Friday, April 29, 2022

Demolition of Historic House Rankles Watauga Commish Primary


Turner House before demolition

Eric Plaag, the chair of Boone's Historic Preservation Commission, president of the Watauga County Historical Society, and a noted authority on historic preservation, has published "An Open Letter to County Commissioner Carrington Pertalion," taking her to task for misrepresenting the events leading up to the bulldozing of the Oscar and Suma Hardin House (a.k.a., "the Turner House") for a parking lot.

Plaag quotes Pertalion's answers to a questionnaire from and argues that they are either a mistaken recitation of what led the County Commission to order the burning of the house, or a deliberate obfuscation. Plaag maintains that the county flouted open meeting laws in making its decision to destroy the landmark.

Based on Pertalion's responses to her questionnaire, endorsed Pertalion's opponent, Angela Laws King, in the Democratic primary now underway (which will be concluded on May 17th).

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Surry County GOP Tries To Bully Elections Official


William Keith Senter, chair of the Surry County Republican Party, reportedly threatened the local elections administrator over Trumpist conspiracy theories of election fraud (in a county that Trump carried in 2020 with over 75% of the vote -- no, really). Senter "told elections director Michella Huff that he would ensure she lost her job if she refused his demand to access the county's vote tabulators .... Senter was 'aggressive, threatening, and hostile,' in two meetings with Huff, the state elections board said, citing witness accounts."

(Chair of the Surry Republicans? Their website lists William Keith Senter as the vice-chair, but whatever.)

Senter was evidently egged on in his efforts by "a prominent pro-Trump election conspiracist, Douglas Frank," an Ohio math teacher, who came to Surry County to help Senter intimidate the local elections office. Senter and Frank claimed “there was a 'chip' in the voting machines that pinged a cellular phone tower on Nov. 3, 2020, and somehow influenced election results," the state election board said, calling the claim “fabricated disinformation.”

"Somehow influenced."

How come these bullies never influence any consequences for themselves?

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Right-Wing Attempt To Take Over the School Board


It's happening all over North Carolina let alone the rest of the nation -- the Trumpist movement to take over school boards and hound out "cultural diversity" or diversity of any kind (among other things). It's happening in Watauga County, which is why the School Board primary on May 17 is so crucial (early voting starts on Thursday of this week).

What follows is borrowed from (with permission), an extensive write-up of the issues now boiling inside public education and information on the insurgent right-wing candidates running against the school board incumbents in Watauga. PamsPicks uses lots of embedded links, and I haven't checked all of them to see that they're working, but you can always go to the link above if having trouble.

. . . . . . .

“Where they burn books, at the end they also burn people”
― Heinrich Heine

Welcome to this year’s School Board Culture Wars, where radicalized adults have whipped themselves into a frenzy first over their children’s being required to mask in classrooms during a pandemic and onward now into an assault on LGBTQ+, communities of color, local teachers, school administrators, and anyone else they view as “the other.”

The “non-others” believe they can only define and uplift their own human value by defining and destroying the human value of others. They promote deadly conspiracy theories and sling arrows at anything science-based. They’ve declared wholesale war on public schools. They use social media and fear-mongering to push for laws to ban books that run counter to their righteous view of the world and want to censor teachers or fire them if they dare to push back.

The “non-others” call those who will not walk their straight line and adhere to their world view “woke” as if being culturally “asleep” is far superior (or at least more convenient to their cause). They are co-opted and riled up by dark money, rich donors, and advocacy groups like No Left Turn. They shake with fear and anger about indoctrination from classic books like “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,”and “Of Mice and Men” — in fact any and all books about the stories and lives of “the others.”

“We have culture war battles over school closures, mask mandates, education about race and LGBTQ issues. You’ve got discussions around masks, age-appropriate books, transgender bathrooms, and it drives out discussions about hiring teachers, attracting talent, expending capital investments on infrastructure. We’re distracted from the real issues going on.”

We’ve been here before.

In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan freaked out because they believed recent immigrants to the United states were threatening “traditional American values” by their very presence. It opposed labor unions, immigration, and foreign entanglements such as the League of Nations. But the KKK was especially hostile to blacks, Catholics, and Jewish people.

The Klan exerted significant influence and policed their communities, including local schools:

The John Birch Society followed suit in the 1950s, deciding that if they couldn’t win on the national level to rid the world of so-called Communists, they would go grassroots, including by disrupting school board meetings.

So now here we are again. School board outbursts ending in chaos and threats. School board members in Virginia receiving death threats and protesters in San Diego County pushing their way into a school board meeting and declaring themselves the newly-elected board. Last Fall, nine titles were removed from the libraries of four high schools in Utah’s Canyons School District. Just last year, the Texas Senate voted to remove the requirement in a competing House bill for public school teachers to teach that the Ku Klux Klan is “morally wrong.”

In fact, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom identified 330 incidents of book censorship last fall alone, mostly books about LGBTQ people and race and racism.

The arguments about CRT appear on the surface to take new ground but are specious, and “mirror a 1920s-era assault on teaching evolution in US universities.“ Ramping up that argument while simultaneously advocating for getting back to the basics of “reading, writing and arithmetic,” Florida’s education commissioner just announced that roughly 7 in 10 of the math textbooks that were submitted for students in grades kindergarten through 5th grade would no longer meet State requirements. And Florida Governor DeSantis has taken on Disney because they wouldn’t sign on to his “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which seeks to ban discussion of gender and sexuality among young students.

Watauga County Schools find themselves in the Culture Wars Crosshairs this election season too.

There are 7 candidates running for Watauga County Board of Education in this primary. You may vote for 3.

Three candidates are incumbents (Childers, Fenwick, Ashcraft) and have years of experience in working with Watauga schools both professionally and on a volunteer basis. All three answered the Pam’s Picks questionnaire in full, and all three presented informed and reasoned answers to diverse questions. All three cited their pride that Watauga County schools rank at the top of the heap statewide in student performance and academics. When asked what they thought about banning books about LGBTQ+ lives and/or history books that address racism from the schools, all three cited strong procedures that are already in place to screen proper reading for different ages and that if a parent wishes to excuse his or her child from reading a book that is personally objectionable, a designated alternative is offered.
You can read their responses to the questionnaire in their entirety and unedited here:

Gary Childers

Jay Fenwick

Marshall Ashcraft

The other four candidates (Cole, Cutlip, Hanifan, Kerley) did not respond to the Pam’s Picks questionnaire, but I hunted down what was available about their platforms and have excerpted them below. You can read complete Watauga Board of Education candidate profiles HERE.

According to his website, Cole’s priorities are to fight against “pornography” in High School level books, teachers’ indoctrination of students, “medical freedom,” to insist that local officials release funding for safety that he alleges is being withheld for political reasons, to stop bullying, and for all of us to come together around these issues.

Cutlip has no platform I can find except a flyer that touts “Back to Basics,” Parents’ rights, traditional values, and transparency.

Hanifan makes no bones about her platform and has, in fact, presented her full platform in her “Mama Bear Manual.” She aspires to protect children from harmful (and frequently disguised) indoctrination and school curriculum. She asserts that Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center, various LGBT Activist groups, and Equality NC (among others) are “pumping” harmful curriculum into school children. She believes that teachers are trained to discuss and promote sexual orientation and gender identity. She warns that the terms used in CRT (Critical Race Theory) like “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” might lead to “students lobbying for things like unionization of workers, transgender rights, or taking part in Black Lives Matter protests.”

And check this out, under “Examples of CRT in Watauga Schools,” wherein Hanifan accuses a Watauga teacher of using “Ain’t I a Woman” by Sojourner Truth as “a woke propaganda tool,” a newly hired school librarian of “pushing her personal ideas and agenda relating to her personal background and identity, and allegations of majority racism, genocides, etc.,” and a Watauga High School Social Studies teacher of “teaching of blatantly racist and sexist propaganda.”

Kerley’s Facebook page was all I could find about his campaign, and reveals very little of a platform. Once prompted by questions from a reader, however, he said he was aware of “hot topics” about COVID, CRT and Gender identify (sic). In short, he does not favor mask mandates, is “still trying to fully understand CRT,” and says he will fight to ensure that school bathrooms are clearly marked as to gender and that he will fight to keep them that way.

So there you have it. Don’t forget to vote. And be sure to take an “Other” with you.

Copyright 2022 -

Saturday, April 23, 2022

A Battle of Democratic Stars in the NC Senate Primary for District 23


The North Carolina Senate District 23 is rated by NCFREE as D+8, so whoever wins the May 17th primary will likely be a new face in that body. The seat covers Orange, Caswell, and Person counties and is currently held by Valerie Foushee, who's leaving it to run for Congress in David Price's old district (and that presents its own interesting primary). The primary for the Senate seat offers an already rising male star in the NC House vs. an accomplished woman who's become a media star in a wholly different field.

Graig Meyer

He's currently a member of the NC House from Hillsborough, representing Orange and Caswell counties. He was first appointed to Valerie Foushee's old House seat in 2013 when she got appointed to the NC Senate, and he's been reelected four times. Prior to joining the House, he spent 16 years working in public schools on initiatives designed to promote educational equity. He became a co-founder and principal consultant with The Equity Collaborative, LLC. 

Wikipedia says "he's the son of two politically engaged social workers, was raised in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of Wooster, before going on to acquire a master's degree in social work from the University of Chicago." He has five young children of his own, and he's been serially recognized for legislative leadership: by Equality NC as Legislator of the Year, by the League of Conservation Voters with their Rising Star award, and by the Young Democrats of North Carolina with their Legislator of the Year award.

He's expert in public education issues, and an extensive interview with him in details how his work in schools led to his seeking a seat in the General Assembly and the myriad issues he's successfully worked on, and worked across the aisle to achieve, especially during the crisis of the COVID shutdown. He understands what students and their parents went through: "The stress load is high. Anxiety with the change is really, really hard. The mental health on this is going to be something we’ve never done or seen, probably since WWII.”

He's been endorsed by SEANC, the powerful state employees PAC, which won't please everyone since that group also endorses Republicans.

Jamie DeMent Holcomb 

She's already famous in some circles as just DeMent, the name she used when she published her first cookbook, The Farmhouse Chef: Recipes and Stories from my Carolina Farm, which came out in Fall 2017 from UNC Press. Her second book, Canning in the Modern Kitchen came out in August 2018 from Rodale Books, a division of Penguin Random House. She is an occasional guest lecturer at UNC Chapel Hill, NC State University, Duke University, and teaches cooking classes around the country. She was recently named one of North Carolina’s “Outstanding Women in Business” for 2016 and was in the 2017 “40 Under 40” class by the Triangle Business Journal and has had featured articles and recipes in many local, regional, and national publications. She is also a regular contributor to cooking segments on the Hallmark Channel Home & Family show.

She's North Carolina's own Martha Stewart!

After completing her degree in Southern History and African American Studies at the University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill in 2001, she became a legislative aid for Representative Brad Miller on Capitol Hill, then became a Director of Special Projects for the NC Museum of Natural Sciences where she supported fundraising efforts for the Nature Research Center. DeMent left the Museum in 2007 to join her husband, Richard Holcomb, at Coon Rock Farm, out of which grew other small businesses. She runs Bella Bean Organics, an online farmers’ market that features products grown and produced in North Carolina, and she's been a partner and executive chef in two farm-to-table restaurants — Zely & Ritz in Raleigh and Piedmont in Durham.

Not enough? She's also the managing partner of the North Carolina Venture Capital Fund, which seeks to invest in early stage NC startups.

She's been endorsed by Lillian's List. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

What's Behind the NC DemSenate Primary in Asheville?


Julie Mayfield

I paid much attention to Julie Mayfield in 2019. She was one of the Democrats who was running for Terry Van Duyn's NC Senate seat (SD49). Van Duyn was leaving to run for lieutenant governor in the 2020 Democratic primary. Mayfield, a noted environmental activist (MountainTrue) and Asheville City Council member, had amassed a legacy of community organizing and eleemosynary defense of the defenseless, so she won the 2020 primary and subsequently easily sailed to election to the NC Senate. SD49 leans heavily Democratic (61.4% Democrat, according to Dave's Redistricting; D+8 according to NC FREE), so whoever wins this primary likely takes the seat. The District takes in half of Buncombe County, the half with Asheville.

So what's up with Julie Mayfield's first term that she's drawn not one but two primary challengers, two women, one young and white, Taylon Breeden; the other Black and a newly elected Asheville city councilwoman, Sandra Kilgore, who takes a surprising position on the removal of the city's memorial to white supremacist Zebulon Baird Vance. But why kick out Mayfield? Because of a particular vote? An unpopular position? No tea or coffee for visitors in her outer office?

I profiled Mayfield in June 2019: "[She] got her law degree from Emory University in 1996, which apparently fueled an inherent gene for pro bono and public good advocacy. She directed the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law where she represented environmental groups, civic associations, and individuals in public interest environmental law cases. From 2003 to early 2008, she was Vice President and General Counsel for the Georgia Conservancy. She arrived in Asheville in 2008 and by 2011 she was appointed by Governor Bev Perdue to the Mountain Resources Commission, where she served until the legislature dissolved the Commission in 2013. She also served on the North Carolina Conservation Network board for six years, chairing it for two."

Hell, she even prides herself on being a "non-theist."

In trying to understand the undercurrents behind this primary, I stumbled on a truly revelatory Facebook livestream of a joint appearance/interview with Lauren Stein. It's archived on YouTube as "NC Senate 49 Forum," and it was well worth its long running time (even though for the first 20 minutes, it's a comedy of errors as Julie Mayfield attempts to conquer the technology and join the livestream. When she finally gets on, however, she brings clarity, informed common sense, and further confirmation that she's waaay qualified to be representing Buncombe in Raleigh).

Taylon Breeden

Taylon Breeden is obviously Mayfield's chief rival in this election. She's a champion for the working class and one sharp tack. She began to remind me of AOC for her charm mixed liberally with progressive grit and a bracing bluntness. I'd describe her as a left populist, and there's nothing muffled about her vision of what's gone wrong for working people. I found her compellingly informed on the details of legislation, particularly the legalization of hemp farming. She owns a hemp extraction lab and company, Simply Extract, which produces CBD oil. She recently opened a new business in downtown Asheville, The Pot Stirred, which features beverages infused with CBD and mushrooms — categorized as Buzzed Brews and Herbal Potions -- and a rotating menu of CBD and Stay Glazed Donuts. But don't let that joking airiness about the devil herb mislead you. There's nothing joking nor airy about her policy sharpness and determination to shake things up.

Breeden's most aggressive challenge to Mayfield involves "transparency" in that she has alleged that Mayfield, along with many other Democrats in Raleigh, have let themselves get stuck in Duke Energy's "back pocket," a charge that Mayfield vigorously defended (and I believe her). Like the Bernie bros I have known, Breeden has no use for "incrementalism," working for the small things you can get when you're in the vast minority as Democrats are in the General Assembly. But Mayfield has shown herself capable, particularly in being one of four Democrats who helped negotiate and make better the governor's landmark Clean Energy Plan, which he signed last October, the first such law passed by a majority Republican legislature in the South.

Sandra Kilgore

Somewhat outclassed and out-gunned in the "NC Senate 49 Forum" was Sandra Kilgore. Forum host Lauren Stein (who's as well informed, as blunt in her questioning as you could hope any national broadcaster might be -- but usually isn't) asked Kilgore what she was doing running for higher office barely a year into her first term on the Asheville City Council, a question Kilgore wasn't ready for. While Mayfield and Breeden were armed with facts and details, Kilgore waded safely in the shallow water of vague generalities (often "glittering").

The one thing that stands out about Kilgore was her opposition to the removal of the Vance obelisk from Pack Square. She wanted it "repurposed" rather than torn down, since it copies what was actually an ancient Egyptian symbol of the 
sun god Ra. Kilgore wrote on, "That makes the architectural form 13,000 years old. It symbolized the concept of duality and balance. Obelisks are thought to represent good energy and dispel negative forces."

Asheville’s obelisk itself does not represent the Confederacy. Many of the Confederate statues removed thus far were made in the image of Confederate soldiers, not stand-alone obelisks. Asheville is known to be a city of the arts, and the monument represents one of Asheville’s oldest art structures in downtown Asheville.

The Vance obelisk was designed by Richard Sharp Smith, the supervising architect of the Biltmore House, and was modeled on the Washington Monument, and to Kilgore (to me too) worth saving as an Asheville landmark with no visible connection to white supremacy (like a bronze Confederate soldier gripping a gun). Kilgore evidently felt that the fury about white supremacy after the killing of George Floyd divided her community unnecessarily, and she observed that white elites were often the source of telling the Black community how it ought to feel about the monument.

Kilgore's position is perhaps too nuanced and sophisticated for many liberals, but I was both surprised and enlightened by her taking that stand. She's a poised presence, and though she seemed out of her depth in the forum, her cosmopolitan vibe comes from a career as an international traveler, a flight attendant for British Airways. It's hard to rattle an experienced flight attendant. Since returning to Asheville (where she grew up) to take care of aging parents, she's opened her own real estate business catering especially to the Black community.

Mayfield can win this primary, though Breeden is going to have a following, and whatever happens, I believe Asheville is well stocked with coming powerful political women. Breeden and Kilgore both have much to offer, and I could hope that they'll stay leaders in the community. Anyway, after watching Lauren Stein's Facebook forum, Asheville seems even luckier to me for its abundance of intellectual talent. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

The DemPrimary in NC74 -- Cultural Diversity at Work


House District 74 takes in a hunk of western Forsyth County bordering Yadkin and Davie (Clemmons, Lewisville, part of Winston-Salem). It has a slight Republican lean -- 51.2% to 46.4% Democratic -- which ought to mean it's worth competing for. The district is represented by Republican Jeff Zenger, who is running for reelection. The two Democrats competing to oppose him represent the diversity in the Democratic Party.

Sean Lew

He's been in practice as a lawyer for two decades in a general practice that has emphasized helping small businesses with their legal problems (he's insistent that his first name be pronounced "seen"). 

This stands out in his biography: "In his professional life, Sean has worked hard to increase civil access to justice among North Carolinians unable to afford legal services and has served as a mentor to a generation of attorneys and law students performing pro bono legal work. In 2007, he received the inaugural "Citizen Lawyer" Award for exemplary public service activities from the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA). In 2021, he received the NCBA's William Thorp Pro Bono Service Award which recognizes attorneys who have provided exceptional pro bono legal assistance to low-income individuals in the state.

Carla Catalan Day

Her website tells a much fuller autobiography (including a tribute to her abuelita, with a photo). She's the child of Mexican immigrants who settled in Forsyth in the 1990s. As an undergraduate at Western Carolina University, she was active in many multicultural orgs and became a spokesperson on cultural differences, prejudice, and racism. She studied public health and graduated with a B.S. in 2008 after holding an internship in the Indian Health Service, working in Arizona.

She married her college sweetheart, who was in training to become a police officer, and she worked in public health as a maternal child health educator, joining the board of the Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition of Forsyth County. In 2012, she transferred to the Environmental Health section of the Forsyth health department and became a health inspector, inspecting day care centers, schools, foster homes, group homes, hospitals, nursing homes, and restaurants.

The rise of Donald Trump propelled her into Democratic Party activism. After giving birth to their first child, "Carla realized that our current culture says it values families, but in reality doesn’t. There is a saying that goes, 'We expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work.' Carla quit her job in 2017 because of childcare issues and a workplace that could not adjust to her new priority - her family." She started her own environmental health consulting business.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Virginia Foxx's Republican Rival, Not Ready for PrimeTime


Michael Ackerman, Virginia Foxx's 2022 primary challenger, sent the letter below -- with its "very strange request" -- to Democratic Party activists in the 5th CD:

I hope you all are doing well. I have a very strange request. I know you and I are on opposite sides of the spectrum on most issues, and I respect that. You know I am in a primary battle with Virginia Foxx. She is an establishment Republican that is deep entrenched into the DC swamp. Now that the new Congressional 5th District includes your County I wanted to humbly ask if you would consider voting for me in the primary on May 17. I am also asking if you would talk with some of your Democratic or Unaffiliated friends to consider voting for me in the primary.

NC as I am sure you know has an open primary, which means anyone can vote in the primary. The Democratic Party only has only one person running for Congress in the 5th District, so there is no Democratic Primary. Mrs. Foxx is corrupt and uses her position to increase her personal wealth. This is not an unsubstantiated statement. She is part of the Political Elite that is the main problem in politics in our nation.

Like I said I know we disagree on many issues, but hopefully I have proven to you that regardless of where we stand I am willing to talk and listen. I respect you as a person and support your right to believe in what you do. Thank you for considering this.


Michael S. Ackerman
Candidate US House of Representatives

NC as I am sure you know has an open primary

Well, not quite. It's an "open" primary for those registered "Unaffiliated," who may request either a Republican or a Democratic ballot. It most assuredly is not open for registered Republicans and registered Democrats (let alone Democratic Party officers, to whom this letter went), who must vote the ballot of their party. Ackerman might have asked -- hilariously -- for his target Democrats to change their registration to "Unaffiliated" to vote for him. They would have to make that change by April 22nd. No one can change his party affiliation during Early Voting, which begins on April 28th.

Ackerman is well known to the Watauga County School Board as the anti-masker who made threats of lawsuits and other retaliations. He didn't have his facts straight then, either.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The DemPrimary in HD103: Can Democrats Keep What Rachel Hunt Won in 2018?


NC House District 103 in Mecklenburg County (Matthews and Mint Hill) was won in the 2018 Blue Wave by former Gov. Jim Hunt's daughter Rachel, and she won reelection there in 2020. This year she's leaving the seat to run for the NC Senate in an overlapping district. This district has also been redrawn to improve Democratic prospects. Dave's Redistricting rates it 49.9% Democratic v. 47.6% Republican. The Republican in the race, Bill Brawley, was the former incumbent whom Rachel Hunt beat in 2018 (and again in 2020). He's determined to get back to Raleigh this year and thinks a Red Wave will get him there.

These two Democratic women are vying to be the spoiler who disappoints Bill Brawley again.

Laura Budd

She's a lawyer who was recruited by Rachel Hunt. She holds her law degree from Wake Forest School of Law and is the managing partner at Weaver Budd law firm, specializing in business litigation and contract law. She says she hopes to attract moderate voters.

From her announcement: "In addition to practicing law, Budd has an extensive history of community involvement. She currently serves as the President of Matthews Athletic & Recreation Association, Vice-President of the Piedmont Gymnastics Club, and [is] involved with the Matthews Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scout Troop 39 as well as the North Carolina and Mecklenburg County Bar Associations."

She's been endorsed by Lillian's List and targeted for contributions.

Ann Harlan

She ran unsuccessfully for the overlapping NC Senate seat in 2018. I took note of her then. I was a little dismissive in April of 2018, and unfortunately I see little reason to amend my opinion now:

"[Senate] District 39 has a higher-than-average level of educated voters. Will they take to Ann Harlan, the single working mother of five (four of them adopted through the foster parent program) but also an academic egghead -- I mean no disrespect -- who holds a doctorate from Michigan State University and teaches college-level sociology and social work.

"Will Democratic voters take to her? Dunno (but the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg endorsed her). At the moment she has a severely under-developed web presence and little presentation of personality. Her campaign seems curiously up-tight and buttoned down. Too buttoned down."

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Is Katie Dean Rising in the DemPrimary for CD11?


I've had kind of a crush on Katie Dean since I first watched her campaign video (YouTube), and not the kind of crush old white men are known for, but a political crush, because I thought she "fit" the 11th Congressional District better than the other candidates and that her candidacy could catch fire and roll over all expectations and win.

I wanted to interview her a month ago and proposed an email exchange, but I never heard back from her. Either the message didn't get through, or my being cut out of the 11th CD -- after being led astray into false hope by a map that drew Watauga into Maddy Cawthorn's district -- so my opinion didn't matter any more. Plus who the hell is this guy at WataugaWatch anyway?

I wanted to probe Dean's working-class perspective, what her knee-jerks sound like, and whether there was any good reason I couldn't support her as a "moderate" Democrat. I've done it before, plenty. Though I like radicals, I'll vote for any Democrat over most Republicans because party does mean something most of the time. The Republican Party is a horror show. The Democratic Party is a trainwreck -- going off the rails trying to accomplish something idealistic. Take your pick. I have.

Anyway, and though I can't vote for Katie Dean or anyone else in the 11th, I'm watching her apparent rise (maybe?). People I respect and who have run as Democrats for public office have endorsed Dean -- Moe Davis, who ran for the 11th in 2020 (I contributed to his campaign) and David Wheeler who ran for the NC Senate in 2018 against mastodon Ralph Hise and wasn't afraid to take a lance to that immense mammal. Wheeler lost. But he has some street-fighter in him, and so does Moe Davis, and I approve of that. Together Davis and Wheeler have come out strong for Katie Dean under the aegis of, a social media gadfly that has never for a second let up on Cawthorn.

Davis and Wheeler make the argument that Heath Shuler ought to have taught us something, for Heath Shuler was the last Democrat to win the district and he was a moderate notorious moderate with a conservative streak that outraged the activists in Asheville. Outraged me too. But he was better than Mark Meadows turned out to be, so party does matter and I ain't no purist.

Katie Dean is the only working-class gal running, with auto grease under her fingertips -- owns a successful auto repair business, can put a timing belt on a GMC. It's that and the obvious intelligence of an accomplished woman who studied how to design municipal infrastructure and has a degree in environmental engineering and who once declined anesthetic for repairing a broken collar bone because she couldn't afford insurance -- all that would make me vote for her too.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Kernersville Proud Boy Cops a Plea in Capitol Insurrection


Charles Donohoe of Kernersville was the North Carolina chapter president of the Proud Boys, the far right bullies who according to federal authorities conspired to keep Donald Trump in the White House. Following the 2020 election, Donohoe became leader of a Proud Boy inner circle called "the Ministry of Self Defense," which was planning the breach of the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, and he was a recruiter of other Proud Boys to join the effort.

As of yesterday, he has pleaded guilty to felony charges for his actions and will testify against other Proud Boys who have been charged but who pleaded innocent.

Donohoe has been held in custody since his arrest over a year ago in March of 2021.

Donohoe's movements on January 6th are well documented. These details come from the Department of Justice press release yesterday:

On Jan. 6, 2021, Donohoe was part of a group of 100 or more Proud Boys who marched away from a rally near the Washington Monument towards the Capitol. Shortly after 12 p.m., the group was assembled two blocks west of the Capitol, and Donohoe understood that other Proud Boys leaders were searching for an opportunity to storm the Capitol. At approximately 1 p.m., the group arrived at the Capitol and began breaching the barriers surrounding the Capitol grounds. While in the West Plaza of the Capitol, Donohoe threw two water bottles at a line of law enforcement officers who were attempting to prevent the mob’s advance in the West Plaza at the Capitol building. As events continued, Donohoe joined with a crowd, including other Proud Boys, to push forward to advance up the concrete stairs toward the Capitol. The crowd overwhelmed law enforcement officers on the stairs, continued toward the Capitol, and ultimately entered the Capitol building after Donohoe’s co-defendant, Dominic Pezzola, allegedly broke open a window of the building.


Friday, April 08, 2022

For Trump-Boy Bo Hines, First, It Was Virginia Foxx


In 2020 Bo Hines, a once-upon-a-time NCSU football star (for one season) but in 2020 an aspiring student in the Wake Forest School of Law, must have watched the fulminating rise of Madison Cawthorn with some envy and said to himself, "I could do that too!" Because, actually he's several centiles smarter than Cawthorn, and knows it. Subsequently, because he's so smart, he hopscotched all over North Carolina looking for just the right congressional district where he could wow 'em with his hard-edged Trumpist ventriloquism and Cawthorn good looks, and he finally landed his candidacy in the new, newer, newest CD13, about 200 miles from his Winston-Salem residence. Make no mistake: He has not only the time-stamp of Trump but also the explicit and florid endorsement of Trump. Just look at the graphics on both his Facebook and his Twitter pages. We also note just in passing and by way of essential taxonomy, he's a hang-out-with-Matt-Gaetz type of guy.

That's the 13th CD in bright green, southern Wake, Johnston, and parts of Harnett and Wayne

But First, He Was Running Against Virginia Foxx

He launched what promised to be a delicious primary campaign against Foxx in January 2021 with a video posted to his Twitter and Facebook. His criticism of Foxx, more implied than explicitly stated, was that she had mainly made herself rich in Congress and had done little for her constituents other than the disaster of a pork-barrel teapot museum which didn't come about. Ouch. His condo in Winston-Salem was not in Foxx's 5th CD at the time (but Hines has never let actual residence stand in the way of his ambition).

Bo Hines made a publicized visit with Young Republicans at AppState in April 2021, campaigning against Foxx obviously, and almost immediately -- and to our amazement -- Foxx announced that Madison Cawthorn had endorsed her for reelection ... herself, Virginia Foxx, the 70-something battle-axe who can cry on cue and not the 20-something fellow aggressive male conservative that you might think Cawthorn would gravitate to. (Cawthorn did later develop a political crush on Hines, but in April of 2021, Foxx got to him first.)

By the first week of May 2021, Hines had reconsidered. Maybe it wasn't wise to challenge a fellow Republican incumbent. He had looked around. Ted Budd was stepping down from his 13th CD seat to run for the Senate, so that open district (which also didn't include Hines's condo) looked more ripe for the taking. On May 8th, 2021, Dallas Woodhouse reported that Hines was moving his candidacy to the old 13th, which still at that time looked like this (it's the one in gray, gerrymandered for Ted Budd):

Woodhouse was not critical of Hines in his reporting. He became very critical of Cawthorn.

Bo Hines, Opportunist

Between the congressional map of North Carolina's 13 Congressional districts we used in 2020 (the map immediately above) and the eventual court-ordered map we're now functioning under (seen at the top of this column), the Republican overlords in the NC General Assembly arrived at their own redraw-of-infamy early in December of 2021, which landed with a thud and looked like this below (infamous for the Foxx finger into Watauga) and would become Hines's new playground for district shopping:

Most of the 13th CD where Hines had newly announced had now become a new 7th CD (in bright yellow above), so Bo Hines was mulling what to do and so was Mark Walker, who was also considering changing his plans for the US Senate for a run in the 7th to get back into Congress. Meanwhile, the Club for Growth endorsed Hines for whatever district he chose to run in (not kidding), and Trump came calling, promising to endorse Hines if he'd pick the 4th CD instead and leave the 7th open for Walker (in order to get Walker out of the way for Ted Budd's race for the Senate). The 4th CD, where Trump and incidentally Cawthorn both wanted Hines to land, was farther east yet from Hines's residence.

Law suits and judgments ensued. The map at the top of this column became law, and Hines chose the new 13th, for rationales and consideration (and math?) we may never know. But Hines becomes a featured speaker (and Trump-blessed candidate) at Trump's rally tomorrow in Johnston County in the heart of the new 13th, an anointing that some think will propel Hines past Renee Ellmers (also trying to get back into Congress), his chief rival in an 8-candidate primary.

But the Trump blessing has not papered over Hines's carpetbag for all the Republicans in the new 13th. The Johnston County Republican Men's Club has come out against Hines, and perhaps other Republican  voters are noticing how far from home the boy has roamed.

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Pat McCrory, Going Guilt-By-Association


Pat McCrory (at least) thinks Madison Cawthorn is now an anchor around Ted Budd's neck. That's either ballsy or a suicidal misreading of where the NCGOP is right now.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

The 3-Way Dem Primary in HD45 May Be the Quietest in the State


NC House District 45 in southern Cumberland County is another of those "safe" Democratic seats that Dave's Redistricting scores at 55.9% Democrat. It's an open seat this year. It got redrawn to expose incumbent Republican House member John Szoka to instant defeat, so he announced he would jump over and run for Congress in the new 4th CD, but that rug got jerked away from him too by the court-ordered redrawing of Congressional districts. Szoka's now running for a Cumberland Co. Commission at-large seat and might get the prize as the most abused-by-redistricting Republican in the whole state.

The new NCH45 is 39% Black, and the three-way contest to replace Szoka features three Black candidates.

Frances Jackson

Jackson came within 703 votes of defeating Szoka in 2020 when some analysts considered the old district a "toss-up," and she's back this year with some instant name recognition. She was heavily promoted in 2020 by the Long Leaf Pine Slate (now known as Carolina Forward), and she even got a highly publicized shout-out from President Obama.

She teaches political science at Fayetteville Tech and holds a doctorate from Walden University in Minnesota. She's been active in civic life in Fayetteville. She was appointed to a seat on the Fayetteville City Council after the death of a member but was forced to resign after only a month because of a possible conflict of interest with her other appointed position as a Cumberland County magistrate.

If she has a website, I can't find it. The link on her moribund Facebook page goes to a Chinese site, and her Twitter account hasn't been updated since her 2020 campaign. I hope her absence from social media means she has a good ground game going, but it looks like some coasting to me.

Chris Davis

Davis was elected to the Fayetteville City Council in 2019. He is retired from the Army and serves as the senior pastor at Force of Life Fayetteville Ministry. While in the Army, Davis was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for wounds sustained from improvised explosive device blasts while leading route clearance operations in Marjah City, Afghanistan. Prior to his election to the Fayetteville City Council, he served as chairman of the Planning Commission, vice chairman of the Joint Appearance Commission, and as a teen court judge for Cumberland County.

Whereas a veteran candidate like Frances Jackson seems asleep at the wheel this year, Davis is actually mounting a campaign. His Facebook page features a photo of a canvassing team in matching T-shirts, usually a good sign.

Keith Byrd

Byrd actually ran against Frances Jackson in the 2020 Democratic primary for this seat, and she buried him. He's back for a rematch. He's the only one of these three candidates who has a website, though it's the one he had before the March 2020 primary and hasn't been updated.

He attended Shaw University in Raleigh, entered the Army Reserve during that time, and from Fort Bragg, the Army sent Byrd to Iraq to oversee security for the Iraqi High Tribunal during the trial of Saddam Hussein. "Upon return to Fort Bragg as the provost marshal (police chief), Keith’s leadership was instrumental in helping transform Fort Bragg into one of the safest and most secure facilities in the military...."

He retired from the Army at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Monday, April 04, 2022

The Dem Primary in HD33: Another Long-Serving Incumbent, Another Insurgent Challenger


North Carolina House District 33 comprises a sizable chunk of southeastern Wake County bordering Johnston County. It's considered "safe Democratic." Some 34% of its voting population is Black, which doesn't entirely explain why Rosa Gill has represented the district since her appointment to the seat in 2009. She's being challenged this year by a white Navy veteran, so the Democratic primary in HD33 is another tale of an insurgency against a long-time incumbent.

Nate Blanton, the Insurgent

Like some other challengers of well-entrenched incumbents this year, Blanton seems to imply that his opponent has become too complacent:

We need a leader than will do more than be a rubber stamp, who is actually engaged with the needs of those who live here in south-eastern Wake County.

The fact is, our district has been left behind the rest of Wake County with a delayed beltway project, the least number of greenways and public spaces, and little direction to address the sprawl, traffic, and housing issues.

I intend to change these things and to be a voice in Raleigh for our community.

Blanton joined the US Navy after high school and trained as a nuclear power specialist and subsequently served on the nuclear carrier USS Harry S. Truman. "I completed two combat deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a humanitarian mission to the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina." After being discharged from the Navy, he attended NC State to study nuclear engineering and political science and subsequently took a job with Duke Energy's Harris Nuclear Plant.

He became active in local Wake County political organizing during the George W. Bush administration (and following Hurricane Katrina), but he's no progressive firebrand. He posted on Facebook his agreement with an Alexander Jones editorial that criticized the Biden administration's misreading of the public mood about "Build Back Better." Wrote Blanton

Agree 100%.

The Democratic Party has squandered opportunity after opportunity by pursuing policies instead of electoral politics.

My campaign is focused on rebuilding the trust in the Democratic Party. Getting cast into the political wilderness once a decade because we overreached where the people are doesn’t help anyone.

Rosa U. Gill, the Incumbent

Gill was first appointed to her seat by Gov. Beverly Perdue to serve out the uncompleted term of Dan Blue, who had been appointed to an unexpired Senate seat. She has consistently walloped both primary and general election opponents, usually earning in the high 70 percentile of the vote and rarely taking less than 60%.

"She is a product of the Wake County Public School System and a graduate of Shaw University. Rosa is a retired state employee (23 years as an educator and 10 years as the Director of Traffic Records with the Division of Motor Vehicles). She taught mathematics at Garner High School and Enloe Magnet High School" (Vote Rosa Gill for NC House). She subsequently ran unsuccessfully for the Wake County Commission and then won a seat on the Wake County School Board in 1998.

Her power networking also includes a term as chair of the Wake Democratic Party and a time as chair of the Wake Board of Elections. At the grand age of 77, Rosa Gill might be considered a Wake institution.


Sunday, April 03, 2022

The Dem Primary in HD8: Two Politically Accomplished Black Women


NC House District 8 takes in the northern two-thirds of Pitt County. It's voting population is 38% Black, and the district as a whole leans solidly Democratic. It's been represented by Democrat Kandie Smith, but she decided to run for an overlapping NC Senate seat, so the House district is open and a great opportunity for a new Democrat to step in. (The southern portion of Pitt, with most of the city of Greenville, leans only slightly Democratic. Brian Farkas won it in 2020 and will be fighting for reelection this year against determined Republican opposition.) The primary going on right now in HD8 features two politically accomplished Black women.

Sharon McDonald Evans

Autobiography taken directly from her website:

She has worked as a teacher at an at-risk school ... where she coordinated the teenage pregnancy and health program for young moms; ... and she taught health, childcare, as well as life skill classes. She has also ... served as an educational liaison for a special project with Florence Crittenton Maternity Home for pregnant adolescents.... As her career advanced, she spent most of her time as a public health program supervisor nurturing and creating infant mortality programs in 7 counties throughout the state while managing a 1.7-million-dollar budget yearly and supervising staff at local health departments .... Sharon has also ... worked as a Qualified Mental Health professional and owned a girls group home in Eastern NC. She has worked with HIV and Ryan White programs via making policy changes for HIV-positive patients and has worked with 3rd- and 4th-year medical students as well as nurse-midwives through the Standardized Patient Program teaching Medical Students how to do patient education. Her charisma, leadership skills, advocacy, and connections lead her to become a Co-Principal Community Investigator with a 5 site National Study conducted by the NIH based at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine to study Poor Birth Outcomes for 5 years in NC. Although she has contributed a lot to the state of NC in the field of public health, she has still managed to give more through her work with the NC Justice Center coordinating their EPSDT Medicaid for Children program.

Evans has been very politically active in Pitt County politics and lists connections with both the Obama and the Biden campaigns and with many other local and statewide political figures including Rick Glazier at the NC Justice Center (that extensive activist network might mean she can raise big bucks).

Gloristine Brown

Brown is the sitting mayor of the Pitt County town of Bethel and has served on the local Board of Commissioners there since 1999. During her tenure Bethel reached an agreement that allowed the Greenville Utilities Commission to assume ownership and management of the town’s water and wastewater systems, which significantly reduced water and sewer bills.

Brown also serves as vice chairwoman of the Pitt Community College Board of Trustees and serves on the North Carolina Association of Community Colleges executive board and the United Way of Pitt County’s Board of Trustees. She has also chaired the North Carolina Mayors Association and served on the League of Municipalities Board of Directors.

A lengthy profile about Brown in Southern City (published by the League of Municipalities) documented her efforts to turn around a decades-long decline in Bethel's economic prospects and loss of population, a story that is in itself a primer on small-town economic development.


Saturday, April 02, 2022

The Dem Primary in HD107: The 23-year-old vs. a Powerful Incumbent


NC House District 107 is another safe Democratic seat (Mecklenburg Co.) with a primary. This particular primary pits a 23-year-old Black upstart against a powerful Black incumbent running for his eighth term in the House. (There seems to be a trend this year of challenges to well entrenched Democratic incumbents in safe districts. Is that a bad thing? Or is it evidence of insurgent energy rising to keep the party renewed and on its toes?)

Vermanno Bowman, the Young Insurgent

He says on his website that the experience of sitting up late with his mom watching on CNN while Barack Obama won reelection in 2012 molded his determination to one day run for office himself. He was 13. He's 23 now, which would surely make him the youngest member of the General Assembly, should his improbable candidacy actually succeed.

Back then I didn't know what the electoral college was, how states choose their delegates or even how Congress had to certify each state's electoral votes. One thing I did know was that I felt a sense of unity when President Obama stated, "The best is yet to come for the United States of America." That work still has to be done to make our country a more perfect union, and I choose to be a part of the few but many to do just that. From that night on I have made it my goal to pursue elected office no matter how hard things got or the obstacles I faced.

He implies that the incumbent Democrat has grown too complacent with the status quo:

The working class in this state have been left behind and forgotten by people who get elected into office and get too comfortable. When I’m elected I will go to Raleigh and stand up for the working class who’ve been struggling in the shadows for far too long.

And this punch he threw at do-nothingism:

In the United States we have politicians who serve at the best interest of Corporate America and Wall Street rather than their constituents. It’s past time that North Carolina implemented term limits for every political office and got rid of career politicians.

He's punching up, naturally, which is the right direction to take it, and he may be the first Democratic candidate in North Carolina to wear his hat in that fashion. (He says he's a military policeman and probably knows how to fight.) I'm cheering him on. If not this year, maybe next.

Kelly Alexander, the Incumbent

Alexander is a 73-year-old funeral director who was first appointed to fill an unexpired term in June of 2008 and then won it in his own right in November of that year at the same time Obama was taking the White House. No one's ever come close to subsequently beating him in either a primary or a general election. He went totally unchallenged in a couple of his reelection campaigns.

He earned his B.S. in political science and a Master's of Public Administration from Chapel Hill.

His autobiography suggests a juggernaut of community influence:

I have worked for most of my life in the areas of civil rights, community organization and small business. Along with my brother, Alfred, I manage the Alexander Funeral Home, Inc. Established by our grandfather in 1914, it is the oldest African American-owned business in Mecklenburg County. I have taught classes at West Charlotte and Harding High Schools, Central Piedmont Community College, Johnson C. Smith University, Queens University, and UNCC. I have passionately served in various positions with the NAACP including my twelve years of service on the National Board of Directors as the North Carolina NAACP President.

In the present circumstances, he may feel like a show horse tormented by a horse fly. 


Friday, April 01, 2022

The Dem Primary in HD42: A Muslim Woman Challenges a 20-Year Incumbent


NC House District 42 is such a safe Democratic seat (drawn now entirely in Cumberland Co.), you might expect a more vigorous primary campaign to claim it, but I would describe the current primary going on there as pretty much below the radar. Somnolent It has headline-making potential: a Muslim woman doctor who immigrated from Pakistan is challenging a Black veteran of the NC House who's a member of Democratic leadership. If Naveed Aziz should win, she'd become the first Muslim woman in the General Assembly.

Naveed Aziz, the Challenger

She appears to be using only Facebook to get her message out. I haven't found a website nor a Twitter account. She ran previously in both 2016 and 2018 for an overlapping NC Senate seat, both times also against a well-entrenched Black incumbent, so I've had to rely a good deal on biographical details that were published back during those races.

Aziz immigrated to the United States more than two decades ago. She has served on the boards of Fayetteville Urban Ministries and Second Harvest Food Bank, chaired the Greater Spring Lake Chamber of Commerce, and served on Spring Lake’s Economic Development Committee. In addition to being a physician, she has dual masters degrees in Business Administration and Health Administration. Dr. Aziz runs a Free Clinic and a free food program in Spring Lake, in addition to managing her medical practice. Gov. Roy Cooper appointed her to the North Carolina Youth Advisory Council.

In both of her NC Senate primaries, she took votes in the mid-40 percentile, so she definitely has a following. She's an imposing presence who clearly helps the community (she's a strong supporter of expanding Medicaid coverage in North Carolina), but she's up against the inscrutable forces of inertia which have benefitted the incumbent.

 Marvin W. Lucas, the Incumbent

Lucas first took his seat in 2001, so he's been in Raleigh long enough to watch mere saplings grow into imposing trees. He has never to my knowledge faced a serious primary nor general election challenger. He's been given the title of House Democratic Conference Co-Chair. He doesn't seem to have been particularly active at introducing legislation.

Lucas also has no campaign infrastructure I can find -- no Twitter account, no website, and his Facebook page is moribund. If he considers Aziz a serious threat to his tenure, he doesn't show it.

He became a teacher in Cumberland County schools way back in 1964, then rose to assistant principle in 1970, and then worked as a principle from 1975 to 1998. He also served on the town of Spring Lake's local government, including a term as mayor. He was educated at Fayetteville State and received advanced degrees from NC Central and Eastern Carolina.

There's nothing energetic about his public image.