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North Carolina - Democrats

18
While Governor McCrory was doing what politicians usually do to get snow-day news coverage, state Sen. Jeff Jackson was showing how it’s done in a new media world.
 
Tuesday morning, Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) showed up at the Legislative Building at 8 am and tweeted: “No problem getting a great parking space this morning.”
 
While McCrory was holding briefings timed for live coverage, Jackson began a series of tweets and Facebook posts tagged #JustOneLegislator.
 
8:12: “think I'm the only legislator in the building. Let me take care of a few things. Medicaid = expanded. Teachers = paid. Film = jobs.”
 
8:36: “We just invested heavily in wind and solar energy.  I'm moving onto education reform.  Any thoughts?”
 
8:49: “Independent redistricting Invest heavily in wind and solar Support early childhood education NC is suddenly a national model.”
 
By now, Jackson was being followed by growing numbers of homebound souls seeking an online escape from cabin fever.
 
9:28: “Went ahead and got rid of puppy mills. Not sure why that took so long.”
 
9:39: “Remember that time we eliminated NC Teaching Fellows?  Guess what.”
 
Word began to spread. 9:50: “Am now receiving lots of calls from actual lobbyists. Even the false appearance of power gets their attention.”
 
10:31: “Hey Charlotte - it's your airport.”
 
10:54: “Just had a big debate over cutting the university system even more. Decided not to, because obviously that's a bad idea.”
 
He kept his priorities right. 11:32: “I’m hearing there's no cell phone reception in the press room.  That goes on the list, but I'm putting it at the bottom.”
 
And had the right touch of self-mockery. 12:38: “I just defeated a filibuster because I needed a drink of water. That removes any opposition to new child care subsidies.”
 
By early afternoon, as his army of followers swelled, Jackson was featured on the national website BuzzFeed. Tuesday night, he got a shout-out from Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.
 
Today, he’s all over the traditional media. Craig Jarvis and Jim Morrill noted in the N&O/Charlotte Observer: “Tuesday was not the first time Jackson, a former prosecutor from Charlotte, has garnered national attention. Last summer, shortly after he was appointed to fill an unexpired seat, he made a 6-minute speech – caught on video – admonishing Republicans for not giving Democrats a chance to weigh in on or read the budget before scheduling a vote. More than 2.65 million have watched the video and Jackson received comments on it from as far away as South Africa.”
 
Was Jackson brilliant or lucky? It doesn’t matter. He demonstrated the power of creativity + humor + issues + new media. And that he’s a political power to be reckoned with.

 

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12
Reverend William Barber went down to the newspaper and sat down with Ned Barnett to have a chat about the state’s soul.
 
Now the main problem with the state spiritually, according to Reverend Barber, is Republicans. He’s thundered from podiums from Asheville to Wilmington that Republicans are heartless varmints who stomp on women, children, and the blind, halt and lame.
 
You could search for years and not find a more remorseless demagogue – or partisan Democrat – than William Barber.
 
But that’s not how Ned Barnett saw it at all: The Reverend, he explained in his editorial, built his ‘Moral Mondays’ movement on morality, not politics. That as Barber himself says, Moral Mondays isn’t about left and right, it’s about right and wrong.
 
Pure baloney.


 

 

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11
Once when Democratic County Commissioner Betty Lou Ward was in the hospital she asked the Republican Commissioners to allow her to participate in a board meeting by phone – but the Republicans said no.
 
Another time, in the middle of a fight, the Republicans waited until Ward left the board room to go to the restroom then promptly held a vote.
 
All that orneriness didn’t sit well with a lot of folks and, last fall, every one of the Republicans were voted out of office and we ended up with seven Democratic County Commissioners.
 
Now Wake County is blessed: We have a solid economy and a growing population and both are bringing more money into the county’s exchequer each year but, as soon as they got sworn in, the new Democratic Commissioners proved there are more vices than orneriness: They announced it was time to raise taxes.
 
Those old Republican Commissioners were no saints but the new Democrats are making them look better every day.


 

 

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11
Sunday morning, Joe Neff’s story ran on Page 1A of the N&O. Tuesday at 2 pm, Dana Cope held a 90-second news conference (no questions, please) to resign.
 
As WRAL’s Laura Leslie said on Facebook, “Well, that was quick.”
 
Maybe Cope decided his legal problems dwarf his political problems. Or maybe it would be tough to explain a $57 eyebrow wax at European Wax Center to a guy driving a dump truck at DOT.
 
For many Democrats, Cope’s downfall and Randy Voller’s departure as Democratic Party chair are signs of spring. Both organizations can now push the reset button.
 
With Patsy Keever as chair, there is hope that the party can actually become a functioning political entity.
 
SEANC has no Patsy Keever in sight, and it’s hard to have confidence in a board that stuck with Cope as late as Monday, but at least there is a chance to make SEANC an effective force, rather than just making everybody everywhere mad.
 
In other states, state employees’ associations and unions stand up to government-bashing Republicans. Cope’s strategy seemed to be to bash Democrats when they were in power and bash Republicans when they are in power.
 
It was a hard strategy to understand. Now we get it: It was all about Dana Cope. Eyebrows and all.

 

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04
When people ask, “What are we going to do about the North Carolina Democratic Party?” there’s a temptation to say, “Not a damned thing. Let those people fight each other while the rest of us fight the Republicans.”
 
But Thomas Mills, publisher of the estimable blog PoliticsNC, offers a more thoughtful and insightful viewpoint, which I’m happy to shamelessly appropriate here, titled “The NCDP’s Jonestown moment”:
 
In his column this weekend, the News & Observer’s Ned Barnett wrote, “The Democrats have been vanquished, undone by their disorganization and lack of conviction and gerrymandered into irrelevance.” The backdrop to that statement is a race for chair of the Democratic Party that’s just disheartening. The race is not to lead the state’s Democrats. The race is to elect someone who can make the party relevant again.
 
The past two chairs, Randy Voller and David Parker, have run the party into the ground, making it a laughingstock and leaving it deeply in debt. They alienated “the electeds,” as they call them, and lost the trust and confidence of the big donors, the national party, and the campaign professionals. Instead, they surround themselves with people who don’t understand that without the support of the elected officials who run on the Democratic ticket, the state party has no power or influence at all.
 
There are a number of candidates running for chair, but former State Representative Patsy Keever is the only candidate with the experience, connections, and clout to turn the party around–and it won’t be an easy task for her. However, unlike either of the past two chairs or the people surrounding them, she knows what real campaigns look like and she has raised real money. She’s also served in the General Assembly, was party chair of Buncombe County and serves as first vice-chair of the state party.
 
Given her background and experience, Keever should be a shoo-in, but with the dysfunctional state of the party, she’s being attacked by conspiracy theorists and the left’s version of the Tea Party. They’re more interested in controlling the mechanics of the party than making it relevant to the political landscape. They don’t understand that the people who organize, run, and fund campaigns have already set up their own networks to work around the state party if necessary. The party was marginalized in 2014 and will have even less of a role in 2016 if the voting members don’t install competent leadership.
 
This is the North Carolina Democratic Party’s Jonestown moment. On Saturday, the state executive committee can continue on the road to oblivion or they can take steps to re-emerge from the wilderness and re-enter the political fray. Don’t drink the Kool-aid.

 

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03
One number jumps out of Public Policy Polling’s latest survey of the 2016 Governor’s race: 48. That’s the percentage of Independents who disapprove of Governor McCrory’s job performance. Only 32 percent approve.
 
McCrory leads Roy Cooper among all voters by 44-39. But that includes a 43-28 McCrory lead among Independents. That’s not going to hold in the face of 48 percent disapproval. Those Independents are ready for a reason to vote against McCrory.
 
Assume that Cooper makes it an even race among Independents, instead of a 15-point gap. If Independents are a quarter of the voters, Cooper picks up four points overall. The race is a tie.
 
Then, say Cooper drives up McCrory’s negatives among Independents to 54 percent, which is where former Senator Hagan’s negatives are today. That’s potentially another three points overall.
 
If this were the Super Bowl, you’d say McCrory has big holes in his defensive line, Cooper has a lot of running room and the game will come down to a few yards and the final seconds.

 

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30
Not long ago, I blogged that Democrats in the legislature should help Governor McCrory expand Medicaid (“Pass McCroryCare”). With Democratic votes and some Republicans, McCrory could overcome opposition from the legislative leadership.
 
But a Raleigh group called the Carolina Partnership for Reform, which says it “was formed to advocate for a freedom-based agenda in North Carolina,” sees a nefarious plot afoot.
 
Nobody’s name is listed on the group’s website, so we can’t credit any individual for unmasking my hidden agenda. Here follows, in full, their post, “Pearce’s Democrat Revival Plan”:
 
 
We recently pointed readers to Democrat strategist Gary Pearce’s Pass McCroryCare column urging Democrats to lobby the Obama Administration to grant the waivers Governor McCrory might ask for in order to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.
 
Pearce said McCrory could help himself in 2016 by splitting with the conservative majority in the Legislature and working with Democrats to give free health insurance to able bodied people. Right now, Medicaid primarily covers poor children, their moms, the elderly and the disabled, not working age adults who don’t work.
 
But now we can see the ulterior motive behind Gary Pearce’s suggestion. And the upshot is Medicaid expansion will be a loser for Governor McCrory according to a new survey of people who voted in November.
 
The Foundation for Government Accountability surveyed 500 people who voted last year. Here is the question.
 
North Carolina’s legislature and governor are deciding whether or not to expand North Carolina’s Medicaid health insurance program to give taxpayer-funded Medicaid benefits to 500,000 mostly working-age adults who have no kids and no disability. Do you support or oppose expanding Medicaid in North Carolina to these adults?
 
Support – 47.13%
 
Oppose – 36.63%
 
Undecided – 16.24%
 
At first blush, Medicaid expansion is a winning issue. But among voters who approve of the Governor, it’s a big drag. Among strongly approving McCrory people, 59% oppose Medicaid expansion and 40% are against Medicaid expansion among somewhat approving McCrory voters.
 
In short, expanding Medicaid splits McCrory’s own voters. And that gives clever Democrats like Pearce a chance to funnel cash to the Libertarian candidate and siphon fiscal conservatives away from McCrory. Perhaps enough of them to throw the election to Democrats
 
In fact, 54% of all voters are less likely to support McCrory if he backs ” ObamaCare Medicaid expansion ” and 82% of Republican voters are less likely to vote for a legislator supporting it and 67% oppose it if it could result in education cuts.
 
Remembering the Greeks at the gates of Troy, beware Gary Pearce bringing advice.

 

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20
There’s good news and there’s bad news about the true state of the N.C. Democratic Party.
 
The bad news is that the actual financial situation is worse than it looks. Much of the $42,700 that the party has on hand belongs to the House and Senate caucuses.
 
That’s also the good news, because the caucuses have made sure Chairman Randy Voller can’t get to the money.
 
More good news: With county parties, candidate committees and super PACs, Democrats have learned to work around the Goodwin House Horrors.
 
Still and all, it would help to have a functioning state party, one that focuses on electing candidates instead of debating the platform on Iraq and castigating heretics to the true faith.
 
It would help to have one that keeps the phones and Internet working. At times during the fall campaign, both went down at party HQ. That made running campaigns a tad difficult.
 
Voller, who said he doesn’t know what the monthly budget is, blamed others. He told Colin Campbell of the N&O: “It’s difficult to get some of the larger counties to want to pay their money to the sustaining fund.”
 
That’s because they don’t have any confidence in Voller. That’s why Kay Hagan’s campaign worked through the Wake County Democratic Party. That’s why the caucuses put their accounts off limits.
 
Now that Voller has scheduled the election of the next chair in his hometown of Pittsboro, there’s a suspicion he wants to engineer his own reelection.
 
Which brings us to the definition of insanity: to keep doing the same things you’ve been doing and expect a different result.
 
Meanwhile, the campaign for chair will no doubt focus on vital issues, like whether one of the candidates is too close to turn-of-the-century (that’s 1900, not 2000) Governor Charles Brantley Aycock.

 

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19
Is there something in the water in Chapel Hill that keeps University big shots from giving straight answers? The same lockjaw that keeps the UNC-CH athletic-academic scandal on the front pages has now spread to the Board of Governors.
 
The board’s non-speak/double-speak non-explanation of why Tom Ross was forced out leaves only one logical inference: It was politics. The chairman might as well have said, “To the victors go the spoils. We’re Republicans, he’s a Democrat, so we pushed him out.”
 
Ross’ forced departure has been rumored for months, if not years, along with the accompanying rumor that Art Pope replace him. The BOG chair said that wouldn’t happen; Pope left the door open. If it does happen after a year-long, national search, the university community may take up pitchforks and torches.
 
You could tell from his statement and from photos that Ross wasn’t happy and wasn’t ready to go. A rumor sprang up immediately that he may run for U.S. Senate. But that’s not likely if he stays in the job another year. And the qualities that make great university presidents do not necessarily make great politicians. See: Erskine Bowles.
 
As a candidate or not, Ross has the network to make an impact in 2016. If he sounds the trumpet, he can mobilize a lot of money behind the candidate or super PAC of his choice.

 

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13
Has Rep. Paul Tine found the promised land – or no man’s land?
 
Tine, who was elected twice as a Democrat, says he can help his district by switching to unaffiliated and caucusing with House Republicans.
 
But will it help him or hurt him in 2016?
 
Voters clearly have no love for either party. More and more of them register unaffiliated. So Tine’s move may look smart.
 
But will it work in the real world of politics? What if both a Democrat and a Republican run against him in 2016? Will he cruise down the middle to reelection – or get slaughtered in a crossfire?
 
If he becomes a Republican, will he face a primary challenger who attacks him as too liberal on issues like abortion?
 
This is uncharted territory, and Tine is on a path that could lead to either paradise or perdition.

 

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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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