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.