photos from Berchtesgaden revealed much of anything other than a touristy bragging about places he's been. Time will tell about all of that, if he should actually make it to Congress.

The knock against him that drew blood is that he deliberately misled about the car crash derailing his coming stardom at the Naval Academy. He admitted in a lawsuit deposition that his nomination for the Naval Academy had been rejected before his car crash injuries. He has since claimed in interviews that he never misled anyone about that. I've gone back and watched his introductory video biography on his website -- which is still there -- and there's no doubt that he intended to mislead people about his supposed admission to Annapolis, supposedly ended by the car crash. There's no doubt in my mind.

His Democratic opponent, Moe Davis, an actual distinguished retired member of the military, called Cawthorn's wrapping himself in tragically aborted military glory as "stolen valor." Cawthorn thought perhaps that he could get away with it. After all, he looked the part of a rising Navy midshipman, didn't he?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Amber Baker Is Expected To Take This Forsyth County House Seat in November


Amber Baker was featured on a WXII newscast in February as a candidate running in the Democratic primary for the 72nd NC House District, which takes in much of the heart of Winston-Salem. The district is rated "Likely Democrat" and had been represented by Democrat Derwin Montgomery for one term (after serving a decade on the Winston-Salem city council). Montgomery wanted to move up to the US Congress, so he gave up his House seat to run in this year's primary for the 6th CD of North Carolina. He lost to Kathy Manning (who is most assuredly going to Congress), and Amber Baker is considered a shoo-in to take Montgomery's former House seat in this heavily Democratic district.

Amber Baker is guaranteed to be a new face and a new force for public education in Raleigh. This video is now six months old but still germane for understanding the evolving Democratic Party in North Carolina.

Looks like Baker has only token Republican opposition, but I trust that she's nevertheless campaigning for the job.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Old-Line Rural Republicans Hold the Key to the Election in North Carolina

I believe Trump will be defeated. I believe he won't. I believe the Democrats will take control of the NC House. I believe they won't -- and in fact, that they'll probably lose some of the seats they gained in 2018. I believe Democrats will take control of the US Senate. I believe they can't and that they'll lose Doug Jones in Alabama in the bargain. I believe that even conservative rural Republicans have understood the deep tragedy of Donald J. Trump and will stay home this year. But I know good and well that they're itching as much as me to get to the polls to reelect the great businessman and owner of "the libs"; yes, they'll show up with no masks and sharp elbows, and people will get hurt.

Hope has a companion, despair. He comes dressed in black and wearing a plague masque. While Hope squeegees on the softsoap -- "The polls reflect reality!" Despair blasts a cold water hose --"You should doubt the polls, because ... history. The polls don't know shit because they don't know the right ones to talk to."

It's not just the polls nurturing Hope. It's ground-level narrative -- rumor and hearsay. Like this we heard: Old-line rural Republicans in Watauga County seem more embarrassed by Trump than energized, and if they decide not to show up on November 3rd, then Hope, she is a prophetess.

Politics is an art, but it's also divination -- reading the signs -- and intuition, taking the surrounding temperature, looking for that high fever on the other side that will mean trouble for you and for the candidates you work for. We don't feel any fever over there (except among the most ardent Trumpists, the ones pushing guns and God, but there aren't enough of them to lift a jalopy to the roof). 

(I used to hope, oblivious to arithmetic, but I've learned better. The loss of Harvey Gantt in 1990 scarred my soul. But scar tissue is useful education, along with math.)

Judge Bob Orr,
of Henderson County

Arithmetic was trending my/our way, really since the day after Trump's inauguration when millions of women revolted, and it manifested itself in special election after special election in 2017, where the progressive Democrat regularly won, and culminated in the 2018 Midterms, when Trumpism was rejected every time in the suburbs. Why should we think that that resistance has ebbed by 2020? If anything, it's exploded. Republicans like Judge Bob Orr and the others who are organizing a splinter National Republican Party combined their membership with other never-Trumpers to hold their own on-line convention in Charlotte at the same time as Trump's convention

Judge Bob Orr is the living embodiment of an old-line rural Republicanism that is stand-up virtuous. Judge Bob Orr speaks for a silent minority of other old-line rural Republicans who can hear that splintering sound as a sign from God. Perhaps they know a cult of personality for what it is, a surrender of religious values. Might be something they like to avoid, like a cow patty in the path. How those old-line rural Republicans play will determine the election in North Carolina. 

I hope one thing; I fear another.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Can a Democratic Insurgent Win the Montana US House At-Large Seat?

Why is the Montana At-Large Congressional seat in play? The Cook Political Report has it at "lean Republican" (R+11), but it's an open seat. The Republican who won a special election there in 2017, Greg Gianforte, and who then promptly beat up a reporter from The Guardian and was convicted of misdemeanor assault, has moved on to run for Montana governor (and maybe beat up a different reportorial demographic). 

The Republican on the ballot there this November, Matt Rosendale, won a crowded congressional primary. He has considerable public service to his credit, including one term each in the Montana House and Senate and a term as Montana's auditor. But he also trails a string of high-profile electoral defeats. He was beaten in the 2018 senatorial campaign by incumbent Democrat Jon Tester. In 2014, he ran for the Montana At Large House seat in the Republican primary and came in third. He's very familiar to Montana voters, which in some cases may hurt as much as it helps.

A bigger reason the Montana race is being watched for a possible red-to-blue flip is the overall erosion in the Trumpist Party as both voters and office-holders have grown weary of the Twitterman chaos:

Of the 241 House Republicans in office when Trump was inaugurated in 2017, only 126 (52 percent) are still running for reelection this fall. Incoming GOP members have run on a primary theme of fealty to Trump, with a few exceptions — such as Peter Meijer (MI-03), a self-funder who has run on his military service and barely mentions the president.

Republican Matt Rosendale, who looks old and whose TV spots don't do a thing to dispel that image, is highlighting Donald Trump's endorsement as boilerplate, but as with every other public hugging of Trump by a Republican candidate in this plague year, we have to wonder how much it helps or hurts, even in Montana.

Democrat Kathleen Williams

She's clearly running as a "moderate," but she "fits" Montana and she doesn't strike me as someone who's gonna go DINO on us (I'll be permanently deleting this post if she does). She also has a long record of public service. She served multiple terms in the Montana House, and she ran against incumbent Greg Gianforte in 2018, coming within 4.7 percentage points of beating him. I don't know what her TV spots in 2018 looked like, but I find her not just feisty but appealingly feisty in 2020 (although I do flinch a little that she admits voting for Reagan -- does that look like pandering in Montana?):

Here's her most recent 30-second spot. She's selling character -- that feistiness again! -- and she certainly offers a compelling contrast to the Trump-hugging Rosendale.

The New Democrat Action Fund, which is supporting more centrist Democrats, especially those running in previously red districts, has named Kathleen Williams as a "race to watch."  Okay. You've got our attention. (It can't hurt Williams' chances that the popular Governor Steve Bullock is at the head of the Democratic ticket, running for the US Senate.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

And They Said It On Camera


Dr. Cameron Webb, a Stand-Out To Flip a US House Seat in VA

I've paid attention to first-time Democratic candidates in our state and in the two states that flank us, north and south. Several of them won their seats 2 years ago. They, and the new young and not-entirely-young Federal candidates of 2020 elevate my spirit -- a pool of talent that's brimming, not drying up. (For the Talent Pool Census, you should add in all the first-time Democratic candidates for NC House and Senate that I've been nattering about all year long. For Federal office:

North Carolina

    Deborah Ross, in the 2nd CD 

    Kathy Manning, in the 6th CD

    Patricia Timmons-Goodson, in the 8th CD

    Cynthia Wallace, in the 9th CD

    Moe Davis, in the 11th CD

    Cal Cunningham, for US Senate 

South Carolina

Joe Cunningham, in the 1st CD

Adair Boroughs, in the 2nd CD

Moe Brown, in the 5th CD

Jaime Harrison, for US Senate


Elaine Luria, in the 2nd CD

Cameron Webb, in the 5th CD

Abigail Spanberger, in the 7th CD

Jennifer Wexton, in the 10th CD

I check in on these folks sporadically, trolling for video usually, as I do appreciate production values. Tickled to find this new introduction to Cameron Webb up in the 5th District of Virginia. Way back in the spring, he shared a headline here after his surprise (and out-sized) primary win in the 5th District of Virginia: "The Wow Factor".

I don't know who produced this, but it's good. Highlights a detail for me that sticks because it illuminates character -- that Webb actually served out the end of his White House Fellowship in the  Trump administration and found a way to stick with it, despite the Trump animus toward a hold-over Obama admin advisor. He says they treated him with suspicion, moved his desk into the hall and then took it away altogether, yet when the White House staff was blind-sided by a presidential tweet promising lower drug prices, and because Cameron Webb was there as a medical doctor with valuable experience (not to mention a law degree), they actually asked his advice, and he was able to ameliorate some early Trump admin moves on health care.

Cook Political Report rates the 5th CD of Virginia as "Lean Republican," R + 6. That's an improvement over their earlier "Safe Republican." R + 6 ain't insurmountable, not in a wave year. The 5th is an open seat, after all, and the Republican blow-hard running for it -- a dude ironically named Bob Good -- decided that of all the issues he needed to run on and needed to win with in 2020, gender identity rose right to the top, like a turd full of fiber. He's kind of a bully, especially the way he trashed the incumbent Republican to win his primary. That same specter of bullying the weak that turned so many suburban Republican women against Trump could mean trouble for Good in the suburban sprawl around Charlottesville.

So, yeah, "lean Republican," like a willow leans.

Monday, August 24, 2020

"Whatever Trump Wants" -- Twitterman Tries To Boost Cawthorn

My favorite thing about the Republican National Convention in Charlotte so far -- it's not their "high-risk" gathering in the same room of some 326 official state delegates (six from each state) with assorted functionaries and facilitators, nor the shocking surprise that they intend to renominate Donald J. Trump this very morning -- it's their decision not to write a party platform for 2020. Well, to be fair, they submitted three words: "whatever Trump wants." 

Dudes! You really want to proclaim your total lack of any anchor holding you to A Rock? You want to announce to the voters that you hold nothing in particular sacred any more? Oh, I know you said the 2016 Platform is readopted for 2020 -- and those are your positions still, thank you very much, and "You may go now" -- depart in peace and don't notice that the old 2016 platform contains statehood for Puerto Rico and that little plank on Crimea that got edited to make it more advantageous for Russia. 

We pretty much knew it all along, that you're a colony now under imperial rule. You used to believe -- stoutly and without equivocation -- in certain tenets of foreign policy, of monetary policy, of personal responsibility. Then Trump arrived. Whatever Trump didn't like, you had to not like too, and how humiliating is that, shedding conviction like a snake sluffs skin?

(The 2020 Platform of the Democratic Party was controversial too because -- as usual -- the Democrats wanted to write too much rather than nothing at all, so there were arguments to the death. Progressives gave up the most. The Biden moderates wouldn't adopt "Medicare for All," but tried to placate the progressives: "We are proud our party welcomes advocates who want to build on and strengthen the Affordable Care Act and those who support a Medicare for All approach." The Bernie Sanders camp was actively involved in drafting the platform, and they decided to lose gracefully, a boon.)

Cawthorn met Trump at a July fundraiser
for the president. Still photo from
video published by The Sun.
Cawthorn is seated to the left.
I know well enough that party platforms are wallpaper and nobody pays them any attention except for partisans like me looking for ammunition. It's still a bad look for a major political party to shirk the responsibility of declaring "These Are the Values We Know, We Know."  

Trump will be in Charlotte at noon to accept the nomination, and then he plans to travel to the 11th Congressional District to give young Madison Cawthorn a boost in his campaign to take Mark Meadows' old seat. Trump's been petting Cawthorn like a new mascot. The lad's been given a speaking slot on the convention program. I look for him to play the victim to get past the awkwardness of being called out publicly in recent days for claiming acceptance to enter the Naval Academy when he was never accepted there, and the serial testimony of several young women who've said that Cawthorn pushed himself on them as God's gift to their gender.

Cawthorn's Democratic rival, Col. Moe Davis, has come on strong and relentlessly. Davis has not been afraid to confront Cawthorn's character flaws, his lack of experience even at holding down a job, his willingness to become a partisan puppet. Cawthorn looks increasingly like a would-be Lothario surfer trying to get next to important people.

Trump's actually landing in the small town of Mills River in Henderson County, where Democrat candidate for the state Senate Brian Caskey is also a town commissioner. Caskey tweeted: "I’ve been invited, since I am the Mayor Pro Tem. If you see me in photos, I’ll be the one wearing the
@JoeBiden mask." I'll be watching Caskey's tweets this afternoon.

Friday, August 21, 2020

David Lewis Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges


When we covered the sudden announcement by powerful Republican lawmaker David Lewis last July 25th that he was withdrawing from his race for reelection to the NC House from District 53, we said, "It's almost like there's another shoe waiting to drop."

That shoe dropped yesterday when federal prosecutors announced that Rep. Lewis had pleaded guilty to two counts of not filing taxes and making false statements to a bank, in relation to a campaign finance scheme whereby he took money donated to his reelection and used it for personal maintenance. Will Doran reported late yesterday afternoon:

Prosecutors announced shortly after the charges were made public that Lewis would take a plea deal. One of the two charges he faced could have led to a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. But prosecutors will recommend a much lighter sentence ranging from probation to six months in prison, the plea deal says.

When you're white and powerful, you get deals like that. Just sayin'.

The court document laying out the charges says Lewis came up with a scheme to secretly siphon donors’ money out of his campaign account and put it to personal use.

He reported that his campaign was sending money to the North Carolina Republican Party but in reality, the court document says, he was writing checks to a bank account he controlled. He put the account in the name of a company — which federal prosecutors say never existed — that he called “NC GOP, Inc.” to disguise what was going on.

The charges outline $65,000 that he allegedly took for personal use in August 2018.

Several people on Twitter were sympathizing with Lewis this morning because the financial strains on farmers -- which Lewis is -- are sometimes insurmountable and crushing. True dat. Small family farmers get no respect and little help, while huge corporate farms have lobbyists. We get it. While we can appreciate the struggle Lewis says he's gone through, we grow less sympathetic when we remember that he maybe more than most run-of-the-mill Republicans in the General Assembly had a big hand in blocking the expansion of Medicaid -- which would help many small farmers -- and an even bigger hand in gerrymandering the state to keep his stingy, non-empathetic ilk in power.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Next Door in Georgia, Both US Senate Seats Are On the Ballot; One Probably Won't Be Settled Until January 2021


Sometimes Georgia just confuses the hell out of us!

One US Senate seat in Georgia will be settled on November 3rd, the fate of incumbent Republican David Perdue, who's running for another term against Democrat Jon Ossoff. You may remember Jon Ossoff from a special Georgia election in the 6th CD in 2017, which he lost. We're expecting him to do better this year.

The other US Senate seat in Georgia that's on the November ballot is currently held by Republican hair-model Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat in January of this year to replace the ailing Johnny Isakson. The November ballot for this seat is actually a primary ballot, because everyone from all parties runs together and if no one gets to 50 percent of the vote -- which seems highly likely, considering there are over 20 candidates -- then the run-off will decide the winner next January.

Kelly Loeffler is often described as the richest member of the Senate, which is saying something. She's a former Wall Street type executive, is married to the president of the Wall Street Stock Exchange, and attracted some attention lately for dumping millions in stock after receiving privileged briefings about the coming COVID catastrophe. She's been let off the hook, apparently, for any wrong-doing, while NC Senator Richard Burr is not off the hook for the same accusation.

The last polling I saw had Loeffler trailing slightly her biggest Republican challenger, Doug Collins, the snarling Trumpist attack dog on the House Judiciary Committee. Frankly, it's entirely possible that the top two finishers in this primary could both be Republicans, though we have high hopes for at least one Democrat making it to the January run-off.

There are at least eight Democrats on the ballot, but the front-runner is generally conceded to be Reverend Raphael Warnock, the pastor of famous Ebernezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. His introductory video biography is polished and compelling:

Warnock turned heads when he posted the highest First Quarter fundraising numbers of any candidate.  He has the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and of powerhouse Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Another Possible Upset Candidate -- Marcus Singleton (SD36)


I've been pawing through the NC House and Senate districts that Trump won in 2016 where he took less than 60 percent of the vote. The 48th Senate District down in Transylvania, Henderson, and the southermost part of Buncombe fit that description, and I wrote about Democrat Brian Caskey running in that district and the boost he may get from a couple of other Democrats running in overlapping NC House districts.

Then I found Democrat Marcus Singleton running in SD36 (Cabarrus County and a little of Union; Concord is the principal city). Marcus is a United Methodist Church minister, a graduate of the divinity program at Howard University with a master's in counseling from Bowie State in Maryland. He pastors Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Charlotte. He posted a lengthy statement about the death of George Floyd and the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, which said in part:

The inability of politicians and leaders to identify with the pain and suffering of everyday people is commonplace from every sphere of political leadership, nationally to locally....

We have too many elected leaders who have neither the willingness to work across the aisle nor the willingness to know and experience the pain of the people to whom they have been elected to serve. One of my hopes as we continue to grieve Mr. Floyd’s death is - we as citizens - we as an electorate recognize the importance of diversity in political leadership.

Senate District 36 was most recently rated "Likely Republican" by Michael Bitzer and associates. Trump took 59.53 percent of the vote in 2016, but Democrats (29 percent) and Unaffiliated (34 percent) together out-number Republicans (36 percent), and I'm persuaded that there's a big untapped and disengaged voter pool that could get motivated and then animated and overcome that 10-point disadvantage (especially if the Republican electorate is depressed). Blacks make up 18 percent of the voters.

There's an overlapping boosting effect that could come from two very active and promising NC House candidates whose districts include large parts of Cabarrus -- Democrat Gail Young in HD83 and Democrat Aimy Steele in HD82, both of which have been on most lists of "races to watch" all year. Singleton, Young, and Steele could support and nurture each other's campaigns, especially if they've got healthy new-voter registration drives underway.

The three of them showed up together back in January at Martin Luther King Jr. Day observations in Concord. Interestingly, so did incumbent Republican House member Larry Pittman, who is being challenged by Gail Young in HD83 this November.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Concord, January 2020.
Marcus Singleton, center, in purple shirt.
Larry Pittman, holding the microphone.
Aimy Steele and Gail Young, far right.
Photo by Marty Price in the Independent Tribune

Rep. Pittman's attendance is perhaps not entirely surprising. (Can you spell chutzpah?) He is after all a politician running for reelection. But he's probably not fooling anyone. He's also known for hanging with a neo-Confederacy group. Pittman introduced a bill that would have removed the ban on secession from the state constitution, and he drew widespread attention in 2017 when he stated that the Civil War was "unnecessary and unconstitutional" and compared Abraham Lincoln to Adolf Hitler. His campaign received at least $2,000 from the Sons of Confederate Veterans PAC.

Monday, August 17, 2020

If the Blue Wave Rolls Bigly, Brian Caskey Could Bring an Upset in SD48

Prognosticators consider North Carolina Senate District 48 as "Safe Republican" (although Bitzer rated it only "Lean Republican" at some point late last fall -- I have the print-out but don't ask me for the URL). Trump took 59.36 percent of the district vote in 2016. That's enough to sober anybody up -- ice water to one's tenderest aspirations. But Democrat Brian Caskey has been making a campaign there, and anyone should have seen it coming. 

I followed the rise of Caskey starting on December 31, 2019, shortly after the close of candidate filing. He was the frontrunner then, I thought, and has never stopped. He won the Democratic primary in March. In July, he called out Republican incumbent Chuck Edwards for being in Duke Energy's pocket. A scrapper, and that's what it will take to upset this incumbent. If anything, Caskey should do more of that hell-raising with Edwards' record.

The mathematical question: Does Democratic/Independent enthusiasm for voting (i.e., disgust with Trump) equal a 5 percent bump for Caskey? And does a downward trending enthusiasm gap among mountain Republicans equal another 5 percent advantage for Caskey? (Political observers whose roots run deep in the mountains say things aren't so keen for many Republican voters. There's a palpable sense of exhaustion.) Together, Democratic enthusiasm and Republican depression could wipe out Trump's 10 percent advantage from 2016. Is it possible? Hell, in a year when the very bedrock of our Republic, the Post Office, is threatened, I'll believe almost anything is possible

There's another factor impacting on Caskey's chances to flip this Senate district: SD48 overlaps with HD113 and HD117 where Democratic candidates have been mounting energetic campaigns -- Sam Edney in the 113th and Josh Remillard in the 117th. Edney especially is rallying the troops. Edney, Remillard, and Kim Bost over in the 96th District (Catawba County) have teamed up for their own "Breaking the Majority" campaign. The energy is noticeable for mobilizing "sometime" voters, new voters, independent voters (who hold the balance of power), and with Caskey assaulting the Senate, there's every promise of culmulative force applied against The Matrix.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Holy Cow! The Democrats Are Out-Raising Republicans (By a Lot!) in NC House Races

Having lots of money-supporters doesn't mean you're going to win. But it doesn't hurt. It signals energy and excitement -- real fire producing all that smoke.

I've just spent some time perusing the 2nd Quarter fundraising/expenditure totals for many of the NC House and NC Senate contests, especially "races to watch." These figures were aggregated by RealFactsNC, a Raleigh/Chapel Hill 501(c)(4) non-profit dedicated to research. It's also dedicated to the progressive wave. Me likee research. It's my drug of choice, and I've been riffing on numbers (and prognostications) provided by RealFactsNC for at least a year. Good work, guys.

Here's what most noticeable: In almost every House district currently contested by insurgent Democrats challenging flippable incumbent Republicans, the Democrat is outraising -- often by a lot -- the Republican. (I'll write about the Senate races to watch separately, probably tomorrow.) That fundraising advantage is amplified if it's a race between a freshman Democrat who won in the 2018 Blue Wave and a new Republican opponent. Take Democrat Ray Russell's race for reelection in HD93 (Watauga and Ashe). He reports having almost $200,000, cash on hand as of July 10. Ray's Republican opponent, Ray Pickett, made no report. He's been relying on dark money expenditures, attacks on Ray's character by anonymous 3rd parties, to get him across the finish line first. But still.

'Wow!' Down on the Coast

NCH1 -- Democrat Emily Bunch Nicholson ... $108,876.98, cash on hand

Republican incumbent Ed Goodwin ... $22,637. cash on hand

(I wrote about Nicholson and others most likely to flip a House seat back in June, based on RealFactsNC and other sources.)

[NOTE: All links below connect to previous coverage in WataugaWatch]

Races to Watch

NCH12 -- Democrat Virginia Cox-Daugherty ... $109,876.24
Republican Chris Humphrey ... $47.741.77

NCH20 -- Democrat Adam Ericson ... $103,263.84

 Republican Ted Davis ... $33,304.04

NCH43 Open Seat -- Democrat Kimberly Hardy ...  $119,881.22

Republican Diane Wheatley ... $2,346.21

NCH51 -- Democrat Jason Cain ... $100,178.31

Republican John Sauls ... $65,178.31

NCH63 -- Democrat Ricky Hurtado ... $143,423.45

Republican Stephen Ross ... $28,263.86

NCH74 -- Democrat Dan Besse ... $155, 546.78

Republican Jeff Zenger ... $17,357.58

NCH82 -- Democrat Aimy Steele ... $193,752.14

Republican Kristin Baker ... $10,615.72

NCH83 -- Democrat Gail Young ... $155,150.23

Republican Larry Pitts ... $19,285.82 

NCH59 -- Democrat Nicole Quick ... $168,256.04 

Republican Jon Hardister ... $123.940.21

2018 "Wave" Winners Defending Their Seats 

NCH35 -- Democrat Terrence Everitt ... $96,786.40

Republican Fred Von Canon ... $43,614.99

NCH36 -- Democrat Julie von Haefen ... $108,842.88

Republican Kim Coley ... $20,844.50

NCH37 -- Democrat Sydney Batch ... $307,493.00

Republican Erin Pare ... $66.817.36

NCH93 -- see above, 3rd paragraph

NCH98 -- Democrat Christy Clark ... $199,360.16

Republican John Bradford ... $134.700.55

NCH103 -- Democrat Rachel Hunt ... $335,570.39

Republican Bill Brawley ... $26,092.01

NCH104 -- Democrat Brandon Lofton ... $117,944.45

Republican Don Pomeroy ... $82,506.93

NCH105 -- Democrat Wesley Harris ... $45,206.13

Republican Amy Bynum ... $6,261.54

NCH119 -- Democrat Joe Sam Queen ... $116,645.25

Republican Mike Clampitt ... $5,652.53

Surprises: Where Democratic Insurgents Are Trailing

NCH9 -- Democrat Brian Farkas ... $140,053.68

Republican Perrin Jones ... $176,122.71

NCH45 -- Democrat Frances Vinell Jackson ... $133,172.42

Republican John Szoka ... $211,328.66

Down in Wilmington

NCH19 -- Democrat Marcia Morgan ... $91,397.18

Republican Charlie Miller ... $12,757.18

I wrote about Marcia Morgan enthusiastically when she ran in 2018, and I was rooting for her to try again this year. But watching her primary back in March against another Democrat, I thought she'd win it, but I worried about a noticeable lack of energy. Seems to be plenty of energy in these fundraising numbers.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: Ricky Hurtado in HD63


We're grateful to the Long Leaf Pine Slate for supplying a clutch of new candidate videos for Democrats running in flippable NC General Assembly districts. We've also been writing about these folks for months. The Long Leaf Pine Slate has been successfully raising money for these races all year. Some of the results can be seen in the professional introductory videos -- quick hits of personality and vital biography highlighted by snazzy graphics, so that although the candidate talks directly to the camera, they never lapse into static "talking-head" mode. I'll be highlighting these videos one at a time over coming days/weeks.

Ricky Hurtado in House District 63 (Alamance County). The Republican incumbent is former Wells-Fargo executive Steve Ross. District is rated "Competitive Lean Republican." Ross won reelection in 2018  by barely edging by Democratic candidate Erica McAdoo, and the district has been redrawn to be slightly more Democratic friendly. Trump won this district with only 50.01 percent of the vote in 2016.

"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."

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Dan Forest, Our Village Idiot

His lawsuit against Governor Cooper just flamed out too.


A Long-Shot With a Decent Chance: Kael Weston in Utah's 2nd CD


I lived in Salt Lake City once upon a time for four wonderful years. I loved that place, one of the most original cities in this wide country, and I went often to the Mormon Tabernacle at noon for the organ concerts played by Alexander Schreiner. Salt Lake City has a rich cultural history and the best street-naming system anywhere. You're never lost, as long as you understand longitude and latitude.

Right now Salt Lake City, the anchor of the 2nd Congressional District, has a good shot -- the best shot in many years -- to elect a Democrat to Congress. The fact that the district also takes in vast stretches of rural western and southern Utah is probably why every pundit ranks the 2nd CD as "Safe Republican" -- liberal Salt Lake City be damned!

Gulp. That's a whole lot of real estate with a whole lot of people who wouldn't consider a Democrat for dog-catcher.

I became aware of Kael Weston because I follow ex-Marine combat pilot Scott Cooper on Twitter. Cooper jumped into the Democratic primary in the North Carolina 2nd CD in 2019 to take on Republican incumbent George Holding, but he got drawn out of the district in the most recent remapping, and he dropped out of the primary before the March voting. But he's stayed active in politics, and he brought my attention to Kael Weston: 

.@KaelWestonto me recently on why he's running for Congress. "It's not the hardest thing I've done - Fallujah & Helmand were the hardest. But it may be the most important thing I'll ever do." He's one of the people who might just help save our Republic.

Weston served for some seven years in both Iraq and Afghanistan representing the US State Department as an on-the-ground advisor to Marine Corps brass and taking the lead -- for example -- on rebuilding Fallujah's infrastructure, facilitating the return of hundreds of thousands back into the city, establishing a new city council, and working with leaders in Ramadi and Baghdad. He wrote about all that experience in an award-winning book "The Mirror Test."

There's a lot more to know about Kael Weston, which you can explore at your own pace:

What About the Republican Weston Is Running Against?

Salt Lake City is not Trump country. Much of the rest of the 2nd CD might be, but it's worth pointing out that Trump took less than half the Utah popular vote in 2016. Good Mormons -- of which the 2nd CD is well equipped in the west and south -- might take their cues from their Mormon Senator Mitt Romney, who was the only Republican to vote to convict Trump. Can we venture the speculation that Utah's adherence to Trump is unsettled?

Then comes the incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Stewart, first elected in 2012 and not seriously threatened by any Democrat since. Until Kael Weston came along: reported the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee considers Stewart potentially vulnerable to a strong opponent, due to Donald Trump's unpopularity in the 2nd District, and Stewart's record of vigorously defending him.

A poll taken in January 2020 among likely voters showed Stewart with 38% of the vote, and a Democratic challenger with 36% of the vote....

A July 2019 poll showed Stewart with the lowest approval rating of any Utah congressperson.

So ... let's watch this race. Might be a sleeper flip.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: J D Wooten in SD24


We're grateful to the Long Leaf Pine Slate for supplying a clutch of new candidate videos for Democrats running in flippable NC General Assembly districts. We've also been writing about these folks for months. The Long Leaf Pine Slate has been successfully raising money for these races all year. Some of the results can be seen in the professional introductory videos -- quick hits of personality and vital biography highlighted by snazzy graphics, so that although the candidate talks directly to the camera, they never lapse into static "talking-head" mode. I'll be highlighting these videos one at a time over coming days/weeks.

J D Wooten in Senate District 24 (Alamance and Guilford). An open seat because of the decision not to run again by Republican Sen. Rick Gunn, an alumnus of the 2010 Tea Party wave. The Republicans recruited Amy Galey, chair of the Alamance County Commission. District is rated "Lean Republican." Trump took almost fifty-five percent of the vote in 2016.

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?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

New Light on Republican Madison Cawthorn in NC11

I have been a contributor to Democrat Moe Davis's campaign to win Mark Meadows' former US House seat down in the 11th Congressional District (Asheville), so I can be depended on to lap up new in-depth reporting on Moe's 25-year-old Republican opponent, Madison Cawthorn. Cawthorn has wanted to be seen as a generational renewal for an aging Republican Party. At least he campaigned that way against Donald Trump's pick for the job (and Mark Meadows' designated successor), Lynda Bennett, but he's turning out to be just a younger and better-looking Louie Gohmert.

Recent reporting by Tom Fiedler in AVLWatchdog:

Cawthorn told a New York Times interviewer that he was motivated to seek office “because I believe there’s a generational time bomb going off in the Republican Party… I think we’ve not been working hard enough to really reach out and try to appeal to younger voters and we’re starting to see the ramifications of that in national elections.”

But if those words seem to presage a campaign message that would inject a new, younger way of thinking in his party, it isn’t evident in his general election campaign. Since claiming the nomination, Cawthorn has campaigned as a hard-right conservative on policies aligned with the party base of older white voters rather than those expressed by his Gen Z and millennial peers in several polls.

Gone from his website is a boast that, by trouncing primary-rival Lynda Bennett despite her endorsements from President Trump and former incumbent Mark Meadows, he had demonstrated his independence from the Washington, D.C.-based Republican elite.

Newly prominent is the mantra that he is “pro-Trump, pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment.” He populates his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts with videos of his Washington, D.C. meetings with Trump and other long-time GOP leaders.

He relishes hanging out with political celebrities. According to reporter Esther Wang ("My Deep Dive Into the Soul of a Model Young Republican Candidate"), he likes hanging out, period. And he looks, according to Wang, like he's at least "white nationalist adjacent."

He's being petted by Trump and Co. as the Next Big Thang, and conservative Republicans in the 11th CD will take to him like debutantes pursuing a contestant on The Bachelor, but thoughtful voters ought to look closely at what they're buying. Cawthorn is unprepared for the job -- shallow, entitled, echoing opinions handed down from the elders he claimed he was transcending.

Col. Moe Davis, the Democrat, is actually massively qualified and working hard for the job that Madison Cawthorn evidently thinks will he handed to him like a participation trophy.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Blame Sen. Thom Tillis for the Unemployment Insurance Crisis in North Carolina


Hat-tip to Paul Blest for his extensive and in-depth appraisal of the entire career of Sen. Thom Tillis, from his days as a town commissioner of Charlotte suburb of Cornelius, to his rise in the NC House, to his current insecure perch in the US Senate.

The following passage focuses on one of Tillis's worst policy initiatives while he ran the Republican super-majority in the NC House, crippling the state's unemployment insurance system:

One of Tillis’s highest priorities was knocking out one of the legs of the New Deal: unemployment insurance. The legislature, with Tillis in the lead, took just two weeks at the start of the 2013 session — the first time Republicans held a super majority and the governor’s mansion — to introduce and pass a draconian unemployment bill that cut the number of weeks the jobless could collect benefits from 26 weeks to 12, and slashed the maximum amount from $530 to $350. When the 2020 CARES Act added $600 a week to benefits for up to 13 weeks beyond a state’s benefits, the jobless in North Carolina were shafted. Where most Americans could claim up to 39 weeks of benefits, those in the Tarheel State were topped off at 25 weeks. Still, Tillis voted to strip those benefits from the CARES package. The vote was tied at 48-48, so Tillis came one vote short of succeeding.

The week of March 28, 172,745 people in North Carolina filed for benefits. Thanks to Tillis, they have long since exhausted their 12 weeks of state benefits, just as the job market is headed for a second nosedive, and Republicans in Congress are blocking efforts to extend the current assistance.

In the middle of this COVID unemployment crisis, it's only fitting and just that the Tillis history on the issue should come back to haunt him. 

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: Aimy Steel in HD82


We're grateful to the Long Leaf Pine Slate for supplying a clutch of new candidate videos for Democrats running in flippable NC General Assembly districts. We've also been writing about these folks for months. The Long Leaf Pine Slate has been successfully raising money for these races all year. Some of the results can be seen in the professional introductory videos -- quick hits of personality and vital biography highlighted by snazzy graphics, so that although the candidate talks directly to the camera, they never lapse into static "talking-head" mode. I'll be highlighting these videos one at a time over coming days/weeks.

Aimy Steele in House District 82 (Cabarrus County). An open seat following the decision to retire by former Republican Rep. Linda Johnson (followed by her untimely death). The Republican candidate on the ballot this year is Kristin Baker, a psychiatrist who has specialized in hospice cases. The district is rated "Lean Republican." Trump took the district with 54.94% of the vote.

"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." (

Friday, August 07, 2020

The Man Who Is Manipulating the Mail Is From Greensboro

Trump's Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, at home:

Just across from the second fairway at the Greensboro Country Club is a house some call “The Castle.”

Built for the family that founded Cone Mills, the 15,000-square-foot home includes a pool house and a swimming pool with rock formations created by a designer from the N.C. Zoo. DeJoy bought the house in 2005 for $5.9 million, one of the highest prices ever paid for a house in Greensboro. It’s the house where he cooks gourmet Italian dinners for friends and hosts events for presidents. [NandO]

The DeJoy "Castle"

"Host events for presidents" meaning mos def for Donald J. Trump. "In 2017, Trump made his first trip to North Carolina as president for a fundraiser at [the DeJoy/Aldona Wos] home. Since 2016, DeJoy has donated $1.2 million to the president and nearly $1.3 million to the Republican Party" (Jim Morrill). (Paul Blest in his emailed IndyWeek Primer says it's more: "FEC records show he's given nearly $1.8 million to GOP campaigns since January 2019, including more than $1 million to the Trump Victory Fund.") That's just DeJoy's giving. He's coaxed even more out of other well-heeled donors by inviting them to his castle to meet famous people.

And just look what he got out of it! Postmaster General! Appointed a little over two months ago, and look at all the fun he's already having, carrying all that water for Twitterman and sloshing it all over that nice clean floor.

In recent weeks, at the direction of a Trump campaign megadonor who was recently named the postmaster general, the service has stopped paying mail carriers and clerks the overtime necessary to ensure that deliveries can be completed each day. That and other changes have led to reports of letters and packages being delayed by as many as several days.

Record numbers of North Carolinians have already requested their mail-in absentee ballots. Me too. No actual ballots will be mailed until the first week in September, and it's not that delivery that we worry about but rather the one where our filled-out ballot along with the signature of one witness heads for the local board of elections. What worries me most is human nature, the tendency to put off filling out that ballot and getting it back in the mail with that witness's signature, waiting until almost the deadline for finding a witness and getting a proper postmark, and that's when Louis DeJoy will spring his trap. 

Now, isn't that a legitimate worry?

Louis DeJoy, being escorted to a meeting in Nancy Pelosi's office.
Meeting didn't go well. Photo Carolyn Kaster for AP

DeJoy's cover for carrying the water is the claim that he's bringing good business practices to the delivery of the mail. To which Paul Blest replies, "The Postal Service is famously not a business. It's a public service, something that's exceedingly rare in this country, and that's why it's much cheaper to use than UPS or FedEx..." (Indy Week Primer for August 7). Virginia Foxx and other Republican conservatives have long bashed the mail service and advocated for privatization. Trump now has additional motives.

Louis DeJoy Is Married To Another Notorious NC Public Servant, Aldona Wos

When Pat McCrory got to be governor, he had cause to be grateful to the DeJoy household too, and he appointed Louis DeJoy's wife as the head of his department of health and human services. Long story short: Wos ended up resigning under fire, following a Federal subpoena delving into possible criminal misappropriation of public funds and no-bid payouts to close personal and political friends.

Prior to the turning of Pat McCrory's head, the DeJoy/Wos team had turned the George W. Bush noggin, and Aldona Wos got an ambassadorship to Estonia. These guys know how to pay to play. 

And if Louis DeJoy can help Donald Trump stay in power, it's sure to be good for business. 

Un-Trumping North Carolina: Brian Farkas in HD9

We're grateful to the Long Leaf Pine Slate for supplying a clutch of new candidate videos for Democrats running in flippable NC General Assembly districts. We've also been writing about these folks for months. The Long Leaf Pine Slate has been successfully raising money for these races all year. Some of the results can be seen in the professional introductory videos -- quick hits of personality and vital biography highlighted by snazzy graphics, so that although the candidate talks directly to the camera, they never lapse into static "talking-head" mode. I'll be highlighting these videos one at a time over coming days/weeks.

Brian Farkas in House District 9 (Pitt County). The seat is open because the former occupant, Greg Murphy, was elevated to the US House in a special election. The Republican candidate is Perrin Jones, a Greenville doctor who was appointed to fill out Murphy's term last September. District is rated "Toss-Up," though it deserves note that Trump actually lost the district to Clinton in 2016, 48.77% to 48.24%. East Carolina University could make a difference in 2000.

Brian Farkas is "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 -- he's young yet -- but the video bestows maturity and strength and brain-power, and he's been making a real campaign of it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Continuing Fallout From the Sudden Retirement of Rep. David Lewis (HD53)

Republican powerbroker and chair of the powerful Rules Committee in the NC House suddenly and unexpectedly announced his retirement a couple of weeks ago, and the Republican bosses in Harnett County just last night named his replacement on the November ballot, Harnett County Commissioner Howard Penny Jr.

Not much can be shown about Howard Penny Jr. yet, but we do know he was elected to a seat on the Harnett School Board in 2014, then ran and won a seat on the Harnett County Commission in 2016 and resigned his school board seat. He filed last December for a second term on the county commission but lost in the Republican primary in March by 14 votes. So he's serving out his term on the commission as a lame duck, and the party bosses obviously thought he could make a good showing as a replacement for David Lewis. That remains to be seen.

Sally Weeks Benson
Apparently, Maggie Sandrock, a pretty well known conservative and chair of the Harnett County Republican Party, wanted the ballot spot herself and lost out to the milder mannered Penny. Is there dyspepsia in Harnett GOP ranks this morning?

Penny will be up against Democrat Sally Weeks Benson, a retired veteran of the Navy, whose prospects perhaps just got brighter. (I'm waiting for someone who knows the politics in Harnett County to let me know that.)

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Better Pay Attention to Joyce Elliott, Running for Congress in Arkansas

Another benefit of President Obama's first wave of endorsements (see last post down-column) is his calling my attention to other impressive candidates in other places, like the 2nd CD of Arkansas. Democrat Joyce Elliott is running there to unseat three-term Republican French Hill, who squeaked back into office in 2018 against another Democratic candidate by only 2 percentage points.

Watch Joyce Elliott's introductory video and tell me you wouldn't want her in Congress -- with her smarts, her laser focus, her great poise.

Elliott is currently (and since the elections of 2008) a member of the Arkansas state senate, and before that, from 2000 to 2006 she served in the Arkansas state house. She, like the late Congressman John Lewis, was at the spearpoint of racial integration in the South. She was the second Black child to integrate her local public school; her big sister was the first. If elected, she will be the first Black lawmaker in Congress from Arkansas, ever.

She spent 30 years as a public school teacher and was influential on The College Board, becoming the director of its legislative outreach for the Southwestern Region. She credits her success in life to educational opportunities, and she's been a fierce advocate for equal educational opportunities for all.

"On the campaign trail in June, Elliott attended a demonstration against racism in White County, which is more than 90% White, and spoke to attendees in the shadow of a Confederate monument. The November election is a 'chance to change our history,' she told Reuters afterward. 'I really decided I needed to run because I could see a pathway to winning.' ”

The pathway to winning runs through the capitol city of Little Rock, which sits entirely in the 2nd CD.

Her boldness in taking her campaign into racist territory in White County speaks to her courage and recalls Howard Dean's gospel of flying the Democratic flag everywhere. Cook Political Report rates the district "Likely Republican" (R+7), but that obviously doesn't scare Joyce Elliott, and she's getting recognition and support from across the country as one of the record number of Black women running for office this year (many of those in North Carolina and in South Carolina).

President Barack Obama Endorses NC Candidates

President Obama released a first wave of endorsements across the country, but no state got more mentions than North Carolina (well, maybe Pennsylvania and Texas, but still). He said, "I’m proud to endorse this diverse and hopeful collection of thoughtful, empathetic, and highly qualified Democrats. Together, these candidates will help us redeem our country’s promise by sticking up for working class people, restoring fairness and opportunity to our system, and fighting for the good of all Americans — not just those at the top."

He might as well have gone ahead and said, "Let's un-Trump North Carolina!"


Council of State
Roy Cooper, Governor

Yvonne Lewis Holley, Lieutenant Governor

Ronnie Chatterji, Treasurer

Jessica Holmes, Commissioner of Labor

Federal Races
Cal Cunningham, U.S. Senate

Pat Timmons-Goodson, U.S. House, NC-08

NC House
Brian Farkas, State House, HD-09

Adam Ericson, State House, HD-20

Terence Everitt, State House, HD-35

Sydney Batch, State House, HD-37

Kimberly Hardy, State House, HD-43

Frances Jackson, State House, HD-45

Ricky Hurtado, State House, HD-63

Dan Besse, State House, HD-74

Christy Clark, State House, HD-98

Brandon Lofton, State House, HD-104

NC Senate
Donna Lake, State Senate, SD-07

Harper Peterson, State Senate, SD-09

Allen Wellons, State Senate, SD-11

Kirk deViere, State Senate, SD-19

Terri LeGrand, State Senate, SD-31

Many of these NC House and Senate candidates are insurgent challengers of incumbent Republicans or first-time candidates for open seats (Brian Farkas, Adam Ericson, Kimberly Hardy, Frances Jackson, Ricky Hurtado, Dan Besse, Donna Lake, Allen Wellons, Terri LeGrand). Several are defending the seats they won in 2018 (Terence Everitt, Sydney Batch, Christy Clark, Harper Peterson, Kirk deViere). WataugaWatch has written about all of them, some of them multiple times.