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North Carolina - Democrats

02
A loyal TAPster outraged by Thom (No Clean Hands) Tillis contributes today’s blog:
 
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any colder last week, Senator Thom Tillis embarrassed North Carolina again, voting against Loretta Lynch’s nomination as US attorney general.
 
Lynch is the daughter of a Baptist minister from Greensboro who opened his church to protesters during the lunch-counter sit-ins of the 60s.  She attended Harvard University and Harvard Law School.  (Note to Thom:  That is THE Harvard University in Cambridge, not the online, for-profit version.) She has served as the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.  She is known as a tough prosecutor of honest-to-God terrorists.
 
To that, all Tillis could muster was, “She was raised right.” Then he declared that the decision to vote against her in the Senate Judiciary Committee, “was the most difficult I’ve had to make in my 45 days on this job.”
 
Only 45 days?  It seems like an eternity already.
 
This “no” vote comes in the same Judiciary Committee meeting where three of the Senate’s most outspoken and curmudgeonly Republican senators--Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake-- voted for her confirmation. Yes, even Graham, our Confederate flag-waving neighbor to the South--South Carolina that is-- saw his way to a yea vote, because, he said, she is qualified for the job.
 
Could it be that Tillis was stung by her unapologetic support for the Justice Department’s lawsuit against North Carolina to overturn its draconian voter ID law—a law Tillis himself championed?
 
When civility and decorum take a backseat to pure meanness and race baiting, it is a cold, dark day in North Carolina. The condescension breaks in icy waves like the slush on Nantucket’s beaches.
 
As Reverend Barber put it, “To see other southern Republican senators put aside the politics of extremism and support attorney Lynch’s nomination and then watch Thom Tillis refuse is a tragic misrepresentation of the values of North Carolina and the call of history.  Shameful,” he said.
 
Shameful indeed.  And, shame on you, too, Richard Burr.

 

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25
The fur’s flying over in Chapel Hill – Dean Boger (at the Law School) along with a cohort of professors have lit into the Board of Governors saying closing the Law School’s Anti-Poverty Center leaves them with only one conclusion: The Board is for poverty.
 
The Dean lamented the Board was guilty of every sin from betraying Dean Smith’s ‘Carolina Way’ to leading the University off the road to “light and truth” into the darkness – then blasted the Board for playing politics, saying it was shuttering the Center to silence law school professor Gene Nichols, who’s been blaming Republicans for poverty.
 
Listening you’d think the Anti-Poverty Center was founded by Mother Theresa – instead of John Edwards.
 
In fact the Center was never a step down the road to “light and truth” – it was a political farce Edwards created (and the Law School embraced) to serve as the launching pad for Edwards’s 2008 Presidential campaign. Dean Boger, the Law School’s Wade Edwards Distinguished Professor – a chair established by John Edwards to honor his late son – has long given it his blessing. And now he’s accusing the Board of playing politics.


 

 

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20
We’re in the Great Mentioner season of the political cycle, when the names of potential 2016 candidates start floating through the rumor mills, media and blogosphere.
 
And nothing talks like money.
 
An enterprising TAPster looked at the year-end cash-on-hand numbers for potential statewide candidates and Council of State incumbents.
 
Not surprisingly, at the top of the list were Governor McCrory, with $1.6 million, and his presumptive opponent, AG Roy Cooper ($1.5 million).
 
Next were Senator Josh Stein ($798,634), who will run for AG, and Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin ($304,776). Those are healthy numbers. Any challenger to Stein or Goodwin better pack a lunch.
 
Then come Treasurer Janet Cowell, a potential U.S. Senate candidate ($80,282), and Lt. Governor Dan Forest, who is sure to face a tough challenge (only $29,395). Followed by Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry ($16,157), Auditor Beth Wood ($14,698), Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson ($9,448), Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler ($8,200) and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall ($4,399).
 
The TAPster noted, “Given that June (Atkinson) hasn't raised any funds for Superintendent at all since 2012, might there be an opening on the Council of State other than Attorney General? Word around the Legislative Building is that Rep. Tricia Cotham is interested in the race.”
 
Further, “And what about all the national mentions of Janet Cowell potentially running for U.S. Senate, in tandem with her lower cash-on-hand numbers for her state campaign account? Some have said that she'll decide her plans for 2016 after the legislative session concludes.”
 
(Why wait? $100 million was spent in last year’s Senate race.)
 
Low cash-on-hand doesn’t tell us everything. But it does start the who-will-run-for-what buzz.

 

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18
When the State Ethics Commission ruled that a lobbyist having sex with a legislator didn’t violate the ban on gifts to legislators because sex acts do not constitute “things of value,” it got the attention of the redoubtable Ira David Wood, who’s surely NC’s most respected artist.
 
Woods posted the entire newspaper article on Facebook then wrote beside it: Happy Valentine’s Day, NC! (Just take me now, Lord.)
 
Beneath his comment one of his friends added: This ruling is perfectly consistent as there are obviously no ethics rules prohibiting a politician from screwing his constituents.
 
Who says art has no practical purpose?


 

 

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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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