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North Carolina - Democrats

11
Democrats should be feeling good today. Then Randy Voller comes along.
 
First, tens of thousands of people march in Raleigh. Their numbers show the depth of anger at Republicans in Raleigh – and the potential impact in November.
 
Then Governor McCrory and Republican legislative leaders reveal two things: They’re scared that voters will punish them for the damage they’ve done to teachers and public schools, and they have no clue what to do about it.
 
Then, as election filing begins, an all-star team of Democratic candidates runs onto the field, from Sarah Crawford in Wake-Franklin to Sue Counts in Watauga/Ashe.
 
But, then, Voller abruptly fires an ED who had begun to restore confidence in the party and apparently sets his mind on appointing to the post the most divisive, controversial figure he can find.
 
Thomas Mills may have the only logical explanation for Voller: “What if he’s a Republican plant?” A Manchurian chairman, if you will.
 
It may be that smart Democratic lawyers can figure a way to work around the party. It has pretty much been marginalized anyway. And maybe Republicans will get so fixated on making Chavis and William Barber the faces of the Democratic Party that they’ll forget about education.
 
But, as I’ve said before, the worst wounds in politics are self-inflicted. And this is a doozy.

 

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06
Your first reaction was probably the same as mine. Clay Aiken? The singer? For Congress?
 
Then I met him.  He’s the same person you meet in his announcement video.  He’s smart, serious and genuine. He clearly has thought deeply about policy matters. He has a unique voice that is a breath of fresh air in a polluted political climate. And he has a genuine empathy for people that he has demonstrated as a YMCA counselor, a special education teacher, a foundation leader and a UNICEF representative overseas.
 
He’s kind of like Opie Taylor would have turned out if he’d had a big voice. Except he’s tougher than he looks.
 
Republicans predictably pushed the rewind button on their political mud machine. The haters and the homophobes crept out of their Internet cellars. Have at it. Aiken’s campaign feeds off their fuel – and the public’s disgust with it.
 
For Democrats, there’s a choice between competing theories of the race.
 
Keith Crisco’s theory is that he can peel off Republican voters in Randolph County. He says he did it when he ran for county commissioner in 1992. He lost, but he ran ahead of Governor Hunt and President Clinton.
 
Aiken’s theory is that he can mobilize a new wave of new and young voters. He can inject new energy, reshape the electorate and shake up the race.
 
There is a new generation of voters – and leaders – rising in North Carolina. They are idealistic and driven to make a difference. They are connected and engaged. If Democrats win them now, they can win with them for a long time to come.
 
The question for Democrats is which path is right for the future. Which helps Kay Hagan most this year and helps candidates for governor and President in two years. I think the answer is obvious. That’s why I’m for Clay.

 

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22
From a message point of view, the rollout of McCrory 2.0 was a mess – and a missed opportunity for the Governor.
 
McCrory might have heeded his “mentor” Jim Hunt and called for a sustained three-year effort to raise teacher salaries to the national average.  Instead, he vaguely promised some kind of pay raise for this year only, gave no details and refused to endorse Hunt’s plan.
 
Whew! Democrats dodged a bullet.
 
Instead of a bold, focused stroke that seized public imagination and reshaped the political landscape, McCrory opted for a multi-themed “2014 PrioritiesPalooza!”
 
He offered a laundry list of government-speak: teacher pay raises (for some teachers), fracking and offshore drilling (gee, what could go wrong there?), revamping Medicaid (ditto), fixing DHHS, reining in puppy mills, less drugs and alcohol on college campus (but more guns), nicer state government buildings and “art on the move” (paintings, not Pope).
 
The choreography was odd. He, his Cabinet and senior team sat around a table in the ornate Executive Mansion, with an elaborate chandelier looming behind the Governor. From one camera angle, he was in front of a plush love seat that looked like a throne.
 
For Democrats, McCrory offered up a smorgasbord of political targets. But, most of all, they’ll say he’s not doing enough to get teacher pay out of the national basement. And they can say his happy talk about the “Carolina Comeback” ignores people who can’t find jobs and can’t make ends meet.
 
Then there was his somewhat baffling question: “Is DHHS too big to succeed?”  Well, it’s clearly not too big to fail.
 
In the end, the whole production mattered very little. Only one thing does: What does Senator Berger want?

 

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20
My blog below on the 1984 Senate race prompted a TAPster to note that the Martin Luther King holiday was a big issue that year.
 
Jim Hunt led Jesse Helms in early polls, but Helms turned the race around in late 1983 when he filibustered on the Senate floor against a national holiday honoring King.  He followed the filibuster with a notable TV ad: “I oppose the Martin Luther King holiday. Where do you stand, Jim?”
 
There were a lot of factors in that race, including Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale at the tops of the tickets. But, after the November election, Harrison Hickman did a poll to help us understand what happened. He found that the single issue that best predicted how a person voted in the Senate race – with almost a 100 percent correlation – was how they felt about the King holiday.
 
Few if any of us in Hunt’s campaign would have believed that, 30 years later, America would have an African-American President. And none of us would have been surprised to know that race is still a powerful force in politics.

 

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20
Thom Tillis is walking the same tightrope that Jim Hunt walked in his U.S. Senate race 30 years ago. But Tillis’ balance is even more precarious.
 
Tillis today, like Hunt then, has to appeal to the broad November electorate and also pacify an extreme faction in his own party.
 
Hunt’s problems came from the then-ascendant left wing of the Democratic Party, symbolized by Walter Mondale, Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson. For Tillis, it’s the Tea Party.
 
Unlike Tillis, Hunt didn’t have to run a primary gauntlet. Tillis wants to avoid it, so he’s avoiding debates and joint appearances with his opponents. He saw what happened to Mitt Romney when Romney tried to appease the Fox News crowd in 2012.
 
Tillis is also resorting to the last resort of political scoundrels: the argument that he is more “electable.” That’s code for “not a nut.” His campaign is busily warning other Republicans, especially legislators, that they will be endangered species in November if the GOP nominates one of Tillis’ opponents.
 
Tillis hopes to avoid proving the old adage that the only things in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead possums.

 

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17
The newspaper reporter asked if North Carolina’s Senate Primary was going to be the next litmus test of the Tea Party’s political muscle – and as fast as he could Greg Brannon’s campaign spokesman said ‘Yes’ then added the Primary was just like Senator Rand Paul’s election in Kentucky in 2010 and Senator Ted Cruz’s election in Texas in 2012.
 
“In those races, he said, you had a candidate that was handpicked and heavily supported by the DC establishment up against a Tea Party candidate supported by the grassroots. In both instances the grassroots candidate won big.”
 
Now, of course, you can’t fault Greg Brannon’s spokesman for wanting to get a step ahead of Thom Tillis – but what landed in the newspaper was only part of the story.
 
It’s true Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both won.
 
But on the way to winning they also raised a lot of money. Rand Paul with the help of his father’s supporters across the country. And Ted Cruz with the help of Senator Jim DeMint, who all but adopted him.
 
Here in North Carolina, so far, Greg Brannon and Mark Harris, who’re challenging Thom Tillis, have both been noticeably short of cash.
 
And that’s the big fact in the Senate race: No one, or at best only a handful of voters,  knows Greg Brannon. They don’t know he’s the next Ted Cruz. And he hasn’t had the money to change that. So the real fight in the Republican Primary isn’t between the Establishment and the Tea Party – it’s between Greg Bannon and his empty cash box.

 

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15
Jim Hunt should respond swiftly and strongly to the base calumny that Pat McCrory has cast upon his reputation.
 
Speaking this week at the Hunt Education Institute’s Holshouser Legislators Retreat, McCrory – according to the N&O – “praised former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt as a valued adviser.”
 
McCrory was quoted as saying: “Jim Hunt is a hero of mine, he’s a mentor of mine….he’s been a great adviser to me.”
 
Governor Hunt, this slander must not stand. You don’t want people thinking McCrory has been taking your advice.
 
Or maybe McCrory will take your advice now. Maybe he’ll commit to raising teacher pay in to the national average. He can sign a petition to himself and the legislature right here.

 

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15
Fearless Forecast: Obamacare won’t be a decisive issue in 2014, but Chris Christie’s bridge-gate will be in 2016.
 
That sounds backwards. After all, polls right here at home show that Obamacare is dragging down Senator Hagan. And the buzz is that Christie’s poll ratings are holding up and Republicans are rallying around him.
 
But both will change, and here’s why: Nobody understands Obamacare; it’s too complicated. By November, nobody will understand what Obamacare did or didn’t do. They won’t have the patience to read complicated analyses of the complex, confusing health-care system.
 
The only thing people understand about Obamacare is that the website didn’t work. That is something we get.
 
And everybody gets bullying and deliberately causing traffic jams. Plus, the media will never get tired of this story, especially since it reinforces an existing impression of Christie.

As for Christie’s “bounce,” remember that it took two years for Watergate to bring down Nixon. Republicans rallied around him at first. Then, like now, they were uniting against the “liberal media” more than for Nixon/Christie.

In politics, what's up today is likely to be down tomorrow. And vice versa.

 

 

 

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13
John Ledford, from up in the mountains, was a leader in local Democratic politics for years, then ran for sheriff of Madison County and won. Then, after a few years as sheriff, he got Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue to appoint him head of the Division of Alcohol and Law Enforcement, a job where he earned $110,000 a year.
 
Then Republican Pat McCrory was elected Governor and, since Ledford was a political appointee, it was clear to just about everyone else his days as head of A.L.E. were numbered.
 
So John Ledford pulled a hat trick – and he demoted himself into a job as a career state employee. Where he couldn’t be fired.
 
Of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds.
 
First, the job Ledford wanted to demote himself into was in Wilmington - while he lived on the other side of the state in Asheville. And the job only paid $39,000.
 
But Ledford found a simple solution: Before he resigned as head of A.L.E. he recommended to the higher-ups in the Perdue Administration (who were also political appointees) that they move the job from Wilmington to Asheville and raise the salary to $65,800 – which his fellow Democrats happily did.
 
Of course, none of that set too well with the Republicans after they took office.
 
They more or less decided the whole thing was a scam. And fired Ledford. Who then sued and said with a straight face he was a career state employee who couldn’t be fired.
 
Then Ledford hired a lawyer, headed to court, and, in an odd twist of fate, landed in front of a judge who, by sheer coincidence, had been former Democratic Governor Bob Scott’s legal advisor.
 
The judge declared Ledford had been “a marked man, politically” after the election of a Republican Governor, added he’d been fired because he was a Democrat, and ordered the state to reinstate him, pay him $44,000 in back pay, and pay his lawyer another $50,000.
 
And that’s Democracy in Action: A Democratic nabob waves a magic wand and declares himself a career employee; the Republicans say that’s not magic it’s voodoo; and a judge (who worked for a Democratic Governor forty years ago) rules taxpayers have to fork over $94,000 so justice can be done.

 

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13
The Watauga Wizard, Jerry Wayne Williamson, nails it: “McCrory Blocks Traffic on All Bridges Going into CD12.” Jerry adds in his Watauga Watch blog:
 
“(Congressman Mel Watt’s) resignation should have triggered a special election to fill his unexpired term in the U.S. House. But, no, Gov. McCrory decided that the seat could be filled on November 4, 2014, along with every other seat in Congress. In other words, citizens of the 12th Congressional District will have no representation in Congress for the next 300 days. Well, after all, those people are mainly black and didn't vote for McCrory. Who the hell cares whether they have a congressman for 2014?”
 
In light of Chris Christie’s Bridgegate, you wonder what a public records request might unearth here.  Maybe an email along the lines of: “Time for some problems in Mel Watt’s district.”
 
Another 12th District resident asked: “Would McCrory have done the same if it was a safe GOP seat?” You know the answer.
 
For McCrory, this was an opportunity to do the right thing for the people he was elected to serve. Instead, he did the politics-as-usual thing.

 

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