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North Carolina - Democrats

06
No predictions or resolutions! Instead let’s ask the big questions for 2015 for the state’s big three political forces: Governor McCrory, Republican legislators and Democrats.
 
For Governor McCrory, will 2015 be about policy and politics, or about personal ethics? As we tuned out for the holidays, he was eyeball-to-eyeball with the capital media, AP and reporter Michael Biesecker. Nobody blinked.
 
The Governor will have to deal with a fractious and sometimes unfriendly legislature, navigate tricky issues like Medicaid and the budget, and get ready to run again. All the while, he’ll face tough questions about his business ties.
 
As Carter noted, how does he explain getting $600,000 from Lending Tree and what does he think about the company’s shady-looking business practices? As Republican legislators asked privately, how does he defend selling Duke stock after the coal-ash spill? And what exactly did he do, and for whom, at Moore and Van Allen?
 
For Republican legislators, do they continue running student-body right, or run to the middle? What do they do about teacher pay in a tough budget year, especially after many of them ran last year on a promise to raise it to the national average?
 
For Democrats, how do they come back? As usual, they’re divided over the state party leadership. Some of them are discouraged and disappointed after high hopes were dashed in November. Others see hope in how much better they did here than Democrats across the South and the country.
 
A big question will be where to put their emphasis, and their money, for 2016. Get ready for Hillary? Concentrate on Cooper? Pick up more state House seats? Invest again in the tough Senate districts? Challenge Richard Burr? Fill Council of State vacancies? And how do they recruit rising stars for local offices?
 
For all three political teams, these are decisions that shape futures – theirs and the state’s.

 

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26
An outfit called Verifeed says “social conversations” on Twitter helped Thom Tillis beat Kay Hagan. Put me down as a skeptic.
 
You hear a lot of sweeping claims about how social media is transforming politics. The acolytes can drown you in numbers about “clicks” and “reads” and “open rates.” But is there hard evidence that all this moves votes?
 
If there is, please share it.
 
WRAL’s Mark Binker is another skeptic. He posted the story on Facebook and said, “Posting this mainly because I think it's wrong. For Twitter to be a place where a race is won or lost, wouldn't it need to be a more persuasive medium? My window into the platform is that people are sharing news, jokes, etc... but there's not a whole lot of persuasion going on. Tell me why I'm wrong. (Seriously, I don't buy the argument in this piece but I think there might be one to be made.)”
 
You won’t be surprised to learn that Verifeed is a company that “identifies and mobilizes powerful viral ambassadors and amplifiers to drive cost-efficient and high-impact ‘word of mouth’ marketing, customer acquisition, and conversions.” Whatever.
 
In other words, it’s selling what it’s celebrating.
 
Its report on North Carolina said, “Republican activists outperformed Democrats in sheer volume – and resonance – of tweets, with a veritable army of party activists faithfully retweeting and favoriting each other’s tweets regularly, if not hourly. The result calculated by Verifeed in the final seven days was direct engagement with 15,436,367 people by the top 20 GOP influencers – more than 14 times that of the top 20 Democratic influencers, who by contrast engaged just 1,746,178 people on Twitter.”
 
Now, maybe all this math mumbo-jumbo means something. But it looks like most people on Twitter who are interested in politics have pretty much made up their minds.
 
Until the online entrepreneurs can show with hard evidence that they can actually influence votes, hold on to your campaign dollars.

 

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22

 

GQ  just published a list of the 20 craziest politicians and two North Carolinians are on it: Mark Walker, the new Congressman from Greensboro who made the list for joking he’d be for bombing Mexico and that he worries Obama may not leave office at the end of his term, and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx.
 
This is a grave injustice.
 
Why, we once had a state legislator who said he wanted to set up a state religion and another who once said he wanted the state to print its own currency – and then there’s Democratic Party Chairman Randy Vollmer (who even Democrats shy away from) and William Barber who’s in a league of his own.
 
GQ needs to go back to the drawing board. When it comes to politicians, we’ve got dozens who’re crazier than Virginia Foxx.


 

 

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22
Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and Governor Pat McCrory appear to have different ideas of what “customer service” means.
 
To McCrory and his administration, the “customers” are “corporations” and, too often, “polluters.” To Goodwin, the customers are “consumers” and, in this instance, “homeowners.”
 
 
It may be the first time since January 2013 that business hasn’t gotten exactly what it wanted from Raleigh – and pronto.
 
Why did the industry want a 25 percent increase? Why indeed, after getting an average increase last year of 7.7 percent, as high as 19.8 percent in beach areas?
 
Had some terrible catastrophe drained their reserves? Are thousands of insurance company employees being thrown out on the street in their suits and white shirts?
 
Not exactly. The industry admitted it was guessing about what MIGHT happen in the future. Its spokesman said, “Part of the problem that we have is that the rate product – which is paying claims – is some future event that we really don’t have a good handle on how much it costs. We’re trying to predict what that would be three or four years down the road.”
 
No doubt, the industry would like to base rates on a projection of an End Times combination of hurricanes, tornados, ice storms, Ebola outbreak, terrorist attacks and plagues of locusts and toads.
 
Nice try, boys.
 
Goodwin said his decision will save North Carolina homeowners $600 million.
 
Merry Christmas, indeed.

 

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15
Democrats in Washington are squabbling about torture, a $1.1 trillion budget bill and regulations on Wall Street and big banks. Democrats in North Carolina are squabbling about – I kid you not – Charles Brantley Aycock.
 
Specifically, the squabble is in part over whether the wife of a descendant of North Carolina’s governor from 1901 to 1905 should be state Democratic Party chairman in 2015.
 
Aycock was both a racist and a pro-education (for whites) governor. For years, the state party had an annual Vance-Aycock weekend in Asheville, since renamed the Western Gala because of Aycock’s racial policies. One of his modern-day descendants apparently opposed the name change, feeling that the good Aycock did should outweigh the bad. For this heresy, some Democrats believe that said descendant’s wife, Patsy Keever, should not be party chair.
 
As a long-time Democratic activist asked this weekend, “If my great-grandfather was a horse thief, do I have to leave the party?”
 
This would be of great concern. If it mattered. But, in today’s world of creative campaign financing and myriad political committees, the state party doesn’t matter.
 
In fact, this squabble is a good thing. It gives the people who fight about things like this something meaningless to tear each other apart over. Which frees up everybody else to get about the work of winning elections in 2014.
 
Next up: Given their records on slavery, do we rename Jefferson-Jackson Day? This should keep the Goodwin House busy through November 2016.

 

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11
I dropped in on a wise old Democrat who has been through the political wars, winning more than he lost. I found him undaunted by 2014 and fired up for 2016.
 
He chided me for chiding Senator Hagan for chiding President Obama over the November results: “You were too tough on her. The President should be talking up the economy. We all should be talking up the economy. A lot of good things are happening, and we need to stand up and tell people.”
 
Yes, he said, it was a tough year for Democrats. “But we did a hell of a lot better than any other state.” If the same candidates had run the same campaigns in 2016, he said, “We would have won three or four state Senate seats and even more state House seats.”
 
He’s optimistic about the races for President, US Senate, Governor and the legislature in 2016. He knows how easily Republicans can overreach and wear out their welcome. He believes Democrats will field strong candidates and run strong campaigns.
 
Most of all, he had a clear message for Democrats who are tempted to mope and mourn: “I want to see some fire in your eyes.”

 

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05
You know it was a bad story when somebody says at breakfast, “Did Senator Hagan know she was being quoted when she said that about Obama?”
 
We don’t know. But we do know that Hagan’s interview with a McClatchy reporter threw gas on a fire burning in the Democratic Party – and probably burned her in the process.
 
The story began: “President Barack Obama could have done more to help Senate Democrats in last month’s elections if he’d spoken out about the nation’s healthy economy and its positive impact on middle-class families, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina said Wednesday in her first interview since her narrow defeat.”
 
It left Hagan looking like a losing Super Bowl quarterback who gives a locker-room interview and blames the loss on the coach’s lousy game plan.
 
Right or wrong, that’s not the note you want to hit – or the taste you want to leave on your way out.
 
As one prominent Democrat said on social media, “There are many reasons for Senator Hagan's loss. But if I am to lose, I would like it to be because of the principles I embrace rather than assigning it the lack of someone else's intervention or action.”
 
Of course, plenty of Democrats are quietly, or not so quietly, blaming Obama for her loss and losses all across the country. Others blame Hagan for “distancing” herself from the President.
 
Said one: “It would've been fascinating to have seen what would have happened if just ONE Democratic Senate candidate had whole-heartedly ran on Obama's record - which, in reality, is pretty damn good, especially considering where the country and the economy were when he took office. Once again, Democrats let the Republican propaganda machine define the issues for them.”
 
While not in response to Hagan’s interview, another person summed up this viewpoint: “Instead of running away from Obama I think we should of done the opposite. If we had we would definitely not lost Colorado and maybe not even North Carolina since Hagan only lost by 50,000 votes. If Obama had made the immigration speech before the election we would of had the turnout we needed.”
 
Another Democrat offered this: “One of the things I heard earlier this year from business people was that Hagan had reneged on promises she made to support certain legislation and changes in regulation. Her problem was that her support did not square with the administration’s position and they were putting pressure on her since they were pouring so much money into her campaign.
 
“I can’t tell if her change of position led to loss of votes but it certainly put her in the Obama corner with nowhere to turn.  It’s interesting to me that she didn’t inform the Obama people that she had the right to have her own opinion, and that Obama needed her more in the Senate than she needed his money. But he should invest in her anyway since she is way better than the alternative. Well, Obama now has the alternative several times over.”
 
It’s time to recall the wisdom of one of North Carolina’s greatest political minds, Bert Bennett: “When you win, everything you did was right. When you lose, everything you did was wrong.”

 

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04
Senator Kay Hagan ran a strong campaign, but her post-defeat critique of President Obama is weak.
 
Hagan told McClatchy’s Renee Schoof that Obama hurt Senate Democrats by not trumpeting the economy more loudly: “The president hasn’t used the bully pulpit to get that message out in a way that resonates with people. And I think that’s an issue that the Democrats should not cede.”
 
Her statement opens Hagan up to the counter-criticism that some Democrats already are making: She should have embraced Obama rather than distancing herself.
 
Neither argument is convincing.
 
Hagan’s campaign leaders probably would tell you that Obama’s job ratings were the main drag on her candidacy and that embracing him would have been akin to strapping on an anvil and jumping in the deep end.
 
Conversely, Hagan’s criticism ignores the reality that cheerleading a la Ronald Reagan is foreign to the President’s cool, cerebral style. Plus, would voters have bought it if he had tried to sell it?
 
Yes, as the Senator noted, gas prices are low; the stock market is at an all-time high and jobs continue to grow, far different from when she and Obama took office in 2009.
 
The problem for Democrats is that far too many voters – nearly all of them white and middle-class or working-class and many of them presumably Democratic-friendly women and young people – don’t see Democrats as the party of prosperity. They see a party that cares passionately about the poor and about minorities, but they ask: What about me?
 
Yes, they also see Republicans as the party of the rich. But maybe they think they too will get rich, or just richer, with Republicans.
 
Yes, race is part of this. But race doesn’t explain all of it.
 
Democrats must face the unpleasant fact that, since the history-making election of Obama (and Hagan) in 2008, the party has suffered defeat after defeat in three straight elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, governorships and state legislatures.
 
And be clear: To describe the “White Critique” above is not to praise it, embrace it or agree with it. Just recognize it as a fact, a fact the party can either ignore or confront.
 
That is the choice ahead in 2016.

 

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02
A TAPster points out that my blog yesterday about Young Dems didn’t take note that two young Dems (“young” being broadly defined as younger than me) already are making their mark in statewide office.
 
I wrote that Senator Josh Stein could be “the first in his class” of young Democrats to be elected to statewide office. My apologies to 40-somethings Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and Treasurer Janet Cowell!
 
Also of note, Goodwin was the first Young Democrats of North Carolina President elected to the legislature in decades, perhaps the first elected to the legislature while still serving as YDNC President, and the first former YDNC officer elected to statewide public office since Elaine Marshall.
 
Making this correction allows me to make a point: Nothing solves a party’s problems faster than recruiting, developing and encouraging good candidates. Nothing prolongs the problems more than a conflict between generations – e.g., “those old fossils need to get out of the way” or “those young whippersnappers need to wait their turn.”
 
Old heads and new faces can make a powerful combination.

 

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24
One thing Democrats did right this year was push education onto the public agenda. But will it last? And the key question: Where do they take it now?
 
The Hagan campaign came close largely because they almost turned a United States Senate race into a school board election.
 
The same thing was true in many legislative races. Republicans who were running scared campaigned like Democrats, promising to improve the public schools and even to raise teacher pay to the national average.
 
One path for Democrats now will be to see whether Republicans keep that promise in what looks like a legislative session that will be dominated by a shortfall in revenues
 
But Democrats should be wary of falling into a trap that equates more money with better education.
 
Republicans are learning how to push back against the charge that they “cut $500 million from education.” And, if you Google that charge, you’ll find a series of fact checks that challenge its veracity.
 
Given their ideological preference for vouchers and charter schools, Republicans are not likely to appropriate much more money for the schools. Their position is more likely to be: “We’re spending more money than ever before on the schools, but they’re not getting better. We have to do something different.”
 
Democrats better figure out how to overcome that argument.
 
Same with the universities. Democrats can’t just criticize budget “cuts” – more accurately, cuts in per-pupil spending – when Republicans are already rolling out their riposte: “North Carolina spends more on its universities per pupil than all but three other states.”
 
I saw this movie in the 1990s with Governor Hunt. It’s why he didn’t just say: “Let’s raise teacher pay to the national average.” He also, always, said: “And let’s raise standards for teachers, students and schools.”
 
To win in 2016, Democrats will again have to propose more than more money.

 

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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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