Thursday, February 28, 2008

Meck Dems closer to a new chairman?

Mecklenburg's Democrat Chairman Pat Patton, who's 89, had a pacemaker installed this morning. But she was still working the phone from her hospital bed, even if her daughter had to hold the receiver to her ear.

She and others have been working to find a new chairman by the time the party's executive committee meets Wednesday night. And finally, at least two people have expressed interest.

One is Pender McElroy, 67, a lawyer with James, McElroy and Diehl. The other is Liz Johnson, 51, who chaired the party back in the '90s. Both say they want to heal wounds caused by the rifts and embarrassment over the botched process to pick a new sheriff.

Party chairman David Erdman stepped down earlier this month, leaving Patton acting chairman.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Did Edwards miss his chance?

If Democrat John Edwards wanted to make a meaningful endorsement in the presidential race, he may have missed his chance.

It was three weeks ago that Sen. Hillary Clinton came courting at Edwards' Chapel Hill home. Sen. Barack Obama followed later. But Edwards has kept his counsel, and stayed silent on which of the two he prefers. Some of his supporters -- and donors -- have said they're waiting to follow his lead.

But Clinton and Obama face crucial primaries Tuesday in Ohio and Texas. If Clinton loses one or the other, or doesn't do well enough to score a majority of delegates, her campaign is all but over. If you want an endorsement to make a difference, time is running out.

That's why another erstwhile rival, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, endorsed Obama today in Cleveland.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Coast suddenly clears for Kissell

After coming within 329 votes of winning in 2006, Democrat Larry Kissell became the favorite of a lot of Democrats in Washington and in the 8th District. Now he's getting help from some would-be challengers and his party's establishment.

Just Sunday, Charlotte lawyer Chris Kouri called Kissell and told him he won't run against him this year. Kouri ran against Hayes as the Democratic nominee in 2002. "I don't think it's any secret that I've looked at running in the 8th District," says Kouri, adding that he's now fully behind Kissell. He wouldn't elaborate on why he changed his mind.

Another Democrat who planned to run this year is John Autry, a liberal activist who lost to Kissell in 2006. After campaigning for much of the past year, he says he's sitting this race out for health reasons.

Meanwhile, party leaders are coming to Kissell's support at a March 19 fundraiser. Every Democratic member of Congress from the Carolinas -- including Reps. Mel Watt, John Spratt, Jim Clyburn and Heath Shuler -- have signed on as co-sponsors of the event at the home of Charlotte investor Mark Erwin.

And Democratic strategist James Carville headlines a Kissell fundraiser in the Triangle on March 29.

"Everyone has been so supportive of Larry," spokesman Steve Hudson said. "They're just determined not to let this race slip the national party’s fingers again."

Friday, February 22, 2008

McCain advisor: NYT story a 'bump'

Yesterday's New York Times story on John McCain's links to a Washington lobbyist created a media and political firestorm. But for the presumptive Republican nominee, it was just a "bump in the road," says a top adviser.

"It’s behind us and we’re going to keep moving," for the presumptive Republican nominee, says Charlie Black, a native Charlottean, told us today.
The article has created as much buzz over how it was done and its timing as for its suggestions that McCain, who prides himself on his independence from special interests, may have gotten too cozy with lobbyists.

The Times got over 2,400 online comments about the story, most negative. Today it took the unusual step today of answering some. "We anticipated that it would provoke at least a brief media firestorm — and that our efforts to put Mr. McCain's relationship with a lobbyist in a bigger context would probably get lost in the retelling," executive editor Bill Keller wrote in response to some comments.

At least for the time being, the article had McCain's conservative critics rallying around him.

"Some of our conservative friends who aren't always strong McCain supporters were out there defending him," Black says.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Edwards' partner helping Obama

Sen. Barack Obama is still looking for John Edwards' endorsement, but he may be getting a little closer.

Obama's campaign has a fundraiser scheduled this noon at the Raleigh offices of Edwards' former law partner, David Kirby. Kirby is in a trial this morning and won't be able to atttend, an aide said today.

But no one has been closer to Edwards than Kirby. The two opened their law firm in 1993 and practiced until Edwards went to the U.S. Senate six years later. They're good friends and sit together at Carolina basbetball games.

Edwards has met recently with Obama and his rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton. Both candidates would love his endorsement. But so far at least, Edwards has held his cards close. Some of his friends have already made their choice.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Helms: Keeping the door open?

I know that Democrat Parks Helms, a Mecklenburg County commissioner and former legislator, has said he won't run for re-election. But I wouldn't necessarily take that to the bank.

Helms said again today that his wife Eleanor really wants him to call it quits after more than 30 years of late-night meetings and other demands of public office. But you can tell he's not sure that's what he wants to do.

"I have to say I'm having withdrawal pains right now," he told me. "I probably will not run for the county commission. I have to say 'probably' because you never say never. I've had too many people call me and say, 'You have got to run'."

Not exactly Sherman-esque.

"My concern is if the control changes to Republican, it's going to be a Bill James agenda. And I wonder if that's what people want."

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 11, 2008

'24-7 public records' coming to Meck?

Presidential candidates all file their campaign finance reports electronically. (That's why you can search for your friends or neighbors on the Observer's searchable database of presidential contributors.) But for local candidates, it's always eben a different story.

But one that may start changing.

Candidates for county commissioner and city councils all file paper reports that are filed away at local elections boards. To look at them, you have to go down and literally pull them out of a file drawer.

Now Mecklenburg County's elections director, Michael Dickerson, is trying to put the reports online. They wouldn't be searchable by contributor, at least at first. But they'd be available for review with Adobe Reader. That could start with the next reports filed by local candidates in April.

"It makes it a 24-7 public records office," Dickerson says. And that's a good start.

The only state candidates who file electronically, by the way, are those who raise or spend more than $5,000. Legislative candidates don't have to turn in electronic reports.

Friday, February 08, 2008

McCain's S.C. running mate?

Two South Carolinians should be on John McCain's short list for running mates, according to an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal.

S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford or U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint would both be good choices for McCain, writes Pat Toomey, a former GOP congressman and president of the conservative Club for Growth, an anti-tax group which has been critical of the Arizona senator.

Sanford, Toomey says, "has demonstrated a commitment to economic conservatism. And DeMint, who led Mitt Romney's campaign in the state, would bring his own strong conservative credentials.

"When it comes to fighting government spending in Washington," Toomey says, "Mr. DeMint can be found on the frontlines."

The Club for Growth has said McCain's overall record "is tainted by a marked antipathy towards free markets and individual freedom." It ran TV commercials against McCain's rival, Mike Huckabee, criticizing him for raising taxes as governor of Arkansas.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Will Jordan help lead Meck GOP assault?

Remember Hal Jordan? He's the Republican who came within 30 votes of unseating then-House Speaker Jim Black in 2006. Black, who later would go to prison on corruption charges, was hobbled by scandal that November. But Jordan won in what was still an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

Now he's considering a run for an at-large seat on the Mecklenburg board of commissioners. He would join incumbent Dan Ramirez on an at-large ticket that would try to take advantage of Democratic disarray and retake control of the board.

Democrats, particularly board chairman Jennifer Roberts, have been hurt by the mess over selection of a new sheriff. A lot of Democrats are angry over a process that first elected Nick Mackey, an African American, then invalidated his election and saw the installation of his rival.

A lot of African Americans, who make up about half the county's registered Democrats, have threatened to retaliate at the polls.

So here's a question: How much do you think the sheriff's fiasco will affect the race for county commissioner?

Monday, February 04, 2008

The other South Carolina campaign

His primary may be over, but S.C. Republican chairman Katon Dawson has another election in sight. And not just in November.

He's one of a handful of state party leaders being mentioned as the GOP's next national chairman. Party officials won't choose a new chairman until June of 2009, and Dawson is careful not to be too blatant in his interest.

"We’re not actively running at this time, and it wouldn't be proper," he said today. However, he added, "I'd always be interested."

For months, the S.C. party has sent reporters a daily digest of political news. At the top are media references that mention or quote Dawson. And in the weeks before the Jan. 19 primary, it was a long list.

It may not hurt Dawson's chances that the party's nominee influences the selection of a chairman, especially if that nominee becomes president. And if Sen. John McCain wins the nomination, he could owe South Carolina a favor for keeping his early momentum going.

Dawson and other S.C. Republicans like to point out that since 1980, everybody who's won their primary has gone on to win nomination. If it's McCain, that 28-year streak will continue.

"Looks like it's going to be close to 32 next time we brag about it," Dawson says.