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.