Sunday, February 25, 2024

Bankruptcy Declared


Surrender has turned to dependency, which has its own pathology.

Foxx is perhaps projecting because her primary opponent, Ryan Mayberry, is portraying himself as more MAGA than she.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Mark Walker, Pathetic in So Many Ways


So which is worse: Pretending you have the endorsement of the worst person in the world, or desiring to have that endorsement?

Former Rep. Mark Walker, who's running now to get back into Congress from NC6, has been caught listing Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz as an endorsee. Donald Trump Jr. is making a big deal out of it, on behalf of his BFF Addison McDowell whom Big Daddy Trump endorsed for the job Walker is also running for.

Walker is so desperate for hard right friends that he would fake a friendship with the odious Gaetz. Sad.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Magical Thinking

The high-level duo of Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings, co-chairs last year of the Governor’s Commission on the Governance of Public Universities in North Carolina, issued some eight months ago a 153-page set of recommendations for reforming the way the university system is governed. Both Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings are past presidents of the UNC system, hounded out of office, incidentally, by increasingly conservative boards of governors put in place by the Republican bosses in the General Assembly. Turns out, of course, that their recommendations for reform to remove partisanship and increase diversity were akin to pissing into the wind. To suggest that the politicians should stay the hell away from boards of trustees and governors, when they had only just recently won enough control to punish the liberals in the classrooms -- that idea was dead abirthing. Increase diversity? Ross and Spellings actually used that word, which to Christian conservatives is evidence of a plot to turn every kid gay. So the Commission report disappeared from off the earth.

So it's nice to hear that Ross and Spellings brought the whole topic up again. They talked about the dangers of vindictive partisanship in our colleges and universities during an online discussion organized by the nonprofit Coalition for Carolina. Then Joe Killian, writing about the on-line conversation for the NC Newsline, brought it to my attention.

Killian republished the Ross/Spellings report’s top-line recommendations (which get better toward the bottom):

Expand the UNC Board of Governors from 24 to 36 members – with 32 of them appointed and four standing members

Expand each campus board of trustees to 15 members

Allow the minority party of the General Assembly to appoint eight seats on the UNC Board of Governors

Reserve four seats on the board of governors and campus boards of trustees for the chairs of the faculty and staff assemblies

Mandate 16 of the board of governors’ members be appointed from eight designated parts of the state to promote geographic diversity on the board; the other 16 would be appointed at-large

Institute a one year “cooling off” period between serving in the General Assembly or being an active lobbyist and serving on the board of governors or a board of trustees

Create a new “Center for Higher Education” which would monitor the UNC Board of Governors and maintain a database of well-qualified candidates for appointment to the boards

The ruthlessness of the conservatives toward higher education -- when it's coupled in any way with progressive advocacy -- came to full flower in 2015 with the punishment of Gene Nichol, a distinguished faculty member in the Chapel Hill School of Law and past President of William and Mary College and a consistent critic of the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly. It's almost Putinesque how they targeted Nichol with specific poison pain, took away his Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity -- just shut it down because some politicos complained that Nichol was actively helping the poor with some kind of legal aide.

The conservatives are on a jihad to stamp out liberalism in higher education. They don't need no recommendations from over-educated bureaucrats.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Eddie Settle vs. Darren Staley, NCS 36


Eddie Settle

I knew naught of Sen. Eddie Settle, who represents Wilkes, Alexander, Surry, and Yadkin counties (Dist. 36) in Raleigh, except that the energizing Democratic candidate for that seat, Darren Staley, mocks the R+26 nightmare that district has become and is not averse to pointing out Settle's tiresome conservative smugness. Staley lives in a trailer, is as hardscrabble tested as Settle is privileged, and he knows which end is up (as they say in my part of the country). Staley's Twitter feed keeps me plugged in to what a Democratic campaign for democratic values ought to look like and rarely does, an uprising of working-class common sense, determination, and vision.

Democrat Staley tweeted a link to a piece of remarkable Eddie Settle prose (liberally stolen from the Wall Street Journal, as it turns out), headlining it this way: "I've spent a lot of time talking about why you should support my campaign. THIS is who I am running against. Let that sink in..." Settle's little essay, "A Biblical Look at Capitalism," was published in the Valentine's Day edition of The Wilkes Record. 

I took the bait, wondering what make of man that my man Darren Staley is running against.

Settle's profit-motive Christianity left a bad taste in my mouth, an offensive brandishing of the Bible to promote the gospel of plutocracy: "The Bible is clear on many things. It teaches about the morality of personal responsibility. It’s through this avenue that man learns to develop good citizenship that leads to happiness. The welfare state undermines this goal of personal responsibility. Proverbs teaches that man is to be productive and that he is not entitled to well-being." Let them eat wallpaper?

"The morality of personal responsibility." Really, Dude? Has Trump, past master of evading consequences, taught us nothing? "Not entitled to well-being?" Has the history of wolfish, buck-passing corporations taught you absolutely nothing, Sir? Yours is a "Bible philosophy" made to order for the already comfortable who intend to entertain no doubt nor guilt, so it's little surprise that Eddie Settle's big consuming issue is taxes on people like him.

By all appearances, Eddie Settle is a well respected Southern Baptist glad-hander in Wilkes, a former 3-term county commissioner now serving in his first term in the NC Senate. He essentially went straight out of high school (and one year studying business at Wilkes Community College) into working at and learning his father's business, Nu-Line Printing Inc. (good for t-shirt screen printing & embroidery, banners, signs & picture framing services) -- the company that Settle now owns outright and still runs today. In 1990, he got into a sideline of raising cattle and is often photographed wearing a big cowboy hat at social gatherings to prove it. He told Colin Campbell that his personal hero was Ronald Reagan, specifically "his Christian conservative leadership."

He's big on pro-life politics, organizing a vote on the Wilkes Commission to pass a resolution to designate the county "a haven for the unborn" (Whoa! Wilkes filled with very pregnant women? looking to escape the pro-abortionists?). What would a haven for the unborn entail? He also mentions Critical Race Theory on his website, calling it "pure poison." 

He's always going to vote the party line, but I wonder if he stood up to Berger over the casino gambling push. He certainly doesn't mention that Berger's failure to get more casinos into poor counties held up the budget for months. Settle sez not one word about Berger's determination to get legalized commercial gambling well situated in NC on his otherwise braggadocious wrap-up of his first year in the Senate. He can certainly brag about the $70 million in pork he got to hand out in his four counties. Pork is always a thoughtful gift.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Tucker Carlson's Red Period; Thom's Blue

Tucker Carlson is now a thing on X, posting videos of interviews with strong men admired by the militant Right. Of course, you heard about the video he posted of his recent trip to a grocery store in Moscow, praising Russia (hence, Putin) for the price of its groceries and its superior cleanliness. Earlier last week, Tucker said Moscow is “so much nicer than any city in my country.”

The sometimes liberated Thom Tillis wasn't having it. Tillis tweeted back, “Ah yes, Russia is so much better than the U.S. with all those cheap groceries and lavish subway stations. The Soviets had a term for people like Tucker: useful idiots.”

Does Senator Tillis have polling or any other data that suggests the MAGA-wing of the NCGOP isn't as powerful as it thinks, so he feels free to let loose every once in a while (in between fits of kowtowing). Tillis is a hard man to predict. But fun to watch right now.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Some Lowdown on Deanna Ballard's Candidacy for Lieutenant Governor


There are arch conservatives and MAGAts and slick campaign operatives running in the very crowded Republican primary for lieutenant governor, but there's only one Deanna Ballard, our former state senator who got double-bunked in 2022 with the wheeler-dealer Ralph Hise. We heard it was a plot to get rid of her because she was considered too soft and pliable in Raleigh for a Party that likes its politicians hard, like its laws. 

The Daily Haymaker, always on the far right of the known universe, considers Ballard insufficiently conservative and "way too close to legislative leadership" -- too establishment, in other words. That assessment was seconded by a lengthy article in The Assembly on the whole crowded field -- both Republican and Democratic -- running in both primaries for lieutenant governor (the most inconsequential job on the Council of State).

Carli Brosseau characterized Ballard's campaign this way in The Assembly:

Though Ballard has accepted the invitation extended to all GOP lieutenant governor candidates to speak on [Lt. Gov. Mark] Robinson’s rally circuit, she has avoided a full-throated endorsement of the MAGA movement.

Instead, she has positioned herself to appeal to unaffiliated voters, invoking her mother’s career as a school teacher, her seven years working in the George W. Bush administration, and her passion for improving data management.

“We could make some better policy if we had more timely data—and that’s across the board from business to education, K12, to higher education to the workforce,” she said.

On abortion, she says she supports the legislature’s recent move to ban the procedure, in most cases, at 12 weeks. Before Roe v. Wade was struck down, she sponsored a bill that would have banned most abortions at 20 weeks. Would she now like to see an earlier ban? “I believe life begins at conception,” she said, but “I don’t think it can be done in North Carolina.”

There are some indications that Ballard’s message is landing. She raised $194,000 from July through December, more than any other Republican candidate in that timeframe.

In the Republican primary, there are at least four candidates who will have formidable followings including Sam Page, the Sheriff of Rockingham, and Jeffrey Elmore, a House member from Wilkes, and Hal Weatherman, who was Dan Forest's main operative for a long time. Also Jim O'Neill, who came close to beating Josh Stein for attorney general in 2020. Ballard is up against some tough competitors. Odds are nobody gets to 30% on March 5, which means a run-off.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Phil Berger, Once Bitten Is Twice Shy


The headline on Luciana Perez Uribe Guinassi's story yesterday pretty well captured a new, somewhat chastened Phil Berger: "Once a champion of casino legalization, NC Senate leader ‘not intent’ on it for 2024."

"Not intent." Understatement.

Berger took a beating over legalized gambling from the most precious of the GOP consistency, rural Republicans (otherwise guaranteed to applaud Republican talking points) not so enamored with Berger's weird idea of rural development -- make the local economy blossom with for-profit legalized gambling.

There was such an outcry in Rockingham County -- Berger's own constituency -- that the local sheriff got talked up as a potential challenger for Berger's Senate seat, and by all appearances, came close to running. Some (reliable?) polling suggested he could have beaten Berger in a primary, and that might chasten any bull elephant in his 24th year as a North Carolina Senator and his 14th year as undisputed bossman.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Robinson Finds a Clue

“Not huge … but we don’t need a huge crowd."

--Candidate Mark Robinson, commenting on the small attendance at a campaign "rally" held at an event venue in Rocky Mount. "Not bad for a Wednesday."

Fox8 reporter Emily Mikkelsen obtained the audio of a Mark Robinson campaign event at Factory 633 in Rocky Mount and transcribed this self-reflective moment when Robinson got ruffled that anyone would accuse him of toning it all down to attract more moderate vote. So this sounds like a subdued Robinson, not the hellfire preacher. One might almost say cowed:

“Now I don’t want you to be dismayed, though, [that] you all didn’t hear me mention any social issues. ‘Somehow, Mark Robinson has gone soft, is now afraid to tackle the social issues.’ I’ve already tackled the social issues.

"I’ve already told people how I feel about men competing against women in sports. The legislature already spoke on that issue.

"We’ve already told people how we feel about life. We moved that back 8 weeks down to 12 weeks.

"We’ve already told people how we feel about this disgusting pornography, this disgusting pornography that they tried to present to our children in our schools.

"We’ve already told them. I’m not gonna spend a whole lot of time talking about it.”

It's guaranteed, Sir, that plenty of others will spend "a whole lot of time talking about it."


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Conservative Pushback Against Michael Whatley


See the previous item below.

Newsweek has highlighted pushback against Trump's choice of Michael Whatley to replace Ronna McDaniel as chair of the RNC. With more background about what went on in 2023 when Whatley was reelected chair of the NCGOP:

But after Trump issued his statement, conservatives signaled their disapproval on X, formerly Twitter.

One X user, Denise Harrison, said: "These choices are supposed to inspire conservatives to donate money? I wasn't donating before...I sure in hell won't be donating to the RNC now!"

Another X user, Reno Ciccotta, wrote: "Why Michael Whatley?"

Others expressed concerns about the manner by which Whatley was re-elected to his position last year. In September 2023, a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by three North Carolina delegates challenging Whatley's re-election as party chairman. Whatley defeated his challenger, John Kane, but those bringing the case claimed the use of a mobile phone application to vote allowed invalid votes to be cast.

Recounting this issue, the host of The Absolute Truth, a show on the social media platform Frank, Emerald Robinson said: "Whatley is a Koch Bros swamp creature. He's anti-MAGA. Bad choice for RNC chair."

An X user responded: "Emerald is right. I am from NC and Whatley is poison."


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

MAGA Warrior or Bootlicker?


In high-level drama at the GOP, Trump is pushing out national Chair Ronna McDaniel, who's abased herself for his sake, and wants North Carolina's GOP Chair Michael Whatley to take over for her. Whatley is the round-faced people-pleaser who's most aligned with the country club Republican "establishment" and who, according to The Daily Haymaker, plays at being a Trumpist lickspittle while really secretly harboring fear bordering on resistance. "[Whatley] loves to talk about Donald Trump and post pictures of himself with Trump’s plane. But much of what he does and says aligns much more with Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — the two former 'Republican' congressmen who colluded with Democrats on the farcical so-called 'January 6 committee'.”

(Brant Clifton actually wrote that. Without a single example of what he does and says.) 

But here's the deal: Whatley also presided over "prodigious success in most state elections. Since taking over in 2019 Whatley oversaw Trump’s win in 2020, two U.S. Senate victories in 2020 and 2022, recapturing a supermajority in the state Senate and flipping control of the N.C. Supreme Court from 6-1 Democrats to 5-2 Republicans."

Despite such a sparkling recent career in North Carolina (Wikipedia sez he's a native of Watauga County), and despite Whatley's signature affability, the most MAGA wing of the Party ran John Kane for party chair against him in 2023. John Kane was and is the number one son of an elder John Kane, a renown Raleigh mega-developer who was actually honored as Tar Heel of the Year in 2016. The elder Kane is also renown for raising big money for Republicans. The younger John Kane emphasized his MAGA bona fides, hitting especially "election integrity," because the election of 2020 was stolen from Trump. The conservatives who don't trust Whatley remember that he went weak after the "Stop the Steal" tourist romp at the Capitol, and condemned it all as a riot. Like a lot of other Republicans back on January 7th who later developed a twitch and then couldn't remember, Whatley never said another negative word in public about insurrection. Conservatives hate weakness, especially in their servants and allies.

Photo Robert Willett, News&Observer

Whatley easily won reelection to the chairmanship in 2023, with the endorsement of Trump, incidentally. "Mr. Trump likes Mr. Whatley for one overwhelming reason, according to people who have discussed him with the former president: He is a 'stop the steal guy,' as one of the people described him. He endorses Mr. Trump’s false claims about mass voter fraud and Mr. Trump believes he did a good job delivering North Carolina, a 2020 swing state, to him." [Zachary Roth]

Whatley walks the straight and narrow on Trump's story of election fraud and mouths the boss's beliefs and serves on all sorts of efforts to develop new voting laws to cut down on fraud while, according to Jim Womack, the ultra-conservative chair of the Lee County GOP and founder of the North Carolina Election Integrity Team (NCEIT) -- semi-professional (!) fraud sniffers who cause as much trouble every election cycle as they possibly can -- Womack said that Whatley kept NCEIT "at arm’s length from the state party." That's the down home knock against Whatley, that he's actually protective of the ancient establishment and therefore weak.

But he knows how to flatter Trump. And act the act that is necessary for prospering. (Warning: When you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.)

UH-OH -- Whatley, About To Get Steamrolled By Nepotism

Feb. 12, 2024: "In a statement, Trump backed Michael Whatley, the chair of the North Carolina GOP, as the new chairman of the party to replace Ronna McDaniel .... But Trump also said he would support Lara Trump, his daughter-in-law, as co-chair of the party and Chris LaCivita, a top aide, as the top operating officer." [WashPost]

Party rules mandate male/female co-chairs. Lara Trump will be the stronger with the capo.

Monday, February 12, 2024

The Shadow You Cast These Days If You're in a Republican Primary

The Republican primary for the 8th Congressional District features 6 candidates, the most well funded of whom is John Bradford, currently in the NCHouse (Dist. 98), and the notorious Reverend Mark Harris of ballot fraud fame that happened in 2018 in CD9. Harris has evidently gotten over the tears of that embarrassment and is bouncing back into the political spotlight as a pretty dern self-righteous dick. So John Bradford, who's had an image in the General Assembly as a kind of Fred MacMurray suburban dad willing to get along, apparently thought he needed to up the testosterone level to compete with hell fire, so he produced this very sad, out of character 30 seconds and is putting it on TV:

Grateful to Paige Masten for alerting us to this.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

A Mean Little Republican Primary -- Echevarria vs. Crutchfield (HD 82)


I paid attention when politics reporter Colin Campbell singled out the Republican primary in HD 82 (Cabarrus and Rowan) as "the most competitive" Republican primary for a General Assembly seat this year, because a fast-talking insurgent named Brian Echevarria is trying to unseat a new Republican member in his first term, Kevin Crutchfield, who's endorsed by Tim Moore and supported by the Republican establishment. I perked up because I remember Brian Echevarria from 2022, when Democrat Diamond Staton Williams beat him for the HD 73 seat. He's something of a phenomenon. I called him a rising star in 2022. He's compelling. And this video is what he's famous for. These three minutes are the reason Brian Echevarria may scare the hell out of incumbent Kevin Crutchfield.

So Crutchfield, or Atlas Political Consulting, released a 30-sec spot via Twitter back on Jan. 24th. It's been largely sub-rosa since then, with fewer than 9,000 views. It sensationalizes Echevarria by snipping footage from Facebook posts (I guess) of Echevarria relaxing, dancing, partying, cut together to paint Echevarria as a Cubano party boy. You have to click the link to see it. Releasing such a bare-fisted attack, on behalf of a well respected businessman and member of a church, demonstrates a kind of incipient race panic, doesn't it? 

The video of Echevarria cowing the Cabarrus County School Board in February 2022, showed a flair for communication. Echevarria had many in the audience nodding their heads, laughing at his fluency, and applauding him. (The video, which went viral and got a write-up in the New York Post, can still be seen on his website.)  Echevarria doesn't seem to have a campaign Twitter account (none is linked to on his website), but he does post to one wholly separate from his campaign (@BrianEchNC), where he is not above complaining about the Republican establishment in Cabarrus.

There was something of a cyber-scandal back in 2022 involving Echevarria's scrubbing a Facebook page, Spank That Tail, that advocated, sometimes quite humorously, for more corporal punishment for children. That became something of an embarrassment and Echevarria disappeared it. That corporal punishment bent in Echevarria may be a bell wether for other rigidities, like his opposition to expanding Medicaid coverage.

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Studying for My Primary Ballot


I'll voluntarily tell you what is currently pissing me off a little, the innuendo that because Rep. Jeff Jackson (and candidate for Attorney General) has a big social media following, he must be a shallow and artificial politician. This was Jackson back in 2015, in the NC Senate, denouncing the Republican budget of that year and the underhanded process that birthed it. I don't consider this shallow:

The in-depth profile of Durham D.A. Satana Deberry that just came out at The Assembly doesn't do Jackson any favors, and why should it? Deberry takes the air out of the room. She's an impressive Princeton and Duke product who's been through several election cycles in Durham but surprised everyone when she challenged Jeff Jackson for the Atty Gen'l job, because she's so well known in Durham County and virtually nowhere else. 

(I couldn't help wincing all through Lena Geller and Michael Hewlett's profile, how Dan Bishop would absolutely love Satana Deberry on the ballot opposite him. He could so make hay off her record as D.A. -- "Soft on crime!" And her queerness.)

Jeff Jackson's a Boy Scout, and I see him standing on the principles of the Scouting Code, and all the better that he can actually communicate with clarity. He will give Dan Bishop fits.

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

The Return of John Blust


Photo by Andrew Krech

John Blust was a member of the NC House representing a Guilford County district for some 18 years, until he decided not to run again in 2018. He had been an honest thorn in the GOP's backside -- emphasis on honest. In 2013, when Republican leaders were in the process of rushing through a bill to simply fire all the existing members of several important regulatory commissions and boards, John Blust stood up and shook his head: "I don’t like this idea. We have the power, but I wish we would be more careful with it." (John's brother David Blust served several terms on the Watauga County Commish.)

In 2015, when Sen. Trudy Wade tried to gerrymander the city council of Greensboro so Republicans could take over, John Blust blasted the bill in the House: "You all know it is wrong for a city of 285,000 to have a form of government put in place by one person." Ouch. Wade's manipulation bill got voted down in the House.

In April 2018, John Blust, who had already announced his projected retirement, stood up in a committee meeting and asked why the Devil Republican legislative leaders were even discussing seizing another appointment power from the Governor -- the right to appoint district and special court judges to vacated seats. “Why are we competent to make this kind of decision on appointing judges?” Blust asked. “Why do we want to take on one more thing that may not be an area we have expertise when we claim we have limited time, and we can’t get to so many important subjects because of that limited time?”

So John Blust has announced a return to politics, and he's already bucking like a maverick. Blust announced for the newly drawn HD 62 last November (leans Republican by 53%) and told the Greensboro News & Record that "his opposition to including casino authorization in the state budget and to the potential de-annexation of land in Summerfield by the legislature helped lead to his decision to run again." In other words, he'll be the death of Phil Berger's ultimate goal of putting more casino gambling in North Carolina.

Who's John Blust Running Against in the Republican Primary?

Britt Moore, an older gentleman and a long-serving at-large member of the High Point City Council, he boasts that he's the only candidate to be endorsed by retiring John Faircloth, whose Dist. 62 was redrawn. I'm guessing he may be the frontrunner.

Ann Schneider, an older woman and an Oak Ridge town councilperson and mayor. She's kind of transparent: "Other priorities she’ll be stressing on the campaign trail include parents’ rights, creating excellence in schools and providing North Carolinians more school choice – helping make schools 'free from political indoctrination.' ” Oh, okay. We see you.

Jaxon Barber, young, clean-cut, white guy, and "Above all else, I am a Christian." "It is time to pass legislation to end abortion at any stage of pregnancy." He actually says that on his website.

Michelle Bardsley, a middle-aged woman, "education leader and teacher with over 16 years of service in K-12 public education" (according to her website). She takes the same route as Ann Schneider above: "She has the commonsense to protect NC children from dangerous ideologies (CRT), indoctrination, and inappropriate sexual content in our schools" (Bardsley website). That bogeyman is just too handy!

Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Four NCHouse Democrats Challenged in 2024 Primaries


Ren Larsen writing for The Assembly ("The Democrats' Shrinking Tent") reminded me of some interesting Democratic primaries about to be decided on March 5th. Early Voting begins a week from Thursday. Four moderate NCHouse Democrats, who've voted for Republican laws maybe more than some voters in their district think healthy, are challenged by rival Democrats who criticize them for being too compliant with the Republican super-majority.

James Adams

HD 60 (Guilford)
-- incumbent Cecil Brockman v. James Adams
Larsen reports that Brockman votes with Republicans 75% of the time. The average is actually 66%, which indicates the number of non-controversial bills that get voted on and passed by a bi-partisan majority. Brockman notoriously voted to override the governor's veto of the Republican budget, which shafted the Leandro plan to improve K-12 public schools, and he's been a consistent supporter of more and more money to charters (ergo less money for public schools). An investigation by Bryan Anderson found that Brockman's absences from the work of the House seemed high: "He was absent on 21 voting days, or 44% of voting sessions."

James Adams is the former head of the High Point NAACP. He's been endorsed by Carolina Forward and by Nicole Quick, a former candidate for House, and he's running with the slogan "James Adams Will Always Show Up."

HD 60 is majority white (40.4%) but has a competitive Black population (37.5%), with some 10% Hispanic. It leans Democratic by 63.2%. Both the incumbent and the challenger are Black. 


HD 27 (Halifax, Northampton, Warren) -- incumbent Michael Wray v. Rodney Pierce

Rodney Pierce

This particular primary pits a 10-term white rep. against an aggressive Black challenger. Michael Wray has voted to override more Roy Cooper vetoes than any other Democrat in the House.

Pierce is another Carolina Forward endorsee and an award-winning public school teacher and a historian. Described by Greg Childress: "Outspoken social studies teacher and historian Rodney Pierce has successfully submitted five applications to the state for historical markers commemorating Black historical figures, events and organizations. Pierce has opposed efforts by the state’s Republican-led General Assembly and others to restrict what he and his colleagues teach students about the nation’s history of racism." He's endorsed by labor (small as it is in this right-to-work state).

HD 27 is a majority minority district with some 51.9% Black voters to 41.4% white and 2.4% Hispanic. It leans Democratic heavily 61.7%. 

HD 23 (Bertie, Edgecombe, Martin) -- incumbent Shelley Willingham v. Abbie Lane
Willingham was groomed by Republican Speaker Tim Moore, who notably gifted Willingham with a committee chairmanship as a reward for his voting Republican a dismaying number of times.

Abbie Lane
Abbie Lane (what a perfect name! aka "Bud") ran before in 2020 under the Green Party label and supplied other details about himself to Ballotpedia:

Abbie Lane was born in Washington, North Carolina. He graduated from North Edgecombe High School in 2002. He earned an associate degree in marketing from Pitt Community College and a certification in leadership from Edgecombe Community College. He worked in entertainment and sports management for a decade [professional wrestling]. He changed careers and spent time working with multiple Fortune 500 companies to implement procedures to enhance customer service experiences as well as remote workspaces.

In 2021, Lane became a Fall Fellow with the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership and in 2022 was added to the E.A. Morris Fellowship for Emerging Leaders. He has also completed training and certifications with Young Americans For Liberty, Win At The Door, MoveOn Progressive Power Summit, the National Democratic Training Committee, and the Victory Institute. In the Spring of 2023, Lane returned to the Democratic Party after spending more than 20 years registered as unaffiliated/independent. As of September 2023, Lane served as the 1st Vice Chair of the Edgecombe County Democratic Party and as a State Executive Committee member of the North Carolina Democratic Party representing Edgecombe.

The training and networking outlined in that 2nd paragraph might be enough to help this white candidate overcome a very seasoned Black incumbent.

HD 23 is another majority minority House district, with 53.4% Black population to 41.7% white and 3.6% Hispanic. It leans Democratic by 59.4%. 

HD 106 (Mecklenburg) -- Carla Cunningham v. Vermanno Bowman
Carla Cunningham was first elected in 2012. She's another pretty consistent vote for Republican laws on the most sensitive subjects. Her district is so safe, she wasn't even opposed in 2020, and she's never won with less than 70% of the vote.

Vermanno Bowman ran a primary against Democratic incumbent Kelly Alexander Jr. in HD 107 in 2022 and got 16.5% of the vote. He looks like a pure sacrificial offering, meant to send a message.

HD 106 is 33% white, 47.2% Black, and 11% Hispanic. Both candidates in this primary are Black. Whoever wins the primary is pretty guaranteed election because the district leans Democratic by 73.4%.

Sunday, February 04, 2024

New Analysis (and Predictions) about 2024

If you're a glutton for dense economic and political reading, you might be expected to wallow for a time in a new report from Moody's Analytics on the 2024 election for president. Relying heavily on economic data and trends, Moody's Analytics has correctly predicted every presidential election since 1948 (except for 2020), and their current report says Biden will win North Carolina by 0.3% and the national election too.

But there are plenty of buts to keep in mind. The analysis is based on an assumption that turnout will be the same as turnout in 2020. "Even a relatively minor increase in turnout among Republicans in North Carolina could tip the scales in favor of a Trump victory," Justin Begley, one of the Moody's economists who wrote the report, told Paige Mastin at the NandO. "Low turnout among Democrats could have a similar effect."

That possibility -- either one -- might give you a good case of the willies. But I'm thinking -- okay, I'm counting on -- lowered turnout among Republicans and increased turnout by Unaffiliated voters who do not lean toward Trump. Somewhat less concerning at the moment would be the possibility that a third-party candidate might catch fire and seriously damage the prospects for either Trump or Biden.

Friday, February 02, 2024

Judge Bob Orr to the NC Supreme Court: "Be Fair!"


Former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr (and former registered Republican) filed suit Wednesday (Jan. 31) in Wake Superior Court aimed at taking down gerrymandering in North Carolina by way of a Supreme Court finding that fair elections are also a constitutional right even though fair doesn't appear in the language of the NC Constitution but only the adjectives free and frequent. “If the citizens of North Carolina are guaranteed by their State Constitution the right to ‘frequent’ and ‘free’ elections," Orr's lawsuit argues, "then surely the Constitution guarantees them the right to ‘fair’ elections. After all, what good are ‘frequent’ elections if those elections are not ‘fair’? Likewise, what good are ‘free’ elections if those elections are not ‘fair’?” 

Orr filed the suit on behalf of seven Democrats and two Unaffiliated voters.

In particular, the suit mentions specific Congressional and NC General Assembly seats as egregiously illustrative of the meanness (sometimes approaching cruelty) behind partisan gerrymandering, namely CD 6, CD 13, CD 14, SD 7 and HD 105, "as well as other districts" (like HD 67, HD 103, HD 10, HD 13) -- redistricting maps showing outrageous unfairness, all appended to the complaint.

Orr seems to be going straight for the Paul Newby gullet. Newby as chief of a 5-2 Republican majority took inordinate pride in ruling not so long ago that the previous finding by a Democratic Supreme Court that extreme partisan gerrymandering is both recognizable and subject to judicial re-do -- he said that was wrongly decided, and in fact, he and his fellow Republican majority ruled that partisan gerrymandering is not only A-OK but venerable in its historical presence in state government.

Guaranteed, Paul Newby is not gonna see the logic of saying "free" and "frequent" also implies "fair." He'll see no such thing, and his fellow Republicans also, who can't admit that the base of their power is situated in the highly partisan districts drawn by computer desk jockeys who know how to manipulate population blocks.

Who Is Bob Orr?
Aside from having served as the appointed District Attorney for Watauga County and the rest of the 24th Prosecutorial District in 2014 (to finish the term of DA Jerry Wilson), Orr had already built an impressive record of service. He was appointed to the NC Court of Appeals by Republican Governor Jim Martin in 1986. He won election to the NC Supreme Court in 1994 and served there for ten years. He ran for governor in the Republican primary of 2008, losing to Pat McCrory. In 2016, he was a John Kasich delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, leaving the convention early before Trump's formal coronation but not before commenting to a WRAL reporter that Donald Trump was “singularly unqualified to lead this country.” In fact, Orr said, "Trump is a danger to the country."

CD 6, CD 13, and CD 14 all elected Democrats to Congress in 2022 -- Kathy Manning, Wiley Nickel, and Jeff Jackson -- but after the late Fall Republican gerrymandering of those districts, all three Democrats declined to run again because of impossible odds. It's now a foregone conclusion that these will be Republican seats after November. SD 7 is the outrageous case that carved Black neighborhoods out of Wilmington and shoving them across the Cape Fear River to be part of a very rural Senate district dominated by white Republicans. HD 105 illustrates the bizarre favors the General Assembly attempted to give the recent turncoat Tricia Cotham, whose previous district map was heavily Democratic and now leans Republican.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Gary Pearce to Dems: "Stop Freaking Out About Diaper Don"


I really hate just copying someone else's work, but on some days, a colleague writes something so spare and true that you're tempted to outright theft. Like Gary Pearce said:

Gary Pearce

Stop freaking out over polls and pundits. Stop fretting. Start fighting.

Volunteer. Donate to candidates or the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Pick up your phones, iPads and pitchforks.

You can talk issues, per Simon Rosenberg, one of the sharpest political analysts around:

“Rs want the economy to crash, the border to be in chaos, Russia to win, the planet to warm faster, more dead kids in school, more women to die and our democracy to end.”

Or you can follow the lead of James Carville: “Mock Trump. We have to be as mean to him as he is to the people of this country.”

Carville’s message: “He’s fat, and he stinks.”

Call him Diaper Don.

Now, Carville’s style of invective may not be to your taste. But let him make his case here. You’ll be entertained, at least.

Whatever it takes, let’s take Trump down.

He’s teetering and tottering.

He’s a man in severe physical and mental decline.

He confused Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi.

He’s under indictment for 91 felonies. He has been found guilty of raping a woman.

He’s what he calls people he hates: a loser.

He lost the popular vote in 2016. He won the Electoral College only because of James Comey’s election interference.

He lost to Biden in 2020.

He took Republicans to historic losses in 2018, 2020 and 2020.

He could take the entire party down with him this year.

He’s ripe for a fall.

In 2024, let’s be done with him once and for all.


Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Destin Hall, The Next Big Raleigh Sugar-Daddy

This is about the Lenoir lawyer Destin Hall, elected to the NC House from Dist. 87 in 2016. He rose fast in the Republican caucus, became head of the Redistricting (Gerrymandering) Committee and as a favor to Ray Pickett, carved the largest precinct (Blue Ridge) out of Watauga County and added it to his own Dist. 87 and gave Pickett's 93rd the whole county of Alleghany to make up for the loss of Blue Ridge Precinct. Yeah, that guy.
Destin Hall is the presumptive new Speaker of the NC House, soon to replace Tim Moore, who seems destined for greater profit margins in Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac. As Speaker, Hall will wield great power. With the war chest of campaign money described below, Hall will be undisputed sugar daddy to aspiring Republican politicians.

Lucille Sherman for Axios Raleigh:

Republican state Rep. and House Rules Chairman Destin Hall, who is on track to become North Carolina's next House speaker, brought in $750,000 in the second half of 2023 to his campaign.

That appears to be the highest amount ever raised in a non-election year by a lawmaker not at the helm of the House or Senate chambers, his team told Axios.

Though Hall is up for re-election this year, he's expected to easily win his Republican-leaning district, which means he doesn't need to raise a significant amount of money to win. But legislative leaders tend to be major fundraisers, which in turn helps them keep their party in power. Hall's latest campaign finance report signals he's well-positioned to help Republicans get re-elected and maintain power in the House.
"As our caucus prepares for a transition of leadership, it's important that we have unity and a common focus as we enter 2024," Hall said in a statement to Axios.

"My goal was to help the caucus close 2023 in a strong position and start the new year in a strong cash position as we look to the elections. We've accomplished that goal and we are now laser-focused on adding to our supermajority in 2024."

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Chronicles of the CD 6 Republican Primary, 2024


CD 6, Republican Primary Players

Lead Roles

Addison McDowell (got the Trump endorsement)

Bo Hines (thought he deserved the Trump endorsement)

Mark Walker (the preacher who can't catch a break, let alone an endorsement)

Supporting Roles

Mark Robinson (will he endorse in this race?)

Christian Castelli (Green Beret also running, ran before for the same seat in 2022) 

[A Washington super PAC, First Freedoms Foundation, recently claimed Castelli had been endorsed this year by Robinson, but that was exposed as false.]  

Trump's endorsee (because, reportedly, Addison McDowell has become a close hunting buddy with Donald Trump Jr., and Junior convinced Big Daddy to endorse Addison McDowell, which he did) -- anyway, McDowell put out a Twitter video of himself holding (no lie!) a pitchfork and wearing what's supposed to be work clothes vowing to protect guns and zyns. Zyns are nicotine pouches sold in tins and used like snuff. You can see the video here. Apparently, "They're coming for our Zyns!" and this sagging bag of new potatoes, with its pitchfort, is going to save us. He wrote a post on Twitter to accompany the video:

This might trigger a few liberals, but I won’t let them come for our #guns, our #zyns, our #bbq, or our Cheerwine. Our freedoms and our way of life are worth fighting for, and I’m ready to take the fight to Washington. #freezyn #stopchuck

Cheerwine? This ad triggered sustained laughter. And ultimately the puzzlement at the decision-making that went into this staged-in-a-barn video presentation of a slacker who likes his nicotine and can't keep the hair out of his eyes. Is this knowing self-irony -- a pitchfort? like half the duo in American Gothic. Is this self-parody or just laziness because he doesn't respect the voting public? 

Did I say Mark Walker can't catch a break? He's seeing high-level Republican endorsers either rescind their endorsements, like Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, or deny they ever made them, like Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin.

To recap the downward trajectory of Mark Walker: Was a congressman for the 6th CD (2014-2020); decided not to run for reelection when his district became heavily Democratic; ran instead for US  Senate in the Republican Primary of 2022, against Ted Budd who got the Trump endorsement; announced in 2023 for Governor, then switched to the 6th CD after the Republicans gerrymandered it back to solid Republican.

He suffers from widespread disrespect.

Monday, January 29, 2024

I Bet McHenry's Got a Sweet Gig Lined Up for His Post-Congressional Career. Hell, He's Already Doing the Work!


Liz Zelnick, tracking the out-going Congressman from North Carolina, who knows a favor when he gets one:

House Financial Services Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and Financial Institutions Subcommittee Chair Andy Barr (R-Ky.) have together taken over $1 million from just the 10 largest banks still charging overdraft fees (Accountable.US analysis).

So not surprisingly, McHenry and Barr are quick, like well-oiled quick, to denounce a new proposal by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to limit overdraft fees to as low as $3—a reform expected to save American families at least $3.5 billion a year. "One quarter of American consumers have been hit with an overdraft or non-sufficient fund fee in the past year," amounting to billions for the big banks. [Liz Zelnick]

New reporting in Politico Influence revealed earlier this week that “portions of a press release issued” by McHenry and Barr bore “a striking resemblance—and in several cases used identical phrasing—to a top banking trade group’s talking points about the overdraft rule.”

McHenry and Barr’s relationship with their financial industry mega donors is so close that they’re now literally copying and pasting talking points from banking lobbyists and trying to pass it off as their own.


Sunday, January 28, 2024

"No More Rewriting History -- Or Else!"


In my 37 years on the bench, I cannot recall a time when such meritless justifications of criminal activity have gone mainstream.

--Federal Judge Royce Lamberth, D.C. Circuit, 

Senior Judge Lamberth, appointed to the bench in 1987 by Ronald Reagan, has had it with Trump and his followers and the massive effort to rewrite what happened on January 6th. Had it up to here! In tacking on two more months of confinement for an NC trespasser at the Capitol because the man not only refused to take responsibility for his actions but has also been spouting the Trump lies on social media, unrepentant and defiant. Lamberth gave him another couple of months to think about it. Whether it was a wise judgment or not, it was certainly a futile one.

But the additional sentence is maybe less shocking that what Judge Lamberth wrote in his order:

“I have been dismayed to see distortions and outright falsehoods seep into the public consciousness. I have been shocked to watch some public figures try to rewrite history, claiming rioters behaved ‘in an orderly fashion’ like ordinary tourists, or martyrizing convicted January 6 defendants as ‘political prisoners’ or even, incredibly, ‘hostages.’ 

“That is all preposterous,” the judge wrote. “But the Court fears that such destructive, misguided rhetoric could presage further danger to our country.

“This was not patriotism; it was the antithesis of patriotism,” Lamberth said. “And the rioters achieved this result through force.”

Friday, January 26, 2024

Tillis: Bowing To Trump "Is Immoral"


I didn’t come here to have the president as a boss or a candidate as a boss. I came here to pass good, solid policy. It is immoral for me to think you looked the other way because you think this is the linchpin for President Trump to win.

--Sen. Thom Tillis, Thursday, Jan. 25

As of yesterday, the White House and a bi-partisan group of Senators including Thom Tillis of North Carolina had reached a deal on a border security bill which will crack down on asylum requests and make other reforms the Republicans have wanted, thus unlocking foreign aid spigots for both Ukraine and Israel. The Biden administration went far to compromise on the border, motivated much by the crisis in Ukraine.

But also as of yesterday, Mitch McConnell, who's actually been a supporter for getting the border deal, told his Senate caucus that this particular border deal probably has zero chance of getting passed by the House, as Trump doesn't want it passed, because he intends to run on immigration horrors, so McConnell thinks it unlikely that House Republicans will buck the capo and vote for the very reforms they've been screaming about. "So you guys probably don't want to push it right now."

Thom Tillis flew mad. He urged his colleagues "not to make it all about politics at the behest of a candidate." Sen. Mitt Romney was more direct:

“The border is a very important issue for Donald Trump. And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and Congress people that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem — because he wants to blame Biden for it — is really appalling .... Someone running for president ought to try and get the problem solved, as opposed to saying, ‘Hey, save that problem! Don’t solve it! Let me take credit for solving it later.’

 So to be clear, Tillis opposes Trump for the best reason -- "It is immoral." As he continues his current trajectory out of the MAGA embrace.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Trump's Man in CD 6


There is no mistaking the job Addison McDowell woke up every morning to perform. He was a lobbyist fighting for the special interests of Big Insurance .… He represented the very specific, very uncompromising, very determined mission of a big insurance company.

--Alfredo Rodriguez, Green Beret Col. Christian Castelli’s political consultant, in a written statement to McClatchy

Addison McDowell 

Okay, I'm about to beat, if not dead horse, at least a limping one in the person of Addison McDowell, the out-of-nowhere Raleigh lobbyist whom Trump also out of nowhere endorsed for Congress in the formerly Democratic 6th CD. A made man, McDowell upended the hopes of young Bo Hines, heir apparent to Madison Cawthorn who thought he was scheduled to get the Trump blessing. Trump's endorsement of McDowell also didn't exactly help poor Mark Walker, who's ping-ponged all over the higher offices sniffing for an opportunity to get back to some handhold on power, but he's becoming the Joe Btfsplk of North Carolina politics.

A fundraiser for McDowell in Raleigh last week reportedly gathered together a power base of Republican General Assembly honchos including Phil Berger and Destin Hall and the young lobbyist who until very recently tugged at their lapels and tried to urge them toward what his employer really really needed. His employer incidentally was Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. About which, opinions vary.

Interestingly, the political consultant for a rival Republican for the 6th CD seat, the obscure military man named Christian Castelli, actually blew the whistle on McDowell's milking of the whole corporate culture of big-time insurance and made those comments directly to a McClatchy reporter. The press on this probably won't hurt McDowell. He's going for a MAGA base that absolutely admires influence peddling and doesn't read newspapers any more.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Chronicles of Jeff Jackson


Roll Call file photo

I like an email from my Congressman (except, he's not my Congressman at all) that begins like this: "I’m at the airport, waiting to board, trying to escape the snowstorm they say is about to hit D.C. I’ve got drill this weekend with the National Guard, so I can’t afford to get stuck here."

For pacing, for narrative tension, for sharp characterizations and all the other narrative skills of a good story-teller, Congressman Jeff Jackson of the 14th CD could moonlight profitably as a chronicler of his times, a historian in the eye of a historical storm, who just incidentally has the talent to 'splain the inexplicable.

The email I got last Friday detailed the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of new Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson as he sweated to pass the third budget extension of this current Congress -- with half his caucus, not just the Freedom Caucus, but some hundred+ Republicans opposing the budget extension Johnson had negotiated with Democrats. Johnson was close to losing a majority of his own caucus, when Jackson says this happened:

(Notably, one member of the majority did the Speaker a favor by switching his vote from no to yes at the last possible moment just so the Speaker could claim that a majority of his party voted for it. I watched the guy get the signal from a member of leadership to change his vote. Then after he switched he got a pat on the back and a fist bump.)

Jackson wrote that the 100+ Republicans who abandoned Mike Johnson knew that every Democrat was voting for the extension and that it would therefore pass without their participation. "They had the luxury of taking the messaging high-ground," wrote Jackson, "voting against it, and casting stones. An age-old political tactic."

Jackson unpacks the education of the Speaker, from Freedom Caucus soldier denouncing the last Speaker for being too weak, to the guy who is the Speaker now and negotiated with Democrats. I consider this piece of Jackson's writing pretty solid political science as well as good story-telling:

The Speaker, as you’d expect, voted in favor of the extension. Because of course he did. He’s the one who brought it to a vote. He understands why it’s necessary, what a shutdown would mean, and the political reality of divided government.

But let’s wind the clock back to our first budget extension vote. The one from last fall. The one that got the old Speaker fired.

We heard a very different tune from our current Speaker on that vote. Not only did he vote against it, but he gave a big speech on the House floor surrounded by other members of the right-flank in which he said… all the same stuff they’re now saying about him.

So either he has suddenly become a completely different person -- he’s not a “fighter,” not willing to make “hard choices,” not “standing on principle,” and all the other stuff he’s being accused of -- or he simply no longer has the luxury of fantasy.

He has actual power, which comes with actual responsibility, and he’s chosen to respect that enough to break with his old buddies and not shut down the government.

"With actual power comes actual responsibility."

 Gonna miss this writer in the Halls of Congress!