Wednesday, March 09, 2022

When Your Governor Breaks Your Best China


Kirk deViere

Last Sunday, I asked -- sincerely -- what Democratic state Senator Kirk deViere had done to warrant a primary challenge from two other Democrats.

Yesterday, at least part of the answer seemed to arrive in Governor Roy Cooper's endorsement of one of deViere's rivals, Val Applewhite. Whaaa? A sitting Democratic governor gets himself publicly involved in a Democratic primary by sticking a stiletto between the ribs of a sitting Democratic state senator. I know this sort of thing goes on all the time behind the scenes, but Cooper decided to go public. Val Applewhite was only too happy to publish the endorsement on her Twitter feed.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan attempts to unpack the politics behind this surprise development (posted to the News and Observer last night). The implications point to deViere's willingness to agree with Senate Republicans on some budget issues, particularly on expanding Medicaid and school funding, and those are precisely the two issues Cooper highlighted in his endorsement of Applewhite: "I need legislators who will expand Medicaid [and] pay teachers more...." DeViere's appointment to the Republican budget conference committee, which put him in direct negotiation with the governor's office, may have triggered the governor's spite.

I don't know. (But reading between the lines, deViere might be the type of "moderate" Democrat I'd be loath to support too, all things being equal, which they aren't.)

Val Applewhite

WRAL reporter Travis Fain says he asked Val Applewhite when she filed to run whether she'd been recruited by the governor to challenge deViere: "No, she said. Morgan Jackson, a key Cooper political strategist, said the same." Judging from Applewhite's campaign infrastructure, which is de minimis (no website, nothing on Twitter except the governor's endorsement), I'm inclined to believe she wasn't recruited and also wasn't really ready to capitalize on the endorsement. She looks like a total novice from this distance, hardly ready for primetime.

Applewhite and deViere are old rivals for the mayorship of Fayetteville, so there's probably a lot more history between them than meets the eye. Whatever. Governor Cooper has chosen to violate the accepted etiquette for staying the hell out of Democratic primaries, and I'm sorry for that.

Who benefits most from this? Wesley Meredith, the Republican deViere narrowly beat for the Senate seat in 2018. Meredith is running again. He has his own primary but will likely win it, and he can't wait to capitalize on the squabble among the Democrats.

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