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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.
Welcome to this week’s edition of SPINCycle. This week on NC SPIN we are going to give you the most complete analysis of Tuesday’s primary elections, talk about the state’s efforts to collect sales taxes from Amazon and about the need for better teacher training. In the meantime, participate in the discussion on these issues on the NC SPIN facebook page.
Tom Campbell`s Spin
A new book tells us a lot about the early history of our state. Check out this week’s column, “Lessons from our founders”.
Heard on the Street
Politics, pork and prancing ponies
It’s not to late to double down and get in your registration for the 3rd Annual Derby Day. Colonel Rufus Edmisten will be passin’ ‘round the juleps and Miss Linda aka Scarlett O’Edmisten will provide the Southern Charm that accompanies parties surrounding the Kentucky Derby. You can be sure there will be food a’plenty, lots of wonderful company (including some of your favorites from SPIN), a silent auction and a big Derby Hat contest. Admission is $40 per person or $70 per couple. Proceeds go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Get out the hoop skirts, dust off the bonnets and wear your best derby attire. We’re pulling out the white linen suit (if it still fits) and plan to cheer on our favorites from 3 to 7 p.m. this Saturday. Can’t attend? No problem. Just send your $70 donation to Cheryl and feel good about it. Register by calling 919-829-1988 or mail checks to Foundation for Good Business, Edmisten and Webb, 132 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601.
Tuesday is the day we learn who wins the primary races throughout North Carolina. We’re gonna focus much of our NC SPIN show this week on all the facets of this very strange election, so be sure to catch it.
Political insiders are predicting a 30 percent turnout for the elections. Our experts are saying 20 percent is more like it, highly favoring incumbents in primary contests.
The only real statewide contest drawing any interest is the Democratic US Senate primary. We’ve been saying for months this is headed to a runoff and we still think it the case, but we are wondering if Elaine Marshall might have played it a bit too conservatively. Cal Cunningham’s TV ads have definitely cut into Marshall’s lead with both a WRAL and PPP poll showing outcomes within the statistical margin for error. Cunningham is has been on TV for several weeks. We’ve seen Marshall’s ad online and it doesn’t sizzle. She is supposedly placing a TV buy but has waited so late it is unlikely to have much impact on the primary election.
Marshall has worked hard to get the endorsement of minority groups. Ballots from black caucuses, especially in the East, all have Marshall as the pick. But few pundits predict that the black vote will amount to a significant percentage of the turnout so there is real question as to the value of these endorsements.
It is doubtful that a runoff between Marshall and Cunningham will be avoided. Marshall has been counting on this. Cunningham needed TV to ensure he was in second place. The question mark is the percentage of votes Ken Lewis draws. But momentum in politics is important and Cunningham has it going his way right now. We are told contributions are coming in strong and confidence is building in the Cunningham camp.
There are other races worth noting. The Sheriff’s race in Pitt County is uglier than homemade lye soap. Incumbent Mac Manning is facing a stiff challenge from Neil Elks, a former Captain in the Sheriff’s Department. A controversy worthy of a 60 Minutes investigation surrounds the death of the husband of a deputy in the department and a suggested cover-up by Sheriff Manning. Add to the mix charges of marital infidelity among members of the department and this race has truly captured the attention of folks in Pitt County. “Talk of the Town” conducted a debate between the two candidates, which sparked even more talk, according to host Henry Hinton, also a guest on this week’s NC SPIN. Read the Daily Reflector story on this race.
The region also has one of the more interesting legislative contests. In the 3rd district incumbent Clark Jenkins is running against Frankie Bordeaux, a successful African American businessman, as well as Florence Armstrong, a former African American Edgecombe County Commissioner. Many suspect Jenkins encouraged Armstrong to run so as to split up the black vote, a fact that has kept Jenkins elected in this majority African American district. Bordeaux is spending beau coups of bucks to win this nomination. Claims and counter claims surround this race, especially the overpayment of $4.2 million in mental health services from a corporation Bordeaux and his wife own. But this contest may come to the wire and depend on who shows up to vote. Bordeaux is staging a massive campaign to get black voters to the polls in early voting. Insiders tell us to look for a 400-500 margin either way. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will win the seat. Jenkins is one of the more powerful Senators in Marc Basnight’s Senate.
Another heated Senate race is in Moore County where former House Co-Speaker Richard Morgan is running against incumbent Harris Blake. This race is divisive among this largely Republican district. Blake’s health is a whispered issue. Morgan’s dealings while Speaker is another. Morgan has Carter Wrenn, one of the state’s most seasoned political strategists behind him.
Morgan has always been a controversial figure in politics and this campaign is exhibit A. While we haven’t seen it on TV, Morgan posted an ad on You Tube blasting Governor Perdue’s Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler regarding the no-bid contracts HHS entered into with clients of his former firm. The ad stated that no Republicans or Democrats had stood up to the pay-to-play scheme but Morgan would. Republicans came to the defense of the Governor and Perdue, which created even more surprise…especially from Perdue.
Speaking of Sheriff’s races there are six contests where convicted felons are on the ballot to become Sheriff, the most notable of which is former Davidson Sheriff Gerald Hege. WRAL ran a great story about the contests, citing the fact that convicted felons could not legally possess firearms and that they cannot be hired as deputies. If a convicted felon was elected Sheriff he could not carry a gun. See the WRAL story. In addition to Hege, Robert “Nub” Taylor in Avery County was convicted of obstruction of justice, Mark Stewart in McDowell County has felony drug convictions, as does Cleveland County’s David Morrow, Willie Tharpe from Wilkes County was convicted of receiving stolen goods, former Washington County Sheriff Stanley James was convicted of embezzling and Ryan White, from Dare County has pending drug charges. There is legislation proposed to prohibit felons from being elected Sheriff, but they won’t apply to this election.
Again, tune in the interesting discussion on the primary elections on this week’s NC SPIN.
Beason fined $111,000
It’s been many months since this publication talked about Don Beason, the former fast and loose lobbyist and friend of former House Speaker Jim Black. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall accused Beason and his son of accepting money from clients while failing to properly disclose who the clients were. She slapped a huge fine of $111,000 on Beason, who promptly appealed the levy saying Marshall had her facts wrong and that the fine was arbitrary and capricious.
We don’t really know much more about this story because of a codicil placed in the law which prohibits the release of information surrounding fines levied. Responding to the secrecy, Senate leader David Hoyle said, "We missed that.” Republican House Minority Leader Skip Stam added, “That certainly wasn’t the intent of the sponsors. We need to fix that."
Makes you wonder if anyone actually reads these bills that our legislature passes? Assuming they did read the bill you have to question whether the secrecy was indeed an oversight or the intent?
Basnight down by 32 percent
Want to know what impact of the departure of Tony Rand, David Hoyle, R.C. Soles and Charlie Albertson will have on the Senate next year. We got an inkling, as WRAL reported the receipts for the first three months of this year. Senator Marc Basnight’s Senate leadership campaign had collected $508,000 for this election cycle and has $725,000 in the bank. In 2008 he had close to $1 million on hand at this time according to political analyst John Davis. This means that Basnight won’t have as much money to spread around in close races with Republicans this fall and could bode ill for Democrats. Basnight blames the bad economy. Perhaps so, but the poor results also reflect a loss of support for a Senate that has been very business-friendly in the past.
The WRAL story has spawned more conversation about Basnight’s health. Listen to Basnight on this video and reach your own conclusion. Conversations around the Capitol are focused on whether Basnight will be able to serve two more years, much less as Pro Tem. Some are speculating that he ran again in order to be able to raise money to help fellow Democrats and, upon election, will resign. Others believe that he doesn’t have the votes to be elected Senate President Pro Tem in 2011. There are a growing number who believe the issue is moot because they believe Republicans will capture control over the Senate in November (26-24 is what we are hearing) ensuring a Republican as Pro Tem. All this makes for interesting discussion.
House Speaker Joe Hackney’s Democratic campaign fund raised $174,000 during the first three months. Another indicator worth noting: Democrats raised $327,000 while Republicans raised $241,000. GOP Chair Tom Fetzer has been beating the bushes and it shows. This is the closest to fund raising parity Republicans have seen and could be more proof that 2010 will be a good year.
Independent voters will have their choice in selecting either a Republican or Democratic ballot on Tuesday. We hear many observers speculate the independents will select GOP ballots by at least a 4 to 1 margin and polls indicate they plan to vote Republican in the November general elections.
Things have been quiet regarding the results of the April 15th personal income tax returns for our state. We should be hearing those results any time as we approach the beginning of the short session May 12th. Last week we raised the question of how the Senate expects to pass a budget eight days after convening. We got answers.
Much of what we hear is that the Senate will once again punt the ball over to the House and that neither body will do serious line item examinations. The General Assembly intends to pass the budget quickly, get out of town to conduct re-election campaigns and, if the numbers don’t work out with what actual revenues are received, lawmakers will leave it to Governor Perdue to deal with the problems as the budget year unfolds.
Aside from the budget, what issues will the legislature undertake? There are several thorny issues that need attention but few believe they will be tackled. There is some expectation they might take another look at property insurance rates for those in the eastern half of the state. Some are speculating a bill backed by business to clarify cases of contributory negligence versus comparative fault in workman’s comp cases.
The latest Elon University poll indicated voters supported legalizing video poker and offshore drilling. That sentiment might have changed following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Senator David Hoyle is seeking support to legalize video poker and sweepstakes games, taxing proceeds heavily. There is also speculation that the games will be run by the state lottery. Other states have done this and revenues have been substantial, we are told.
Perdue’s education cuts come under fire
As more details of Governor Perdue’s budget proposals are made clear, the opposition is mounting. The Governor’s budget calls for cuts in public education of some $135 million at the same time she is recommending a 1.5 percent step increase in pay for teachers and repayment to state employees for the furlough they were forced to take last year. Added together these two would almost equal the amount Perdue plans to cut and a growing number are urging the legislature not to make the cuts, saying they could result in the loss of as many of 2,000 teaching positions. Read the Charlotte Observer story.
There are rumors circulating about problems within the state’s public television network. Legislators are asking questions, as are newspaper reporters. Today’s News and Observer reports that the statewide TV network is airing programs complimentary of The Golden Leaf Foundation that were funded by, take a guess, The Golden Leaf Foundation. More than $300,000 was directed to UNC-TV over the past several years. If this sounds like buying favored coverage you are not alone in those thoughts.
The fact that The Golden Leaf Foundation is involved makes the story even more intriguing. We have often written about the problems with this foundation. While the public needs to know what is being done with the huge dollars funded from the tobacco settlement, there is significant reason to question whether this expenditure is justified. Even more questionable is whether UNC-TV should accept funding to praise Golden Leaf for this purpose. The N&O article indicates this doesn’t pass the smell test.
It has been known for years that anyone proposing a new program idea for UNC-TV must also have funding in place before the concept will be accepted by UNC-TV, supposedly because funding is unavailable. This fact angered Senate budget leader Linda Garrou to the point where she tried to get the network moved from the University System to the School of the Arts, a move that never gained support. (Read our column on this from last April.) Now that this Golden Leaf story has broken, questions about the network, especially about state funding money raised on increasingly lengthy telethons and underwriting are being spent.
It is expensive to operate a group of high-power transmitter sites across the state and PBS programming must be purchased, on top of staffing costs that make this network a costly proposition. But UNC-TV has never achieved the lofty dreams its founders, including the late Billy Carmichael, Kay Kyzer and UNC President Emeritus Bill Friday thought possible.
There are highly creative people at UNC-TV who could produce insightful public affairs, news and cultural programs if given the opportunity. Since Bill Friday’s departure, the network has not been a high priority of the University and funding has been problematic. It is time for a top to bottom evaluation of our state-owned TV network, beginning with governance and ownership and including management, staffing and operations. UNC-TV is too valuable not to be a better resource for our people. We can do better.
Roanoke Rapids theatre in default
The bad deal Roanoke Rapids made building a fancy theatre just keeps getting worse. Following the bill of goods sold the community at the onset to the bad contract the town arranged with Dolly Parton’s brother, the marquee went dark before a lease-purchase was arranged, for a pittance of the $21.5 million construction cost, with Lafayette Gatling. Now the deal is in default and the community once again has this white elephant on its hands. It is too big and costly to be a church, unprofitable to run as a theatre and too valuable to give away. What a conundrum!
Top 10 Natural Wonders in NC
Charlotte Observer columnist and NC SPIN panelist Jack Betts always writes interesting blogs and columns. Yesterday’s featured a Land for Tomorrow contest to determine the top 10 natural wonders in our state. Betts lists some of his nominees. What are yours? Enter your suggestions today. Then be prepared to vote after the nominations are closed.
RC Soles back in the news
Senator RC Soles continues to be the topic of news stories. WRAL reports that Kyle Blackburn, who was shot by Soles, has been paid more than $100,000 in the past seven years and that the Senator regularly pays people he wants to keep silent. Joe Cheshire, Soles’ attorney, says it isn’t true and that Blackburn and others just want to destroy the reputation of the good Senator. Read the WRAL story.
What is the Super doing getting involved in OLF?
Heads are shaking over news coming from the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office. June Atkinson is going on record as being opposed to the proposal for an Outlying Landing Field in Northeastern Carolina on grounds that insulating schools for noise would be prohibitive and there would be safety issues. Did we miss the press release where the Superintendent had similar concerns over flights at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, Seymour Johnson Air base at Goldsboro or Pope Air Base in Fayetteville?
Drunk trooper’s poor judgment isn’t the only bad judgment
The State Highway Patrol employs people and people make mistakes, but this organization appears to have made one bad hiring decision after another for far too many years. There have been 27 charges of sexual misconduct reported. The latest involves a Captain in the Patrol who was stopped and reported to be “extremely drunk.” So what did the local police do? They took him to a hotel, not a jail cell and no charges were filed.
Doesn’t this fall under Governor Perdue’s zero tolerance policy? The trooper, the supervisor and perhaps even the Commander should be fired, not disciplined, over the handling of this case. It is time to set an example within the patrol that a trooper’s conduct is not just expected, but required to be exemplary. They are not above the law. There are plenty who would love jobs with sweet retirement benefits like troopers have. There is no excuse to continue to tolerate misconduct among those sworn to enforce laws of good conduct. We agree with today’s Charlotte Observer editorial.
Look for more discussion on this on next week’s NC SPIN.
Friday Interview DVD
We continue to receive requests for the complete interview we did with Bill Friday in celebration of our 600th show. If you would like to have your own copy of this hour-long interview, please call NC SPIN at (919) 832-1416 or e-mail us at email@example.com. These DVD’s are $20 each. $5 of each purchase will be donated to the Ida Friday Faculty Development Fund at Meredith College.
Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!
Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher