Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Big names at Foxx fundraiser

Charlotte Democrat Anthony Foxx isn't officially a candidate for Charlotte mayor. But that's not stopping him from holding a high-powered fundraiser next week.

Foxx will be the guest of honor at a Tuesday fundraiser at the southeast Charlotte home of Cameron and Dee Dee Harris. Among those in attendance will be his honorary campaign chairman, former Bank of America chairman Hugh McColl.

Democrats haven't won the mayor's job since 1987. But Foxx and others are optimistic about the chances after this month's election, when Charlotte and Mecklenburg County voters rejected seven-term Mayor Pat McCrory in favor of Bev Perdue for governor.

"I’m obviously very bullish on Charlotte and bullish about my prospects for success," Foxx says. "I'm delighted that so much early support has come to me and I hope to grow it over the next year.”

McCrory hasn't announced his plans. Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Graham has hinted that he's keeping his options open.

Foxx said he expects "a strong crowd," with guests contributing up to $4,000.

"We hope to fill the house up,” he said.

That would be a windfall. The Harris's live in a 23,466-square-foot house.

A postscript:

Yesterday I blogged about Charlotte's Anne Udall, whose brother and cousin were both elected to the U.S. Senate this month from Colorado and New Mexico respectively. She came close to having a third relative in the Senate.

Republican Gordon Smith of Oregon, who narrowly lost his re-election bid, is Udall's second cousin.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

For Anne Udall, politics is all in the family

Charlotte's Anne Udall had a lot to celebrate on Nov. 4.

She was with her brother Mark when he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Colorado. The same night, her cousin Tom won a Senate election in his home of New Mexico. Both are Democrats.

Anne Udall (left), executive director of the Lee Institute, had spent the week before the election bouncing around Colorado on her brother's campaign bus with him and some of their other siblings. The night he won was emotional for them all.

"It was very humbling and exciting on a lot of different levels," says Anne, 54.

Mark Udall's campaign carried echoes of their father's races. The late Mo Udall was a liberal Arizona congressman who ran for president in 1976, losing the primary to Jimmy Carter.

"It reminded me of dad on a couple levels," says Anne. "One, I think Mark is really committed to this work and it really matters to him.

"The second thing that was really very moving to me was see this whole generation of 20-year-olds really committed to Mark's candidacy. And that’s what Dad did. ... These kids they don’t know Dad. He's a name in a book. But they know Mark and they have the same connection with Mark that I think our generation had with Dad. So that was really neat.”

The day after the election, Anne and her brother went for a hike in the Colorado mountains. "That's what Udalls do when they win," she told a reporter at the time. "We go outdoors. We hike."

Her cousin Tom is the son of Stewart Udall, a former Arizona congressman who served as Secretary of the Interior under presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Anne plans to go to Washington in January for the swearing-in. She expects a family reunion -- with one-fiftieth of the Senate in the family.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Ray Warren's odyssey: From Jesse Helms to Barack Obama

When I started covering the General Assembly 23 years ago, Ray Warren had just been elected to his first term in the House. He was a young Republican lawyer from Matthews swept in with the Reagan landslide of 1984.

He eventually became minority leader and in 1996, outpolled all N.C. Republicans in his losing bid for the state Supreme Court. He came out of the closet in 1998 and left his party a year later. Now, in the latest chapter of a long odyssey, he's a tax assessor's attorney in suburban Washington. Here are his observations about the election:

"Election night in Washington was surreal. My partner and I watched the returns at Nellie's, a nominally gay sports bar packed with a racially diverse gay and straight crowd. Each time a state fell into the blue column the bar - and bars up and down the U Street corridor - erupted in cheers.

"There were hundreds in the bar -- men and women of all races. When CNN announced that Obama was elected at 11:00 pandemonium broke out. We jumped shouted and hugged perfect strangers. It was like the end of World War II or some other great unifying event.

"A bit later, when Obama gave his speech in Chicago I, like many others, was in tears. All the years of Jesse Helms, hate and division had been defeated. Not only the nation, but my home state and native state (Virginia and North Carolina) had been part of the redemption.

"It was an unexpected and powerful emotional moment that overwhelmed me. Seeing my tears, a young black woman silently reached over and took my arm as if to say "it will be OK". I was struck by the immense irony of that act of simple kindness. On the most important night of the nation's history to African Americans, a young black woman was comforting me, an old white southern man, overcome with the emotion of the moment.

"As we left to catch a cab back to Virginia, the street was alive with impromptu celebrations. Horns honked, people danced in the street and there were shouts of joy. A friend texted me to say that he and hundreds were gathered in front of the White House shouting 'yes we can'. And for once, it was true. We can.

"And we did."