Monday, September 27, 2021

Chelsea White Out as Candidate in Dems NC11 Primary


It's a technicality, but one that can kill a candidacy.

Chelsea White, the newest Democrat to announce (on Sept. 19) that she would enter the 2022 Democratic primary in NC11, has discovered that she didn't change her voter registration from Unaffiliated to Democrat within the 90-day window before announcing.

Per North Carolina General Statute 163-106.1, a candidate must be affiliated with a party “for at least 90 days as of the date of that person filing such notice of candidacy.”

So she's withdrawn before ever really getting started.

There are still seven other Democrats all contending to be The One to take on Madison Cawthorn in 2022.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Nothing But Embarrassment in the Arizona Audit, But It Won't Matter


How anti-climactic could you get?

Rep. Keith Kidwell knows there
was pro-Democrat fraud in North
Carolina elections last year. He just
hasn't found it yet.

It's been obvious for months that the Great Arizona Election Audit of Maricopa County did not turn up what its promoters hoped for, which is why Cyber Ninjas kept putting off the issuance of a report. It was just gonna be too embarrassing. So they delayed and delayed and hoped -- what? -- that some evidence of nefarious goings-on in Biden's favor would suddenly drop out of the ceiling tiles, covered head to toe with bamboo fibers?

Already on Twitter, a Trumpist said "Ridiculous! Audit the audit!" A "fringe" GOP Arizona state senator by the name of Wendy Rogers "was one of many audit believers trying to change the conversation: She announced her support for an audit of Maricopa’s neighbor, Pima County" (Matt Shuham). (Point of order: How would anybody pick out one Arizona state senator as "fringe"?) But of course the Trump people will refute the truth by assertion alone. That's the Trump M.O. Assert anything you think of, and the stupid will believe it: "Satanists also wear masks and stand six feet apart. Just sayin'."

Or they'll ignore the truth and continue to peddle the fiction of voter fraud because it pleases the ignorant. Even Texas now is auditing last year's election in four urban counties -- "urban" meaning Black or non-white, of course -- because winning isn't the only goal for authoritarian regimes. Some Republicans in Raleigh want an audit here, because it wasn't enough they won seats in the NC House and Senate and seats on the highest courts and a slew of Council of State offices. They didn't get the Governor. Must have been fraud. 

Rep. Keith Kidwell (R) from Beaufort/Craven has demanded access to the state's voting machines, alleging fraud in NC that attempted to benefit Democrats. "Kidwell ... said in an interview ... that he is confident there was at least some fraud in the 2020 elections. He just wants to find out how much, he said, and who is behind it." That's what they thought about witches in Massachusetts. The lack of evidence proves the conspiracy is working, no?

On Facebook, Kidwell's group has suggested that it may actually be state or local elections officials who are committing fraud: “The House Freedom Caucus is now focused on BOE officials and the specific precincts themselves. We absolutely think tampering happens in North Carolina.”

Where Republicans run things, delusion is king and no honest public servant is safe.

See: it doesn't matter what the facts are.

"Former President Donald Trump falsely claimed during a rally in Georgia on Saturday night that the results of the Arizona election "audit" concluded that President Joe Biden lost in Maricopa County, despite the report clearly stating that Biden won with 1,040,873 votes—99 more votes than shown in the certified ballots." (Newsweek)


The Daily Show Went to Johnston County


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Greg Abbott and Beto O'Rourke


Every time I read something about Texas in this Trump era, I get a stab in my heart, because I grew up there and still have connections. There's no earthly excuse for my native land to be so cussedly, dangerously backward.

I came across this yesterday

The Lincoln Project, an American political action committee formed in 2019, made up of former and current Republicans, issued a statement questioning why their TV ad [blasting Gov. Greg Abbott for his bad handling of COVID], funded for $25,000, did not run on ESPN during the nationally televised Texas vs. Rice college football game. The group said the ad was pulled 10 minutes before it was expected to run, despite ESPN's legal team clearing it beforehand.

The ad was pulled, citing a "university-made" decision. And a spokesman for Abbott told The Dallas Morning News he had nothing to do with the decision. Still, the Lincoln Project asserts that Abbott, a Texas graduate who appoints members of the school’s board of regents, played a part in the ad not running and said it plans to file a public records request to determine that. [USA Today]

So I found the ad: 

You might be forgiven for thinking that Gov. Abbott might could maybe be beaten in 2022 by a good, well funded Democrat. You would think that already perhaps, before seeing the Lincoln Project silent condemnation of his criminal ineptness. For Abbott's been a visible and willing advocate for backwardness of a shocking stripe, the curtailing of ballot access and the ending of legal abortion. The abrasive impact on independent voters of these policies perhaps accounts for the University of Texas poll that found Abbott moving underwater for the first time this summer, his approval rating sinking to 41% with 50% disapproving.

Could Beto O'Rourke be The One? 'Cause he's running, have no doubt. Hans Nichols at Axios wrote:

O'Rourke's entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.

"Comeback"? O'Rourke lost the Texas Senate race to Ted Cruz in 2018 (O'Rourke got a respectable 48.3% of the vote),  and then his presidential bid fizzled in 2020. So less than four years later, yes, we're talking "comeback"? Though it's not as though O'Rourke retired to a monastery. He's been active and out there on voting rights especially and he's lent his name and sweat equity to Democratic candidates for the Texas state legislature. Plus he's a proven, exceptional money magnet. Who else would have a better chance, taking it to Greg Abbott? Abbott pushes many buttons on the negative partisanship consol, and money will flow to any star Democrat willing to challenge him. Beto might have the appeal to pull it off. (Hope springs.)

July 17, 2021: 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Despite Cawthorn, Johnston Co School Board Votes To Keep Mask Mandate


The Johnston County School Board last night reaffirmed its mask mandate for all public schools. The vote was 4-3, with Democrats Kay Carroll and Terri Sessoms, joined by Republicans Al Byrd and Lyn Andrews, providing the majority.

Congressman Madison Cawthorn, roving far outside his own district in search for fame and money, led a march of anti-maskers to the Johnston County school board meeting last week to demand an end to the masking policy. The school board postponed a vote until last night because vice-chair Terri Sessoms could not attend last week's meeting.

Three More Dems in the Primary Race Against Madison Cawthorn


Community organizer Chelsea White has announced that she will seek the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 11th CD next spring. According to Ballotpedia, she's the 8th Democratic candidate in the primary. Here are the first 7, with links to WataugaWatch's profile of them:

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D)

Jay Carey (D)

Katie Dean (D)

Eric Gash (D)

Bo Hess (D)

Josh Remillard (D)

Brooker Smith (D)

 (For Katie Dean and Brooker Smith, see below.)

Chelsea White is the Western Regional Organizer and Communications Coordinator for Transform NC, a labor and climate statewide coalition. Since August, she has also been involved in the We Are WNC community group dedicated to flood recovery in Cruso and Canton.

She has a Twitter account but not much else yet for campaign infrastructure.

White made her announcement of candidacy on Sunday at a rally against Congressman Cawthorn at the Haywood County courthouse. A group of Haywood County Republicans held a counter-rally at the same location.

Katie Dean trained as an engineer at the University of Georgia and owns an auto-repair business with her husband in Swannanoa. She has a website and a professional looking video introduction:

Brooker Smith is so far a name on a list with no internet presence that I can find.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Bruce O'Connell Might Steal Some of Cawthorn's Support


11th CD candidate Bruce O'Connell

While the other three Republicans running in the 2022 primary for Madison Cawthorn's seat seem moderate by comparison (described here and here), Bruce O'Connell, the well known Pisgah Inn host, comes off as (much) more conservative, not so much for the policy positions (though we do get standard-issue MAGA compost -- protect guns, build the wall, "Critical Race Theory" BAD, etc.). He seems Trumpist-lite more for what he doesn't say about Cawthorn (and he says a lot). 

O'Connell's list of Cawthorn's faults makes no mention of his sanctioning of violence against the US government and his participation in the "Stop the Steal" movement which led to violence, property destruction, and death. Cawthorn was there at the rally on January 6th. He spoke. He ginned them up to accept BLOOD as part of the compact for making American great again. He's implied his belief that force can be legitimate public reaction

But candidate O'Connell makes no mention of any of that -- says not one word about Trump or that whole election mishegoss. O'Connell's only concerned about Cawthorn's lack of maturity, particularly his adolescent behavior: he's mouthy and disrespectful, slacking on his chores, partying instead of working. Teenage stuff. O'Connell makes no acknowledgement that what Cawthorn models is dangerous to our very democracy.

Maybe that blindspot comes from this: O'Connell's main fame came with running the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway for decades -- running it well -- and then defying the government shutdown in 2013, declaring on social media and in the press that he would not give in to government "tyranny." He kept the Inn open -- the land and building are actually owned by the Federal government -- until Park Service cars blocked the entrance to his parking lot. He had to give in. Which makes him sympathetic to the insurrectionists on January 6th? Or at least willing to give them a pass and forget they ever fulminated into mass violence? 

Here's a small irony: The government shutdown of 2013 was engineered by hard-right conservatives to show their contempt for Obama's government. Bruce O'Connell's defiance was showing contempt for government shutdowns. In 2013 it was all Mark Meadows's big show. He led the Freedom Caucus into bullying other Republicans to get in line. O'Connell has no cause to admire former Congressman Meadows, who was what a conservative was supposed to be in 2013.

For historians, let alone believers in science, O'Connell is just wrong in opposing a vaccine mandate: "I believe the choice not to get vaccinated does NOT infringe on other's rights. I understand many will disagree with my position, and that is what freedom is all about. The freedom to disagree. I do not want to live under a Dictatorship." Small problem with that particular freedom: It's based on a lie. Unvaccinated people do pose a threat to others. That's just a fact. And that's why government has mandated vaccines against any number of childhood diseases going back a century.

Bottomline for me, after spending several hours on his website: I can't help thinking that O'Connell will be an attractive candidate. The popularity and high ratings of the Pisgah Inn suggest he knows how to use his personality to win people over, and his Trumpist boilerplate might be enough to coax former Cawthorn Republicans to come away from the dark. The problem of four total candidates, all with their own winning qualities and commensurate followers -- sorry to say it, means Cawthorn wins the primary with a plurality.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

NC Voter ID Law Struck Down as Unconstitutional


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina judges struck down the state's latest photo voter identification law on Friday, agreeing with minority voters that Republicans rammed through rules tainted by racial bias as a way to remain in power.

Two of the three trial judges declared the December 2018 law is unconstitutional, even though it was designed to implement a photo voter ID mandate added to the North Carolina Constitution in a referendum just weeks earlier. They said the law intentionally discriminates against Black voters, violating their equal protections.

The law "was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters," Superior Court Judges Michael O'Foghludha and Vince Rozier wrote in their 100-page majority opinion.

"Other, less restrictive voter ID laws would have sufficed to achieve the legitimate nonracial purposes of implementing the constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, deterring fraud, or enhancing voter confidence."

The majority decision, which followed a three-week trial in April, is now likely headed to a state appeals court, which had previously blocked the law's enforcement last year while the case was heard. The law remains unenforceable with this ruling.

With a similar lawsuit in federal court set to go to trial this January and another state court lawsuit now on appeal, it's looking more unlikely that a voter ID mandate for in-person and absentee balloting will happen in the 2022 elections.

The ruling reflects "how the state's Republican-controlled legislature undeniably implemented this legislation to maintain its power by targeting voters of color," said Allison Riggs, the plaintiffs' lead attorney....

GOP legislative leaders have tried for a decade to require photo IDs to cast ballots....

Saturday, September 18, 2021

New Video Attack on Madison Cawthorn


This is the work of the Really American PAC (it spent less than $2 mil in the 2019-2020 campaign season), a Washington, D.C., super PAC that was most active in the dual Georgia Senate races in 2020. Its donors are public.

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Club for Growth Attacks Pat McCrory


The intended beneficiary of this beatdown is supposedly Ted Budd, McCrory's Trump-endorsed rival for the Republican nomination.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Madison Cawthorn Fears For His Life Because ... Socialists


Two days ago, on September 14: "Photographs taken by NC11 Democratic candidate Jay Carey, and circulating today on social media, are purported to show a sheath knife hidden within easy reach of his assistant on NC11 Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s wheelchair during his appearance Monday at the Henderson County School Board meeting, held at the Henderson County Public Schools Administrative Offices in Hendersonville, NC." (

It's a Class 1 misdemeanor to take such a weapon to a school board meeting (or anywhere on educational property).

The photograph above seems pretty definitive.

Madison Cawthorn's response to the allegation looks mighty suspicious on its face: “I don’t really know anything about that,” Cawthorn said. “I’ll have to look into it, but I don’t know anything about it.”

An innocent man would have said, "No! I did not bring a military-grade dagger into the Henderson County School Board meeting."

"I'll have to look into it." Meaning, "I'll try to come  up with a plausible explanation. Just give me time."

In the meantime, while Cawthorn is looking into it, the Henderson School Board referred the matter to the Henderson County Sheriff, Lowell S. Griffin, who is a Republican elected in 2018. Tuesday evening, Maj. Frank Stout of the sheriff's office said in an email to the Times-News, "We are aware of the allegations and the photographs that have been distributed concerning Representative Cawthorn. Further information will be released as it becomes available."

Jay Carey, the Democrat who took the photo above, said, "I’m 100% certain it was a knife. I was 20 years in the military. Attention to detail is my bread and butter and what kept me alive." Carey also said he spoke with a Henderson County sheriff's deputy at the meeting but did not see the officer take any action.

Everybody is now watching the Henderson County sheriff's department. Is a US congressman, even a egotistic punk, simply above the law?

With lightning speed, the Henderson County Sheriff has decided that Madison Cawthorn's knife at the school board meeting must have been "inadvertent":

"Although unacceptable, occasionally a person inadvertently possesses a knife on educational property or other property where such possession is prohibited," the Sheriff's office said in a press release.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Madison Cawthorn: Not As Big as Goliath, But Bigger Than a Wart


Madison Cawthorn leading the march in
Smithfield yesterday

In Johnston County, NC -- where Madison Cawthorn took a spa day yesterday -- there are 15 active cases of COVID and 50 quarantines among public school staff, and a whopping 178 active cases with 782 quarantines among students. Yet, Cawthorn sagely opined in front of the Johnston County school board last night that masks are a socialist plot.

Johnston is a large, heavily populated county lying slightly south and east of and directly adjacent to Wake. Downtown Raleigh is 30 miles north. Possibly because of that proximity, Johnston has also grown. Its school system is the 7th largest in the state. Its capitol of Smithfield thrives with a sense of its own importance; its historic downtown made the list of National Historic Places. Though Johnston might be denser than many rural counties with growing suburbs, it's also stubbornly Republican. Lots of money went out of Johnston to support Jesse Helms back in the day, and Trump did just fine there last year (taking over 61% of the vote), so over generations it's remained blissfully Old South reactionary. 

It's school board consists of 7 elected members, currently 5 men and 2 women. Two, one woman and one man, are registered Democrats. The rest are Republican, even the Black member. Cawthorn's bizarre attack on sensible public health rules, staged anew in Smithfield last night, has become his roadshow act and his cash cow. Why was he in a different congressional district, 300 miles east of his own turf? Because he's riding the hobbyhorse of a developing right-wing crusade to keep his fundraising robust, and Johnston County evidently looked to him like the Breadbasket of Trumpism. 

(The county is split between three House districts and three Senate districts, but every last House and Senate member is a Republican [see below].)

Last night hundreds of Cawthorn fans (we're told) rallied in the parking lot of a shopping center -- enough enthusiastic people to draw the attendance of other Republican office-holders and would-be office-holders from all over the county, including from out of state. The crowd heard speakers along with Cawthorn and then marched to the school board offices. Some of them even got into that meeting room in Smithfield, which is (thankfully) very small.

So it wasn't quite like the scene in Buncombe, where a big crowd led by Cawthorn stormed the meeting and booed the members. There was only scattered applause from the audience in Johnston, because in that tiny meeting room were also people who supported the school board's mandate for masks (which is up for routine reconsideration right now). So it wasn't all lopsided anger over the "tyranny" of masks.

What did the school board do?

Nothing. It delayed a vote because the vice-chair (one of two women who also  happens to be one of the two Democrats) missed the meeting (bereaving the death of her husband). The board put off action until she could return -- next Monday, virtually (hmmm), at 2 p.m. Taking bets what they end up doing. The mask mandate passed in August only 4-3, so there's every likelihood that two Republican members will cave to the pressure and vote to reverse themselves. Or maybe they'll develop some gumption. We wait to see.

Cawthorn's roadshow, no kidding. In Hendersonville Monday night, in Cawthorn's own district, he harangued the Henderson County School Board with his expert grasp on history -- "Tyrants thrive when freedom is sacrificed on the altar of safety," he said. "I believe that King George III would be immensely proud of Gov. Roy Cooper. He's running the state with an iron fist, liberty be dammed. He has ripped away your power and your will." Despite the theatrical aria to "our freedoms," and a large turnout of loud people supporting Cawthorn, the Henderson board nevertheless voted 6-1 to retain the mask mandate. D'oh!

Sometimes Cawthorn's attempt to intimidate local office-holders just looks silly and weak and produces nothing but noise.

Maybe Just Noise Is the Point

Maybe the efficacy of protesting mask mandates -- getting school boards to actually reverse their masking rules -- isn't Cawthorn's goal. Maybe he doesn't care about actual public policy, only cash returns and more Fox News and Infowars stardom. Conservative activists -- Trumpists -- love Cawthorn's masquerade of give 'em hell "patriotism," because since at least the rise of Ronald Reagan, the Right can't tell a huckster from a dumpster.

Western Carolina University political scientist Chris Cooper thinks Cawthorn is laying track to attempt to oust Sen. Thom Tillis in the primary of 2026, because by then MadCaw will presumably be out of diapers and old enough constitutionally to run for the Senate:

Cawthorn’s trip to Johnston County has been covered in media outlets across the state, and has spawned enough Twitter traffic to rival an early season Duke/UNC game. The attention is the point. And it’s working.

If the attention is both the means and the primary end, then fundraising is a secondary goal--and one that will likely be successful. Cawthorn raised over $1.7 million through June 30 of this year—a sum that dwarfs the receipts from established Republican members of Congress like Patrick McHenry and Virginia Foxx. When the fundraising numbers are revealed from September, 2021, I’ll bet you a beer (or ginger ale if that's more your speed) at any North Carolina brewery that the Johnston County event will spark a pop in Cawthorn's fundraising—a cash infusion that would come in handy for any candidate, but particularly one with Cawthorn’s burn rate [Cawthorn has been spending it as fast as it comes in].

It also seems likely that Cawthorn’s political aspirations extend past NC-11, making this out-of-district attention grab a little less confusing that it would be for a member of Congress who has no intention of running for higher office .... Cawthorn has not been shy about criticizing Republican party leadership and recently called Tillis “a terrible campaigner and a complete RINO” [Republican in Name Only]. It’s not much of a stretch to think that Cawthorn has his eyes on that seat.

The Johnston County School Board

Todd Sutton, Chair (R)

Terri Sessoms, Vice-Chair (D)

Lyn Andrews (R)

Al Byrd (R)

Ervin McKay ("Kay") Carroll (D)

Ronald Johnson (R)

Michael C. Wooten (R)

Johnston's House and Senate Reps


Donna McDowell White, Dist. 26 (R)

Larry C. Strickland, Dist 28 (R)

John R. Bell IV, Dist. 10 (R), House Majority Leader


Lisa S. Barnes, Dist. 11 (R)

Brent Jackson, Dist. 10 (R)

Jim Burgin, Dist. 12 (R) 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Could Eric Batchelor Be the Republican To Retire Madison Cawthorn?


We just posted yesterday a profile of Rod Honeycutt, the third Republican to announce a primary bid against 11th Dist. Congressman Madison Cawthorn. Now there's a fourth, and he looks like even more a potential winner -- if the vote against Cawthorn doesn't get split four ways.

Eric Batchelor with his wife Kirstin
Eric Batchelor has a deep service record -- in the Army (retired as a Lt. Colonel) and in law enforcement (deputy in the Haywood County sheriff's office) -- and a compelling story of personal heroism and sacrifice in the line of duty, both combat in Afghanistan and facing down a shooter as a deputy. He seems like a complete package of electability, including a thoroughly adult perspective on the world, a rational moderation that seems well earned from his life experience. It helps that his wife is a part of the clergy and has served as a chaplain.

After retiring from the Army in 2015, Batchelor trained as an EMT and paramedic, moved back to the western NC mountains in 2018, worked as an EMT and did additional training to become a law enforcement officer. He was then hired as a deputy by the Haywood County sheriff and became a patrol officer.

Then this happened (I quote Cory Vaillancourt's version at length because it's a good story):

He’d been on duty since 5 p.m. and it was already shaping up to be a busy night, but as Eric Batchelor sat in his patrol car writing up reports around 2 a.m. on July 28, 2020, he got another call about a disturbance.

“I think the quote was, ‘Hooting and hollering at the moon,’ ” Batchelor said. “To be honest, we get a lot of these calls.”

Batchelor had only been a Haywood County Sheriff’s Deputy for 10 months, but he was no rookie. A U.S. Army infantry officer with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Batchelor served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising from platoon leader to battalion commander before retiring after 20 years as a Lt. Col. in 2015.

Driving toward the scene on Old Asheville Highway, Batchelor heard updates on the call. Someone’s in my yard. Someone in my yard has a gun. Someone in my yard has a gun and they just shot at my house. Someone with a gun is moving toward the main thoroughfare.

“And so you start driving faster and faster, and you’re paying more attention to the road than you are to what’s going on with the radio, but then as you show up there and you get yourself under control, you start to take in the situation and then you get it,” Batchelor said. “He has an assault rifle. He’s up on the billboard.” ... elderly woman home alone made that initial disturbance call. Canton police beat Batchelor to the scene and found Jacob Wilbur Wright, 32, perched on a billboard catwalk a dozen feet off the ground, holding an assault rifle.

Batchelor had been in dangerous situations before, having been fired upon during his Army service, but when he pulled up, he immediately felt the stress — the accelerated breathing and the tunnel vision as he scanned the scene, awash in flashing red and blue lights.

Taking cover behind his car, Batchelor made visual contact with Wright and began communicating with him.

“If I remember correctly, I think I told him, ‘Hey, let’s go get a cup of coffee. We’ll talk about it. We’ll figure this out,’ ” Batchelor said. “He was saying things that I probably don’t need to repeat.”

Wright’s weapon appeared to be jammed, so Batchelor decided to make his move. Using his remote, he popped his trunk to access his shield as the Canton officers covered him.

“As soon as I stood up from behind the vehicle,” he said, “I watched him clear the jam, the barrel of the weapon came up, and he pulled the trigger.”

Something that had never happened to Eric Batchelor in combat happened to him that night just outside Canton — he was shot.

“The immediate thought is, ‘Oh dear God. I just got hit by a truck,’” Batchelor said....

The Canton police took down the shooter, killling him on the spot. Batchelor then endured months in hospital and in therapy to get back on the force:  “I have two plates that basically connect my elbow to my shoulder, 21 screws holding those in place and a bone graft that came out of my leg went in between those plates and reconnected the shoulder to the elbow,” he said

He's back at work as a deputy: “In this day and age, law enforcement has such a bad reputation. I would say that that is not really who we are. We’re a cross section of society and you get the same personalities in law enforcement that you get in society,” he said. “Like 99.9 percent of the people that I work with are just here to serve. That night when I and the rest of those officers were on the way to that call, we were just there to serve.”

He's reserved and measured enough to avoid a frontal attack on Cawthorn. He comes closest (without mentioning Cawthorn by name) on the Issues page, under the subheading "Constituent Services": "When I am not in Washington DC to represent you on every single vote, I will be in this district working for you. Instead of flying around the country on photo opportunities, I will be visiting Mayors, Sheriffs, County Commissioners, and businesses to hear their concerns."

The most "moderate" thing about him? Probably this, especially in the heavily armed 11th CD: He says he supports "appropriate background checks that keep firearms out of the hands of the wrong people."

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Another Republican Intends To Challenge Madison Cawthorn in the 2022 Primary

Rod Honeycutt, standing next to his
wife, and their entire family

The entrance of Rod (Rodney) Honeycutt into the 11th CD 2022 Republican primary instantly raises the question: Will too many Republican challengers spoil The Upset? See, most if not all of the announced challengers are better qualified to do the job than Madison Cawthorn is doing, the job of government he's hired to do, but isn't, because he's much more interested in grandstanding for the Trumpist yahoos, while raising beaucoup bucks. Will too many credible adults in the race divide the opposition (other adult voters who have not lost their minds) and let Cawthorn squeak back into Washington?

It's a concern. We've seen it happen before, in both parties: Too many challengers divide the dissatisfied and allow the incumbent to waltz on. So we hope that Republicans in the 11th CD, at least those who want better representation, will coalesce around a single challenger.

That might be Army retired Col. Rod Honeycutt, who tries to strike a reasoned and adult profile on his campaign website -- in clear contrast to Cawthorn. Unfortunately, Honeycutt's announcement video (posted on the homepage of the website) offers zero in the way of personality, personal bio, view of the world -- any sense of an individual at all. Instead, we get the sound of Indian wardrums. Huh? To what purpose did some bright campaign functionary decide that was a good idea?

In his bio, Honeycutt is clearly drawing a contrast to Cawthorn, by emphasizing that he grew up poor and has had a good work ethic all his life -- things Cawthorn never experienced and could only read about (if he reads anything at all but his own press clippings). Honeycutt's most direct reproach to Cawthorn -- without mentioning his name -- is buried at the bottom of the page here: "I will not watch from the sidelines as inexperienced, self-promoting characters seek to further careers while the hard-working men and women of WNC suffer the consequences."

Honeycutt is a Republican, remember, so you've got to expect some of this: He thinks the government should force Twitter and Facebook to give Donald Trump back his platforms for spreading dangerous misinformation and silly conspiracy theories. Bad. But he also favors background checks for the purchase of firearms. He complains that Biden's stimulus checks and unemployment benefits have made workers lazy (!) but that giving Federal money to businesses because of the COVID turndown is just fine. That imbalance of economic concern tells me a great deal about Honeycutt's ingrained Republicanism -- landlords, yes; renters, no. He says he wants to protect the environment, but without any specificity.

His military achievement could propel Honeycutt into first place against Cawthorn. Plus he clearly isn't crazy and could have been much more extreme on his website about his political philosophy, to attract the voters who are still in love with Cawthorn's vaudeville show ("The Compleat Asshole"). Honeycutt builds a relatively moderate resume throughout and looks like he wouldn't be a continued embarrassment to the district.

Other Republican Candidates Already Running Against Cawthorn

The first announced was Wendy Nevarez, a moderate Republican woman who at first glance doesn't "fit" the district that sent Madison Cawthorn to Congress. She's a Navy veteran, a professional, and she's gotten active on Twitter. She's pro-vaccination, which means she's no Trumpist. Most entertainingly, she doesn't mind spanking Cawthorn on his chubby bottom for being such a jerky kid: "Worry about doing your job better!" Bravely (for a Republican in the 11th CD), Nevarez slapped back at Cawthorn for his declaration that he was introducing legislation to abolish OSHA: "Have you ever opened one of their manuals?" she demanded. "No you haven’t. Politicizing the 100+ employee mandated vaccine/testing reqs doesn’t warrant gutting an entire admin. dedicated to protecting workers from unsafe work conditions since 1970!" A Republican defending a Federal regulatory agency! Good Lord.

Under most circumstances, Wendy Nevarez would make a good Southern Democrat.

Bruce O'Connell, well-known operator for the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway since the late 1970s. He was profiled extensively on WataugaWatch here.

At the time of that writing O'Connell had no on-line campaign presence. He's rectified that, but I haven't yet taken the time to delve into his presentation and how it might contrast with incumbent Cawthorn and with the other candidates. I'll get there eventually.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Cawthorn Said He Would Destroy OSHA To Save COVID


Two days ago President Joe Biden announced that he is ordering new federal safety regulations that call for businesses with more than 100 workers to require vaccinations against the coronavirus and paid time off to get vaccinated -- or weekly testing for employees who refuse the vaxxing. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is charged with drafting an "emergency temporary standard" to carry out the mandate, provided for in the legislation that President Richard Nixon signed creating OSHA. Some 80 million workers will be affected.

“Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this — United Airlines, Disney, Tyson Foods and even Fox News,” President Biden said during a speech Thursday. Many companies, including United Airlines and Tyson Foods, were already moving toward requiring vaccines. Business Roundtable, a powerful lobbying group, released a statement supporting the administration’s new orders:

“Business Roundtable welcomes the Biden administration’s continued vigilance in the fight against Covid,” said the group, whose members include leaders of General Electric, Amazon, Goldman Sachs and dozens of other large companies. “America’s business leaders know how critical vaccination and testing are in defeating the pandemic.”

How did some Republican governors (many of whom want to be president, to inflict their particular brand of cavalier ignorance on additional millions) react to Biden's order? They stayed true to their Trumpist ignorance. Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina said he would fight Biden and his party “to the gates of hell.” “@JoeBiden see you in court,” Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota wrote on Twitter. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida -- oh who cares?

And what did the punk freshman from the 11th district of North Carolina do? He tweeted two days ago, at 6:32 p.m., "I'm filing a bill to gut OSHA." That was perhaps a premature threat, as Cawthorn can't even write his own signature without a good headstart, let alone legislation dissolving a Federal agency that is charged with guaranteeing a safe work environment. Cawthorn's tweet has subsequently disappeared. Perhaps someone over the age of idiot explained to the baby congressman what OSHA is and what it does for American workers.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Cawthorn Expands His Intimidation of School Boards 300 Miles East of His Own District


Next week, Rep. Madison Cawthorn of the 11th CD will lead an anti-vax, anti-mask demonstration/march to the Johnston County School Board meeting in Smithfield, which is in the 7th CD. Here's the flyer that's promoted the protest:

The Johnston County School Board initially voted to make masks optional (as Watauga County did), but then reversed itself (as Watauga County did) when the delta variant became such a fulminating problem across the state.

Why Rene Borghese, who's running against David Price in the 4th CD, would decide that this is a cool event to involve herself in -- that's a good question. And why the man in black with the slicked-back hair, who's running for Congress in Tennessee, also wants to participate begins to look like an audition for Unsolved Mysteries.

If screaming at school boards for trying to protect school children is your bag, then we're sure you'll want to be there.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

The Trials and Tribulations of the Fourth (?) Reich


Good times! This was Richard B. Spencer, a neo-Nazi "alt-right" leader, a few days after Trump's election (Nov. 19, 2016) at a fellow-traveller (Trumpist) rally in Washington:

The inflammatory nature of that gig above caused the following to happen, pretty much in this order:

1. Whitefish, Montana, where Richard Spencer lives in his mother's house and where there's a sizable Jewish citizenry, erupted in protest. Residents began discussing a rally in front of a downtown commercial building owned by Mr. Spencer’s mother, Sherry.

2. Either Sherry Spencer called her, or real estate agent Tanya Gersh called Sherry, but both women agree that Tanya agreed to list the business for sale to relieve the pressure on Mrs. Spencer. Mrs. Spencer later claimed in a published article that Tanya Gersh used the threat of protests to blackmail her into selling. Gersh became the target of an organized anti-Semitic hate campaign, which in its turn was organized by another Nazi alt-right leader, Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer. Anglin exhorted his “fam” online to “TAKE ACTION” to defend Spencer. He shared personal information and the social media accounts of Gersh and her family, including her son, then 12. A post in which Anglin encouraged his followers to “stop by and tell her in person what you think of her actions” was the first of some 30 articles he published targeting the Gersh family and the Jewish community in Whitefish. 

3. Mrs. Spencer's son Richard (see above) admits that he wrote the editorial that Mrs. Spencer published attacking Tanya Gersh.

4. 2017. Tanya Gersh files suit against Andrew Anglin in U.S. District Court in Montana. In 2019, she wins $14 million in damages. A team of lawyers is still searching for Anglin and his assets.

5. Nazi Editor Andrew Anglin uses his Daily Stormer to announce and promote a big new alt-right march, which intends to end at the Gersh home in Whitefish, scheduled for Martin Luther King Day, January 2017.

Richard B. Spencer.
Photo Alex Wroblewski for The New York Times

6. As tensions rose in Whitefish, Richard Spencer and both his parents made public statements distancing themselves from the march and from Andrew Anglin. Behind the scenes, the police and the federal authorities readied themselves for a potentially violent event.

7. Whitefish rallied around the Gersh family. “There were menorahs in every window in Whitefish,” Ms. Gersh said. An anti-hate rally drew 600 participants in zero-degree weather. On the eve of the neo-Nazi march, Rabbi Francine Roston organized a chicken and matzo ball soup get-together for 350 people at the middle school in Whitefish, in a demonstration of unity and appreciation. (NYTimes)

8. Not a single neo-Nazi showed up in Whitefish on Martin Luther King Day, January 18, 2017.

9. According to residents in Whitefish that the NYTimes interviewed, Richard B. Spencer is now an outcast there, unable to get a table at many of its restaurants. His organization, the National Policy Institute, has dissolved. "Meanwhile, his wife has divorced him, and he is facing trial next month in Charlottesville, Va., over his role in the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi march there, but says he cannot afford a lawyer."

The Upcoming Trial in Charlottesville

Both Richard Spencer and Andrew Anglin (along with many others) are defendants in Sines v. Kessler, which goes to court in Charlottesville on Oct. 25. A group of victims and counterprotesters filed suit in Federal court against people and groups involved in the “Unite the Right” rally, August 11-12, 2017, after a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring at least 19 others.

Spencer's lawyer in the Charlottesville case withdrew as counsel last year. He said he hadn't been paid. Spencer is now representing himself.

Separately, in May, a federal judge in Ohio ordered Spencer’s National Policy Institute to pay $2.4 million to William Burke, a counterprotester who was severely injured in Charlottesville.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Snitches Get Riches: The Texas Abortion Ban


In the old Bewitched TV series (who's calling who "old"?), Gladys Kravitz was the nosy next door neighbor to Samantha and her daily witchcraft. Gladys was always convinced -- correctly -- that something odd was going on, but she could never convince her husband Abner nor alert the greater world. Now in Texas, as of September 1, 2021, she'd have a shot at collecting $10,000 for ratting out a woman's health clinic.

The US Supreme Court actually -- actually? -- looked at, perused? studied for themselves? (I hope they read it) the new "Texas Heartbeat Act" and said it was fine with them -- the deputizing of any and all citizens to inform on -- sue -- any provider or abetter of an abortion, if the woman's fetus had a detectable heartbeat at the time of the procedure (hearts-a-beatin' happen about six weeks after impregnation). That last provision simply ignores Supreme Court precedence, wiping out the first-trimester constitutional guarantee in one sentence. The state government stays out of it, doesn't knock angrily on clinic doors -- which the law's authors claim makes the law constitutional -- but allows and empowers self-regarding vigilantes to enforce the ban through economic harassment of doctors and nurses (et al.). 

$10,000. That's the bounty, to be forfeited by defendants. In other words, Texas Senate Bill 8 sets up every avid pro-lifer with a new hobby. What about the woman who got the abortion? Oh, there's no penalty for her, except the embarrassment. Samatha gets away with it again. 

This law can turn anti-abortion extremists -- the ones who try and do kill doctors -- into a kind of secret police, a Stasi for Christ. There's already an "inform on your neighbor" website,, which will gladly collect your accusations anonymously: "Use the links below to report anyone who is violating the Texas Heartbeat Act by aiding or abetting a post-heartbeat abortion. And report any person or entity that aids or abets (or that intends to aid or abet) an illegal abortion in Texas .... We will not follow up with or contact you."

It takes mental wipes with super-strong fibers to accept that five conservative justices on our Supreme Court read that language and thought it was constitutional. We are truly in a dark place, America.

But ... potential blue skies here! -- the Republican hardliners in Texas may have just scrambled the 2022 elections in a tasty way by inserting an issue that benefits Democrats. Texas-style gun fight over the privacy of women's health decisions is not a good look for you, Republicans. If other states follow the Texas model, or if the Supremes actually do overturn Roe with the Mississippi case they'll hear this fall, the fact is that Republican candidates in states other than Texas are already distancing themselves from the Texas crazies. Larry Elder, the talk-show conservative who wants to replace Gavin Newsom as governor of California, didn't want to talk about it: “This is not anything that’s on my priority list.” And that Republican dude running for governor of Virginia this year -- he's on the record as officially gun-shy about raising abortion as a campaign issue. The potential of the Bounty Act to galvanize suburban white women, and young white women, to vote against every Republican in sight -- why, I think that potential for serious backlash has got to be real.

The Republicans have been brazenly rebranding themselves ever since Donald Trump rose like a tumor to take over the party, and why wouldn't they show the depths of their extremism in this very way?

Thursday, September 02, 2021

The Trump Court Is Delivering the Theocracy You've Dreaded


"Unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend”

Bounty hunters

The Supreme Court refused just before midnight on Wednesday to block a Texas law prohibiting most abortions, less than a day after it took effect and became the most restrictive abortion measure in the nation.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s three liberal members in dissent.

The majority opinion was unsigned and consisted of a single long paragraph. It said the abortion providers who had challenged the law in an emergency application to the court had not made their case in the face of “complex and novel” procedural questions. The majority stressed that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the Texas law and did not mean to limit “procedurally proper challenges” to it.

But the ruling was certain to fuel the hopes of abortion opponents and fears of abortion rights advocates as the court takes up a separate case in its new term this fall to decide whether Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing a constitutional right to the procedure, should be overruled. It also left Texas abortion providers turning away patients as they scrambled to comply with the law, which prohibits abortions after roughly six weeks.

All four dissenting justices filed opinions.

“The court’s order is stunning,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

“The court has rewarded the state’s effort to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute, enacted in disregard of the court’s precedents, through procedural entanglements of the state’s own creation,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “The court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”

Chief Justice Roberts wrote that he would have blocked the law while appeals moved forward.

“The statutory scheme before the court is not only unusual, but unprecedented,” he wrote. “The legislature has imposed a prohibition on abortions after roughly six weeks, and then essentially delegated enforcement of that prohibition to the populace at large. The desired consequence appears to be to insulate the state from responsibility for implementing and enforcing the regulatory regime.”

The chief justice underscored the tentative nature of the majority’s ruling. “Although the court denies the applicants’ request for emergency relief today,” he wrote, “the court’s order is emphatic in making clear that it cannot be understood as sustaining the constitutionality of the law at issue.”

Justice Elena Kagan criticized the court’s practice of deciding important issues in rushed decisions without full briefing or oral argument — on what Supreme Court specialists call its “shadow docket.”

“Today’s ruling illustrates just how far the court’s ‘shadow-docket’ decisions may depart from the usual principles of appellate process,” she wrote. “That ruling, as everyone must agree, is of great consequence.”

“Yet the majority has acted without any guidance from the court of appeals — which is right now considering the same issues,” she wrote. “It has reviewed only the most cursory party submissions, and then only hastily. And it barely bothers to explain its conclusion — that a challenge to an obviously unconstitutional abortion regulation backed by a wholly unprecedented enforcement scheme is unlikely to prevail.”

“In all these ways,” Justice Kagan wrote, “the majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow-docket decision making — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend.”