Saturday, December 30, 2023

How To Win By Losing


Kate Compton Bar, the NC Senate candidate in Dist. 37 whose slogan "Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can't Win" has attracted national attention (and a post on this site), was the subject of an NBC Meet the Press segment, which can be viewed here

The Meet the Press segment gets into the whole national disgrace of gerrymandering, especially as it's been practiced in North Carolina.


Gerrymandering like this shite, pulling Wilmington Black voters out of Senate Dist. 7 (New Hanover) and adding them to the rural whites in Senate Dist. 8 (Brunswick and Columbus), so that incumbent Republican Senator Mike Lee has a better shot at reelection. A national disgrace.

Friday, December 29, 2023

What Happened in Federal Court in W-S Yesterday


A very full account at WRAL by Will Doran

Far as I can tell, from Doran's reporting and from Watauga eye-witnesses in the courtroom yesterday, Judge Thomas Schroeder -- in telling the opposing parties to "work something out in the next seven days" -- clearly doesn't want to issue an injunction against a Republican General Assembly while seeing very clearly that the new voter law, S 747, violated due process for same-day voters. (Explanation of how due process is potentially violated here.)


On the mail verification system, on Thursday the challengers pointed to a case in Watauga County — home to Appalachian State University and one of the 25 North Carolina counties that voted for Democratic President Joe Biden in 2020 — where more than two dozen voters in a recent election had their mail from the elections board returned as undeliverable. But in every single Watauga County case, Voto Latino attorney Aria Branch said, it turned out that the voters were legitimate and that their mail had been returned because of mistakes made by poll workers or postal service employees.

To not allow voters in 2024 to know that their ballots are being thrown out due to similar mistakes, she said, would be an injustice.


Saturday, December 23, 2023

Watauga Voting Rights Task Force Goes To Court


Next Thursday, December 28, an important request for an injunction to enjoin part of S 747, "Elections Law Changes," goes in front of Federal Judge Thomas D. Schroeder in the Middle District of North Carolina for a ruling. The sweeping S 747 ultimately passed by veto override in the General Assembly on October 10th.

Watauga Co Voting Rights Task Force (WCVRT) et al. v State Bd of Elections and Philip E. Berger et al. targets one particular section of S 747, "same-day" voter registration, specifically the "undeliverable mail provision" which can disenfranchise same-day registrants because of stupid postal or clerical errors. 

Following the General Election of 2022, the WCVRT tracked same-day registrants whose votes were challenged because a card-mailing to their addresses of record was returned as undeliverable, almost always because of computer or clerical error. The same-day registrants were qualified voters but were in jeopardy because of dumb mistakes. For example, mail was returned that had been directed to Ms. Xxxxx Xxxxx, address "SAME." "Same"? Because there are two lines for addresses on VR forms -- the 1st one for a physical residential address and the second for a mailing address if different from the physical address. When Ms. XXXX appeared at her polling location during early voting to update her address and cast a ballot, the poll worker wrote her residential address on the 1st line and wrote "Same" on the second.

Dumb stuff like that can disenfranchise a voter, but S 747 went even further in targeting young voters. The law as passed would not only throw out a ballot of an "undeliverable mail" addressee -- it will do so automatically, with no notice nor means of appeal for the voter -- but also cancel the voter registration itself.

The WCVRT came to the defense of same-day voters. Meanwhile, Judge Schroeder has his own history of rulings on election law changes. In 2016, the Republican bosses in Raleigh, in the same bill mandating voter photo ID, attempted to end same-day registration altogether. That omnibus law also cut early-voting by a week; ended preregistration, which allowed people to sign up before their 18th birthdays; and repealed the provision that counted out-of-precinct ballots. The NAACP sued for an injunction against the entire law, which came before Judge Schroeder, who in April 2016 ruled it all perfectly fine by him. Fortunately, that decision was soon overturned by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled it all unconstitutional.

Friday, December 22, 2023

The New Rural Project's Model


60,000 registered voters of color in North Carolina didn’t vote in 2020. "Those are the kind of numbers that change elections."
--Cynthia Wallace, New Rural Project

Since 2021, failed Democratic candidates Cynthia Wallace (she ran against Dan Bishop in 2020 in CD9) and Helen Propst Mills (ran twice in 2018 and 2020 for a NCSenate seat) launched The New Rural Project deliberately targeting "civic engagement" in the Black community, particularly that (large) segment not even registered to vote who tend to live in rural areas. Wallace and Mills formed a 501(c)(4) non-profit, recruited staff and volunteers, and adopted a "down home" approach as opposed to typical political advocacy. "They knocked on doors, sat on front porches, huddled in barber shops, and listened more than they talked" ( The New Rural Project originally targeted seven North Carolina counties — Moore, Hoke, Robeson, Union, Anson, Richmond, and Scotland. Wallace said, “What we really are focused on is giving voice to those who feel voiceless and helping those that feel unseen be seen and heard,”

Barbershop conversation. New Rural Project website

In 2022, the New Rural Project had the very productive idea of using Black barbershops for meet-ups and "deep conversations" with men in the community who had experience and opinions about entrepreneurship, jobs and wages, crime and the criminal justice system. One of the leaders of the barbershop conversations, barber Garrett Snuggs, ran for Wadesboro town council in 2023 and was the leading vote-getter. Three other Black candidates for municipal offices in the Project's target region also won their races.

This success in advancing Black candidates by rallying Black voters got expansion as the New Rural Project began beauty shop conversations to complement the barbershop meetups. “Every Black woman I know has spent her share of time in a beauty salon,” Wallace said. “And we’ve seen that happen in those beauty salons that the barriers kind of break down and you’re in a space that’s familiar, comfortable, and talking about your issues and your concerns .... We connect the dots between whatever their issue is and their civic life,” she said, “[bringing] it back full circle to why your civic engagement can actually solve these issues that you care about.”

Thursday, December 21, 2023

So It Goes


Will Doran, WRAL reporter, a little before 10 a.m. on Tuesday:

BREAKING: The NAACP and Common Cause are suing state lawmakers over racial gerrymandering in new NC maps. Unlike previous lawsuits, this challenges the new US House lines as well as the #NCGA districts #ncpol

Hard to get excited any more about potential justice in the age of Clarence Thomas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Tillis, Showing More Crack


Senate Republicans were recoiling (The Hill's word) on Monday at Trump’s comments at a rally in New Hampshire over the weekend, where he said the thousands of immigrants streaming into the United States on a daily basis are “poisoning the blood of our country.”

Thom Tillis, when cornered by Alexander Bolton in the Senate: “I think it’s unhelpful rhetoric.” 

A master of understatement, that senator!

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

How To Run As a Loser in a Blood Red District


Kate Compton Barr is the brand spanking new Democratic candidate for Senate District 37, and I like her style. First heard about her on Joe Bruno's Twitter feed, an article headlined "‘Clear eyes, full heart, can’t win’: Why Kate Barr is running anyway." Watched her intro video on Instagram. She's a bright light -- a heavily credentialed behavior scientist, mother of two, volunteer everything, but also a force of nature in business, founding a start-up called "Pip and Grow," a high-end catalog of "elegant, eco-conscious products expertly designed to keep your child safe." Linked In:

As the owner of a start-up, Kate is involved in nearly every aspect of running the business - from corporate strategy to customer service. Not only is she in charge of logistics and inventory management, but she also handles company finances and pricing models. Kate is the primary content creator for the Pip & Grow blog and contributes to social media messaging. She also works in partnership with her co-founders to create and maintain influencer, media, and customer relationships.

The company garnered national attention winning both Outstanding Small Business and Retail Small Business at the 2018 SCORE Awards, an NC IDEA Seed grant in November of 2019, and Charlotte's Social Impact Inno on Fire Award in January 2020. Kate’s business journey has been widely documented in publications including Forbes and MSN.

According to Linked In, her control of Pip & Grow ended last April, and she's now running for the NC Senate out of principle -- people ought to have a choice -- in a gerrymandered district that is 62.3% Republican. She's a self-knowing sacrifice, and strategic about it. That motto, "Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can't Win," a brilliant piece of marketing. Instead of a terrible burden of marching to electoral execution -- dead candidate walking -- Kate Barr might be having the time of her life (and she actually could gather a movement of self-conscious parodists: "Get in losers, we’re (not) going to the Senate! #getinlosers #katebarrcantwin." Jokes can become movements. Yes they can. That's my theory.)

Kate Barr's shorthand Twitter bio: "Dem for NC Senate District 37. Gerrymandered out of a chance. F*ck it. I’m running anyway .... let’s raise a little hell and have some fun anyway."


The Republican Incumbent

Vicki Sawyer was said to have played a role in keeping the Republican caucus from going even more whole-hog extreme on abortion -- which is why we got a 12-week ban instead of a six. I called her "moderate" when she first ran in 2018 (and beat the blustery Bob Rucho in that year's primary):

Member of the Iredell County Planning Board and treasurer of the Iredell County Republican Party. Sawyer and her husband own Sawyer Insurance & Financial Services in Mooresville. She seems civic -- served on the Iredell County School Facilities Task Force, co-chaired the successful 2014 school bond referendum committee, and has been president of Lakeshore Elementary and Middle School Parent Teacher Organizations. She is a Methodist.

Sawyer's now serving her 3rd Senate term (but in three different districts, because of the repeated attempts among her brethren to harvest, then prune, then harvest again the succulent fruits of gerrymandering). 

Monday, December 18, 2023

The Democrats Vying To Take on Tricia Cotham


The Democrats in the primary for HD 105:
Nicole Sidman, Yolanda Holmes, and Terry Lansdell

Short story: There's no seasoned Democratic star running to take Cotham's purloined House seat away from her. But one of these three will have to emerge and catch fire in a big way. Because Cotham's new gerrymandered district leans Republican. Trump won it in 2020, but so did Roy Cooper.

They predict it'll be the most expensive race for a General Assembly seat in all of North Carolina. The uber-notorious Tricia Cotham will face one of these three Democrats come November, depending on the outcome of the March primary.

I'll be following this race avidly. So far, info on the three is currently rather sparse. As they crank up their campaigns -- i.e., raise money -- we'll see more of their personalities and their plans.

Yolanda Holmes

Yolanda Holmes was first to file, and her name will appear first on the March primary ballot. She spells the first name with two o's -- "Yolonda" -- on Twitter (an account that hasn't been active since May 2022), but everywhere else in the press and on the State Board of Elections site, she's "Yolanda," so I'm confused. The differences in spelling may account for her relative invisibility on-line. So far, I can't find active social media nor a website for her under either spelling.

Holmes ran before in the 2022 primary against Tricia Cotham, who was still a putative Democrat at the time. Holmes came in second to Cotham in a 4-way contest. Cotham, who was making a return to the House as a progressive in a very progressive district, got almost 48% of the vote to Holmes's 31%. (This race was in what was then HD 112, which has been very studiously gerrymandered to help Cotham in 2024.) 

This is what I could find out about Holmes in March of 2022:

Yolanda Holmes is elusive on social media. She has a Facebook page which provides a link to a website, which is locked. The Facebook page is singularly uninformative. Found on the Internet: "The Rev. Dr. Yolanda Holmes, who grew up in the Charleston public schools and is a retired Department of Defense employee, is employed as Family and Community Engagement Coordinator with the CMS Family and Community Engagement office. She is associate pastor of New St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte. She earned a BS degree at Voorhees College, an MS in criminology at Indiana State, another MA in management, then a Ph.D. from Capella University." She works for the Charlotte Meck school system. She's a member of the long-running Mecklenburg County Women’s Advisory Board, an official county-appointed office.

Terry Lansdell

Lansdell didn't file for the seat until Friday morning, sort of at the last minute. "He’s a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission and executive director of BikeWalkNC" (Steve Harrison, WFAE). His Linked In page lists a long history of civic volunteerism with service on numerous boards and commissions invested in clean air, public transportation, and recreation.

When Lansdell was named executive director of BikeWalkNC in 2018, the org. itself published this profile:

In addition to his work with Clean Air Carolina, Terry has extensive experience with non-profits, including work with both Trips for Kids and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Terry’s work to advance sustainability is well known and was recognized by Sustain Charlotte in 2015 when he received their Outstanding Leader Award. His experience with large-scale event planning as well as grant writing will be invaluable to BikeWalk NC as we continue to grow as an organization. Terry’s background with bicycle advocacy is substantial, and his passion for both sustainable transportation and a cleaner environment made him the ideal person for the job. Terry is also an accomplished distance cyclist who has competed in four solo Race Across America events (RAAM), the Race Across the West on a fixed gear bicycle and holds the UMCA state record for North Carolina.

So far as I can discover, Lansdell has no social media nor a website (as of yet).

Nicole Sidman

Sidman beat Lansdell to filing but only by a day. According to Steve Harrison, "She hasn’t run for office before, though she ran Christy Clark’s successful 2018 state House race against Republican John Bradford. Originally from New York, she has been in Charlotte since 2017. She is the director of congregational life at Temple Beth El."

“I saw somebody who had promised her constituents one thing and then within a number of months completely flipped and it was not a decision she made without consequences,” Sidman said. “It was not just a political choice she made. By doing that she has really impacted people’s lives in so many ways.”

Sidman added: “I just felt like this was the opposite of what democracy is supposed to look like. You are supposed to be able to count on the people you voted for.”

Reporter Harrison: Sidman "does have connections, having hosted a fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Stein earlier this year. Will he respond in kind?"

No social media infrastructure for Sidman yet. As she's a veteran operative (the Christy Clark campaign in 2018), she'll surely roll out a whole panoply soon.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Virginia Foxx Gets a Primary



It often happens. Some wildcard no-name Republican gets a wild hair that Virginia Foxx is a g.d. "moderate," or worse, "an establishment Republican," and she has a primary forced upon her in which she buries the wildcard no-name. No one ever comes close. So why the effort?

This filing season, she gets Ryan Mayberry of Alexander County, an elected county commissioner and a builder, which puts him a few notches ahead of most of Madam Foxx's primary opponents. He's doing district GOP events too, which means he's campaigning (also rare for the breed that runs against Foxx). He recently attended and spoke at the Wilkes Co. GOP's Christmas Party.

On his Linked In page, Mayberry lists AppState for his education and mentions his 12 years as a county commissioner and his involvement with the Catawba Co. Land Use Development Board. Will look forward to learning his beef with the ineffable Foxx.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Insurgency Against Phil Berger Gets a Face


One anticipated Republican primary we won't get to enjoy is the Phil Berger-Sam Page matchup which seemed quite possible at the start of the week. But Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page backed down, notably after a face-to-face with Berger himself on Wednesday. (See Page's tone-deaf remark to a reporter below.) Page instead filed to run for lieutenant governor with approximately 400 other Republicans. But what remains is the mystery about the group of people who were trying to recruit Page. Berger has filed a Board of Elections complaint against them for violating elections law.

Back on December 4th, I posted here about a "secret" poll in Rockingham County that tested the viability of Sheriff Page's taking on Berger in the Republican primary for Senate District 26. The poll was "requested" by a group calling itself the North Carolina Conservative Project, "but secrecy continues to shroud the individuals behind it and the pollster." The poll supposedly had Page 30 points ahead of Berger in a head-to-head matchup (with a whopping 30% "Don't Know"). 

Lucille Sherman reported Thursday:

The North Carolina Conservative Project does not appear to be registered with the North Carolina Secretary of State, where businesses must register; the IRS, where registered tax-exempt entities can be searched by name; or the North Carolina State Board of Elections, where its expenses would be reported, depending on what kind of group it is.

Patrick Sebastian

Then it gets fascinating. Lucille Sherman got Phil Berger Jr., his daddy's Numero Uno on the Supreme Court, to talk on the record, and he outed Patrick Sebastian, who happens to be the nephew of Pat McCrory and who may be fronting for a group of wealthy people. "Sebastian was a consultant for Berger Jr. until Berger Jr. says he fired him last week following revelations that Sebastian was working to recruit someone to run against his father." (Sebastian's impressive resume can be seen here.)

Berger Jr. said in a text, in response to questions from Axios, "In my conversation with Patrick [Sebastian], he confirmed that he was involved in the effort, that he should have told me weeks ago, and that he was working under a confidentiality agreement." 

"He also said there were a number of wealthy [or powerful] people behind the effort."

Sebastian declined to comment on his involvement, and would not say whether he was the pollster, though he's a partner in a polling firm, Opinion Diagnostics.

Why all the secrecy? It's obvious, really. Sherman says. "Berger's adversaries didn't want to unveil themselves unless they knew they could succeed; otherwise they could become enemies of one of the state's most powerful figures." Duh.

Sheriff Page, in bowing out of challenging Berger on Wednesday, managed a sentence construction that unintentionally -- or who knows? intentionally -- skewered Berger. A reporter asked Page after his meeting with Berger if he had made a deal. Page was offended by the question: “Sir, I don’t make deals. I don’t make deals with criminals." Then he quickly added, "And I don’t make deals with anybody else. I listened. I was invited. I came and listened. But at the end of the day, I’m running for what position I have chosen that I feel best suits what I’m trying to do as a sheriff transitioning.”

Sometimes truth is spoken in the most haphazard way.

Nothing Wrong With Democratic "Performance" During Filing


I'm indebted to Bryan Anderson and his Substack feature "Anderson Alerts" for this piece of intel: As of yesterday noon (the close of candidate filing in NC), of "120 seats in the NC House, 50 in the NC Senate, 14 U.S. House seats, 10 in Council of State races and four statewide judicial contests, a Democrat will be running in all but four of the 198 races."

That's incredible. Especially considering everything the Republicans have done to gerrymander Democrats into a tiny corner and pass other vote-suppression measures intended to keep the GOP in power forever.

Much of the credit goes to Anderson Clayton, the new Chair of the Party, whose very presence at the helm has inspired so much renewed energy and resolve to keep up the fight even against terrible odds.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Watauga County Commission Sues Over Gerrymander

Watauga County districts, redrawn by Ralph Hise

On December 8th, the Watauga County Commission filed a lawsuit in Watauga Superior Court seeking a declaratory judgment on how to implement Sen. Ralph Hise's gerrymandering of Watauga's County Commission districts. The local act that Hise passed has created confusion and actual chaos among the very Board of Election people who will have to implement what they argue is an unworkable law, or send it back to the General Assembly to fix. The Hise bill redraws Watauga's Commission districts and converts them from "residential districts" to "electoral districts" (the new map, above), meaning that in the future the whole county will not vote on all commission seats. Candidates for those seats will have to come from an electoral district and only voters in that electoral district will be allowed to vote on candidates from that district. 

The town of Boone and students at AppState are segregated and isolated in a single district (# 1 on the new map). Districts 3, 4, and 5 are greater in land mass but with fewer voters, are largely rural in character and historically very Republican. In other words, the whole gerrymander is a lead-pipe cinch for producing a guaranteed Republican majority on the Commission in perpetuity.

But whereas Hise promised that "all county commissioners will serve the terms they were elected to," "no terms will be extended," and "no terms will be cut short" -- that promise was simply not true. Because the bill mandates that Districts 3, 4, and 5 will be on the ballot in 2024, which means (shorthand version) that...

Todd Castle in new Dist. 5 has his 4-year term (won in 2022) cut short by 2 years.

Braxton Eggers in new Dist. 3 has his 4-year term (won in 2022) cut short by 2 years.

Ray Russell in new Dist. 2 has his term (set to expire in 2024) extended until 2026.

Furthermore, Dist. 1 (Boone and AppState) has no incumbent commissioner living in district but is not mandated for an election in Hise's bill until 2026. The voters of Dist. 1 will be disenfranchised from representation for two years, or -- worse -- will get a commissioner appointed by the new Republican majority (early in 2025).

The old saying "You can't out-think a man who ain't thinking" applies here, perhaps. 

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Who Did Trump Endorse in CD 6?


Trump's new find

Donald Trump announced his endorsement on Wednesday of his favored candidate in North Carolina's 6th Congressional District. It wasn't Mark Walker, the ex-congressman who ran for US Senate last year and lost to Trump endorsee Ted Budd. And it wasn't Bo Hines, the Madison Cawthorn wannabe whom Trump endorsed in 2022 for the seat in the 13th Congressional District. Both Walker and Hines are announced candidates in CD 6.

No, Trump endorsed one Addison McDowell, who Danielle Battaglia reported wasn't even an announced candidate on Wednesday.

Born and raised in Davidson County, [McDowell] worked on Rep. Richard Hudson’s 2016 campaign and then from 2017 to 2019 in Sen. Ted Budd’s congressional office, while Budd served in the U.S. House representing the same area of the state .... McDowell currently is registered as a lobbyist for Blue Cross Blue Shield.

How Trump and McDowell got together could be an interesting love story. Did they "meet cute"? How did the romance blossom? "McDowell visited Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida to meet with the ex-president on Tuesday, campaign adviser Jonathan Felts said." 

The most devastated collateral damage of the Trump-McDowell elopement ... young Bo Hines, who was counting on getting the Trump rose himself.

Battaglia reports that McDowell has hired the hard-driving veteran operative named above, Jonathan Felts. The Felts resume is impressive. He ran the Bush-Cheney campaign in North Carolina in 2004 and then worked for Bush in the White House. In 2023 after Budd won his Senate seat, he hired Felts as his transition manager. Felts has also been a policy whisperer for Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt.

One naturally wonders if that was the conduit for getting McDowell under Trump's nose: McDowell to Felts to Budd to Trump.

The Wheeler-Marcus Primary for Secretary of Insurance



I first knew David Wheeler in 2018 as a candidate for Ralph Hise's Senate seat in SD 47. From the beginning, Wheeler wasn't afraid of being obnoxious. He famously invaded the premises of the Word of Faith Church in Rutherford County, asking questions with a camera rolling about allegations of cult-like control inside the church. He got ushered out. It was a political stunt that in hindsight probably didn't yield a bunch of votes but it made him visible for a time. I noticed him.

Wheeler lost to Hise in 2018 by 26 points, ran again against Hise in 2020 and lost by 37 points.

Wheeler's most famous obnoxiousness came in his year's long crusade that helped bring down Madison Cawthorn. With former Congressional candidate Moe Davis, the Democrat that Cawthorn beat in his initial race, Wheeler founded the American Muckrakers PAC specifically to go after Madison Cawthorn. And they did, releasing all sorts of damaging evidence of Cawthorn's juvenilia including a controversial video of Cawthorn cavorting naked with his cousin in bed. 

After Wheeler nailed Cawthorn's pelt to his barndoor, he turned his PAC on Lauren Boebert (timeline here) and is still in a Colorado court suing her for defamation.

Natasha Marcus

Wheeler announced months ago that he was a candidate for NC Commissioner of Insurance. A couple of days ago, Wheeler revealed on Twitter that Josh Stein had recruited ex-Senator Natasha Marcus to run for that office, and because of that, Wheeler would be removing himself from the ballot. An act of chivalry or a recognition that with establishment support Marcus would likely defeat him. 

With that news that he would drop out and clear the field for Marcus, many Democrats breathed a sigh, maybe of relief, to avoid a race that might get destructively mean. (The Republican incumbent, Mike Causey, has been my favorite Republican on the Council of State because he turned in those who offered him a bribe to favor one particularly shady insurance provider, Greg Lindberg. Causey wore a wire which sent Robin Hayes to jail.)

Just yesterday, and via Anderson Alerts, we learn that Wheeler has done a 180 and has decided that he'll stay in the race after all. In the explanation that Anderson prints, Wheeler is not shy is playing rough with Marcus. In a statement released by Wheeler, he lives up to his reputation as a pusher-and-shover:

“Marcus's self entitlement to this nomination is astounding,” Wheeler said. “One day she's running for the Senate, the next day it's DOI [Department of Insurance]. She clearly saw how I am going to beat Mike Causey and thought she'd be the ‘savior’ of the race. Not happening. I'm going to beat her and Causey to a pulp at the polls.”

Wheeler also took aim at Marcus’ background, referencing her time at Hamilton College in New York and subsequent legal work.

“I'm not a lawyer,” Wheeler said. “Does Raleigh really need another lawyer? I don't have New York roots and New York money. I'm a single dad of three kids of color and grew up in a rural town with farmers and wrestlers. I've worked for myself since I was 22 years old and didn't take a paycheck many times in order to ensure my employees were looked after when cash wasn't flowing. I'm not rich. But I do know the difference between right and wrong. Rate Hike Mike is wrong for North Carolina [and] must go in 2024. My Democratic opponent from Charlotte can't beat him.”

So that's a primary few people would want to celebrate. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Feisty Thom Tillis


Francis Chung/Politico

How the hell can I turn the page on a headline like this one:

Tillis calls Vance remarks on Ukraine ‘total and unmitigated bull‑‑‑‑’

At the very time that the MAGA wing of the NCGOP is going apeshit about Senator Tillis's dissing of governor candidate Mark Robinson, Tillis picks a fight with a MAGA figurehead? Are you serious?

"Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, in an interview with former White House aid Steve Bannon earlier Monday, claimed some lawmakers are looking to cut Social Security benefits for more aid to Ukraine that he argued will be used so one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ministers 'can buy a bigger yacht.' ”

"Bullshit," said Tillis. "Total and unmitigated bullshit." He said it to a gaggle of reporters who were only too willing to write it down.

What's going on with Tillis? Aid to Ukraine supporter, great compromiser always open to some big deal on reform of immigration, a guy who once buckled to Trump over declaring the building of a border wall a "national emergency." He's certainly not laid low from incurring the wrath of MAGA. Just last May he was officially censored by the NCGOP state convention for being insufficiently [fill in the blank].

This Tillis wielding "bullshit" is more interesting by the day.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Tillis v. Robinson: NCGOP's Civil War


Thom Tillis has endorsed Bill Graham in the Republican primary for governor and gingerly suggested that boss bully Mark Robinson lacked the credentials: “It’s not a personality thing to me or personal thing. I’m looking at two resumes and there’s a stark contrast in capabilities. Mark Robinson’s a good enough guy. I don’t know him that well, but he has virtually no legislative experience, very little business experience.”

At that, Robinson drew his sword and threw away the scabbard: “Let’s be clear about what this is. The RINOs are coming after me. Bill Graham is nothing but a pawn who’s been suckered into spending millions of his own money on a personal vendetta against me that’s being driven by consultants and a RINO senator who was censured by his own party. @ThomTillis is North Carolina’s @MittRomney. He supports red-flag laws and opposed Trump on border security. His elitist buddy, Bill Graham, is the Republican John Edwards who got rich from suing North Carolina farmers and business owners, and now thinks he can use the money he took from his fellow North Carolinians to buy a key to the governor’s mansion. Make no mistake, the establishment RINOs are out to get me. And let’s be clear why. They are going to say the same old line they always use: ‘He can’t win a general’. That’s simply false...."

What's the Graham campaign going to do with that? What's Thom Tillis going to do? End up supporting Robinson when he wins the primary?

Friday, December 08, 2023

Take a Handgun To Church


As of a week ago, it's lawful to take your handgun into a house of worship in North Carolina. Senate Bill 41, “Guarantee 2nd Amendment Freedom and Protections,” also eliminated gun permits entirely.

Nearer, my Walther, to Thee!

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Pat Harrigan Abandons His Moore Quest for a Surer Thing


Minutes after Patrick McHenry announced he would not be running for reelection to his 10th CD seat in Congress, Pat Harrigan, the very military man menacing Tim Moore's patented right to the 14th CD seat, which was created for him, announced that he was switching his campaign to the 10th and hiring McHenry's former campaign manager. Harrigan apparently has money. And maybe someone told him -- like McHenry? -- that Tim Moore can't be beat and he should pick another ripe plum instead.

Harrigan's Twitter feed.

Harrigan filed but not before another candidate, a nurse named Diana Jimison, got her name on the 10th CD ballot first. From appearances on her Facebook page, it appears that God is directing Jimison's campaign. She's a huge fan of Mark Robinson. For that matter, so is Pat Harrigan.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Let's Have More Democrats Like Darren Staley


Darren Staley, carrying a working-class torch for a seat in the NCSenate in a district so red it oozes, might inspire other Democrats to stand up against impossible odds and speak the truth about the workers' world that conservative policies have produced: "...born and raised in Wilkes County .... I’ve seen the manufacturing industry collapse and I saw it from the factory floor. I have seen and experienced the devastation and despair and hopelessness it leaves behind .... sick without health coverage, without medicine, paying last month’s power bill this month to keep the lights on. Without education. The humiliation of going hat in hand to family and friends."

In the days after Darren Staley dropped out of school, a smart but bored high school kid could walk into a well paid manufacturing job in Wilkes and turn it into a career and a middle-class existence. Staley did that, left school and got a good job at Golden Needles, a textile company, which was not unlike other textile companies in following cheap labor to Asia or Mexico. Out of a job, sick with a recurring debilitative illness, the social safety net, SSI and food stamps, literally saved Staley's life. What's wrong with people who mock the safety net and want to end it? Staley asks.

Plus for a candidate running in rural America, Staley toughed it out. He began to get a new, belated education, first at Wilkes Community College and then eventually at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, where he earned a Master's in legal studies. He's currently the Director of Operations for a small business that provides services to people with disabilities, and he sits on several committees that advocate for people across the behavioral health spectrum. Nevertheless, "I am literally just a guy in a mobile home typing this from my kitchen table."

His web presence is still birthing, so at the moment he has no photographs and certainly no videos on his website, though he's written a very compelling biography of American hard work and upward motion against terrible odds created by other people. His Twitter feed is lively. Disclosure: I've contributed to his campaign. 

I interviewed Staley via email:

Can you fill in a little detail about your political journey.

It’s not any kind of new awakening. I got interested in politics when I got laid off from the factory. We were all looking for people to blame. It was the government. It was the Mexicans. The whole “they took our jobs” thinking that was later parodied in a South Park episode.

My thinking started to change when I went to Mexico to be a part of the training team, training the people there on how to run the [textile] machines. In a maquiladora, which is basically a town where a US company sends manufacturing just barely across the border.

So that really opened my mind as far as realizing, you know, we’re all the same. And I’ll probably get tagged with “open borders” here, but I realized that things are universal. People want good jobs. They want to raise their kids and hope they do better. All racial and cultural differences melted away from me during that trip.

Of course this was during the layoff. After, when I was utilizing NAFTA Transition Assistance to go to school, and this is a much longer story, the assistance was linked to unemployment benefits. So if the state cut UI benefits, it also screwed over people on TAA.

My friends and I who went to school after the closure started following politics heavily. We would watch C-SPAN to see the votes, because that $300 a week -- I think it was -- it was crucial. For people who were previously making $35,000 plus a year.

And I saw every Republican walk on the floor of the House and Senate and call me a moocher, a loser, that I should just get off my ass and go get a job. I was like, I HAD A JOB. Legislation took this job away from me, and provided this assistance, and now you want to pass legislation that takes the assistance away?

I saw every Democrat stand up and say, if you cut off these benefits it will hurt a lot of people. Vulnerable people. Who lost their job through no fault of their own. I knew right then, I see who is on my side.

When I became disabled a couple years after that it was amplified. And I did get engaged in politics, at a limited level. I was unable to leave the house a lot. But I could get online. That’s how I got my degree. I got active in politics online.

So, yeah it’s a long story. But the reason I decided to do this right now is because I don’t think the Republican party cares about active legislation anymore. It’s one thing to be on the other side of an issue. It is a whole other thing to not even care about the issues. They gerrymander themselves into a district where they can’t lose, and so they can pass legislation about participation trophies and trans people.

This has so skewed our public discourse. You pick your side, and the other side is not the opposition but the enemy. I think there is a balance, between individual rights and the societal good, between management and labor. The people elect representatives to help find that balance, not to feed into the shit that divides us.

Always a Democrat?

Growing up, it’s a little complicated, because my Mom and Dad divorced when I was very young. My maternal family was and remains evangelical Christian Republican, for the most part. My paternal side were Democrats, again, for the most part. Neither side came up easy.

What distinctions will you draw between Darren Staley and Eddie Settle, the first-term Republican incumbent in Senate District 36?

Sen. Eddie Settle

When I got into this thing, I said to people that I had no intention of doing some ugly campaign that attacks my opponent. I don’t know Eddie Settle and have never met him. I have met people who say good things about him and people who say bad things about him, and I am sure he has heard the same about me.

Highlighting specific votes, you know it’s more about what he didn’t do than what he did. I mean, banning participation trophies and the gender stuff and safe havens for guns and the unborn. I’m just not sure how any of this helps the laid off factory worker, or the disabled person, or the person with no health care.

He seems like a decent person to me. I just disagree with him on most if not all policy issues. I have no doubt he is a very good speaker, a better politician, but I’m just not sure he gives a lot of nuanced thoughts on the issues. His website talks about how he will NEVER raise taxes. Now I’m not looking to raise taxes on people willy nilly, but “NEVER” is just, it’s all about context. We don’t live in a one size fits all world.

In my day job, I try to be proactive and not reactive. I try to consider all possibilities and come up with the best solutions, knowing that sometimes I get it wrong. Being able to admit, yeah, I got this one wrong. But talking points and slogans and bold statements of certainty without nuance shouldn’t cut it for a legislator.

It’s a big district. It’s a big state. Everyone has their own unique experience, and I’ve experienced a lot. Good times, bad times, and hard times. I want to make the hard times easier on the people of the district.

You made a joke on your Twitter feed, about the comedian Corey Forrester's being your campaign manager. How do you know him?

I think what Corey and the WellRed comedy group, which includes Trae Crowder (aka The Liberal Redneck) and Drew Morgan have done to show that there is a progressive south is so very important. I’ve met them all but I feel like I have a special kinship with Corey. 


Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Some Filing Developments, Day Two


Surprises, pleasant or not, from the first 24 hours of candidate filing (facts gleaned by "Anderson Reports" on Substack:

Lora Cubbage

Democratic NC Supreme Court Justice Allison Riggs officially has a primary challenger in Lora Cubbage, who arrived very early [for filing] and was the first in line at the State Fairgrounds. After a slow start processing early arrivals, she was out the door shortly after 1 p.m.

Lora Cubbage was born and raised in Shenandoah, Va. After relocating to Greensboro, NC, she worked for 17 years as a barber before returning to school at the age of 29 at NC A&T. After earning her degree there, she went on to law school at UNC-Chapel Hill. She's served as an Assistant District Attorney in Guildford County, an Assistant Attorney General in Raleigh, as both a district court judge and (currently) a superior court judge in District 18A (Guilford County).

Chrelle Booker, mayor pro tem of the Town of Tryon and former U.S. Senate candidate (Dems primary of 2022), is again running for statewide office. This time, for governor.

Steve Moree
Republican Jeff Elmore (HD 94) is stepping down from this safe seat in Wilkes and Alexander to run for Lieutenant Governor. Democrat Steve Moree, a retired local educator of repute and the son of a Baptist pastor of repute, filed on the first day for the open seat. Steve Moree could be formidable (for a Democrat in that district, which is 74.4% Republican).

US Rep. Patrick McHenry of the 10th CD sez he's retiring. Gosh, seems like only yesterday he was the youngest member of the House -- i.e., 2004, same year Foxx got elected. Which means, he's still young. He's probably off to make a lot of money in the financial services industry (that's just a hunch, based on who he's been in charge of regulating as a congressman). His resignation letter contained some fine philosophy: "Through good and bad, during the highest of days and the lowest, and from proud to infamous times, the House is the venue for our nation’s disagreements bound up in hopes for a better tomorrow.”

Sign of the Times


Seen on Twitter. Ad for Republican Pat Harrigan, running for Congress (CD14) in a primary against NC House Speaker Tim Moore.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Say What? Phil Berger Might Get Comeuppance From a Fellow Republican?


The behatted Sheriff Sam Page

Phil Berger, the undisputed boss of the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly, represents the entirety of Rockingham County and part of Guilford. From his perch as president of the NC Senate, Berger pretty much gets what he wants. Except he recently wanted more casino gambling in North Carolina, including a new casino in his own district, from which endeavor he got mainly a black eye and the very live possibility of a credible primary challenger.

Democrats realize that no Democrat is going to beat him. Disgruntled Republicans have realized that only another Republican can beat him, but Berger is both powerful and vindictive, so finding the person who will be foolish brave enough to go up against him seems remote? But the Republicans disgruntled with Berger may have found their potential challenger in Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page. Page is currently one of a host of Republicans who've declared their candidacies for lieutenant governor. But recent secret polling in Berger's district strongly suggests that Sheriff Page might have the juice to take out Berger. And the NandO reported on Nov. 27 that indeed Sam Page is seriously considering switching from the lieutenant governor race to a new status as Phil Berger's worst nightmare (truly!).

Page, who's been in office since 1998, led local opposition to Berger's casino expansion schemes, adding to his brand as a straight-laced moral paragon in contrast to Berger's pay-to-play hint of corruption. Page often wears a big sheriff hat. Big hat, big 'tude. Page directly alluded to potential corruption when he spoke out against the casino deal (but did not criticize Phil Berger directly) at a public hearing, saying he suspected that a deal had been hatched behind closed doors "long before the public was made aware of the proposal."

When he first ran for sheriff in 1998 (actually, his 2nd run for the office), Page, who had once been a Democrat and switched parties to get elected, associated himself with one of the most controversial strong-arm type sheriffs in the state, Gerald Hege of Davidson County. Candidate Page hosted Hege, quite notorious at the time, as his special guest and public endorser at a fundraising dinner that got media coverage.  Hege was an imitator of Joe Arpaio's patented meanness to suspects and arrestees. "Hege ordered all deputies to dress in paramilitary fatigues and combat boots; ... Hege reinstated the use of chain gang prisoner labor. He also removed the television sets and books (except for the Bible) from the county jail. The jail was repainted in pink"... (etc.). Page chose to associate himself with that sort of authoritarian grandstanding while he was running for office, but in office, he's not acted like a Hege (so far as I can find out).

(Hege, incidentally, flamed out in 2003 after he was charged with 15 felonies. He was removed from office and ended up copping a plea that put him on probation until 2007.)

The "secret" poll mentioned above was "requested" by a group calling itself the North Carolina Conservative Project, but secrecy continues to shroud the individuals behind it and the pollster. Here are the bare facts I've seen: "In the poll, asking 300 Republicans to choose between Page and Berger, Page came out 30 points ahead. However, the poll also showed that 30% didn’t know who they’d choose and 8% said someone else." In response, Berger told reporters, “I generally think it’s unwise to put any credence in an anonymous poll, and I certainly have not received a reception in my district that leads me to believe that that poll is in any way accurate.”

Guess we'll find out, and fairly soon. Candidate filing opens today at noon. Closes on December 15, also at noon.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Weirdest Endorsement of the Year


Last Wednesday, NC Senate boss Phil Berger endorsed Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson for governor, thus dissing the cred of the Phil Graham campaign (let alone the forlorn crusade of Dale Folwell). WRAL’s Will Doran reported that in endorsing Robinson, Berger said, “I just think he’s got a good head on his shoulders. I think philosophically, he’s generally in the right place. I think he has been supportive of many of the things that we’ve done here at the General Assembly.”

Did you notice that generally stuck in there? Like a chicken bone in a dog's throat? "He's generally in the right place"? Seriously? That one word opens a sudden chasm of doubt. Also that phrasing of "he has been supportive of many of the things that we've done here at the General Assembly." That limiting qualifier -- "many of the things" -- is another Berger "tell," as noticeable as a neon bar sign. He doesn't trust the guy, but Robinson is destined to win the primary, and the General Assembly has seized so much of the governor's power already that Robinson will be limited in his flex, and overmatched by the likes of Berger. So why not back the inevitable winner?

If you're reading barometers, you might also note that Berger did not -- rather pointedly so -- endorse Trump at the same time he was endorsing Robinson. He was asked about that and said, patriotically, “Former President Trump is going to be the Republican nominee. And I think he will be the Republican nominee whether I endorse him or not. Whether I endorse somebody else. So I don't know that I'll get involved in that.”

MAGA's gonna hate him for that.

Friday, December 01, 2023

Self-Sacrifice in the 11th Congressional District


Caleb Rudow

Democrat Caleb Rudow, NC House member from Asheville serving his first full term in the General Assembly, has announced that he'll step down from his super-safe District 116 seat to challenge Rep. Chuck Edwards, the Republican who just last year ousted Madison Cawthorn in Congressional District 11.

Rudow grew up in Buncombe and after high school attended and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in philosophy (yes, there can be life after philosophy), because he was intending to become a rabbi. Instead, he went to the Peace Corps and served in Zambia. Building additional steam for turning his eleemosynary instincts and good heart toward public policy, Rudow did graduate work at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin.

After House Rep. Susan Fisher announced her retirement and stepped down early at the end of 2021, Rudow made it known to Democratic activists in Asheville that he was a candidate for finishing out her term. It was an opportunity, Rudow believed, to put public service together with his best intentions for bettering the lives of people. The Democratic leaders were impressed enough with him to recommend him to Gov. Cooper, who did the appointment in February 2022. Rudow easily won election in his own right that fall.

No one -- including Rudow himself -- thinks he has anywhere approaching even odds to win the 11th Congressional District. After the most recent Republican gerrymander, it's 56% Republican. So he's sacrificing himself for the sake of keeping progressivism alive in a region with growing, vibrant, progressive cities and towns, and rural neighborhoods fuller of out-of-state transplants who think differently.

“I’ve really felt called to work in service my whole life, and this next election is a really historic moment,” Rudow said. Ever since the election of 2016, Rudow said he's been concerned with ministering to "the meanness" lose everywhere in America, not just in politics (but particularly in politics). Meanness certainly comes as a side with the sandwich that Rep. Chuck Edwards serves in Congress (he happens to be "a sandwich vendor" with a string of McDonalds) -- his attempted punishment of the Eastern Band (see below), his indifference trending toward inaction on the shutting down of the Canton paper mill -- the loss of jobs, the economic and psychological wreckage left by a predatory industry -- and his curious deafness to the humans caught in the opioid crisis. 

Edwards' meanness extends very noticeably to the media covering him, especially his animus toward the Smoky Mountain News (SMN), in particular reporter Cory Vaillancourt, who is one of the best political reporters working in the state and whose persistent questioning of Edwards Edwards hasn't much liked. He banned -- cut off -- SMN as a news source, refused to answer or even respond to any question posed by it (detailed below).


If Chuck Edwards isn't currently the worst member of the NC delegation in Congress, he's at least a runner-up. His big legislative achievement of 2023 was the introduction of the Stop Pot Act, an attempt to punish the Eastern Band of Cherokees for voting to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Cory Vaillancourt generously gathered up the rest of Edwards' record:

During his 2022 campaign, Edwards failed to show for a debate hosted by The Smoky Mountain News [SMN] and Blue Ridge Public Radio after criticizing Cawthorn’s debate no-shows, opting instead to appear only on a corporate-owned right-leaning television network with whom he’d spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising....

In January, Edwards hired Macon County activist/journalist Brittney Lofthouse as an aide, but fired her in short order after complaints from his constituents about her support for the LGBTQ+ community.

In February, SMN informed Edwards of trouble at the Pactiv Evergreen paper mill in Canton, when one of the mill’s four machines was idled by management. Edwards refused to interview with SMN at the time. A month later, the mill announced it would shut down completely, and Edwards refused to tell SMN what, if anything, he’d done in the meantime to prevent the loss of around 1,000 good-paying union jobs.

In March, when decades of inaction by Congress to adequately fund the National Park maintenance backlog resulted in the implementation of a parking fee at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Edwards refused to interview with SMN about what, if anything, he’d done to prevent the cost from being passed on to visitors.

In April, when the “Back off Our Benefits” tour rolled into Asheville and asked Edwards to pledge to protect Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and veterans’ benefits, Edwards ignored them, just as he’d done the previous October.

At a town hall focusing on the impact of the Canton mill closing in June, Edwards again refused to answer questions posed by SMN about what, if anything, he’d done to save the mill after being informed of the situation by SMN a month before the closing was announced. Instead, Edwards responded by saying he’d only speak with media outlets that give him favorable coverage.

“I really reserve the right to respond to those media outlets that I’ve been able to build good relationships with that have reported the news fairly,” Edwards said at the time, without citing any examples of unfair reporting. “I didn’t respond to that question and I’m not gonna respond to this.”

At that same meeting, Edwards heard criticism from constituents when, in response to a question about how Buncombe County could help with the impact of the mill’s closing, Edwards ridiculed Asheville’s problems and refused help....

In September, Edwards threatened to withhold federal highway funding from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, a sovereign tribal government, after voters there decided to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Some, including SMN, decried Edwards’ meddling in tribal affairs. Also in September, Edwards sent a field representative to Murphy to present an award to a fringe law enforcement group that has ties to white supremacy, espouses COVID-19 conspiracy theories, embraces election denialism and advocates the thoroughly debunked “sovereign sheriff” movement....