Sunday, April 18, 2021

A Dozen North Carolinians Now Facing Federal Charges in Capitol Insurrection


According to the News and Observer:

Christopher Spencer, Pilot Mountain
Virginia Spencer, Pilot Mountain
Laura Steele, Thomasville
Grayson Sherrill, Cherryville
Matthew Mark Wood, Reidsville
Charles Donohoe, Winston-Salem
Stephen Ethan Horn, Wake Forest

Stephen Ethan Horn

The last two on the list:

Stephen Ethan Horn

Stephen Ethan Horn surrendered to the FBI on April 9 and made his initial appearance in Raleigh federal court. He is charged with three federal crimes.

A photo included in Horn’s court file shows the helmeted Wake Forest man standing above the Capitol fray while he appears to be filming with his phone.

In an FBI affidavit, Horn is quoted as saying that he did not take part in the violence or the protest and did not go into the Capitol in search of “cheap thrills.” Rather, Horn said, he entered to “accurately document and record a significant event.”

Bradley Stuart Bennett

Bennett was a QAnon devotee from small-town North Carolina (the Randolph County town of Trinity, population 6,600, about 75 miles north of Charlotte). He entered the Capitol on January 6th with his Texas girlfriend, who is also charged in the riot.

 He surfaced this week in Charlotte, where he surrendered to the FBI. Just before noon on Monday, he walked into an uptown federal courtroom charged with the now-familiar battery of charges tied to the effort by Trump supporters to overturn the presidential election.

“Patriots going to war,” is how Bennett put it in his video of the Capitol riot, the FBI affidavit shows.

Bradley Stuart Bennett

Bennett remained in custody Friday at the Mecklenburg County Jail, where he awaits transfer to the federal courts of Washington, which will prosecute his case.

In its affidavit, the FBI says multiple tipsters identified him as an outspoken adherent to the unfounded QAnon theory, which holds that former President Trump was fighting a Democratic Party conspiracy of demonic, cannibalistic pedophiles.

In the days leading up to Jan. 6, when Congress was scheduled to certified Trump’s electoral loss to now-President Joe Biden, Bennett said he would be in Washington for a Trump rally and urged others to join him.

“FAIR WARNING: If this election is stolen for Biden, Patriots will go TO WAR,’’ Bennett posted on Jan. 6, according to the affidavit.

Friday, April 16, 2021

With an Ego as Big as a Refrigerator


The election last fall of political novice Mark Robinson to the office of Lieutenant Governor stunned a lot of people. He had no qualifications (and admittedly, the office of Lite Guv requires few qualifications), but he excited the Republican base because he was a Black man mouthing conservative talking points and he had made himself notorious for a rant about guns in front of the Greensboro City Council.

While he campaigned in 2020, Robinson flaunted his refusal to wear a face covering in crowds, sealing his popularity with the Trumpists through denialism and knuckleheaded ignorance. He tweeted back in February, “The looming pandemic I’m most worried about is SOCIALISM.” Instead, he said, he was “earnestly praying that this virus will disappear faster than Christine Blasey Ford and a car load of witnesses against Hillary Clinton.”

In office now as Lite Guv (thank you, Rob Schofield!), Robinson -- with not much else to do -- has launched a crusade to "out" public school teachers who might be teaching about slavery and the history of racial inequality, items that Robinson equates with "fake news."

With not much else to do, Robinson is also exploring the possibility of jumping into the already crowded Republican primary for the US Senate seat (why, we'd hardly stopped laughing at Pat McCrory, and here comes another clown, though Robinson could probably win a Republican primary in North Carolina against squishy ex-Guv McCrory). Rob Schofield posted a blistering appraisal of Robinson this morning:

While perhaps a bit surprising given that the sum total of Robinson’s lifetime service in public office now stands at 98 days in a job with no real responsibilities ... Robinson is clearly possessed of at least three attributes that are vitally important for politicians in 21st Century America — especially in the Trumpified Republican Party.

First, he has no record of public service or accomplishment in government. Indeed, it’s a little unclear exactly what he did before he ran for office either .... perfect for a modern politician as, just as the case with Donald Trump in 2016, it give his opponents nothing in the world of government or policy for which to blame him.

Second, Robinson has apparently had his share of financial issues. This is the extent of what Wikipedia says about his personal life:

Robinson and his wife, Yolanda, have two children. They live in High Point, North Carolina. Robinson has filed for bankruptcy on three separate occasions, has been sued for payments, and had liens placed on him by the Internal Revenue Service as recently as 2012. He says that he has straightened out his financial problems.

This too, is perfect. What could be more in keeping with the numerous examples set by Trump than having an extended history of trouble with creditors and repeatedly finding yourself in court over financial disputes? Today’s Republican voters clearly appreciate a candidate who knows how to take care of Number One.

And third and finally, like Trump, Robinson clearly thinks big. After all, who would have thought that philandering, casino-owning TV barker with no record of public service or accomplishment could leap from the tabloids to the White House in a campaign rooted in a blatant lie about the birthplace of his predecessor?

If Trump could pull that off, who’s to say Robinson can’t follow a similar path to the Senate?

Indeed, given this backdrop, Robinson might as well go ahead and declare for the presidency in 2024 now and run two races at once. After all, has anyone really double-checked where Joe Biden was born?


Another Democrat Wants To Challenge #MadCaw in NC11


Jay Carey, a 50-year-old political novice from Hendersonville, has added his name to the growing list of Democrats who'll compete next March in the Democratic primary for the privilege of taking on Republican first-termer Madison Cawthorn in the NC11.

Carey appears to be basing his campaign primarily on his career as an Army combat veteran in the Middle East, and he says he thinks he'll win against Cawthorn because he'll get the independent vote. How that independent vote helps him in a Democratic primary is less clear.

Lurah Lowery of the Hendersonville Times-News got there first with a thorough profile.

Total number of announced Democratic candidates is now up to four in the 11th CD.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Pat McCrory Announces for the US Senate; Twitter Chortles


Sara Pequeno: Pat McCrory give it up babe

Brian Murphy: .@PatMcCrory announced his bid for governor Wednesday. Hours later, NC lawmakers debated a transgender sports bill. 5 years after HB2, McCrory is back and so are transgender debates. #ncpol
Erica D. Smith: As @Booker4KY would say, @PatMcCroryNC is a fool. Pat McCrory is a joke. Pat McCrory has done nothing for North Carolina. We deserve more.

BabyNP: Pat McCrory almost destroyed North Carolina. We’re not sending him to Washington DC.

efp: pat mccrory: works for electric monopoly duke energy for 29 years, later accepting $100k in donations 
pat mccrory: serves as mayor of charlotte for 14 years, then governor of north carolina for 4 years 
pat mccrory: loses his seat 
pat mccrory:

Dustin Ingalls: Time for @bullydoc to resurrect Puppet Pat. #ncpol #ncsen:

Brian Kennedy IIPat McCrory was a terrible governor who was more interested in virtue signaling than governing. I'd be surprised if he's actually interested in being a US Senator; this is more likely an effort to get national attention and become the next rush limbaugh.

Paula A. WolfWith Pat McCrory’s announcement this morning and this [Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson also reportedly considering the Senate race], there should be a study of the male ego and lack of self awareness necessary to declare for a job for which one has no qualifications.

Kate Frauenfelder: “N.C. Democratic Party chair Bobbie Richardson said in a statement. ‘We have some free advice — don’t quit your day job, Pat." #ncsen #ncpol

Stewart Boss: new R poll shows failed loser Pat McCrory trailing Lara Trump AND LG Mark Robinson in a hypothetical GOP primary, neck & neck with fellow losing gov candidate Dan Forest #NCSen #ncpol

Matthew Chapman: Pat McCrory is fantastically unpopular with the general electorate and ran four points behind Trump to a loss in 2016. Democrats would love to see him get the nomination.

Kevin Siers: New cartoon — Pat McCrory to run for the Senate, forgetting perhaps why he no longer held office in the first place. . .

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A Conspiracy Theory To Beat Most Conspiracy Theories


Why is this man laughing?
When it comes to conspiracy theories, no one can beat a Trumpist for creativity. Here's a doozy of a Trumpist conspiracy theory about the supposed string-pulling by "RINO" forces ("Republicans In Name Only"), supposedly orchestrated by operatives tied to Sen. Thom Tillis and newly announced Senate candidate Pat McCrory to accomplish the following:

a. Scuttle the chances of Senate candidate Mark Walker, "a true conservative."

b. Enable that squish Pat McCrory to come up the middle and take the Republican Senate primary next spring with less than 40% of the vote.

c. Set up Congressman Ted Budd to take the nomination for governor in 2024 away from Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who's already become an embarrassment to RINOs and is clearly beyond anyone's rational control.

I'm indebted to Jeffrey Billman for unpacking the supposed conspiracy and for poking holes in its underlying assumptions.

But I'm mainly transfixed by the florid imagination that constructed the supposed conspiracy. Trumpists have reached end-stage paranoia about a world that is always eluding their grasp, from a stolen election ("the fraud was massive, I'm telling ya!") to imagining how their newest mortal enemies -- nominal Republicans exhibiting disloyalty to Trump -- can thwart their God-ordained rise to global domination.

I look for a Republican Senate primary in North Carolina with plenty of splashed acid and midnight shivs.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Pat McCrory, Reportedly in the Senate Race


Politico seems to have been first, confidently reporting at noon yesterday that former Gov. Pat McCrory would be announcing his candidacy this week for the US Senate seat that Dick Burr is giving up and that early polling has McCrory well ahead of both former Congressman Mark Walker and current Congressman Ted Budd in a Republican primary. 

At 2:03 p.m., Mark Walker, who's been in the race already for months, tweeted some sour grapes:

With taking back the Senate majority hinging on our success in North Carolina, why would we gamble on Pat McCrory - a career politician who has lost more statewide races than he’s won? McCrory has routinely attacked conservatives including President Trump...

He followed up two minutes later with this, alluding to the fact that McCrory had apparently been considered -- and was passed over -- for a job in the Trump admin: 

If Pat wasn’t good enough for Trump’s administration, he’s not good enough for NC. I am running to provide NC with its first real conservative Senator in years. at 97%, I was the most conservative and pro-Trump member from NC and would be the top member in the entire Senate.

Meanwhile, Lara Trump (who?) seems to be fading faster than cheap upholstery in the sun. The McCrory polling that found him far ahead of other Republicans in the race pointedly didn't poll for McCrory v. Lara Trump at all.

Trumpists seem to be banking on a Ted Budd candidacy, since they don't cotton all that well to McCrory, who's considered a weak vessel and squishy like cream cake. We remember McCrory most vividly for his claim that he was capable of stepping on the toes of the right as well as the pinkies of the left, an hilarious brag by a man who was always completely at Phil Berger's beck and call. Go no further than HB2, the notorious "bathroom bill" that McCrory signed and then regretted, as the state lost all kinds of investment.

McCrory has a juicy record for both conservatives and Democrats to dig into. After he lost reelection in 2016, he became a talk radio yakker in Charlotte, and seems to believe the path is now open for him to do a Thom Tillis into the US Senate.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Lara Trump, This Budd's for You!


Ted Budd
With hopes and fantasies fading for a Lara Trump run in North Carolina for the US Senate seat currently held by Dick Burr, US Congressman Ted Budd (13th CD) appears ready to elbow all the other Republican hopefuls aside and claim the Trump mantle for himself. That's my takeaway from reporting in this morning's NewsAndObserver.

I could never take a Lara Trump campaign seriously. Her husband's entanglement in various criminal investigations into the Trump Org could be a major drag, although I know all those Trumpists were salivating for multiple rally appearances in the state by her daddy-in-law.

Budd is the conservatives' dream candidate, apparently (if Lara isn't in), 'cause as a gun store owner, he can pass out assault weapons as party favors at every event. He cuts a more extreme figure than does former Congressman Mark Walker, who's already been running for months but who doesn't seem destined to ignite the Republican bully gene.

Still waiting for the old toe-stepper Pat McCrory to announce his own campaign.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Could Another Republican Defeat Madison Cawthorn?


Short answer: yes, in the 2022 Republican primary. Long answer: also probably yes, and maybe only another Republican, because the 11th CD of North Carolina ain't conducive to a Democratic victory. Things change, of course, but still.

Thing is, another Republican, yes, but probably not the one who has now declared she's running against Cawthorn in 2022. Cory Vaillancourt profiled her yesterday in the Smoky Mountain News:

...Asheville Republican Wendy Nevarez.

Nevarez’s profile on Linkedin says she holds a master’s in public administration and that she is a claims specialist for the Social Security Administration.

Her personal Facebook page says she’s a Western Carolina University graduate and had been an E-6 in the United States Navy from 2001 through 2017.

Her campaign Facebook page just launched, but a campaign website,, is not yet active.

Voter records show Nevarez voted in Pasquotank County from 2008 through 2012, and in Buncombe County thereafter. She pulled Republican ballots in each of those Primary Elections, except in 2020, when she chose a Democratic ballot.

A Federal Elections Commission search revealed that Nevarez established a campaign committee on April 7, but little else....

I don't see Nevarez motivating the Republican primary voters in the 11th District to kick out the polarizing Cawthorn. She looks like a moderate Republican woman, not someone who fits the conservative politics of that district (except maybe for Asheville itself).

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Democrats Lining Up For the Opportunity To Beat Madison Cawthorn


Madison Cawthorn (R)

This uneducated punk will be up for reelection in 2022 in the NC11. He's made a national spectacle of himself but is also the darling of the Right. He's said his main objective in office is to build a good "comms" operation, meaning he's much more interested in seeing himself in the news than in passing meaningful legislation for his constituents.

So far, three Democrats have declared their intention to compete in the spring 2022 Democratic primary to take on Cawthorn.


Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara was the first Democrat to declare on March 3rd. Beach-Ferrara, who is both a gay woman and a Christian minister as well as the mother of three children, said, “I’m running because Western North Carolina families deserve better than they’re getting from Madison Cawthorn. My faith teaches me that leadership starts with empathy, compassion, and listening and then getting to work to help people. That’s the kind of leadership I want to offer instead of the division and mean-spiritedness we’re getting now. This is going to be a campaign built on bringing people together, finding common ground, organizing everywhere and talking about the issues that actually matter to people’s lives.”

Beach-Ferrara reportedly raised $380K in the first 29 days of her campaign.


Democrat Josh Remillard announced his candidacy on March 10th.

A former Army infantryman who served two combat tours in Iraq, Remillard ran previously in 2020 for the NC House Dist. 117, which Republican Tim Moffitt easily won with over 60% of the vote. According to Cory Vaillancourt, Remillard was born in Goldsboro, raised in Wilmington, and was in foster care until the age of four. "After leaving the Army, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and philosophy from the University of Washington. Remillard’s current occupation is serving as a stay-at-home dad."

“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and do the hard work of strengthening our economy, fixing a broken health-care system, and improving our kids' education,” he said. “I am running to stop Madison Cawthorn and bring honor back to Congress.

The newest Democrat in the race: Ed Gash, an elementary school principal, a preacher, and a former linebacker at UNC-Chapel Hill.

He was profiled today by Kyle Perrotti:

Gash was born and raised in Western North Carolina, having graduated from Hendersonville High School in 1988. From there, he went to UNC-Chapel Hill, where he also played outside linebacker. While Gash eventually had the chance to sign with the New England Patriots, the team his brother Sam played for, he decided to go a different direction and get into business.

It wasn’t long before a new venture took him to the Caribbean, where he lived for 14 years training people in different countries to run direct sales operations.

Before long, Gash met Katy, who is from Barbados. The two quickly fell in love and got married a year later in 1996. The two got to travel frequently for work to countries all over the world and even lived in Guyana, the Virgin Islands and St. Lucia.

Eventually, in 2008, the Gashes and their three children moved back to Hendersonville to be closer to his family in the mountains.

“I was away for 20 years, almost to the day,” Gash said.

Gash got right to work in the school system. Beginning as a part-time teaching assistant, he became a math teacher before getting his master’s degree and going into administration. In January 2020, he became the principal at Bruce Drysdale Elementary School, which he himself attended as a child.

Since being back home, Gash also coached girls basketball and served as an assistant coach on the football team until 2014 when he was named Hendersonville’s head coach, making him only the second Black head coach in Western North Carolina since integration. Gash coached until 2016 when he stepped away to go into administration.

Another major part of Gash’s life is his faith, which he said guides every decision. Since 2008, after doing missionary work during his last couple of years in the Caribbean, he’s been the pastor at the nondenominational Speak Life Community Church and is also currently the Hendersonville Police Department’s chaplain.

“It’s the faith that causes me to look at folks that maybe don’t believe what I believe or feel the way I feel with compassion and love and still be able to have a conversation with them,” Gash said.

Gash has long been active in the community, but it wasn’t until recently that he began seeing things through a more political lens. While he and Katy said they don’t consider themselves activists, between the COVID pandemic and racial unrest of the last year, they’ve felt compelled to make their voices heard.

“Something happened over the summer,” Gash said. “It was a paradigm shift, just in my heart, where I felt I had to do something.”

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Boonies Cry "O Hell No!" About HB291 and SB349


House Bill 291, vaguely and innocuously titled "Bldg. Plan Approval - Certain Commercial Prop.," and Senate Bill 349, cheerily titled "Increase Housing Opportunities," are both Trojan horses and pieces of developer crapola now pending in the NC General Assembly. Last night the Boone Town Council held a bellwether emergency meeting over its provisions and over the threat it promises for every municipality in North Carolina to chart its own planning course. The Boone Town Council voted unanimously for the resolution pasted below. The unanimous vote is notable for a fractious council that has had trouble finding much common ground over the past two years.


WHEREAS, recognizing the importance of zoning to the peace and prosperity of North Carolina’s municipalities, for generations the State of North Carolina has allowed municipalities to regulate local development; and

WHEREAS, municipalities in the State of North Carolina have their own unique characteristics and challenges so that “one size” does not “fit all,” and statewide zoning mandates thus may have unintended negative consequences for the residents of the State; and

WHEREAS, unfunded mandates by the State, particularly during a time when local revenues are under pressure due to Covid-19 and other factors affecting local economies, will force communities such as Boone to either increase property taxes or decrease services critical to the their residents, such as street maintenance or fire and police protection; and

WHEREAS, HB 291 is pending in the North Carolina General Assembly and would force municipalities to complete an “initial plan review” of commercial development plans initially sealed by a “design professional,” without regard to their complexity, deficiencies, or impacts of human health and safety, within 15 days, and issue permits within 30 days of the application for development unless additional information is requested within the first 15 days; and

WHEREAS, HB 291 provides that if within the initial 15 day period, if additional information is requested by the town, permits must be granted within 15 days of the submission of additional information or the developer may retain a “third party firm” to review its plans at the expense of the municipality and must issue “all necessary permits” for the development within 72 hours of approval by that third party; and

WHEREAS, in order to comply with HB 291, the Town of Boone would have to greatly expand its planning department, which would force an increase in property taxes or a decrease in other services; and

WHEREAS, HB 291 unfairly puts the burden on taxpayers to pay for the private development permitting by commercial developers; and

WHEREAS, HB 291 essentially redirects long-extant governmental functions now performed by local governments to protect the public and to allow for the orderly growth of communities through zoning, to private and unspecified engineering or architectural firms who may have conflicts of interest, with no recourse for decisions which may violate local zoning ordinances; and

WHEREAS, property owners in the Town of Boone often purchased their properties at premium prices in order to have the benefits and protections of local zoning ordinances which protected their investments from incompatible and unsafe development; and

WHEREAS, commercial developers within the Town of Boone, often with no prior connection with the town, but because of the attraction of the large student housing market, have sought to build commercial developments which were substandard and non-compliant with

building and zoning standards, and which would have caused great harm to the quality of life for residents of adjacent and nearby neighborhoods; and

WHEREAS, SB 349, too, is now pending in the North Carolina General Assembly, and would force municipalities to allow duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and townhouses into all residential zones, including all low-density zoning districts, for the stated purpose of expanding housing opportunities in towns; and

WHEREAS, SB 349 exempts residential areas in which private restrictive covenants apply, thus differentiating between sub-divisions such as gated communities and the neighborhoods without such protections, in essence protecting the wealthy by exposing middle and low income residents to incompatible development dictated by state government; and

WHEREAS, although SB 349 has reportedly been endorsed by “affordable housing” proponents as a way to increase supply and decrease costs, in actuality there is nothing in the bill which actually controls costs; and

WHEREAS, the practice by multi-family developers in the Town of Boone is to rent housing units by the bedroom at prices usually far in excess of the mortgage cost of a single family home; and

WHEREAS, when low density neighborhoods in Boone have been made available for higher density housing, existing single family homes have often been demolished to allow more intense types of housing, destroying the character of Boone which has made it attractive, but also with the unintended result that rental prices have actually increased as low density housing disappears; and

WHEREAS, SB 349 likewise mandates the allowance of “one accessory dwelling,” which can consist of a duplex, on each lot on which there is a single family residence, circumventing all usual approval processes such as conditional district zoning, and trumping all local parking requirements and utility approval protocols without regard to the impacts of a potential tripling of density; and

WHEREAS, SB 349 has the potential to fundamentally change most neighborhoods in Boone and accelerate the disruption of the lives of its permanent citizens, as out-of-town investors and AirBnB operators continue to buy up low density housing stock; and

WHEREAS, SB 349 allows deficient applications to nevertheless vest development rights, undermining the ability of local jurisdictions to react to changes within their communities; and

WHEREAS, SB 349, by using terms which are undefined and vague, makes expensive future litigation likely to create certainty around the meaning of its terms; and

WHEREAS, SB 349 shifts financial responsibility for a developers attorney’s fees onto the municipality whether or not the town’s decisions have been made in good faith in a manner seeking to protect the common good; and

WHEREAS, SB 349 prohibits a municipality from even examining a traffic impact analysis which has satisfied the North Carolina Department of Transportation, whether or not the municipality believes that the traffic generated by the project poses a danger to public safety and the ratification by the Department is prudent; and

WHEREAS, SB 349, under the guise of creating affordable housing, is actually a usurpation of local zoning authority and if passed, will undermine the long-term stability of the Town of Boone for its permanent residents, betraying the promises of zoning which residents have relied upon in making their most important financial investments, the purchase of their homes;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Town Council of the Town of Boone, North Carolina, respectfully requests:

1 That the General Assembly not adopt either HB 291 and SB 349;

  1. That, if passed, the Governor, the Honorable Roy Cooper, veto these measures;

  2. That the town manager employ the town’s lobbyists to work to prevent the passage of these bills;

  3. That a copy of this resolution be sent to our elected State representatives and the Governor;

  4. That the town manager take whatever additional steps he deems prudent in seeking to prevent the adoption of these bills; and

  5. That the town manager promptly issue a press release warning the citizens of Boone about these disastrous bills.

    Adopted this page3image13256day of page3image13520, 2021.

Rennie Brantz, Mayor

Attested to:

Nicole Harmon, Town Clerk
Clerk, Town of Boone, North Carolina

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Another Democratic Candidate Enters the 2022 NC Senate Primary


Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton says he's going to run for the US Senate in the 2022 Democratic primary. Interesting, considering the major talents already in the game and Newton's relative obscurity for a statewide electorate.

According to the AP, which broke the news, "Newton is a retired Air Force colonel and current doctoral student at Duke University studying marine science and conservation. He says the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol motivated him to get in the race because he wants to defend democracy against violent actors."

Them's some noble sentiments, but still.

Newton said he hopes he can attract Republicans in a general election “who share my interest in protecting our democracy, protecting our environment and helping those that are stuck in the socioeconomic divide.”

There's that forlorn hope again -- let's call it the Manchin Phantasm -- that Republicans will be attracted to support a Democratic mission.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Super Lawyer Marc Elias Sues the New Georgia Voter Suppression Law


Marc Elias, of the Perkins Coie

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp had barely finished signing the new Georgia law clamping down on giving ballot access to suspicious people when Washington power lawyer Marc Elias filed a lawsuit to overturn it on behalf of the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter Fund, and Rise, Inc. (which focuses on student enfranchisement). “The Voter Suppression Bill inflicts severe burdens on Georgia’s voters through each individual restriction and the cumulative effect of all the suppressive measures which impose barriers to voting absentee and in-person,” the lawsuit alleges, citing the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Marc Elias ... hmmm ... where have we heard that name before?

He's the devil, according to various spokespersons for the North Carolina Republican Party, the NC Senate Pro Tem's office, Congressman Dan Bishop, and many other pooh-bahs on the vote-suppressing Right. In as remarkable a case of projection we've ever seen, The Carolina Journal (Art Pope) claims that lawyer Elias makes a total mockery of our election system, which is really (right?) a begrudging admission that Elias is actually very good in both court and in private. 

Elias, a partner at the Washington firm of Perkins Coie, represented Governor Roy Cooper during the drawn-out fight over the outcome of the 2016 election. He represented Dan McCready in getting the 2018 Congressional race in the NC-9 redone because of voter fraud, "the first and only time a state has set aside a federal election as a result of fraudulent activity." Last year Elias talked two Republican members on the NC State Board of Elections into signing a consent agreement that allowed, because of the COVID pandemic, absentee ballots in the 2020 General Elections to be accepted up to nine days after the election and without a witness signature. Those two Republicans on the NCSBE immediately said they were "duped" (advantage, Elias) and got their asses fired anyway from the board by the NCGOP. A lawsuit naturally ensued and a federal judge ruled that at least part of the consent agreement violated constitutional separation of powers. U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen ruled that the State Board of Elections could not accept mail-in ballots without a witness signature on the envelope.

The NCSBE had overstepped under Elias's guidance, and Republican members in the General Assembly have been theatrically indignant ever since about both Elias as an operator and the administrative staff at the NCSBE. It's all grist for the "fraud" myth, the Big Lie. 

Marc Elias is someone I'll take in my corner, even if he oversteps (and sometimes gets sanctioned for it). Why should the other side have all the slick and highly effective legal operators? It's about time we have our own bulldogs with a taste for blood. Elias makes no bones about his proclivities. The unit of lawyers he runs at Perkins Coie is called, quite frankly, "The Political Law Group":

"Marc represents dozens of U.S. senators, governors, representatives and their campaigns as well as the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Priorities USA, Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC. Marc served as general counsel to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016 and John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004." (Perkins Coie)

Elias is also lead counsel in an attempt right now this minute to overturn the certified election of a Republican congresswoman in Iowa by arguing before the US House's Committee on Administration that Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks should be kicked out of Congress in favor of Democrat Rita Hart, who lost in November to Miller-Meeks by only six votes. Elias says he's found almost two dozen uncounted ballots that should be counted. “22 ballots remain uncounted,” Elias declares at his Democracy Docket website. Elias concedes that a few of those votes would go to Miller-Meeks, but most would add to Hart’s count --“the results of which would put her ahead by 9 votes.” He argues that Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution empowers the House and Senate to overrule vote tallies as each body is the "Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members."

It looks like another bridge too far for the talented and sometimes over-stimulated Marc Elias. We doubt that even the Democratic majority in the US House will overturn that election.

As of March 31, "Democrat Rita Hart has dropped her challenge in the Iowa 2nd Congressional District race, asking the House to no longer consider an investigation into the outcome of her race against Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks following intense Republican pushback."

New Ad Targets Madison Cawthorn


The work of the Republican Accountability Project:

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Pity, Joe Mancin


Joe Manchin doesn't care that progressives hate him. He recently taunted "liberals" mad at him for being out of step on many issues including the elimination  of the filibuster:

“What are they going to do, they going to go into West Virginia and campaign against me? Please, that would help me more than anything.”

He says he believes in the Cookie Fairy and a "bipartisan Senate." He doesn't believe that. He is not dumb enough to believe that 10 Republicans will voluntarily vote someday for something Biden wants, if everyone will just compromise. He doesn't believe that. It's a convenient excuse for being really terrified of your constituents. Do we need to be reminded? West Virginia voted for Trump last fall by 40 points. Manchin holds his seat because he's so "regional."

Found this summation of Manchin by Jonathan Martin in the NewYork Times very helpful:

A former high school quarterback who friends say still relishes being at the center of the action, Mr. Manchin is something of a unicorn in today’s Congress. As a pro-coal and anti-abortion Democrat, he reflects a less-homogenized era when regionalism was as significant as partisanship and senators were more individual actors than predictable votes for their caucus.

Twice elected governor before claiming [Robert] Byrd’s [Senate] seat, he’s the only lawmaker standing in the way of an all-Republican congressional delegation in West Virginia .... he is an unlikely majority-maker of the Democratic Senate.

"Still relishes being at the center of the action." Got it! Wants to be loved and thought of as civic savior by his voters. Who happen to hate Biden and hate most Democrats. I almost feel sympathy for Manchin's balancing act. But not his character.

So this news reached us last week: Joe Manchin's wife Gayle has been named by President Biden to head the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)

(I say "head" when the title is actually Federal Co-Chair, because the structure of the ARC also includes a figurehead co-chair, mandated to be the governor of one of the constituent states. Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia is currently Federal Co-Chair. But the civilian Co-Chair is the real showrunner. Has always been that way.)

What are Gayle Manchin's qualifications? The White House on Friday cited her career as an educator and her service as the first lady of West Virginia, when Manchin was the state’s governor from 2005 to 2010. In other words, she's the "missus" of somebody Biden needs to make happy. First thing I thought: The ARC appointment for Manchin's wife is reward for Manchin's vote for the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

What is the ARC? It's an economic development partnership agency established in 1965 through which the federal government works with 13 states and 420 counties across the Appalachian region to theoretically help invest in communities and spur job creation. The criticism of the ARC by actual Appalachian activists tended to highlight the ARC's aggressive four-laning of highways, to get the coal, gas, timber, you name it -- out of state faster.

I'm hoping that Biden can get more out of this clear case of social bribery than just the vote for the ARP. The vote on ending the filibuster as we know it? The vote on an infrastructure bill that will put a tax on every coal baron in the state of West Virginia? The vote on voter rights?

Kernersville 'Proud Boy' Called 'Pivotal' in Capitol Attack


Kevin Donohoe, who was arrested by the FBI on March 18 in Kernersville as a Proud Boy leader involved in the insurrection, is now being called a "pivotal" figure in a conspiracy to take over the US government. This is the reporting by Michael Hewlett:

In new court papers filed Friday, federal prosecutors say Charles Joseph Donohoe, a Kernersville resident and Proud Boys leader, played a pivotal role in leading his fellow Proud Boys in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.
Federal prosecutors say this is a photo of Charles Donohoe, the Kernersville Proud Boys leader, at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

He also assisted another Proud Boys member in carrying a riot shield stolen from a police officer on Jan. 6 and sought to destroy electronic messages afterward, prosecutors said.

Documents also allege that, celebrating afterward, Donohoe said he felt like a “complete warrior.”


In 2019, Louis DeJoy Loved Him Some Dan Bishop. Oops!


Grinning Trumpist Dan Bishop, who won his seat in Congress in a special election in 2019 after preacherman Mark Harris crashed and burned, has become a true(er) prick in Congress, blossoming pungently like a weed on compost. Dan Bishop was the proud parent of the "North Carolina bathroom bill," which means he's also awful at economics. That bathroom bill cost the state billions in economic investment, including harm to the cash cow of sports promotion and tourism. But how has he behaved in Congress? On Sept. 2019, Bishop became the first member to divulge the name of the whistleblower whose memo sparked the House impeachment inquiry. On Twitter.

He was reelected to the 9th District seat in 2020 (don't remind me!) because of the rural Trump surge. He easily beat by more than 10 points a dynamic Black woman candidate in Cynthia Wallace. His district stretches along the South Carolina border from the suburbs of Mecklenburg to Robeson County and isn't quite ready for change.

In keeping with creepiness, Bishop just got fined by the Federal Elections Commission for failing to report contributions of $1K or more within 48 hours of their receipt during the last 12 days of the 2019 special election campaign. Bishop kept those contributions secret -- reporting them only after the election -- and now has to pay a fine of $11,634 for flagrant abuse of the law. One of those unreported contributions -- the max allowed by law -- came from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. You remember him. Just another worm in last fall's cabbage.

You can read Brian Murphy's reporting here.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Catawba County Man Becomes 10th (At Least) North Carolinian Arrested for Capitol Riot

James "Les" Little was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday in Catawba County, charged with unlawful entry onto government grounds, two counts of disorderly conduct in a restricted building or on Capitol grounds, and parading or demonstrating in the Capitol. On Thursday, he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Cayer of Charlotte.

“We just took over the Capitol,” Little bragged in a text to a relative on January 6th. “And you are bragging?” the relative fired back in a fusillade of exclamation points and capital letters. "THIS IS TREASON!!! IF YOU DON’T CONDEMN THIS, NEVER BOTHER SPEAKING TO ME AGAIN! HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE PEOPLE. IT’S A COUP! YOU OBVIOUSLY HATE AMERICA!!!”

Then the relative turned in James "Les" Little to the FBI. He's the 10th (at least) North Carolinian charged for participation in the insurrection.

According to Michael Gordon, "Court filings by the U.S. Justice Department have alleged that North Carolina served as a recruiting ground and training site for right-wing groups that are now the focus of government conspiracy investigations linked to the Capitol assault."

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Former High Point Police Officer Charged With Conspiracy as Oath Keeper


Laura Steele (left) with her
brother, captured by video
surveillance in the Washington Metro

Laura Steele, a former High Point police officer facing charges in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, will be released from federal custody but won’t be able to leave her house, and she cannot have any contact with her co-defendants which includes her brother (Graydon Young, 54, of Englewood, Fla.,) and cannot have access to any electronic device, including cellphones and computers.

Prosecutors have emails that Steele sent just a few days before the Capitol riots, asking to become a member of the Oath Keepers. She touted her 13-year experience as a law-enforcement officer, including being a member of SWAT, court documents said.

Laura Steele was a police officer with the High Point Police Department from 1992 to 2004, when she was fired for conduct toward superior personnel, absence from duty, and violation of communications policy. While at the police department, she worked as a school resource officer. Steele was investigated — and later cleared — in two separate incidents where she pepper-sprayed students, an 11-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy.

She is married to Kenneth Steele, a former assistant chief of the High Point Police Department. They have two children, Jacob and Seth. Jacob is a police officer with the High Point Police Department, and Seth plans to join the department soon.

The U.S. Attorney in charge of her case alleges that after she and her brother came back to North Carolina, she deleted Facebook posts, call logs, and text messages from her phone. It also appears that she got rid of the clothing she wore, including clothing with Oath Keepers insignia, in the days after she returned from Washington. Federal agents executing a search warrant on her home could not find the clothing. The prosecutor said that’s where her experience as a law-enforcement officer came in; she knew how to cover her tracks. “She knew how to do that and why it was important to do that because of her law-enforcement background,” the prosecutor said.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Watauga County: First in Landslides

In 2004 Hurricane Ivan dumped tons of water on Watauga County, causing the soil under the White Laurel subdivision to give way with catastrophic results.


As a result of that event and other devastating landslides in western North Carolina -- four people died in a slide on Peeks Creek in Macon County -- the General Assembly appropriated money to map landslide hazards in the western counties. The mapping of Watauga County was completed in 2008. Hardly anyone knows those maps exist, and even fewer prospective homeowners and home builders know how to access and read them before investing in a piece of property.

Watauga is responsible for some 2,257 documented landslides in the Department of Environmental Quality database, far outstripping our nearest competitor for number of earth movements, 919 in Polk County.

We watch the continuing development on steep slopes in Watauga and wait for the next hurricane to follow a period of drought, which is often the one-two punch that produces disaster.


Red dots represent the 5,237 recorded “landslide points” where these disasters have occurred since the early 1900s. (Source: DEQ)

Monday, March 22, 2021

Is Cheri Beasley Now the Frontrunner?



Photo Julia Wall, News and Observer

News broke while I was traveling on Thursday that former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is expected to announce her candidacy for the US Senate, sometime before the daffodils wither.

“She’s putting a team together, is planning to announce and I think we’ll see that in early April,” said Kara Hollingsworth, a Cary-based political consultant who has worked on previous Beasley campaigns and remains close with Beasley. (Brian Murphy)

The thing is: Beasley has run statewide and came within 400 votes of winning against Rumpelstiltskin last November, so she could easily have multiples of the base that Jeff Jackson of Mecklenberg County currently has.

I've been a big fan of Senator Jackson since the first time he stood up in the NC Senate and indicted the Republican bosses for malfeasance and bad faith. (Here's just one YouTube from Jan. 2015 of his communication skills.) Plus I owe him for helping rally support in Watauga during the last off-year, in 2019, when he came to our fall rally. We knew what our collective goals would be in 2020, and Jeff helped us focus and build our reserves.

I had wanted Jackson to run against Tillis in 2020. A lot of people wanted that. But Cal Cunningham got there first. IMO, Cunningham's damage to himself has swollen into a throbbing, abscessed sore spot for all young, photogenic, white men trying to run for high office. Anecdotal evidence: Women, particularly, no longer trust young, photogenic, white men. I keep hearing, "No more Cal Cunninghams!"

I don't think Jeff Jackson is another Cal Cunningham. I'll contribute to his campaign and vote for him. But I'll also watch the rise of Cheri Beasley with actual hope for the possibilities.

Frankly, I think Beasley would make the stronger candidate, especially if we wind up with Lara Trump running a cheerleader's campaign on the other side. Beasley has actually been on the ballot statewide multiple times. The first was her election to the NC Court of Appeals in 2008. Then she ran for and won her first seat on the NC Supreme Court in 2014. Governor Cooper would eventually appoint her Chief Justice, just in 2019, the seat she was defending last fall.

Kara Hollingsworth, the political consultant who made the announcement for Beasley and was quoted above, is partner in Three Point Strategies (TPS), an all-Black woman management firm -- described on LinkedIn as "a radical, Black, millennial-led, DC-based consulting firm." This purpose appears on their website:

We specialize in electing the first’s, the only’s and the truly magical. At Three Point Strategies we not only trust Black women, they are our North Star. We’ve worked with candidates running for US Senate to City Council and in 2017 TPS worked with six Black women mayoral candidates to usher in the #yearoftheblackwomanmayor.

[Not sure which six new mayors TPS worked with, but some 10 Black women won big-city mayorships in 2017, including in Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Charlotte, North Carolina; San Francisco; and Chicago.]


The three partners of Three Point Strategies

Another Interesting Senate Candidate I Missed

Don't know where my head was on March 5th that caused me to miss this news (from James Arkin in Politico):

Joan Higginbotham, a former NASA astronaut and the third Black woman to go to space, is seriously considering running for Senate in North Carolina as a Democrat, according to multiple people familiar with her deliberations. [If she runs, she'll also be the third Black woman running for the US Senate from North Carolina.]

Joan Higginbotham

Higginbotham, 56, has never run for political office before and would be entering what is expected to be one of the most expensive and high-profile Senate races in the country next year. North Carolina is an open race and is among Democrats top targets, alongside Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as they seek to protect their fragile 50-50 majority.

To the pileup of Democrats willing to jump into the 2022 Senate primary you can also add Black virology scientist Richard L. Watkins, profiled here, and former NC Senator Erica Smith.


Cleveland County Man Arrested for Capitol Insurrection


The FBI arrested Johnny Leroy Harris last Thursday in Shelby. He's charged with unlawful entry, impeding government business, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and unlawful parading, demonstrating, or picketing.

Harris wore a Go-Pro camera while participating in the insurrection and posted photos in real time. He's easy to spot in other photos, wearing an American flag sweater and a red, white, and blue bandanna or mask around his neck. On his head, a Donald Trump ski cap in the same color scheme. He carries a flagpole flying a red, white and blue banner.

The FBI said it learned of Harris from an anonymous tipster who reported that he knew someone who had been posting interior photos of the Capitol on his Facebook page.

When agents questioned Harris two weeks after the break-in, he admitted that he’d carried a flag and a megaphone into the Capitol, and shot video with his Go-Pro and his phone.

According to the affidavit, the FBI received additional confirmation of Harris’ identity from inside sources — two unidentified witnesses who went with Harris to Washington and picked out their travel companion from the photos they were shown.

According to Michael Gordon, Harris is "at least the ninth North Carolinian charged with the violent breaching of the Capitol."

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Virginia Foxx, Too 'Establishment'?

Michael Ackerman of Boone is the newest Republican to announce that he'll challenge Congresswoman Virginia Foxx in the 2022 Republican primary. There's already a 25-year-old, Bo Hines of Winston-Salem, in the race. Both challengers are central casting conservative. There's not a dime's worth of difference between their philosophical positions and Foxx's. Their main beef with Foxx is that she's been in Washington too long.

Moss Brennan reports that "when ... Donald Trump ran for office, Ackerman said he saw the 'curtain' being pulled back on the 'political machine' in Washington, D.C. He said he saw how both Democrats and Republicans were fighting to keep the establishment ways as they care more about 'the power' and 'the money that they’re getting' by being in office."

True dat! About getting rich in public office.

“We didn’t elect them to represent their self interests,” Ackerman said. “They’re there to represent us. Whether they’re Democrat or whether they’re Republican, they should be representing their constituency. I started to see what was really going on up there was that there were too many people who’ve been up there way too long. [They] have really forgotten why they’re there and, they’ve gotten too comfortable.”

Congresswoman has pretty regularly attracted primary challengers, none of whom get very far.

Alleged NC Member of Proud Boys Arrested Yesterday


Charles Donohoe of Winston-Salem was arrested yesterday in Kernersville by the FBI for conspiracy to interfere with law enforcement officers at the Capitol on January 6th and for obstructing the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory. Donohoe's arrest was "part of a widening investigation that now includes 13 people identified in court papers as members of the Proud Boys. The right-wing group has been associated with protests organized by white supremacists and is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center" (Richard Stradling).

Although my count was up to six (counting Donohoe) of North Carolinians arrested for participation in the insurrection, the Raleigh News and Observer sets the number "at least " at eight.

Twitter activist @m1523751 says that Donohoe goes by "Hunter Donohoe" on Facebook and was formerly with the USMC.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Can These Notorious Libertarians Buy Themselves a Senate Seat in Ohio?

Peter Thiel

Politicos perked up when Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist and PayPal co-founder, donated $10 million last month to a super PAC seeking to recruit author J.D. Vance to run for the Republican Senate nomination in Ohio, for the seat that Rob Portman is giving up. Peter Thiel has a big, actually abusive Libertarian reputation, and really so does J.D. Vance, the author of the best-seller Hillbilly Elegy, who hasn't even said definitely that he's running.

Why would Thiel be so enthusiastic about Vance? The super PAC that's trying to recruit Vance calls itself "Protect Ohio Values," a phrase out of sync with the ambitions of a man like Thiel, for whom nothing seems sacred and who clearly thinks of other people as a problem to be solved -- or evaded. He's built himself a sprawling luxury compound in New Zealand as a refuge for himself and other like-minded Libertarians when there's a collapse of civilization in the United States. (I can recommend Mark O'Connell's "Notes From the Apocolypse," which includes a chapter on Thiel.) Thiel also helped found the spy world's ideal Big Eye, the Palantir company, which hacks "big data analytics," bigger and better than Cambridge Analytics of Steve Bannon fame. But Ohio values?

So the name of that super PAC backing a Senate candidacy for J.D. Vance is camouflage for something else, something not at all sinister, I'm sure.

Vance himself wrote his best seller about growing up poor and white in Appalachia and getting all the way to Yale Law School as an up-by-the-bootstraps saga of personal triumph against great odds. He sold the book to the movies, and now Glenn Close is nominated for an Academy Award. The movie was loudly panned as stereotype-strangled claptrap. David Sims called it "the worst movie of the year" in The Atlantic.

J.D. Vance

The book the preceded it, however, made Vance the go-to oracle not only of modern Appalachia but also of the rural, white, economically struggling "Trump voter." Vance was in the media multiple times explaining, for example, why/how Trump had won Pennsylvania and Michigan. White resentment, what historian Bob Hutton called "sado-nationalism," got fully flowered because of decades of the liberal welfare system, hatred for which the Trump presidency provided full justification. Vance himself was an enthusiastic Trump supporter (as was Thiel, at least in 2016), both attracted to the norm-shattering populism of an otherwise ignorant and cunning con-man.

Despite its best-sellerdom and the wide respect Vance earned as a writer of words, Hillbilly Elegy was the most hated book of 2016 among the regional activists and scholars I know and pay attention to. An entire book of Vance denunciation, "Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy," was published by West Virginia University Press in 2019. The essays, one and all, found Vance to be not only "clueless" about the diversity of life in Appalachia but dangerously clueless, peddling “a media-constructed mythological realm, backward and homogenous,” "full of Scots-Irish hillbilly welfare queens and kings too lazy to work who spend most of their time drinking moonshine and getting high on opioids" (1st quote, Dwight Billings, filtered through the reviewer James Branscome in the 2nd quote).

I have little doubt that Vance will be running for that Senate seat and that Thiel knows it. Vance will have a primary -- already, two other Republicans, both avid Trumpists vying for an endorsement from he who was formerly known as Twitterman, have announced their candidacies. I'll get around to profiling all those candidates, and the Democrats, eventually. But right now I just want to marvel at what our broken political finance system and the continuing evil of Citizens United can potentially do to our Republic.