Friday, March 28, 2008

Obama HQ opening draws 700

State Sen. Malcolm Graham thought he had an idea of what to expect when he helped open Democrat Barack Obama's Charlotte headquarters Thursday night.

"I went there expecting 50, 60, 70 people," he says. "And 700 showed up."
Lines wrapped around the headquarters on Elizabeth Avenue in the Elizabeth neighborhood as people broke into groups devoted to voter registration and other areas.

Getting 700 people to any political event, let alone a headquarters opening, is unusual, to say the least.

"I've never seen a grassroots movement take hold like that," Graham says. "It was just amazing to sit back and watch."

Charlotte is one of 13 Obama campaign offices across the state. Campaign officials say more than 3,000 people attended recent openings in nine communities.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hillary Clinton coming to N.C. Thursday

Sen. Hillary Clinton will visit Raleigh, Fayetteville and Winston-Salem Thursday. She's scheduled to deliver an economic policy address in Raleigh.

Her visit, the first of the primary campaign, will come a day after rival Barack Obama visits Greensboro. Here's the schedule from her campaign:

-- Wake Technical College, Raleigh: Doors open at 9 a.m. Clinton delivers an address at 10:30.
-- Terry Sanford High, Fayetteville: Doors open at noon. Clinton speaks at 1:30
-- Forsyth Technical Community College Gymnasium, Winston-Salem: Doors open at 4 p.m. Clinton speaks at 5:30.

All events are free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Obama coming to Greensboro

Sen. Barack Obama coming to Greensboro Wednesday, his second visit to the state in a week.

As he did in Charlotte last week, Obama will hold a town hall meeting. This one will be at the War Memorial Auditorium in the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, 1921 W. Lee St. Doors open at 11 a.m. for the 1 p.m. program.

The event is free and open to the public but space is limited. For tickets, check out the campaign web site. You can also pick them up at The Atrium at UNC—Greensboro, 1000 Spring Garden St.

The Obama campaign also is opening a headquarters this week in Hickory.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Politics and wedding bells

Some men ask a woman's parents for her hand in marriage. Jerry Meek had to check with her campaign manager as well.

Meek, North Carolina's Democratic Party chairman, has become engaged to Tricia Cotham, a Democratic legislator from Charlotte.

Meek, of Fayetteville, got down on one knee when he popped the question Friday night at a cabin in Bryson City. He planned the weekend get-away only after clearing the schedule with Cotham's campaign manager.

Cotham, 29, is the state's youngest legislator. Meek, 37, is one of if not the nation's youngest party chairman.

The two started dating last summer, a few months after Cotham won a special election to fill the seat of disgraced Speaker Jim Black. Now she faces a primary on May 6 and, if she wins, a Republican challenge in November.

All that, plus the General Assembly's schedule, makes it hard to set a wedding date.

"So I have a little different things to think about than the average bride," she said this morning.

The romance, which the two kept secret for months, may explain his frequent recent appearances in Charlotte as much as his role in resolving the recent local party turmoil.

Cotham says she plans to continue living in her district, which covers east Charlotte and part of Matthews. She also has an apartment in Raleigh where Meek works as chairman.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clinton postpones Charlotte visit

There's no luck 'o the Irish for Charlotte supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Former President Bill Clinton was expected to visit for a fundraiser on Monday. Invitations had already gone out for the St. Patrick's Day fundraiser at the City Club.

Now Clinton is scheduled to visit Friday April 4. That's about a month before North Carolina's May 6 primary. Organizers are still working on a time and place.

"We had a scheduling issue with the president," says Mark Erwin

Campaign officials say they had pledges of more than $100,000. Now, with more advance notice, they hope to raise more. Tickets are still expected to go from $250 to $2,300.

"We'll still have a $250 level for folks, which is very unusual for people to come see the president of the United States for $250," Erwin said.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Caught in a crossfire (a real one)

East Los Angeles is a long way from east Charlotte, but that's where Democrat Lloyd Scher went as part of his campaign for the N.C. House.

A former Mecklenburg County commissioner, Scher is running against Rep. Tricia Cotham in the Democratic primary. She's made anti-gang legislation a top priority in Raleigh. Scher says he would too.

Two weeks ago, his research took him to East L.A. There, he says, he drove through a gang-infested neighborhood with an L.A. cop. They sped to a call where a member of the Avenues gang had been shooting at police with an AK-47. When they got there, another jumped up and started firing a handgun. A third gang member took hostages.

The first gunman was killed by police. The second one was shot and arrested. While Scher waited in a mobile command post, the third was arrested after a 7 1/2-hour hostage ordeal.

"It was scary, I will tell you that," said Scher. "But I'm glad it was because it showed me how dangerous the gang situation is. And if we don't do something now, we could be facing this in Charlotte."

He said he's also visited with police in New York and Chicago. He and Cotham are running in District 100 that covers east Charlotte and Matthews.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Saunders fires first shot at Mackey

State Rep. Drew Saunders has come out swinging in his Democratic primary against Nick Mackey.

"I have no desire to be a Policeman, Judge or Sheriff," Saunders wrote in a news release. "I am running for this office to represent the people of the district, not because I am mad that I cannot be Sheriff.

"My opponent has been held in contempt of court because he would not represent one person in the court room. If he did not represent one person in the heart of Charlotte, how can we expect him to represent 67,000 people while working out of the State Capitol in Raleigh?"

Mackey filed in Saunders' House District 99 Friday. In December he won a party election to fill a vacancy for sheriff, only to have the vote overturned after the state party found rules had been broken. In 2006, he ran unsuccessfully for district court judge.

In January, Mackey, a lawyer, was convicted of contempt of court after failing to show up for the client's December trial.

Mackey declined to respond to Saunders.

"I don't stoop to that kind of mudslinging so I don't have any comment," he said today. "I’m not going to be baited into some back-and-forth mudslinging with him. We’ll debate the issues and that's that."

Saunders, a six-term legislator, has never had a primary. He said today that he'll run an aggressive campaign.

"I need for (Mackey) to know that it’s going to be a race," he said. "I can’t lay down and give him my seat just because he’s disappointed he didn't get the sheriff’s race."

The winner faces Republican Dempsey Miller.

Ford-McElroy race for Dem chair?

Two men who promise to heal the party hope to be elected Mecklenburg County's new Democratic chairman tomorrow night.

Joel Ford, 39, and Pender McElroy, 69, are both running for the job that David Erdman left a month ago. Erdman's resignation came after the party's messy election of Nick Mackey as sheriff, an election later overturned by the state party.

"There's a leadership void right now in the party and we need a unifier," says Ford, a paving contractor. He's been active in the party and ran for Charlotte City Council in 2005. He was a 2004 fellow with the N.C. Institute of Political Leadership.

McElroy is a Charlotte lawyer whose party involvement has come more with financial support for candidates than in grassroots politics. Records show he's given more than $31,000 to local and state candidates since 1992 and $9,500 to federal candidates. That includes $1,000 to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Members of the Mecklenburg Democratic executive committee meet tomorrow night at Piedmont Open Middle School to elect a new chairman. Other candidates may emerge.