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North Carolina - Democrats

17
The newspaper reporter asked if North Carolina’s Senate Primary was going to be the next litmus test of the Tea Party’s political muscle – and as fast as he could Greg Brannon’s campaign spokesman said ‘Yes’ then added the Primary was just like Senator Rand Paul’s election in Kentucky in 2010 and Senator Ted Cruz’s election in Texas in 2012.
 
“In those races, he said, you had a candidate that was handpicked and heavily supported by the DC establishment up against a Tea Party candidate supported by the grassroots. In both instances the grassroots candidate won big.”
 
Now, of course, you can’t fault Greg Brannon’s spokesman for wanting to get a step ahead of Thom Tillis – but what landed in the newspaper was only part of the story.
 
It’s true Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both won.
 
But on the way to winning they also raised a lot of money. Rand Paul with the help of his father’s supporters across the country. And Ted Cruz with the help of Senator Jim DeMint, who all but adopted him.
 
Here in North Carolina, so far, Greg Brannon and Mark Harris, who’re challenging Thom Tillis, have both been noticeably short of cash.
 
And that’s the big fact in the Senate race: No one, or at best only a handful of voters,  knows Greg Brannon. They don’t know he’s the next Ted Cruz. And he hasn’t had the money to change that. So the real fight in the Republican Primary isn’t between the Establishment and the Tea Party – it’s between Greg Bannon and his empty cash box.

 

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15
Jim Hunt should respond swiftly and strongly to the base calumny that Pat McCrory has cast upon his reputation.
 
Speaking this week at the Hunt Education Institute’s Holshouser Legislators Retreat, McCrory – according to the N&O – “praised former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt as a valued adviser.”
 
McCrory was quoted as saying: “Jim Hunt is a hero of mine, he’s a mentor of mine….he’s been a great adviser to me.”
 
Governor Hunt, this slander must not stand. You don’t want people thinking McCrory has been taking your advice.
 
Or maybe McCrory will take your advice now. Maybe he’ll commit to raising teacher pay in to the national average. He can sign a petition to himself and the legislature right here.

 

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15
Fearless Forecast: Obamacare won’t be a decisive issue in 2014, but Chris Christie’s bridge-gate will be in 2016.
 
That sounds backwards. After all, polls right here at home show that Obamacare is dragging down Senator Hagan. And the buzz is that Christie’s poll ratings are holding up and Republicans are rallying around him.
 
But both will change, and here’s why: Nobody understands Obamacare; it’s too complicated. By November, nobody will understand what Obamacare did or didn’t do. They won’t have the patience to read complicated analyses of the complex, confusing health-care system.
 
The only thing people understand about Obamacare is that the website didn’t work. That is something we get.
 
And everybody gets bullying and deliberately causing traffic jams. Plus, the media will never get tired of this story, especially since it reinforces an existing impression of Christie.

As for Christie’s “bounce,” remember that it took two years for Watergate to bring down Nixon. Republicans rallied around him at first. Then, like now, they were uniting against the “liberal media” more than for Nixon/Christie.

In politics, what's up today is likely to be down tomorrow. And vice versa.

 

 

 

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13
John Ledford, from up in the mountains, was a leader in local Democratic politics for years, then ran for sheriff of Madison County and won. Then, after a few years as sheriff, he got Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue to appoint him head of the Division of Alcohol and Law Enforcement, a job where he earned $110,000 a year.
 
Then Republican Pat McCrory was elected Governor and, since Ledford was a political appointee, it was clear to just about everyone else his days as head of A.L.E. were numbered.
 
So John Ledford pulled a hat trick – and he demoted himself into a job as a career state employee. Where he couldn’t be fired.
 
Of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds.
 
First, the job Ledford wanted to demote himself into was in Wilmington - while he lived on the other side of the state in Asheville. And the job only paid $39,000.
 
But Ledford found a simple solution: Before he resigned as head of A.L.E. he recommended to the higher-ups in the Perdue Administration (who were also political appointees) that they move the job from Wilmington to Asheville and raise the salary to $65,800 – which his fellow Democrats happily did.
 
Of course, none of that set too well with the Republicans after they took office.
 
They more or less decided the whole thing was a scam. And fired Ledford. Who then sued and said with a straight face he was a career state employee who couldn’t be fired.
 
Then Ledford hired a lawyer, headed to court, and, in an odd twist of fate, landed in front of a judge who, by sheer coincidence, had been former Democratic Governor Bob Scott’s legal advisor.
 
The judge declared Ledford had been “a marked man, politically” after the election of a Republican Governor, added he’d been fired because he was a Democrat, and ordered the state to reinstate him, pay him $44,000 in back pay, and pay his lawyer another $50,000.
 
And that’s Democracy in Action: A Democratic nabob waves a magic wand and declares himself a career employee; the Republicans say that’s not magic it’s voodoo; and a judge (who worked for a Democratic Governor forty years ago) rules taxpayers have to fork over $94,000 so justice can be done.

 

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13
The Watauga Wizard, Jerry Wayne Williamson, nails it: “McCrory Blocks Traffic on All Bridges Going into CD12.” Jerry adds in his Watauga Watch blog:
 
“(Congressman Mel Watt’s) resignation should have triggered a special election to fill his unexpired term in the U.S. House. But, no, Gov. McCrory decided that the seat could be filled on November 4, 2014, along with every other seat in Congress. In other words, citizens of the 12th Congressional District will have no representation in Congress for the next 300 days. Well, after all, those people are mainly black and didn't vote for McCrory. Who the hell cares whether they have a congressman for 2014?”
 
In light of Chris Christie’s Bridgegate, you wonder what a public records request might unearth here.  Maybe an email along the lines of: “Time for some problems in Mel Watt’s district.”
 
Another 12th District resident asked: “Would McCrory have done the same if it was a safe GOP seat?” You know the answer.
 
For McCrory, this was an opportunity to do the right thing for the people he was elected to serve. Instead, he did the politics-as-usual thing.

 

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09
The surprise wasn’t Governor McCrory’s Cabinet Secretaries ripping into the liberals over at the Southern Environmental Law Center, calling them ‘do-gooders sitting in ivory towers in air-conditioned offices in Chapel Hill sipping lattes’;--- the surprise was the cost of the two bridges the Governor’s camp and the environmentalists  were battling over.
 
The Governor’s folks want to build to a new three-mile long bridge to Cape Hatteras which will cost $215 million.
 
The SELC adamantly disagrees and, instead, wants the department to build a seventeen-mile bridge (because the longer bridge will protect the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge).
 
The longer bridge, according to the state, will cost a cool billion dollars.
 
Curious, after doing a little math, I looked up the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge to see what kind of varmints the SELC was protecting: The Wildlife Refuge is a way station for migratory birds like ducks, geese, and swans, and home to alligators, wolves, and turtles (which are endangered species).
 
Now, I don’t have a bit of use for alligators or wolves but it’s hard not to admire a creature as noble as the Snow Goose though, still, the idea of spending $785 million more so a goose doesn’t have to fly around a bridge seems a bit odd.

 

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09
Governor McCrory is in a box on teacher pay, and Democrats can’t let him wriggle out.
 
You don’t need to be a political genius to predict what’s coming. McCrory will try to make a big splash by proposing a pay raise for teachers this year. He has to. He and the Republican legislature have angered and alienated teachers, all educators, school board members, students, parents, Democrats and Republicans.
 
So they’ll try to do damage control in the May legislature. Call it "the Teacher Pay Shuffle." Probably a one-year raise and a vague promise about the future. (They’ll say they can’t do more because of Medicaid. Which they’ll blame on Bev Perdue, Obamacare and Benghazi.)
 
Unfortunately, Jim Hunt beat them to the punch. His op-ed Sunday made it clear than one-year-and-a-promise isn’t enough. There has to be a four-year commitment to reach the national average, which is where we were in Hunt’s fourth term.
 
Hunt set the bar that McCrory has to meet. Again.

 

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07
Don’t underestimate a candidate who already won 12 million Americans’ votes on TV.
 
Clay Aiken may be a surprising candidate for Congress, but he may be just what Democrats need: a new face and fresh blood that energizes new voters, especially young voters.
 
The social-media response to his possible candidacy in the 2nd District was striking, so I asked three 20-somethings what that’s about.
 
One said: “He’s got charisma. He can raise money. And he can get people excited about the race here and around the country.”
 
Another mentioned Aiken’s work as chairman and co-founder of the National Inclusion Project for children with disabilities. President Bush appointed him to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. He’s a local boy who has done well and done good.
 
A third said Democrats need “nontraditional candidates with unique voices.”
 
Aiken is that. And apparently he can handle the rough-and-tumble. After he finished second on NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump called him “tough, smart and cunning.”
 
He’s got to stop this runner-up stuff, though. One wit said: “The good news is he’s leading other Democrats in the polls. The bad news is he’s behind Ruben Studdard.”
 
Yes, he’s gay. Get over it. Democrats aren’t going to win the Phil Robertson vote.
 
Speaking of Robertson, Aiken had thoughtful comments about that flap: "There are certain things in society that we have become universally against: racism, obviously, is wrong. The treatment of people with disabilities is wrong. But homophobia is one thing that we are still a little bit accepting of in certain areas….But times have changed enough and perceptions have changed enough in the time that I've even been in the public eye, that I think we've made a lot of progress."
 
Once again, the Democratic Party is having an old debate: Do we need more “moderate” candidates who look like me (old white guys), or do we look to a new generation?
 
In a recent article about Terry Sanford, Barry Yeoman asked Mac McCorkle at Duke’s Sanford School what Sanford would tell Democrats today. McCorkle said:
 
“It would be very clear to him: Go young, and go diverse. He would be counseling people: Step aside. Be the elder statesmen. But bring in the young. They’re going to make mistakes, but they’re the future.”
 
Count me in with Terry and the young.
 

 

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06
Millions of dollars will be spent and billions of words spilled, but only one thing will decide this election: Will voters be madder at President Obama or at Republicans in the legislature?
 
On today’s market, the outlook for Democrats is as chilling as a New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge. For two months, the news has been all Obamacare – and all bad. While Obama energizes voters when he’s on the ballot, the magic doesn’t transfer when he’s not. In 2010, his voters stayed home and the Obama-haters turned out in droves. That’s what got North Carolina in this mess.
 
If that happens again, Kay Hagan could lose, and Republicans could control both houses of Congress and keep super-majorities in Raleigh.
 
2015 would be no fun.
 
But, then, in 2016, Americans and North Carolinians would recoil at the result, Republicans will nominate Ted Cruz for President and there will be a Democratic landslide statewide and nationally.
 
There’s also a more optimistic scenario for Democrats this year: Anger at the legislature over the damage done to education could trump anger at Obama. The GOP and Tea Party could overreach nationally, like 1998, when Newt Gingrich & Co. overreached, lost big and paved the road for John Edwards’ election.
 
The point is that elections today are driven by negative emotions, namely fear and anger. No politician is popular. No politician has approval ratings above the 40s in North Carolina. By contrast, Jim Hunt stayed north of 60 percent most of the time he was Governor.
 
So keep an eye on one thing: Who are the voters maddest at in November?

 

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18
Maybe I should apologize. But would Bob Rucho apologize? No sir! So I’ll double down, as they say.
 
My blog yesterday – warning that the next Congress might be run by people who think like Rucho – apparently ruined the Christmas spirit for some Democrats.
 
My friend Jerry Wayne Williamson of Boone (follow him at @JerryWilliamso1) wrote, “Well, Merry Christmas to you too! That's the most depressing thing I've read all morning!” Long-time colleague June Milby said, “Gary, It's the Christmas season, even Scrooge was redeemed right there at the end. Don't hit us too hard with the ghosts of Christmas past. There's plenty of time in January for that!
 
I can’t help it. And here I go again. Spoiler alert: This could really ruin your Christmas.
 
Here it is: Think about the chances that the 2014 elections could be even worse for Democrats than 2010 was.
 
Historically, second mid-term elections are disastrous for Presidents. See LBJ in 1968, Nixon/Ford in 1974 and Reagan in 1986. There are exceptions, like Clinton in 1998.
 
But here’s a disturbing poll finding from this week, a nugget that the Washington Post called “one very bad number for Obama”: The Post-ABC poll asked whether people trust Obama or the Republicans in Congress to do a better job "coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years." Forty-one percent said they trusted Obama. Forty-one percent said they trusted Republicans in Congress.
 
Let that sink in. Think about how the Republicans in Congress have done their jobs in recent years: the shutdowns, the shakedowns and the sheer nuttiness. Then tell yourself: Americans trust that crowd just as much as they trust the President.
 
This reflects, of course, the disastrous debut of Obamacare. Maybe, as some pundits predict, that will be gone and forgotten next November. Maybe not.
 
Thus far, experience tells us that when Obama is on the ballot, all goes well. Maybe it’s that people just feel good voting for him. But when he’s not on the ballot, look out.
 
And make no mistake: For better or for worse, the 2014 election will be a referendum on Obama. There is no escaping it. Even worse, there is not a lot that down-ballot candidates, from Senator Kay Hagan down, can do about it.
 
So, as Democrats enjoy Christmas and prepare for a new year, they need to plan for the worst, hope for the best and work like hell.

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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