Blog Articles
07
Here’re the three tartest comments I heard about the Ellmers-Aiken debate.
 
“He has the silliest pompadour since Jim Hunt.”
 
“She was catty.”
 
“The person on stage most qualified to serve in Congress was David Crabtree.”

 

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07
Some North Carolina politicians sound today just like their predecessors in the 1950s, railing against the Supreme Court and rallying behind “state’s rights.”
 
Then it was racial discrimination. Today it’s same-sex marriage. Then – as today – the politicians were on the wrong side of history.
 
They say the state’s ban on gay marriages passed with 60 percent of the vote. Yes it did. In a primary two years ago. Want to try it again in a general election?
 
We may. We should see a sharp contrast tonight between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan. If voters vote on this one issue – and some will – they’ll have a clear choice.
 
Yesterday, Tillis stood united with Senator Berger (for the first time in a while). They promised to resist the court ruling. Meanwhile, Governor McCrory say he would “respect” the decision, even though he didn’t agree with it. (Any bets on whether we will see any “recalculating” – as the GPS lady says – from the Gov?)
 
Last night, it was striking how gingerly both Renee Ellmers and Clay Aiken handled the issue. And Aiken reminded voters that Ellmers opposed the ban in 2012, as did he.
 
While tonight’s debate won’t provide nearly as entertaining overall as Aiken vs. Ellmers, this exchange could prove decisive November 4.

 

 

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07
Writing isn’t ditch-digging. But, take it from me, writing a book is hard work. So I admire people who do it. And I encourage you to check out…correct that: I strongly urge you to BUY and READ three new books by three great North Carolinians.
 
The books are Billy Bowater” by E.C. (Redge) Hanes, “The Little Book of Do” by Kel Landis III and “Entering North Carolina: Set Clock Back 100 Years” by Jim Leutze.
 
Two of the authors have book-signings this week at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books, the greatest bookstore in the world. Leutze is there Wednesday and Hanes, Thursday.
 
Hanes’ book is a fictionalized account of the 1984 Hunt-Helms campaign, focused on Helms’ war against what he claimed was pornographic art. The central figure is a Helms aide from a prominent North Carolina family who tries to find his moral bearings in the political swamp. Hanes himself is a member of a venerable Winston-Salem family who earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam, became a close friend of Maya Angelou and is one of the best conversationalists around.
 
Side note: Redge’s book is published by my favorite publisher in the world, John Blair in Winston-Salem.
 
When Kel Landis told me he was writing a book, I was skeptical. A lot of people say they’re writing a book. Few do it. Kel did. Appropriately, his is “The Little Book of Do.” Confession: I’m an addict of “self-help” books. Kel’s is better, sharper and more useful than any I’ve read. It benefits from his North Carolina roots and his career in banking and investing. It’s a fun, fast and fulfilling read.
 
Leutze’s book is, as Hodding Carter III, says, "a grim recital of the current reactionary takeover of state government and an urgent litany of specific steps to reverse course.” Leutze knows whereof he speaks; he’s a historian, former UNC Wilmington Chancellor and a one-time legislative candidate himself.
 
Turn off the TV, shut down your laptop and read all three. Trust me: You’ll be glad you did.

 

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06
Thom Tillis is getting the worst of both worlds. The Tea Party doesn’t think he’s one of them, and voters think he’s too close to the Tea Party.
 
The right-leaning Washington Times quoted one Wilkes County Tea Party leader, Joe Greene: “He’s an establishment Republican. That’s why I’m opposed to him. A lot of people feel the way I do and won’t vote for him. He’s got a lot of things about him that’s not grass roots.”
 
Greene, by the way, is part of a group called the “Conservative Patriots Of Wilkes Empowering the Republic” (CPOWER).
 
Tillis has more boardroom about him than grassroots. Unfortunately for him in the Senate race, he presided over a House that has led North Carolina in the Tea Party’s direction the last two years.
 
Which may be why he had Rand Paul here for him last week, though it’s not clear whether Rand is a Tea Party favorite, either.
 
An old political adage comes to mind here: If you’re still securing your base in October, you’re losing.

 

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03
When the media covers a scandal involving a politician, the coverage can be as big an issue as the politician. Take two stories this week – one national and one in-state.
 
The state Senate race in Fayetteville between incumbent Wesley Meredith and challenger Billy Richardson blew up over allegations that Meredith and his ex-wife fraudulently obtained government welfare benefits for their son 18 years ago.
 
The national story goes back 26 years to the sex scandal that sank Gary Hart’s presidential campaign.
 
The common thread is how the media did or didn’t cover the scandals – and what the media should and shouldn’t do.
 
Documents involving Meredith were “shopped around” – as several stories said – for a couple of weeks. But no newspaper or TV station bit. Then Richardson held a press conference, released the documents and called on Meredith to explain. Even then, at least one newspaper was still debating late in the day whether to run the story. It did.
 
The national story is over how in 1988 the Miami Herald staked out Hart’s townhouse in Washington after getting a tip that Hart was having a tryst with a young woman. Matt Bai wrote in The New York Times recently that the story marked the point in time when the mainstream political media went tabloid – and changed political coverage forever, for better or worse.
 
At Politico today, Tom Fiedler, the then-Herald reporter who confronted Hart and wrote the original story, defended it. At issue, Fiedler wrote, is “the existential question of the news media’s role in a presidential campaign. Simply put, what exactly does the public expect the news media to do? I think the voting public expects the news media to provide them with the factual information they need to cast an informed ballot.
 
“That factual information can mean different things for different voters. Some voters might want the media to report a candidate’s positions on the economy, abortion, civil rights, immigration, gun safety and so on. They care little about the candidate’s personal beliefs or behavior. But some voters—indeed, the great majority of voters—are more interested in who the candidate is. This is the much-discussed character issue. It goes to the essence of the candidate; it’s about authenticity, empathy, integrity, fairness and more. Issues change, and with them the candidate’s positions. But character doesn’t change, at least not much. For a journalist to withhold information that more fully reveals the character of a candidate would, in my opinion, be a sin of omission.”

Here, Senator Meredith has relied so far on the time-honored, knee-jerk political response – Richardson is smearing him, the allegations are beneath him and he doesn’t have to explain anything.
 
Wrong.
 
As Carter said in today’s Fayetteville Observer, "You can't shuffle it under the rug.”
 
And reporters and editors in North Carolina – no less than the national media – will have to decide whether to be the rug or the window. 

 

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02
How toxic is the Republican brand in Wake County? Just listen to Republican politicians.
 
Gary Pendleton (House 49) boasts of his “Democrat (sic) friends.” (Note: Democrats hate it when Republicans use “Democrat” as an adjective. It’s “Democratic.”)
 
Tom Murry (House 41) says he’s “independent” and “stood up to his own party.”
 
You have to listen to John Alexander’s (Senate 15) wife, because he stands mute in his TV ad. She says, “I’m a Democrat; he’s not.” (“Don’t even say that word!!”)
 
It appears that familiarity with the legislature has bred contempt.
 
Then there is this from Gerry Cohen (@gercohen on Twitter), the respected retired legislative counsel:
 
“Something is afoot in Wake County. Comparing the 3 month July through September period, 2010 saw 8,585 new voters, by party Democratic 33.9%, Republican 26.2%, Unaffiliated 38.8%, Libertarian 1.1%.
 
“2014 has seen 15,344 new voters (a 78% increase from 2010), by party Democratic 30.8%, Republican 18.0%, Unaffiliated 50.3%, Libertarian 0.9%. The 18% GOP number for 2014 resembles an Orange or Durham County statistic.
 
“In 2010, Blacks made up 19.3% of the new voters during that period, this year it is 25.0%.”

 

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01
Yes, there’s still five weeks to go. Yes, anything can happen. But the story of this race is likely to be that Thom Tillis lost it when he stayed Speaker in this year’s legislative session.
 
Apparently Tillis stayed on so he could raise money. But he didn’t, and he’s at a big financial disadvantage now. A lot of donors weren’t sure it was legal to give during the session.
 
The session spread more legislative poison on Tillis. The Republican War on Teachers is dragging down every one of their candidates, especially Tillis. And Senator Hagan was smart enough and aggressive enough to wrap it around his neck early.
 
Nobody believes there was a 7 percent pay raise, least of all teachers.
 
Give Hagan and her team credit. They raised a lot of money, and they painted Tillis into a corner he can’t seem to escape. And how they have hundreds of well-trained, well-organized field staffers working across the state.
 
Final lesson: Democrats can play the independent expenditure game just as well as Republicans. Republicans are learning that there are some rich – and angry – Democrats. 

 

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29
A party that denies citizens their constitutional right to vote is a party that deserves to lose. That’s the Republican Party today.
 
The party of Lincoln and TR has become the party of Block the Vote: Voter-suppression laws. Cutting back early voting. No same-day voter registration. Elections boards that twist the laws to suit partisan purposes. And now a deliberate effort to confuse voters about their registration.
 
Republicans claim they’re protecting us from voter fraud. But it looks like Republicans are the ones guilty of voter fraud.
 
That latest outrage comes from the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Koch-funded ruling wing of the North Carolina Republican Party. The N&O reported: “Hundreds of North Carolinians - and one cat - have received incorrect voter registration information, according to the NC State Board of Elections.”
 
One of the most shameful chapters of North Carolina history was the Democratic Party’s violent suppression of black votes at the turn of the 20th Century. That still lives in infamy today. How long will the Republican Party carry this shame?

 

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26
Maybe Thom Tillis should give Civitas’ pollster math lessons.
 
Thursday morning, Civitas put out this release: “Democrat Tom Bradshaw leads Republican John Alexander by 16 percentage points in the NC Senate District 15 race, according to a new Civitas Flash Poll….” The poll, conducted last Monday and Tuesday, showed Bradshaw ahead 52-36 percent.
 
A few hours later, Civitas put out what it called “a corrected version of today’s flash poll on the candidates in NC Senate District 15.” It showed Bradshaw ahead by 10 points, 46-36.
 
I haven’t checked this morning. Maybe they have Tom behind by now.
 
One suspects the “correction” came after Civitas got an angry call from the Republican Senate campaign committee: Fix this – or else.
 
For the record, I’m working for Tom Bradshaw’s campaign. He’s a friend of 40-plus years and one of the finest people and leaders I’ve ever known.
 
Also for the record, we pay no attention to Civitas’ numbers. It’s probably a setup, anyway, so they can claim in a couple of weeks that Alexander “is closing the gap” or “has drawn dead even.”
 
There’s only one Civitas number I’m sure of: their credibility. It’s zero.

 

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25
Give Governor McCrory credit for proposing something big and bold, a $1 billion transportation bond issue. It sounds like a stimulus program, but that would be the kiss of death in the Republican legislature. He may find himself needing some Democratic allies.
 
He and Secretary Tata will have to answer a lot of questions: how to pay for it, can the state afford it and, of course, why these specific projects?
 
Like every Governor, McCrory promised to take politics out of transportation decisions. Here’s the definition of “politics”: a road somebody else wants. And the definition of “real need”: a road you want.
 
Speaking of needs, why was there no mention of I-95? It’s the most congested, dangerous major road in the state.
 
How can the state seriously pursue a large auto manufacturer without upgrading I-95? The first thing a big plant like that needs, especially if it’s near Rocky Mount, is access up and down the East Coast.
 
Let’s get on with it. Start your engines, warm up the road graders and load up the dump trucks.

 

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Carter & Gary
 
Carter Wrenn
 
 
Gary Pearce
 
 
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
 
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
 
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
 
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
 
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
 
 
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