Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Missed deadline costs Carl Horn a run at DA

Former federal magistrate Carl Horn III planned to run for Mecklenburg County district attorney next year to replace retiring Peter Gilchrist. He already had a campaign chairman and promises of fundraising help. There was only one problem.

The law required a candidate to be a member of the political party in which he's running for 90 days before becoming a candidate. He switched to Republican from Unaffiliated on Dec. 8, about two weeks past the deadline.

His only alternative would be to run as an independent. To do that he would need 4 percent of the county's registered voters to sign a petition, almost 24,000 people. He's not going to do it.

“It’s important that the DA’s office be run not only strategically and efficiently, but also without any political or ideological agenda," he says. "I was flattered to receive calls from friends in both parties who encouraged me to run. I understand the rationale behind the law, but am still disappointed that our plans had to be nipped in the bud.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

McCrory: A 2012 frontrunner for governor?

Since leaving the Charlotte mayor's office this month, Republican Pat McCrory has been coy about his political future. A new survey by Raleigh's Public Policy Polling may offer him some encouragement.

PPP's Tom Jensen says a year after running for governor, McCrory's has favorability ratings higher than other prospective GOP candidates -- and higher than Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's 27 percent approval. That could serve McCrory well if he decides to run for Congress, particularly in a GOP-friendly district. But, Jensen adds:

It's a little murkier in terms of a future Gubernatorial run. A 42% favorability
rating with GOP voters would certainly start him out in a better position than
any other potential 2012 Republican hopeful but the numbers don't exactly scream
invincibility. McCrory would likely want the primary field cleared for him if he
was going to take another shot at Governor. Still a 40/18 favorability ratio
with independents is impressive, and 21% of Democrats holding a positive opinion
of him isn't bad either. It seems likely that if Perdue's numbers remain where
they are McCrory would start out the favorite against her in a 2012 rematch.

McCrory shouldn't get too confident. Jensen says almost half of N.C. voters appear to have forgotten him. Forty-five percent said they didn't know enough about him to have an opinion?

Ken Lewis sending down shares of -- Ken Lewis?

Chapel Hill lawyer Kenneth Lewis, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, is working hard to build name recognition. In Mecklenburg County, at least, that might be a double-edged sword.

My Raleigh colleague Ben Niolet reports that a poll this month by Public Policy Polling showed 80 percent of N.C. residents have no strong opinions about Lewis, suggesting that they've never heard of him. But in the 704 area code, people did have strong opinions. At least about "Kenneth Lewis."

In 704 land, which includes the Charlotte area, 39 percent of those surveyed had an opinion about Lewis -- and 27 percent were negative. PPP's Tom Jensen said Lewis may be a victim of his name.

A Dec. 11-13 survey of 593 likely North Carolina voters found that 80 percent of state residents are unsure of how they feel about Lewis. But PPP noted that in the Charlotte area code of 704, there are lots of strong opinions about "Kenneth Lewis."

Ken Lewis is the name of the outgoing CEO of the Bank of America. Critics blame him for many of the woes that have hit both the bank and Charlotte.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Poll: GOP has best chance since '94 to win N.C. House and Senate

A new survey by Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling shows Republicans in their best position in years to take over one or even both chambers in the N.C. General Assembly next year.

The poll by the Democratic-leaning company shows voters evenly split when asked whether they'll vote for a Republican or Democrat next year.

"Two major themes continue to present themselves in our legislative polling,"
wrote PPP's Tom Jensen, "which are that GOP voters are more unified than Democrats and that independents are leaning slightly toward the Republicans for next year. 88% of Republicans say they will support their party in 2010 to 76% of Democrats who say they will. Independents express a Republican intent by a margin of 34-32."

For now, Jensen wrote, Republicans "probably do have their best chance since 1994 of grabbing control of both houses of the General Assembly. Of course a lot could change between now and November- it would have been hard last December to imagine things looking as dreary for Democrats as they do right now."

Democrats have seen a former governor under investigation for corruption, a top Senate Democrat accused of insider trading, a current governor with approval ratings in the 20s and a big tax increase to cope with the deepest budget shortfall in memory.

Still, not all Democrats are worried. House Speaker Joe Hackney of Chapel Hill expects to pick up seats in the House.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some Democrats trying to mount primary challenge to Kissell over health care

Still burning over Rep. Larry Kissell's health care vote, some Democrats in North Carolina's 8th Congressional District are courting a Charlotte attorney to mount a primary challenge.

The courtee is Chris Kouri, a former Ivy League football player who ran for the seat in 2002, upsetting a better known Democrat in the primary before losing to Republican Robin Hayes.

“I think it’s a legitimate groundswell," said Mecklenburg County Democratic chairman Joel Ford. "Chris Kouri is entertaining it. And I believe that if Chris gets enough grassroots support he’ll run.”

Kouri, general counsel and director of community relations for Lowes Motor Speedway, declined comment. But even the effort to unseat Kissell, a first-term Democrat in what was for long a Republican-held district, underscores the lingering passion over health care.

Kissell, of Montgomery County, was one of 39 Democrats who voted against the health care bill that passed the House by five votes last month. He was one of just eight from a district carried by President Obama last year.

A Kissell spokeswoman declined to talk about a possible challenge. "The Congressman is doing the people's business and is focused on that," said Haven Kerchner. "He has no comment on politics or his race next year.

Democratic critics of Kissell's vote say they could change their minds if he ultimately votes for any bill that comes back to the House floor. But to see how deep the frustration is Kissell has to look no further than his home county.

"There’s probably a whole lot of people getting in line to run this time." said Ralph Bostic, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party. "A lot of people are probably dissatisfied with the way he voted on health care.”

Bostic is unsure whether even he still supports his congressman.

"I don’t know," he said. "I'm between two opinions.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

Charlotte house bought by trust with possible ties to Edwards

A private trust fund with apparent ties to John Edwards bought a house in Charlotte last month, fueling speculation that it was for his mistress, Rielle Hunter.

Some Eastover residents and real estate agents -- as well as tabloids -- have been buzzing about the possibility that Hunter and her daughter Frances could be moving into the house at 1611 Providence Road, across the street from Providence Road Sundries. However, reports now suggest that might not happen after all.

According to the deed, Alan Simpson sold the house to The Providence Road Trust for $535,000.

"The buyer wanted to remain anonymous," Simpson said today. "I have heard speculation (about Hunter). I could not tell you who was buying the house."

The trustee listed on the deed could not be reached. The trust's mailing address is a Raleigh post office box registered to the law firm Lynch & Eatman. Attorney Maria Lynch is treasurer of the Wade Edwards Foundation, according to the 2008 tax return of the organization founded by John and Elizabeth Edwards to honor their late son. Lynch has not returned several calls.

Three real estate agents involved in the sale would not discuss it, citing confidentiality. But another one who was not involved said agents had been buzzing with speculation that Edwards was buying it for Hunter.

The National Enquirer, which broke the story of Edwards' affair last year, features a picture of the house in editions that went on sale Monday. It said Hunter was scheduled to move in Dec. 1 but didn't after she and Edwards got into a dispute over child support.

Hunter, reached by the Observer last week on her cell phone, declined to discuss the matter.

"I don’t speak to the media, and that comment was off the record," she said. "Thank you for calling and have a great day."

Neither Charlotte attorney Jim Cooney, who is helping represent Edwards, or Hunter's New Jersey attorney Frank Louis would comment.

It was unclear where Hunter is. She has been living in Southport, according to a New Hanover County real estate agent. The Enquirer said she had checked into a Charlotte hotel prior to the anticipated Dec. 1 move-in date.

The speculation over where she'll live next comes as Edwards faces a grand jury investigation. On Friday a Raleigh TV station showed him and former law partner David Kirby at Raleigh-Durham airport walking off a plane belonging to Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a wealthy heiress and one-time friend of Jacqueline Kennedy.

Flight records showed the plane flew from RDU to the private northern Virginia airstrip at Mellon's home.

In 2008 Mellon's holding company gave $3.48 million to Alliance for a New America, a so-called 527 group tied to Edwards' presidential campaign. Prosecutors investigating Edwards have talked to attorneys for Mellon.

Charlotte lawyer Ken Bell, a former federal prosecutor, said Edwards' flight could cause an appearance problem, if not legal.

"It would create a danger of being accused of trying to influence a witness or obstruct justice," he said. "It's dangerous and perhaps inadvisable but not necessarily illegal."

The Politico's Ben Smith reported today that Andrew Young, the former aide to once claimed to be the father of Hunter's baby, is alleging that Mellon paid some of Rielle Hunter's bills.

Meanwhile, the Providence Road house stands empty. One neighbor even baked cookies for the woman she expected to be her new neighbor.

"I froze them," she said.

D'Annunzio lands ex-McCrory strategist

Republican Tim D'Annunzio, a wealthy Hoke County businessman running for Congress in the 8th District, has hired former N.C. Republican chairman Jack Hawke as a top strategist.

"It's obviously a wide-open race," Hawke said today. "Tim has the resources to be a formidable candidate."

D'Annunzio (left) is one of at least five GOP candidates trying to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell but the one with the deepest pockets. He put $300,000 of his own money into the race shortly after announcing this fall.

Hawke was top adviser for Republican Pat McCrory's gubernatorial campaign last year. On Sunday D'Annunzio lost another former McCroory adviser when Chris Emanuel of Charlotte resigned as deputy campaign manager, citing "managerial differences."

Emanuel, meanwhile, was among more than a dozen veterans of the McCrory campaign who met for a holiday party last night at Charlotte's "Tavern on the Green." McCrory said it wasn't a preview of a possible 2012 race.

“I always said we'd stay together regardless of what happens in the future,” he said.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Unflattering book on Edwards due out Feb. 2

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards doesn't have long to wait for the book he isn't waiting for.

"The Politician" will be published by Thomas Dunne Books on Feb. 2, according to The author is Andrew Young, the one-time aide who claimed to have fathered the daughter of Edwards' ex-mistress, Rielle Hunter. Published accounts of Young's book proposal have said Young admits taking the fall for his former boss.

Here's how Amazon describes the book: "The underside of modern American politics -- raw ambition, manipulation, and deception -- are revealed in detail by Andrew Young’s riveting account of a presidential hopeful’s meteoric rise and scandalous fall. Like a non-fiction version of All the King’s Men, The Politician offers a truly disturbing, even shocking perspective on the risks taken and tactics employed by a man determined to rule the most powerful nation on earth ...

"Young had been the senator’s closest aide and most trusted friend. He believed that John Edwards could be a great president, and was assured throughout the cover-up that his boss and friend would ultimately step forward to both tell the truth and protect his aide’s career. Neither promise was kept. Not only a moving personal account of Andrew Young’s political education, THE POLITICIAN offers a look at the trajectory which made John Edwards the ideal Democratic candidate for president, and the hubris which brought him down, leaving his career, his marriage and his dreams in ashes."

UPDATED: What goes around comes around: Young is scheduled to talk about the book Jan. 29 on ABC's 20-20 with Bob Woodruff. Last August on ABC's "Nightline," Edwards categorically denied to Woodruff that he fathered Rielle Hunter's baby. "Absolutely not true," he said.

Young will also appear on ABC's Good Morning America on Feb. 2.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Hackney predicts Democratic pick-ups in 2010

These are headlines no Democratic candidate wants to see: A former governor under investigation for corruption, a top Senate Democrat accused of insider trading, a current governor with approval ratings in the 40s and a big tax increase to cope with the biggest budget shortfall in memory.

"Of course it's worrisome," N.C. House Speaker Joe Hackney said today. "You'd rather not have that environment. But people aren't going to blame Rep. (Tricia) Cotham for Mike Easley's problems."

Hackney, who met with new Mayor Anthony Foxx Tuesday afternoon, was also scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for Cotham, just as he's done for other Democrats throughout the state. Despite the bad run of publicity for some members of his party, the Orange County Democrat doesn't expect to see big losses at the polls, at least for the state House.

"There are some pick-up opportunities," he said, "And we really think we'll be able to pick up some seats on the House side."

Monday, December 07, 2009

Rival tells Harold Johnson: 'Stay out of our district'

Tim D'Annunzio didn't wait long to target the latest Republican in the race for the 8th District congressional seat -- former WSOC TV sportscaster Harold Johnson.

"Voters in our district ... should be offended that a candidate who has never been a resident of this district is attempting to represent them in Washington," D'Annunzio said in a news release.

"We don't need a member of the biased, mainstream media representing our interests in Washington. Our community deserves better than that. What we need is someone who knows how to create jobs and get this country back on track to economic stability.... Mr. Johnson is an outsider who thinks his sports casting background will win him votes. Ironically, the vote he won't get is his own. My message to him is clear - stay out of our district."

Johnson announced his candidacy on Friday and said he'll move from Statesville to Cabarrus County in the 8th District. Both men hope to unseat Democrat Larry Kissell.

Asked about D'Annunzio's comments, Johnson said, "Ive always taken the high road and the high road is going to be focusing on jobs helping folks in the district get back to work."

D'Annunzio, of Hoke County, has invested $300,000 of his own money in the race. At least two other Republicans -- Hal Jordan of Charlotte and Lou Huddleston of Fayetteville, have also announced.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Pat McCrory and rogue helicopters

Republican Mayor Pat McCrory has a lot of memories as he leaves office after 14 years. One of the strangest took place at a city council meeting in 2002.

A man names David Thompson took the podium during a public comment period. For the next three minutes, he took off on a rant that included John Walsh, John Edwards, George Shinn and a rogue helicopter. The performance even caused McCrory to invoke the Boy Scout defense.

It's all memorialized in this Youtube video, which through today, had over 800,000 hits.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Blue city. Blue state. Blue convention?

Three years before the next presidential election, some Charlotte leaders are trying to bring the Democratic Party's 2012 convention to town.

Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess invited former national Democratic chairman Don Fowler of Columbia (left) to meet today with her, Mayor-elect Anthony Foxx and Tim Newman of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

Charlotte was one of more than three dozen cities the Democratic National Committee invited to consider applying to host the convention. Cities have until Jan. 11 to express interest. A host city is expected to be chosen at the end of 2010.

Fowler, who has been to every convention since 1968 and ran the party's 1988 gathering in Atlanta, declined to speculate on Charlotte's chances. But he said the election of Foxx as the first Democratic mayor in 22 years and the fact that North Carolina went for Barack Obama in 2008 wouldn't hurt.

“That’s just a given," he said.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kevorkian lawyer and Edwards backer fined by FEC

The Federal Elections Commission closed another chapter on John Edwards' 2004 presidential campaign today when a Michigan attorney and his law firm agreed to pay a $131,000 fine for violating campaign finance laws in Edwards' 2004 presidential campaign.

The FEC found probable cause of campaign finance violations against the attorney, his firm and his law partner. A settlement was reached in October.

Fieger, who once represented assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, and his partner were acquitted in federal court last year of illegally funneling money into Edwards' 2004 campaign.

They were indicted on charges of illegally funneling $127,000 to Edwards' campaign by recruiting 64 people, known as straw donors, to give the then-maximum allowable amount of $2,000 per donor. According to the Associated Press, Fieger testified that the donors were reimbursed, but the payments to his staffers were bonuses and any employee contributions to Edwards were voluntary.

Jurors said they found Fieger not guilty because the government failed to prove he knew he was breaking the law.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Hackney's advice to Foxx and Lassiter

Whatever their differences, Charlotte's mayoral candidates agree on one thing: the city needs a better relationship with Raleigh. Not surprisingly, both Democrat Anthony Foxx and Republican John Lassiter think they would have a better shot at making that happen.

So I asked House Speaker Joe Hackney when the Orange County Democrat was in town this week: How could Charlotte improve its standing in Raleigh?

"The key to that is a closer relationship with the legislative delegation," said Hackney. "The second thing that's important is achieving partisan unity on the issues that are important."

When Mecklenburg has achieved things in Raleigh, he said, it's usually because local officials are united.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Help is right up the road -- on I-495

Speaking to a group of Uptown Charlotte Democrats today, House Speaker Joe Hackney tried to mollify concerns that Raleigh lawmakers don't show a lot of love to Mecklenburg County.

"There's often a perception in Mecklenburg, I am told, that nobody cares about Mecklenburg," he said.

"I can assure you I keep up with it. I know all about 495 ... " People in the audience quickly corrected him that it's completion of the I-485 beltway that is a concern to Charlotteans.

"485, same thing," Hackney said quickly.

Meanwhile the Chapel Hill Democrat blasted Republican legislators for "trying to fight against us at every turn" during the last legislative session. He outlined the difficulty of balancing a state budget that had a $4.6 billion shortfall. The Democratic controlled General Assembly used a package of cuts and tax hikes and federal stimulus money to balance the budget.

"We did what we had to do to protect education and our universities," he said, adding that Republicans did nothing but ridicule Democratic proposals. "This session (they) were not serious about government ... It's a national trend."

My colleague Ben Niolet posted this from the N.C. Republican Party:

N.C. Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer couldn't resist poking fun at a gaffe House Speaker Joe Hackney made while trying to show he is knowledgable about issues related to Charlotte.
Hackney mistakenly referred to Charlotte's incomplete Interstate 485 as "495."
"Despite his selfless attention to Charlotte’s roads, Hackney struck an oratorical pothole when he didn’t know which road he was talking about, and had to be corrected by the audience," Fetzer said. "Speaker Hackney went to Charlotte to demonstrate his awareness of the Queen City’s needs and laid an egg. Let’s hope he didn’t take the wrong road home to Chapel Hill.
"The Speaker should know his roads. And not just the ones that curve sharply to the left,” Fetzer said.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Outtakes from the Bill Belk hearing

Some points that didn't make the paper from Mecklenburg Judge Bill Belk's hearing before the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission Wednesday:

-- Over two days of hearing, Belk had blasted Paul Ross, the commission's executive director. Wednesday he accused him of bullying, being the source of leaks and acting in a way that was "not civilized." He also seemed to imply Ross was involved in a cover-up. Ross had previously described a February confrontation in which Belk accused him "of being a liar."

During a break Wednesday, Belk walked up to Ross. "I hope someday we could have a good relationship," he said. Though I couldn't hear all of Ross's response, he told him he'd offered "a lot of misinformation." He didn't look ready to add the judge to his Christmas card list.

-- At some points, it was hard to tell who was hard to tell who was on trial: Belk or The Observer. He criticized the paper for publishing stories as far back as January about his apparent conflict in staying on the board of Sonic Automotive, and listing his annual compensation from Sonic ($143,502.)

He accused the paper of "character assassination" and trying to foment "class warfare."

-- He pointed to an editorial after his November election that suggested judges be appointed, not elected. "A lot of people have used me as the poster boy of why we should have appointment of of judges," he said.

-- Belk insisted serving on the board of Sonic is no conflict. If Sonic ever showed up in court, he said, he would simply recuse himself. "I recuse myself from cases of shoplifting at Belk's," he said, "because I would probably try to hang them."

-- Belk seemed very confident that Sonic, run by his friend Bruton Smith, would provide him with health insurance when his current policy with Monroe Hardware expires in May. A Sonic spokesman said while there have been discussions, the company doesn't offer insurance to directors. "It has not been established yet," Belk acknowledged. "Should not be a problem."

-- Despite three opinions -- including one from the state Supreme Court --- that the Code of Judicial Conduct bars service on corporate boards, Belk seemed confident that it doesn't really. "All the case law is in my favor," he told the commission.... Let's be realistic. I did the research.... All I did was do my homework. How can you penalize somebody for knowledge?"

-- Belk tried to turn a prosecution witness into a character witness. Supreme Court Clerk Christie Speir Cameron testified about a letter she sent Belk on behalf of the court. "How long have we known each other?" Belk began. Cameron said she had only seen him "three or four times" in college.

-- District Judge Rebecca Knight, who helped coach new judges at a workshop in December, said she couldn't uunderstand why Belk had so many questions at the time about his membership on the board of Sonic. "I couldn't figure out why he wanted to be on the board of a hamburger restaurant," she said.

-- Belk said he suspected early that Chief Judge Lisa Bell didn't like him. "A dog knows when somebody doesn't like them," he said. "So does a human being."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Playing chicken in Charlotte's mayoral race

Around lunchtime today, someone came into John Lassiter's campaign headquarters and asked Perry Lucas a question: What's with the chicken?"

Lucas, Lassiter's campaign manager, went out to find a person in a yellow chicken suit parading in front of their Morehead Street office carrying a sign.

"Just Debate! Foxx is no chicken," it said.

The reference was to Monday's cancellation of a planned Oct. 27 League of Women Voters' debate between Lassiter, a Republican, and Democrat Anthony Foxx. It was to be televised on WTVI and WSOC. The League cancelled the hour-long debate when Lassiter wouldn't agree to six rebuttals, saying he wanted only three.

The person in the chicken suit -- a widespread tradition in debate politics --- was a volunteer for the Foxx campaign.

"This whole thing ... was just so ridiculous the way John was trying to take control of the conversation," said Foxx campaign manager Bruce Clark. "We thought this (chicken) was a way for the story to live on."

Said Lucas: "It was hysterical, but I was like, I cannot believe they're actually doing that it seemed a little below where I thought we'd be by now."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Pharmeceutical interests leave it to Beaver

When the Partnership for Prescription Assistance “Help is Here” Express pulls into Eastland Mall next week, it will have a special guest -- Jerry Mathers, aka The Beaver.

The Partnership is an outreach effort of an industry trade group known as PhRMA. The program is designed to raise awareness of programs that help patients with prescription needs.

State Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Charlotte Democrat, helped organize the visit. She says people can bring their current prescriptions for free advice or to see if they qualify for assistance. The tour is visiting areas hard hit by unemployment and the the recession.

The bus will be at the mall from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Mathers, who suffers from diabetes, will appear at 2.

PhRMA and its CEO, former Republican U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, have come under fire from Republicans for supporting President Obama's health care reform efforts. The group has said it's willing to $150 million on a pro-health care-reform advertising campaign.

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio accused Tauzin and his group of "appeasement" and bowing to Democrats.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Poll says no N.C. politician very popular

With raucous debates over health care and a bevy of new state tax hikes, we know it's a tough market out there for N.C. politicians. But a new poll shows just how tough.

The survey by Raleigh's Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, shows neither of the state's two U.S. senators or the governor tops 40 percent in new approval ratings.

Republican Sen. Richard Burr came in at 38 percent while his Democratic counterpart Kay Hagan's approval stands at 32 percent. And Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue? Her approval is at 27 percent.

Of the 14 states in which the company has polled -- including Illinois, Ohio and Louisiana -- North Carolina has the lowest average approval rating for its senators and governor.

"North Carolinians like their politicians less than any other state we've polled this year," said company spokesman Tom Jensen. "All of the rest had at least one with an approval rating in the 40s....

"It will be interesting to see if a Jim Hunt or Jesse Helms arrives on the scene any time soon and is able to retain the affection of a majority- even a bare majority- of North Carolina voters for an extended period of time."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Huckabee helping Dole retire campaign debt

Two months ago Republican Elizabeth Dole was in Charlotte for a fundraiser for groups associated with Mike Huckabee. Now the former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate is repaying the favor.

Huckabee is helping Dole retire a $356,000 debt from her unsuccessful re-election bid. North Carolina's former U.S. senator loaned her campaign more than $2.1 million.

"The Nation lost a great hard working advocate for conservative values when her race was swept up in the Obama tide," Huckabee wrote in a fundraising e-mail this week. "I believe it would be a travesty if she were left with a debt after all her hard work as a public servant."

Huckabee is expected to run for president again in 2012.

Monday, August 31, 2009

GOP health forum Tuesday is (almost) invitation only

Hospital staff and invited guests are expected to make up the crowd Tuesday morning when Republican Sens. Richard Burr, John McCain and Mitch McConnell host a health care forum in Charlotte.

The three GOP senators will tour the Levine Children's Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center at 8:30 a.m. and meet with employees, doctors and patients until 10. The event is nominally open but will take place in the hospital auditorium, which can seat only about 250 people.

"We have tremendous interest from our employees," said hospital spokeswoman Gail Rosenburg. "We are such dominant players in this whole issue of reform that we're pleased to be able to have this event for our employees."

McCain and McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, are doing a similar even in Kansas City today with Missouri Sen. Kit Bond. Bond, like Burr, is up for election next year.

Missouri Democrats criticized the invitation-only event in their state. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has held a series of town meetings on health care, took a dig at the Republicans on Twitter last week.

"More townhalls on Monday. West Plains and Springfield. Open to public. Sens Bond and McConnell having one in KC Mon but invitation only," she tweeted.

N.C. Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has held no town halls this recess.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pat McCrory is eyeing a rematch in 2012

Days after denying interest in a congressional run, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has opened the door to a rematch with Democratic Gov. Bev. Perdue.

In a Q&A with Raleigh's WRAL, McCrory, a Republican, was asked whether he would consider running for governor again or even the Senate.

"Yes," he replied. "Running a state-wide race was a great experience (except for election night!!!) and I am proud of the campaign we ran. We participated in (and most believe we won) every debate and proved that a candidate can run an effective, positive campaign. We lived within our fundraising means, didn’t take any loans, and ended the campaign without any debt, just in the same manner I promised I would govern."

McCrory never addressed a possible Senate run, presumably against Democrat Kay Hagan in 2014. But he was critical of Perdue who, he said, "has done an about face on about everything she promised during our campaign."

"I definitely haven't closed the door on any future political options up to and including governor," McCrory told me this morning. "I think I'd be foolish to close doors."

Last week, after opting not to run for Congress from the 8th District, McCrory didn't want to talk about his political future. "Right now my total focus is on completing my term," he said.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reality TV comes to Charlotte city elections

In the Amazing Race for an at-large city council seat, Tariq Scott Bokhari hopes to be a Survivor, not the Biggest Loser, so he's doing something no other candidate has done in The Real World -- turn to reality TV.

Bohkari, a 29-year-old Republican, has launched the first episode of a three-part reality series called "Campaign, the road to city council." Friend and producer Brian Dickerson calls it "a real and raw look inside Tariq’s approach to our city needs."

Filmed in real time, the first episode lasts just over seven minutes. It's part biography, part documentary, part campaign platform. One scene shows apparently random people at The Square holding handmade signs with a word or two that taken together, spell out part of Bohkari's message.

Bokhari, who helped organize a health care forum this month that drew more than 100 people, says its hard to candidates to distinguish themselves at forums and in the media. So he's trying other ways. His released his first Webisode Friday through Facebook, Twitter and email.

"We're just trying to do anything we can to increase the visibility into our campaign and what we stand for and what we're doing," Bokhari said this morning. "We try to keep our thinking outside the box to use a little cliche."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

8th District update: Is Hayes running again?

Is Republican Robin Hayes planning a rematch with the guy who took his Congressional seat?

Depends who you ask.

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican and top recruiter for the National Republican Congressional Committee, is in North Carolina this week checking out potential GOP candidates for several House seats held by Democrats. That includes the 8th District, which Democrat Larry Kissell won from Hayes last November.

"I don't believe Robin's going to run again," McCarthy told me this morning. "I would not rule that out (but) Robin's been very helpful in helping us find somebody."

Reached by email, Hayes sent back a quick response about his plans from his BlackBerry: "As yet, undetermined."

Hayes, who held the seat for five terms, could be Kissell's worst nightmare. In 2008 the wealthy textile heir spent $3.8 million on the race to Kissell's $1.5 million. And in an off-year, Kissell won't have a Barack Obama tailwind like he did last year.

"I believe the climate is going to be much different than the last two election cycles," McCarthy said. "You look at town hall meetings and others, there's a frustration out there. People are looking for new faces, fresh ideas."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Enquirer: DNA tests show Edwards is the daddy

The National Enquirer, which has been all over the John Edwards' story since breaking it over a year ago, today claims DNA tests have proven that the former Democratic presidential candidate is the father of his mistress's baby.

In what the tabloid calls a BOMBSHELL WORLD EXCLUSIVE!, it says Edwards has secretly undergone a paternity test, and that it proves he's the father of Frances Quinn Hunter, Rielle Hunter's daughter who was born in February 2008.

The paper says lawyers for Edwards are "privately hammering out" child support payments. It cites "multiple sources" that they don't name.

Rielle Hunter, with daughter in tow, appeared before a grand jury in Raleigh on Aug. 6. Prosecutors are looking at whether Edwards misused campaign funds in any payments that may have been used as hush money.

A lawyer for Edwards could not be reached this morning. [UPDATE: Raleigh attorney Wade Smith, among those representing Edwards, declined to comment.]

Edwards has denied he's the father. In a statement last year, he wrote he had "not been engaged in any activity of any description that requested, agreed to or supported payments of any kind to the woman or to the apparent father of the baby."

The Enquirer last year published photos it alleged showed Edwards holding the baby at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Charlotte candidates meet voters tonight

Charlotte's leading mayoral candidates as well as 20 city council candidates will meet voters tonight at separate events.

-- Democrat Anthony Foxx and Republican John Lassiter have been invited to speak to the Third Ward neighborhood organization. They'll discuss uptown issues from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Gateway YMCA, 900 W. Trade Street, Suite 100. It's unclear whether Republican mayoral candidates Jack Stratton and Martin Davis also will appear.

-- At-large council candidates and those from Districts 1, 4 and 5 will talk about East Charlotte at Hickory Grove Recreation Center Gymnasium, 6709 Pence Rd. The forum starts at 6:30 p.m. The forum is sponsored by Charlotte East Community Partners.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Foxx-Lassiter: Who's ahead depends on the poll

Republican mayoral candidate John Lassiter found some good news in a recent poll. But how good was it?

Cornerstone Solutions, a Raleigh-based polling firm, found that Lassiter leads Democrat Anthony Foxx, 42 percent to 26 percent, with 32 percent undecided. The findings are based on an automated phone survey of 401 Charlotteans.

A poll for Foxx, meanwhile, shows the race a dead heat.

Rule number 1: Be wary of polls done by a campaign for their candidate. Rule number 2: Be wary of all political polls, especially without several to go by and compare.

Cornerstone is a Republican consulting firm that also does polling. "We have no horse in this race," says partner Chris Sinclair of Raleigh.

Foxx campaign manager Bruce Clark questions Cornerstone's methodology. For example, while 34 percent of Charlotte voters are black, less than 14 percent of those in the Cornerstone survey identified themselves as African American. Almost 12 percent refused to disclose their race. Black voters are more likely to vote Democratic.

"Our poll," says Clark, "more accurately represents the breakdown of voters in the city."

Sinclair stands by his sample. He says part of the discrepancy could lie with those who refused to answer the race question. And he says his statisticians weighted the results based on the number of registered voters.

"We weighted it appropriately and feel good about the outcomes," he says.

One advantage of sites like is that they present a number of polls on the same race over time, showing patterns.


Foxx and Lassiter will talk about their views of uotown Tuesday night at the Third Ward neighborhood meeting at the Gateway YMCA, 900 W. Trade St. It starts at 7 p.m.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Free Market Warrior still fighting

The Free Market Warrior is getting more attention for going out of business than it got for going in.

Loren Spivack says officials at Concord Mills mall have terminated the lease on his kiosk effective at the end of next week. Called the Free Market Warrior, it sells conservative merchandise including "Impeach Obama" bumper-stickers. Mall officials have declined to talk about their decision.

But conservative blogs and some national news outlets haven't shied away.

Fox Business is hoping to put Spivack on the air today. The Drudge Report has linked to the story.

Spivack blames politics and notes mall owner Mel Simon is a big Democratic contributor. In an effort to show the mall tolerates other merchandise a lot of people might find offensive, he's posted photos online.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sex, lies -- and videotape?

More news today on the Carolinas' resident bad boys.

-- S.C. Republican Gov. Mark Sanford continues to fend off calls for his resignation following his admission of an affair with an Argentine woman and his use of state money to visit her a few years ago. Now a York County Republican says he's planning a tea party-size rally next week if the governor is still there.

Glenn McCall, chairman of the York County GOP and one of the state's two national party committeemen, says he wants GOP legislators to rise up and demand Sanford's resignation. If the governor refuses, McCall and others have already talked about organizing a rally at the Capitol next week to pressure him to step down.

"We’re just calling on our elected officials to be statesmen," he says, "and let's stop playing politics and do the right thing for the state of South Carolina and for the Republican Party.... It's not about the governor anymore. It's bigger. It's about the state of South Carolina."

-- Five years to the day after being picked to be John Kerry's 2004 running mate, former N.C. Sen. John Edwards was back in the news -- for an alleged sex tape.

Last year former aide Andrew Young claimed to be the father of Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter's baby. He has been peddling a book to N.Y. publishers. Monday the New York Daily News reported that Young's book will claim that not only is Edwards the baby's father, but that
Young found a purported sex tape involving the former Democratic presidential candidate.

Stay tuned. Or not.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sanford: 'What I did was wrong.'

S.C. Mark Sanford, often mentioned as a possible Republican presidential, explained his mysterious six-day absence by acknowledging an affair with an Argentinian woman who he called "a dear, dear friend."

Hours after a reporter for The State spotted him in Atlanta getting off a plane from Argentina, Sanford held one of the most candid political news conferences in memory. He admitted his infidelity.

"The bottom line is I've been unfaithful to my wife," he said, his voice occasionally breaking. "I developed a relationship with a dear, dear friend from Argentina....

"I've let down a lot of people. Let me first of all apologize to my wife, Jenny,...and my boys ... who I've let down in a profound way. This is the first step on what will be a very long process on that front."

Sanford said he met the woman eight years ago and their friendship started on a casual basis but developed into more about a year ago. Asked if his wife knew about the affair, he said they had been "working through this thing for about the last five months."

He said he and the woman realized the affair couldn't last. "I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Want to weigh in on Jim Black? Here's how.

Judging from emails, phone calls and online comments, a lot of people have opinions about our story today on the effort to reduce Jim Black's prison sentence or move him closer to home.

Lawyers for the former N.C. House speaker, who is serving five years for corruption in Lewisburg, Pa., have organized a letter-writing campaign to commute his sentence or at least get him moved back to North Carolina. They cite his ailments as well as his wife's recent diagnosis with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease.

About 150 people have written in support of Black. Not everybody is sympathetic.

"The key piece to remember is that Jim Black had a chance to get a shorter prison sentence," says Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina, whose research into Black's campaign contributions helped set the stage for his prosecution. "There was a considerable period of time between his conviction and his sentencing when prosecutors sought his cooperation in their investigation of corruption, but he gave them no help....

"So if he wants a reduced prison time now, does that mean he's changed his mind and is ready to tell the truth about the full extent of pay-to-play politics in North Carolina?"

How do you feel about Black's sentence?

To argue for or against the commutation of his sentence, write:

Ronald L. Rodgers

Pardon Attorney

Department of Justice

1425 New York Ave., Suite 11000

Washington, D.C. 20530

Re: James Boyce Black

Reg. No. 50655-056

To write for or against moving Black closer to home, write:

Harley Lappin

Director, U.S. Bureau of Prisons

320 1st St., NW

Washington, D.C. 20534

Re: James Boyce Black
Reg. No. 50655-056

Friday, June 19, 2009

Vinroots pledge $1 million for UNC

Former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot and his wife Judy have pledged $1 million to UNC Chapel Hill's School of Government to honor of his friend and former law partner, Bob Bradshaw Jr.

The university announced the gift this afternoon. It's the largest gift ever to the School of Government.

"Judy and Richard Vinroot have shown extraordinary generosity and thoughtfulness in creating this new professorship and fellowship," Mike Smith, the school's dean said in a statement.

Bradshaw, now retired, was a GOP leader in Mecklenburg County who went on to become chairman of the state party. Vinroot, one of his proteges, served two terms as mayor and ran for governor.

Of the money, $666,000 will be matched by a state fund to create the $1 million Robert W. Bradshaw Jr. Distinguished Professorship. Another $334,000 will establish the Robert W. Bradshaw Jr. Public Administration Fellowship.

"Bob Bradshaw spent many years encouraging good people to enter public service, and then mentoring them once they did so," Vinroot said in a statement. "Wonderful examples of this are former Gov. Jim Martin and 9th District Congressman Alex McMillan, both of whom are among Bob's protégés.

"I'm most grateful for what Bob did for me personally, but more so for what he's done for everyone in North Carolina throughout his professional life. Accordingly, Judy and I can think of no better way to honor Bob than at the School of Government, where public service is the essence of their mission."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Foxx, Lassiter put styles on display at JCSU

Adding police? Moving a bookstore? Those were among the ideas that Charlotte mayoral candidates Anthony Foxx and John Lassiter outlined this morning to help overcome Charlotte's economic barriers.

The two spoke at a breakfast for the Charlotte Chamber's Inter City Visit at Johnson C. Smith University.

Foxx, a Democrat, talked about the importance of reducing crime in areas such as the Beatties Ford Road corridor, and touted a new police substation in the area to do just that. He also wants to streamline zoning and other regulations to make it easier for low-income areas to develop.

Lassiter, a Republican, threw a challenge to their host, JCSU President Ron Carter. Move the campus bookstore outside the school's fences to create a link to the community that could also spur other development.

He said such moves, along with city-aided development along Trade Street west of I-77 would help break the "noose" formed by that interstate and I-277 around the center city.

The two added their own styles to the discussion.

Foxx got personal in underscoring the racial and economic gaps in Charlotte today. He showed slides of himself as a boy with his grandmother, growing up a couple miles from the campus. He also showed a picture of the late Joe Martin, who got to know Foxx at West Charlotte High and wrote a recommendation that helped him get into Davidson College.

"Where are the Anthony Foxx's and Joe Martin's coming together now?" he asked.

Lassiter outlined more specifics -- extension of the Gold Rush trolley to JCSU, for example -- and touted his own life experience as a member of the school board and city council.

He described how he's bridged community divides by supporting renovations of inner-city schools and reaching out to minority contractors. Charlotte, he said, has to "find a way to do the kinds of things that bridge our relationships and work together."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Edwards breaks silence in Post interview

Former Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards broke a long silence in an interview published online today in the Washington Post.

In his first extended interview since confirming an affair on ABC's Nightline last summer, he refused to discuss his mistress Rielle Hunter, her baby, his wife Elizabeth's new memoir or a grand jury probe into whether he illegally used campaign money to pay Hunter.

He did talk about a recent trip to El Salvador to build houses for the poor. But mostly, the paper said, he has spent "many long hours in the big house" in Chapel Hill.

He told the paper he has no plans to restore his reputation. That's not "something I'm focused on," he said. "The only relevance of it at all is my ability to help people," he told the Post. "That's the only reason it matters."

The story quoted a disappointed mother from Greene County where Edwards started a pilot program called College for Everyone that all but guaranteed a college education to kids who couldn't afford it. He ended the program a week after confirming his affair.

The paper also talked to residents of New Orleans who felt deceived after an aid program he promised in 2007 never fully materialized.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Perdue's popularity drops

Gov. Bev Perdue, in office less than six months, has seen her approval ratings go one way -- down.

A new survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, shows her popularity fell from 34 percent last month to 30 percent. And 53 percent of North Carolinians disapprove of the job she's doing. That's the lowest approval of a N.C. governor since the firm started in 2001.

According to PPP's Tom Jensen, Perdue has lost support in her own party. She once had a 66 percent approval among Democrats. It's now 46 percent.

Since taking office in January, Perdue's hands have been largely tied by a budget shortfall of over $4 billion. She's overseen a state government that's made painful cuts in education and other areas with more on the horizon.

"Previous polling showed she was unpopular with teachers and state employees, two key elements of the Democratic coalition," Jensen says on his blog. "And the realities of the economy have kept her from rolling out and developing the sorts of programs that might win her popularity with progressive voters.

"It's also pretty clear that voters in the state are now holding her responsible for the tough economic climate, where Washington absorbed most of the blame during the Bush years. PPP is finding unusually low approval ratings for Governors in several states right now even as the President remains popular."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Elizabeth Dole -- too busy to look back

Elizabeth Dole isn't slowing down.

North Carolina's former Republican senator was in Charlotte this morning for a fundraiser for two groups associated with Mike Huckabee, the former and possibly future GOP presidential candidate.

Dole said she sandwiched the appearance between a morning stop at Charlotte's Loaves & Fishes food bank and afternoon visits to the Charlotte Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and Thompson Child & Family Focus. She said she supports them all through the Elizabeth Dole Charitable Foundation.

On her way out, Dole, who turns 73 next month, was asked if she's enjoying retirement.

"Not retirement, no," she bristled. "Catching up on my life."

She talked about visiting Normandy last weekend with her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole. She recounted how they both spend a couple hours most Saturdays at Washington's World War II Memorial, which her husband raised money for, greeting vets flown in by the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit that flies vets to the memorials.

"It really is very emotional," Dole said.

She doesn't think much about her loss to Democrat Kay Hagan.

"I'm not one who looks back," she said. "I'm the kind of person who puts total energy and focus into whatever I'm doing."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How would YOU solve N.C.'s budget problem?

Yesterday's blog about Republican Pat McCrory's criticism of a Democratic tax proposal elicited a lot of comments. All of which beg the question: So what would you do?

Here's the deal. The state has a $4.6 billion plus budget shortfall. That amounts to more than 20% of the budget.

House Democrats have a $784 million tax package that includes hikes in the sales tax and income taxes on people earning more than $200,000. The Senate budget would raise taxes by $580 million. Both budgets -- along with the governor's -- would slash spending by billions.

Teachers, including my son's high school baseball coach, are already getting laid off. Prisons and museums would close. College tuition's going up. Other cuts are being felt across the state.

So what would you do?

Don't want taxes? Take a look at the House budget and let me know where you'd cut. For suggestions from the liberal side, go to the N.C. Justice Center budget reports. For a more conservative take, check out the John Locke Foundation's alternative budget.

Want to minimize cuts? Then how would you find some more money? What taxes would you raise? Or would you do what the Senate might do, extend the lost of services that could be taxed?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

McCrory blasts House tax proposal

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory this morning ripped a tax proposal by N.C. House Democrats that would raise some income taxes to help close a $4 billion budget shortfall.

The House is considering a $940 million tax package today that would raise the sales tax and income taxes for those earning more than $200,000 a year.
"It's the last thing you need to do during a recession," he said. "The income tax is the most harmful tax to raise because you're only punishing those who are actually working ... This hurts our economic development efforts here in Charlotte, North Carolina ... when there's a cheaper place to live."

McCrory, last year's GOP gubernatorial nominee, said he worries that raising income taxes on the affluent could drive businesses from North Carolina.

Asked how he would deal with the record shortfall, McCrory offered no specifics but referred back to his 2008 campaign.

In October, when forecasters predicted a $2 billion shortfall, McCrory and Democrat Bev Perdue both said they opposed tax hikes and would convene expert panels to identify cuts and efficiencies in state government. Perdue Monday called on the House to include new taxes in its budget.

Tax policy will be part of McCrory's speech Friday at the GOP state convention in Raleigh.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Vinroot in Tiananmen: Witness to history 20 years ago

Richard Vinroot had just been in China a few hours that June night in 1989 when he and two friends found themselves in a Tiananmen Square roiling with 200,000 pro-democracy protesters.

Not far away, protesters attacked a soldier atop an armored personnel carrier as he tried to shout through a megaphone. They beat him, then set him on fire.

“Right after that, I remember shots being fired over the crowd,” Vinroot recalls. “I realized I was in a county that was about to have a revolution.”

Then a Charlotte City Council member, Vinroot had just arrived with a delegation for a Sister City visit to Baoding. For a nerve-wracking week, they became not just tourists but witnesses to history.

For more, see Friday's Observer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Roberts NOT endorsing Charlotte's first openly gay candidate

The manager of Democrat Owen Sutkowski's campaign for Charlotte City Council has sent out an email announcing his candidate's Thursday announcement. The bottom of the email carries this address: Jennifer Roberts Campaign PO Box 5243 Charlotte NC 28299.

Is Roberts endorsing Charlotte's first openly gay council candidate?

Not according to her campaign manager.

“Its in no way shape or form an endorsement by Jennifer,” says Henk Jonkers, who also happens to be Sutkowski's manager. He blamed it on a glitch by the the email marketing firm that sends out his candidate emails.

It wouldn't do Roberts any favor to endorse a candidate challenging her fellow Democrat (and fellow Elizabeth resident) Patsy Kinsey, the incumbent.

Sutkowski, 26, plans to announce his candidacy Thursday night at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille. He wouldn't be the first gay candidate to run for council, but would the first who is openly gay.
UPDATE: Jonker just sent out a corrected invitation. "I apologize for any confusion the previous one may have caused," he wrote. "In no shape, or form has Owen received any endorsements from any other elected officials to this point, including Jennifer Roberts (no endorsement). "
UPDATE #2: Bookstore owner Sue Henry was open about her homosexuality when she ran as a write-in candidate for mayor in 1995.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nine years after bitter campaign, Vinroot working with Easley's son

In 2000, Democrat Mike Easley beat Republican Richard Vinroot in a rough and tumble gubernatorial campaign. They've rarely spoken or even seen each other in the years since.

But now Easley's son, Michael Jr., is working with his father's erstwhile rival at Vinroot's Charlotte law firm. The younger Easley, a law student at the University of North Carolina, is one of a handful of summer clerks at Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson.

He and Vinroot have hit it off, going to lunch at places such as the Diamond. Vinroot and his wife Judy have even talked about inviting Easley and other clerks to their home for dinner.

"He's a nice young man and his parents are nice people," Vinroot says. "I just happen to have a different political philosophy and we happened to bump into each other running for governor. He won and I lost."

Vinroot didn't want to comment on the Easleys' legal troubles. A federal grand jury in Raleigh is looking into free air trips the former governor took. Prosecutors have also interviewed the Fayetteville car dealer who loaned a 2000 GMC Yukon that was driven by Michael Jr.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ex-Dole aide named 'Rising Star'

His candidate may have lost, but Brian Nick has won.

The former aide to ex-U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole today was named a "Rising Star" by Politics magazine.

The award goes to people 35 or under "who have already made a significant mark in political consulting or advocacy," the magazine said. It chose 10 Democrats, 10 Republicans and seven nonpartisan activists out of hundreds of nominees.

Nick, a 33-year-old Republican, served as Dole's chief of staff.

He joins a list of past winners that includes David Axelrod, Paul Begala, Donna Brazile, James Carville, Ed Gillespie, Karen Hughes and George Stephanopoulos.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No secret: Shuler aide to lead Democratic Party

The party chairman wants to keep it under wraps. The man in question isn't talking. But it's a not very well-kept secret that Andrew Whalen is about to become the new executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party.

Whalen has been a spokesman for Democratic U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler. He helped run Shuler's successful 2006 and 2008 campaigns.

"I like him, he’s a great guy, and we’re going to have an official announcement shortly," said party chairman David Young of Asheville.

A letter from one party official last week was addressed to Whalen as executive director at state party headquarters in Raleigh.

Whalen didn't return calls. But his old boss acknowledged his new job.

"It was very difficult to see Andrew walk out of the office, but obviously it's an opportunity for a young person to make a huge impact on the state," Shuler told the Asheville Citizen-Times. "This really fits his personality and who he is - to help run the state party. I'm very, very proud of him."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John Edwards: He's No. 1 (in unpopularity)

Democrat John Edwards can now claim a singular distinction -- the lowest approval rating of any N.C. politician.

Eleven years after they elected him U.S. senator, only 19% of N.C. voters have a favorable opinion of the former presidential candidate, according to Public Policy Polling,a Democratic-leaning firm in Raleigh. At 69%, his unfavorables are the highest the firm ever recorded.

Though PPP has only been in business since 2001, it's a pretty safe bet that no other N.C. politician has ever had worse numbers than the candidate who cheated on a wife with cancer.

Elizabeth Edwards, despite dredging up her husband's scandal in a new book tour that raises questions about her own involvement in her husband's cover-up, was viewed positively by 58% of the voters in the poll.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Former Charlottean Alex Sink may run for governor -- of Florida

A decision by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist to run for the U.S. Senate could open the door to the governor's mansion to a former Charlottean.

Democrat Alex Sink was the first woman elected statewide in Florida in nearly a decade when she was elected the state's chief financial officer in 2006. She also was the first Democrat elected to the state Cabinet since 1998.

Crist is expected to announce Tuesday that he'll run for the Senate. Sink has told supporters that if he does, she'll run for his seat next year. Emily's List, a group that supports women candidates who favor abortion rights, Monday asked supporters to back Sink.

In 2002, Sink's husband, Bill McBride, beat former Attorney General Janet Reno in a primary but lost the governor's race to Republican Jeb Bush.

A Mount Airy native, Sink came to Charlotte in the 1970s for a job with N.C. National Bank, now Bank of America. She became president of the Charlotte Women's Political Caucus and a rising star in the banking world.

The bank transferred her to New York and later Florida, where she ended up running all the bank's operations until retiring in 2000.

She has another claim to fame: She is the great-granddaughter of Chang Bunker, a conjoined twin born in Thailand, then Siam, in 1811. He and his brother Eng were the original "Siamese twins." They settled in Mount Airy and married sisters from Wilkes County.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Edwards' book mystery: Who is 'Jim'?

In Elizabeth Edwards' new book, "Resilience," she scorns her husband's former mistress (Rielle Hunter, whom she refuses to name). But she brushes another former campaign worker with the same brush, calling them both "pathetic."

Edwards compares the mistress with a young man who first volunteered in John Edwards' 1998 Senate campaign. She describes him as "John's obsessed fan."

"I will call him Jim," she writes.

Jim "volunteered for everything," drove the candidate around, washed his car, took care of his dry-cleaning. "There was no job too menial for Jim," she said.

Jim and his wife, who worked a late shift, would leave McDonalds breakfasts outside the Edwards' door until Elizabeth told her to stop. Jim's obsequiousness got to Elizabeth until a lie on his part finally forced his departure from the campaign. But he hung around. He tried to vacation where they vacationed and sent daily emails to the Edwards' friends.

"The existence of a Jim made it easier to accept the existence of this woman," Elizabeth wrote. "...My life at some level is tragic. Theirs is worse; theirs is pathetic."

Campaigns, particularly those as intense as John Edwards', are close-knit communities. A lot of people who worked on the campaign probably know him. Wherever he is, he may be as unhappy with Elizabeth's description of him as Rielle Hunter is.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

DSCC lauches new Web ad against Burr

Now that 2008 is so last year, the 2010 campaign has begun.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee today put out a new Web ad blasting Republican Sen. Richard Burr for telling his wife to take money out of an ATM during the banking crisis.

"When the banking crisis hit, Sen. Burr reassured the public saying the systems and protections were working," a narrator grimly says. "In private, Burr panicked, and told his wife to go to the ATM and take out as much of their money as she could ... In times of crisis, we need steady and responsible leaders."

Liberal bloggers and Democrats jumped on Burr last month when his ATM comments were reported. Burr has downplayed the flap, saying he did what many people did.

"When you look at the financial industry that is not exchanging capital, it immediately says you better have a little bit of cash set aside," he told a reporter later.

Burr consultant Paul Shumaker says the new ad is typical of what voters should expect.

"No great surprise, considering (Democrats) are still struggling to find a candidate to run in North Carolina," he said.

"North Carolina is a competitive state, these races are national races. We are going to be on the national stage for the next year and a half. This is part of what one can expect from both sides."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Virginia Foxx sends apology to Matthew Shepard's mother

Last week U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx stood on the House floor and called the case behind Matthew Shepard's 1998 murder "a hoax." A short time later she wrote a letter apologizing for the comment to Shepard's mother.

Foxx's comments came during debate on a hate-crimes bill that bore the name of Shepard, who was brutally attacked in Wyoming and left hanging on a fence to die. Foxx said he was killed during a robbery, not because he was gay.

Judy Shepard was in the House gallery when Foxx made her comments.

In an interview with a Winston-Salem TV station, Foxx said she "simply chose a poor word."

According to today's Winston-Salem Journal, she said she sent a handwritten note to Shepard's mother. She told the station, "if I said anything that offended her, I certainly apologize for it and know that she's hurting, and I would never do anything to add to that."

The paper said the Matthew Shepard Foundation confirmed that Judy Shepard received Foxx's note, but declined to comment.

"We are not commenting any further on Rep. Foxx's remarks on the House floor, or anything that was contained in a letter," Logan Shepard, the foundation's communications associate, told the paper. "Everything that has been said already, is enough. We are trying to focus on the positive, which is, that the (hate-crimes bill) has been passed onto the Senate."