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."

Monday, May 04, 2009

Judge Bill Belk: 'I'm in it for the ride'

In his first interview about his unfolding case before the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission, Judge Bill Belk says the ordeal has been "painful."

Belk made his comments in a story published online today by The Charlotte Post. Defending his own actions, he criticized the commission for what he called leaks to the media and implied it had denied him due process. The commission charged him with violating a canon of the judicial code by continuing to sit on the board of Sonic Automotive.

“I went back, studied the canon, got legal advice and then I wrote a letter and asked what was the due process," he told the Post. "Really, this is all about due process because I didn't want to do anything behind closed doors. “I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing."

Belk has consistently refused to talk to the Observer about the case.

"The system has to be addressed," he told the Post. "We have a lot of good judges and attorneys and they don't like this either. I'm in it for the ride. If I have to go to every paper that'll listen, if I have to go to every church... The reason why we're here is we want balanced judiciary. It's been very painful to go through what I've gone through."