JUDGES DELAY CANDIDATE FILING IN NC CONGRESSIONAL RACES: Candidates wanting to run in North Carolina’s newly redrawn U.S. House districts may have to wait a bit longer than they thought to file for office. The filing period for candidates running for statewide office in 2020 opens Dec. 2 at noon. But a panel of state court judges will meet that day at 9 a.m. to consider the next steps for North Carolina’s congressional map. The court said Wednesday evening that no one can file to run for U.S. House until the court says so. The state’s primary election is scheduled for March 3. Republicans hold 10 of the state’s 13 seats in the U.S. House. Under the new map, Democrats are expected to gain two additional seats, making an 8-5 split. But challengers in the court case indicated immediately after the maps were passed that they would challenge them again.
REPUBLICAN "INVESTIGATION" INTO COOPER PIPELINE ISSUE PRODUCES A NOTHINGBURGER: Private investigators hired by Republican lawmakers to look at how Gov. Roy Cooper's administration handled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline permitting found that the Democratic governor didn't personally benefit from actions he and his administration took. But the investigators said in their 82-page report, which was released to a legislative oversight committee Wednesday, that "it would be reasonable to conclude" from the evidence they collected that Cooper "improperly used the authority and influence of his office" to obtain a $57.8 million fund from Duke Energy and other pipeline developers and concessions from Duke to benefit the state's burgeoning solar energy industry. The investigators lay out a timeline of events leading up to the permit approval, including text messages and emails between administration officials and Duke officials, and subsequent testimony by some of these officials during legislative hearings and interviews with investigators.
DEB BUTLER TWEETED ABOUT AN E-MAIL SENT TO HER, REPUBLICANS QUESTIONED HER INTEGRITY: A Democratic lawmaker took to social media this week to prove her claim — questioned by state Republican officials — that a teacher had emailed her about going hungry because she’s not getting paid enough money. State Rep. Deb Butler, a New Hanover County Democrat, tweeted Tuesday about an email from a teacher who said she has virtually no money left and relies on leftovers from friends to feed herself. After Jeff Hauser, communications director for the N.C. Republican Party, submitted a public records request for the email, Butler responded by posting the message on Twitter. Butler said the teacher had given her permission to publicly release the email but not to use her name. The teacher did not immediately respond to the News & Observer’s request, sent through Butler, to speak with her. “She just reached out in frustration,” Butler said in an interview Wednesday. “The content of her email was just so heartfelt and painful and moved me to react."
GORDON SONDLAND'S TESTIMONY DRIVES ANOTHER NAIL IN TRUMP'S COFFIN: The bombshell testimony from Sondland alleging that the president attempted to leverage an invite for Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky in exchange for an investigation into his political opponents forced the White House, which was not aware of his testimony in advance, to quickly recalibrate its defense of the president’s actions. Administration officials immediately sought to emphasize that Sondland was relying in part on his own presumptions based on conversations with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani — an argument echoed by GOP lawmakers later Wednesday — and that Trump himself never personally told Sondland about preconditioning $400 million in military aid to Ukraine or a coveted White House visit on the probes. Late Wednesday, Republicans faced another round of problematic testimony when Pentagon official Laura Cooper told the House Intelligence Committee that Ukraine asked about the hold on security money on July 25, the day of a pivotal phone call in which Trump asked Zelensky to pursue investigations into his opponents.
BUTTIGIEG TAKES SOME PUNCHES, BUT DEM DEBATE MOSTLY FOCUSES ON TRUMP IMPEACHMENT: It was widely anticipated that Mr. Buttigieg would become a kind of political pin cushion onstage, as other Democrats sought to harry him as the emerging front-runner in Iowa. But it was only in the final moments of the debate that he drew sustained criticism, first from Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and then, more caustically, from Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. But for the most part, the Democrats focused on denouncing Mr. Trump. That was in part because, unlike at previous debates, the moderators avoided stoking rivalries and highlighting differences. Yet the lack of vitriol and the intense focus on electability also owed to the nature of this campaign, which as the impeachment inquiry unfolds is becoming even more centered on finding the best candidate to defeat the president. The candidates attacked Mr. Trump both for his actions toward Ukraine that have prompted impeachment proceedings and for a longer litany of offenses, including his detention of children at the Mexican border, his warm relationships with dictatorial governments in Saudi Arabia and North Korea and his appointment of political cronies to prominent jobs.