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North Carolina - Democrats

24
The “religious freedom” train ran off the rails on Jones Street yesterday. House Republicans realized the state would lose business and some of them would lose elections.
 
It was a telling turnaround for a body that had pushed through a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages just a few years back. If you ever doubted how fast and how far public opinion has moved on this issue, doubt no more.
 
Apparently, great credit goes to Republican lobbyists and Republican-leaning business leaders who stood up for what’s right, as well as what’s right for the bottom line.
 
The bottom line for the politicians, of course, was their own survival. Rep. Gary Pendleton of Wake County, a former sponsor of the bill, made clear why he had to abruptly abandon his principles: “This bill will cause at least four members to be defeated, including me.”
 
Now we’re talking about what really matters!
 
Of course, this won’t end the legislature’s obsession with regulating how people live and love. An anti-abortion bill swept through the House the same day. The debate was made memorable by one opponent’s searing personal story and one sponsor’s explanation that it’s just like requiring a waiting period for real estate transactions.
 
Well, that’s one way to look at it.
 
And the legislature will no doubt find another way to let magistrates who so choose choose not to carry out the laws they are sworn to carry out.
 
For a few hours, Democrats worried that they wouldn’t be able to keep saying that Republicans care more about regulating your personal life than about rebuilding the economy from the Bush Recession.
 
Not to worry.

 

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23
WRAL’s documentary on Jim Hunt brings back fond, and not so fond, memories. It implicitly brings up the dramatically different philosophy that marks North Carolina’s leadership today. It shows the toll that politics can take on all involved, especially families. And it tells a largely untold story about one key to Hunt’s success, Carolyn Hunt.
 
That’s a pretty good hour’s work, or 48 minutes. It’s a credit to producer Clay Johnson. You can watch it online here.
 
My first thought: Lord, we were young then. Most of the interviews were done soon after Hunt left office in January 2001. Some of those interviewed are no longer living: Joe Grimsley, Ben Ruffin, Jack Hawke, Governor Jim Holshouser.
 
There’s a rare interview with Bert Bennett, Hunt’s political mentor. Bert recalled the “gleam in his eye” that Hunt had during Terry Sanford’s 1960 campaign, which Bert managed. “You could see that he would like to someday maybe be in Sanford’s shoes, be Governor.”
 
Bert, always pithy, summed up Hunt’s energy, ebullience and sheer enjoyment in being Governor: “I think he hated to go to bed.”
 
Watching it, I swelled up with pride in being part of what Hunt did. It was very different from what the state’s leaders are doing today. Hunt believed that government could make a difference in people’s lives. Today’s Republicans are wedded to the proposition that government can’t and shouldn’t do anything.
 
See if you agree after you hear narrator David Crabtree go through what Hunt pushed government to do: statewide kindergartens, Smart Start, higher teacher pay, board certification for teachers, the Basic Education Plan, the School of Science and Mathematics, recruiting high-tech businesses, transportation bond issues, equal opportunities for women and minorities, on and on.
 
The program doesn’t minimize defeats (1984), disappointments and dumb mistakes. They’re part of the story, too.
 
Clay’s interviews with Carolyn and their four children give you a glimpse of how important she was, even though she remained publicly reticent. You can also see in their faces and sense in their words how tough it all was – losing in 1984, being in the public eye and feeling the pressures of office.
 
An interview with Jim Hunt’s also-reticent brother Robert shows the impact that the boys’ parents had on them.
 
Of course, I’m no objective viewer. If you like Hunt’s politics, you’ll like the program. If you don’t, you probably won’t.
 
One thing came through clearly – again, in interviews from 15 years ago, when battle scars were still fresh: Hunt just drove Republicans crazy.
 
Probably still does.

 

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22
If there’s a lonesome pilgrim out there hoping the recent Supreme Court decision will restore honor and fairness to redistricting… well, the Wizards have him surrounded.
 
When Republicans dreams came true and, at long last, they got to draw their own districts, they set out to find a special kind of Wizard.
 
Next the Wizards went to work carefully studying the Voting Rights Act and years of court rulings – then announced they’d reached a rock-solid conclusion: The law, the Republican Wizards said, required legislators to draw as many districts as possible where 50% of the voters were African Americans.
 
Not 40% or 60% -- but 50%.
 
And that’s what the Wizards did.
 
And, up in Washington, the wise-men in Obama’s Justice Department blessed their work, saying, Amen – the Wizards had dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s and complied with the Voting Rights Act.
 
And their plan worked out just fine: More Republicans were elected. More African Americans were elected. And more Democrats lost.
 
Meantime, over on the other side of the isle, the Democrats were hiring their own set of Wizards who sat down, looked at each district and applied different mathematics completely – they asked, How many African Americans do we need to add to this district to elect a Democrat?
 
The answers the Democratic Wizards got varied from district to district – it could be 30% in one district and 34% in another and 40% in still another – but, for Democrats, that math worked out just fine too: More Republicans would lose. More Democrats would win. But not necessarily more African Americans.
 
The Democrats then took the next step and sued – to replace Republican wizardry with Democratic wizardry.
 
And, now, an odd thing is going to happen: The courts are going to decide which type of wizardry best serves the ends of justice.


 

 

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21
A TAPster more knowledgeable than me offers a word of praise for one thing the legislature is doing:
 
The legislature this week will continue its napalm assault on long-standing policies and practices in the civil war to create a conservative nirvana in North Carolina. And, while most Republican efforts have hurt the poor, the sick and the feeble, raised tax payments and irritated Democrats, one target actually is getting what it deserves.
 
The so-called Map Act needs to be fixed. DOT obviously must retain its ability to buy rights of way and build roads. But DOT has abused its authority when, in essence, it condemns private property by proposing a highway through it, and then takes years or decades to actually obtain the property and compensate the property owner. This isn’t a partisan issue, because property owners of all political flavors are being screwed.
 
It’s a surprisingly good week on Jones Street when the honorables take a break from carpet-bombing history and tradition to work on something worthwhile.

 

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20
Here’s a TV viewing tip for those who want to see the right way to do politics and public service.
 
Wednesday at 7 pm, WRAL will air a one-hour documentary, “State of Mine: The Jim Hunt Story.” It’s narrated by WRAL News anchor David Crabtree and was produced by WRAL News Documentary Producer Clay Johnson. Clay tells me I’ll enjoy it because my interview was taped when I was many years younger.
 
Clay began working on the project soon after Hunt left the Governor’s Office in 2001, so it has a lot of material from people who are no longer with us. In a release, WRAL said, “In addition to Hunt himself, interview subjects include former key campaign staff, former cabinet members, political strategists who waged campaigns against Hunt, election opponents, personal friends and exclusive interviews with his family members.”
 
I understand Carter makes an appearance. Can’t wait for that.
 
Here’s a link. You can see a trailer and a timeline. The full program will be available online after it airs, possibly along with supplemental video.
 
An aside: Next year will mark 40 years since Hunt was first elected Governor, in 1976. Already, some Huntsters are talking about organizing a Hunt Alumni Reunion next year. Part of the price of admission: Bring along somebody under 40 so they can see the right way to do it.

 

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15
The Reverend William Barber stepped back up onto his soapbox and thundered it’s time that Richard Burr and Thom Tillis left the chains of hatred behind and joined the chorus for justice by voting to confirm Loretta Lynch.
 
The Reverend went on to explain how he’s looked into Ms. Lynch’s heart and how he knows her worth and how she will work to cure racism, sexism, classicism (whatever that is) and homophobia.
 
William Barber’s about as fine a demagogue as has come down the pike in years. And there’s no doubt he has an unmatched penchant for draping himself in holiness.
 
But, then, so did Elmer Gantry.


 

 

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13
Pat’s attacking Phil’s tax cut plan, and the Senate’s Sales Tax Plan, and the Senate’s Religious Freedom Act (about gay marriage) was a mixed bag – after all, voters like tax cuts and are split on gay marriage (with almost all the Republicans agreeing with Phil).
 
But next Pat hit the mother lode, attacking Phil for the Senate’s plan to redraw the County Commissioners’ districts in Wake.
 
There aren’t many lines left in politics. But redrawing districts because you lost an election goes too far. If the Senate’s new districts had been in place last fall, while losing the county by 30,000 votes, Republicans would have won 5 of the 9 seats on the County Commission.
 
Independents, Democrats and all but the most hard-bitten Republicans know that kind of politics crosses the line. And, right now, Pat McCrory’s the only Republican standing up and speaking out for them.


 

 

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03
Roy whacked Pat. Pat then slapped Phil. Phil poked Pat back. And no one laid a glove on Roy.
 
That was last week.
 
This week Roy whacked Pat again. And Pat gabbed Phil three times.
 
Last week Pat said Phil was cutting taxes too much – and this week he said  Phil was ‘raising taxes’ too much. And added Republican State Senators sounded to him a lot like John Edwards talking about ‘class warfare.’
 
Pat also said Phil’s bill saying magistrates don’t have to perform gay marriages – if it doesn’t sit well with their religious beliefs – is wrong-headed. And the Senate’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Bill” (which also relates to gay rights) isn’t needed.
 
And four gay mayors then invited Pat to join their gay rights coalition.
 
It’s been a messy two weeks. But there’s a method in the madness.
 
Roy wants to be Governor so he’s attacking Pat on education.
 
Pat figures Phil is too conservative and attacking Phil will help him defeat Roy.
 
And, well, Phil’s simply for old-fashioned conservative. Who’s for lower taxes and opposes gay-marriage.
 
And that’s the way of things: Take a bit of logic, add politicians, taxes, and gay-marriage – and you end up with a quagmire.  


 

 

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31
Thanks to a TAPster who remembers the 1980s for this one:
 
 
“(North Carolina Congressman) Patrick McHenry is listed as an organizer of a new joint fundraising committee named – drum roll – Whip It Good PAC.  At first I thought it was a joke, but apparently not.”
 
 
For those not familiar with the Devo song and video “Whip It,” enjoy.
 
 
Whip it, Patrick.

 

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30
Going back to the days of Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt, Young Democrats were a breeding ground for extraordinary leaders. But the current crop may become the best ever.
 
I spent several hours in Chapel Hill Saturday morning at the annual state convention of YDs, College Dems and Teen Dems. They are just as smart, capable and determined as their predecessors. They are extremely focused, serious and hard-headed in their politics.
 
They know the party faces tough challenges in North Carolina, so they’re free of the overconfidence and sometimes-overweening personal ambition of some past YDs. Above all, they are committed to Service with a capital S.
 
One panel, far too brief, featured eight young Democrats who hold elected office across the state, including Wake County Commissioners Matt Calabria and Jessica Holmes. Each panelist had four minutes to talk about the rewards and challenges of running for and serving in public office. They should have had 20 minutes each.
 
I was on a panel just before them, serving as the designated Old White Guy. The last question to us was whether the Democratic Party has a strong bench of talent. Judging from Saturday, the clear answer is Yes.
 
Being there did more than pump me up. It told me this crowd is ready. They get that the Democratic Party has to update its message for a new state, a new generation and a new economy. They understand how data, analytics and social media are transforming political communications and organization.
 
They don’t see themselves as “leaders of the future.” They’re ready now. Older Democrats need to be ready for them. If they aren’t, they should be pushed aside. And I’ll help push.

 

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