Tuesday, November 30, 2021

In My Texas Hometown, the Methodists Were the Liberals


The Sunday morning after [the pastor explained she opposed gay marriage], a pair of women were seen pouring a thick perimeter of salt around the church storefront....

--Sarah Edwards, "What Happens When a Non-LGBTQ+ Church Comes to a Particularly Queer Part of Durham?" 

Pouring a ring of salt around a church entrance? That's an ancient ritual to block the passage of an evil spirit. The ladies of the church who poured the salt ring evidently felt they were threatened by the evil spirits around them. This actually happened recently in Durham, at the intersection of Geer Street and Rigsbee Avenue, the former location of a motor and auto parts business and the new, sparkling Art Deco location of Pioneers Durham, a church affiliated with the United Methodists (UMC) and financially supported by something called the Affiliation of Related Churches (ARC). The official doctrinal stance of both the UMC and of the ARC happens to be anti-gay marriage. Period. So Pioneers Durham -- and its related businesses, of which there are many (including a coffee house catering to GenZ) -- has become controversial in a part of Durham which is, according to LGBTQ+ activists, one of the most queer in the state. 

About that folklore barrier for demons, according to Sarah Edwards, "The salt lingered for several days afterward."

The church -- and its woman pastor, Sherei Lopez Jackson -- are merely following current UMC and ARC doctrine regarding marriage. Both orgs say church-sanctioned marriage will be only between one man and one woman, though various individual UMC churches, including ones in Durham, are defying the doctrine. "In January 2020, Duke Memorial lead pastor Heather Rodrigues took historic action when she stood alongside 11 other UMC pastors and married Durham residents Caleb Parker and Thomas Phillips, who became the first gay couple to be married in the history of the 112-year-old Duke Memorial." There's actually an irrevocable split in the UMC underway, likely to consummate at the 2022 General Conference when the larger church is expected to split into two factions: a conservative wing (with which Pioneers Durham looks likely to affiliate) and another that affirms LGBTQ+ congregations.

I read Sarah Edwards' article carefully. Pastor Lopez Jackson is no Mark Robinson, nor anything even in that neighborhood of intolerant Christianity. She's actually a crusader of sorts for women's rights. She says she wanted ordination in the UMC because they accept women preachers, and her ideas for using the Pioneers Durham property off-hours to stimulate and nurture local small business enterprises, especially among black women, seems totally cool. And her get-to-know video compells sympathy:

But in Edwards' article she's weirdly evasive about the "homophobic" label:

“I hope to teach and create conversation around sexual formation with humility, listening, and compassion towards the ways that this interpretation has caused deep harm,” Lopez Jackson wrote. “Our leaders commit to listening, apologizing when necessary, and continually growing in love, kindness and healthy relationships. We commit to surrounding ourselves with voices unlike our own, so that we might be better spiritual friends to Durham.”

That is a form of gobbledygook which I learned to despise when I was an academic. What, pray tell, does "sexual formation" mean? That obfuscating locution, along with those great big empty generalizations like "humility, listening, and compassion," which she drops like chocolate-covered cheeries of distraction -- really say nothing at all. Who talks this way?

Plus there is that salt ring thing.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Flickrs of Democrats Running in the 14th CD Primary in March


I'm shopping -- along with most other Democrats and progressive-minded independents -- for the best (winnable) candidate to support in the March 2022 Democratic primary for the Congressional seat in the new District 14. 

I gravitate to video biographies. Tight, condensed, seeringly honest often, sometimes cleverly manipulative (even when it doesn't realize it). I like steely forthrightness but I also don't mind a little manipulation, and let's face it, winning voters over takes a special intelligence for shaping attitudes and expectations. An effective public performance stops time. So I probably make way too many judgments based on appearance (body language, speech, eye contact, the overall narrative), but that's what it's come down to. Assuming all other factors about a candidate's philosophy are basically even, it want to see the pitch. (I'm a shallow person.)

Below is a first collection of candidate videos from the Democratic side of the 14th CD. All were made before the new congressional maps landed (so you'll hear mention of "District 11"), back when we all couldn't wait to run against Madison Cawthorn of lasting memory. But Cawthorn is gone to the new 11th CD. The Republicans will nominate someone else on their side, someone comparably bad probably (in the manner of the new GOP -- tears for Wendy Nevarez!), and with the numbers/demographics tilted in their favor, the Democratic standard-bearer has got to be dynamic. Cawthorn's chosen GOP successor who wins their primary can't just waltz in, especially if they prove uninspiring to the neo-Confederates who loved Madison. 

Some announced Democratic candidates don't (yet) have videos, or I couldn't find them. And very possibly there'll be additional Democrats whom we've not heard of yet filing after Dec. 6th. We'll follow up with additional moving pitchers as they become available and as we approach March 8th.

If you watch at all you should watch to the end of each video. These pieces of art take money and time to produce. That deserves some respect.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Deanna Ballard Watch


Saw this headline in the High Country Press the morning after Thanksgiving, just in time for giving thanks: "Sen. Deanna Ballard Secures Critical Improvements for District 45." I immediately said out loud, "Oh she's definitely running for something."

To recap: She's double-bunked with Sen. Ralph Hise in what used to be her NC Senate District. What will she do? What will Hise do? (Hise is rumored to be considering running for the congressional seat -- CD14 -- as is Ballard.) Putting out an eye-grabbing press release like the one referenced above is evidence of a politician who intends to be noticed and of a comms team honed for the main chance.

The story in the High Country Press lists all kinds of special budgetary grants aimed at projects in Watauga and the other counties in Ballard's 45th Senate district, and I have no inside poop nor any reason to doubt the worthiness of any of those grants. I tend to support government funding of community-based projects, so good on Deanna Ballard. I do note that AppState is singled out for some $122 million, and I'm sure they can use it.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Who in the #NCGA Wants To Overthrow the Constitution of the US?


Quoting the lede by Will Doran and Brian Murphy: "More than 30 Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina and South Carolina signed onto a new letter that backs false claims about the 2020 elections and pushes for the whole country to copy a widely discredited type of election audit that Arizona recently attempted. The letter goes on to suggest that the 2020 election results should be overturned and Democratic President Joe Biden ousted from office" (emphasis added).

Three North Carolina state senators and 13 members of the NC House signed the letter. The list was first published on Twitter by Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers (who apparently wrote the letter and solicited the signatures).

Here's the list of these North Carolina notables who are still more than willing to please Trump and overturn the 2020 election by fiat:

Sen. Ted Alexander -- from Cleveland County. He ran for US Senate in 2014

Sen. Wayne Sasser -- Stanley County pharmacist

Sen. Bob Steinburg
Sen. Bob Steinburg -- representing a coastal district. Shortly after January 6th, Steinburg made waves declaring that Trump should declare martial law, suspend habeas corpus, and start rounding up his enemies, the people of the Deep State who were supposedly stealing the presidency from Trump, including, by the way, Chief Justice John Roberts. "Let’s take a look at [him]," Steinburg told WRAL. "Somebody's got something" on Roberts and, as evidence, Steinburg averred that "a lot of retired FBI and CIA agents live in his district and have told him so."

Rep. Jay Adams -- from Catawba County

Rep. Mike Clampitt -- from Bryson City. Outed in October as secretly a member of Oath Keepers

Rep. Edward Goodwin -- represents a coastal district

Rep. Bobby Hanig -- from the coastal region. Hanig was part of the vigilante posse of NC House members who put the Durham County Board of Elections on notice in October 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.

Rep. Kelly Hastings -- represents Cleveland and Gaston counties

Rep. Keith Kidwell -- He leads the far-right House Freedom Caucus whose members include nearly half of the Republicans in that chamber, and which has been pushing unsuccessfully to inspect the innards of North Carolina voting equipment because he knows there was fraud somewhere if he could just find it.

Rep. Donnie Loftis
Rep. Donnie Loftis -- recently appointed to his Gaston County seat. He was at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, although he hasn’t been charged with any crimes related to that day. Loftis initially wrote on social media that he “got gassed three times and was at the entrance when they breached the door,” the News & Observer reported, but later told WRAL-TV that “I had absolutely zero involvement in the rioting and categorically condemn the storming of our Capitol building that day.”

Rep. Jeff McNeely -- from Iredell Couny. He was the leader of the posse of Freedom Caucus members who threatened to force they way into the Durham County elections office in October.

Rep. Tim Moffitt -- active member of ALEC who represents Hendersonville and who in 2012 introduced a bill to seize Asheville's water system for private profit

Rep. Larry Pittman -- of course he did!

Rep. Michael Setzer -- from Catawba County

Rep. Harry Warren -- from Rowan County 

Rep. Sam Watford -- from Davidson County

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Who Wants This on Our Supreme Court?


This sterling example of judicial temperament is running as a Republican in next year's North Carolina Supreme Court race ... Judge April Wood. She was just elected in 2020 to a seat on the NC Court of Appeals, the second highest court in the state.

Today, she's made herself infamous for associating herself with Lt. Guv Mark Robinson's recent bigoted rant in Winston-Salem. Here's Carolina Forward's poster on that unfortunate event:

In what century would I want this person on our highest court? In no century, no way, no how.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

What's the Matter with Deanna Ballard?


Word filtering out of Raleigh -- and by "filtering" I mean strained and adulterated before it reaches these nether regions of the state -- authoritative word is that Sen. Ralph Hise drew Sen. Deanna Ballard into the new 47th NC Senate District, double-bunking her with him, because she's not won the esteem of Phil Berger and his boys (of which Ralph Hise is one). Deanna Ballard -- not always a team player with Berger and the boys? Surprised. But okay, yeah, maybe. (I'm fresh out of guesses why she may have fallen from grace; hoping someone will enlighten me.) I confess that I've never thought of Ballard, the recruit and employee of Franklin Graham, as having an appreciable ounce of independence. But because I'm a liberal Democrat, I'm prepared to accept the strangest things.

Opinions up here in the nether regions think it likely she's going to announce for the new 14th Congressional District -- take that! Phil Berger -- and that if she does announce, she'll instantly be the frontrunner among the Republicans and that she will sweep both the Republican primary and the general election against Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who the smart money sez will be the Democratic nominee.

I don't know about any of that, but I pay attention to opinions coming from old hands in North Carolina politics. As a congressional candidate, Deanna Ballard is going to be new to most of that district (except for Watauga and Avery), and most of the Republican primary voters in the old 11th CD have been enthralled by the mad masculinity of petulant Madison Cawthorn, and they may not immediately take to Ballard's much softer presentation of politics.

In a congressional race, Ballard's main rival might be Bruce O'Connell, who's busily trying to don the Cawthorn mantle after being a potential rival in the Republican primary. O'Connell literally twisted himself into the frame to get photographed with Cawthorn, who does not look fizzy to be symbolically blessing the candidacy of the man who had recently set out to beat him out of his gravy train.

If Sen. Chuck Edwards from Henderson County decides to run -- who's been prominently mentioned as considering the race -- that will necessarily complicate things further. We don't know what's going to happen, but plenty of other people think they do.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Human Cost of a New Map


You should already know that Democratic Congressman G.K. Butterfield, who's served in the US House representing the (old) CD1 since the election of 2004, saw his residence moved into the new 2nd, which he recognized would be next to impossible for a Democrat to win. So he's retiring. “North Carolina is the battleground,” Butterfield told The N&O Friday. “I’ve looked at all of this and weighed all of the circumstances and I’ve just decided that I don’t want to run on that map that is gerrymandered. That is unfair ... This map is the most partisan and racially gerrymandered I have ever seen. It is extreme. Every political party pushes the envelope a little with redistricting but this is extreme to have 11 Republican seats out of 14. On a good day 10 out of 14 seats is unlawful, unconstitutional and undemocratic,” Butterfield said.

Meanwhile, former state Sen. Erica Smith, who lost the US Senate primary to Cal Cunningham in 2020 and was an announced candidate again for the Richard Burr Senate seat in 2022, has left the Senate race to run in the new 2nd CD. She wasn't getting any traction in the Senate race. Maybe she can flip what has become a much more Republican district. DavesRedistricting.org scores it 65% Republican, 33% Democratic, and 68.8% white.

Democratic candidate Richard Watkins, a political novice but an accomplished scientist, has also left the US Senate race, where he was completely overshadowed by Cheri Beasley and Jeff Jackson, and says he will now run for Congress in the new 6th CD, where the dean of liberal Democrats David Price has announced his retirement. The new 6th is one of the "safe" Democratic districts, where there's already a pile-on of new candidates. State Sen. Wiley Nickel announced first, followed by Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, a Muslim woman who made a big splash, followed by state Sen. Valerie Foushee, who instantly became a front-runner.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican who has been getting nowhere in the Republican primary for Richard Burr's Senate seat (despite or because of the endorsement by Madison Cawthorn), is rumored to be launching a 7th District race, where state Rep. Jon Hardister, also a Republican, is also considering a run. That's the district where football star and Yale graduate Bo Hines ("the educated Madison Cawthorn"), who once upon a time in the recent past said he was going to challenge Virginia Foxx, has finally landed his nascent congressional campaign. He's a Trumper. The new 7th CD is 78% Republican.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Are You Not Rejuvenated, 14th CD?


So yesterday, and on cue, the relocated-from-Detroit Michele Woodhouse, the Republican chair of the old 11th Congressional district, announced her candidacy for Madison Cawthorn's seat. She had scrubbed her social media of certain histories, but they were going to emerge anyway:

This was her business. "Vaginal rejuvenation." Is that a thing? I would Google, but I'm afraid to.

Anyway, there was some stout pushback from fellow Republicans in the district, apparently resentful that Michele Woodhouse had been scheming for some time to keep the lane open for herself. The following posted by a Cherokee County Republican activist:

Who else isn't happy? Bruce O'Connell, one of the three Republicans already announced for the Cawthorn seat (and the most conservative of the three). O'Connell said the announcement prompted him to speak out. "He described several months of overt and indirect pressure from Woodhouse to drop out of the race for District 14, previously District 11. 'Ms. Woodhouse used a number of tactics to discourage my candidacy for this office, including "blacklisting" me and other candidates from speaking at GOP events,' " O'Connell said. As GOP district chairperson, Woodhouse was obligated to be fair and impartial and to encourage a robust political environment embracing all GOP candidates, he said. Instead her tactics of repressing contenders could well have violated ethical standards.

Oh Cawthorn! You've caused a massive pileup of bad juju on the Republican candidate fast-track.

Tim Moore, Surprised


News and Observer reporter Brian Murphy got Tim Moore to admit he was taken completely by surprise by Madison Cawthorn's hopping into his drawn-by-design 13th Congressional district: “It did surprise me that someone would move from another area, move into another district that they didn’t live in to try and represent it, but I’ll let the voters of that district decide that."

Not "I'm willing to run and let the voters of that district decide." No. It's "I'll let the voters decide" while I tuck tail and let the little prick tromp all over my plans.

Brian Murphy got this interesting admission out of Sen. Ralph Hise, the main Republican map-drawer, who said the districts may have been slightly different had state lawmakers known Cawthorn was going to run in a different district. The map carves out a small portion of Watauga County where Rep. Virginia Foxx lives so as to avoid putting the two Republicans in the same district. 

“It [Cawthorn's jump] was completely unexpected. I don’t necessarily know, other than maybe three or four days beforehand, anybody who had any inclination that that was a consideration,” Hise said. 

A couple of days ago, Dallas Woodhouse, the mouth of the Republican establishment in North Carolina, put a beating on Cawthorn in the pages of Art Pope's Carolina Journal. How dare that whippersnapper, growled Woodhouse, call Tim Moore "another establishment, go-along-to-get-along Republican," when it's a proven fact that Moore has done more damage to progressivism the poor citizens of the state than several back-to-back Cat 5 hurricanes.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Madison Cawthorn Picks His Own Successor in NC14


Twitter buzzing this morning that Michele Woodhouse will step down as chair of the 11th (now the 14th) District GOP to run for the Madison Cawthorn seat.

Judge Bob Orr may have been the first with the news.

Chris Cooper points out that Cawthorn donated $1,000 to the Michele Woodhouse committee back in August. Hmmm.

Woodhouse is from Detroit and was somewhat famous for a Facebook presence, "Vagina Road Warrior."

Vagina Road Warrior has disappeared from Facebook. Is Woodhouse scrubbing her social media? Probably a good idea.

Woodhouse already has a campaign website. She's a gin-you-wine Trumper, you bet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Republicans in the Primary With Madison Cawthorn


My curiosity remains boundless, so how could I resist taking a look at the Republicans -- Republicans -- who have announced they'll be running in the new NC Congressional District 13, where Madison Cawthorn has also pitched his tent carpetbag. Would any of these have a chance of beating Cawthorn in the primary?

Karen Bentley, Huntersville

A former Mecklenburg County commissioner for four terms, who after a career as a health-care executive started her own consulting firm, the Bentley Consulting Group. "My career background is in healthcare sales and operations," she writes on Linked In. Her profile on Executive Women of Lake Norman lists an "impressive track record of sales success with a Fortune 100 [sic] pharmaceutical company, building and leading teams in the complex direct patient care healthcare space, and her exemplary record of serving her community through elected office." 

She has no website (yet). But her Twitter feed fascinates me. Though she gives off a queen bee, country club Republican vibe, she shouts "FREEDOM" and "LIBERTY" like another Majorie Taylor Greene. (I now completely understand those words to mean "no masks, no vaccines" to any Republican candidate.) Without naming him, Bentley applied the term "political opportunist" to Cawthorn. She's apparently polling in the district to test her name recognition with the voters.

Here's a thing: She announced on Twitter on November 11th, just hours before Cawthorn surprised everyone with his jump to the 13th and while Tim Moore was still presumably the heir designate for the seat. So it says something about her willingness to take on power that she was actually in effect challenging the most powerful Republican in the NC House to a duel. But was it because she thinks he's too moderate?

I'm a little puzzled about this candidate's core political identity. There's no mention of Trump or stolen elections but there's also no human warmth anywhere in evidence. She filed her statement of candidacy with the FEC on Nov. 5th.

Tyler Lee, Charlotte

He's a very successful house-flipper "Charlotte real estate investor" and a graduate of Liberty University (degree in business marketing). He's on the far Christian right ("FAITH" and "FREEDOM"), and though he looks almost as young as Cawthorn, he's a bit older, with more real-world experience. Plus he's at least educated, as far as it went. His issues are an Easter basket full of the standard right wing zygotes: It's all "good versus evil" with one big new evil stalking our fragile white children -- Critical Race Theory. "Big Tech" is censoring us. "I'm gwine to Back the Blue!" Mask mandates bad, vaccine mandates bad, and I'll never again allow government to shut down our churches for a plague. Et cetera.

At his well-staged announcement rally, and without ever mentioning DJT by name, Lee deliberately invoked the presence of his other god Trump by declaring "the carnage stops here" (echoing the famous line from Trump's Inaugural) and proclaiming himself a soldier of "stop the steal." In the future we must enforce election integrity with a mandatory voter photo ID (because so many thousands impersonate other people at the polls every year? Is that what you're alleging?). In that same announcement video, he's downright creepy about women's bodies and how he's personally going to put a stop to abortions. "God has been preparing me!" Not only that, but God is according to him a full-on political partisan: We have a secret weapon the other side doesn't have, he declares: God's on our side!

More on the candidate at votetylerlee.com.

That "announcement rally" actually occurred last May, when so much subsequent drama had not yet happened. The 13th CD was at that time occupied by Ted Budd, who had announced that he'd be giving up the seat to run for the US Senate. The location of the new 13th wasn't known then, along with so much else. So Tyler Lee was planning to make a splash as "the future of the Republican Party" -- same label they pinned on Cawthorn -- but maybe have an open field to run in. Now Tyler Lee is going to look like a kind of copy-cat Madison Cawthorn -- same age, same political philosophy, same instinct to bully and take no prisoners. Good luck with that!

Richard Speer, Charlotte

A security specialist who's worked evaluating physical site security in the nuclear industry and for Duke Energy for six years and currently has his own consulting business, Shield Group Initiatives. In 2012, Speer challenged unsuccessfully fellow Republican Renee Ellmers in the 2nd CD Republican primary. He got 29% of the vote to her 55%.

I can't find a website nor a Twitter account. He hasn't filed an intent to run yet with the FEC but the NewsAndObserver listed him as a candidate.

Several more Republicans have expressed an interest in running -- including another Cawthorn-lite, Bo Hines, who's been district-shopping for months. He 1st announced his intention of challenging Virginia Foxx in the 5th way back last January, then decided by May that with Ted Budd stepping down in the 13th to run for the Senate, maybe it would be a better Republican move to run for an open seat. Now his website says he's running in the 7th. Ballotpedia still lists him as once or future candidate in the 13th, along with a bunch of other Republican names. We'll see presently what shakes out.

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Democrat Who Threatens Madison Cawthorn


A warning from the managers: JWW gets excited about stuff like this. It's a fatal flaw. We know it, and JWW knows it. Because disappointment is inevitable. We put up with his many excitements, especially approaching a General Election, because we sympathize. People eat up with politics need excitement. The excitement of possibilities generates the raw energy necessary for long marches. Plus JWW is into watching candidate videos.

Just take two minutes to know the Democrat who's announced he's running for Congress in the 13th CD, the same district that Congressman Madison Cawthorn carpetbagged himself into last week, to wreck Tim Moore's lemonade stand:

Josh Remillard. That's the Democrat willing to take it to Madison Cawthorn in his new little supposedly safe fiefdom. Remillard -- if he can raise some money -- could inspire excitement in the new 13th, which is supposed to be one of the most Republican districts among all the new districts, a "safe Republican seat." Josh Remillard could at least complicate that smug expectation. A real soldier, with character, integrity, loyalty, kindness -- vs. a toy-boy (who likes to cartoonishly flaunt his supposedly "monster" masculinity). This could be the Iron John political cage-match of 2022.

And good move on Remillard's part. He had already -- since last March -- been running in a crowded Democratic field for the new 14th CD. But what was getting lost about him in that scrum of other Democratic candidates suddenly shines like a beacon in the 13th. (Remillard also ran for Chuck McGrady's old NC House seat in 2020. The Republican Tim Moffitt beat him with 60% of the vote. In other words, Remillard is battle hardened but still charging. WatWatch was enthusiastic about Remillard in January 2020.)

Pacifistic (genteel) Democrats who condemn the Republicans for their violent battle memes and who don't want the Democrats to take a similar gun to a gunfight, may not like that Remillard is actually in a very real sense acting the Army Ranger, an aggressive soldier-guardian doggedly stalking a threat to democracy. That target is already spooked. He just ran away from a different fight in his own district, afraid he might lose his reelection. Never mind. Remillard tracks him. Our Army combat veteran has a quarry, and he ain't giving up the hunt. Meanwhile, the over-exposed 26-year-old "traitor, fraud, and coward" can mull his own human possibilities.

Remillard's website is here, where you can donate to his campaign.

Friday, November 12, 2021

The New 87th NC House District


Who's the Biggest Wuss in the Universe?


Madison Cawthorn had announced just hours earlier that he was going to talk over with his wife this weekend the plan to steal a custom-drawn congressional district from the man it was drawn for, and he'd have an announcement on Monday. But Cawthorn didn't wait. He announced last night that he was abandoning his 14th CD to run in the 13th CD, the territory carved out to satisfy the ambitions of NC House Speaker Tim Moore.

Cawthorn did not mention Moore by name, but he said he was worried about an “establishment” Republican prevailing in the 13th district if he did not run. “Knowing the political realities of the 13th district, I am afraid that another establishment, go-along to get-along Republican would prevail there. I will not let that happen.”

Brave guy! Throwing himself on that live grenade to save North Carolina from the Republican establishment.

Or make that "Republican lawn chair," because seconds later following Cawthorn's announcement, Tim Moore folded. And slunk away. Said running the NC House was plenty good enough for him.

But Who's the 2nd Biggest Wuss?

That would be Madison Cawthorn, whose old CD had become increasingly uncomfortable for him, especially with the addition of Watauga County to his district. He was facing a fierce Republican primary and an even fiercer general election next year. So he bailed and scared the liver out of an even more cowardly politician.

Former Republican House member Charles Jeter saw the obviousness of Cawthorn's opportunism and tweeted, "@RepCawthorn isn’t choosing to run in the 13 because he’s worried about the 'GOP establishment'. He’s running in 13 because it’s easier for him to win the general. This isn’t a noble effort. This is ambitious cowardice at its worst. He’s an embarrassment that we need to defeat."

Let's hear it for establishment Republicans who can still recognize a poltroon.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Republican Dominoes, in Real Time


Former Republican state party chair and news reporter for the Carolina Journal, Dallas Woodhouse -- whose sources inside NC conservative circles must be legion -- broke the news that Congressman Madison Cawthorn was thinking of running in the adjacent 13th District rather than in his own 14th. Cawthorn said it would make North Carolina more conservative. He also said that Donald Trump fully supports the idea. He's talking it over with his wife this weekend and will get back to us on Monday. (My own confidence in this rumor is pretty much nil, but it's a welcome diversion on a Thursday.)

If that actually happened, O! O! O! the dominoes would begin falling. The 13th CD -- by all accounts -- was carved out explicitly to enable NC House Speaker Tim Moore to move his mahogany butt from Raleigh to DeeCee and to have a safe seat thereafter for as long as the grass is green or as long as it takes the rainmaker Moore to become sufficiently richer. He's not happy about Cawthorn's prospecting on his stake. And I bet he's on the phone right now.

Side note: Didn't know this. North Carolina needs to be more conservative, and Donald Trump agrees that Tim Moore needs to be eliminated. Interesting. I wouldn't think Trump would have a clue who Tim Moore is.

'Nother side note: If you're into state politics, what would be greater entertainment than Tim Moore's having Madison Cawthorn as a primary opponent? Two grifters -- of greatly differing ages and understanding -- enter. One grifter leaves.

Here's the new map: 

The other dominoes: If Cawthorn left the 14th open, three more Republican wannabes (Ralph Hise, Deanna Ballard, and Chuck Edwards) would also reportedly be making a decision about getting into the Republican primary (which already has three announced candidates -- see below). I first saw those new names on Dallas Woodhouse's Twitter

Edwards, like Ballard and Hise, is currently an NC state senator. His senate district 48 includes the heart of the new 14th -- Buncombe and Henderson counties. Edwards was appointed late in 2016 to replace the retiring Tom Apodaca, then won on his own in November 2016, ran for reelection in 2018 and got 56% of the vote, won again last year with almost 59%. He seems like a contender. Maybe stronger than Ralph Hise. Indubitably stronger than Deanna Ballard.

We have to leave for a later episode why Hise, head of the NC Senate redistricting committee, drew himself and Deanna Ballard into the same NC Senate district. Double-bunking of incumbents is usually received as a slap in the face ("someone wants to get rid of me"), is never welcome. Perhaps Hise and/or Ballard already had plans for a change in career, so maybe it's no biggie.


The 3 Republicans Already in the Race

Wendy Nevarez, ex-military and a moderate.

Bruce O'Connell, who came out with a boilerplate conservative "Contract" with the voters, making him look old and uninspiring. He runs the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Rod Honeycutt, also as dull as yesterday morning's dishwater, but he has been the most direct in attacking Cawthorn: "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" (quoted on WataugaWatch).

Monday, November 08, 2021

Even Senators Burr and Tillis Joined Democrats in Helping North Carolina


Taken from Jane Porter's IndyWeek newsletter this morning:

Late Friday night, Congress passed a massive infrastructure and jobs plan that's been in the works almost as long as Joe Biden has been president. Supported by both Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr (and all five North Carolina congressional Democrats, but none of our state's Republicans in the House), the bill will bring $9 billion in federal investment to North Carolina over the next five years.

Here's what North Carolina will get, according to estimates from the White House:

Roads and Bridges

$7.2 billion for highway programs + $457 million for bridge replacements and repairs (North Carolina has 1,460 bridges and more than 3,110 miles of highway in poor condition, per a 2020 Federal Highway Administration report)

Public Transportation and Electric Vehicle Charging

$911 million to improve public transportation options

$109 million to expand the state's electric vehicle charging network plus North Carolina can apply for some $2.5 billion in grants available in the bill for EV charging infrastructure

Broadband Internet

$100 million to provide broadband to more than 400,000 North Carolinians who lack access to broadband coverage. At least 1.1 million households in N.C. lack high speed internet access and most counties in the state have less than 65 percent broadband availability, according to the N&O.

Who Voted Against This Direct Help to North Carolina?

 Both Madison Cawthorn and Virginia Foxx, those sterling representatives of "the people."


Sunday, November 07, 2021

Be Happy! Watauga in the New 14th CD


Except for Virginia Foxx's residential precinct, the rest of Watauga County is now the northernmost chunk of the new 14th Congressional District, and the blue voters here make everything better for every Democrat south of us. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project rates the district with a 46.13% Democratic vote share and a 53.69% Republican share. Those are numbers any congressional candidate, especially any candidate running against the likes of Madison Cawthorn, should be able to work with and build on.

Here are the Democratic candidates (alpha order) that I know about, with more probably arriving presently:

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D)

Jay Carey (D)

Katie Dean (D)

Eric Gash (D)

Bo Hess (D)

Josh Remillard (D)

Brooker Smith (D)

Chelsea White (D)

Two days ago on Twitter, Dr. Steve Woodsmall, retired USAF major and a former Democratic primary candidate in both 2018 and in 2020 for the 11th CD nomination, made an announcement in reaction to more juvenilia from Cawthorn (Cawthorn had threatened anyone who opposed him with violent retribution):

This is the last straw. I am now ready to run against this lowlife little twerp but since a Dem can’t win here I will run unaffiliated IF y’all can help me get the 9400 petition signatures to get on the ballot!

After his primary loss to the 2020 Democratic congressional candidate Moe Davis, Woodsmall left the party and has seemed bitter about it. In 2018, I profiled Woodsmall here with his primary opponents. In 2020, I did it again here.

So far as Woodsmall's opinion that "a Dem can't win here," I reject that, especially when the opponent is a juicy spectacle like Madison Cawthorn. Adult Republicans are also sick of his immaturity and preening self-regard, and the right candidate from the list above could rally the Dems and the Unaffiliated to beat him. Not, however (probably), if there's a third candidate draining away the independents.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Watauga Chopped Up in New NC House District Map


Above, NC House districts for the next decade -- barring judicial interference. This map overall graded F by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. The opinion of Watauga voters in Blue Ridge and Elk precincts -- unprintable in a G-rated blog. Blue Ridge and Elk precincts have been added to the 87th House District, which is mainly Caldwell County where Destin Hall holds the seat. Hall, incidentally, is the Republican chair of the House redistricting committee, and he drew the map.

Blowing Rock precinct is left in House District 93, which means that Ray Pickett was allowed to keep his district. District 93 also now includes Allegheny County. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project rates the partisan divide 41.68% Democratic to 58.22% Republican.

This map and the NC Senate map are not targets of the law suit filed yesterday in Wake County. That legal challenge will move forward in state courts, beginning with a three-judge panel to be appointed by Chief Justice Paul Newby. The suit complains only about the 14 US congressional districts (which also chops up Watauga so that Congresswoman Virginia Foxx can be rid of most of us Wataugans while retaining the core of her red district). Surely there will follow suits against the NC House and NC Senate redistricting.

Friday, November 05, 2021

Deanna Ballard, Double-Bunked with Ralph Hise in the New 47th Senate District


Here's the new map for the 50 NC Senate seats. Watauga is entirely within the new 47th District. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the whole map an F for "partisan fairness." Dist. 47 will have a Democratic vote share of 36.77% against the Republican share of 63.23%.

Interestingly, Sen. Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine, the Republican head of the redistricting committee, drew himself and Sen. Deanna Ballard into the same district. I suspect that Ballard is now toast, if she decides to challenge Hise in the 2022 primaries.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

It All Comes Down to Sheri Everts

Last Wednesday, Oct. 27th, some ambitious faculty members at Appalachian State University -- alarmed by the chancellor's governing style and her administration's evident ambition to bend town government to the maximum benefit of ASU -- invited everyone from the university and everyone from the non-university community to come to a town hall in the county library and air both grievances and potential solutions for a major university's tendency to eat the town of Boone. The town hall was organized by ClimAct, a student environmental club, and the Appalachian State chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Clark Maddux, American Studies specialist, presided.

Today the High Country Press published both a detailed account of the town hall and a response to the criticism submitted by Megan Hayes, Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Communications Officer for ASU -- Chancellor Sheri Everts' flack. You have to scroll way down for Hayes's answer to the townhall, though you may end up wondering why she would have taken the time for thispablum-stained wallpaper about how Chancellor Everts has lots of meetings with lots of university groups. And she'll keep on meeting.

In that same High Country Press article, and following Megan Hayes's non-answer to the mounting criticism, Clark Maddux answers Hayes:

“Whenever any faculty member, or group of faculty members, decides that we are going to do anything that could appear faintly critical of the chancellor, the Board of Trustees or the Board of Governors, we ask ourselves, do we need to hire a lawyer? And what is she or what is the board going to do in retaliation? That says a lot about the environment that she creates … She’s had six years to become a partner with this community. And all of the so-called conversations and listening sessions and programs that she holds have clearly not done that. She has not created a partnership with this community. And so I think it’s up to faculty who care about the community to do that.”

An environment of retaliation

I know faculty members who are visibly squeamish about any show of political thought -- even bumperstickers on their cars, or receiving email from hell-raisers like me. They often express outright fear that the administration will notice and come down on them. While well known members of the Board of Trustees feel perfectly free to strut their political stuff.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

The Berger Dominion

So there's a watershed legal case testing a judge's duty for recusal currently in the hands of the North Carolina Supreme Court, and here's where it started:

2018 -- Republican majorities in the General Assembly, led by Phil Berger and Tim Moore, put two ballot initiatives to the voters, who passed them -- a mandate for a voter photo ID and a constitutional cap on state income taxes. (The GOP's previous attempt to impose voter photo IDs had been ruled unconstitutional.)

2019 -- A North Carolina trial judge strikes down the amendments, declaring that since many legislators were illegitimately elected from what were previously declared as racially biased districts, they lacked the power to put the questions on the ballot.

2020 -- NC Court of Appeals overturns that trial court decision, and the case gets appealed to the NC Supreme Court.

Phil Berger Jr. 
August 2021 -- Supreme Court schedules arguments by opposing sides but pauses the proceedings after the NAACP requests that justices Phil Berger Jr. and Tamara Barringer recuse themselves from hearing the case. The reasons for recusal: Berger is the son of one of the defendants and Barringer voted for passage of the amendments as an NC senator.

30 Seconds Later -- NCGOP begins howling about a Democratic power grab at the Court.
“The attempt to disqualify them from hearing cases the voters elected them to hear is a subversion of the will of the people and an insult to every informed voter,” said House Speaker Tim Moore, who is also named as a defendant in the NAACP lawsuit.

October 2021 -- A majority of the Supreme Court votes to take the issue seriously -- should Berger and Barringer recuse themselves or be forcibly recused? The Court is 4 Ds to 3 Rs, so over the strenuous dissents by the Republican minority, the Democratic majority decides to halt proceedings until briefs can be submitted by both sides addressing 20 questions about judicial recusal, especially this one: “Does this court have the authority to require the involuntary recusal of a justice who does not believe that self-recusal is appropriate?” Those legal briefs were due at the court this week.

According to the Associated Press, that question alone suggests that one, or both (Berger and Barringer), have indicated that they would not recuse themselves. "Neither responded to a request for comment that The Associated Press asked a court spokesperson to pass along to them."

Did the trial judge back in 2019 go way out on a legal limb? I personally wouldn't want to put all my weight on that particular twig, that a legally elected official's acts are illegitimate because the district that elected him was racially biased. He/she was elected and had no control over who made up the electorate.

Phil Berger Sr.
The case for Berger Junior's recusal seems so obvious it hurts my eyes. The state judicial conduct code says judges should disqualify themselves "when asked by a legal party," if they have “personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts” or if the judge’s near-relative is “a party to the proceeding.”

The judicial conduct code requires disqualification even if a near relative can in fact be "impartial and capable of presiding fairly over the matter before them,” NAACP attorney Kym Hunter wrote in July. Berger Junior will for sure never recuse himself. Will his fellow justices let him get away with that and further taint the North Carolina judiciary?

Boone Voters Reject the AppPAC


The Appalachian PAC's chosen candidates got buried last night in Boone's municipal elections. Both Eric Woolridge and Benjamin Ray finished well behind the three Democratic winners in the main contest:

Todd Carter 1,042

Virginia Roseman 1,027

Jon Dalton George 986

Eric Woolridge 531

Benjamin Ray 399

The AppPAC had billed itself as "non-partisan" and went well out of its way to try to live up to that billing by also endorsing Democrat Edie Tugman in the race to fill two unexpired terms. Tugman incidentally rejected the endorsement. The PAC also endorsed Democrat Tim Futrelle for mayor, but he was running unopposed and was going to win anyway.

Looks like a winners' mandate to me.

Todd Carter, Edie Tugman, Tim Futrelle, Jon Dalton George, and Virginia Roseman

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

AppState's Student Newspaper Probes the AppPAC

Ethan Hunt, reporter for The Appalachian newspaper, has up this morning a lengthy, in-depth investigation into the Appalachian PAC and its possible water-carrying for the university. 

It's a little late to be of much utility in this municipal election today, but it's notable for its thoroughness.

Hunt's reporting is also notable for upstaging the Watauga Democrat, a newspaper that might have done the same investigation but didn't. Or at least didn't publish anything, if a reporter there did in fact look into the story of heavy university connections behind some candidates for the BooneTown Council.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Here's the Correct NC Senate Map


Sorry. This proposed Congressional redistricting map supersedes the map posted below.

And some further thoughts on it by Brian Murphy:

Potential new NC districts with incumbents: 
1: Murphy 
2: Butterfield 
3: Rouzer 
4: open 
5: Ross 
6: Price retiring 
7: open 
8: Bishop (tho he lives in 9) 
9: Adams 10: 
11: Foxx/Manning 
12: McHenry 
13: open 
14: Cawthorn

The 13th has obviously been designed for the comfort of NC House Speaker Tim Moore, who wants to pursue prospects in Washington and needs a new seat of power.

A New Congressional District Map--This Could Be Your Future, Watauga

You may have to squint below to see that little finger of crookedness poking up into Watauga County (yellow) from Caldwell (pink). (There's a bigger, better image on the NC Senate redistricting site.) What used to be Virginia Foxx's 5th District gets renumbered as the new CD 11, and most of us in Watauga -- 19 out of 20 precincts -- get combed out of Foxx's fur to be the northern-most pains-in-the-ass in the new 14th CD, which would be mainly Madison Cawthorn's old 11th. (Hello, Madison!)

This map has been officially submitted in the NC Senate by the Republican majority, good Christian gentlemen all. But not to fret, O my Brethren. This map will still face negotiation with the Republican majority in the House, and who knows what we're going to end up with. This map at least represents pretty much a contender in the "how low will they go" sweepstakes. 

As far as the NC Senate Republicans are concerned, and to state the obvious: With this map at least, Virginia Foxx gets to keep the core of her old Fifth District, minus the bulk of Watauga County, which has only rarely even voted for her -- her first race and one other in a total of nine reelection campaigns. Watauga can't stand her.

(NOTE: This version of the NC Senate proposal is according to NC Policy Watch and Lynn Bonner, but the map I see at the link above has a very different Dist. 9, and 10, etc. and so does the Princeton Gerrymanding Project. In both maps, however, the finger they gave Watauga remains.)

You see that little hook of Caldwell pink, right? invading the integrity of Watauga yellow. I haven't seen the precinct-level blowup of that map, but that pink hook shore nuff looks like the Watauga Precinct of Watauga County, where The Foxx makes her home and some of her fortune:

The Watauga Precinct hook looks pretty on the nose for being the same Pink Hook in the top map.

If this is the map that makes it through the approval process, most of Watauga will be in a new district numbered 14. Meanwhile, Foxx -- whose political career we're all very interested in -- will end up with new territory that goes east all the way to Guilford County, takes in the southern quarter of Forsyth, and extends west to Ashe, with that little tickle-finger up Watauga's backside.

If most of us Wataugans end up in the new 14th, I can live with that. According to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, the new district would have a Democratic vote share of 46.31% (vs. 53.69% R), and that's a number someone smart could work with. Plus it would be cool to collaborate with Buncombe.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project graded this map "F" for partisan fairness because it creates 11 Republican and three Democratic districts in a state that has proven more purple than that. The three "solid Democratic" districts in this map would be the new districts 5, 6, and 9, but the 9 of this map -- all three dependent on the majorly urban Wake and Mecklenburg counties.

Sen. Ralph Hise, Republican head of redistricting in the NC Senate from Mitchell County, drew that map. He at least submitted it. A troll drew it.