Thursday, October 28, 2021

Town Hall Condemns Appalachian State’s Unresponsiveness to Local Concerns


What impact is Appalachian State having on Boone? 

This was the question explored by a town hall held last night in the Evelyn Johnson Room of the Watauga County Public Library. The event was sponsored by the Appalachian State chapter of the American Association of University Professors and ClimAct, a local environmental group. The room was packed, with over forty citizens in attendance and that many more joining via Zoom.

The town hall left little doubt that there is a lot of concern—from community members, students, and faculty—that the university may be adversely impacting Boone and the surrounding area. Kellie Reed Ashcraft of the Watauga Compassionate Care Initiative noted that Boone’s poverty rate is significantly higher than the state average. There was a lot of worry expressed about the university’s aggressive enrollment growth goals. Many noted that the town is increasingly full of shoddy housing and that it is expensive, too, forcing many people who work in Boone to seek housing elsewhere. Some students bemoaned that App State is becoming a degree mill, and that reckless growth is resulting in lower quality of students, diminishing the quality of an Appalachian degree. One participant quoted Edward Abbey to chastise the university’s priorities: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

Frustration was also expressed about the university’s lack of responsiveness to the Boone community, even to answer questions. At one point, the question was asked: “Who has even met Sheri Everts [the App State Chancellor]?” Only a few hands were raised. Many noted that the core problem is that Everts owes her $375,000 annual salary to the UNC Board of Governors in Chapel Hill—and that the Board is the only constituency she really cares about. Needless to say, the Board is appointed entirely by the Republican majority in the General Assembly.

Finally, some attendees pointed out that, on top of everything else, the recent revelations about App Pac and the lavish donations by two members of the App State Board of Trustees suggest that the university is now trying to buy the Boone Town Council. What a convenient way to get land owned by the university rezoned to meet its interests—and those of wealthy real estate developers.

Enough is enough, it was decided. App State used to be the pride of Boone. But, as one resident pointed out in one of the evening’s most moving testimonials, the university is now exploiting the local population, forcing out people who have lived in the region for generations.

The event’s organizers promised that more was soon to come.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

More Questions About Big-Dollar Donors to AppPAC

Additional background on Mark Ricks and Brian Tracy, two maxxed-out donors to the AppPAC in the Boone Town Council elections:

In November 2017, at the time Mark Ricks was giving $10 million to AppState athletics, Brian Tracy was senior associate athletic director for external affairs at the university and very involved in securing that unprecedented gift from Ricks. The next year, in 2018, Ricks was appointed to the AppState board of trustees.

Last month on September 15, when he gave $5,600 to the AppPAC, Brian Tracy listed his address in Round Hill, Va., and his employment as "COO of DWF." I understand COO to mean Chief Operating Officer, but DWF momentarily stumped me. DWF? I didn't immediately understand that stood for Double Wood Farm, "an equestrian sanctuary for retired show horses in Bluemont, Virginia," owned by BOT member Mark Ricks. (I'm grateful to "Octavia" who made the connection in a comment on "Who's Funding the Appalachian PAC.")

So Brian Tracy is now working for Mark Ricks and living near Double Wood Farm in Virginia? And maxxing out to the same political action committee that Mark Ricks is supporting?

Why are so many of the big-dollar donors to AppPAC from out of state? We understand why so many have clear connections to AppState.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

AppPac's Expenditures Report -- Hard To Figure


The expenditures report submitted by the Appalachian PAC to the State Board of Elections is one confounding document, since the PAC treasurer in Raleigh wants to claim a year-to-date expenditure for two Democrats running in the BooneTown Council races as $6,936.54, which is not just misleading -- it seems deliberately misleading, because each of four candidates, including the formal PAC endorsements of Eric Woolridge and Benjamin Ray, are all also listed as receiving the exact same amount: $6,936.54. In actuality, this same report clearly shows that the PAC spent only $19.57 each on its support for Tugman and Futrelle (for putting their names on a flyer? Who knows what could possibly have cost less than $20?).

Let's be clear: the PAC gave no cash to any of the candidates. That almost-$7K is an indirect contribution in the form of PAC mailers, yardsigns, buttons, etc. In fact it looks as though the PAC added up all (or most?) of its combined operating expenses, came up with $27,746.16, and divided it four ways, as though the two Democrats, Edie Tugman and Tim Futrelle, have benefitted equally with the PAC's actual endorsements of Woolridge and Ray.

How dumb do they think we are?

Edie Tugman is on record with this statement: "I have not sought endorsement from any PAC. I was sent a questionnaire by the Appalachian PAC and responded. I was then contacted and interviewed as they were making decisions about who to promote. As they were not forthcoming about who their Board Members are, who their donors/supporters are and had no position papers, I declined to be considered. After the interview, I wrote to Travis Critcher that I would not seek or accept support of any kind from the organization."

Tim Futrelle wrote this: "I have not sought any endorsement or financial contribution from any PAC. In full disclosure, during the first week of my campaign, a member of the North Carolina Association of Realtors contacted me to participate in an interview regarding a regional comprehensive housing study that would include our area. A few weeks after the interview I received a contribution from their organization. This is the only contribution of this type I have received. All others have been, and will continue to be, individual donors."

The PAC, in its continuing effort to look "non-partisan," sort of patted Tugman and Futrelle on the head, ignored Tugman and Futrelle's request that they not be endorsed by the AppPAC, and put Tugman and Futrelle's names on their PAC yardsign in much smaller type (the pat on the head). I guess they're saying that pat on the head is worth $6,936.54.

Again: how dumb do they think we are?

Who's Funding the Appalachian PAC?

"Political Committee Disclosure Reports" are due at the NC Board of Elections by this weekend, and the report from the Appalachian PAC, the newest organized political influencer in Watauga, was actually delivered early. Here are the donors as reported:

Maxxed Out

Rick Harmon, attorney with Harmon & Davies, Lancaster, Pa. -- $5,600

Mark Ricks, owner, Double Wood Farm, Boone -- $5,600

R. Thomas "Tommy" Sofield, owner, US Bldgs, Boone -- $5,600

Brian Tracy, COO, DWF, Round Hill, Va. -- $5,600

NOTE: Both Ricks and Sofield are members of the ASU Board of Trustees

NOTE: What is "DWF" in Round Hill, Va.? 


2nd Tier 

Jay Harrill, COO, Echota Resort, Avery County -- $1,000

Arthur H. Barber, owner, Charleston Forge, Boone -- $500

Susan M. Barber, owner, Charleston Forge, Boone -- $500

Chad Seigler, VP International Business, NASCAR, Stanley, NC -- $500

NOTE: Chad Seigler is a sports marketing executive and a member of the board for the Appalachian Foundation

Also Gave

Sallie Aceto, Owner, Design & Media Group, Raleigh, NC -- $278.08 (in kind)

Sallie Aceto, ditto -- $278.08 (credit card)

Travis Critcher, Director, Samaritan's Purse, Boone -- $100

Richard Woods, nurse anesthetist, Boone -- $100 


Friday, October 22, 2021

Mike Clampitt, 2nd Member of the NC House, Outed for Membership in Oath Keepers



First, it was NC House member Keith Kidwell outed as a member of Oath Keepers, the paramilitary outfit that participated in the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Literally dozens of Oath Keepers have been arrested for their participation in that assault. Apparently sitting back home and watching were Rep. Kidwell and yet another member of the NC House, Mike Clampitt of Bryson City. (Clampitt has traded that seat back and forth with Democrat Joe Sam Queen. Queen beat Clampitt in 2018, but Clampitt took back the seat last November.)

The following is from an investigation by ProPublica, as reprinted by The Progressive Pulse:

People with law enforcement and military backgrounds — like Clampitt, a retired fire captain in Charlotte, North Carolina — have been the focus of the Oath Keepers’ recruiting efforts since the group started in 2009. According to researchers who monitor the group’s activities, Oath Keepers pledge to resist if the federal government imposes martial law, invades a state or takes people’s guns, ideas that show up in a dark swirl of right-wing conspiracy theories. The group is loosely organized and its leaders do not centrally issue commands. The organization’s roster has ballooned in recent years, from less than 10,000 members at the start of 2011 to more than 35,000 by 2020, membership records show....

Clampitt said he went to a few Oath Keepers meetings when he joined back in 2014, but the way he participates now is by being a state legislator. He has co-sponsored a bill to allow elected officials to carry concealed guns in courthouses, schools and government buildings, and he supported legislation stiffening penalties for violent demonstrations in response to last year’s protests in Raleigh over George Floyd’s murder. Clampitt said he opposes violence but stood by his Oath Keepers affiliation, despite the dozens of members charged in the Capitol riot.

"The way he participates now is by being a state legislator." Yeah, we get that. He has another history of nostalgia for the Old Confederacy, and luckily he's a state legislator who can pass a law that you cannot bring up the Old Confederacy in any NC classroom in a discussion of racism.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Zero 'Class,' But Of Course You Already Knew That


May the statement Donald J. Trump made about a dead statesman haunt him for the rest of his life:

"Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media. Hope that happens to me someday. He was a classic RINO, if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans. He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!"

But anyway.

Banned from Twitter for life, Trump issued those words in a statement he hoped others would copy onto Twitter, which many did. Trump did not even try to conceal his envy for a man whose virtues others celebrate -- "Hope that happens to me someday."


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

From Price to Cawthorn: North Carolina's Slide Into Hair-Brained Mediocrity


The 4th CD is losing a scholar and a gentleman in David Price. I can't begin to do him justice here, so I'll quote Ned Barnett:

In his decades in Washington, Price has been an earnest and thoughtful representative, liberal in his politics, but deeply traditional in his respect for the history of Congress and his commitment to work within the system. 

Throughout his career, Price has focused on issues important to a district known for its universities and high-tech businesses. A longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee, he helped win funding for expansion of the EPA lab at Research Triangle Park. He has also advocated for education, election reforms, commuter rail transportation, health care and affordable housing. 

A native of Tennessee, Price first attended Mars Hill College before transferring to the University of North Carolina and then going on to Yale where he earned a divinity degree and a doctorate in political science.

As he prepares to leave Congress, Price feels that the institution is leaving itself. Once a more deliberative body led by senior members and more open to bipartisanship, he sees Congress, especially the House, as an institution where showmanship and partisanship prevail and experience and expertise matter less.

What? "Showmanship and partisanship" have replaced "experience and expertise" in the US House? Yes, look no further than the 11th CD's Madison Cawthorn, the youngest member of Congress and the stupidest and who is nothing but spectacle and irresponsible mouth-flap.

Lord help us, North Carolina. Instead of more statesmen, you send a punk who's all about clowning for the Trumpist crowd.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Arc of Nathan Tabor


Nathan Tabor is currently in jail in Brunswick County, with a list of charges I'll get around to summarizing below. Way back in 2004, Tabor ran as a young Christian conservative against Virginia Foxx in the Republican congressional primary, the year that Foxx took the 5th District seat she still holds. Tabor came in fifth out of six. He had been endorsed by the NC Right to Life and by the Rev. Jerry Falwell (no, really), who actually called Tabor "a young Jesse Helms." The photo here is from that period in Tabor's life.

He did his best to live up to Falwell's compliment. He was particularly unbending on the issue of abortion. He constantly modeled outrage over what women might do with their bodies, coming out of a general contempt for "women's rights." He ran as though Virginia Foxx was faaaar to the left, at the vanguard of bossy liberal women who were going to destroy Christian principles. He had attended Pat Robertson's Regent University and followed the Gospel of "let your women keep silence." He published The Conservative Voice, was kind enough to put me on his email list, so I regularly expressed my own outrage at his preachments. I wrote a lot about Tabor after 2004.

Tabor went on to chair the Forsyth County Republican Party, ran unsuccessfully for town alderman in Kernersville, and attempted to file in 2012 for the 6th District congressional primary but got to the Board of Elections after the deadline.

Currently, his estranged wife says he's addicted to drugs and always on the verge of financial disaster. Which perhaps explains how his current incarceration got started. He was arrested earlier in October by the Ocean Isle Beach police department, along with the Brunswick County Sheriff's office, for stealing catalytic converters from a church, a Habitat for Humanity Restore, and from two different people (some of the goods allegedly stolen at Sunset Beach). (Michael Hewlett, Winston-Salem Journal, has the most complete story on Tabor's multiple troubles.)

One wonders what Tabor was doing at the beach. His home is in Kernersville. Could it have anything to do with this: There was a warrant out for Tabor's arrest in Kernersville on August 21, 2021, on a complaint of cyberstalking filed by his pastor at the Kerwin Baptist Church. (The entanglements get increasingly baroque.) Luckily, the third week in August is the perfect time to go to the beach! But the details of his arrest suggest he was also close to destitute. And then there's what his wife wrote when she filed for complete custody of their 16-year-old daughter: “Defendant has become addicted to drugs, spending thousands and thousands of dollars on drugs.”

Nathan Tabor, four days ago

Added to the charges of outright theft: allegations that he made threats against his mother-in-law and other family members in Catawba County in an attempt to get more than $200,000 and that he harassed his pastor in Forsyth County, accusing the pastor of embezzling money from the church. He made sexually-explicit comments to both the pastor and his wife. The pastor filed for a restraining order against Tabor in August.

Mrs. Tabor herself filed for a restraining order against her husband after they separated last June, alleging that he had sent a constant stream of harassing text messages, emails, and social media postings. “Defendant is mentally and emotionally abusive to the minor child, including sending email implying the minor child will burn in hell, and ‘I curse that and pray every time you see or touch something you enjoy that you immediately get sick.’ ”

This is not to say that all Christian conservatives are hypocrites and potentially "mental." This is to say that sometimes claiming to be a Christian conservative can cover big cracks in character.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

AppState Denies Any Involvement in the Appalachian PAC


On Monday, Oct. 11, AppState political science major Adam Zebzda addressed a letter to the university administration "respectfully requesting" an investigation into the involvement of two AppState trustees in the launch of a political action committee (PAC) whose stated goal is to take over Boone town government for the betterment of the real estate industry and housing developers. I have a copy of that letter.


Zebzda wanted answers about whether "any Trustees violated North Carolina General Statutes or the UNC Policy Manual and Code, either explicitly or in spirit, which govern the political involvement of public State officials…."


Quickly the deputy general counsel for Chancellor Sheri Everts answered Zebzda in a two-page denial on Oct. 12, quick turnaround for a bureaucracy! (I also have a copy of that letter.) There's been no untoward political activity by the two trustees nor by Appalachian State University, wrote the deputy. 


Much of his denial seemed based on the photograph of the two trustees that was published on this site


The deputy counsel wrote: "Their only involvement seemed to be that they were photographed together. The photograph further illustrates that neither of these individuals wore any indicia of Appalachian State University affiliation and were pictured talking to each other and not candidates or officers of App-PAC."


The wording is interesting: "Their only involvement." The flat denial implied by that word choice gets undercut immediately by "seemed to be," which made me flash on the university's Latin motto: To Be Rather Than To Seem. The physical evidence in this case is a "seems," at least for the deputy counsel, and is utterly without substance. (But the involvement of high-ranking university officials in a PAC was never the implication of an otherwise innocent photograph. It's the stuff that stands well outside the view of any camera that concerns us. And the lawyer's argument is silly.)


None of it matters, anyway, because the deputy counsel hurries to his main point: The rules against political activity applies to employees, not to trustees (tiers of power):


"…this North Carolina law only applies to employees, as it is entitled Political Activity of Employees. Trustees are not Appalachian State University employees." 


Flatly stated, the two trustees are entitled to their political activity. I certainly agree with that. The question for me was always this: Does their political activity represent political policy for the university?


The deputy counsel says "no."


"To be clear, App-PAC is not affiliated with the University. Most importantly, the University is not affiliated, not associated, not connected and otherwise not part of the PAC in any way, especially when individuals, whether they be faculty, staff or students, are permitted to attend these types of political events on their own time."


I accept that categorial denial and wonder why the chancellor did not also say this at the ASU faculty senate meeting last week. I've apparently been roundly condemned on campus for publishing that Zoom clip of Chancellor Everts remaining mute (and not a little miffed) when asked the direct question about university knowledge of or involvement in the Appalachian PAC. If her silence did not signal guilt, then I have to assume it's just arrogance and irritation at being questioned about anything at all, ever.


That's now the corporate style at AppState.


And the overriding question behind all this controversy remains: What are AppState ambitions in Boone regarding real estate development, and what kind of levers of power can they marshal for those ambitions?

Friday, October 15, 2021

Oh the Maps They Can Draw!


Lekha Shupeck reports that this redistricting map below may be one of the finalists for final adoption because it was drawn by a member of the majority. Look closely.

This is the doodling of Sen. Warren Daniel, who represents Avery, Caldwell, and Burke counties in the NC Senate. Under Daniel's hand, Watauga County has in the main been drawn into the 11th CD (orange), except for a tailhook of yellow that reaches up from Caldwell County. The yellow is a new proposed 5th CD.

Judge Bob Orr suggests that the weird gerrymander is meant to take in Virginia Foxx's home. Can't tell from this map without more granular details, but nothing much surprises us about the NCGOP's map-drawing.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Define 'Trumpism'? See Mark Robinson


Our lieutenant governor since last year's election, Mark Robinson, has a bully's instincts: pick on the weakest on the playground. Physically, he indeed comes off as a great big bully, and he channels the Trump advice, "never apologize."

He's exactly what the Trump Party likes, applauds, gives money to, and elects. Billy Ball complains that no one visible in the NCGOP has called him out on anything he's said or done:

Robinson, the highest-ranking Republican in North Carolina, was open about his anti-LGBTQ beliefs long before he called queer folks “filth” at a Randolph County church in June. Long before he called trans folks “demonic” at a church in Raleigh in August.

So stow the shock. The hate isn’t a mistake, it is the message.

Robinson is not, as so many headlines labeled him, “homophobic.” He does not fear queer folks. He hates them. He will be remembered as a bigot, a spiteful buffoon who — best-case scenario — resigns today, even if that’s unlikely.

To call him out would invite bullying, and who wants that? Not Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger and NC House Speaker Tim Moore, who resolutely had no comment about Robinson's latest LGBTQ+ = "filth" statements (plural). But the NCGOP issued a message on its Facebook page saying the party "stands with" Robinson. Those are the two acceptable stances now for Republican office-holders watching their party transmogrify into a racist frat-initiation fueled by hatred. In the new Party of Trump it's either say nothing at all or be a lickspittle, groveling enabler of bad behavior and even worse morals. Those Trumpist voters will turn on you and take your hide -- any fellow Republican even thinking about criticizing the current drift. 

The Appalachian PAC Endorses Two Candidates for Boone Town Council


The announcement came yesterday on AppPAC's Facebook page:

Eric Woolridge and Benjamin Ray

About as anti-climactic as any political endorsements ever were.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Man in the Silly Clothes Backs Down


Less than a week ago, Rep. Jeff McNeely (R-Iredell) led two other members of the NC House Freedom Caucus (Rep. Bobby Hanig, R-Dare, and Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus) in an unthought-out press conference in which Mr. McNeely put the Durham County Board of Elections on notice that he and other members of the Freedom Caucus would be coming through their doors very soon and that they would be wanting to inspect the innards of Durham County voting equipment for any illegal modems which they claim is the source of most North Carolina voting fraud.

Modems are illegal on North Carolina voting equipment, by law, as is any machine connection to the Internet.

McNeely, dressed like Aunt Bee's best friend, caught some blow-back, including on this site, and according to Laura Leslie, by the time McNeely got back to his office later that day, and had a chance to catch up on the news that he had made, he quickly changed his tune, "saying he would simply drive by the building where the Durham County Board of Elections keeps its voting machines to see for himself whether the machines were secure."

Hahahahahahaha [can't catch my breath] hahahahaha.

Like so much else that comes out of the Bully Caucus, this is all political theater, and the Trumpists do plum love it, every bit of strongman, authoritarian trash-talk that comes out of the mouths of politicians who sold their soul so long ago, they're now the walking dead.

Monday, October 11, 2021

PamsPicks Has Published Her "Take" on This Year's BooneTown Elections


Pam's Picks, including her extensive research, discussion, and endorsement of 2021 candidates for the Boone Town Council, has gone live.

She extends the information particularly on the "Appalachian PAC" and its plans for making the real estate industry happy and Appalachian State University more prosperous. Although the PAC hasn't as yet publicly endorsed any candidates, they're pretty clearly involved behind the candidacy of at least two candidates. The third dropped out weeks ago.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Eyes of Keith Kidwell


In his short time in the NC General Assembly, Keith Kidwell, representing Beaufort and Craven counties, has cut quite a groove. First elected in 2018, he did some stuff:

At his swearing in (January 4, 2019), he told an interviewer from The Washington Daily News that in Raleigh he was going to be all about taxes and infrastructure, especially taxes. All the time.

February 2019 -- His first four bills, all of them, take aim at legal abortion. Then he signs on as co-sponsor with Rep. Larry Pitman (et al.) to a bill to nullify Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage. (That's crazy but don't let that slow down our momentum.)

2020, height of COVID -- During a floor debate Kidwell said he would not wear a mask, no matter what the governor said. He opposed the governor's emergency powers and was against mandatory vaccinations. Always against.

July 2021 -- As now head of the House Freedom Caucus, Kidwell demands that the NC State Board of Elections turn over voting machinery for inspection. Kidwell said he was sure there was voting fraud if he could just find it, and he needed the innards of computers to find it. State elections supervisor responded "stuff it."

August 2021 -- Both Kidwell and his wife, hospitalized for COVID.

Jeff McNeely in spring freshness 


Oct. 8, 2021 -- Minus Kidwell (he spent a week in the hospital and apparently the recovery from COVID was a steep climb), the new House Freedom Caucus spokesman Rep. Jeff McNeely drew Durham County out of a hat and announced that the Caucus would be coming for Durham County's voting machines and that they would be bringing their own Capitol police force for compliance. No kidding.

So what's it now, Keith?

Today he's outed for being on the membership rolls of the Oath Keepers. You remember them. But let's review anyway (my thanks to Jordan Green):

The Oath Keepers was founded by Stewart Rhodes in 2009, shortly after the election of President Obama. The organization targets retired law enforcement and military veterans for recruitment based on a premise that they will uphold their oaths and resist a vaguely defined "tyranny." Long hostile towards the Black Lives Matter movement, the organization and its leader Rhodes took an increasingly radical stance during the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020 and in the runup to the 2020 presidential election.

To date, 22 members or associates of the Oath Keepers have received federal charges in connection with the assault on the US Capitol, with a majority accused of participating in a conspiracy to obstruct the electoral certification on Jan. 6. Five have already pleaded guilty.

This is the same guy -- Keith Kidwell -- who told the local newspaper he was going to be all about taxes and infrastructure. But those eyes don't lie.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Yesterday, the Raleigh GOP Clown Car Went Over a Cliff


Good God Almighty! The Trumpiest Trumpists in the NC House intend to bring their own law force to bully elections officials in Durham County. Ain't making this up. As recorded by Rolling Stone:

A group of Republican lawmakers in North Carolina who call themselves the House Freedom Caucus are conducting their own investigation into election fraud, saying they will do “whatever it takes” to inspect voting machines in Durham County, even if they have to use police to force the inspections.

Rep. McNeely at the press conference yesterday 
State Rep. Jeff McNeely and other conservative lawmakers claimed at a Thursday news conference that they are acting on behalf of constituents who believe fraud and “machine tampering” took place in the 2020 election. McNeely said the group plans to conduct their inspections by “randomly pick[ing]” counties from across the state and then examining voting machines used in the presidential election to see if they have a modem that can connect to the internet. North Carolina state law prohibits voting machines from having modems.

During the news conference, McNeely selected the first county the legislators plan to investigate. Using an incredibly scientific method — pulling a county name from a sequined, USA-themed hat covered by a napkin — McNeely chose a slip of paper and announced it would be Durham County, which voted overwhelmingly for President Biden.

“I expect full cooperation from the good people in Durham because I feel like they have nothing to hide,” McNeely said. “We look forward to working with them, proving that our elections were true and were valid and there was nothing wrong with them. If that’s not the case, then we look to do an investigation. And if there need to be criminal charges, they will be filed also.”

A Durham election official told The Charlotte Observer that the county will not let the inspection take place. “We have no plans to allow anyone, as noted by law, to inspect our voting equipment,” Derek Bowens, Durham County’s director of elections, told the paper, adding that none of the voting machines in the county has a modem because they are prohibited.

This past summer the executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Karen Brinson Bell, also denied the lawmakers’ request to inspect voting machines. “The State Board has received no credible evidence that the certified results are not accurate, and elected officials from both sides of the aisle have stated that the 2020 general election in North Carolina was conducted fairly,” Bell wrote in a letter.

In a Thursday speech on the statehouse floor, Democratic state Rep. Zack Hawkins expressed his objection to the inspection. “The people in Durham County take elections very seriously,” he said. “You are not welcome in Durham County, and I’m not sure if you want to step foot in Durham County and try to inspect the machines. You will not be greeted as liberators, let me be clear.”

But at the press conference, McNeely said that he intended to go to Durham County Thursday night with a roll of red evidence tape to “secure the spot” where the machines are kept “so that nothing can go forward from here.”

When a reporter asked McNeely how he thinks the legislators will be able to inspect the machines without the permission of the county or state election board, he said that lawmakers from the legislative branch have a right to ask questions about elections. But if they are not allowed, McNeely said they will have escorts from the North Carolina General Assembly Police, which polices the North Carolina state Capitol grounds.

“So we will start with that,” he said. “And if we have to use, like I said, our escorts and the [General Assembly] police to help us, we will do whatever it takes to go about our mission.”

Where O Where Are Those AppPAC Endorsements for Boone Town Council?


Early voting in the BooneTown elections begins in less than a week (next Thursday, Oct. 14), and I'm wondering where those candidate endorsements are that the "Appalachian PAC" promised us. On September 21st -- more than two weeks ago -- they promised their endorsements by the end of that week. But since then ... crickets.

We know from other evidence the candidates they either outright recruited or were grooming for an endorsement, but we'd like confirmation. They promised it. We expect it.

(Incidentally, the photos of their "launch" party showing the attendance of two ASU trustees have disappeared from their Facebook page.)

Thursday, October 07, 2021

You Can Be Sure They'll Do Their Worst


One of many draft Congressional redistricting maps that are beginning to emerge in Raleigh. This is probably not the final map, but only an example of how much damage the Republican majority in the General Assembly can do.

Preliminary analysis of this particular map by reporter Colin Campbell:

It locates the new 14th CD smack on NC House Speaker Tim Moore's home ground (Cleveland and adjacent counties). It's no secret that Moore has been angling for his very own carved-out safe seat (if he couldn't have his own university to run). No doubt, he'll like the bigger money in Washington and the privilege that goes with it.

Splits up Democrat Kathy Manning's safe seat in the 6th CD. We knew she was going to be a prime target for rough treatment.

In fact, the Piedmont Triad of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point is split up into four different districts.

This map would likely produce a 10-4 Republican advantage for the Congressional delegation -- only because the map-drawer couldn't figure out how to make it 11-3. 

Up here in the mountains we can't fail to notice that this particular map puts Watauga with Buncombe in the 11th, a move I could actually applaud. Anything to get away from Madam Foxx. Hello, Madison Cawthorn! But it won't happen.

Charles Graham Rises in CD9

Charles Graham, Lumberton's rep in the NC House since 2011, announced way back on February 15 that he was going to run against far-right jerk Dan Bishop in the NC9. That was months ago. But on Tuesday this week Charles Graham arrived, launching the Graham campaign for Congress with a video that instantly went viral (viewed more than 3.2 million times as of noon Tuesday), earning Graham a segment on CNN and national exposure. Cue the money tsunami. Graham became instantly "the new progressive darling" (Jeffrey Billman) because of the tenor of the history he presented in this video, the "Battle of Hayes Pond," January 18, 1958:

Those the KKK intended to bully instead rose up and took the initiative, preemptively struck. It was the Klan that got the bloody nose and literally run off the property. Graham wants to capture that Iron John moment and distill it into a campaign theme that can rally the beat down Democrats and disaffected independents to, well, buck up, strap on, and attack. That's the message, isn't it? Hayes Pond, an effective symbol of group fortitude and initiative. "We don't play with racists." 

That's a good message. Especially cogent in the remarkable age of the Trumpist bullies. 

But of course there'd be a worm in this cabbage. Came out almost immediately that Graham voted with the Republicans for the notorious bathroom bill (HB2). Graham quickly confessed his sin and recanted that vote. Then yesterday morning Jeffrey Billman added details of Graham's anti-abortion votes. More of his voting record in the NC House will continue to emerge.

So he's no progressive, and so what, Alexander Jones argues. Graham's conservative impulses are both inevitable among Democrats in the 9th Congressional District and actually salutary for winning the seat: 

...Graham presents as a strong candidate to win in that district. His Lumbee identity should help him win back the very culturally conservative Native voters who backed Dan Bishop against Dan McCready. In a right-of-center district, his relative conservatism places him close to the center of gravity that most local voters occupy. His strength, furthermore, is in the rural, eastern part of NC-09 that delivered a narrow victory for Bishop in 2019...

Poor Dan McCready, who just because he looked like he might be mild-mannered to the point of turning lib-rel, couldn't win the seat against Bishop in that notorious re-do of the congressional election in 2019. McCready had no liberal record and he stepped around hot-button issues dear to progressive hearts, but he couldn't surge the Democratic vote, maybe because he always wore that spooked look of someone who really wants to hide.

I hope #NotThatAlexJones proves prophetic for 2022. (Personally, I seesaw violently in my own expectations for next year. Sigh.) I can accept Charles Graham. I can live with a conservative Democrat until he turns Joe Manchin on us.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

AppState Chancellor Stonewalls Questions About AppPAC


The footage below, shot with a cellphone during Monday's AppState faculty senate meeting on Zoom, captures two different moments when Chancellor Sheri Everts shrugged off the chance to say anything about the Appalachian PAC, which claims it will endorse candidates for the Boone town council who wish to advance "University prosperity." Warning: the sound quality is very poor, so turn up your volume.

At the beginning of the clip, a male questioner can be heard asking for any explanation of the AppPAC. Chancellor Everts maintains a stony if slightly irritated silence after the man mentions trustees Mark Ricks and Tommy Sofield. Then we hear a female voice asking the same question, getting nothing but silence and shrugs, and so she repeats the question. You can judge the chancellor's silence/curious lack of interest for yourself.

Sauce for the Goose Ain't Necessarily Sauce for the Gander


Guest Post by Mata Hari

Can App State trustees help "launch" a political action committee (PAC) designed to influence municipal elections in Boone? Especially in view of this: On August 26, ASU’s General Counsel, Paul Meggett, sent a harshly worded four-page document to faculty and staff warning against “Political Activities of Employees, Candidacy for Elective Office; Office Holding (Elective and Appointive Public Office) and Free Speech and Free Expression.” It stated the following (among other fine points):

“No employee may use his or her position, state or university funds, services (including mail or email service), supplies (including letterhead), equipment (including telephones and computers), vehicles or other university property to support or oppose a candidate, party or issue in an election involving candidates for office. See, N.C. Gen. Stat. §126-13 (applicable to SHRA employees); see, UNC Policy 300.5.1 (applicable to EHRA employees).”

There are perfectly sound reasons for such policies. But as Meggett also notes, being a “state employee does not mean you lose your constitutional rights to participate (or not participate) as you desire in the political process as long as such participation is not on work time and does not involve the use of university property.”

Were two AppState trustees violating at least the spirit of the "no politics" clause? Worth noting -- section 101.4 A 5 of the UNC Code (the governing document for the whole university system) clearly intends to keep service to the UNC System and electoral politics separate.

Ethics is as much about avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest as it is about breaking the law. Chancellor Everts and Provost Norris implied, at the Faculty Senate meeting on Monday, that they knew nothing about App Pac. Shouldn’t the Boone community be skeptical when the chancellor and provost say they never discussed with App State trustees a plan to elect a town council that is favorable to the university’s real estate interests?

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Appalachian State Provost Claims to be Unaware of App PAC

Guest post by Mata Hari: 

Mark Ricks and Tommy Sofield,
members of the AppState
Board of Trustees, at the
Appalachian PAC launch party.

The plot surrounding App PAC thickens. At the meeting of the Faculty Senate that took place yesterday, faculty asked Provost Heather Norris about App PAC. To be clear, they asked only after Norris tried to leave without answering any questions — their modus operandi vis-à-vis faculty, students, and community since Covid. But the faculty did manage to get a question asked — about what App PAC is, about why Mark Ricks and Tommy Sofield, two AppState Board of Trustees members, are shown as being involved on the PAC’s Facebook page, and how this might relate to the university’s real estate ambitions. Norris was clear: she said she could not answer the questions about the PAC because she was unaware of its existence.

Another faculty senator asked if anyone could answer the question about App PAC. The silence during the Zoom meeting was quite deafening. Provost Norris and Chancellor Sheri Everts said nothing — Everts adopting her preferred public demeanor of fiddling with her phone while the questions build. 


But no one — no one — in administration was willing to answer the question. Even to the point of allowing an embarrassing silence to endure after the question was repeated.


It's an interesting question whether the university did, in this context, violate public meetings laws. As Attorney General Jeff Stein has noted in his open meetings report, simply asking for public documents is sufficient to establish that a request has been made.


In any case, it will be interesting to see just how long App State remains silent on App PAC.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Musical Chairs Among the Republicans in CD11


I gave considerable space here to Republican Eric Batchelor, who announced a scant two weeks ago that he was planning to challenge Congressman Madison Cawthorn in the 11th CD Republican primary next March. I was impressed with him. (Kiss of death?) I also expressed the worry that there were already too many credible Republican candidates who planned to challenge Cawthorn. They will divide the vote and allow Cawthorn to survive.

Eric Batchelor just dropped out, evidently agreeing with me: