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Entries for 'Gary Pearce'

27
I’m just back from a family cruise to Alaska, a trip I highly recommend if you want to see a part of America that is a different world.
 
(And a big thank-you to the guest bloggers whom I trust kept your interest and blood pressure high while I was gone.)
 
We saw just a tiny part of this huge place, and it was awe-inspiring: towering mountains, impenetrable forests, mountainous glaciers, rocky cliffs, icy fjords and rivers, icebergs, whales, dolphins, eagles, bears – a feast for the eyes and imaginations.
 
I understand the draw the place has had for adventurous souls for hundreds of years, although it’s hard to imagine the fortitude of those willing to live in the wildest parts through the dark, frigid winters. And it’s not all cold: Juneau had a milder winter this year than Boone.
 
(By the way, Alaskans are big believers in climate change. Especially as they watch the glaciers retreat every year.)
 
Alaska is all about huge spaces. To illustrate: Take your right hand, and make a fist. Turn it upside down. Stick your thumb down and your index finger out. That’s Alaska.
 
We spent seven days just in the thumb, southeast Alaska. We took the Inside Passage between islands from Seattle up to Ketchikan, Juneau and finally Skagway. Skagway was where the Gold Rush miners in 1898 landed to head into Yukon, most to end up just bone-cold and gold-less, if not dead.
 
No, we didn’t see Sarah Palin’s house. Wasilla is near Anchorage, up past the thumb. And we couldn’t see Putin rearing his head in Russia. But we were close enough that we’re now foreign policy experts.
 
It was a great trip, and it’s great to be back. As always with a trip like that, your horizons grow and the petty political concerns back home shrink. But you’re reminded again what a special place North Carolina is, even with Republicans in charge.

 

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14
When you watch the evening news, you learn two things about people who watch the evening news. First, we vote, because we drown in political ads before elections. And, second, we have every disease and bad health condition known to medicine, especially the pharmaceutical industry.
 
We’re at risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, arthritis, hemorrhoids, dry eyes, allergies, depression and all the alphabet: COPD, BPH, ED and Low T.
 
Watching one ad after another will make you feel sick – or like turning off the TV. Even worse are the warnings about possible side effects. The scariest is “suicidal thoughts or actions.”
 
And then there’s the ever-present specter of the four-hour erection. Let’s not even go there.
 
So you have a choice when you watch: You can get depressed about the health of the body politic – or about your own health.

 

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13
We were reviewing the Board of Elections’ schedule and making plans for the fall campaign. Then Brad Crone called to say Keith Crisco would concede this morning. Then we were sent reeling by the shock of Keith’s death.
 
Suddenly, campaigns, vote counts and elections-board canvasses seemed not so important.
 
I remembered meeting with Keith in late January, just after I began working with Clay Aiken.  At Keith’s invitation, he and I met after work at a North Hills restaurant. He had hot tea, and I had a Diet Coke.
 
Keith was tall and distinguished-looking. He wore a dark business suit, black cowboy boots and a wide-brimmed white hat. He looked like a man equally at home on a farm, on a factory floor or in a boardroom.
 
It was an open, pleasant conversation about the upcoming race. No bluster or tough talk. We agreed that, whatever happened in the primary, we would work together in the fall.
 
In politics and in life, you make plans and you act as if you’re in control. Then life reminds you that you’re not in control.
 
Not one of us is guaranteed one more day, or even one more hour.
 
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:34), Jesus said, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Amen.
 

 

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12
Political consultants are used to hearing – and ignoring – clients (and their friends and family) say: “People here don’t like negative ads. They don’t work.”
 
But now there may be something to that argument in the Triangle media market. Exhibit A: The failure of the Republican attack strategy against Robin Hudson. Exhibit B: Clay Aiken’s victory in the 2nd District primary.
 
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to argue that negative ads don’t work. They do – or they can. But there is something going on here that political strategists better acknowledge, understand and use. Or pay a high price.
 
We are now probably the most sophisticated consumers of political advertising in America. Since 2008, we have seen more ads than anybody anywhere. And now the Triangle – and especially Wake County – is perhaps THE most important political battleground in the nation. So we’ll see more this year.
 
We’re especially sophisticated when it comes to evaluating negative ads. We’re skeptical when an ad claims that a judge “sided with child molesters.” That didn’t pass the smell test.
 
In Clay Aiken’s case, Keith Crisco’s negative ad may have hurt Aiken AND hurt Crisco AND helped Toni Morris.
 
This fall, strategists must recalculate their negative ads. The old formula of dark music, doctored photos, ominous music and outlandish claims not only may flop, it may create a backlash.

 

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08
I’ve been in politics longer than Clay Aiken has been alive (38 years vs. 35), but he took me to school this week.
 
Everything I’ve learned tells me that if (A) you’re massively outspent by your opponent and (B) he runs three or four ads to your one and (C) one of those is a negative attack ad that you can’t afford to answer, then (QED) you lose.
 
But Aiken won. (No, the final count isn’t done. But it’s over.)
 
How? Well, some people say it’s just name recognition and personal popularity. Or maybe the Colbert Bump. Or all the Clay fans.
 
But there may be something else here – and a lesson for us all.
 
A couple of analysts have said the campaign relied solely on name recognition. Not true. In the final weeks, short of money, the campaign had one big asset: Clay Aiken and his voice.
 
Not his singing voice. But a voice that showed he knew the issues and the people in his district.  A voice that is distinctly different from the stale, bitter rhetoric of other politicians. And, above all, a positive voice in a negative din. Amid the ugly glut of attack ads in the final days, you heard one positive voice: Clay Aiken’s.
 
He also talked to people all over the district. He went on Colbert and MSNBC (true, venues that weren’t available to other politicians). He had a microphone, and he used his voice.
 
And there was one other thing: In an anti-politics age, Aiken was the anti-politician.
 
Don’t underestimate him again. I sure won’t.

 

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06
A reader notes the irony of Republicans rejecting Common Core because it’s from Washington, or “Big Government” or President Obama. The implication is that state- and local-level thinking is by definition better.
 
He points out: “The irony is that the GOP resists Washington’s direction while its leaders in North Carolina warmly embrace the political guidance and inspiration of a talking head like Sean Hannity (a New York entertainer, for goodness sakes) and happily introduce legislation conceived and drafted elsewhere by the infamous ALEC.”
 
Then this morning’s N&O points out that the bill to let students attend any public school in the state “has similar language to one proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a largely private conservative group backed by major corporations.”

 

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05
Selling the state helicopter may make dollars and sense, but Governor McCrory is totally missing the Helicopter Coolness Factor.
 
Nothing says cool like that sleek bird swooping down from the sky someplace far from Raleigh. Crowds gawk, school kids go gaga and cameras go click. When the copter comes, Big News is happening.
 
Nobody gets excited watching the state plane land. Even a convoy of State Troopers and black Suburbans wheeling in pales beside the chopper landing.
 
Especially in a natural disaster. The Governor gets to hop out, wearing khakis, boots and a work shirt. The rotor wash musses his hair, he squints through the blowing dust and grass and you know he’s there on the scene to see first-hand what’s happening so he can whip back to Raleigh, summon the awesome resources of the state and Take Action for the Victims. Being escorted by serious-looking guys in starched uniforms makes it even cooler.
 
Lyndon B. Johnson got Copter Cool. Robert Caro tells the story in Means of Ascent, where he recounts LBJ’s 1948 race for the U.S. Senate. Lyndon hired a helicopter to haul him around the state, knowing it would draw crowds everywhere.
 
Plus, there’s this. Flying in the helicopter gives a Governor a different view of the state. You’re above ground, but not so high you can’t see trees, people, cars and communities. Every flight reminds you: This is a great, beautiful and busy place. It’s my job to keep it that way.
 

 

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02
Paul Tine is a rare and endangered species: a centrist Democrat who represents a Republican-leaning district in the N.C. House. The Democratic Party needs him – and more like him.
 
I met Paul for the first time at a fundraiser this week. He’s young, smart and candid. I know his district, House 6, which covers Dare, Hyde, Washington, and parts of Beaufort County. It has some of the poorest parts of the state, along with the beach, resort and retirement areas of Dare.
 
He was straightforward in telling his liberal-leaning audience that the issues important to them aren’t always what his constituents care about. They’re worried about just getting from Point A to Point B in places that depend on ferries that get delayed, bridges that get shut down and roads that get washed out.
 
Listening to him, it struck me that if he were in politics for personal ambition alone, he’d probably be a Republican. They’d love to have an articulate, attractive businessman with his record and family – his wife Whitney, who may be a better politician than he is, and their two sons.
 
So he’s got guts and principles, and I like that.
 
And I liked the karma. The reception was at the home of Joyce Fitzpatrick and Jay Stewart. Joyce and Jay bought the house from Al Adams, the former state representative from Raleigh. Al was Terry Sanford’s law partner and protégé. I suspect Terry had been in the house talking politics more than a few times.
 
To channel my inner Lloyd Bentsen: I knew Terry Sanford. Terry Sanford was a friend of mine. I worked with Terry Sanford. And I know what Terry would have said if he’d been there: “We need Paul Tine. And you need to help him.”
 
Listen to Terry. Help Paul. Click here.

 

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01
I received a response from Art Pope to my blog yesterday (“Rich and Ruthless”). He said: “Feel free to post this to your web site.” I am happy to reprint it in full below, and I thank Art for responding – and for reading:
 
It is a rough game, but it has not cost me millions.
 
Gary,
 
In some ways I get your post Rich and Ruthless, which included the statement "Art Pope learned that lesson. For 20 years, he pumped millions into the John Locke Foundation. He got nowhere. Starting in 2010, he pumped millions into independent campaigns, and he started winning."
 
But apparently even your normally clear vision gets blurred by the being exposed to others' kool-aid.
 
The simple fact is that I have never, in my entire life, cumulatively, even including donations from my company, donated a total of a single million, much less millions plural, into independent campaigns or candidate campaigns. 
 
You will have to look to the NC Democratic Party candidates and donors, such as Erskine Bowles and John Edwards, to find someone in North Carolina who literally spent millions plural on campaigns.
 
And I have not contributed a dime or otherwise been involved at all in the NC Supreme Court primary, much less with the "blistering attack" on Justice Robin Hudson.
 
 
Yours truly,
 
Art Pope

 

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30
Democrats contemplating a comeback need to contemplate this. The Republican Party is spending at least $650,000 on “a blistering attack” against Justice Robin Hudson of the state Supreme Court.
 
Democrats need to face a sobering reality: They are up against a rich and ruthless opponent, one who will spend any amount and say anything to seize and hold power.
 
You can whine about it, you can complain about money in politics or you can hope that nobody believes an ad that accuses Hudson “of siding with child molesters.”
 
None of that does any good. There is only one solution, one antidote to the Pope-Koch Axis of Evil. Some rich, hard-headed individual who cares about North Carolina needs to step up, see what works and put up the seed money.
 
What works are independent-expenditure ads that destroy the opponent. That’s what politics has come to, like it or not.
 
Art Pope learned that lesson. For 20 years, he pumped millions into the John Locke Foundation. He got nowhere. Starting in 2010, he pumped millions into independent campaigns, and he started winning.
 
This is not rocket science. But it’s expensive, and it’s a rough game.

 

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