Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bartlett: No wiggle room in election schedule

Could North Carolina's elections be delayed again next year?

That depends on the decision of a panel of judges in Raleigh hearing a pair of lawsuits against the state's new, Republican-drawn voting districts. This week the judges declined to fast-track a trial on the suits and scheduled another hearing for Jan. 12.

In an affidavit, state elections director Gary Bartlett laid out a case against delaying the elections. He cited three previous instances when legal challenges delayed elections, in 1998, 2002 and 2004.

In 1998, when Congressional primaries didn't happen until September, he wrote, "turnout was abysmal" at 8 percent.

"Any delays in establishing district boundaries creates an unfair and uneven playing field with a decisive advantage to wealthy candidates and incumbents," Bartlett wrote.

In addition, he said, the state and county elections boards will have less than three weeks from the close of filing on Feb. 29 to the start of absentee voting for the May 8 primary. Complicating the picture is the requirement to get absentee ballots to N.C.-based members of the armed forces deployed around the world.

Even compressing the times for filing and ballot preparation, he said, final lines would need to be in place by Feb. 24 for the May 8 primary to go of on schedule.

"A schedule this tight would put additional demands on elections officials," he wrote, "operating under such a tight timetable can undermine the successful conduct of elections."

Friday, December 09, 2011

Art Pope: 'Maybe I'll go' to Art Pope protest

It's being called "Art Pope Exposed, a community teach-in," and scheduled for Tuesday night in downtown Raleigh.

The event is sponsored by the Institute for Southern Studies and includes a panel with representatives from Democracy North Carolina and the N.C. AFL-CIO.

"Want to know what all the Art Pope buzz is about?" a press release asks. "Curious to know more about his political network and its influence on everything from cuts to North Carolina schools to the state's anti-gay marriage amendment?"

Pope is a wealthy Raleigh retailer who has helped bankroll conservative causes and candidates throughout the state to the tune of $40 million according to one study. In October, the New Yorker ran a lengthy profile of him headlined, "State for Sale."

The story brought national attention on Pope, who had already become a sort of public enemy to liberal groups throughout the state. He's become a target of Occupy groups, who wave signs bearing slogans like "Say Nope to Art Pope." The North Carolina Association of Educators has called on shoppers to boycott stores in his Variety Wholesalers retail chain.

Pope knows about Tuesday's teach-in.

"I haven't been invited but maybe I'll go, I don't know," he says.

"First of all, I would point out that these are 501(c)3 organizations funded by the Reynolds Foundation and George Soros Open Society Institute, which are attacking me because I support Republican candidates and conservative causes. And that is not proper use of charitable dollars which are supposed to be used for educational purposes.”

He also said the groups didn't attack two men implicated in campaign finance violations because they're Democrats.

But Democracy North Carolina, through its own investigations into campaign finance violations, helped build cases against several Democrats. Among them: former House Speaker Jim Black of Matthews, who went on to serve time in federal prison.

"We’ve gone after many Democrats,” said Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina. "He shouldn't feel so picked upon."

McCrory still leads Perdue in new poll

Last month's indictments against three supporters of her 2008 campaign hasn't hurt Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue much, according to a new poll. According to polling director Tom Jensen, that's because she "really didn't have a lot more room to drop."

The poll by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found Perdue trailing Republican Pat McCrory 50 percent to 40 percent. That's barely changed since a survey last month before the indictments against her former campaign finance director and two others.

"The good news for North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue is that she has not been harmed yet by the indictments to her 2008 campaign staff that came down last week," Jenson said in a release. "The bad news is she is still underwater with voters and facing a double-digit deficit to likely Republican opponent Pat McCrory."

But there was good news for Perdue. In a Democratic primary, she would beat state Rep. Bill Faison of Chapel Hill, a critic who has talked about challenging her, by 32 points.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Unemployed Charlotte man runs for president: 'Time ... to think outside the box.’

There are 30 Republicans on the ballot in New Hampshire's Jan. 10 presidential primary. Robby Wells is not among them.

Wells, 43, lives in Charlotte. He was assistant football coach at the University of South Carolina and in 2007 became the first white head coach at Savannah State University, a historically black college. He left that job in January 2010.

A few months later he filed a federal discrimination suit, claiming he was forced to resign because he is white. Last month he received a $240,000 settlement, according to the Associated Press.

Now Wells is running for president. He's got a website and a platform he calls The Gameplan. For the time being, he's running as an independent.

"I just felt with the way things were going in our country it was time to take a stand,” said Wells, who lives in northeast Charlotte.

Now unemployed, he knows he's a long shot. He calls 1992 candidate Ross Perot "15 years ahead of his time. He doesn't have Perot's millions.

"Who better to represent the county than (one of) the 99 percent of us who are not wealthy?" he said. "It's time for America to think outside the box."

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Battlefield for governor's race? Charlotte city hall

Indictments of three of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's 2008 campaign aides and supporters and a new investigation of her opponent have given campaign strategists and ad-makers plenty to work with in their likely rematch. That hasn't stopped them from looking for more.

An opposition researcher has been scouring records in Charlotte covering Republican Pat McCrory’s 14-year tenure as mayor, and even before.

For months, researcher Ian Mandel, whose Washington firm has been paid at least $23,000 by the Democratic Governors Association, has sought records of McCrory’s travel, aides’ salaries, city budgets and discrimination complaints against the city.

He even asked for reports and witness statements involving a 1992 auto accident in which McCrory admitted running a red light.

McCrory aides liken the search to last week’s announcement that the state elections board will investigate a complaint against McCrory’s 2008 campaign against Perdue. The complaint, filed in April 2010, accused McCrory of coordinating with an independent committee of the Republican Governors Association.

McCrory adviser Brian Nick calls both the complaint and the Charlotte records search “frivolous.”
“It’s just another example of wasting taxpayer money to do political fishing expeditions,” he said.

Republicans also have asked for public records from Perdue's administration. It's unclear whether they're destined to be used in the campaign.

Steen jumps into Kissell race with legislative support

N.C. Rep. Fred Steen of Rowan County will become the latest Republican in the increasingly crowded race for Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell's seat when he announces tomorrow in Landis.

Joining Steen will be a dozen fellow GOP legislators, including at least one reported to have considered the congressional race himself.

Steen will enter the race Thursday morning in front of Landis town hall, where he served five terms as mayor.

Among the lawmakers expected to be at his side: Rep. Justin Burr of Albemarle, once himself mentioned as a candidate for the 8th District seat.

Steen will become the sixth candidate to announce for the seat. He'll join Dan Barry, Richard Hudson, Scott Keadle, Vernon Robinson and John Whitley.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Cain to announce plans on Saturday

As his poll numbers continued to drop, Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Friday he plans an announcement about his campaign today at a headquarters opening in Atlanta.

Cain had said he was “reassessing” his campaign after allegations of sexual improprieties, including a 13-year-long affair.

“Before any of the people in the media ask me, I am reassessing because of all of this media firestorm stuff,” he told crowd in Rock Hill. “Why? Because my wife and my family come first.”

Cain’s announcement came at the end of a 30-minute speech at a town hall meeting.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Romney allies rush to defense after new Democratic ad targets him in N.C.

Supporters of Republican Mitt Romney from around the country rushed to his defense today after the presidential candidate was targeted in a new TV ad that began in six markets including Raleigh-Durham.

The ad is taken from a new Democratic website called "Mitt v. Mitt." It shows the GOP presidential candidate making seemingly contradictory statements on issues such as abortion and health care while a narrator describes "two men trapped in one body."

The Obama campaign has been hammering Romney in North Carolina and other swing states, a sign that he's the only GOP candidate the Democrats are worried about at this point. A recent poll by the Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling of Raleigh showed that Romney, alone among the GOP candidates, led Obama in North Carolina.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry of Cherryville, like allies in several other states, came to Romney's defense in coordinated conference calls with reporters. He defended Romney while criticizing President Obama.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Meck Dems: 2011 a good omen for 2012

Mecklenburg County Democrats, still basking in last week's election results, hope to build on that success in 2012 -- and help Barack Obama in the process.

Local party strategist Tom Chumley, speaking to the Uptown Democratic Forum this week, noted that Obama took nearly 62 percent of the county's vote in 2008. That was a margin of 100,000 in a state he won by just 14,000 over Republican John McCain.

He said with turnout efforts like last week's and demographic changes that continue to trend for Democrats, that could rise to 65 percent. If turnout stays the same, that could mean 13,000 more Obama votes in Mecklenburg.

And that could make a difference in a tight race. A recent survey by Raleigh's Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, showed Obama leading most Republican hopefuls in the state but trailing Mitt Romney by a point.

A 65 percent turnout for the president in Mecklenburg, Chumley said, means "we carry the state."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Charlotte Democrat might run for state schools post

Democrat June Atkinson, North Carolina's Superintendent of Education, hasn't said whether she'll run for another term in 2012. If she doesn't, expect a fight for the job.

State Rep. Tricia Cotham, a Charlotte Democrat, said today she'll run if Atkinson doesn't. "If there's a vacancy, I do intend to run," she said.

Cotham is a former middle school teacher and assistant high school principal, Cotham won a special party election in 2007 to replace disgraced for Speaker Jim Black. She has won two elections since.

She's only the latest to express interest in the superintendent's job. The News & Observer reports that Wake County school board vice chairman John Tedesco will decide after the first of the year whether to run.

And state Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, has said he's considering the race.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Polls: Foxx, Stone, Tillis and Obama

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning polling firm based in Raleigh, has polled Charlotte voters on the mayor's race, comments by House Speaker Thom Tillis and other issues on behalf of the liberal N.C. Policy Watch.

PPP also did another poll on the presidential race in North Carolina.

First the Charlotte poll. PPP surveyed 957 registered voters. The margin of error is 3.2 percentage points.

-- In the mayor's race, incumbent Democrat Anthony Foxx led Republican Scott Stone 58 percent to 32 percent. Ten percent were undecided.

-- Tillis recently told an audience that mandatory drug testing for state employees might be a good idea. Sixty-two percent of Charlotte voters agreed.

-- On redistricting, 58 percent supported creation of a non-partisan commission. Now the legislature draws the maps.

-- Asked about "Occupy Wall Street," 40 percent had a favorable view of the movement and 38 percent viewed it unfavorably. But 58% agreed that the weathiest 1 percent of Americans "has accumulated too much wealth and power."

-- On Obama, 45 percent of state voters approve his job performance while 50 percent disapprove. That's about where he's been for the last three months. Among independents, who helped him carry the state in 2008, only 38 percent say he's doing a good job.

-- Despite that, Obama trails only one Republican in head-to-head match-ups, and that's a virtual tie. Republican Mitt Romney leads 46-45.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Groups plan to challenge districts

A coalition of N.C. groups is poised to file suit over new Republican-drawn voting districts as early as next month, a move that could delay the 2012 primary elections.

The groups, including the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Democracy North Carolina, are waiting to see if the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court approves the plans drawn by GOP lawmakers.

The deadline for Justice to rule on new congressional and legislative voting districts is Nov. 2.

"Our organization is concerned about the way the plans are essentially segregating and promoting segregation of voters in ways not consistent with the Voting Rights Act," says Bob Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina.

A challenge has been expected ever since lawmakers approved the plans over the objections of critics.

"I don't think it's any big secret that we’re going to challenge the maps," says Chris Ketchie, a policy analyst for the Southern Coalition. "The only secret is how we’re going to challenge them."
Legal challenges delayed N.C. elections in 1998 and 2002. And no congressional district in the country has been litigated more than Democrat Mel Watt's 12th, the source of four cases that went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Erskine Bowles for President?

They call it part parlor game, part reporting assignment. Politico has launched a presidential race of its own featuring none of the announced candidates, or President Obama.

"The public has had it with Washington and conventional politics," write editor Jim Vandehei and reporter Mike Allen. "It has lost trust and respect in the conventional governing class ... Is there a person in politics, business or entertainment who could harness the public's hunger for something new, different and inspiring?"

To start the ball rolling, they came up with five names: former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles of Charlotte, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers, CIA Director David Petraeus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Here's part of what they say about Bowles: "Many voters seem open to, if not hungry for, a real discussion about tough changes. Ask Republicans and Democrats alike to name a serious and responsible thinker who could lead this discussion and the name Erskine Bowles often tops the list.

"Bowles, 66, is far from an inspirational figure. In fact, he can be as dull as a butter knife in public settings. But he knows budgets, and numbers, and tough choices (he's the man who asked Dick Morris to resign in the Clinton years) and, unlike most, has slapped his name on ideas that upset leaders of both parties but excite deficit hawks on both sides.

"The Bowles pitch would rest on a rarity in modern campaigns: a very specific proposal for the tough budget choices the country should make. He came up with a truly bipartisan plan that took a real whack at America's long-term deficits, only to see the plan abandoned by Obama, who had appointed him to make those choices in the first place.

"The options outlined by Bowles and former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson were not the usual nips, tucks and other plastic surgery but, instead, clear and often painful cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. The Simpson-Bowles plan uses a mix of spending cuts ($3 trillion) and tax increases ($1 trillion) to do what many of members of both parties, if given truth serum, would say Washington needs to do: save at least $4 trillion over the next decade."

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Democratic dirty tricks?

Many members of Mecklenburg County's executive committee got a postcard Saturday, just before their scheduled meeting to endorse candidates for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.

"CEC DEMOCRATIC MEETING POSTPONED" it read. "We apologize for the short notice, and will advise you once a new date has been set."

But the meeting wasn't postponed. The cards, stamped but not postmarked, were an apparent attempt to dampen turnout.

"It's definitely a dirty trick," said party chair Aisha Dew. "It's definitely someone who's not associated with the party who's trying to stop the meeting."

Despite Card-gate, around 160 members of the 300-member committee still showed up, a normal turnout.

"Oddly enough, under the circumstances, we still had a great turnout," said Dew. The party is trying to investigate the matter.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Foxx campaign rejects another debate

It looks like Charlotte voters will have just one chance to see their mayoral candidates debate this month.

The campaign of Democratic Mayor Anthony Foxx has turned down another offer to debate Republican Scott Stone.

Stone's campaign manager, Jessica Wood, extended the offer today in an email to Foxx and his campaign manager, Michael Halle. She said an Oct. 26 forum to which both had been invited was canceled, opening the date for a debate. She said Dave Wagner of WCNC had agreed to moderate a debate that would have been held at UNC Charlotte.

And if that date didn't work, she laid out six others this month as alternatives, including two Sundays.

"Unfortunately our schedule will not allow us to participate on such short notice," Halle emailed in reply. "Sunday mornings are reserved for church and Sunday evenings for family time. The other dates we have previously scheduled."

Halle said Foxx had never confirmed the Oct. 26 forum. Most of the other joint appearances are forums that will include city council candidates. The only direct face-off will be an Oct. 21 League of Women Voters debate.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Machine gun socials return to the 8th

In 2010, Republican congressional candidate Tim D'Annunzio made national headlines when he hosted a pair of machine gun socials in the 8th District.

Now Republican Vernon Robinson is picking up where D'Annunzio left off.

Robinson, from Winston-Salem, plans to run in the 8th District in 2012. He's sponsoring a machine gun fundraiser on Sept. 26 at Eagle Guns in Concord. For $50 supporters can fire a magazine of a fully-automatic submachine gun. There will be a door prize: a new AR-15.

"By hosting this event, Vernon Robinson declares his solidarity with those who enjoy shooting and owning guns," Robinson campaign director Steve Arnold said.

Robinson, who has run for office before, has a way of making news.

As a Winston-Salem alderman in 2004, he bought a one-ton granite marker with the Ten Commandments on one side and the Bill of Rights on the other and planted it at City Hall. The city hauled it away.

He ran for Congress that year in a 5th District Republican primary. Before losing a runoff to Virginia Foxx, he raised almost $3 million from a network of supporters across the country.

In 2006 he ran against Democrat Brad Miller in the 13th District. Making immigration an issue in that race, he ran a TV ad with mariachi music in the background.

"If Miller had his way," it said. "America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Convention kick-off rally set for Sept. 6

Organizers of the 2012 Democratic National Convention plan to hold a "year-out" rally at Time-Warner Cable Arena on Sept. 6, a year to the day before President Obama is expected to claim nomination for a second term.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx will be on hand, according to a source close to the convention. The event will be open to the public.

Tickets are free. For information, call 704.330.2012 or email

The convention is scheduled to open on Sept. 3, 2012.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Veep candidate? Amid buzz, Rubio to give foreign policy address at Helms Center

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, shortlisted as a running mate by at least one GOP presidential candidate, will deliver his first major foreign policy speech next month at Wingate University.

Rubio's speech, titled "The Role of America in the World," is part of the Jesse Helms lecture series sponsored by the Jesse Helms Center. It will come on the heels of his first speech off the Senate floor and outside Florida next week at California's Ronald Reagan Presidential.

Rubio, elected last November, was recently mentioned by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as a potential vice presidential candidate along with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Rubio appeals to Republicans on many levels. He's Hispanic, from Florida and embraced by tea party activists.

“He fits every box you’re looking for when you’re looking for a VP, and then some,” Republican strategist Chip Saltsman told Politico this week. “He’s young, he’s good-looking, he’s smart, he’s done a good job his first (year) in the Senate, he’s energetic, he’s got a great family. He’s the total package in a lot of different ways. Whoever the nominee is, Marco’s gonna be at the top of a very short list.”

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Former Senate candidate deployed to Afghanistan

Cal Cunningham, a former state senator who lost a U.S. Senate primary last year, is heading to Afghanistan.

Four years ago, the Lexington Democrat, a lawyer in the Army Reserve, deployed to Iraq. A senior prosecutor, he worked out of one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces. Now he's on his way to Afghanistan.

He'll be one of two lawyers working with a special operations task force and even doing “Village Stability Operations.” He writes about the new deployment on his blog.

He'll leave his wife and two children in Lexington, including the daughter born after Sept. 11, 2001.

"We were pregnant with Caroline on that horrifying September day ten years ago," he wrote. "If I can play some small role in helping make a world safer for her and for Will – and their generation – the time will be worth it. Given the stakes for our country, I am compelled to try."

Last year Cunningham lost a Democratic Senate primary runoff to Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Big Guy likely to pass on 8th District rematch

It's no surprise that a lot of Republicans are salivating over the new 8th Congressional District.

It's not the same district that has twice elected Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell. It still runs from Charlotte east. But now there's fewer Democrat-heavy, Mecklenburg County precincts and new, mostly Republican voters in Randolph, Davidson and Davie counties.

In 2008 Barack Obama carried the current district with more than 52 percent of the vote. Republican John McCain would have carried the newly configured 8th with almost 58 percent of the vote.

So far GOP state Reps. Jerry Dockham of Davidson County and Justin Burr of Stanly County as well as former Iredell County commissioner Scott Keadle have expressed an interest. Not on the list? Harold Johnson, aka "The Big Guy" from his years as a WSOC TV sportscaster.

In 2010 Johnson won a GOP primary but lost to Kissell. Now, he says, he's "probably not" going to run. And Johnson, a longtime Statesville resident who moved to Cabarrus County to run two years ago, has moved back to Statesville.

Kissell, by the way, already has announced that he'll run again.

4:25: correction made. Johnson ran in 2010, not 2008.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

N.C. Blue Dogs go for Cut, Cap & Balance

On the day they faced another hurdle to their re-election hopes, Democratic U.S. Reps. Heath Shuler and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina voted with Republicans on a bill to cut federal spending and call for a balanced budget amendment.

Shuler and McIntyre are members of the "Blue Dog" coalition of conservative Democrats. They were the only Democrats from the Carolinas to vote Tuesday for a GOP-sponsored "Cut, Cap and Balance" bill that set out strict spending limits and calls for a balanced budget amendment in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

In separate news releases today, the group Americans for Limited Government called each man's vote "nothing short of heroic." Each, it said, is "one of the last true Blue Dogs, putting country ahead of party."

On Tuesday, Republican state lawmakers unveiled new congressional districts that put McIntyre, of the 7th District, in the 8th District with fellow Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell. And Shuler saw his 11th district get slightly more Republican.

One Republican lawmaker, state Sen. David Rouzer, today announced his candidacy for the 7th District.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Doles host McCrory fundraiser

Republican Pat McCrory will tap into some Washington coffers Tuesday night with a fundraiser at the home of former U.S. Sens. Bob and Elizabeth Dole.

The Doles will host the former Charlotte mayor at their condo in the Watergate.

McCrory is an unannounced candidate for governor, hoping for a rematch of his 2008 race against Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue.

The cost of Tuesday's reception: $4,000 a couple or $2,500 per individual.

"A lot (of people) have been invited, I'm just looking forward to seeing a lot of good friends," said Elizabeth Dole. "Pat is ... a very articulate guy with a good message."

Friday, July 01, 2011

Bowles heading to Treasury?

Politico's Mike Allen had this item in today's Playbook:

"THE BEST SUCCESSOR, if Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner takes the exit ramp this fall (after a debt-ceiling deal and the release of his white paper on corporate tax reform, but not before non-stop politicking): Erskine Bowles, White House Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton. The West Wing is a little scratchy about remarks Bowles made during Simpson-Bowles deficit commission, but he's credible and confirmable. You also have to list Roger Altman, investment banker and deputy Treasurey Secretary under Clinton, just because he always gets mentioned."

Bowles, a Charlottean, said in an email this morning that he's not interested.

"I am not interested in any full time job in the public or private sector. I am looking forward to being useful in part-time endeavors in the for profit, not for profit and public sectors of the economy."

Plus, he was leaving for the beach with his grandchildren. "Life is good," he aid, "And I'm very happy."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Late nights, short tempers

Tempers are fraying and patience is wearing at the General Assembly as lawmakers finish their third consecutive week of marathon sessions and late nights.

When House Speaker Thom Tillis tried to introduce a so-called supplemental calendar of bills at around 11:30 p.m. Thursday, GOP Rep. Edgar Starnes of Hickory stood up and objected. Other Republicans quietly cheered as Tillis gave in and adjourned the session at midnight.

"Thom said this would not be the pace if we would have to go through if he became speaker, I reminded him of that," Starnes said this morning. "It's insanity when you start trying to go to the middle of the night trying to pass legislation. There was no way we could have finished that calendar before 5 a.m."

Late-night sessions started two weeks ago with the budget and override of Gov. Bev Perdue's veto. They continued last week with crossover. And they've continued this week. Bills fly from one chamber to the other with major or minor adjustments. Committee meetings are hastily called. Members never know how long that day's or night's session will last.

Republican Rep. Ric Killian of Charlotte said other members are concerned about the pace.

"We have maintained a very, very aggressive pace," he said, "and it's taking its toll on the members."

Another veteran Republican agreed. "You're tired, you can't focus, half the time members don't know what's going on," said the lawmaker, who didn't want to be identified.

Tillis has said he's trying to stick to a promise to adjourn early. Spokesman Jordan Shaw acknowledged "it's been a breakneck three weeks."

"We're trying to be efficient," he said. "We've got to remember we're human."

UPDATE: Tillis said he and other leaders had already decided to end Thursday night's session when Starnes stood up. He defended the push to get things done, and get out.

"The deadline is driven more by our judgment that most of these matters have been fully debated in committee," he said. "Every day we're here is a day people are away from their jobs at a cost (to the state) of $40,000 a day or $1 million a month."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Perdue, McCrory dig for dollars in Charlotte

The two likely opponents in next years gubernatorial race are raising money in Charlotte this week.

Democrat Bev Perdue held a Monday night fundraiser at the home of Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers. Sponsors included investor Mark Erwin, former textile exec Crandall Bowles and Charlotte Chamber Chairman Pat Rodgers.

Republican Pat McCrory, meanwhile, will attend a Thursday night fundraiser at the home of Bank of America executive Cathy Bessant. Guests were to include House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate GOP Leader Phil Berger.

Given this week's rush to adjournment in Raleigh, neither is likely to attend.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Tillis & Berger stump for 'presumed' gubernatorial candidate

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate GOP leader Phil Berger will take a break from the General Assembly this month to raise money for former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.

The two are scheduled to appear at a June 16 fundraiser for McCrory in Charlotte. The two have lent their names to similar events in Raleigh and Winston-Salem and are scheduled at a McCrory event tonight in Wilmington.

McCrory, who lost the governor's race to Democrat Bev Perdue in 2008, has been itching for a rematch ever since. He and the legislative leaders are mutually supportive. This week he praised the Republican budget after weighing in on it in private.

The current Senate version, unlike the first, retains money for the Charlotte light rail that McCrory has long championed.

Jack Hawke, McCrory's general consultant, said the Charlotte event could raise $200,000 for the still unannounced campaign. And so far, the former Charlotte mayor is the only Republican seriously mentioned as a candidate.

"Everywhere he goes he is kind of a presumed candidate," Hawke said.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

ISO female, must love politics, long meetings

When Charlotte City Council member Edwin Peacock tried to find a woman council candidate, recently he did what a lot of men do: go to an Internet dating site.

Peacock, a Republican, filed a profile on eHarmony.

Peacock said he did it as a joke to make a point before a speech to a Republican women's group. Women, whether Democrat or Republican, tend to do well at the polls in Mecklenburg County.

"I was looking for a female, and what do people do in today's world?" he says. "They go to eHarmony or an Internet dating site."

Peacock is the only Republican at-large council member. He believes that a strong ticket would not only help him but his party.

He's not sure whether anybody responded to his eHarmony post. He filled out his profile under the name Grand O. Party and gave the county GOP web site as his own.

"It was a good joke, it got their attention," he says.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Myrick's son following her footsteps?

Twenty-four years ago, Dan Forest was a student at UNC Charlotte when his mother, Sue Myrick, was elected mayor of Charlotte.

Now he's running for office himself.

The Raleigh Republican is campaigning to be North Carolina's lieutenant governor. Though the race has stayed far below the radar, he's been speaking to GOP groups around the state.

Forest, 43, is the son of Myrick and her first husband, the late Jim Forest. He attended East Mecklenburg High School before transferring to a school in Columbia. He practiced architecture for 23 years before stepping down in late 2009 to start a political advocacy group. He left in March to start his campaign.

Filing for the office won't start until February. One other Republican, Wake County commissioner Tony Gurley, also is running.

Forest said his mother, a member of Congress since 1995, may campaign with him before its over.

"I think she will be very willing to once the time comes," he said. "She'll be in campaign mode too."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Foxx to mark his 40th with fundraiser

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx will celebrate his 40th birthday a day early tonight with a high-dollar fundraiser for his re-election campaign.

Democratic U.S. Rep Heath Shuler is scheduled to be on hand for the fundraiser at the southeast Charlotte home of Cameron and DeeDee Harris.

The couple is among 30 'Platinum" sponsors of the event each donating $4,000 to the Foxx campaign. Among the others are NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick and former county commissioner Dan Murrey, whom Foxx just named executive director of Charlotte's host committee for the 2012 Democratic convention.

Another 24 individuals or couples are "Gold" or "Silver" sponsors paying up to $2,000 each.

It's the second major fundraiser for Foxx, who has yet to formally announce a campaign for a second term. In his 2009 race against Republican John Lassiter, Foxx raised more than $640,000.

His likely Republican opponent this year, businessman Scott Stone, says he's shooting for $500,000 by Election Day. He said he's already gotten support from traditional GOP donors and members of the business community.

"They not only believe I can win, they believe with their help I will win," Stone said.

Stone plans to hold a fundraiser on his own birthday June 2. He'll be 43.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Billboard bill not popular in sponsor's hometown

N.C. Sen. Harry Brown of Jacksonville is the main sponsor of a bill sought by the outdoor advertising industry that would ease restrictions on billboards and make state law trump any local ordinances that govern them. That's not a very popular idea with at least one official in his hometown. "I don't like any proposal that removes from local government the right to regulate land use standards within their jurisdiction," says Jacksonville City Manager Richard Woodruff. The N.C. League of Municipalities, Association of County Commissioners and many other local officials oppose Brown's bill, in large part because it would override local regulations such as Jacksonville's sign ordinance, Durham's billboard ban and Charlotte's tree ordinance.

Jacksonville's ordinance, for example, says "because of their sheer size, proximity to buildings and potential to storm damage, these signs can be aesthetically undesirable, create traffic hazards and present dangers to adjoining properties."

The bill, now in the Senate Transportation Committee, also would allow advertisers to replace existing signs with digital ones and increase the area from which trees and other shrubs could be cleared around the signs.

Woodruff, a former planner, says the measure also "would create a system of regulatory ripples that could substantially affect the look and feel of your community."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Republicans pounce on Duke's convention loan guarantee

Republicans have jumped all over our report Saturday about Duke Energy Corp.'s decision to guarantee a $10 million line of credit to organizers of Charlotte's Democratic National Convention.

The GOP and other critics call it a form of corporate contribution that flies in the face of the Democrats' plan for a "people's convention." New rules for the first time ban corporate cash contributions and limit the size of individual donations.

"The DNC Reneges on its Convention Funding Promises Barely a Month after Announcing Them," a GOP press release said.

A blog on the conservative Weekly Standard was headlined: "DNC Strikes a $10 Million Deal with Cap and Trade Lobbyist." Duke supported so-called cap-and-trade legislation.

And Politico ran its version of the story, echoing a Republican spokeswoman saying the Democratic ban on corporate money was "nothing more than a PR move."

Politico quoted Democratic spokesman Brad Woodhouse. "If they think our ban on corporate contributions and our cap on individual contributions is so feckless," he said, "then they should be able to abide by the same restrictions."

Thursday, March 03, 2011

National Enquirer's Edwards' tipster outs herself

As John Edwards' legal saga builds to an apparent climax at a Raleigh courthouse, the woman who tipped the National Enquirer to his affair has spilled the details in a story for the Huffington Post.

Pigeon O'Brien, who has been living in Asheville, describes how she'd been a friend of the woman then named Lisa Druck since the 1980s. After Druck changed her name to Rielle Hunter, and got involved with a man named John from North Carolina, O'Brien found herself keeping an increasingly uncomfortable secret.

Leaks spouted from various sources. Her phone rang with queries. That's when she says she decided to spill what she knew.

"I made one phone call simply to take the pressure off myself because I couldn't live with it anymore," O'Brien told me this morning.

The Enquirer contracted O'Brien to silence -- she said she doesn't recall how much she was paid -- and went on to expose the affair in 2007. The next year it disclosed that he had fathered Hunter's daughter.

A grand jury in Raleigh is reportedly near the end of a two-year investigation into whether Edwards violated campaign finance laws in covering up the affair. This week the former U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate added former White House counsel Greg Craig to his legal team.

Hunter has been living in Charlotte with her daughter. Edwards is holed up at home in Chapel Hill. O'Brien is watching the story unfold from the sidelines.

"I just think it's important to realize the truth comes out in a million different ways," she said.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NBC reports charges may be near for Edwards

NBC News is reporting this morning that charges may be near in the marathon federal investigation of former Democratic U.S. Sen. John Edwards.

Prosecutors are believed to have been looking into whether Edwards, a former vice presidential candidate, violated campaign laws in covering up his affair with Rielle Hunter, a former campaign videographer who now lives in Charlotte.

The federal grand jury in Raleigh that's heard evidence in the case isn't scheduled to meet again until March. But NBC reported the 2-year-old investigation is at "a decisive point."

"Sources close to the investigation say Justice Department attorneys are now conducting a final review of evidence, and an indictment could come within days or weeks," the network said. "In what could be an ominous development for Edwards, prosecutors already are making arrangements to record the sworn
testimony of a key witness for possible use in a future trial, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"'It would be surprising now if he wasn't indicted,' said Stephen Saltsburg, a former federal prosecutor and George Washington University law professor. 'If John Edwards was aware that the money was being paid to hide his mistress .... and it was done to help his campaign, then he's in trouble'."

Edwards attorney, Wade Smith of Raleigh, told NBC that he doesn't believe "there is evidence that John violated any election laws."

Prosecutors reportedly plan to record the testimony of 100-year-old Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. Former Edwards aide Andrew Young -- who once claimed paternity of Edwards' child with Hunter -- has written that the wealthy Mellon gave $700,000 that was used for Hunter's living expenses. He called it "Bunny money."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bowles: Obama budget "nowhere near" what's needed

President Obama's proposed budget, out today, calls for about $1.1 trillion in spending cuts and tax hikes over the next decade to reduce the deficit and ultimately the federal debt. But for Charlotte's Erskine Bowles, the cuts go "nowhere near where they will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare."

That's what Bowles told the Washington Post this weekend. He co-chaired the president's deficit reduction commission that called for deep cuts in areas such as defense and entitlements, including Social Security.

Social Security, Medicare and other so-called mandatory spending make up most of the federal budget.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

GOP businessman considering mayoral run

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has been basking in a flattering spotlight since last week's announcement that the 2012 Democratic National Convention is coming to town. But before he settles in as the official host, he's got a little matter to deal with -- getting re-elected.

Foxx, a Democrat, plans to kick off his re-election bid March 10. He sent out a fund-raising letter last week, the same day the convention was announced.

So far the only Republican talking about a challenge is businessman Scott Stone, former chair of the city's Business Advisory Committee. He's also founder of the North Carolina Heroes Fund, a non-profit dedicated to supporting military families suffering financial hardships.

"Officially, I'm considering it," Stone said of a possible run. "But understanding it's going to take a lot of time energy and money to win the race. So If I'm going to run, I'm going to have to make a decision soon."

The cost of mayoral races has climbed. In 2009, Foxx raised $642,000 in his race against Republican John Lassiter. That was second only to former Republican Mayor Pat McCrory, who raised more than $800,000, most of which he transferred to his gubernatorial campaign the next year.

Stone is a relative unknown who would need money to change that. Higher profile Republicans are reluctant to take on an incumbent riding the wave of a national convention.

“I’m always keeping my options open," says city council member Edwin Peacock . "(But) you see the writing on the wall. Basically what I see now is the mayor's firmly in the lead."

Stone acknowledges that the convention "changes the dynamics."

"I don’t think it dissuades me from running," he says. "I'm concerned with the Democratic National Convention coming here there are a lot of potential costs, and someone with a business background should make sure it doesn’t bankrupt the city. Having the (convention) here is a great opportunity for the city as long as we manage the cost."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The 1st Democratic Convention flap: Charlotte barbecue

First Lady Michelle Obama found out early what a touchy subject barbecue is in these parts.

In an email announcing Charlotte as the site of the 2012 Democratic convention, she wrote that Charlotte is "a city marked by its southern charm .... and of course great barbecue."

The AP followed with a story quoting N.C. barbecue expert John Shelton Reed. "Complete the sentence," he said, "As a barbecue town, Charlotte is 1, not what it used to be; 2, like Minneapolis for gumbo; 3, good enough for Yankees; 4, not far from Shelby."

POLITICO piled on. "The gaffe was enough to make you wonder whether the White House had simply cut and pasted Southern clich├ęs to create the first lady's announcement," in a story picked up by the Drudge report.

"A Fox News website also implied that Obama's praise for barbecue was at odds with her push for healthy eating, noting in a Fox Nation blog post: 'Studies show a barbecue meal weighs in at around 2,500 calories'."

Finally today, the group Media Matters joined the fray.

"The stupidest 'story' you’ll encounter all day is the Drudge-hyped 'gaffe' allegedly committed when an email announcement that next year's Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte mentioned 'great barbecue'," it said, noting that even if you have to go to Shelby or Lexington for barbecue, that's not far away.

Said Media Matters: "It's like mocking someone for saying that while visiting Los Angeles, they plan to visit Disneyland. Ha! Disneyland is in Anaheim, not L.A.! Or that a visit to New York City might involve catching a Jets game. Ha! They play in New Jersey!"
The picture above, by the way, shows the Obamas at a N.C. barbecue restaurant. In Asheville.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Watt: Dems could take back House

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt today defended his support for controversial tax cuts and said he "wouldn't be surprised" if Democrats regain the House in 2012.

"I'm not here to predict we will," the Charlotte Democrat told the Uptown Democratic Forum. "But I wouldn't be surprised."

Watt suggested numbers that might bode well for his party as it tries to regain the 25 seats it needs for control:

-- 54 Republicans won with less than 55 percent of the vote.
-- 61 won districts President Obama carried in 2008.
-- And 14 of them won districts carried by both Obama in 2008 and Democrat John Kerry in 2004.

He defended the 2010 health care law, which the new Republican-controlled House has voted to repeal. And he defended his vote in December for a bill that extended tax cuts for wealthy Americans. Many liberals opposed the bill.

Watt pointed to parts of the bill that extended unemployment benefits and cut the payroll tax for a year.

"It had a lot more in it for everyday, average working people than it did for rich people," he said.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Party candidate hosts fundraiser -- while he still can

State Rep. Bill Faison, who is running hard for the chairmanship of the N.C. Democratic Party, will host a party fundraiser tonight -- while he still can.

Faison, of Orange County, is organizing a fundraiser at state party headquarters tonight. Co-sponsors include 14 Democratic legislators. Invited guests include Gov. Bev Perdue, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and other state officials.

In the invitation, Faison said he was having the fundraiser to beat a ban on lawmakers raising money from lobbyists and political action committees. Legislators are barred from doing that once the session starts next week.

"I will be hosting a fundraiser aimed at PACs and Lobbyists to raise money for the North Carolina Democratic Party," Faison wrote. "As many of you know, ethics laws were passed a few years ago to significantly crack down on improper contributions to members of the General Assembly ... To make sure that this will not hurt my ability to serve you as the next Party Chair I decided to get their money in early."

Faison is running against Statesville lawyer David Parker and party activist Dannie Montgomery of Anson County. The election is Jan. 29.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rivals: Hayes 'establishment' candidate to lead GOP

Two rivals for chairman of the N.C. Republican Party are calling former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes the "establishment" candidate.

Tim Johnson, currently the party's vice-chair, said he expects to get tea party support in his bid for the top job. And Marcus Kindley, former Guilford County GOP chairman, said he's hoping to win grass-roots support.

The GOP state executive committee meets Saturday in Raleigh to name someone to fill the remaining six months of Tom Fetzer's term. Fetzer is resigning to start a consulting business.

"This is a classic case," Kindley said today. "We have the guys in Raleigh, they sat down and decided who they wanted to run.”

Johnson, meanwhile, said of his own support, "the vast amount is coming from Tea Party groups." He has spoken to Tea Party rallies in Charlotte and elsewhere.

"They truly were the ones that allowed Republicans to win and recapture the General Assembly the first time in 140 years," he said.

It's unclear how many Tea Partiers will be among Saturday's voters. The executive committee is made up of local and regional party leaders.

Hayes could not be reached. But his campaign manager, Jennifer Behr, said he expects to win.

"Robin’s got support from across the board," she said. "He's not in this because somebody handpicked him …. He realizes that this is just a job that he’s cut out for and now is his time and he’s seizing the opportunity.”

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

N.C. native in line for Gibb's White House job?

Raleigh native Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, is being mentioned as a possible replacement for White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs, a graduate of N.C. State, said today he'll step down as press secretary.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes that Woodhouse, 43, could be on a shortlist of candidates for the job. "Southern, wry and politically minded, Woodhouse and Gibbs are personal friends," Cillizza writes. "Woodhouse is eminently quotable and has strong relations with the national press corps thanks to years of flacking for candidates and campaigns. The one knock on him? He might be too political for the official White House staff."

Woodhouse and Gibbs worked together in former Rep. Bob Etheridge's office. Woodhouse also was a spokesman for Erskine Bowles' 2002 U.S. Senate campaign.

Woodhouse isn't the only member of his family in the political spotlight. His brother Dallas is director of the N.C. chapter of the conservative Americans for Prosperity. They've sparred publicly over issues like President Obama's health care proposal, including during a joint appearance last year on CNN.

“You cannot have an honest debate with folks like my brother on this issue,” Brad told CNN host John Roberts.

“It’s simple that the president is losing this debate," Dallas responded. "You know he’s losing this debate when people like my brother and the White House start attacking hard-working, tax-paying citizens as mobsters.”