Daily dose

Saturday News: The tyranny of the mapmakers


NC GERRYMANDERING LAWSUITS TO BE ARGUED IN 2019: Both suits allege that the state legislature engaged in unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering when it was redrawing political districts to comply with court orders after losing separate lawsuits over racial gerrymandering. One deals with the U.S. Congress, and the other deals with the North Carolina General Assembly. It’s an important case because whichever party controls the state legislature after the 2020 elections will be in charge of the state’s next round of redistricting in 2021, following the 2020 census. The lawsuit against the legislature and other state officials was filed by the N.C. Democratic Party and the government watchdog group Common Cause. In the latest developments in that lawsuit, Republican legislators moved the case to federal court on Dec. 14. Several days later they issued a press release saying they don’t want the case to be heard in state courts because they think judges in North Carolina might be too liberal to give them a fair trial.

Friday News: And then there were three


COLUMBUS SHERIFF'S RACE UNDER SCRUTINY OVER POSSIBLE ABSENTEE BALLOT FRAUD: In Columbus County, campaign finance records show that Republican sheriff candidate S. Jody Greene paid political strategy firm Red Dome $2,500 for “consulting for campaign” in August. Dowless worked for Red Dome, the company has said. Greene beat the incumbent, Lewis Hatcher, a Democrat, by fewer than 40 votes. More than 300 votes in the race were cast using mail-in absentee ballots. Hatcher won 243 of those absentee votes to Greene’s 93, according to results posted on the state elections board’s website. The county elections board dismissed four complaints challenging the results in the sheriff’s race. At least two have since been appealed to the the state board. Neither Greene nor Hatcher responded to interview requests from The News & Observer. But Greene’s wife, Angie, said in an interview last week at the elections office: “We did not specifically hire McCrae Dowless. We hired Red Dome.”

Thursday News: Voting with your wallet


UNC ALUMNI THREATEN TO CUT OFF DONATIONS OVER SILENT SAM: Some young alumni are threatening to withhold donations from UNC-Chapel Hill until Silent Sam is gone for good. It’s an attempt to influence the looming decision about what to do with the disputed Confederate statue. A letter signed by more than 2,200 people was sent to the UNC administration last week, specifically referencing a $5.3 million proposal to build a history center that was to house the toppled monument. That plan is now dead, having been rejected Friday by the UNC system Board of Governors. A five-member committee was appointed to work with UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt and campus trustees on a new proposal, due in March. The recent petition included signatures primarily from current students, employees and alumni who graduated in the past decade. The letter said the signers would withhold all financial contributions “until a plan is adopted that permanently removes Silent Sam from campus.”

Wednesday News: No more secrets


GOVERNOR THREATENS TO VETO BILL THAT OBSCURES CAMPAIGN FINANCE INVESTIGATIONS: “This bill makes it harder to root out corruption in elections and campaign finance,” Cooper said at a news conference. “It actually provides more protections for politicians and others who violate campaign finance laws. These new provisions can shield wrong-doers by adding broad confidentiality requirements, limiting those who can file complaints, handcuffing investigators on how far back they can look, and requiring a reinvestigation by a second committee before evidence can be turned over to prosecutors. All of these new provisions operate to obscure the truth rather than shine a light on it.” Senate leader Phil Berger said the bill gives Cooper everything he wanted in separate elections and ethics boards and urged Cooper to sign it. Requiring confidentiality of campaign finance investigations is meant to discourage unfounded allegations, Berger told reporters.

Tuesday News: He's not the Grinch, you're the Grinch...

REPUBLICANS WANT COOPER TO HURRY UP AND VETO, BECAUSE CHRISTMAS: Senate Republicans are asking Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to not be a “grinch” by waiting to veto legislation that could force lawmakers to return to Raleigh during Christmas week to try to override his rejections. In a news release Monday, Senate Republicans said Cooper should veto or sign the remaining bills on his desk now so that legislators can act on overriding them on Tuesday as opposed to next week. But former state GOP legislator Charles Jeter, who’s now government relations coordinator for Charlotte Mecklenburg schools, said it’s lawmakers who are to blame for putting themselves in this situation of potentially needing to vote during Christmas week. “The NCGA made the decision of the time of year to force these issues, not the Governor,” Jeter said in a message. “If they didn’t want to come back next week, they should’ve waited until next year. They chose this, not Cooper.”

Monday News: Damaged goods


GOP LEGISLATION REQUIRING PRIMARY AN EFFORT TO BOOT HARRIS: Legislation quickly passed by North Carolina's lawmakers this week would prepare a path for Republicans to dump their nominee in a still-undecided U.S. House race marred with ballot fraud allegations. "I think (legislators are) worried that Mark Harris might be damaged goods and they want to have the opportunity to have a different Republican nominee," said Carter Wrenn, a Republican operative and consultant to former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms and others for more than 40 years. "That's how I read those tea leaves." If the state elections board decides ballot irregularities or other problems cast the true outcome into doubt and force a redo, the legislation — if allowed to go into law by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper — would require new primary elections in the 9th Congressional District race, in addition to a new general election.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


NC HAS GREATER NEEDS THAN MORE CORPORATE TAX CUTS: In the next fiscal year, North Carolina’s corporations will likely pay about $598 million in income taxes. That is less than half the $1.4 billion they paid during the 2013-14 budget year. Here’s the math. Right now, the income tax rate for corporations is 3 percent. Based on current collections, total taxable corporate revenue for the 2018-19 budget year will be about $23.9 billion resulting in income taxes collected at about $718 million. On the first of the new year, the corporate tax rate drops to 2.5 percent. At that new rate, with the same taxable revenues, corporations will pay $598 million in state income taxes -- $120 million less. That’s enough money for a 2 percent increase in public school teacher pay.

Saturday News: Defending the disenfranchised


GOVERNOR COOPER VETOES BURDENSOME VOTER ID BILL: In his veto message, Cooper said, “the proposed law puts up barriers to voting that will trap honest voters in confusion and discourage them with new rules, some of which haven’t even been written yet. Finally the fundamental flaw in the bill is its sinister and cynical origins: It was designed to suppress the rights of minority, poor and elderly voters. The cost of disenfranchising those voters or any citizens is too high, and the risk of taking away the fundamental right to vote is too great, for this law to take effect.” Several groups, including the ACLU, Common Cause NC, and Equality NC, encouraged Cooper to veto the voter ID bill. The Campus Vote Project of the Fair Elections Center, a voting rights group in Washington, D.C., asked Cooper this week to veto the bill because of the “absurd hurdles created” for colleges and universities that would want to provide students with IDs they could use at the polls.

Friday News: Culpability

AFTER BEING WARNED ABOUT FRAUD, MARK HARRIS HIRED DOWLESS ANYWAY: North Carolina congressional candidate Mark Harris, a Republican from Charlotte, directed the hiring of a campaign aide now at the center of an election-fraud investigation, according to three individuals familiar with the campaign, despite warnings that the operative may have used questionable tactics to deliver votes. Harris sought out the operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, after losing a 2016 election in which Dowless had helped one of Harris’s opponents win an overwhelming share of the mail-in vote in a key county. State and local investigators say that whether Harris knew that his campaign may have engaged in improper tactics has become a focus of the expanding probes into whether election irregularities affected the 9th District election, in which Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.

Thursday News: Strike?

LETTERS TO PARENTS DETAIL REFUSAL TO GRADE PAPERS OVER SILENT SAM PLAN: More than 200 UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members have signed an open letter to students’ parents and guardians, asking them to support striking graduate student instructors and the permanent removal of the Silent Sam Confederate statue from campus. “Please contact university leaders, including Chancellor Carol Folt, Provost Bob Blouin, and Chairman of the Board Haywood Cochrane Jr. to make your views known and request that Silent Sam and other Confederate statues not be allowed on our campus,” said the letter, issued just days before the UNC system Board of Governors could decide the statue’s fate. As far as the proposed strike, the university so far has not “received any specific reports of grades not being submitted or observed any irregular activity,” UNC spokeswoman Joanne Peters Denny said Wednesday.


Subscribe to RSS - Daily dose