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19
Gary is taking a break from blogging. Here's a guest blog from Joe Stewart, Executive Director of the NC FreeEnterprise Foundation; a nonpartisan non-profit organization that conducts research on candidates, campaigns and voter attitudes in North Carolina.

Once the match up in the US Senate race was known on primary election night, a reporter asked me what I thought the key public policy issues were that Kay Hagan and Tom Tillis would battle over. 
 
I said with the volume of ads coming from both campaigns and outside sources, any number of issues will be raised – which will resonate with undecided voters (the key group for both Tillis and Hagan) is hard to predict.

Then this past week I read a news report that leading economists say the Chinese economy may surpass that of the United States as the largest in the world sometime in 2014, two years ahead of previous predictions.
 
If indeed that comes to pass during the 2014 campaign season, the impact on the collective political psyche of the American public may well cast a long shadow over every other issue.
 
Media attention given this will be extensive, and how we slipped from the top spot and what it means for our nation’s standing in the world will be hotly debated along partisan lines.

In North Carolina, US Senate candidates should anticipate voters will want answers on how this global shift impacts their ability to provide for their family, and what’s needed to assure the future economic well-being of their children and grandchildren.

After all, even when election year issues are international in nature, all politics tends to be local.

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04
Gary is taking a break from blogging. Our guest blogger is Tapster Joe Stewart.

 

I grew up in Raleigh, graduating from Athens Drive High School in 1982.

The athletic conference (note singular) at the time was the Cap 8 and included (what seemed like) the remote outposts of Fuquay-Varina and Smithfield Selma.
 
I moved away for a while, and when I returned in 1996 the place had definitely changed, and continues to both in size and diversity of the population.
 
Just ask state Representative Tom Murry, whose 41st State House District in Wake County contains a significant number of Indian Americans - Morrisville, the heart of Rep. Murry’s district, is home to the Hindu Society of North Carolina.
 
In fact, Indian Americans are a whopping 16% of the lawful American citizens eligible to cast a ballot for Rep. Murry on election day. 
 
While most attention in recent years has focused on illegal Hispanic immigrants here in North Carolina, Rep. Murry’s district shows there’s actually far more than that one dynamic to discuss on the topic of how immigration impact local communities like his, given the dramatic growth in our State’s foreign-born population (up by 64% since 2000).
 
The NC Center for International Understanding (full disclosure: they are a client) is hosting a conference (not advancing a particular policy proposal, but rather providing a forum to allow discussion among all points of view – a review of the list of sponsors highlights that fact) on February 28 entitled ‘Immigration Matters’ at the Hunt Library on NCSU Centennial Campus (http://IMforum.eventbrite.com).
 
It’s proven to be a timely program, given recent calls for federal immigration reform from both Congressional leaders and the White House.
 
Consider this: the US Chamber, a business advocacy icon, will speak at this event on the need for reforms to our work visa system – it’s hurting US businesses when skilled positions for which no American worker is available go unfilled because guest workers can’t get the visa to come do the job.
 
And this isn’t just about high-tech, high-skill positions. It’s about all the service sector jobs there simply won’t be enough American-born workers for (think home health care, the folks needed to take care of all us aging Baby Boomers).
 
A UN population and workforce study released in 2000 projected that by the end of 2103, due in large part to declining birth rates in America, the labor force growth in the United States will be zero, and by 2020 will have a 17 million shortage of working age people for the jobs available.
 
So there’s a lot to talk about, and Immigration Matters will be a great opportunity to hear from many different voices on this subject.
 
By the way: when people ask me, as a ‘native,’ if these changes bother me, I always say ‘this was a great part of North Carolina then, but it’s an outstanding corner of the world now.’

 

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30

 

Gary is taking a break from blogging. Our guest Tapster today is Joe Stewart of JRS Strategy Group.
 
Part of my work as former Political Director at NC Chamber involved seeking out solid business-minded people to run for the General Assembly.
 
Someone I met in 2010 pursing this goal was Rick Catlin. Personal and professional considerations precluded him from running then, but he did in 2012 and got elected to represent House District 20 in New Hanover County (and has been selected by his fellow freshmen Republicans as leader of that caucus).
 
Catlin fit perfectly the disposition I was looking for then, and I am glad he’s joined the legislature now.
 
The owner of a Wilmington-based environmental engineering firm (that does work internationally, so Catlin clearly get’s ‘global’ part of North Carolina's place in a global economy), he’s a pragmatic, bottom line kinda businessperson who understands the pressures faced making a payroll every week.
 
But, he’s also forward-looking (he told me back in 2010 that ‘you have to think ahead if your business involves building drinking water reservoirs’) and understands the connection between infrastructure investments, economic vitality and job creation.
 
I caught up with him recently and ask about initial impressions of legislative service: ‘We are moving fast and with a sense of urgency, a much quicker pace than in the past as those members with longer tenure keep telling us newbies.’
 
In terms of the issues faced this session: ‘We must focus on finding greater efficiencies so we can keep the cost of state government down. And just like in my business, if North Carolina is to encourage economic growth and the jobs that brings, it’s about making smart investments and figuring out how to be better than any of our competitors – and we must do more to promote North Carolina all around world.’
 
Other thoughts: ‘Engineers, by training, work to bring solutions to the problems they find. With three others from my profession in the House (the largest number anyone can remember being in this body at any one time), I’m pretty confident there’s not much we can’t handle.’
 
At a time when ideological divisions and partisan divides seem to drown out reasoned discussion and debate on public policies, I think North Carolina would be well served if both political parties could encourage a few more business-minded folks like Rick Catlin (and there are others in the body now, but we could always use more) to consider serving in the General Assembly.

 

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28
Gary is taking a break from blogging. Our guest today is Joe Stewart.
 
Currently reaching their 18th birthday at a rate of 13,000 a day, the 80 million-strong Generation Y (those born 1982 - 1995) will be the majority of the US workforce and a full third of the voting population by 2015.

This surging tide is poised to become the replacements for the currently-in-charge Baby Boom Generation (today, the median age in Congress is 57, and is 60 among current US governors), leap frogging over Generation X (who kinda sat political life out) to dominate the America governing class.

Less cynical and more civically engaged than Gen X, and far more technology-oriented than Boomers (who are still getting political information from television news and newspapers), Gen Y is poised to be the biggest, most diverse and highly educated generation in American history.

Their enthusiasm about making history was a major factor for Obama in the 2008 presidential race, but hard economic reality cooled that a little in 2012.

So does either party have a lock on Gen Y going forward? It's hard to say.

I suspect if 'old' leaders of the Democrats and Republicans can't get past partisan sniping and ideological extremism, this group of spunky youngsters is likely to declare a pox on both the political party houses.

In all likelihood, Gen Y-ers are going to be America's first 'Imagecrats' - attracted more to charismatic, bigger-than-life, social media savvy candidates they 'like' (every Facebook pun intended) irrespective of party.

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17

 

Guest Tapster blogger Joe Stewart writes:

People don't want more government or less government, they want just enough government and no more.
 
I heard then-president Bill Clinton say that during his visit to North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran in 1996, when I was legislative liaison in the NC Department Crime Control and Public Safety. His words came in response to the comment of a local elected official (Democrat) about how some of their counterparts (Republicans) who had 'all campaigned on less government' seemed mighty comfortable with asking for as much in federal disaster aid as they could get for their city or county. In truth, it would be just about impossible for any state to refuse federal assistance to get back on their feet after a major storm.
 
Throughout my career - which has included stints in the public sector as well as in the private sector - I have seen how government can do good for people in need, and how government can get in the way through ill-conceived laws and unnecessarily burdensome regulations. However, I (and I suspect most folks would agree) do believe that in the same way citizens and businesses count on government to respond to and provide recovery from devastating natural disasters, there are some things government must provide - and even some things ONLY government can provide.
 
Republican legislative leaders are talking now about the need to return in 2013 with making state government smaller as one of their topic priorities. But what I hope 'making state government smaller'  means is an effort to make state government more efficient and effective, and thus less costly to operate in the long run while providing greater value to those served.
 
Creating greater efficiency and effectiveness cannot be achieved simply by cutting (smaller always means less, but may not always mean better), but by engaging the new governor and the Council of State, and the judicial branch in a serious conversation that puts everything on the table for consideration, including whether the current state personnel system is allowing agencies to attract and retain those with the skills and abilities we need to run a 21st Century state government.


 

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16

 

Guest Tapster blogger Joe Stewart writes:

In the same way my daddy has a saying that manners are not all that matter, but what they do matter matters a lot, the relative financial advantage of one candidate over their opponent, or one party versus their rival, doesn't make all the difference but the difference it does make makes a big difference.
 
I know, I know ... there are certainly tales of Mr. Smiths coming to Washington, with shoe leather political equity earned going door to door in the threadbarest of grassroots-oriented, volunteer driven efforts, but when it comes the modern techniques of conducting scientific and comprehensive public opinion research, mounting a well-staffed and exhaustive voter contact program, being able to communicate out the right messages to the all important undecided or swing voters, ain't nothing replaces the value of the good old greenback.
 
Second quarter campaign finance reports show Pat McCrory with a significant pile of cash in his coffers ($4.4 million) to the bare cabinet of Dalton (just $700,000 on hand), and recent analysis by the NC FreeEnterprise Foundation (www.ncfef.org) reveal the Republican state House and Senate caucus candidates with comfortable multipliers above their opponents (House GOP with $2.3 million has 1.5 times more than House Dems, and Senate GOP with $3 million has 3.5 times more than Senate Dems). And, the Republican Party as of June 30 had $966,000 on hand to the Democratic Party's $188,000. Pretty considerable difference.
 
In terms of resources, the North Carolina Republicans clearly have an advantage in the resource department as we head toward Labor Day and the sprint to Election Day, with all that must be done to motivate base voters and get the swingingest of the swing voters to swing your way - the two things in a campaign that are very hard to accomplish without the necessary cash.


 

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