Wednesday, November 30, 2022

David Wheeler v. Lauren Boebert -- Timeline


What follows are the facts of the case that led to the hearing for dismissal this week in Watauga County Superior Court. All parties are waiting for Judge Gary Gavenus to rule on whether this defamation lawsuit can move forward.

Lauren Boebert (left), in full bloom,
with Marjorie Taylor Greene

May 2022
-- Following the successful efforts to unseat Rep. Madison Cawthorn (NC-11) in the Republican primary, David Wheeler, utilizing resources developed by his American Muckrakers PAC, launched an oppo research effort to also go after the reelection of Rep. Lauren Boebert in Colorado. Boebert, like Cawthorn, had made a spectacle of herself as a right-wing avatar.

Dirt on Boebert 

Wheeler subsequently "obtained, analyzed, researched and publicly disclosed information regarding [Boebert] that had been concealed from the public .... That information included ... (1) use of methamphetamine; (2) work as an unpaid escort; (3) involvement with multiple abortions; (4) causing and concealing a serious drunk driving accident that resulted in significant bodily injuries to one or more individuals; (5) failure to pay her employees for prolonged periods of time; (6) delinquincy, disruption, and misconduct of a child...; (7) concerns regarding political relationship with the Koch brothers, Ted Cruz, and related campaign financing." (Wheeler response to Boebert motion to dismiss, filed Nov. 28, 2022)

June 15, 2022 -- Boebert instructed her lawyers to write a letter to Wheeler denying all these allegations and threatening to sue American Muckrakers, David Wheeler, and all the donors to the PAC, a threat which Wheeler claims led to the drying up of fundraising for the PAC. 

Significant for Wheeler's suit, the Boebert lawyer's denial letter was sent first to the press -- namely to North Carolina-based journalist Andrew Kerr, who writes for the right-wing Washington Examiner and other conservative publications -- while Boebert herself launched a national press tour attacking Wheeler, claiming that he had fabricated all the dirt listed above. According to Wheeler's suit, Boebert actually defamed him as a liar on the Sean Hannity radio show, on Fox News, and in other national outlets. In her appearances, Boebert promised that she would be filing a defamation suit against Wheeler and all those involved with him in American Muckrakers PAC.

To date, Boebert has never filed any legal action relating to the charges that Wheeler made against her.

November 28, 2022 -- Boebert attorneys Nathan Miller and Kevin J. Cline argued that the Wheeler defamation suit should be tossed largely on procedural grounds.

All parties now waiting on a ruling from Judge Gavenus.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Thom Tillis Called Out as a Sinner for Supporting Marriage Equality


Mark Brody

Republican Rep. Mark Brody representing Union County in the NC House (Dist. 55) has published a harsh editorial condemning Sen. Thom Tillis for his support of the "Respect for Marriage Act," which is set up now to pass the Senate this week. The bill would make it more difficult impossible for the US Supremes to do away with gay marriage the way they did away with abortion rights. Tillis has already voted to overcome any filibuster of the law and has promised to vote for final passage.

Mark Brody is very concerned that Tillis is coloring outside the lines of both the NC and the National GOP platforms, which is pretty funny in itself since Trump found the national platform disposable enough to decree no rewrite or update when he ran in 2020. At that point the platform had no visible champions among GOP rank-and-file,

But Brody sez he's prepared to make a big stink at the next NC Republican convention because of Tillis's departure from "God's Law": 

The United States Congress, with the support and leadership of our own Senator Tillis, will vote to “Institutionalize” a direct and unequivocal prohibition by God, the Creator referred to in our Declaration of Independence.

Senator Tillis will vote to “institutionalize” a sin against God’s Law!

It's important to notice that GOP political doctrine lines up perfectly with Divine Instruction, and hence also with Divine Retribution.

Will Thom Tillis care? Will he quake under the glare of Mark Brody's side eye?

Saturday, November 26, 2022

If You're Lauren Boebert-- Sued for Defamation--Who You Gonna Call in Watauga? Why, Nathan Miller, Natch!



Monday morning in Watauga Superior Court, Judge Gary Gavenus will hear a motion to dismiss a defamation and malicious prosecution civil suit against Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. The suit was brought in Mitchell County back in October by the American Muckrakers and its president David B. Wheeler. 

(American Muckrakers was the org that made Madison Cawthorn's last months before the May primary fairly uncomfortable, and then turned its guns on Lauren Boebert in Colorado who eventually won reelection by less than 600 votes. American Muckrakers president David Wheeler ran a vigorous campaign against Ralph Hise in 2018 in NCS Dist. 47.)

The lawsuit alleges that Boebert defamed Wheeler and American Muck (which is a registered PAC), saying they “knew what they said [about her past activities] was a lie, and posted it anyway” in regard to Boebert's allegedly having two abortions, being an unregistered paid escort, and causing an ATV accident in Moab, Utah, in 2019.

"The lawsuit will show that Boebert had no idea that all of the PAC and Wheeler’s information came directly from hours of recorded phone calls and other written and verbal information with former employees, former friends, and Republican political operatives in Colorado. She lied, and she knew she was lying, and she damaged the PAC and Wheeler, which entitles Plaintiffs to have their day in court." [American Muck press release]

Watauga County Lawyer Nathan Miller, representing Boebert, is moving for dismissal "for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Lack of Standing, Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, Improper Venue and Failure to State a Claim." We doubt very seriously that Lauren Boebert herself will be present for the hearing.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Sen. Thom Tillis Goes Farther Off the Trumpist Reservation


The establishment Republican publication, Carolina Journal, published Sen. Thom Tillis's response to a question posed to him in a Zoom press availability -- would he support Trump's newest announcement for the presidency? Tillis said he would "wait and see."

As in "wait for the inevitable indictments" and "see whether the sun still comes up in the morning"?

Wait and see. It's definitely a signal of a cooling off, especially when Tillis went further, hinting that maybe unto us another political savior has been born in Florida: “We’ve seen a number of people in the Republican Party emerge as leaders. Maybe you should take the time to see who will come out and build a message that we think resonates best with the American people.”

Tillis famously broke with Trump over using an emergency declaration to move other budget money into paying for the Mexican wall and very quickly repented that, earning Trump's endorsement in the 2020 Senate race against Cal Cunningham. Tillis appeared at Trump rallies during that campaign and probably benefitted from the endorsement, though the Trumpist wing of the party remains suspicious of if not outright hostile to him. He seems now prepared to rip the sheet once and for all.

We're taking a "wait and see" attitude toward Tillis's shifting allegiances.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Burr and Tillis Vote to Advance Marriage Equality Law


Senator Dick Burr is retiring, so his vote was perhaps easier than Thom Tillis's, who seems determined to become a moderate bridge-builder (not that there's anything wrong with that). Joining ten other Republicans (some of them even more surprising in their choice to support gay marriage -- see list below), Burr and Tillis helped reach the total of 62 senators favoring cloture on the Respect for Marriage Act. Sixty votes are required to forestall a filibuster. The full Senate is expected to vote again on passage, immediately after Thanksgiving, at which time it goes back to the House which has to vote again because the Senate added a religious liberty amendment not in the original House version.

The Respect for Marriage Act would require that people be considered married in any state as long as the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed. That may sound like a loophole, and it does allow some backward states to cause trouble. If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its prior same-sex marriage rulings, state governments could make the unions illegal within their borders, requiring same-sex or interracial couples to travel to a state where it is legal in order to wed. Those home states would, however, need to recognize the marriages under this bill, as would the federal government. So maybe it's a loophole with no real effect.

The bill would also repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and allowed states to decline to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. That law has remained on the books despite being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The religious liberty amendment that the Senate added (and which the House will have to vote on) clarifies that the bill does not authorize the federal government to recognize polygamous marriages and confirms that nonprofit religious organizations would not be required to provide “any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” There are plenty of other venues besides Our Church of the Divine Retribution ("but it has a center aisle!"), so there's no need to force yourself onto religious groups that have a bad case of the yips over gay marriage.

Republican Senators Who Voted for Marriage Equality

Retirees: Sen. Roy Blunt (Missouri), Sen. Richard Burr (North Carolina), Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio)

Plus Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia), Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Thom Tillis (NC), and Todd Young (Indiana).

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Losers Who Become Invisible Men


I hate kicking him as he exits, but as Madison Cawthorn became our own 15-minute celebrity, we have to keep up his history.

Photo Jabin Botsford, in the WashPost

The news is not too surprising: He's disappeared from the job that he's supposed to continue to function in for two more months. He's missed a bunch of votes and used proxies some 86 times to vote in his name (something that oughta not be allowed --we're paying those guys very well to show up to work), he's pretty much moved out of his congressional office space, he's closed all but one of his regional offices (and even then, his rep is only answering calls about on-going constituent complaints or requests; don't bother calling if you've got a brand new problem), and he hasn't been seen in his western North Carolina district since the primary.

Sarah Pequeno reports in the NandO

He has always struggled with constituent services, but all but one of his local offices are closed, and his main Hendersonville office is only tackling existing constituent services cases. When calling his office as a non-constituent, you are rerouted to Congress’s call center. When calling as a constituent without a pending case, the phones route you to a voicemail for the Hendersonville office. Only when saying I was a constituent with an active case was I able to speak with an actual human on the other line.

On October 6, Pequeno reports, Cawthorn was supposed to speak at a Duplin County GOP banquet — but he missed it in favor of spending time in Florida, where, just incidentally, he recently purchased a million dollar pad in Cape Coral. Pequeno tried but couldn't uncover whether Cawthorn had even voted in NC last week. Those records will be publicly available eventually.

Pequeno's closing shot: "Cawthorn’s fall from grace among the Republican party was swift and permanent, so it isn’t entirely surprising that he went into hiding. It is, however, disappointing. Whatever he pursues next, hopefully he can find the time to be more present."

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

American History X


Columbus County, NC, is a long way from Watauga County, down almost to the coast with no major highways that you might have traveled on your way to getting a tan at the beach. It's almost exclusively rural. Whiteville is the county seat, a name that has some resonance for this story. According to the 2020 Census, the county's population is a little over 30% Black, with an additional 2,000 Waccamaw Siouan American Indians. 

As recently as the 2018 general elections, the county had a Black sheriff, Lewis Hatcher, who was defeated in that election (by 34 votes) by one Jody Greene, who was suspended from office in October pending an investigation of recordings of his going off on racist rants. The county's DA had filed the court petition to remove him. (Actually, Greene voluntarily stepped down to head off a public hearing on his misdeeds.) His unbecoming behavior toward Black subordinates went public in September (covered here on WataugaWatch, you bet!).

Once (and future?) Sheriff Jody Greene

Nevertheless -- and this is where rural North Carolina can be as irrationally unpredictable as a Franz Kafka short story -- Jody Greene's name remained on November's ballot, and he actually won the election with 54.26% of the vote, beating the sheriff's deputy, Jason Soles, who blew the whistle on him for his balls-to-the-walls racism.

The DA -- maybe with remarkable presentiment -- issued this warning on the same day Jody Greene stepped down: “These allegations speak through time and are disqualifying to anyone seeking to hold the high office of sheriff. Should Greene be successful in the November election, my office would have an ethical obligation to file, and will file, a new Petition to Remove Greene from that term of office based on the allegations alleged in the current Petition to Remove.” Whoa! 

In the updated petition for removal, the DA lists new allegations against Greene, claiming Greene had arrested residents without basis, threatened county commissioners, and had a sexual relationship with a female employee while on duty.

Trump America likes its autocrats, especially the armed bullies.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Update From Transylvania County: Is Our Future Now Behind Us?


Guest Post by Deda Edney

It’s a few days after the mid-term election of 2022 in Transylvania County, North Carolina. I’ve read online that Democrats won seats across America beyond expectations, but, even from the top of this mountain, I can’t see one who did.

I also read that national analysts have colored our purple state red. Overnight. I feel disoriented, as if the future is somehow behind me.

Halfway down the mountain, I stop to watch some monarch butterfly stragglers on their way south to Mexico. I hope they come back a thousand fold.

From here I think I can see the dome of the State House in Raleigh, faintly glimmering far off to the east. Is that Governor Cooper with Attorney General Stein, stranded on a blue Democratic island in a red Republican sea? No! It turns out the NC Legislature is still hanging by a blue thread.

“But the state Supreme Court,” I think, squinting into the distance. “We’ve been so fortunate that a 4-to-3 majority of justices have supported the Governor.” Wait! A ceremony appears to be going on and two blue robes are turning red. It’s now a majority of five red to two blue!

From miles away a slight breeze cools my spirit; the door to the Chamber of Justice has just slammed shut.

I put on my sweater against the chill and go down to my county where it’s still Election Night. A loud party is going on in the camp of the Red Caps. I’m curious, so I walk over to a stout, bushy-whiskered figure in shorts and ask him for a comment.

“I’m standing in the back of the GOP headquarters celebrating,” he explains.

Then a small woman in a dress and very high heels briefly appears from the shadows. She’s murmuring something noncommittal, such as, “I’m pleased and excited.”

During the campaign, these two new School Board members told voters that it’s ok to arm teachers. This, they said, would keep the children safe during AR-15 rifle encounters.

So, now with the School Board at four red and one blue, we can expect … but I turn my head away.

Our schools do need attention. For years the Commission Board has chewed over the same question, “Should we or should we not spend your hard-earned tax money on more buckets to catch rainwater in classrooms?”

Once when the commissioners were close to a decision on this, one of them said, “Ok, but not one penny more.” As his words hung in the air, inflation pushed up the cost to 10 pennies more, and the project was again put in question.

Coming back to the reality of tonight’s revelers, I think, “Maybe the newly elected Republican Commissioner will finally talk the Board into helping out the kids!”

In his campaign T-shirt, he’s easy to find. “Excuse me," I say to him. “What will you do now for the people?”

“I’m enjoying my victory and will discuss my priorities later,” he says. “I’m trying to have fun here.”

This energetic fellow must have seen my confusion over what leadership should look like, because he twirled back around and added, “I did a lot of jobs and nobody was ever disappointed.” Then he disappeared into the shadows.

So that was my mid-fall night’s dream. But this morning the sun came up on a world that still needs our care.

I know in my heart that you don’t suddenly stop caring about the Earth, about each other or about health, education, voting rights, or human rights. Respect for the truth, for the law equally applied, and for social differences — all this matters today as much as it did a week ago.

American democracy still needs our help.

When you care about something going wrong, you show up. You speak up. And then you realize you’re not alone. The door to our county Democratic Headquarters is still open.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Starting Over From Scratch


After today, no matter what happens, #democrats need to shred their messaging memos, stare into the abyss of the American id, and start over from scratch.

--Twitter post by @bullydoc, 3:07 pm Nov. 8th



Those of us who have been organizing and strategizing on the county level for over 30 years know from stupid. The fact that no one in the high-up offices pays us any attention is generally a blessing, leaving us alone to practice the right way what we've learned the hard way, but being ignored is also a burden when you can't get the mailing lists you need because someone at the state party is guarding data like it's the Crown Jewels.


It's also bad when the state and national Party apparatuses, or individual candidate campaigns with lots of money for high-dollar consultants, set their messaging around polling that's just plain off its rocker -- as some of that polling was leading up to last Tuesday. We all gotta stop listening to talking heads, even those doom-scrollers among us like me.


Timidity, being afraid to say outright what you believe, has taken over in much of the Democratic Party of the Old South. Shyness about ideals has been building actually for decades, and I'll tell you who hates it the most -- Gen Z and the Millennials, the very young voters that the state Party should be talking to all the time, registering them every year and not just in election years, getting them out to vote in municipals as aggressively as we do for even-year general elections.


Patting the youth vote on its head via social media for the two months before a big election doesn't cut it. Because "Twitter ain't real," as the youngest member of the Boone Town Council argued on this site following last May's primary. Having big Twitter followings or Facebook likes or cute TikToks doesn't mean you've earned any votes.


Twitter ain't real and neither, for that matter, is any social media if Democratic candidates are relying on it exclusively as an easy button-pushing excuse for not getting their effing boots on the actual effing ground. Why was turnout in North Carolina so down this year? Why especially was the Gen Z vote, so startling in other states, not spectacular in North Carolina? Social media is not voter engagement. It is too often an excuse not to do the actual hard work of voter engagement.


We need a statewide summit of Party activists and operatives -- please gawd, no candidates! -- to hash it out and suggest what "starting over from scratch" might look like, and then we need some Party leadership to put those goals into action.


Thursday, November 10, 2022

The NC Congressional Races, 2022


We now have seven Democrats representing North Carolina in the US Congress, seven of 14, so we improved our numbers there and helped blunt Democratic losses in other states (like in Florida, where -- yikes! -- there is officially no intelligent life surviving).

Don Davis

CD1 -- Democrat Don Davis comfortably beat the bullying Trumpist Sandy Smith by 11,600 votes for the open seat once held by the venerable G.K. Butterfield.

CD2 -- Democrat Deborah Ross easily held on to her seat.

CD3 -- Republican incumbent Greg Murphy easily buried his Democratic opponent.

CD4 -- Democrat Valerie Foushee easily won David Price's open seat.

CD5 -- Republican Virginia Foxx ... don't get me started.

CD6 -- Democratic incumbent Kathy Manning won reelection with 53.75% of the vote.

CD7 -- Republican incumbent David Rouzer easily put away Democrat Charles Graham, who had one of the best introductory candidate videos, produced by Frank Eaton while Graham was planning to run against Dan Bishop in CD9, but new gerrymandering did him in there.

CD8 -- Republican Dan Bishop, a male Virginia Foxx, is now elected to be a jerk to infinity and beyond.

CD9 -- Republican incumbent Richard Hudson easily won reelection.

CD10 -- Republican incumbent Patrick McHenry took 72% of the vote.

CD11 -- Republican Chuck Edwards is now permanently (probably) a D.C. fixture, beating Jasmine Beach-Ferara. It wasn't even close.

Wiley Nickel

CD12 -- Democratic incumbent Alma Adams easily beat Madison Cawthorn clone Tyler Lee, who apparently believes he's on a mission from God.

CD13 -- For Ted Budd's old House seat, Democrat Wiley Nickel beat the other Madison Cawthorn clone, Bo Hines, by over 7,000 votes. Hines and his patron Donald Trump were counting on that red wave, which didn't arrive for him. Maybe Hines can now go seek an actual job.

CD14 -- For the brand new 14th, state Sen. Jeff Jackson easily rolled over his Republican challenger. Can't help thinking he would maybe have won that Senate seat this year.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

No Red Wave, But OMG the Courts


This post is going to be North Carolina-centric, so don't expect comment on races across the nation -- yet.

The NC Republican leadership in the General Assembly was very confident that they would win themselves super-majorities in both House and Senate, which they need to tromp all on Gov. Cooper, but that didn't quite happen. The GOP won 2 seats in the Senate, giving themselves a supermajority there of 1 vote, which can override a Roy Cooper veto, but in the NC House -- which also saw a net Republican gain of 2 seats -- the Democratic veto-confirming minority held. (As long as everybody's there and nobody gets sick.)

(I'm so blessed to have Blair Reeves in my morning email!)

The Baddest, Super-Worst News of the Night

Paul Newby's eyes just got brighter with vision and iron purpose, because that little Rumpelstiltskin of far-right jurisprudence will be ruling over a 5-2 Republican State Supreme Court. Both Sam Ervin IV and Lucy Inman lost their court races. So did all four Democrats running for the NC Court of Appeals. The courts will now be where Democratic challenges to power grabs go to die.

NC House/Senate Races of Interest

(In no particular order. Look, I haven't had much sleep.)

Staton-Williams holding the pupper

HD73 -- Democrat Diamond Staton-Williams has apparently edged out Republican Brian Echevarria by 425 votes. I gotta eat crow on this one. I didn't give Staton-Williams much credit. For sure, I thought Echevarria would win easily in a red wave, and I sure am glad there was no wave and hope that Staton-Williams' slim margin holds.

HD114 -- One of three new Buncombe Co. districts. Democrat Eric Ager, an incumbent, won with 68% of the vote.

HD115 -- Buncombe Co. Democratic newcomer Lindsey Prather, won with 57%.

HD116 -- Buncombe Co. Democrat Caleb Rudow, another new face, won with 62%.

HD63 -- Democratic incumbent Ricky Hurtado, the lone Hispanic in the General Assembly, appears to have lost to former Rep. Stephen Ross by 658 votes. This one hurts.

HD35 -- Democratic incumbent Terence Everitt held on to this seat with 51.7%, despite nasty photoshopped smears.

HD103 -- Democratic newcomer Laura Budd kept the seat in Dem hands with slightly over 52% of the vote. This used to be Rachel Hunt's seat.

HD37 -- Republican Erin Pare held on to the seat, beating Democrat Christine Kelly (background here) with 53%.

HD62 -- Democrat Brandon Gray, who keeps trying, lost to Republican incumbent John Walker, who took just 52%. Gray's young and clearly growing. He improved on his showing against the same incumbent in 2020, cutting down Faircloth's 8,000-vote margin in 2020 to a couple of thousand in 2022.

HD2 -- Democrat Ray Jeffers easily beat incumbent Republican Larry Yarborough, deemed "the most vulnerable Republican in the NC House" (on this blog). This was a genuine flip.

HD59 -- Incumbent Republican Jon Hardister put away accidental Democratic candidate Sherrie Young. In a district rated R+1, Hardister drubbed woefully unprepared Young by almost 13 points.

HD20 -- Incumbent Republican Ted Davis turned away the challenge by Democrat Amy DeLoach by 1,000 and change.

HD93 -- Democrat Ben Massey ran a really good campaign against cipher Republican Ray Pickett (full disclosure: I donated to the Massey effort). It wasn't even close (thank you, gerrymandering), so naturally the preternaturally lazy Ray Pickett scarcely campaigned at all.

HD119 -- Democrat Al Platt, for whom I'd become a fan, lost his challenge against Republican incumbent (and Oathkeeper adjacent) Mike Clampitt.

HD50 -- Democrat Renee Price easily kept this seat in Democratic hands. It was her primary back in May that caught my interest.

HD45 -- Democrat Frances Jackson (finally) won a seat, an open one considered "safe" for Democrats. I  noticed the primary in May, because whoever won that was gonna win the seat.

HD33 -- Another safe Democratic seat, won for reelection by Rosa Gill. I noticed her primary last May.

HD43 -- Republican incumbent Diane Wheatley beat the dismal Elmer Floyd by 10 points.

HD74 -- Democrat Carla Catalan Day, who would have been the second Hispanic elected to the House, lost to Republican incumbent Jeff Zenger.

HD112 -- Democrat Tricia Cotham easily regained a seat in the House after voluntarily stepping down in 2016 to run for another office.

HD8 -- As expected, Democrat Gloristine Brown easily won this open seat. I noticed her primary.

HD42 -- Democratic incumbent Marvin Lucas buried his token R opponent. I noticed his primary mainly because he had a Muslim woman running against him in May.

HD66 -- As expected, used-to-be-state-senator Sarah Crawford opted to run for this easy D win. She also had weak Dems against her in the primary.

Val Applewhite

SD18 -- This is the seat Sarah Crawford put in peril by deciding to jump to a House race, now R+1. But Democrat Mary Wills Bode pulled it out against an increasingly toxic E.C. Sykes with 51.15% of the vote.

SD19 -- Roy Cooper's daring gambit of actively campaigning against incumbent Democrat Kirk deViere back before the primary paid off. Democrat Val Applewhite won with 52.52%. Maybe former Republican incumbent Wesley Meredith, who was trying again to regain his lost seat, will go off and auction something.

SD23 -- Democrat Lisa Grafstein easily won this open, redistricted seat.

Special Mention

I became very interested in the Democratic energy that had sprouted this year in Transylvania Co. I particularly noticed the campaign of Lauren Wise for Transylvania Co. Commish. He came up short but made a respectable showing, trailing the 2nd of two Republicans who won by just a thousand votes.

More disturbingly, two Republicans for school board, described as "vampire candidates," won. And I'm glad to report here -- by punishing contrast -- that the three progressive school board candidates in Watauga all won reelection.

Monday, November 07, 2022

The Power of Woman Compels You


Polls, media prognosticators, even SNL have conspired to depress Democratic turnout tomorrow, with unrelenting negative assessments of our chances of turning back, or even blunting, the further Trumpification of our Republic.

Not all signs are negative, so in the interest of easing anxiety, here are some parting shots on the Eve of Election Day:

Jane Porter, from her Indy Week daily Press Club email: Early voting numbers are up from 2018. Through Sunday, 2,152,371 ballots have been accepted from across North Carolina and via absentee voting. Axios reports there could still be 5.2 million ballots from registered voters to come on Election Day. Here's how the votes breakdown by party affiliation:

Dem: 821,340 (up nearly .5 percent from 2018)
Rep: 673,764 (up nearly 1 percent from 2018)
Una: 651,363 (up .2 percent from 2018)

But the number of ballots cast by Black voters is slightly down from 2018, Axios reports: Black voters have cast 402,094 ballots this year (26.7 percent of registered voters) compared with 28.5 percent after early voting in 2018. Obviously, Black voters are key to helping elect Democrats in North Carolina and across the nation.

"Don't sleep on women." Advice from Whitney Ross Manzo, associate professor of political science at Meredith College, published in The Assembly newletter:

"I think abortion will matter more than people think. As you know, I work at a historically women's college, and my students are zeroed in on this issue. The first day of class, I always ask what students think is the hottest current political issue, and there is usually a lot of variety. This year, I only heard about abortion/reproductive rights/reproductive justice. Even from students I know are conservative! The news keeps saying this election will be about the economy but don't sleep on women—especially younger ones—in this cycle."

I'm counting on women! And I'm counting on pollsters' inability to know who to poll under the circumstances -- thousands of new voters who have no previous voting history. 

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Election Predictions I Just Grabbed From My Email


Yes, Tiffany, there's still a platform called email. I actually get some valuable ones, in amongst the hundreds of instant deletes, like the ones I get from The Assembly, a newish on-line magazine featuring investigative journalism focused exclusively on North Carolina. (Warning: I pay a monthly subscription to get The Assembly emailed newsletter, but I see no reason I can't share some of it on this blog. Here's where you can sign up for your own thrice-weekly newsletter, for a special prize all for signing up.)

Something To Mull Over

A Republican strategist predicts that if Democrats aren't up over Republicans in state-wide races by at least 100,000 votes when the Early Vote is counted (and it's always counted first in North Carolina), then it will indeed signal a Red Wave that will accomplish all the bad stuff that was ever conceived by the mind of Homo sapiens. 

Bellwether Races

Sydney Batch

Everyone will be watching Beasley v. Budd, but here are some others that may signal waves:

These two proposed bellwethers come from Pat Ryan, founder of Ryan Public Relations, former deputy chief of staff for communications to state Senate Leader Phil Berger:

NC Senate Dist. 17: Democrat incumbent Sydney Batch v. Republican Mark Cavaliero. I haven't researched and written about this race, though I was a big fan of Batch's in 2018 when she first ran for NC House. Batch was beaten for reelection by Republican Erin Pare in 2020. Then she was appointed January 2021 to the Senate seat vacated by Sam Searcy.

NC Senate Dist. 18:  Republican E.C. Sykes v. Democrat Mary Wills Bode. I did write about this race in July, long before I learned what a religious absolutist Sykes has been and the fact that he evidently fakes a residence (camper van) in a district where he truly does not live.

Whitney Ross Manso, poly sci prof at Meredith in Raleigh, named one of the US House races:

NC-13, for the open seat vacated by Ted Budd: Democrat Wiley Nickel v. Republican super-shopper Bo Hines. Hines is well known to us because his district-hopping was originally against Virginia Foxx for a primary in the 5th. Here he was in his rising glory, slightly before he settled on the 13th CD as his path to right-wing greatness.

“Mac” McCorkle, professor of the practice at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and former Democratic consultant:

Look to lowered Republican margins of victory in "countrypolitan" counties like Johnston (suburban spillover from Wake) and Union (spillover out of Meck). Trump took Johnston Co. in 2020 with 61.38% of the vote; Trump took Union that same year by almost exactly the same 61% margin. If Democratic performance is better than predicted, sez Mac, "if Cheri Beasley can lead a trimming of usual Republican margins in such places, Democrats could have an unexpectedly good election night and a new demographic reality could be emerging in North Carolina politics."

The Bo Hines v. Wiley Nickel congressional race is on all ballots in Johnston Co. McCorkle's dream could propel Nickel to that seat. Nickel could in fact be helping Beasley too.

In Union Co. it's the 8th CD, featuring the ever toxic Republican Dan Bishop v. Scott Huffman. If Huffman did better than expected -- yes, that could signal something good for the progressive presence in NC.

The Real Possibility That Neither Party Wins Big

Mac McCorkle's ... warning (?) -- "So an outside possibility exists that split-ticket voting among a crucial segment of unaffiliated and other independent-minded voters could lead to a scrambled mix of wins and losses between Democrats and Republicans in competitive races up and down the ballot. Such paradoxical election results could confront both parties with a complicated and interesting new political day."


Friday, November 04, 2022

What Made Watauga So Dark Green?


Clearly, from the shading alone, Watauga County has the biggest proportion of voters registered Unaffiliated. We already knew that, but it's startling to see it depicted in color, right next to all those pale tan counties also in Virginia Foxx's congressional district.

Wednesday, November 02, 2022

This Famous Election Denier Was Thrown in Jail Yesterday


Catherine Engelbrecht, election denier
and fraud conspiracist, is currently in jail

Wilmington pharmaceutical billionaire Fred Eshelman, whose money has been the juice used to slime Democratic lawmakers in the NC General Assembly (he funded "Real Jobs NC" in 2010, which launched outrageous attacks on the late Senator Steve Goss and Rep. Cullie Tarleton), was himself taken to the cleaners immediately after the 2020 election by an election denier and conspiracy theorist out of Texas -- one Catherine E. Engelbrecht of Houston, whose 501(c)(3) "True the Vote" raised millions by promising rich Trumpists that she could prove massive fraud in that election. Immediately after Nov. 3, 2020, Eshelman handed over a donation of $2.5 million to True the Vote. By the end of that same November, Eshelman was suing in Federal court to get that money back.

Engelbrecht had promised Eshelman that she had a sure-fire plan to expose the fraud behind Trump's losses in seven swing states. Turns out Engelbrecht was spouting nonsense, and she never explained what she did with all the money. She apparently filed trifling lawsuits in four states, which she voluntarily withdrew, and she consistently offered no answers, or only vague answers, to Eshelman's nagging questions. Short answer to all his questions: You might have gotten scammed!

Eshelman's lawsuit against True the Vote alleged his donation was "conditional" on the production of certain results, like proving actual fraud. When Eshelman appeared to have no prospects for winning in Federal court, he voluntarily dismissed the suit and refiled an identical suit in Texas state courts. That one was eventually thrown out because of Eshelman's lack of standing. You can read about that here.

Now for the update -- not on Eshelman and the sting in the adage "a fool and his money, etc." -- but news on Catherine Engelbrecht, who is currently sitting in jail in Houston (along with another True the Vote exec) for defying a judge's order in another Federal lawsuit against her:

Engelbrecht is being sued by Michigan-based election management software company Konnech Inc. for claiming that Konnech and its founder, Eugene Yu, transferred sensitive poll worker information to China.

Konnech filed a federal lawsuit in September alleging that True the Vote's viral social media campaign targeting Yu led to personal threats made against him and his family and damaged his company's business.

Engelbrecht had apparently claimed she got her information against Konnech from an FBI agent but has refused to reveal his name. (More details here.)

She's earned her jail-time. Thoughts and prayers! 

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Gov. Cooper Trolls Berger/Moore

Cooper with Ross and Spellings.
Yes, that photo is from today.
Photo Jeff Tiberii

This morning Gov. Cooper announced that he is naming a special "Commission on the Future of Public Universities in North Carolina" to take a close look at how the UNC system is operating, presumably and particularly, the highly partisan Republican regime on the UNC Board of Governors (BOG) and on the boards of trustees of the various constituent colleges -- the partisan regime established by Berger/Moore as a further instrument of their authoritarianism.

Cooper's commission will be purely advisory. It will therefore be (1) attacked and then (2) ignored by Berger/Moore, but perhaps it can help focus more of the public on the degrading of higher education in North Carolina.

"We need serious, diverse leadership," the guv's press release said, which we ain't currently got on the UNC BOG. The BOG is 100% appointed by Berger/Moore and is 80% Republican (often from the volcanically partisan branch of the party), with only four unaffiliated voters, and one measly Democrat. As soon as Roy Cooper won the 2016 election, Berger/Moore quickly wrote legislation to extend their rule, assigning the appointment of all constituent university trustees to their own heavily partisan BOG. Currently, the governor can appoint precisely no one to any university governing board.

Diversity? You've got to be kidding!

As close as the guv's press release gets to naming the stunts that have destroyed the BOG's reputation is this paragraph, wherein he alludes to the scandals and collusions that have highlighted the UNC system during the last decade (or since Berger/Moore took over in 2010):

"Unfortunately, a spate of controversies over the last few years has led to concerns that boards plagued by undue political influence and bureaucratic meddling hinder effective university governance. Instability and political interference can have significant impacts on campus leadership, turnover and academic experience for students, and can threaten the university’s reputation and the state’s economy and communities."

Just some highlights of that partisanship which Cooper didn't enumerate: the firing of UNC President and humanist Tom Ross in 2015; the forced resignation of replacement President Margaret Spellings in 2018; the all-too-obvious jockeying of House Speaker Tim Moore for various academic appointments; the 2019 sudden resignation of UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, judged soft on the Confederacy after she supported the removal of Silent Sam from campus; the heavy thumb of an Arkansas donor who seems to have single-handedly nixxed the appointment of Hannah-Jones to the School of Journalism; the refusal to reappoint a widely respected UNC Law professor to the University of North Carolina Press Board of Governors after he questioned the legality of the university's giving a Confederate group a bunch of money to take Silent Sam off the campus; the planned relocation of the UNC System offices from Chapel Hill to Raleigh, presumably so everybody can see the Berger/Moore resting bitch faces more clearly, a proposal that led BOG member Leo Daughtry, a former GOP state lawmaker, to abruptly resign his seat, saying publicly that moving the offices was a further indication of the board’s recent failure to provide "a sufficient buffer" between politics and the university system.

How Do We Know the Guv Just Gave Berger/Moore the Finger?

Who did Cooper appoint to co-chair his commission on higher education? Why, Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings. Isn't that pretty much an eff-you? Also a dare, since Ross and Spellings form an impressive bi-partisanship that ought to be above criticism. (Ha!) Ross was president of the UNC System from 2011 to 2016, a former superior court judge, and president of Davidson College. Spellings was president of the UNC System from 2016 to 2019 and served as the U.S. Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush.

Such distinguished educators might give the GOP some pause in attacking their integrity. Naw. They'll find a way.