Wednesday, June 26, 2013

From pulpit to politics? Mark Harris hires staffer

The effort to draft Rev. Mark Harris is beginning to look more like a campaign.

The committee to draft the Charlotte Republican for the U.S. Senate Wednesday announced the hiring of a new political director. Tracy Bengston of Davidson worked as scheduler for Republican Dan Forest's 2012 campaign for lieutenant governor. This month she managed Joyce Krawiec's campaign for vice chair of the state GOP.

Rev. Harris is pastor of Charlotte's 1st Baptist church and president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

Last month his supporters filed papers for an exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission. He's on a "listening" tour of the state and is expected to make a decision later this summer.

House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius and Cary physician Greg Brannon are the only announced GOP  candidates for the seat held by Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Rucho tries to set record straight against Watt

The 12th Congressional District, once the nation's most litigated, was back in court this week -- and sparked a war of words between two of Mecklenburg County's most influential politicians.

In a Raleigh courtroom, a special three-judge panel heard arguments in a case challenging the state's 2011 redistricting.

Testifying Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, recounted a conversation with Republican Sen. Bob Rucho of Matthews, who chaired the Senate Redistricting Committee.

According to the Associated Press, Watt said Rucho told him that Republican leaders "had told him that they were going to ramp the 12th Congressional District up to over 50 percent black" and "had given him the task of going out and selling this to the black community as being in their interest."

“He was telling me that he was going to have to sell this to the African-American community,” Watt recalled Tuesday, adding that Rucho asked for his help.

Watt said he was later upset to hear that Rucho had been telling people that Watt had helped influence the shape of the redrawn district. Watt said he wanted to let the public know the new district was not his idea.

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“I don’t lie to people,” Watt said. “I don’t expect them to lie about me either.”

Rucho, Watt's former dentist, didn't get a chance to testify until Wednesday. On Thursday he sat down again to set the record straight.

First a little about the district. Half its registered voters are African American, an increase from 43 percent under the old plan. Sixty-four percent of voters are Democrats. That an increase from 58 percent. By putting more Democrats in the 12th District, Republicans effectively made some neighboring districts -- particularly the 8th -- friendlier to Republicans.

Rucho said he and GOP leaders wanted to put more Democrats in the 12th, not African Americans. He said he never told Watt GOP leaders had asked him to put more minority voters in the district.

"When he said we were drawing majority-minority districts as if we were using race, that's totally erroneous," Rucho said Thursday.

He said he never implied that Watt had endorsed the redrawn district. And Rucho added, "I didn't like being called a liar."

"I didn't like it when he misrepresented the facts of the case and I'm wondering for what reason? Especially under oath."

Watt could not be reached.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Rep. Cotham resting after weekend scare

Rep. Tricia Cotham and her family were enjoying a weekend day at Tweetsie Railroad when she suddenly collapsed. Her mother, Mecklenburg commissioners Chair Pat Cotham, called for help. An ambulance took Tricia to Watauga Medical Center in Boone.
There she underwent heart tests and Sunday returned home to Matthews, where she was admitted to Novant Health Matthews for more tests. Cotham, nearly six months pregnant, was released and told to stay in bed and rest. She's also scheduled to see more specialists.
"I am very grateful for the outpouring of support and prayers from the community, constituents and other elected officials.
Her 2 1/2-year-old son Elliot, who was with her at Tweetsie, got more excitement than he expected at the mountain amusement park. 
"He has asked every day, '(Will) Mommy go in an ambulance today'," Cotham says.