Thursday, February 29, 2024

Too Much Drama, Such Low Stakes


I predicted back on Dec. 14, 2023, that a David Wheeler vs. Natasha Marcus primary for the Democratic nomination to run for Secretary of Insurance of North Carolina would not be something to celebrate but rather a unnecessarily personal and vitriolic negative campaign, primarily because of Wheeler's capacity for obnoxiousness. Wheeler has made accusations against Marcus, and Marcus operatives have fired back to the point of attracting Wheeler's litigious propensities, and he's threatening to sue for defamation.

What I dreaded happened fast and keeps getting worse.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Race Apprehension


"For a party that heavily relies on Black votes and campaigns as a champion of civil rights, these are not ideal optics."

--Lucille Sherman and Jeffrey Billman, "Josh Stein's Challenge With Black Voters," The Assembly, February 26, 2024


Lord, it hurts, but Sherman and Billman pressed their hard index finger right into the tightest muscle:

"This year, Democratic party elites have rallied not just behind Josh Stein for governor but also Jeff Jackson, Rachel Hunt, and Allison Riggs in their bids for attorney general, lieutenant governor, and Supreme Court justice, respectively. All are white and have Black primary opponents. The likely outcome is that Democrats will have a lily-white statewide ticket in November, while state Republicans will be led by Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who wants to become the state’s first Black governor."

That's a bad enough summation, but Sherman and Billman pile on the insights and opinions of Black political operatives who say the atmosphere has soured for Black voters who generally vote Democratic.

Collette Alston, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party’s African American Caucus, said she only remembers Stein showing up “whenever it was time for us to vote for him. There was no other time that there was a visit or any other kind of correspondence or anything. We haven’t seen Josh Stein out in public, around North Carolina, nowhere near as much as we’ve seen Michael Morgan” -- Stein's chief rival in the primary whom the African American Caucus endorsed.

Morgan Jackson, Josh Stein's
political advisor

It's not just Stein's aloofness that's a problem. Preacherly Mark Robinson's hellfire denunciations of queers appeals to elderly Black men, who do vote. Alston went straight to "culture" to explain Robinson's potential for earning Black votes:

“Within our culture, especially in the South, we’re gonna go to hell for certain things, because of our religious thoughts,” Alston said. “Mark Robinson can placate that type of voter. Black men can feel more empowered. And plus—he’s Black. And, you know, that’s what I’m afraid of.”

Not to worry, sez Stein's chief political guru, Morgan Jackson. Jackson runs Stein’s campaign and downplays the concerns raised by Collette Alston. Jackson and other Stein supporters believe that "every Black voter Robinson peels off will be offset by suburbanites turned off by Robinson’s rhetoric."

Dawn Blagrove, director of the civil rights group Emancipate NC, said she’ll vote for Stein if he’s the Democratic nominee. But “there is nothing about his tenure as AG that will make me, as a social justice advocate, excited about seeing him move to the governor’s mansion.”

Monday, February 26, 2024

Who Will Take On Tricia Cotham? Does It Even Matter?

Two novice Dems and one who's run before but lost (to Tricia Cotham, incidentally) are running now in the HD 105 primary to take on Tricia Cotham this fall: Nicole Sidman, Terry Lansdell, and Yolonda Holmes, all of whom I first profiled here last December 18, 2023, noting at the time that Sidman had high-level connections in the Party for fundraising (from when she ran Christy Clark's successful upset of Republican John Bradford in 2018). She has indeed raised the most moneyAccording to the Charlotte Ledger, prominent local Democrats "seem to be rallying around Sidman," and the Charlotte Observer endorsed her. She's fairly active on Facebook and she's done at least some canvassing for support. Sidman is a lawyer and outreach director at Temple Beth El in Charlotte.

Yolonda Holmes 

N.C. House District 105 contains Matthews, Mint Hill, and parts of south Charlotte. Sidman's chief rival for the nomination appears to be Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools community engagement employee Yolonda Holmes. (The mainstream media spells her first name Yolanda, but it's Yolonda on the candidate's social media.)

Back last December I couldn't find a website or any social media presence for the third candidate in the primary, nonprofit executive Terry Lansdell, and still can't as of today.

The Democrats are hot to get revenge on Tricia Cotham for her treachery, but can any of these three rally the base and win the Unaffiliated?

Yolonda Holmes is quite active on Twitter (where Sidman isn't), likes to be called "Dr. Yo" ("on the GLOW with Dr. Yo!"), and is a "featured" and "targeted" primary candidate for Lillian's List of North Carolina. That gives one pause. So much for the "establishment" support Sidman supposedly enjoys. Why did Lillian's List endorse Yolonda over Nicole?

Holmes has also been endorsed by the Progressive Caucus of NC.

She told the audience at a candidate forum recently that her campaign strategy "is a secret." “Our campaign has been very diligent and strategic, and we have been very secretive in our strategy and will remain that as much,” Holmes said.

The last time we heard about high-level "secret strategies," Richard M. Nixon was president.

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.