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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’ll ask our panel to tell you what happened in Tuesday’s primary elections. We also will talk about a big fine on lobbyists that nobody can tell us anything about and about what should happen to an extremely drunk trooper.
Tom Campbell`s Spin
Like the little old lady in the TV ads, where is the evidence people are unhappy? Check out this week’s column
“Where’s the Beef?”.
Heard on the Street
There was a huge disconnect between people`s attitudes and their actions in Tuesday`s primary elections. Every pollster worth their salt reported on the angry mood of the voters, how distrustful they were of both Republicans and Democrats and how they felt the state is headed in the wrong direction. So how come only 14 percent of the registered voters in this state turned out to vote? Call us crazy but the best way to show politicians you are unhappy is not by showing up at tea party events or calling in talk shows but in doing something positive – voting. This week`s My Spin, “Where`s the Beef,” goes further into this thought process.
There were a few surprises in the primaries. The Democratic US Senate race turned out pretty much the way we have been predicting since March. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall led the ticket, supported by older voters, females and minorities. Former State Senator Cal Cunningham, recruited and endorsed by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, spent more money, ran more TV but only garnered 27 percent of the vote, causing political pundits to question why he quickly called for a runoff against Marshall.
Many think the runoff is a bad move, both for Democrats and Cunningham personally. Marshall and Cunningham will spend the next 6 weeks raising money to beat each other rather than focusing on Senator Burr. Valuable resources that could be used for the November battle will be spent on this election. You can be sure you will hear about the $3 million cost to voters for the statewide election. At the end of the day only 5 percent of voters are expected to show up for a runoff.
What does Cal Cunningham know the rest of us don`t? If only 5 percent vote, who will be the most likely to vote? Older, predominantly white, old line Democrats will likely trudge to the polls. Those people voted for Elaine Marshall before and will do so again. In our discussions we can`t find anyone (except Cal and his close supporters) who thinks Cunningham will come out of this runoff with a victory. He will have to go negative, spend lots of money on TV and hit every garden and bridge club in the state.
Perhaps Cunningham thinks this will be a good way to get name recognition for a future race. Most political pundits think this campaign will not help him. Cunningham is young, articulate and has the potential to be an attractive candidate for the future, but not if he angers the mainstream of the party in the meantime. Some speculate he might be a challenger for the 2012 gubernatorial or other contest.
There just isn`t much enthusiasm about this runoff…and there will be even less on June 22nd. Marshall wins, then loses to Burr according to the scenario we most frequently hear played out.
None of the incumbent Congressional delegation faced a serious challenge but there are two runoffs for opposition parties. In the 8th District, Tim D`Annunzio spent a million dollars in a highly unorthodox campaign but still couldn`t get enough votes to avoid a runoff. His opponent will be longtime Charlotte TV sportscaster Harold Johnson. The two will face Larry Kissell in his first re-election effort. Kissell is perhaps the weakest Congressional fundraiser in our delegation and the 8th district had been held by Republicans for many years. This could be a race to watch in November but many Republicans think D`Annunzio is so unconventional that he could hurt their chances of recapturing the seat. Many traditional Republicans think Johnson has the best shot.
In the 13th, look for another interesting runoff from Republicans. Magazine publisher and longtime Raleigh player Bernie Reeves ran a close second to Bill Randall, an African American businessman who ran unsuccessfully to become state GOP chairman. Reeves is another colorful character, guided in his campaign (if Bernie can be guided) by Carter Wrenn. Both want a chance at Brad Miller come November, believing there will be a strong wind behind Republicans.
The November congressional contest many will be watching closely involves 2nd District Congressman Bob Etheridge. This is a highly conservative district and Etheridge`s votes along Democratic Party lines, especially on health care will be the issue. Renee Ellmers, a registered nurse, will make health care the issue.
This was not a good year for comebacks. Former House Speaker Richard Morgan lost decisively to incumbent Harris Blake. Fern Shubert lost in Senate district 36 and Mary McAllister soundly defeated in her efforts to regain her House seat. Former Senator Julia Boseman lost in her bid to win a newly created district court judgeship in Wilmington, probably owing to all the publicity she has received in child custody battles with her former partner.
None of the Senate incumbents were defeated but there were some interesting results. The widely expected contest between Clark Jenkins and Frankie Bordeaux (Senate District 3) never materialized, killed both by revelations that Bordeaux`s company was fined for Medicaid violations as well as a second African American candidate in the primary. Julia Boseman`s seat (District 9) will get a stiff Republican challenge come November, from Thom Goolsby who has had his name on ballots before. Charlie Albertson`s seat (District 10) will be up for grabs but DA Dewey Hudson won the Democratic nomination and is expected to do well in November. In Senate 43, David Hoyle`s seat, Kathy Harrington, who came close to beating Hoyle in `08 defeated Will Neuman, an incumbent House member to run in November.
Five House members lost their primaries. Nick Mackey (House District 99) came as no surprise, especially after he was disbarred the day before the primary. Democrats turned on him when he sought out challengers to Becky Carney and Beverly Earle, both of whom handily won. Greensboro`s Earl Jones (District 60), went out singing Frank Sinatra`s “My Way,” a victim of video poker and other support. Pearl Floyd Burris (District 110), the only African American Republican woman in the House, lost to Kelly Hastings. Many legislative followers will miss her. Ronnie Sutton (District 47), longtime conservative element in the Democratic House caucus, was defeated by Jim Cates. Bruce Goforth (District 115), from Buncombe, was bested by Patsy Keever, former Congressional candidate.
Other House races worth noting include House 8 where Edith Warren easily defeated Mildred Council, former Greenville Councilwoman, in what was expected to be a squeaker. In House 15, Phillip Shepherd won the Republican nomination for Robert Grady`s old seat in what is a GOP stronghold. In District 33 Rosa Gill, who was appointed to the House when Dan Blue moved to the Senate, easily held off Bernard Allen, II, who had wanted to get the nomination. District 34 had a spirited campaign to run against incumbent Grier Martin and Steve Henion surprised many by winning. In House 39 former Knightdale Mayor Jeanne Bonds, who reportedly received support from SEANC, lost to Darren Jackson.
Three incumbent sheriffs were defeated. Wayne Gay in Wilson County was beaten by Calvin Woodard, an African American candidate. Supporters for Gay say blacks turned out to vote and won the election. In Pitt County, Mac Manning was caught in the vortex of a mysterious death involving the husband of a department employee, reported extra-marital sexual affairs and cover-ups within the department. Former deputy Neil Elks called for an SBI investigation and challenged Manning. In Cleveland County sheriff Ray Hamrick lost to Alan Norman. None of the six convicted or indicted felons who ran for sheriff was elected, but Eddie Caldwell, head of the NC Sheriff`s Association, says his group still wants to see laws passed that will prohibit convicted felons from becoming a high sheriff.
The Court of Appeals races had one interesting note. Steven Walker, just five years out of law school and a clerk in the appellate courts, beat incumbent Rick Elmore. Some say this is proof positive that we must change the way we select judges. Walker`s name appeared first on the statewide ballot and most suspect he won the vote for that reason. He and Elmore will square off in November. Incumbent Appeals Judge Ann Marie Calabria barely squeaked by Judge Jane Gray in vote totals. Now the two will go against each other in November.
So what is the take away from Tuesday`s vote? Tom Jensen from Public Policy Polling has some interesting data showing both Democrats and Republicans voted in smaller percentages than in 2002. 12 percent fewer Republicans voted than in 2002 but 32 percent fewer Democrats turned out. This coupled with voter registrations by both D`s and R`s gives even more power to Unaffiliated voters.
Gary Pearce, the sage campaign veteran, says Democrats should be concerned. In his April 30th post on his Talking About Politics blog, Pearce sounded an alarm for both Elephants and Donkeys. Since November 2008, Democrats have declined in numbers of voters by 110,000 (2.75 million total) and Republicans have lost 70,000 (1.93 million total). Meanwhile, unaffiliated voters have actually increased by 20,000 and now account for more than 1.4 million registrations, almost 23 percent of the 6.1 million total. The bad news, according to Pearce and PPP, is that these unaffiliated voters report, by a 47 to 18 percent margin, they plan to vote for Republicans in November`s legislative races and by 46 to 19 in the Congressional elections.
This has all appearances of being a Republican year in November. But it also means that both parties would do well to heavily court the unaffiliated voters. They are going to determine the elections.
Look for a full discussion on these elections on this week`s NC SPIN.
Clarification on contributory negligence
Last week`s newsletter talked about a bill involving contributory negligence, indicating that business was supporting the measure. Good friend and NC Chamber VP of Communications, Sherry Melton helped us understand more about the proposal and why our story was wrong. I`ll let her explain:
“The North Carolina Chamber and our 56-member "Coalition to Protect NC`s Legal Climate" are, in fact, opposed to the bill, which is House Bill 813 (Uniform Apportionment of Tort Responsibility Act, or UATRA). The Coalition includes NC employers, local Chambers of Commerce and other business advocacy organizations and can be accessed online at: www.ncchamber.net/supportersH813.
“Also, the bill does not involve the workers` compensation system. Instead, it would remake North Carolina`s civil liability system in a way that would disrupt the critical balance needed to protect North Carolinians and jobs. It would eliminate the state`s longstanding doctrine of `contributory negligence` without taking the additional necessary steps to keep the law impacting civil lawsuits balanced and fair.
“The Coalition to Protect NC`s Legal Climate believes that if North Carolina is going to repeal contributory negligence, then we should also repeal joint and several liability and modify the collateral source rule. House Bill 813 does not, which is why both the business and healthcare communities oppose the bill in its current form.”
Thanks for the clarification, Sherry.
Everyone wants reforms
Following the guilty plea by Rusty Carter, who admitted to giving money to employees as bonuses so they would contribute to hand-picked political candidates, everyone seems to want more campaign reforms. Senate President Pro Tem received $84,000 from these efforts and was going to return the money to the State Board of Elections. Governor Perdue has already returned $48,000, but it was disclosed she received another $16,000 from Carter or his employees, sums we expect will also be returned. The case is part of an investigation into illegal campaign contributions. We understand from sources that the Perdue campaign is being closely examined and may be subject to refunds for more unreported campaign flights.
Carter was fined $5,000 and barred from contributing to political campaigns for two years, a mere slap on the wrist. Basnight and Perdue want these penalties stiffened so they are meaningful. But they are only a part of the problem.
News reports indicate the Governor is angry at her fundraisers. She should be. But we also hear that she and the state are having trouble locating one of her top former fundraisers.
Politicians in our state are worried, and have a right to be. It is increasingly obvious that the public, the media, law enforcement and elections officials are tired of abuses in ethics and campaign laws. Cleaning up North Carolina`s political process requires more than just a swipe here or a reform there. Governor Perdue and all elected officials need to get in front of this snowball and call for a major review and overview of campaign finance and ethics laws in our state.
ABC reforms mostly window dressing
We had a clear example that lawmakers in our state are not really interested in fixing our archaic ABC system yesterday. The joint legislative committee putting together a package of reforms “gutted” the proposals made by another study commission. Local Boards and members will not have to conform to the State Ethics Act. While the state will recommend salary levels, local boards can overrule the caps.
And they wonder why we insist on privatizing this system they won`t fix. Look for NC SPIN to talk more about this soon.
Manning finally getting through
Judge Howdy Manning called Forsyth, Guilford and Durham County school leaders to his courtroom to ask them what they are doing, or are going to do, to improve education for K-3 students in their systems, since all three have problems. In hearings this week, Manning made it clear that if students in elementary schools can`t read teachers and principals need to be replaced. There is no excuse for failure, Manning says. Minnie Forte-Brown, chair of the Durham Board of Education, said about Manning, "He`s pushing us to do more and do it faster. The district has decided that having the right school staff is the key to improvement. It`s about putting the right people in front of the children. We`re finally getting that."
We never had a hard time understanding what Judge Manning has been saying. Evidently school leaders haven`t clearly heard the message….until now. At least it is finally resonating. The big problem now is in having to reform education in a time when budgets are taking big hits.
Look for more discussion on Manning`s hearings on next week`s NC SPIN.
Remembering John A
Longtime capitol observers are paying tribute to John A. Williams, one of the grey hairs a young Jim Hunt brought into his administration to help make government work. The other was the late Joe Pell. Both were successful businessmen but John A was the whip. He probably forgot more about the state budget than most of us would ever know, except perhaps the late Ken Royall. If you wanted money or wanted something done in government, John A was the man. He didn`t suffer fools well, nor did he like much argument. He would listen but quickly make decisions and next to Jim Hunt, John A`s decisions mattered. Legislators who were accustomed to having their way sometimes found themselves opposed to John A and he could be pretty tough in negotiations.
If you didn`t know him, don`t get the wrong impression. He was a wonderful and responsible public servant, an outstanding businessman who knew what it took to make a dollar and was careful about spending one. He knew that you couldn`t spend the same dollar twice and to get Hunt`s agenda across he had to find the dollars. John A served our state well and is still remembered as one of the best at crafting and administering state budgets. They don`t make `em like John A anymore.
Excessive travel expenses by state workers
Talk about an issue John A. Williams would have been all over, the WRAL report this week about top Revenue officials spending thousands commuting between their homes in Charlotte and Raleigh. One received $42,000 and the other $36,000 in travel expenses, according to the accounts. Revenue Secretary Ken Lay tried to defend their excessive travel allowances by pointing out the outstanding jobs the two had done. We doubt the Governor or the legislature, both scrimping for dollars to keep from cutting school budgets, will find this an acceptable defense.
Look for discussion on this topic next week on NC SPIN.
Legislature coming to town
The short session of the legislature will convene Wednesday, May 12th at high noon. The big task lawmakers will face is adjusting the budget to more accurately reflect state revenues, another difficult budget cutting session. The Senate says they will pass their version of the budget by May 20th. Look for complete discussion on what will and won`t get done in this session on next week`s NC SPIN.
Lobbyist Fines won`t fly
We return to last week`s story about fines imposed by Secretary of State Elaine Marshall against Don Beason and his son. We don`t know much more about the details because they are sealed by state statute. Was this an oversight or deliberate by our legislators? You can bet there will be some interesting discussion on this topic this week on our NC SPIN show.
UNC TV story has legs
Last week we reported on a story released by The News and Observer`s Lynn Bonner concerning the $300,000 contribution from The Golden Leaf Foundation to the state`s public television network, UNC-TV. Following the story we were told there was a hastily-called staff meeting at UNC-TV to deal with the fallout from the story. Management is worried about follow-up stories that are being researched concerning other possible relationships, such as the Our State program funded by Our State Magazine. Look for more on this in the future.
Campbell Law impressive
Your intrepid reporter had a personal tour of the new Campbell Law School in downtown Raleigh, conducted by Britt Davis, Director of Development for the law school. It was quite impressive. Prior to their move to Hillsborough Street last September, Raleigh was the only capital city in the country without a law school. We were especially impressed by the new Business Court and had a chance to visit with Judge John Jolly, who was rightfully proud of this new facility. We couldn`t help but feel a little proud of just how far Campbell has come since our family was involved in its beginnings. This facility will compare with any law school in the country. Well done.
Friday interview a classic
We continue to hear rave reviews about the Bill Friday interview we conducted on NC SPIN. Many are asking for an uninterrupted copy of the complete interview, suggesting they may become keepsake items worth archiving. There is no question that Bill Friday is one of our time`s greatest sons. To get your copy, just send $20 for the DVD, which includes duplicating and shipping. In addition, a $5 contribution will be made to the Ida Friday Faculty Development Fund at Meredith College. Call us as (919) 832-1416 or e-mail us at email@example.com. Visa and Mastercard are gladly accepted and we will take cash with two accredited recommendations.
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Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!
Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher
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