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!

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Saddest Fringe of the NCGOP


One of the rarest sightings in North Carolina, a former Republican governor, has decided to make regular appearances as an opinion writer for the Raleigh News & Observer. Former Gov. Jim Martin's first column appeared last Saturday.

In it, he summed up the dilemma of the Trump/Biden binary for moderate Republicans like him:

They [a vague "many Americans"] abhor Trump’s belligerent swagger and lack of integrity, yet fear Biden’s social policies and competence as much. Neither showed any fiscal responsibility. Both parties seem stuck with candidates almost as old as I am (87).

I take the they to be Martin himself and the kinds of Republicans he represents, educated, fundamentally scientific in approach, never extreme. (Martin himself holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.) Despite what Trump has done to his Party, Martin is still a Republican, with conservative Republican values that include actual morality. He argues that the Trump juggernaut has balsam wheels and offers numbers to downplay what Trump won in Iowa -- "surprisingly, Trump barely won 51% of the Republican caucus and 20 of Iowa’s 40 apportioned delegates." Martin still believes, perhaps hilariously, that Trump can be stopped by a more acceptable Republican. Which one of the surviving flavors? DeSantis or Haley? Martin was coy. Haley or DeSantis? He doesn't care which one, just as long as there's one and not two for all the not-Trump voters looking for union, just so some acceptable and actual Republican beats Trump for the nomination. Martin seems to think it's possible -- a faith that passeth understanding. (That faith is put to the ultimate test today in New Hampshire, with DeSantis out and Haley facing Trump solo.)

Correctly, Martin sees the Unaffiliated vote as potentially decisive in any Republican Primary, if only someone would launch a really good organizational campaign and quickly whip all those Unaffiliated voters up into a bloc. If only someone. If only those who are registered Unaffiliated (some 2,736,775 persons of voting age in North Carolina) could see it as their "duty" (Martin actually uses that word) to pull a Republican ballot on March 5th and vote for someone besides Trump to save the Republican Party from itself.  

Reading Gov. Martin's essay, I went rummaging for my copy of Tom Eamon's The Making of a Southern Democracy: North Carolina Politics From Kerr Scott to Pat McCrory, because I remembered only vaguely when Jim Martin won the governorship in 1984, and went on to reelection in 1988, the first Republican governor ever to serve two full terms. I wasn't following North Carolina politics at that time and certainly not North Carolina Republican politics.

Jim Martin as a Congressman,
after he served as governor

So I wouldn't have known probably that Jim Martin (along with that other moderate Republican governor Jim Holshouser) had "frosty relationships with the Jesse Helms wing" of the NCGOP. Martin and Holshouser favored incumbent Republican Prez Gerald Ford over the insurgent Ronald Reagan in the 1976 presidential primary in NC, a preference which was out of step with the hardcore Helms base, and the two former and distinguished governors were blatantly denied credentials as delegates to the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City as punishment.

Historian Tom Eamon:

At first, Martin was not sure whether he was a Democrat or Republican. He was a progressive with conservative instincts and supported the tenets of capitalism. His decision to become a Republican rested partly on the premise that the long-entrenched Democrats were the party of the status quo in North Carolina. Moreover, the fledgling Republican Party seemed more welcoming to the young and ambitious.

Love those last two sentences. This I do remember, that the "long-entrenched Democrats were the party of the status quo." But which party has changed most since those days 50 years ago when a Republican governor could be a "progressive Republican" and Democrats were sometimes more conservative than Republicans are now.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Schroeder Grants Injunction Against Part of S 747


The lawsuit against part of S 747, "Same-Day Voter Registration," which the Watauga Voting Rights Task Force initiated (background here) was finally concluded late yesterday when Federal Judge Thomas Schroeder issued an injunction against the mail verification part of that law -- until the General Assembly fixes it by giving a voter "notice and an opportunity to be heard" for why their legitimate vote should not be thrown out.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants and their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and those persons in active concert or participation with them, are HEREBY ENJOINED from utilizing the procedures of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-82.6B(d) to remove from the official count the votes of the ballot of any voter who has provided contact information in the registration process and whose first notice required under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-82.7(c) is returned by the Postal Service as undeliverable before the close of business on the business day before the canvass, without first providing such voter notice and an opportunity to be heard, and, only to this extent, Voto Latino Plaintiff’s motion (VL Doc. 44) and Party Plaintiff’s motion (DNC Doc. 6) are GRANTED. This injunction shall remain in force until such time as a procedure for notice and opportunity to be heard is implemented in accordance therewith.

The judge was obviously moved by the examples provided by Watauga County of valid voters who same-day registered and voted but who did not receive their mandated verification mailing because of clerical or post office error and through no fault of their own. The new law would have canceled their vote and their voter registration with no provision for notifying the voter and allowing them to confirm their true address.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Humdinger of a Republican Primary!


Republicans must decide on March 5th between Catherine Truitt, the incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction (and a total weak-kneed RINO to some of the MAGA crowd), and Michele Morrow, failed school board candidate and Scourge For God who intends to return Christian and Nationalist "morality" to the school system. The winner of this primary will face the winner of the Democratic primary (about which, more later) this November.

Catherine Truitt

The crowd over at hate her guts because she's never sufficiently denounced diversity, equity, and inclusion in education -- don't ask me for specifics; my eyes glaze over at the first mention of DEI, CRT, IDGAF, with never any collaborating detail -- just disproportional anger about vague happenings at school because little blond-headed Johnny came home supposedly hating his own skin for the sins of history his teacher implied he needed to repent.

Truitt seems a lot less liberal than Brant Clifton alleges. I'd say she's standard-issue Republican, the weakest tea on the whole philosophical proposition that a country must educate all its children. She takes money from the people she's supposed to regulate, namely out-of-state, for-profit charter schools, and has refused to challenge the credentials or record of such companies as American Leadership Academy Monroe, recently approved for a new charter (after two previous failures over issues like "conflicts of interest in the school’s governance, rapid expansion of [the home company] into North Carolina without sufficient evidence of academic success, and drawbacks of giving public tax dollars to an out-of-state corporation").

Truitt is being challenged for the nomination by the candidate who will bookend perfectly with Mark Robinson.

Michele Morrow

She made quite a spectacle running for seat #9 on the Wake County School Board in 2022 (getting just under 36% of the vote against the winner's almost 56%). Though the Wake School Board technically runs without party labels, everybody usually knows, and Morrow was endorsed by the Wake Republican Party. She was also endorsed by Moms for Liberty.

Morrow, 53, a former nurse, has home-schooled all five of her children, and has been an effective spokesman for her side because she can be non-kooky and makes perfect sense on some issues, like the need for more trained school nurses, yet the extreme views she's learned to dampen in public came out in the open after she established herself as a flashpoint presence on social media, famously labeling public schools “socialism centers” and “indoctrination centers” and urging people not to send their children to them. During a candidate forum in September 2022, she said, “I think the whole plan of the education system from day one has actually been to kind of control the thinking of our young people.” (There's always a conspiracy, no?) She also pushed conspiracy theories on 2020 election fraud and COVID-19 vaccines and posted about “taking out” the enemies of her people. She hates "social activism" in school. Social activism apparently belongs entirely over the barrier at Capitol Hill: Morrow took her oldest children to the January 6th Capitol riot, said on a live Facebook feed that she was there to teach her children "a lesson about citizens’ role in a democracy," but also claimed later that she had tried to dissuade rioters from pounding on and breaking windows.

Watching her current video introduction for Superintendent of Public Instruction, we see a very nicely turned out candidate -- lovely, really -- saying some pretty standard stuff at first about guaranteeing a good education for every child. Then things change, perhaps when she wields the word conservative, and here they come, the dreaded spew of ominous initials -- DEI, CRT -- as she drills down into the horrors of children coming to hate their own white skin because of confronting unpleasant facts in history. Morrow's game is barely contained fright. And make no mistake: Morrow is the Iron Woman who is gonna put a stop to all of it, reinstating "the true history of our great nation." She's intense under a surface of apparent calm, rigid in posture, animated in face, remembering to smile on key words. You can almost hear her gritting teeth.

Here's Morrow in action in front of the Wake County School Board on June 6, 2023:

Friday, January 19, 2024

Who'll Replace Patrick McHenry?

Foxx's kind of Republican, 
Greg Mills

The Republican primary for Congressional District 10 features five candidates on the March 5 ballot, but only two seem viable, with two other wild card disrupters and a perfectly nice older gentleman. The two viable candidates would appear to be Green Beret Pat Harrigan, who chickened out of facing off against Tim Moore in CD14, and jumped to the 10th instead with the help and encouragement of retiring Congressman Patrick McHenry. And Grey Mills, whom Virginia Foxx just endorsed yesterday.

Mills is so business friendly and suburban establishment that he might start purring. He's a lawyer, educated at the Regent University School of Law (the late Rev. Pat Robertson founded it), and he's wearing his Christianity like a cufflink. According to his Linked In page, he's wholly employed as corporate officer/attorney for Randy Marion Automotive in Mooresville. He's been twice in the NC House from an Iredell district, currently NCH 95 where he's finishing out his second term. He served two terms before, first elected 2008 and reelected 2010.

Foxx didn't endorse Pat Harrigan, who previously ran for Congress in 2022, losing to Democrat Jeff Jackson in the 14th Congressional District, and who presents his much more muscular, frankly military patriotism with a disarming Captain America forthrightness. Harrigan had come on strong about cleaning Tim Moore's clock, then with the help of Patrick McHenry hisownself, filed to run for McHenry's open seat mere minutes after McHenry's announcement that he would not run for reelection.  Harrigan evidently decided something kinda uncourageous, that discretion is the better part of valor. Because of whatever filter, Foxx passed him over for a less muscle-bound conservative.

Harrigan and Mills have three other rivals, two of them on the fringes, like Diana Jimison, a Hickory nurse who tried to run once before in 2022 as an independent write-in and who has made something of a name for herself by agitating repeatedly at Catawba County School Board meetings for the removal of certain books from the school library. And Brooke McGowan, whose prepping-for-open-warfare campaign site has to be witnessed firsthand. He has a tab on the Homepage, #war, and I believe he means it. He especially has his eye out for apparently physical revenge on the people who faked the whole COVID "deal" and of course for the ones who "stole the election": "We cannot forget or grant amnesty to those who threatened us, our loved ones, and especially our children. They have not apologized. They are not contrite. They don’t even think they did anything wrong. Which means they will do it again when prompted."

The last of the five in the March 5 primary -- Charles Eller, a Grease Monkey franchisee and self-made residential solar expert, who seems strangely out of place in this crowd.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Some Justice For Earls


The new members of our court very much see themselves as a conservative bloc. They talk about themselves as ‘the conservatives.’ Their allegiance is to their ideology, not to the institution.
--Anita Earls, Assoc. Justice, NC Supreme Court

Not Paul Newby but the
authoritarian Savonarola

For saying such things, Justice Anita Earls has been put under investigation -- twice -- for impugning the integrity of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. The leader of "the conservatives," Chief Justice and Savonarola impersonator Paul Newby has had it in for her (a liberal who identifies as Black), and he led the court in promptly reversing decisions that Earl had a big hand in writing about ballot access and partisan gerrymandering -- after "the conservatives" took full power in 2020 and 2022.  In one part of an interview that Justice Earls gave Law 360, she said Newby had quietly disbanded the court’s Commission on Fairness and Equity and eliminated implicit bias training for judges. Newby didn't like it that she pointed that out, though he didn't dispute the accuracy. Even casual observers might note Newby's rigid plantation mind-set against an outspoken woman on the Court who founded the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in 2007, and whose civil rights advocacy is pure poison for a pious authoritarian. 

Newby had the Judicial Standards Commission under his thumb and could influence retaliation against Earls by threatening sanctions for "her mouth" (though Newby himself has spouted off his biases at more than one conservative rally). But, standby O brethren for a remarkable development -- Newby and the Standards Commission have pulled back their horns, stopped the investigation into Earls's freedom of speech, and dismissed the complaint against her.

Earls responded to this development by dropping the Federal lawsuit she filed six months ago to stop the Standards Commission's harassment. She had asked for an immediate injunction against the investigation as an infringement of her free speech rights, but a Federal judge denied the injunction. Before yesterday, the lawsuit was still pending. The capitulation of Newby's hench-people suggests something approaching a "settlement" between the two sides. And Earls was not the one to flinch.

Obliged to Michael Hewlett and The Assembly for the details. Subscribe to The Assembly!

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Mike Causey Has a Mighty Expensive Chauffeur


Commish Mike Causey, left, with
Roger Blackwell
Photo Gene Galin, Chatham Journal

In the spring of 2020, after Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey wore a wire for the FBI and exposed the bribery attempt by billionaire Greg Lindberg, which sent both Lindberg and NCGOP Chair Robin Hayes to jail, I considered Causey a civic hero for his incorruptibility. Now naive was I?

Perhaps it happens to every politician who begins to feel invulnerable, though why Causey might feel entitled by invincibility seems a stretch, since he won the office of Insurance Commissioner by a very thin margin in 2016 and held on for reelection in 2020 by only very slightly better numbers, and he himself has a primary this year. His current scandal caused me to recall that he actually ran for this office some four times before he eventually won it. So why he would choose to become a poster child for corruption now seems passing strange.

The article by Dan Kane and Kyle Ingram appeared yesterday in the News and Observer with the headline, "Insurance Commissioner pays friend & donor a high wage to drive him on state business." That friend and donor, Roger Blackwell, 77, who's donated at least $10,000 to Causey's campaigns since 1995, drives Causey to and from his home to his office in Raleigh and around the state to various municipal fire departments to hand out checks, and on very long trips, like to Santa Fe, which took three days on the road (one way!) and for which the chauffeur was also paid $44 an hour for 8-hour do-nothing days while Causey attended a two-day conference. Blackwell is making up to $84,000 per annum, about $30,000 over the average wage for most state employees.

It gets worse from there.

David Wheeler

Especially worse, as the News&Observer reporters allege a "pattern" of Causey's cronyism. Blackwell is not the first to be paid over-well for what in some cases has been "make work" (according to another of those hires).

Democratic Insurance Commissioner candidate David Wheeler, an "American muckraker" of Expose Madison Cawthorn fame, is on the attack about Causey's pattern of behavior, demanding that the state auditor, state treasurer, and state budget director, all and severally, conduct a full investigation into Causey's abuse of state vehicle privileges. 

There are two Democratic candidates for Insurance Commish. Evidently slow on the uptake, Sen. Natasha Marcus, Wheeler's primary rival, has so far had nothing to say about Causey's corruption. Why not? If Morgan Jackson is running Josh Stein's campaign for governor, and if Josh Stein recruited Marcus to run for Causey's job (even after Wheeler had declared his intention of doing that very thing), then maybe someone would have the juice to recommend she speak out.

Monday, January 15, 2024

And the Virginia Foxx Poor-Mouthing Oscar Goes To...

Chuck Edward and Christian Reagan

Congressman Chuck Edwards (11th CD) faced his Republican primary challenger, Christian Reagan (that's really his name), in a debate last Saturday that turned ugly. At one point, Reagan, who apparently always wears a big cowboy hat except during prayers, referred to incumbent Edwards -- “people like this, who are the elite, that represent Washington, D.C., and they come here, and they have the jargon, and they have it down. And the point is that we have to change what we do as a country. And,” gesturing toward Edwards, Reagan added, “we will never do it with people like this.”

According to reporter Tom Fiedler, who was there in Clay County, "Edwards exploded":

“I lived in mill housing; I lived in trailers and I worked my tail off all my life, just as my mother and my father did,” Edwards said, staring at Reagan.

“There is nothing ‘elite,’ ” he said, almost spitting the word out, “about this person who has asked to go to Congress to represent you because I understand how hard people in these mountains work and what it takes to live the American dream.

“I totally reject anyone who says that I am ‘elite,’ " Edwards sputtered. “My wife and I once went and found 83 cents so we could buy kerosene for our house so we could keep our house warm through the night and I could get paid the next day. That is not elite.”

Make no mistake: both Edwards and Reagan are MAGAts to the hilt (or to the crown of their hat), so there's really not a dime worth of difference between the two of them. Sorry, 11th District!

For years Virginia Foxx has deflected criticisms of her wealth, which seems to have accumulated exponentially since she took elected office, by loudly proclaiming how poor she was growing up. Poor as she was, she never learned humility or kindness, rather like the rich fast-food king from the 11th CD. 

Edwards has promised he won't be appearing alongside Christian Reagan again before the March 5 primary.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Update on the DemPrimary To Oust Tricia Cotham


Sidman, Holmes, and Lansdell

Previously, none of the three Democrats in the March primary in House District 105 had any campaign infrastructure or social media presence. Here's what I discover today.

Nicole Sidman

Terry Lansdell

No website nor social media found

Yolonda Holmes

Holmes (who seems to have settled how her name must be spelled, with two o's) has the best website, with plenty of platform issues. Holmes also has the most active Facebook and Twitter feeds. Very hard to tell -- impossible from this distance -- who's most active on the ground, knocking doors, making calls, activating the base.

Yolonda Holmes reported about $8,000 cash on hand to the State Board of Elections (SBOE) in May 2022, after she had lost the Democratic primary to now-incumbent Tricia Cotham (at the time, also a Democrat) -- likely leftover cash from that campaign. There's been no fundraising report since then.

Lansdell filed a disclosure report with the SBOE covering only three days in December, listed minimal expenses, and no fundraising as of yet.

Sidwell hasn't filed a Statement of Organization with the SBOE nor any disclosure reports. Strange.



My snark against John F. Kennedy Jr. below was based on a mistaken belief that he was trying to run as a Democrat. He's not. He's trying to get 83,000 signatures on a petition to get on the NC November ballot as an independent.

His rally at the Marriott in Raleigh on Friday produced "a packed room," I hear, and Kennedy himself claimed that he has 50,000 volunteers in North Carolina. That number is a bit difficult to swallow.

Friday, January 12, 2024

You Can't Out-Think a Man Who Ain't Thinking


Since Robert F. Kennedy Jr. isn't even on the March primary ballot in North Carolina, it seems strange -- and a significant waste of money and time -- for him to hold a Kennedy24 rally in Raleigh this evening.

Or am I missing something?

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Lassiter Lashes the Wind


Scott Lassiter and Mrs. Lassiter,
back then

Grateful to Bryan Anderson and his "Anderson Alerts" on Substack for being in the room to hear Republican candidate Scott Lassiter's BOE challenge to the residency of current Dems Senator Lisa Grafstein, who got gerrymandered into a Wake County double-bunking with another Democrat and chose to move her residence within the legal time frame to run in a different district that had no declared Democratic candidate.

To run against Scott Lassiter, as it turns out (or potentially, since he has his own primary to get through). 

Who is Scott Lassiter? Glad you asked.

Last heard from while suing House Speaker Tim Moore for alienation of affection (and eventually at least extracting some money or penance from Moore, for they settled out of court), Lassiter seems not to mind the public reminder of his cuckolding. Moore had pretty conclusively canoodled with Lassiter's wife, and got her some benefits in pay on the side. Lassiter testified that Moore had offered to bribe him to forget the whole thing at a Biscuitville in Raleigh (where there are three Biscuitvilles, so I'm guessing the Western Blvd. location).

At the Wake County BOE hearing, Grafstein produced bundles of evidence that she had moved her residence to the newly drawn NCS13, and had done so within the time required. Bryan Anderson, reporting from the hearing room: 

Scott Lassiter ... conceded that Grafstein appeared qualified to be on the ballot.

“I am impressed by the senator's records,” Lassiter said. “I'm impressed by the speed at which she was able to move.”

Lassiter told reporters after the hearing that he doesn’t plan to appeal the decision to the State Board of Elections.

“I do believe that the State Board would likely make the same decision,” Lassiter said. “Unless I have additional facts that come forward, I don’t anticipate appealing.”

So, if Grafstein's residency is legit, why did he bring the complaint? Simple answer, if you like watermelons squeezed through the birth canal of blueberries: Lassiter wants Grafstein thrown out of her current office representing NCS13, because she's now moved her residence outside the previous iteration of District 13 and is therefore some sort of imposter in the Senate.

The Wake BOE ruled Grafstein's residency legit and said the question of whether or not she is still a senator is not within their purview.

Scott Lassiter has to survive a primary against Vicki Harry, about whom I know nothing. Wonder how she'll try to defeat him.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

This Preacher Gives Preachers a Bad Name


You've heard, right? Rev. Mark Harris is attempting a political resurrection from the grave he put himself in during the elections of 2018. 

You remember. 

Harris, pastor of a Southern Baptist megachurch in Charlotte and a leader of the 2012 evangelistic push to punish LGBTQ people for being LGBTQ, had beaten incumbent Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger in the 2018 primary, then ran against Democratic Marine golden boy Dan McCready (not all bright visions come to pass). Harris appeared to win over McCready by 900 votes. That's when the world got to know Leslie McCrae Dowless, a character out of the novel about NC politics that Damon Runyon never wrote.

By the end of November 2018, Joe Bruno, a reporter for WSOC, first mentioned the name Leslie McCrae ("McCrae") Dowless, and began to find a history of allegations of ballot fraud going back years. McRae Dowless, a gun for hire, a Democrat when they had power and then officially a Republican after they took over. An opportunist with certain skills, which turned out to be outright forgery and fabrication of bogus absentee ballots (which -- let's be fair -- may never actually have come close to turning an election but nevertheless tainted the one sufficiently in 2018 to end Mark Harris's political career, at least until now). Dowless faced criminal charges. Somehow, Harris skated. The Wake County D.A. said there wasn't enough evidence. But the State Board of Elections (SBOE) refused to certify Harris's election based on provable fraud, and then voted unanimously (including the two Republican members) to invalidate the 2018 election and call for a new election in 2019 (which Dan McCready lost again, this time to that horse's patoot Dan Bishop). All of which culminated in an escalation of revelation, first his denial that he knew anything about Dowless's activities (hardly credible that this preacherman didn't perceive exactly who McCrae Dowless was). But from denial, he was soon sobbing in public at the SBOE inquest while his son testified against him, said he himself had warned his father about the apparent corruption of Dowless. Harris ended his testimony abruptly, withdrawing his candidacy and conceding that a new election was called for, considering the evidence.

That was 2018. Now, in yet another election year, Harris is back as a striving Christian warrior trying to save America -- or at least the 8th District of NC -- and denying that any of 2018 ever happened. He now says he was the victim of a manufactured ballot crisis, that Democratic officials conspired against him to "steal" his election. Is the Trump shtick of God's own martyred hero going to suffice for Harris's comeback? Dunno. Time will tell. Someday soon I might get around to profiling Harris's primary opponents, and how they're treating him.

Tim Funk published a revealing profile on The Assembly's website about Harris's current plan to make his comeback in March's primary against several other Republican contenders. Well worth signing up for The Assembly

Monday, January 08, 2024

What's the Matter With Texas?


National Ranching Heritage Center
Lubbock, Texas

I just returned from a week-long pilgrimage to the places I grew up in the Panhandle of Texas, and I'm full of both nostalgia and regret for what was once and for what yet lingers -- the best food in the most unlikely places, unfailingly friendly and accommodating people with great senses of humor, straight roads with unlimited visibility, and an economy dependent on the Oglalla acquifer which they've been pumping dry for over 100 years. When the water's gone, everything's gone.

I love the people individually. Every old friend and every new acquaintance, instantly welcoming, accommodating, and best of all, funny. But here's my problem -- really since I went off to a Baptist college and started learning things -- why did the collective that is Texas decide that what it needed was a Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott, who wants to rewrite the U.S. Constitution more his way with a "Convention of States" and who thinks the best way to keep out undesirables is to embed saw blades in the Rio Grande, and Attorney General Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr., who once threatened to sue any school district that required masks on students during the height of COVID and who offered support to any county clerk of court who defied the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. The voting majority of Texans seems to enjoy this level of political meanness -- especially against women -- or they wouldn't keep reelecting this caliber of public official.

Both Abbott and Paxton are obnoxious supremacists, backed up by lots of agreement at every political level of elective office under them, agreement about all sorts of grievous liberal tendencies, especially regarding the bodies of women and the activities of people who like sandals better than boots. You get my drift. Texas went for Trump (though it was by only 52%, so there's always bright hope for a turnaround). The whole state of Texas, collectively, has decided to act like the worst preachers we used to know as teens.

It doesn't make sense. 

The Panhandle of Texas is littered with place names that speak the dirt-truth about the landscape: Plainview, Levelland, Shallowater, Bushland, Lakeview, South Plains, Littlefield. Or names representing necessary objects for simple living (at least as it evolved among the first white Anglo settlers in the late-19th Century): Earth, Muleshoe, Spade, Cactus, White Deer. These were weather-beaten, knowledgeable, and enduring people of the soil whose descendants individually practice kindness. Why should their current collective identity as a state resemble a cat-'o-nine-tails.

Why, in 1948, the citizens of the tiny town of Monroe in Lubbock County, smack in the middle of the Panhandle, petitioned to change its name to New Deal, which was done and lives still on sign posts as a reminder that once upon a time these people of the plain soil really liked the socialism of FDR. But today, Lubbock itself, the 6th largest city in Texas with some 40,000 university students, is also among the most consistently conservative large cities in the state. The city of Lubbock went for Trump by 64%. I have no words, but I have organizing suggestions if anybody wants to turn that around.

Sunday, January 07, 2024

The Ball Bounces Back to Judge Schroeder's Court



AppState Student Union during Early Voting

On December 28, Federal Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of the Middle District of North Carolina heard arguments for and against an injunction to enjoin part of S 747, "Elections Law Changes," the sweeping bill fiddling with ballot access that was 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. Xxxxx 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. No post office on earth is going to delliver a piece of mail addressed "Same."

After hearing arguments, which most observers thought tilted favorably to the plaintiffs, Judge Schroeder punted, asked the two sides to work out a compromise that would lift the burden off him of ruling the law unconstitutional because it denied voters due process. Schroeder gave the two sides seven days to work something out.

WRAL reported on Friday that the two sides have failed to reach a compromise (huge surprise, right?). "The matter now lies in Schroeder's hands."

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has overruled Schroeder before on a fair elections case. Don't you think that must be on his mind right now?