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North Carolina - Democrats

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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12
Here’s an idea for Democratic legislators, one that could be good politics and good for North Carolina: Help Governor McCrory pass his plan for Medicaid expansion.
 
After meeting with President Obama at the White House last week, McCrory said he argued for flexibility to develop a “North Carolina plan.” But, as Carter noted during our appearance on WRAL’s “On the Record,” the Governor has to get his idea past not only Obama, but also Phil Berger and Tim Moore.
 
Here’s where Democrats come in. They can support McCrory’s request to the White House, and enlist our depleted congressional delegation. They can also give McCrory a healthy start on the votes to get expansion through the legislature.
 
That would present House and Senate leaders with a bipartisan plan. Pass it, and they look reasonable. Kill it, and they start this session just like the last one. McCrory, in contrast, would be doing some deft triangulation that plays well for him in 2016.
 
Now, McCrory’s idea is apparently to tie Medicaid expansion to some kind of work requirement. Democrats would want to know if that’s unreasonable or onerous. But if they can work out something with McCrory, both he and they come out ahead – as will half a million North Carolinians who need health insurance and millions more of us who are paying their bills now.

 

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07
John Boehner, Jeb Bush and Pat McCrory took their first steps this week along a Republican Party fault line that offers peril for each of them – and peril for Democrats if they succeed.
 
Boehner had to fend off a conservative challenge to his reelection as Speaker. Two dozen right-wing Republicans abandoned him. Lucky for him, 10 Democrats were absent for Mario Cuomo’s funeral.
 
The same day, Bush moved all-ahead full with a presidential campaign that includes reasonable talk about immigration reform, gay marriage and income inequality, even saying “the income gap is real.” Also striking was what his message didn’t have: the usual red-meat attacks on President Obama.
 
Governor McCrory sang from the same hymnal, pushing two issues that normally are anathema to the North Carolina GOP: job incentives and Medicaid expansion.
 
McCrory even asked Obama for help. Basically, he wants cover so he can say he has a “North Carolina plan” instead of a “Washington (read: Obama) plan.”
 
Democrats will get some jollies watching these less-than-red-hot Republicans walk this precarious precipice. But if the three get by, and look reasonable and effective, Democrats may not be so happy in 2016.

 

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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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