Tuesday, October 29, 2013

N.C. shutdown costs: Not as much as Democrats claimed

It was a screeching headline on the press release Tuesday from The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Tuesday: "Thom Tillis, Mark Harris, Greg Brannon & Heather Grant’s Reckless & Irresponsible Government Shutdown Cost North Carolina’s Economy Up To $340 Million."

Like its Republican counterpart, the DSCC takes every opportunity to put its opponents in a bad light. And it's true that Tillis, Harris, Brannon and Grant -- the announced GOP Senate candidates -- have said they supported efforts that led to a shutdown. And most if not all opposed this month's compromise that ended it.

But $340 million? According to John Mousseau of Moody's Analytics, the real figure is $95 million.

Why the discrepancy?

According to DSCC spokesman Matt Canter, the larger figure was based on national information provided by Moody's, based on  figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and used by Pew researchers and published by outlets such as USA Today.

But when I called Moody's, Mousseau said the shutdown cost North Carolina $95 million. Still a lot of money, certainly, but not $340 million. Apparently that state information wasn't available to the DSCC at the time it sent its release, which was reported on at least one N.C. media site.

The DSCC used the best information it had at the time.

"What both numbers show is that the GOP shutdown caused unnecessary damage to North Carolina's economy and should never have happened," Canter said.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Another roadblock for Mel Watt?

It was way back in May that President Obama nominated U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The nomination has been  in limbo ever since, and now may be delayed even further.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on Fox News Monday that he plans to hold up all Senate appointments until the administration answers more questions about the Benghazi attack in September 2012.

"I'm going to block every appointment in the United States Senate until the survivors (of the attack in Benghazi)  are being made available to the Congress," Graham told Fox. "I'm tired of hearing from people on TV and reading about stuff in books."

Speculation is that Watt, first elected in 1992, won't run for re-election even if he doesn't get the housing post. He only raised $10 last quarter. Several Democrats are already campaigning for the seat.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest calls Charlotte mayor's race an 'uphill battle'

North Carolina Lt. Gov.  Dan Forest acknowledged Monday that fellow Republican Edwin Peacock faces an uphill battle for mayor of Charlotte. But, he added, so did his mother a quarter-century ago.

Forest was in Charlotte to rally the troops at GOP headquarters, where he was joined by Peacock and state party chairman Claude Pope.

"Some of our races are uphill battles," he told about two dozen party officials and campaign volunteers, a clear reference to the mayoral race in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.

But Forest said his mother, Sue Myrick, also faced an uphill battle when she ran for mayor in 1987. On the eve of the election, a poll showed her trailing incumbent Democrat Harvey Gantt by nine percentage points. She won the first of two terms, and later went to Congress.

Forest urged Republicans to put in the same grassroots effort that helped his mother win.

"She had no chance but she pulled it out," he said. "I think that's a template that really works."

With two weeks to go, Peacock plans to ramp up his campaign against Democrat Patrick Cannon. His TV ads start Wednesday. And in that night's Observer debate, he plans to draw some clear distinctions with Cannon.

Peacock chose not to draw distinctions with Forest. The state Democratic Party Monday issued a release calling Forest North Carolina's "most far-right statewide office holder." Forest, a favorite of many tea-partiers, has taken conservative positions. For example, he even broke with fellow Republican, Gov. Pat McCrory, by opposing Common Core education standards.

Peacock has prided himself on being a moderate Republican. He said he agrees with Forest on the basics, like limited government and the need for jobs. But, he added, "Dan and I don't agree on everything."


Forest, by the way, wasn't the only second-generation Charlotte Republican at Monday's GOP mini-rally. Peacock's father Ed was on the city council and ran for mayor in 1983, the same year Myrick was first elected to council. And Mindy Moorman, a GOP field organizer in Charlotte, is the daughter of former council member and county commissioner Rod Autry.

Friday, October 18, 2013

GOP Senate candidates against budget deal

It looks like North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate primary will be fought on the right -- and set up an even clearer contrast to Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

The three major GOP Senate candidates all would have voted 'no' on last week’s Congressional measure to end the federal shutdown and avert a deadline to raise the debt limit.

The Senate passed the measure 81-18 on Wednesday. Both N.C. senators -- Republican Richard Burr and Hagan -- voted in the majority. (Only three of the state's nine GOP House members, Robert Pittenger, Howard Coble and Patrick McHenry, voted for the bill, which passed the House on the strength of Democratic votes.) 

But three Republicans vying for Hagan’s seat opposed the bill.

“Kicking the can down the road does not solve any problems, it only creates a bigger mess,” House Speaker Thom Tillis said in a statement. “The President and Congress owe the American people a fiscally responsible budget focused on ensuring a sound economy and a safe America ... I could not have supported this legislation.”

Greg Brannon, a Cary physician, was endorsed by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on the day of the vote. Paul was a vocal opponent of the compromise.

“The deal ... gives President Obama carte blanche authority to increase our national debt and does nothing to address out-of-control federal spending,” Brannon said. “If elected, I will not support a debt ceiling increase unless it includes real spending reform such as the elimination of our economy's biggest threat, Obamacare.”

And Charlotte pastor Mark Harris blamed Democrats for what he called the “Obama/Reid” shutdown, a reference to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

“I could not support a bill to increase the debt limit without a plan to reduce government spending, and lower taxes,” Harris said. “We need real leadership in D.C. and it’s time North Carolina elected a senator that isn't so beholden to the president and the national Democrats.”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ten dollars explains the 12th District money race

At least four Democrats are already running hard for the Congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte, whose nomination to head the federal Housing Finance Agency still awaits Senate confirmation.

But there's a growing sense that Watt, first elected in 19992, won't run even if he doesn't get the federal post.

New reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission show Watt raised just $10 in the 3rd quarter. That's not even lunch money in Washington.

By contrast, four people who want his seat have been busy raising money. Leading the field: two-term state Rep. Marcus Brandon of High Point. He raised $90,500 during the quarter and more than $143,000 for the campaign.

Brandon, the legislature's only openly gay member, appears to have a national fundraising base with contributions from New York to California.

Behind him was George Battle III, general counsel for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board. He's raised a total of $109,620.

State Rep. Alma Adams, an 11-term House member from Greensboro, has raised $89,493. And state Sen. Malcolm Graham of Charlotte has raised $57,150.

The 12th District stretches from Charlotte to Greensboro.

Other Democrats who have talked about running for the seat, including Reps. Beverly Earle and Rodney Moore of Charlotte, have yet to file reports.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Santorum on debt ceiling and N.C. Senate race

Former -- and possible future -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is glad he's not in Washington these days. But he's still taking a hardline position on the debt ceiling.

The former Pennsylvania senator was in Charlotte Tuesday to promote a new film and headline a fundraiser for Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. That was a day before today's apparent last-minute deal to raise the ceiling and avoid Thursday's deadline.

In an interview, Santorum joined the ranks of Republicans like Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina who say fears of default are overblown.

This month Burr told Slate that "The federal government still has about 85 percent of the revenues we spend coming in, and all they have to do is prioritize that they're gonna pay debt service first."

"There's no reason to default," Santorum told us. "There's plenty of money to pay our debt service....The idea that we're going to default is ridiculous." 

He also dismissed the damage caused by the weeks-old government shutdown. "I don't know to many people facing cataclysmic changes in their lives," he said.


We asked Santorum is he planned to make an endorsement in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race. We haven't been the only people wondering.

He said he got a call from House Speaker Thom Tillis this month asking if he was endorsing one of Tillis' opponents. Santorum has spoken at Charlotte's First Baptist Church at the invitation of pastor Mark Harris. Harris, like Tillis, is now running for the Senate.

"My general inclination is not to get involved with what a appears to be a good field of candidates," Santorum said.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rielle Hunter: 'I'm sorry ... I was selfish'

Eight years after the affair that sunk the reputation and political career of John Edwards, Rielle Hunter has finally apologized.

Her apology, which happens to coincide with release of a new book, comes in an article in the Huffington Post.

"I am very sorry for my wrong, selfish behavior," she wrote. "Back in 2006, I did not think about the scope of my actions, how my falling in love with John Edwards, and acting on that love, could hurt so many people. I hurt Elizabeth and her kids. I hurt her family. I hurt John's family. I hurt people that knew Elizabeth."

 Her new book adds two words to the title of her last: "In Hindsight, What Really Happened: The Revised Edition: John Edwards, My Daughter, and Me." As she describes it, it's sort of the corrected version of her first book.

"... (I)nstead of apologizing when I should have, I went on to hurt more people by writing a book," she wrote in the Post. "I truly did not realize at that time how damaged I was and because of that, when I wrote my book I made more mistakes, ones I feel horrible about."

Hunter apparently lives in Charlotte with the daughter she had with Edwards, a former U.S. senator and presidential candidate. Edwards and his daughter Quinn were seen this month shopping in the Cotswold Harris-Teeter.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Birthday party boos for Pat McCrory

Bill Diehl doesn't go small. For his 69th birthday party, the Charlotte attorney rented out The Fillmore at the N.C. Music Factory, hired rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and invited around 400 of his closest friends. Among them: Gov. Pat McCrory.

When the band took a break, Diehl grabbed a mic and introduced McCrory, who was greeted with a loud smattering of boos.

It wasn't the first time the former Charlotte mayor -- elected and re-elected seven times -- has heard boo birds in his hometown. In Charlotte, at least, the popular mayor has been a less popular governor.

This summer he appeared at a concert at the Bechtler Museum. When he was formally  introduced, many in the audience booed.

Some thought Friday's birthday booing was rude.

"I thought it was in poor taste, but it happened," said attorney Ed Hinson. "I sure heard it."

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Airport paradox?

For months Charlotte's public officials repeated their mantra about the city's airport: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Republican legislators ignored that in transferring airport control from the city first to an authority and then to a commission. The matter is currently in court.

The city has argued all along that the airport has thrived under its control.

So City Manager Ron Carlee couldn't help taking a swipe at comments made in Saturday's Observer by former aviation director Jerry Orr and former Mayor Richard Vinroot, now attorney for the proposed commission. 

"Good Morning!" Carlee said in an email to council members. "Mr. Orr's comments in today's Observer are priceless regarding the audits and studies that we are doing -- if contradiction doesn't get you, paradox will."

The story, which dealt with the city's current audits of the airport, quoted Orr saying, "It seems to me that Charlotte is a model, not one in need of being fixed."

"It looks like a solution in search of a problem," he said of the audits. "That's what I think."

Carlee also cited a quote from Vinroot. "I wonder if they aren't trying to find something wrong with this spectacular successful airport," he said.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Shutdown shuts down N.C. GOP fundraiser

Chalk up another casualty of the federal government shutdown. And this one will cost the North Carolina Republican Party.

The state party had scheduled an Oct. 9 fundraiser at The Capitol Hill Club, with guests paying up to $2,500. The event was to be headlined by GOP Sen. Richard Burr, the state's nine Republican House members and Gov. Pat McCrory.

Republican national Chairman Reince Priebus was expected to put in an appearance.

But Friday, with the shutdown in its fourth day and no end in sight, GOP leaders decided to postpone the event.

"In light of the government shutdown the North Carolina Republican Party thought it would be best to put our Washington D.C. fundraiser on hold," said Todd Poole, the party's executive director. "In the meantime we hope our Democrat friends on Capitol Hill will come to their senses and join Republicans at the negotiating table and end the shutdown."

One member of the state delegation, by the way, is getting credit, or blame, for initiating the shutdown.

Freshman GOP Rep Mark Meadows of Jackson County got 79 members to sign onto a letter in August urging their colleagues to tie continued government funding to dismantling Obamacare. He's gotten attention in the national media. CNN called him "the architect of the brink."


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Democrats target three N.C. House members in shutdown fight

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting three N.C. congressmen with robo-calls over the government shutdown, including Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte.

The DCCC began the calls Tuesday, hours after the shutdown went into effect.

"While you were sleeping, Congressman Robert Pittenger shut down the government," the calls say. "You heard that right. But even worse – Congressman Pittenger is still getting paid – and he’s not listening to our frustration. All because of his demand to take away your benefits and protect insurance company profits. Call Congressman Pittenger ... to end the shutdown."
The DCCC also is targeting GOP Reps. Richard Hudson of the 8th District and George Holding of the 13th. They're among 63 Republican congressmen across the country whose districts are getting similar calls.

What's unusual about targeting Pittenger is that his 9th District is solidly Republican and has been for 60 years.

Pittenger spokesman Jamie Bowers said their offices haven't reported getting any of the robo-calls.

The DCCC did not target other N.C. members who voted to defund Obamacare, including Rep. Mike McIntyre of the 7th District. He was one of just two Democrats in the country who voted with Republicans.