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I don’t know whether
Art Pope is going to knock off Richard Morgan in Tuesday’s primary. But I’m willing to bet that Morgan beats Pope
in the State Board of Elections.

For years now, Pope
Republicans and Morgan Republicans have fought a civil war. It’s like the Shiites and Sunnis without the

Pope has targeted
Morgan and his allies in this year’s primaries. Morgan is fighting back – not
just politically, but also legally.

Morgan has filed a
complaint with the State Board of Elections.
He claims that Pope’s Republican Legislative Majority of North Carolina, a 527,
is illegally using Pope’s corporate millions to target candidates.

I believe Morgan will
win: The board will rule that Pope’s war against other Republicans is not
constitutionally protected “issue advocacy.”
The Board will rule that it is an illegal use of corporate money in

But the federal
courts may take a different view.

Pope wrote a letter
to The News & Observer other day. He
seemed to dig himself into a deeper hole with the Board of Elections.

He wrote:

“Republican state Reps. Richard Morgan and Rick Eddins voted for and
supported the politically corrupt Democrat Jim Black for House speaker. Morgan
is using Mike Weisel, the former Wake County Democratic Party chairman, as his
attorney in filing a complaint….”

In effect, he admits
his jihad is about partisan politics.

He goes on to make a
point I’d like to agree with:

“If disclosing and debating an incumbent legislator’s voting record is
not issue advocacy and free speech, then what is? Should incumbents be able to
shield themselves from criticism because they are also candidates?”

He’s right. And if that is what Pope is doing, fine.

If you look at his mailings, Pope has
slammed his rivals on issues. But he has
never crossed the “bright line” the federal courts have drawn: He has never
urged anyone to vote for or against his targets.

But Morgan’s complaint is not based on what Pope said. It’s based on why he said it. Morgan’s point
is simple. He argues that Pope has only
one motive: beat Morgan.

I think the State
Board will rule with Morgan. I base that
in part on how the board has dealt with Speaker Jim Black. The board is focused on rooting out illegal
corporate contributions that it believes taint the political process.

But the federal
courts may be more concerned with protecting free speech.

So Pope might be wise
to get his lawyers working on an appeal to the federal courts.

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The fall elections have been looking pretty bleak for Republicans, lately.

After President Bush’s stands on the United Arab Emirates ports deal – letting a company owned by the Emirates run U.S. Ports – and immigration proved to be unpopular, even with Republicans, his standing in the polls plummeted to a low ebb.

For the last month it has seemed like a tsunami of anger was headed toward Republicans from voters this fall.

But just when it looked like there was no way for them to lose this fall’s elections in North Carolina…the Democrats in the State House may have found one.

The members of the House Democratic Caucus have met and declared they are standing four-square behind House Democratic Speaker Jim Black – scandals and all.

Who would have believed it?

After six months of newspaper reports exposing the ‘pay to play’ scandals, a grand jury investigation, an investigation by the State Attorney General, Board of Elections hearings where Black allies (but not Black, personally) took the Fifth Amendment and after almost every major newspaper has called on Black to resign – the House Democratic Caucus proclaims Jim Black has done nothing wrong. Nothing at all. He has their overwhelming support.

Which must be exactly what Republicans have been praying for – to have Jim Black leading the Democratic ticket this fall with House Democrats saying he has done nothing wrong.

Just when Republicans needed a break…

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Before Iraq, there was Vietnam.

Before America got bogged down in a war in the Middle East, we got bogged down in a war in Asia.

Before America had a President trying to prove he is tougher than his father, we had a President trying to prove he was tougher than his predecessor.

Before America had a know-it-all Secretary of Defense determined to remake the military his way, we had a know-it-all Secretary of Defense determined to remake the military his way.

After Vietnam, the President went back to Texas in disgrace to lick his wounds.

After Vietnam, the Secretary of Defense spent decades wracked by guilt.

After Vietnam, America went through shell-shock for decades.

After Iraq, what?

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Posted in: General
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Brace yourself. I have something good to say about George W. Bush.

But I’ll probably end up taking it back.

Bush went to Orange County, California, Monday. He talked about immigration. And he spoke out clearly against the anti-immigrant demagogues in his own party:

“I know this is an emotional debate…but one thing we cannot lose sight of is that we’re talking about human beings, decent human beings.”

He’s right. Right many Republicans have lost sight of that.

Bush went on. He dismissed one of the demagogues’ favorite proposals:

“Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic. It’s just not going to work.”

Way to go, George. I give you an atta-boy.

But here comes the part where I take it back.

It turns out he was talking to 300 business owners. It turns out he was telling them they shouldn’t be penalized for hiring illegal immigrants.

In other words, this wasn’t a heartfelt speech about immigrants who are “decent human beings.” It was about a key political constituency that makes decent political contributions.

Well, I tried to say something nice.

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How much trouble does President Bush think he is in over Iraq?

A lot.

Witness three news items:

  1. Bush’s photo op in California eating with GIs and their families. A clear response to the generals’ criticism of Rumsfeld.

  1. James Baker heading up a high-level group of review Iraq policy. Which Condi Rice reportedly resisted. I doubt VP Cheney and SecDeaf (that’s right, not SecDef but SecDeaf) Rummy are happy about it either.

  1. The pathetic response Scott McClellan was given to mouth in response to Osama’s newest tape. Scott (who’s not a bad guy, he just says what he’s told) mouthed: “The al Qaeda leadership is on the run and under a lot of pressure.” Well, they’re neither running so fast nor pressured so hard they can’t stop to make a tape for the world.

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I’ve posted several items about anti-immigration politics. And immigrant-bashing clearly is the strategy of at least one wing of the Republican Party.

It may work. Enough voters may be xenophobic enough – or even racist enough – to buy it.

But here is a history prediction: In decades to come (maybe even sooner), Republicans will be just as ashamed of what they are doing now as they are of their defense of legal segregation in the 1950s.

Even Jesse Helms won’t admit today what he believed then.

I believe that down the road a lot more Republicans will be trying to rewrite today’s history.

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Posted in: General, Issues
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Someone once quipped the two greatest lies are ‘the checks in the mail,’ and ‘I’ll still love you in the morning.’ He might have added, ‘We’ll tax someone else.’

The great debate over ‘Impact Fees’ is underway in the Raleigh City Council.

The smallest amount being considered to increase this tax is 72%. Even that doesn’t suit Mayor Meeker, who wants to increase the tax a whopping 400% (to an average of $3,500 for a single family home).

The fiction here is that the politicians aren’t going to tax you, or me, or most homeowners – they’re going to tax ‘developers.’

But people who buy new houses are going to ultimately be the ones paying those new taxes – not developers. And those taxes are going to drive up the costs of housing. So, the next time there’s a property tax ‘reevaluation’ the government is probably going to decide your house is worth more – in part, because of that tax – and your property taxes are going up.

And what about the millions in new tax revenue those ‘fees’ will generate? Are they going to pay for schools? Or teachers? Mayor Meeker’s answer to that is still no.

The problem – fiscally – city government faces in Raleigh isn’t that tax revenues aren’t high enough. The problem is Mayor Meeker – and some of the other City Council members – are spending money like sailors on a binge. They’re not only spending millions on convention centers, they’re subsidizing four star hotels, five star restaurants and up-scale super markets with taxpayers’ money.

Before the City Council makes a case for raising taxes on developers, new homeowners or anyone else it needs to set better spending priorities and put its fiscal house in order.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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There are two ways to keep score in politics: polls and money.

By the money measure, Democrat Richard Moore and Republican Bill Graham should be the leading candidates for Governor in 2008.

Moore has raised $1.3 million to Beverly Perdue’s $1 million and Roy Cooper’s $760,000.

Graham reportedly is spending $1 million of his own money on a televised campaign against the gas tax. That should lead Sue Myrick’s $680,000 and Fred Smith’s $433,000.

Here is the question: Have Graham’s ads worked? Will GOP primary polls show that the $1 million campaign (if it’s really that much) has bought him a lead?

Moore is running TV ads too. Public service ads that supposedly are related to his duties as State Treasurer.

Have those ads bought him a lead?

Public-service ads worked for Mike Easley in 2000. I saw it first hand, because I ran Dennis Wicker’s unsuccessful primary campaign against Easley.

I don’t pretend to understand Republican primary politics.

But, as for the Democrats, my sense is that Moore is running the most aggressive campaign. Perdue and Cooper may need a wakeup call.

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Posted in: General
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Whether or not you agree with Congressman Walter Jones you have to admit he has a rare trait among politicians. There are many elected officials who are clever, intelligent or articulate – but there are not many whose courage matches their other skills.

Congressman Jones have has stood up and disagreed with his own President, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State about how the United States can best win the war on terrorism.

Today, the debate on the war in Iraq has boiled down to an argument between those who say we should stay the course and those who say we should get out. But one important question is not being asked: Why are we stuck in a war we should have won already?

Congressman Jones, in his own way, is looking for the question. He has asked for a full Congressional Debate on the war. And he is asking if Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, showed poor judgment as regards the war – poor judgment which may have included giving Congress inaccurate information.

I guess the point is, if you’re the Secretary of Defense and you advocate starting a war – you’d better have the judgment to win it.

Congressman Jones is not saying the war on terrorism is wrong. But he is saying is how we have fought it may have turned out to be wrong. He is asking who is responsible and he wants Congress to debate this issue.

These questions are important. The war on terrorism is not going to disappear, it is not going away – whether we pull stay in Iraq or whether we pull out. What is important – if we are to win the war on terrorism in the long run – is to learn from mistakes we have made in Iraq.

Congressman Jones is one of the few legislators raising those questions and he wants Congress to debate them. You, hopefully, don’t have to agree with him to concur that debate is important and the sooner it happens the better.

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Posted in: General
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The Charlotte Observer reports (3-9-06) there will be no election at all in almost half the 170 races for State House and Senate this fall.

In addition, in the races all but a handful of the races that are contested, practically, if not legally, the outcome is all but decided. Because of how legislators have drawn their districts. (In other words, the districts lean so heavily to either the Republican or Democratic Party, the opposing candidate has little or no chance of winning.)

In all, just 26 out of 170 races – 15% – are in districts where a Republican and Democratic candidate each have a roughly equal chance of winning.

That means 85% of the voters in North Carolina have no real choice in the elections this fall. 41% of them have no choice at all. None. Because the election is not even contested.

How does this happen? It happens because legislators get to draw the lines for the districts they run in.

This is also one reason we have so many scandals. How much is a legislator going to worry about the consequences – of say, ‘pay to play’ – if he or she is immune to being held accountable at the ballot box?

Why not give a government grant, or a job to a political ally, or a little ‘special’ say in a piece of legislation to a political friend or supporter if there is little or no possibility you’ll have to explain it to voters in the next election?

Getting legislators to agree to give up the power to determine their own districts is going to be almost impossible. But, while the legislature is considering ‘reforms’ to clean up politics, it would be hard to find one more important than making elections for State House and Senate truly competitive again.

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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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