Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dulin: Foxx 'overly partisan' in convention comments

Republican city council member Andy Dulin hit Democratic Mayor Anthony Foxx today over comments Foxx made about the prospect of landing his party's national convention.

Charlotte is vying with Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis for the 2012 Democratic convention.

Today's Observer picked up Foxx's comments to the National Journal this week. In advocating for Charlotte, the mayor said bringing the convention to the South would give the party "an opportunity to take the fight right into the heart of where folks have always thought the Republican Party had an advantage."

"With this one quote, the Mayor has changed dramatically my trust of his true intentions," Dulin said in an email to the Observer.

"Is he selling Clt to fill hotel rooms and fill our restaurants and bring economic vitality to Clt, while advancing our entire city’s brand or is he playing along with dem politics to advance his stature with the Obama admin. Is he in this for all of Clt or is he really trying to bring 'the fight into the heart of where folks have always thought the Republican Party had an advantage.' Which is it. That’s a very legitimate question."

Dulin prefaced the comment by saying he has supported pursuit of the convention as "a bi-partisan effort to advance Clt as a city and not Clt as a battle ground for The Mayor’s political advancement."

Foxx said "absent context Andy raises a fair question."

"But with context I was making the point that the Democratic National Convention had not been in the South since 1988. I mentioned that was one of many reasons Charlotte would be a good choice."

While the convention would be an economic boost, he added, "I really doubt the economic benefit analysis, which all the cities can claim, will be the only consideration."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cantor: The 8th District is 'a majority-maker'

Republican Harold Johnson got a boost today from one of the House's ranking GOP leaders.

Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia headlined a fundraiser for the 8th District candidate at Charlotte's Fireman's Hall. Before the luncheon, the two spoke to two reporters at a news conference.

Cantor, who is going around the country stumping for GOP candidates, called Johnson's race against incumbent Democrat Larry Kissell "a majority-maker."

"This race is critical to our obtaining a majority," he said.

Cantor said Kissell had "cast his lot with (Speaker) Nancy Pelosi."

"He has demonstrated his willingness to go along with a destructive policy," he said.

The two split only when I asked Johnson about TV ads that criticize his support for the so-called Fair Tax. Advocates of the Fair Tax would abolish the federal income tax and Internal Revenue Service and repeal the 16th Amendment that authorizes them. They would replace it all with a 23 percent national sales tax.

"What this tax would do is eliminate the income tax as we know it and the IRS," Johnson said. If it comes to a floor for a vote, I would be there."

He'd be there without Cantor, who said he opposes the Fair Tax. "I'm a support of refining the tax code to make it simpler," he said.

Johnson and Cantor did agree on their opposition to "card check" legislation that would make it easier for labor unions to organize. Kissell is a co-sponsor of the legislation. Cantor and Johnson made their comments standing virtually atop a marble slab engraved with the local of Local 666 of the International Association of Firefighters.

"I sort of realized the irony," Cantor said later.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Leading Republicans cry foul on judge's claim to have support from 'leading Republicans.'

Mecklenburg Republicans are accusing a District judge of deceiving voters by claiming to have been endorsed by "leading Republicans."

Judge Tim Smith, a Democrat, sent Republicans and unaffiliated voters thousands of fliers headlined, "Why do leading Republicans believe Judge Tim Smith is the right choice?"

"The mailer was clearly meant to deceive Republican voters into believing that Tim Smith has the support of the Republican Party and conservative leaders across Mecklenburg County," the party said in a statement. "This is simply not true."

Though judicial races are nominally non-partisan, both parties are promoting their own candidates. Mecklenburg Republicans support Smith's opponent, Matt Osman.

GOP vice chair Claire Mahoney said she's concerned about the party being associated with Smith "in any shape, manner or form." Smith, elected in 2006, has been reprimanded twice by the Judicial Standards Commission.

"There really wasn't an intent to mislead anyone," Smith said. 'They can go to my Web site and see the list of supporters I have, and if they have time they can pull up the registrations of the nearly 1,000 on there and they'll find that a lot of them are Republicans."

Asked who among them would be considered "leading Republicans," Smith named several supporters, none of whom are well-known Republicans. The most prominent former Republican among his endorsers is one-time Charlotte Mayor Eddie Knox, who is now unaffiliated.

"They're are some leading Republicans who support me," Smith said, "but who prefer to remain anonymous."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Johnson shooting for cash with Young Guns

Republican 8th District candidate Harold Johnson is going to Washington this week to meet with GOP officials -- and replenish his campaign coffers.

Johnson, 69, is one of 26 "Young Guns" invited to meetings with House Republican leaders and GOP donors from Tuesday to Thursday.

Johnson was named this month as one of the 78 candidates in the Young Guns program.

Johnson spokesman Bryan Holladay said the candidate will meet with donors who can help him offset Democratic spending in the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign committee and state Democratic Party have spent at least $300,000 on TV ads in support of Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which has spent $128,000 against S.C. Democrat John Spratt, has yet to weigh in on Johnson's behalf. An independent conservative group, Americans for Job Security, has spent $550,000 against Kissell.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Free Market Warrior meets Dr. Seuss

Loren Spivack has made a career of selling conservative-themed novelties, from bumper stickers to bobbleheads. Now the so-called "Free Market Warrior" has gone into publishing.

Spivack was in Rock Hill today handing out copies of his book, "The New Democrat" by "Dr. Truth." It's designed to look like Dr. Seuss' "Cat in the Hat," it features President Obama as the cat.

Dedicated to Glenn Beck ("Who inspires us all"), the book is a rhymed parody of the Obama administration. ("Our Founding fathers / Would turn over in their graves /If they could see now / How their successor behaves.)"

Spivack gave a copy to RNC Chairman Michael Steele in Rock Hill. To see more about the $20 book, go to

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pelosi grabs Carolina headlines

A week after a Republican "Fire Pelosi" bus tour rolls through North Carolina, Democratic U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi herself comes to South Carolina.
Pelosi, of San Francisco, will speak to the Charleston NAACP on Sept. 25.

Tomorrow night in Fayetteville, Republican Congressional candidate Harold Johnson will join national GOP chairman Michael Steele on the "Fire Pelosi" tour. Earlier, Steele will hold a similar rally in Raleigh with two Triangle-area GOP candidates.

Pelosi has been red meat for Republicans. Recent national polls put Congressional job approval as low as 21 percent.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

D.A. candidate returns -- and debates

Republican Andrew Murray returns Thursday from a two-month stint with the U.S. Coast Guard, just in time for a candidate forum with Democratic opponent Michael Barnes.

Not long after he returns, Murray will join Barnes at the NAACP/John S. Leary Bar forum at Little Rock AME Zion Church, 401 N. McDowell Street. It also features candidates for Superior and District Court judge.

The forum runs from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Murray, who has spent 30 years in the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserves, was called to active duty in July to help with cleanup efforts from the BP oil spill.

This will be the first forum in months for the two D.A. candidates.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Pro-business group weighs in against Kissell

In what would be the first outside involvement in the 8th District congressional race, a pro-business group called Americans for Job Security plans to start running $600,000 worth of TV ads against Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell.

It also plans to spend $800,000 on ads against Rep. Bob Etheridge in the 2nd District. The 30-second ads are scheduled to start Tuesday.

The ads, which will run for a month, are expected to criticize their votes for the federal stimulus and other programs.

"Government spending is crippling the economy," said Steve DeMaura, the group's president. "Washington has refused to listen to the people of North Carolina and job creators across the country. When we said 'no' to the so-called stimulus package because it would ultimately threaten job creation, Rep. Larry Kissell voted 'yea.'"

DeMaura told that as of mid-August, his group had spent $6.3 million on the 2010 elections. In the S.C. GOP gubernatorial primary, it attacked Gresham Barrett, who lost a runoff to Nikki Haley.

Kissell spokesman Christopher Schuler said the campaign is puzzled by the attack.

"The Congressman has a lengthy record of standing up for small businesses time and time again," he said. "That's why the Chamber of Commerce thanked him for his vote for the stimulus, his vote against cap and trade, and his votes against the healthcare bill.

"You can look at last week's groundbreaking at Celgard to see that the Stimulus is creating jobs here in North Carolina."

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Dueling polls in the 8th District

Republican Harold Johnson's campaign is touting a new internal poll that shows him narrowly trailing 8th District Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell by 5 percentage points. "This is a real shot in the arm for all of us," Johnson said. "Obviously this race is very competitive."

Not surprisingly, the poll differs from an internal poll for Kissell two weeks ago that showed the freshman Democrat with a 17-point lead.

Both surveys suggest the race is running counter to national and state trends, at least for now.

Recent polls on show Republicans with a lead of as many as 13 points on the generic Congressional ballot. Raleigh's Public Policy Polling found voters favor Republicans in generic legislative races by eight points.

Despite the absence of an independent poll, the 8th District is considered North Carolina's only real toss-up contest by many analysts.

Kissell spokesman Christopher Shuler dismissed the latest GOP poll. It was done by Public Opinion Strategies, the same company that showed Kissell trailing Republican Rep. Robin Hayes a few weeks before the 2008 election. Kissell won by 10 percentage points.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Shazam! Even Sheriff Andy takes a hit in poll

Poor 'ol Andy. According to the latest from Raleigh's Public Policy Polling, even Andy Griffith isn't going unscathed this election year. Here's polling director Tom Jensen:

"You know how bad things are for Democratic political figures these days? Even Andy Griffith's poll numbers have seen a significant decline in the last 2 years.Our latest North Carolina poll found Griffith at 44/22 in the state for a net favorability of +22. That represents a 25 point decline from June of 2008 when Griffith was at a net +47 (56/9.) There's not much doubt that it's Griffith's forays into politics, most recently in support of the health care bill, that are driving down his poll numbers. His 53% favorability with Democrats right now is only slightly down from 57% in the June 2008 poll. But with Republicans he's dropped all the way from 57% to 35%. He's only barely on positive ground with GOP voters, as 31% of them see him unfavorably.Of course Bev Perdue, Kay Hagan, and Richard Burr would all die to have Griffith's poll numbers. They may be down but North Carolinians still like him a whole lot better than any elected official in the state."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Johnson rebuts Kissell poll

Republican congressional candidate Harold Johnson today dismissed a poll done for his rival, Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell, calling it "a desperate move."

The internal campaign poll, by a Democratic firm, showed Kissell with a 17-point lead over Johnson and wider spread over Libertarian Thomas Hill. Kissell highlighted the survey in a fundraising letter last week.

"I'm putting no stock in it," Johnson said today at a GOP rally in east Charlotte. "It's a desperate move to convince people they should forget (Democratic House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi, forget his vote for stimulus."

In his fundraising letter, Kissell quoted from an article about the poll in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill paper. "Kissell said Thursday that while it was nice to have a favorable snapshot of the race, he has no plans to slow down on the campaign trail," the article said.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NRCC targeting Spratt but not Kissell?

In what it calls the "first wave" of its fall plan to take back the House, the National Republican Congressional Committee today released the 40 districts where it has reserved $22 million of air time.

South Carolina's 5th District is on the list. North Carolina's 8th is not.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Spratt of York faces Republican Mick Mulvaney of Lancaster County in what's expected to be a hard-fought battle.

Democratic incumbent Larry Kissell, whose 8th District stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville, faces Republican Harold Johnson.

"I'm not concerned about that," Johnson said today. "We had an excellent day of fundraising. We had a very good week last week. We're moving forward ... I know this is a very close race."

Last month the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reserved $871,000 in airtime on Charlotte stations for Spratt and Kissell. It was part of $7.7 million in TV time reservations the campaign group has made on behalf of Democratic House incumbents. The DCCC has reserved an additional $290,000 in S.C. markets for Spratt.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rappin' with Alvin

He doesn't know who did it, but Alvin Greene likes it.

The 3-minute rap video called "Alvin Greene is on the Scene" is getting some buzz, and some views on YouTube.

The video features shots of the S.C. Democratic U.S. Senate nominee from early TV interviews to last week's speech in his hometown of Manning. Credits at the end say Greene produced and directed the video. Which is not exactly true.

"We didn't do that, but it is good and it is worth mentioning and passing along," Greene told me this afternoon.

Greene is a man of few words but big ambitions. "My campaign," Greene said, "is about ending the recession." How?

"Like I've been mentioning before, with real solutions and real issues that are important to Americans in their day-to-day life, jobs education and justice," he said. "I have real plans and my opponent has nothin'."

Ian Headley, a spokesman for Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, declined to comment on that.

But, he said, "We have no plans for a DeMint rap video."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

DCCC reserves air time for Kissell and Spratt

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $871,000 in airtime on Charlotte stations for two Democrats considered vulnerable, according to today's Hotline on Call.

The online tip sheet says it's part of $7.7 million in TV time reservations the campaign group has made on behalf of Democratic House incumbents.

The DCCC has reserved an additional $290,000 in S.C. markets for Spratt.

The group had $33.7 million in the bank at the start of this month, about twice as much as its Republican counterpart.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Charlotte brings on consultants in effort to land 2012 Democratic convention

In its bid to land the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the City of Charlotte is bringing on two people very familiar with the Democratic National Committee.

Hired as consultants are Tom McMahon, former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, and Karen Finney, former communications director for the DNC.

The hirings are expected to be announced by Mayor Anthony Foxx at a 5 p.m. news conference at the Charlotte Chamber.

McMahon was the DNC's executive director from 2005-2009. Finney frequently appeared on TV news shows as a party spokeswoman.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Poll: Obama could drag down N.C. Democratic legislative candidates

A new survey by Raleigh's Public Policy Polling suggests that President Obama could hurt N.C. legislative candidates this fall.

The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm shows Obama's approval in the state is 46 percent while disapproval is 50 percent. But, says polling director Tom Jensen, "The big concern for Democrats at the state level is that voters unhappy with Obama are planning to vote Republicans for the Legislature this fall by a margin of 80-6."

Republicans are optimistic about winning either the House or Senate or both this fall.

The PPP poll comes out the same day as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll that shows public confidence in Obama at a new low.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Andrew Young: Elizabeth Edwards 'not facing the facts and not taking responsibility'

It's no secret that there's little love lost between Elizabeth Edwards and her husband John' s former aide, Andrew Young. Now Young has responded to Edwards' appearance Wednesday on the "Today" show.

Answering a question from Matt Lauer, Edwards dismissed Young's tell-all book, "The Politician."

"I wasn't particularly worried about anything Andrew Young said," she told Lauer. "His -- I don't mind saying that his book is just -- it's not that he didn't have a good story to tell, he did. But it's so filled with lies that ... I don't consider it having any bearing whatsoever on the truth, particularly with respect to me."

Young responded in an email to the Observer.

"As much as I admire Elizabeth's resilience and understand her pain, I am disappointed that she
is not yet facing the truth about the scandal that hurt so many people, and our country. She is not facing the facts and not taking responsibility for her role in constructing the myth of John Edwards and enabling him to carry on a terrible deception. Instead she continues to blame others and presents versions of events that are distorted. This approach -- an attempt to manufacture reality and deny responsibility -- set the stage for the Edwards debacle and only makes people feel even more cynical about our leaders and politics as it is practiced today.

"Having admitted she has not read my book, Elizabeth nevertheless declared it is inaccurate and false and that I present myself as a hero. Anyone who has read The Politician, or has seen me discuss my mistakes and failures in many interviews knows that I do not consider myself a hero. I am a man trying to share what I have learned about politics, human nature, and myself with the hope that the truth will benefit us all.

"Because of performances like yesterday, people are too quick to write this scandal off as just a soap opera. But there are powerful lessons that John and Elizabeth could teach this country, not about the two Americas - that opportunity is gone. But they could help us learn about the allure of the White House, the pitfalls of being in a position of such great power and how we can improve the current election system so a scandal like this doesn't jeopardize the presidency again."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Harold Johnson is no Young Gun

Republican Harold Johnson, who turns 69 on Friday, is no Young Gun.

Politico reported that the National Republican Congressional Committee has picked 16 candidates for the top tier of its “Young Guns” program, an effort that helps chosen House challengers with fundraising and other campaign support.

"The fresh additions to the NRCC’s list provide the most specific look yet at the House GOP’s highest-priority targets for the 2010 cycle," Politico said. "With the 16 additional names ... the “Young Guns” list includes a total of 39 candidates – exactly the number of seats Republicans would need to take back control of the House this November ...

"Several Republicans competing for vulnerable seats did not get the “Young Guns” promotion. North Carolina House candidate Harold Johnson, for example, whom House Republican leaders backed in a primary for Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell’s seat, has not cleared the bar yet."

Johnson could not be reached.

“As demonstrated by his resounding primary victory, Harold Johnson is running an excellent campaign," said NRCC spokesman Andy Sere. "We fully expect him to reach the next level in due time as he replenishes his campaign coffers and gears up for the general election.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

D'Annunzio: 'A man without a country'

It may take Tim D'Annunzio a while to get over Tuesday's loss to fellow Republican Harold Johnson in the 8th Congressional District runoff.

On election night, the disappointed Hoke County businessman said he couldn't endorse Johnson "and his under-handed campaign tactics." Today he also lashed out at his party on his blog called "Christ's War."

"I am a man without a country," he wrote. "The numbers are in and you are found wanting.There is nothing left. It has been made void and without shape. I am a pilgrim in search of a new world.

"All the scriptural code talk aside (you know Daniel 5, Genesis 1 and Hebrews 11), the only difference between the Republican Party and the Democrat Party is the speed with which they will take us to hell.The brakes are off - full speed ahead."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Poll: Johnson fares better against Kissell than D'Annunzio

A new survey by Public Policy Polling shows Republican Harold Johnson would give Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell a stronger challenge in the fall than Tim D'Annunzio.

Kissell leads both Republicans in hypothetical match-ups, but leads D'Annunzio by a much wider margin.

The poll also showed Kissell with "a steep decline" in his approval numbers since January. Johnson and D'Annunzio face off in a Tuesday runoff.

Tom Jensen, a spokesman for the Democratic-leaning firm from Raleigh, said D'Annunzio has been hurt by critical stories since the May 4 primary, including criticism from GOP officials. In th poll, 39 percent said their opinion of him had grown more negative since the first primary.

"The various controversies that have cropped up around D'Annunzio over the last six weeks have been devastating for his poll numbers," Jensen said on his blog.

PPP is expected to release head-to-head numbers in the GOp race on Wednesday.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two Queens profs win on legislative gameboard

It's been a staple of civics classes: a simple chart of how a bill becomes law in Washington. But the chart never explained the real process.

Now two Queens University of Charlotte professors have won an award from a national award from the Sunlight Foundation for devising a chart that shows a complex process in a simple way.

Modeled on a game board, the chart -- called "How Our Laws Are Made" -- was designed by Mike Wirth, an assistant professor of new media design, and Suzanne Cooper Guasco, Chair of the History Department.

Their graphic has been mentioned in The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, the Atlantic and on Comedy Central, where it was headlined: How a mash-up of Pig Lips and Cow Anus Becomes a Delicious Sausage (or How a Bill Becomes a Law.)

Wirth says he came away with a better understanding of the legislative process.

"I guess I thought like most Americans that this was a slow and convoluted process," he says. "But it's an efficiant process, as efficient as democracy can get. Barring any better style of government coming out, I think this might be the best way to go about it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ex-NASCAR driver weighs in on the 8th District race

Former NASCAR driver Lake Speed is featured in a new TV ad for Republican Tim D'Annunzio in the 8th District GOP runoff.

Speaking on behalf of We The People NC, a Tea Party offshoot that has endorsed the Hoke County businessman, Speed calls D'Annunzio "a Christian who knows the Constitution and our founding principles very well. Like our nation's founders he's pledged his life, fortune and sacred honor restoring our nation to its principles."

D'Annunzio faces Harold Johnson in a June 22 GOP runoff. His ad will air nightly in Charlotte on Fox.

Johnson, a former Charlotte sportscaster, has had his own NASCAR help. Dale Earnhardt Jr., team owner Felix Sabates and racing figure Ray Evernham have made contributions. Three-time Cup series champion Darrell Waltrip wrote a letter soliciting support.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Winners and losers

Some observations about Tuesday's primary:

-- It was not a good day for Charlotte's Black Political Caucus. Despite distributing thousands of copies of its endorsements, a slate pushed by state Rep. Beverly Earle and her counter-caucus were the ones celebrating Tuesday night.

The Earle slate, consisting of Sheriff Chipp Bailey, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Rep. Becky Carney and House candidate Rodney Moore, beat the Black Caucus slate all around. And while the Black Caucus-endorsed Senate candidate Elaine Marshall carried Mecklenburg, most African American precincts went for Ken Lewis, a black attorney from Chapel Hill.

-- A sign of trouble for Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell? While he won 63 percent of the vote in the 8th District, his little-known opponent, Nancy Shakir of Fayetteville, won Mecklenburg County with 51 percent.

-- Turnout in Mecklenburg was one of the lowest in the state at 7 percent.

-- State Rep. Nick Mackey -- another candidate endorsed by the Black Caucus -- carried just two of the 21 precincts in his state House district.

-- Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham needs to work in Mecklenburg. He finished third behind Marshall and Lewis. The handful of precincts he carried were generally suburban areas, and he didn't carry them by much. He won one with 12 votes to Marshall's 11.

-- What to expect from a June 22 runoff when people are on vacation and otherwise occupied? Not much. In 2008, when North Carolina had a runoff for state Labor commissioner, less than 1 percent of Mecklenburg voters showed up. Statewide, turnout was 1.8 percent.

-- Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling, a Democrat-leaning firm, found plenty for Democrats to worry about in the Senate results.

"What the turnout numbers do show is a disturbing lack of interest from Democratic voters," he wrote. "The 426,000 who cast a ballot in the Senate primary represents a 32 percent decline from the 628,000 who did in 2002, and this is despite the fact that after the 2008 election cycle there are more registered Democrats in the state than ever."

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Black Caucus vs. the Counter Caucus

When voters go to the polls in Mecklenburg's predominantly African American precincts tomorrow, they'll meet volunteers handing out some of the 28,000 flyers with the endorsements of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Political Caucus.

And they'll also get a flyer endorsing other candidates -- most of whom were not endorsed by the caucus.

Helping lead what might be called the counter-caucus is state Rep. Beverly Earle. Though she was endorsed by the caucus, she's not happy that some friends and colleagues were not. So she'll be promoting a slate urging the election of fellow Democrats, state Rep. Becky Carney, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Sheriff Chipp Bailey and House challenger Rodney Moore.

"I support my colleagues," Earle said.

So why support Moore, who's running against another one of Earle's colleagues, Rep. Nick Mackey?

"I support most of my colleagues," she said. "Why should I support him if he's putting somebody out there to run against me?"

Earle believe Mackey is behind the candidacy of Rocky Bailey, who's challenging her in the primary. Mackey has denied it.

Caucus chair Gloria Rembert said she'd heard of the counter-slate. She acknowledged that there has been more blowback over this year's endorsements than ever before.

Said Rembert: "You and I will both know tomorrow what the voters say.”

D'Annunzio top self-funder in NC -- and one of top in country

Republican Tim D'Annunzio has crossed the $1 million mark in contributions and loans to his 8th District campaign.

The Hoke County businessman gave his campaign another $50,000 on April 29, bringing his total to just over $1 million.

Only three House candidates in the country -- and none in North Carolina -- have reached deeper into their pockets, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.

D'Annunzio faces five challengers in the GOP primary for the seat held by Democrat Larry Kissell.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poll: Marshall, Cunningham lead Democratic U.S. Senate race

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall holds a narrow lead over former state Sen. Cal Cunningham a week before the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, a new poll shows.

The survey by Public Policy Polling shows Marshall with 26 percent to Cunningham's 23 percent, with none of the other four Democrats in double digits. The margin of error is 4.6 percentage points, suggesting the race could be a dead heat.

PPP also found that 34 percent of likely primary voters remain undecided and 40 percent
say they could change their minds between now and Tuesday.

With help from national Democrats, Cunningham has out-raised his opponents, allowing him to be the first up on television. Marshall is now up as well. Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis has begin radio ads.

For a look at who's giving to the candidates, check out Rob Christensen's story today.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ex-sheriff's email riles sheriff candidate

Former Mecklenburg Sheriff Jim Pendergraph’s four-word description of a candidate who wants his old job has prompted that candidate to blast the comment as untrue, inappropriate and unprofessional.

In an email, Pendergraph called Democrat Antoine Ensley “a Nick Mackey clone.”

“The fact is former Sheriff Pendergraph knows very little if anything tangible about me to make such a remark linking me to Mr. Mackey in such a negative manner,” Ensley emailed Democratic activists in response.

Ensley faces Sheriff Chipp Bailey in next week’s Democratic primary. Pendergraph, a former Democrat, is running for nomination as a Republican to the board of county commissioners.

The spat revives the controversy that ensued when Pendergraph stepped down in 2007.

He supported longtime colleague Bailey for the job. Mackey beat Bailey in a special local party election, later thrown out by the state party for irregularities. County commissioners went on to appoint Bailey.

The drawn-out controversy split the party and the community, often along racial lines.
Pendergraph says he sent the email to one person “because somebody was asking me who to vote for.”

“I don’t deny sending that but I don’t remember who I sent it to,” he said today.

Ensley says it doesn’t matter.

“Whether it went to one person or 5,000 people, to make a comment about a candidate that you don’t know and to suggest that he’s linked to somebody … is totally inappropriate and unprofessional,” he says. “I was just offended by it.”

Ensley and Mackey, now a state legislator, worked together at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department. But he says Mackey neither recruited nor encouraged him to run for office.

“It’s intended to distract people,” he said of Pendergraph’s email. “I would expect a lot better from somebody who served this community in such a leadership way.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fact-checking a Tea Party group

A blog posted on the Web site of the Fayetteville-based "We The People of the Sandhills" carries this headline: "HAROLD JOHNSON--TAX CHEAT AND NON-RESIDENT RUNNING FOR 8TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT SEAT."

Blogger Michael Hyers posted federal court documents showing a judgment against Johnson for failing to pay federal taxes. I got two e-mails from people who passed the documents along.

One small problem -- it's the wrong Harold Johnson.

A check by our researcher Marion Paynter showed that the tax-owing Harold Johnson lives in Pennsylvania, not North Carolina. He's not the Harold Johnson running for Congress in the 8th District.

It is true that Pennsylvania is outside the district.

Hyers, who appears to have an unlisted number, could not be reached.

"If anybody has questions they want me to answer, before looking foolish writing stuff, give me a call," Johnson says.

Hyers' blog wasn't the only questionable post on the WTP Sandhills site.

A Sunday post announcing its endorsements in congressional races -- including that of Johnson rival Tim D'Annunzio -- described the group as a "non-partisan group of American Patriots" that includes "such notable members" as Cumberland County GOP Chair Suzanne Rucker.

Rucker says she's not even aware she's a "member" of the group and, as party chair, isn't endorsing anyone.

"This is the kind of group I fear that can give a bad name to the Tea Party movement," she said. "The misuse of my name ... is an example of the bad things that can happen."

D'Annunzio, by the way, will rack up his second endorsement in as many days from a Tea Party group. Concord-based "We The People NC" plans to announce its endorsement tonight.

Ric Starnes, spokesman for We The People NC, said his group based its decision on a straw poll among members following a forum last week.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Poll shows 8th District Republicans split


A new poll in the 8th District Republican primary shows no candidate close to the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

The poll of 400 likely GOP voters by Diversified Research was commissioned by Harold Johnson, the longtime Charlotte TV sportscaster who now lives in Concord.

Taken April 6-7, it showed Hoke County businessman Tim D'Annunzio at 20 percent, Johnson at 14, Hal Jordan of Charlotte at 9 and retired Army Col. Lou Huddleston at 6 percent. The margin of error is nearly 5 percentage points.

Results for the other two candidates, Lee Cornelison of Charlotte and Darrell Day of Hamlet, were not available. Both have trailed their rivals in fundraising and organization.

Campaign reports due out Thursday are expected to show D'Annunzio, who made millions selling his body armor company, has spent more than $800,000 of his own money in the race.

If no candidate gets 40 percent, the top two finishers would face off in a June 22 runoff.

UPDATE: D'Annunzio has released numbers from a poll he commissioned in late March. That survey, by Pulse Opinion Research, puts him at 26 percent, Johnson at 12, Jordan at 11 and Huddleston at 6. The margin of error is 4.5 percentage points.

"The last thing I want is a runoff," D'Annunzio said today. "I think we're going to win it going away."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Playing nice in the sandbox

With three weeks before the May 4 primary, it's not clear whether voters will get to see N.C. Rep. Nick Mackey side-by-side with Democratic opponent Rodney Moore any more. He missed another chance this morning.

The two were scheduled to answer questions from the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, but Mackey phoned chairwoman Sarah Stevenson and told her he'd been called out of town. On Saturday, he was invoted to a debate at the Mecklenburg Democratic convention. And he won't be at the League of Women Voters' televised debate tomorrow.

Reached by phone, Mackey said he had to cancel Tuesday morning's appearance when an emergency arose. He said he had conflicts for the convention and the League debates. He said he and Moore have already met, including a joint radio interview and a Black Caucus forum that featured several candidates on stage together.

"We have had numerous debates already, and I don't think you could classify that as ducking," he said.

For his part, Moore avoided direct criticism of his opponent, but alluded to recent effectiveness rankings that showed Mackey last among House Democrats. "We need people who are going to be effective, collaborate well with our delegation," he told the group. "In other words, we need people who will play nice in the sandbox."

Mackey declined to respond. "You know I don't get into mud-slinging," he said.

One member of the Tuesday morning group asked Moore if he had anything to do with a Web site critical of Mackey called, Moore said no. But the man who did was also at Tuesday's forum.

Bolyn McClung said he started the site three years ago when Mackey was running for sheriff. It has details of a complaint against Mackey by the state bar and headlines such as "Mr. Perfectly Ineffective."

"I'm not obsessive about it," McClung said. "He's just the one sore spot in the county."

Mackey said he hasn't been to the site lately.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

New liberal party trying to get on N.C. ballot

Come November, N.C. voters may have another choice on their ballot: Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians -- and the North Carolina First party.

North Carolina First is billed as a progressive alternative for voters upset with the status quo in Washington. About 100 canvassers are circulating petitions to get the party on the ballot.

Spokesman Greg Rideout said they have about 10,000 of the 80,000 or so required signatures. He described the effort as an alternative for disgruntled progressives.

"We're going to have a place to go if they don't think they're getting their voice heard by either major party," he said. "(Washington) seems to only work for lobbyists and special interests, and in the meantime folks who want to be heard are not being heard."

The effort is backed by labor groups including the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Rideout, a former aide in the N.C. Justice Department, said the movement isn't aimed at any particular person or party. But if the effort does manage to get on the ballot, expect candidates in U.S. House races in Districts 7, 8 and 11. They're the homes of the three Democratic members of Congress who voted against their party's health care bill.

"It's a possibility that a North Carolina First candidate will show up there," Rideout said.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Legislative rankings become campaign fodder

The ink was barely dry on new legislative effectiveness ratings when they became a weapon in at least one Mecklenburg County race.

Democrat Rodney Moore blasted his Democratic primary opponent in House District 99, Rep. Nick Mackey. The bi-annual rankings by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research put Mackey at 115th in the 120-member House. He was the lowest-ranking of all 68 Democrats.

“Rep. Mackey should be embarrassed by his ineffectiveness as a legislator," Moore said in a statement. "His lack of performance is a disservice to the people of NC House District 99 and Mecklenburg County.”

Mackey could not be reached. [UPDATE 5:47: Mackey said the survey “is based on people’s opinions, not based on any facts.” “When you look at it scientifically, you come up with a different result,” he said. “I’ll put my record up against anyone, freshme or other people, in our delegation or any delegation.” He said voters should check records on the General Assembly Web site.]

The effectiveness rankings are based on surveys of legislators, lobbyists and capitol reporters.

Mackey was one of 21 House members tied for a 100 percent attendance record.

While Mackey was the lowest ranked Democrat, he wasn't the lowest-ranked Mecklenburg legislator. That honor went to Republican Rep. Jim Gulley of Matthews, who is retiring. He ranked 118th.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

McHenry hits back at conservative census critics

On Census Day, U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry has shot back at fellow conservatives who have urged people not to send back their census forms.

"I’m worried about this year’s census," he said in a news release. "I’m not
worried about ACORN rigging the count – we already succeeded in kicking them out
of the census. I’m not worried about the President’s attempt to run the census
out of the White House – we beat that power grab back last year. I’m not even
worried about privacy – this year’s 10-question census form is the shortest in
memory. No, what worries me is blatant misinformation coming from otherwise
well-meaning conservatives. They are trying to do the right thing, but instead
they are helping big government liberals by discouraging fellow conservatives
from filling out their census forms."

McHenry, ranking Republican on the census subcommittee, was responding to reports like one in the Houston Chronicle this week about a partisan "enthusiasm gap" in completing the census. Some prominent conservatives including Texas Rep.on Paul and TV host Glenn Beck have questioned the census. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has said it could make it easier for the government to round up people and them in internment camps.

"Boycotting the census also offends me as an American patriot," McHenry wrote. "Our society spends too much time talking about what government owes us; and not enough on the duties of citizenship and the hard work required to keep our freedom.
Filling out the census is one of the few things our Constitution specifically
asks of U.S. citizens and it is our duty as Americans to take that
responsibility seriously.Anyone who tells you that this year’s census is
unconstitutional and that you are not required to fill out the form completely
is flat out wrong. ...

"We have been largely successful in keeping this count apolitical and it
would be a tragedy if some of our ill-informed friends handed Democrats a
victory at the last minute."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spend 'An Evening with Sarah Palin" -- in Charlotte

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will make her first Charlotte appearance June 4 with a red, white and blue dinner with a main-course theme of "America the Greatest Nation."

Organizers say the $300-a-plate dinner, billed as "An Evening with Sarah Palin," could bring 5,000 people to the Charlotte Convention Center.

"It's going to be a night about America," says Eric Jones, director of the Blue Ridge Educational Resource Group. "We're going to talk about what makes America great, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights. She seems to have the heartbeat of a lot of people in our nation right now. We're not seeking to make this a political event. It's just about America."

The next day, Palin -- along with former First Lady Laura Bush -- is scheduled to headline a Blue Ridge-sponsored Women's Expo at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro. About 2,500 women from as far as Michigan and New Jersey are expected for the free event.

Blue Ridge is a year-old non-profit that works to fight drug abuse and teen pregnancy in the Wilkes County area. Jone says the group hopes to build a residential drug rehab center and a home for pregnant teens.

He declined to say how much his group is paying Palin or Bush. "There's nothing free," he says.

A portion of dinner proceeds go to Victory Junction camp in Randleman.

UPDATE 3:18 p.m. The June appearance will actually be Palin's SECOND visit to Charlotte. She's also scheduled to address the NRA annual meeting at the convention center on May 14.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A first: Every eligible N.C. judicial candidate opts for public funding

For the first time, every candidate for North Carolina's appellate courts have filed their intent to use public money for their campaigns.

Participating candidates for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals can qualify for grants from the Public Campaign Fund. They have to agree to spending limits and raise a specified number of small donations from N.C. voters.

"It shows the success of the program it means that the courts are more accountable to the public than the system of private donors," says Bob Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina and an advocate of publicly financed elections.

Since the program started in 2004, Hall says 31 of 40 candidates in contested general election races have taken part. The Public Campaign Fund has been funded by voluntary tax checkoffs and a $50 annual fee from attorneys.

Proponents say the law prevents conflicts that might arise from donors or groups with interests before the court gaining undue influence.

In West Virginia, for example, the chief executive of a large coal company spent $3 million to help elect a judge in 2004. This year the state legislature has approved legislation modeled on North Carolina's that will create a pilot public financing program for Supreme Court races in 2012.

"North Carolina is rightly setting a national standard that other states are following and looking to," says Hall. "And I think it's a lesson in success in addressing a perceived problem of special interest money in elections that can be adopted for other offices in North Carolina.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SarahPAC targets South Carolina's Spratt

John Spratt is in Sarah Palin's cross-hairs.

The S.C. Democrat is one of 20 congressmen -- and the only one from the Carolinas -- whose seats Palin's SarahPAC is targeting after Sunday's health care vote.

Spratt, of York, has survived 14 terms in a district that's consistently gone Republican in presidential races. Two years ago he got 62 percent of the vote while John McCain was getting 53 percent.

"We’re paying particular attention to those House members who voted in favor of Obamacare and represent districts that Senator John McCain and I carried during the 2008 election," Palin wrote on a Facebook page with the 20 seats literally targeted on a U.S. map.

SarahPAC could mean an infusion of money to the campaign of Spratt's only declared GOP challenger, state Rep. Mick Mulvaney. Spratt had a 6-1 financial advantage over Mulvaney at the end of December.

In Sunday's health care vote, Spratt found himself in the spotlight and at the microphone as he managed speaking time for Democrats, and introduced Sspeaker Nancy Pelosi.

According to Rock Hill's Herald newspaper, Mulvaney began circulating an e-mail petition minutes after the House approved the health care bill. He asked 5th District voters to "formally reprimand" Spratt by voting against him in November.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Huddleston to D'Annunzio: Time to bow out

Republican Lou Huddleston today called on 8th Congressional District rival Tim D'Annunzio to leave the race, saying "he hasn't shown the disposition and the temperament that I believe voters would expect from someone who wants to be their congressman."

"If Tim can't change the way he is he ought to bow out of the race," Huddleston told the Observer.

D'Annunzio spokeswoman Lauren Slepian says her candidate has no intention of doing so.

"Americans are looking for a representative who will fight for them in Washington," she said, "and Tim's not going to back down."

Huddleston's comments were the most pointed public criticism yet by any of the six Republicans in the May 4 primary. It comes on the heels of a flap at a weekend candidate forum in Fayetteville.

Candidates drew cards with random questions. When Huddleston of Fayetteville was asked if he supports eliminating several federal agencies (as D'Annunzio does), he replied without mentioning D'Annunzio. When D'Annunzio tried to respond, organizers told him that according to their ground rules, he couldn't. The party chair grabbed his microphone. He walked off the stage.
"When you walk off of a stage because you're not happy about something ... you're walking away from voters, you're disrespecting voters," Huddleston said.

Slepian pointed to a D'Annunzio campaign poll that shows Huddleston's support in the low single digits.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Rivals blast McHenry in flap over census

As ranking Republican on the House subcommittee that oversees the census, U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry of Cherryville hasn't missed many opportunities to encourage people to take part. But two GOP rivals are crying foul over his latest attempt.

McHenry sent a letter to 100,000 district households urging them to fill out census questionnaires that start arriving next week.

Republican candidate Vance Patterson of Morganton called the mailer "outrageous and inexcusable" and called for McHenry to resign his committee position.

And GOP rival Scott Keadle of Mooresville said McHenry used the mailing "for political purposes." In today's Morganton News Herald, he calls the mailings "an abuse of the franking privilege" that will "add to the mountain of bills that McHenry and the Washington politicians have piled on the struggling taxpayers in this district."

Parker Poling, McHenry's chief of staff, called the charges "ridiculous." She said her office sent them to district voters regardless of party affiliation.

"Our office sent a reminder to our constituents to participate in the constitutionally-mandated census," she says. "Each person who responds to the census by mail saves the government hundreds of dollars in follow-up costs. We're going to continue to communicate with citizens of the 10th District, regardless of political games by others."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Burr's vote on unemployment draws fire

Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky set off a firestorm this week when he single-handedly blocked a vote to extend unemployment benefits. His filibuster also led to the furloughs of 2,000 federal transportation workers and cut Medicare payments to doctors.

When Bunning finally relented after five days, the Senate passed the $10 billion extension Tuesday night by a vote of 78-19.

Among those voting 'No' with Bunning: Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina.

Extension affected many of the 250,000 North Carolinians collecting unemployment, according to the state Employment Security Commission.

Burr spokesman David Ward said the senator objected to passing the spending bill without including a way to pay for it. He voted for Bunning's amendment that would have paid for the bill by closing a tax loophole. It was shot down.

“Sen. Burr supports extending unemployment insurance, COBRA, and other important programs, but he believes we ought to pay for these spending increases rather than just add them to the debt," Ward said. Burr "opposed final passage because this spending was not offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. After all the hype about PAY-GO, the Democrats cannot live up to even their own standards.”

But Burr's vote gave ammunition to Democratic rivals.

“For many of these people and their families, the extension was a lifeline," Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said in a statement. "Sen. Burr has shown a disturbing lack of compassion for his fellow citizens. He is clearly out of touch with the people he represents.”

Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis said "Richard Burr showed once again that he is alarmingly out of touch with the interests of the people."

UPDATE: 1:53.... A spokesman for the N.C. Employment Security Commission said 6,500 of the 250,000 people collecting unemployment in the state would have seen their benefits expire without the extension.

UPDATE: 4:47... Cal Cunningham, the third major Democratic Senate candidate, also weighed in on Burr's vote. He said the vote "hurts North Carolinians who need emergency support in the toughest economy in generations. "

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ulysses S. Grant: A 10th District issue?

Even Ronald Reagan is controversial in the 10th District Republican primary.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry proposed putting the former president's picture on the $50 bill, bumping that of Ullyses S. Grant after more than 80 years.

“President Reagan was a modern day statesman, whose presidency transformed our nation’s political and economic thinking,” McHenry said in a statement. "In polls of presidential scholars, President Reagan consistently outranks President Grant.... one such poll of bipartisan scholars which ranked President Reagan 6th and President Grant 29th."

McHenry's idea got some media attention. But at least one of his opponents doesn't think much of it.

“As much as we all admire President Reagan, I seriously question why Mr. McHenry thinks this is a priority when nearly one in five people are out of work,” says Mooresville Republican Scott Keadle. “... McHenry should focus on the economy and the unemployment rate instead of pandering to voters.”

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Wrangling over Rangel's money

Add Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell to the list of Democratic congressmen unloading campaign donations from fellow Democrat Charlie Rangel.

Last week the House ethics committee admonished Rangel for violating gift rules by accepting reimbursement for trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008. Since then Republicans across the country have called on Democratic lawmakers to return any money they got from Rangel.

Republican Tim D'Annunzio was apparently the first 8th District GOP challenger to ask Kissell to do the same. He says that since 2006, Kissell has accepted $8,000 from Rangel.

"Other Members of Congress that accepted contributions from Charlie Rangel are quickly distancing themselves from him, and returning the money or donating it to charity," D'Annunzio said in a release. "Why isn't Larry Kissell following their lead?"

According to a spokeswoman, Kissell already had.

Haven Kerchner said Kissell decided Friday to give to charity $4,000 he got from Rangel and $10,000 he got from Rangel's political action committee.

Records also show that Rangel's PAC -- The National leadership PAC -- gave Kissell's 2006 campaign committee another $5,000. Kerchner said because that committee is closed, "those funds are no longer available."

Monday, March 01, 2010

D'Annunzio: Abolish much of the government

Republican Tim D'Annunzio, whose own poll shows him leading the GOP race in the 8th Congressional District, has laid out a platform that calls for abolishing much of the federal government.

D'Annunzio outlined his plan in a posting today on his personal blog called "Christ's War." It's headlined "The Shaking, continued (Isaiah 9:5)." He calls it a "four year plan for the revitalization" of the federal government.

"Abolish the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services,
Agriculture, Energy, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Interior,
Transportation, Treasury, and Home Land Security. Any duties remaining that are Constitutional should be rolled into other Departments.

"Social Security and Medicare should be cut into fifty proportionate parts and given to the control of the states. All promises should be kept at a percentage proportionate to the individual’s age compared to the retirement age. The new System should be based on individuals preparing for and providing for their own retirement and health care.

"A private safety net system should be encouraged for those
who fall through any possible cracks in this system. (Church)Implement the FairTax, repeal the Sixteenth Amendment and abolish the IRS. The original rate to be revenue neutral is 23% but the goal should be to reach a limit of 10% within ten years. Any future revisions that result in tax increases must be passed with a super Majority in both the House and Senate."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Liberal or conservative: Where N.C. members of Congress rank

Just in time for the election, the National Journal has issued its voting analysis of members of Congress.

How do Carolina lawmakers rank?

Republican Richard Burr is the 9th most conservative member of the Senate, according to the analysis. He gets his highest conservative score on economic issues.

Democrat Kay Hagan ranks in the middle. She's got the 42nd most liberal voting record, or the 55th most conservative of the 100 senators.

In the House the magazine ranks North Carolina's House delegation among the "centrist" delegations, and South Carolina's as conservative.

Here are the rankings for Charlotte-area House members:

-- Republican Patrick McHenry: Tied for 17th most conservative in the 435-member House.
-- Democrat Larry Kissell: 214th most liberal; 217th most conservative.
-- Democrat Mel Watt: Tied for most liberal.
-- Republican Sue Myrick: 34th most conservative.
-- Democrat John Spratt of York: 165th most liberal; 266th most conservative.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How did a candidate from the N.C. coast end up running in the 12th District?

Republican Greg Dority was a candidate in search of a district.

The 51-year-old businessman lives in in coastal Beaufort County in the 3rd Congressional District. But that's been represented for years by fellow Republican Walter Jones Jr.

Since there's no residency requirement for congressional candidates, Dority ran in the Democratic-held 1st District in 2002 and again in 2004. This year, he saw that a Republican he considered stronger already had signed up to run.

So he looked at the 4th District, centered around Raleigh and Durham and represented by Democratic Rep. David Price. Again he saw that a stronger GOP candidate was in.

Finally he turned to the 12th District, which runs from Charlotte to Greensboro. And last week he filed, hoping to run against Democratic Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte, which is 270 miles, or about 4 and a half hours, from his home in Little Washington.

"The 12th District is really being hurt hard," he says. "That's why I'm in this race, to talk a message of fiscal conservatism and what I think needs to be done to get people back to work."

Dority faces William "Doc" Gillenwater of Greensboro in the GOP primary. But he's already looking beyond that.

"I probably will not overwhelm it before the primary," he says, "but once the weather gets warm and the campaign season starts to crank up .... I’m going to be in that district a lot. And post- Labor Day, once we get into the sprint to the wire, I'll be there full time.”

Dority says he hopes to ride the wave of what he sees as a GOP year.

"I believe there is going to be a Republican tsunami that is going to be greater than '94 by a magnitude of, well a magnitude,” he says.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bowles starts job on deficit

Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina System, was at the White House today as President Obama signed an executive order creating a deficit reduction panel that Bowles will co-chair.

The former Charlotte businessman and former Republican U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson stood behind Obama for the ceremony in the Diplomatic Reception Room.

"Erskine Bowles understands the importance of managing money responsibly in the public sector, where he ran the Small Business Administration and served as President Clinton's chief of staff," Obama said. "In that capacity, he brokered the 1997 budget agreement with Republicans that helped produce the first balanced budget in nearly 30 years."

Obama said Simpson, known for his candor and humor, as a "flinty Wyoming truth-teller."

"If you look in the dictionary it says "flinty," and then it's got Simpson's picture," the president said to laughter.

When the ceremony was over, someone asked another question.

"What's 'Erskine' in the dictionary?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Democratic Senate candidate hopes voter anger aims at GOP incumbent

Sure, waves of frustrated voters have knocked off Democratic candidates in Virginia, New Jersey and, most notably, Massachusetts. But Cal Cunningham, a N.C. Democrat who formally kicks off his campaign for the U.S. Senate tomorrow, likes to think that anger is aimed not at Democrats but incumbents.

"There is a great deal of frustration that Washington is not working," Cunningham said Tuesday during a stop in Concord. "Independents in particular are asking themselves what it's going to take to make government work."

Cunningham is one of at least four Democrats hoping for a chance to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr in November.

Democrats have been on the ropes. Washington is gridlocked. The deficit deepens as recession and unemployment stubbornly persist. President Obama's popularity is hovering around 50 percent.

But Congressional approval is even lower. Most polls put it at less than 25 percent. Even many Tea Partiers blame incumbents of both parties.

"The Tea Party is animated," Cunningham says. "But so are Democrats frustrated that Washington is not working."