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 nickmackey.com, 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."