Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New NC polls: Good news for both parties

The good news for Republicans in two new polls: Their candidates are ahead.

The good news for Democrats: But not by that much.

A new poll by the conservative Civitas Institute shows Republican presidential candidate John McCain and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole leading opponents Barack Obama and Kay Hagan. Republican Pat McCrory is virtually tied with Democrat Beverly Perdue in the governor's race.

But in a state George W. Bush twice won with 56 percent, Obama trailed McCain by only four points in the poll. Hagan trailed Dole by 10.

A poll of voters in the 10th Congressional District by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling shows GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry leading Democrat Daniel Johnson 49 percent to 38 percent.

But McHenry won the heavily Republican district in 2006 with 62 percent of the vote to 38 percent for his Democratic challenger.

PPP also found McCrory with a 25-point lead over Perdue in the district.

Turnout was so low that ....

Of the 2,200 people eligible to vote in Mecklenburg County's Precinct 141, only one showed up for Tuesday's Democratic runoff for labor commissioner.

Turnout was a dismal .84 percent throughout the county. Statewide it was under 2 percent.

At least the lone voter in Precinct 141, at the University City library, didn't have to stand in line. Neither did the single voter in Precinct 28 or, for that matter, in any of the county's other 193 precincts.

In the commissioner's race, Mary Fant Donnan walloped John Brooks 86 percent to 14 percent in Mecklenburg. Statewide she won with 68 percent.

Donnan faces Republican incumbent Cherie Berry in November.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Burr blasts Obama on energy

Speaking for Sen. John McCain's campaign, Sen. Richard Burr today called Democrat Barack Obama's energy proposals "ludicrous."

"I'm not sure he’s done anything but mirror the inaction of the Democratic leadership in Congress," said Burr, an N.C. Republican.

Burr joined McCain's energy adviser in an afternoon conference call with reporters. They spoke as McCain, campaigning in California, called for greater energy efficiency. The candidate appeared with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who opposes offshore oil drilling, which McCain supports.

Burr said he supports McCain's call to end a federal moratorium on such drilling and let states decide whether to allow it off their coasts.

"I leave it up to the people of North Carolina, to the leadership of North Carolina," Burr said. "I hope they feel a responsibility to do what I think technologically can be done with very little risk."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cheney: Not aiming at 'shotgun social'

Gaston County Republicans may be breathing a little easier. Vice President Dick Cheney won't be attending tomorrow's Shotgun Social near Gastonia.

The Gaston County GOP invited Cheney to what party officials call the first shotgun fundraiser in North Carolina.

For $80, participants can shoot at clay targets. Non-shooters pay $30.

In 2006, Cheney accidentally shot a friend in the face while hunting in Texas.

Neil Moore, the Gaston GOP chairman, said he's not surprised that the vice president won't be attending an event where, after all, everybody is armed.

"It would take a small army of Secret Service to block off the area," Moore said.

The shotgun social will take place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kings Pinnacle Development on Unity Church Road. For tickets, call 704-868-3330.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Belk story: An 'obvious hack piece?'

After my story on Bill Belk's campaign for district court judge ran Sunday, a friend forwarded this thread from a reader who obviously didn't like it.

The person -- identified only as "frumious bandersnatch" -- is looking for help in writing a letter to the editor. She calls herself a friend of Belk (after meeting him "a handful of times") and wants to correct what she sees a hack job.

So if you want to see how sausage (or a letter to the editor) is made, or if you have some advice for her, check out the link. To help her, leave any advice right here.

Hayes' jobless vote: Good politics?

Most House Republicans voted Wednesday against a bill to extend unemployment benefits by three m0nths. The bill fell three votes short of the two-thirds required for passage.

Voting with every Democrat -- and just 48 other Republicans -- for the measure was Republican Rep. Robin Hayes, who represents North Carolina's 8th District.

Voting to extend unemployment benefits is good politics, particularly in a district hit hard by the economic downturn and a vanishing textile industry. It's probably no coincidence that of the 10 Republicans in races rated as toss-ups by the Cook Political Report, seven -- including Hayes --- joined Democrats in supporting the bill.

The vote also gives Hayes ammunition in his latest attack on Democratic opponent Larry Kissell. In a new ad, he's criticized Kissell for not paying payroll taxes for his campaign workers.

“Extending unemployment benefits is the right thing to do, but we have to realize that these benefits are primarily funded by employers who pay taxes into the trust fund,” Hayes said in a news release today. “Larry Kissell wants to be in congress so he can vote on issues like unemployment benefits. But his campaign has manipulated the system to avoid paying the taxes that fund these unemployment benefits. The irony here is so thick you could cut it with a knife.”

Kissell's campaign says all of its employees have been treated as independent contractors who pay their own taxes, although field workers hired this month will be full-time employees whose taxes will be paid by the campaign.


Another Republican who voted to extend jobless benefits was Rep. Patrick McHenry of Cherryville. Unemployment rates in 9 of his ten 10th District counties exceed the state average.

McHenry also faces what could be a tough fight against Democrat Daniel Johnson.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gov candidates debate debates

Democrat Bev Perdue agreed today to five debates with Republican Pat McCrory. For McCrory, that's not enough.

Perdue's campaign said she'll debate five times starting June 21 in Atlantic Beach before the N.C. Bar Association. The other debates are spread out, ending with an Oct. 15 face-off in Charlotte.

"We've agreed to five debates, it's more than any recent gubernatorial campaign in North Carolina," says Perdue spokesman David Kochman. "It provides a very aggressive schedule and good opportunity for voters to hear about the candidates."

McCrory has agreed to seven debates, says his manager, Richard Hudson.

“Pat has agreed to debate anywhere and everywhere,” he says. “Let’s get on with the discussion of the issues so the voters of North Carolina can make an educated choice for the person to lead this state.”

McCrory questioned why Perdue didn't list events sponsored by the N.C. Press Association and the N.C. Association of Broadcasters. Kochman said she'll be at the press association event, though it's not a debate.

As for the broadcasters' gathering, he said, "We've accepted five debates. Unfortunately we can't accept every invitation that comes our way."

The debates both sides have agreed to:
-- 6/21: North Carolina Bar Association, Atlantic Beach.
-- 8/19: WTVD, Durham.
-- 9/9: Capital Broadcasting/WRAL, Raleigh.
-- 9/19: Public School Forum/Education: Everybody's Business Coalition,
-- 10/15: Charlotte-Mecklenburg League of Women Voters/WSOC/WTVI,

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Heimlich heard round the world

It's hard for a candidate for lieutenant governor to get much attention in his own state, let alone anywhere else. But N.C. Republican Robert Pittenger has found himself on national TV and newspapers around the world.

And all he did was choke.

Pittenger was eating lunch at Saturday's GOP convention in Greensboro, sitting next to U.S. Rep. Howard Coble across a dais from former presidential candidate Mick Huckabee, the luncheon speaker. Coble said something funny, Pittenger started laughing and choked. As others sat around, Huckabee rushed over and gave him the Heimlich, saving the day if not more.

The account brought a brief mention in Sunday's Observer. But it brought Pittenger and Huckabee on "Fox & Friends" Monday morning and mentions on other network newscasts, including MSNBC's "Hardball."

The story was carried by The Australian ("Huckabee saves fellow Republican from choking"), The New Zealand Herald ("Huckabee is Heimlich hero"), and was picked up by Agence France-Presse, among others.

Huckabee, who had trained as an emergency medical technician, told ABC News it was the third time he'd saved someone from choking by using the Heimlich.

Said Pittenger: "I am not coordinated enough to laugh and swallow at the same time."

Friday, June 06, 2008

Who do you like for veep?

John Edwards, if he was ever in the running as Barack Obama's running mate, probably isn't now. There's some good reasons in this NYT blog.

But who is? Or should be? Not just for Obama, but Republican John McCain.

On the Republican side, two Carolinians -- Sen. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem and S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford -- have been mentioned. So have Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Democrats mentioned include a pair of women governors: Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Janet Napolitano of Arizona. And there's always senators like Evan Bayh of Indiana or Joe Biden of Delaware.

Who do you think the candidates should choose?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Rucho-Dulin: 'The gentlemanly thing'

There was no love lost this spring between Republicans Andy Dulin and Bob Rucho. Their N.C. Senate contest was one of the nastiest -- and definitely most expensive -- primary races around.

But both Republicans tried to put that behind them Wednesday night when Mecklenburg GOP officials met to recommend Rucho's appointment to the Senate seat of the newly retired Robert Pittenger.

"Our contest was heated and it still hurts that I lost," says Dulin, a member of the Charlotte City Council. "But it's time to move on. And for the good of this community as a whole, we to have cohesion between Raleigh and the city council. That, plus from the Republican side, we've got a lot of important work to do (for the fall)."

Dulin calls his nomination "the gentlemanly thing to do." Rucho calls Dulin "very gracious."

But the Matthews dentist still has a complaint against Dulin at the state board of elections over Dulin's campaign finances.

Rucho still has to be formally appointed to the Senate seat by Gov. Mike Easley. He faces no Democratic opposition this fall.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

McCain calls for a series of town halls

Presidential debates are usually carefully orchestrated, with high-profile surrogates negotiating everything from the location and audience to the color of the backdrop. Republican John McCain wants to change that.

This morning, in a letter to Democrat Barack Obama, he proposed a series of town meetings starting next week in New York City.

"I propose that these town hall meetings be as free from the regimented trappings, rules and spectacle of formal debates as possible," he wrote. "And that we pledge to the American people we will not allow the idea to die on the negotiation table as our campaigns work out the details."

McCain said he envisions weekly meetings around the country until the Democratic convention starts in late August. He suggested he and Obama fly together to the first meeting "As a symbolically important act embracing the politics of civility."

He said he modeled the idea on an a 1963 agreement between President Kennedy and Republican Barry Goldwater. Kennedy's assassination, of course, ended the possibility.

McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker says there's "an agreement, in spirit, between the McCain and Obama campaigns to participate in joint town hall appearances. Earlier this afternoon, the respective campaign managers spoke; they both expressed a commitment to raising the level of dialogue, and they will be in close contact as we work together to make this idea a reality."


Obama's campaign returns to Charlottte Thursday with its National Voter Registration Drive. Campaign workers and volunteers will meet at Obama's old headquarters at 7 p.m. at 1523 Elizabeth Ave.

Bob Johnson pushs Obama-Clinton ticket

Charlotte Bobcats owner Bob Johnson, an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton, is asking the Congressional Black Caucus to back Barack Obama-Clinton ticket.

Johnson wrote wrote U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking black official in Congress, urgong his support. He talked about it today with CNN's John Roberts, who asked him if Clinton was aware of his efforts.

JOHNSON: "Absolutely. I talked with the senator, told her what I was doing. She didn't direct me to do it, but she certainly knows that I am doing it. I have been in touch with her all the way in my thinking about how we can move this country in a unified way, and she's prepared to be a part of that unity."

ROBERTS: Let me ask you, Bob, about the timing of this. You're doing it at 7:00, the day after he went over the finish line. Some people might say that by getting out this publicly on it, by going to Congressman Clyburn on it, you are trying to limit his options for who he can pick as a running mate. Almost forcing him to take Hillary Clinton.

JOHNSON: Not at all, John. In fact, let me correct something you've been saying. My letter was not a pressure letter. My letter was an urge and an encouragement.

ROBERTS: So when you say she's prepared to be a part of that unity, is she prepared to accept a slot on the ticket as the vice presidential running mate should it be offered to her?

JOHNSON: Well, John, Senator Clinton has said often that her most important thing is to deal with the key issues that affect the Democratic Party and affect the American people. And she is prepared to do that any way the party asks her to do. If the party asks her to be a part of electing Obama, she is going to work just as hard to get Obama elected as president as she worked as hard to seek the nomination during the primaries.

ROBERTS: But, Bob, obviously, she didn't say -- obviously, she didn't say to you, no, don't do this. I mean, that would be an indication that she would entertain the idea and would probably like the idea.

JOHNSON: Well, there's no question that Senator Clinton will do whatever she's asked to do for the party. And she would certainly, as she said, to some of the New York delegation, entertain the idea if it's offered.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

N.C. Super: 'Not hard to figure out'

David Parker's gut is about to report.

Parker is the Statesville lawyer who long relished his status as an uncommitted Democratic superdelegate. Back in February, he told me, "Frankly, I'm torn both ways. My mind is with Hillary, my heart is with Obama, and I'm waiting for my gut to report."

Park says he's going to declare tonight after polls close in Montana at 10 p.m. EDT. That's the official end of the primary season. So who will he choose?

"You do have a brain, I don't think it's too hard to figure out what an announcement after the polls close would mean," he says.

More uncommitted superdelegates are expected to announce for Sen. Barack Obama after the primaries are over. Obama already has nine of North Carolina's superdelegates to Hillary Clinton's three. Parker is one of five uncommitted. When he talks about the fall campaign, it's not hard to figure out who he'll come out for tonight.

"The thing that moves me is electability," he says. "And I firmly believe that when Obama begins to talk about issues of the economy ... his issues and his statements will resonate with the public."

For an updated list of all superdelegates, check out this site on the New York Times.