I made the mistake this morning of reading comments on Tim Cook's coming out news in the New York Times. While there were plenty of positive comments, most seemed motivated by a combination of disdain, dismissal, or even hatred. It hurt my soul.
This is the thing that worries me most about North Carolina today: Thom Tillis' divide-and-conquer mindset has gone mainstream. From Amendment One to Medicaid to the gutting of environmental protections, Republican policy seems to start with ridiculing and then demonizing vast sectors of our population. If you are a young woman whose success in life hinges on being able to terminate a pregnancy, you are a murderer. If you are a gay man in a 30 year relationship and want to marry, you are a pervert. If you are a poor person working three jobs with no benefits and no hope, you are a taker. If you are a black man, you are a criminal.
There will always be extremes to contend with in each of these areas. Some people are perverts. Fraud does exist in our welfare system. Some black men are criminals. But most people are not perverts. Most poor people don't try to game the system. And most black men are not criminals. The extremes are, by definition, not the norm. They are a gross and destructive stereotype being perpetuated by conservative Republicans to further the economic agenda of concentrating wealth among the elite. The only other explanation I can think of is even more frightening: they are devoid of empathy and wallowing in hate.
ONE STOP VOTING, Through Oct. 29: TOTAL VOTES: 689,644; Democrats 48%; Republicans 32%; Others 20%
Early Voting Numbers Look Good for Democrats (New York Times) -- Democratic efforts to turn out the young and nonwhite voters who sat out the 2010 midterm elections appear to be paying off in several Senate battleground states. More than 20 percent of the nearly three million votes already tabulated in North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado and Iowa have come from people who did not vote in the last midterm election, according to an analysis of early-voting data
Early Voting Continues Ahead of 2010's Numbers (Old North State Politics) -- North Carolina's early voting continues its march ahead of where the state was four years in the last mid-term election; among all early voting methods (in-person and mail-in balloting), 731,251 ballots have been accepted for November 4th's election. Among those accepted in-person early ballots, 689,682 votes have cast, equal to 115 percent of the same day total in 2010.
In-person early voting reaching toward 700,000 (AP) -- Even with one less week of balloting this election, in-person voting continues to outpace levels from the last midterm election in North Carolina and has Democrats guardedly optimistic for results from U.S. Senate down to the legislature and local races.
N.C.: The state where Republicans went too far (The Guardian) -- What is Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan doing right that Democratic incumbents in other states are doing wrong? The answer is nothing. It’s not about her. There is more to politics than elections and less to Republican victories than first appears. True, she is a competent candidate running a decent campaign. But the same can be said for most of her Democratic colleagues now facing defeat. Hagan is the beneficiary of grassroots activism and vocal opposition to Republican policies that happened in the streets after Democrats failed to effectively challenge them. The story starts with Republican overreach. When they won the North Carolina assembly in 2010 they went wild. Between 2010 and 2012, the then-governor, Democrat Bev Perdue, vetoed 19 bills. With some Democratic support Republicans overrode her veto 11 times. Then in 2012, after they won the gubernatorial race, they simply could not contain themselves. They passed one of the country’s most restrictive voter ID laws, eliminating same-day registration, cutting early voting from 17 days to 10 days, demanding government issued photo ID at the polls and ending pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds who come of age on election day. They slashed education funding, passed restrictive and intrusive limitations on abortion access, cut unemployment benefits and refused to expand access to Medicaid that was tied to Obamacare. They also redrew electoral boundaries to secure future Republican majorities.
Tillis, Hagan make dueling stops in Wilmington amid homestretch (Wilmington Star-News) -- One of the nastiest and costliest U.S. Senate races in the nation landed in the Port City on Thursday.
Hagan, Tillis take their campaigns to eastern N.C. (AP) -- Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis are campaigning in the eastern part of the state as the days dwindle before North Carolina voters decide who will represent them for the next six years. Tillis and Hagan scheduled multiple stops Thursday in eastern North Carolina to rally campaign volunteers and try to win over undecided voters.
Hagan visits the Beaufort County Democratic headquarters (Washington Daily News) -- U.S. Senator Kay Hagan greets supporter Florence Lodge at the Beaufort County Democratic headquarters in Washington on Thursday. The Washington stop was part of an eastern North Carolina tour the incumbent senator made before early voting ends Saturday. Hagan spoke about the need to increase minimum wage, expand Medicare in the state and equal pay before a crowded room of supporters.
Republican Thom Tillis returns to Fayetteville (Fayetteville Observer) -- About 110 people and a dog greeted Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis and his wife, Susan, on Thursday during a campaign stop in Fayetteville.
Tillis stops to boost early voting (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis on Thursday urged his supporters to take advantage of early voting during a visit to Pitt County Republican Party headquarters in Greenville.
Poll keeps Hagan with slight lead for U.S. Senate (AP) — Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is maintaining a narrow lead over Republican challenger Thom Tillis in their race for U.S. Senate in the latest Elon University Poll.
North Carolina Campaigns Prepare for Potential Recount (Roll Call) -- The competitive North Carolina Senate race will cost more than $100 million by Election Day, and that price tag could climb further as both parties prepare to spend even more if the race becomes too close to call. The campaigns for both Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Republican state Speaker Thom Tillis confirmed to CQ Roll Call they are making preparations in case of a recount in one of the country’s most competitive races.
Today in politics: Savor the uncertainty (New York Times) -- Washington’s bad habit these days is nail-biting as the two parties nervously execute their midterm endgames and try to navigate the path to power. But political players and election watchers might want to take a moment to savor the uncertainty. Five days before the 2014 election and after $4 billion in spending, we still don’t know for certain what’s going to happen next Tuesday — or beyond. At least six states in the struggle for control of the Senate — Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina and New Hampshire — remain truly up for grabs with runoffs likely in Georgia and Louisiana. Nearly a dozen governor’s races are within the polling margin of error. Things typically aren’t so unsettled this close to Election Day. In 2012, it was clear that Democrats would hold the Senate. Republicans were certain to take the House in 2010. House Republicans were just as clearly cooked in 2006.
Senate Update: With 4 Days Left (FiveThirtyEight) -- One backup option for Republicans is North Carolina, where their candidate Thom Tillis has gradually drawn closer and closer in the polls against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. It still might be a case of too little, too late — especially in a state with lots of early voting — but Tillis’ chances of winning are at their highest point since early September.
Campaigning to Extend, or End, One-Party Rule (New York Times) -- The trend toward one-party control of statehouses has made the states a testing ground for party policies in an era of gridlock in Washington. … In at least one state, North Carolina, this fight over one-party control has bled beyond the State Capitol into a tight race that could help decide control of the United States Senate. Kay Hagan, the incumbent senator, has struck out at Thom Tillis for his role as House speaker in that state’s Republican-run Capitol. After Republicans took sole control of state government in 2012, the state took a sharp turn to the right, cutting taxes and business regulations, reducing unemployment benefits and allowing concealed guns in bars and restaurants. “The Hagan campaign has managed to make her federal election a referendum on the state legislature and education issues you usually don’t see in these sorts of races,” said Thomas Mills, a Democratic political strategist and blogger in Carrboro, N.C.
Officials Advise Public to Double-Check Ballots TWCN-TV) -- Elections officials say a glitch in a Guilford County voting machine – that switched U.S. Senate votes for Democrat Kay Hagen to votes for Republican Thom Tillis -- is a rare occurrence. It’s one instance as thousands turn out for early voting
GOP Tightens Grip on White Working Class (Wall Street Journal) -- White, working-class voters give Republicans an edge in contested congressional elections and may help expand the GOP majority on Tuesday.
Race for Tillis' NC House District 98 seat county's costliest (Charlotte Observer) -- Republican Thom Tillis' U.S. Senate race is the most expensive in the nation. And the race for his legislative seat is the most expensive in Mecklenburg County. Republican John Bradford III and Democrat Natasha Marcus are waging a high-stakes contest for the seat Tillis is leaving in north Mecklenburg's House District 98. It may be one of the few truly competitive races in the county, and statewide. Party operatives say only a half dozen or so seats are really in play.
Bill Clinton coming to NC to help Hagan bid (AP) — Bill Clinton came to North Carolina last month to quietly raise money for Kay Hagan's U.S. Senate campaign. Now the former president is returning to rally the faithful publicly for the Democratic incumbent.
Hagan, Tillis spar over economy in campaign's final days (Raleigh News & Observer) -- In North Carolina's tight US Senate race, Republican Thom Tillis and Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan are wide apart on economic issues.
U.S. Department of Justice Nationwide Election Day Program (FBI News Release) -- U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins announced that Michael Savage and Richard Edwards, Assistant United States Attorneys in the Charlotte and Asheville offices will lead the efforts of this Office in connection with the Justice Department’s nationwide Election Day Program. Savage and Edwards have been appointed to serve as the District Election Officers and in that capacity are responsible for overseeing the District’s handling of complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses in consultation with Justice Department Headquarters in Washington. “Every citizen must be able to vote without interference or discrimination. The Department of Justice will act promptly and aggressively to protect the integrity of the election process,.” Tompkins said. Savage will be on duty in the Charlotte Office and Edwards in the Asheville Office while the polls are open. They can be reached by the public at the following telephone numbers: In Charlotte: 704-344-6222 and in Asheville: 828-271-4661.
Aiken asking for votes ... in a political forum (Greensboro News & Record) -- The former American Idol runner-up faces an incumbent for 2nd Congressional seat.
Wake County Campaign Pits Health Care Providers Against Each Other (N.C. Health News) -- There are few health care providers slated to be in this year’s crop of state legislators. In one district, two providers are running against each other. House District 41, which fills the southwestern corner of Wake County, stretching from Morrisville through western Cary and Apex down to New Hill, is a race between two health care providers: incumbent Tom Murry (R-Morrisville), a pharmacist and attorney, and Democratic challenger Gale Adcock, a nurse practitioner who runs the employee health care practice at Cary-based SAS. Adcock has also been on the Cary Town Council for a decade and currently serves as the interim mayor of Cary.
Dollars Flow to Wake County Health Care Candidates (N.C. Health News) -- A close race in District 41 between two candidates with health care backgrounds is attracting a lot of health care dollars.
Election 2014: Martin vs. Lewis for NC Supreme Court Chief Justice (Port City Daily) -- A local superior court judge is challenging the recently appointed chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court to serve as chief justice of the state’s high court. Brunswick County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis faces Chief Justice Mark Martin, who was appointed chief justice by N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory in August.
Conservative ‘;activist’: Video purports to show campaigns encouraging illegal votes (WRAL-TV) -- Conservative provocateur James O'Keefe says video his organization captured in Mecklenburg County shows that North Carolina campaigns are willing to tell people in the U.S. illegally to vote. … He has been criticized in the past for heavily editing videos that slammed organizations such as National Public Radio and the community organizing group ACORN. He declined to release raw footage of the Project Veritas work in Mecklenburg County, saying his actors were undercover.
Undercover video targets Mecklenburg candidates (Charlotte Observer) -- A conservative activist whose videos have been at the center of previous controversies is taking on local candidates.
POLICY & POLITICS
Blue Cross mistakenly notifies 42000 NC customers of incorrect rate hike (Charlotte Observer/Raleigh News & Observer) -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer, said Thursday that about 42,000 customers around the state received insurance renewal letters with incorrect rates, some showing cost increases of more than 100 percent. The Chapel Hill company has been flooded with calls since Wednesday from irate customers who began receiving their renewal notices this week. Blue Cross officials soon realized the insurance rates were incorrectly transferred from the company’s database to the computer-generated renewal notices.
NCTracks developer, Computer Sciences Corporation, faces fraud lawsuit (Triangle Business Journal) -- Computer Sciences Corporation, the company that designed, developed and is operating the Medicaid claims payment system in North Carolina, is facing a health care fraud lawsuit brought by the U.S. attorney's office in New York.
McCrory says he's assessing NC Medicaid expansion (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday he's weighing whether to expand Medicaid, the health insurance plan for the poor and disabled, adding to signs that state Republican leaders may reconsider their opposition to extending the social program.
McCrory Plan Drives NC Road Funds to GOP Areas (BusinessWeek) -- Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, whose prize accomplishment is a ranking system designed to take politics out of N.C. road spending, wants to ignore his own creation to fund rural projects. McCrory has proposed a $1 billion bond sale specifically for work that doesn’t score well under the formula he instituted this year. A Transportation Department draft list of 20 potential projects showed them sprinkled around the state. Most were outside cities and 12 were in districts represented by Republican state lawmakers. The system devised by McCrory, a 58-year-old former Charlotte mayor, is driven by data, focuses spending on economic centers and discourages projects in sparsely populated areas. The bond proposal is a peace offering to fellow Republicans, said Chris Fitzsimon, director of NC Policy Watch in Raleigh. … Thomas Mills, a Democratic political consultant, said the bond plan is designed to shore up support for McCrory and other Republicans. “Rural voters are their base,” he said. Ryan Tronovitch, a McCrory spokesman, referred questions to the state Transportation Department. Mike Charbonneau, a spokesman for that agency, said the proposal lets the state take advantage of interest rates near historic lows.
McCrory skewing the workers' comp system (Weekly Independent) -- The North Carolina Industrial Commission is a vital judicial mechanism. Established in 1929 to adjudicate between companies and workers during an era of labor tumult, the six-commissioner body has the final word on workers' compensation disputes, wrongful conviction payouts and the distribution of the state eugenics compensation fund. But recent appointments by Governor McCrory and changes by the General Assembly have left the independence of the commission in question. A number of sources that work in and around the commission—who preferred to remain unnamed because they feared retribution—described a political takeover and a deck that looked increasingly stacked in favor of employers and insurance companies.
McCrory says plan for ailing NC buildings would have 'impact’ (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory is showing off the ninth floor of the Albemarle Building, where his transition team worked before taking office. Albemarle, the governor says, is just one of the government office buildings throughout the state that's in desperate need of an overhaul. McCrory's administration is working on what it dubs "Project Phoenix," an effort to revitalize the state government complex in Raleigh and elsewhere by adding retail and residential uses. The goal is to extend downtown Raleigh's success and round-the-clock activity to the north.
Audit: Tire vendor provided substandard retreads to state (WRAL-TV) -- Lax oversight from state purchasing agents led to a tire company providing "substandard" retreads to the state Department of Transportation in recent years, according to an audit released Thursday.
McCrory seeks better NC connection with Virginia (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory will visit northeastern North Carolina, where he says he hopes to create better connections with the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.
Pantsless suspect watched woman on treadmill (Hickory Record) -- A woman inside a motel gym reported a man dropped his pants and watched her Wednesday afternoon.
NC man admits role in trying to help terrorists (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a North Carolina man who tried to join the fighting in Syria is pleading guilty to terrorism charges
N.C. Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Aid Terrorist Organization (FBI News Release) -- Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin, U.S. Attorney Ripley Rand for the Middle District of N.C. and Special Agent in Charge John Strong of the FBI in N.C. announced today that Donald Ray Morgan pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and possession of firearm by a felon. Morgan, 44, of Rowan County, pleaded guilty this morning before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas D. Schroeder. Morgan was charged on Oct. 30, 2014, in a bill of information with attempted provision of material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The offense is punishable by a maximum of fifteen years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
Raleigh Attorney, Developers, Brokers, and Recruiters Sentenced in Expansive Mortgage Fraud Scheme (FBI News Release) -- The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Chief U.S. District Judge James C. Dever, III sentenced numerous participants in an expansive mortgage fraud scheme to prison. Dever also collectively ordered more than $10 million in forfeiture and restitution judgments against the defendants. Those sentenced by the Court included multiple real estate developers, a closing attorney, two mortgage brokers, and a real estate broker.
Last of 28 United Blood Nation Gang Members Sentenced (FBI News Release) -- Eric Eugene Brice, a/k/a “Bug,” 42, was sentenced today to 77 months in prison and to three years of supervised release for possession of an illegal firearm, a Maverick 99 pistol-grip shotgun, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of N.C. Brice pleaded guilty to the charge in March 2014. Brice is also the final defendant to be sentenced in connection with the 28 “United Blood Nation” (UBN) gang members indicted in 2012 on racketeering and related charges.
Charlotte Man Sentenced for Operating Ponzi Scheme (FBI News Release) -- Sean F. Mescall, 35, of Charlotte, was sentenced U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr. to 195 months in prison for orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that solicited victims to invest more than $1.5 million dollars in the foreign currency market, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of N.C. Judge Conrad also ordered Mescall to serve three years under court supervision following his prison term and to pay $1,248,812.09 as restitution to his victims. In December 2012, a federal jury convicted Mescall of securities fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. N.C. Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall and John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division join U.S. Attorney Tompkins in making today’s announcement.
African Roots in Brunswick County (Coastal Review) -- Southeast North Carolina's heritage is infused with the culture of West African descendants. The Gullah or Geechee people are known for their story-telling, rice-based cuisine and fishing traditions.
SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES
More teachers leave for out-of-state jobs (Raleigh News & Observer) -- More teachers left North Carolina to teach in other states last year than the year before, and more reported leaving the profession because they were dissatisfied or wanted to make a career change, according to a state Department of Public Instruction draft report. Overall, the teacher turnover rate dipped slightly to 14.12 percent last year from 14.33 percent in 2012-13. Fewer teachers retired in 2013-14, and fewer moved into administrative or other central office positions, Lynne Johnson, DPI’s director of educator effectiveness, said in an email. The top reason teachers resigned was for teaching jobs in other North Carolina districts. The State Board of Education is set to review the report at its meeting next week.
Charges dropped against 3 ex-UNCG employees (Greensboro News & Record) — Prosecutors agreed Thursday to drop all 22 felony charges against three fired UNCG employees accused of falsifying time sheets.
UNC-Chapel Hill faculty to discuss bogus courses (AP) — Professors at North Carolina's flagship public university are sitting down to hash out the unpleasant finding that parts of their campus schemed to give athletes fake grades so they could keep playing for the Tar Heels.
Forum at UNCW on Ebola stresses education over hysteria (Wilmington Star-News) -- Gathering of community leaders was prompted by media attention focused on the disease.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
FLS Energy Begins Construction on 38 Megawatts of Utility Scale Solar (Renewables Biz) -- FLS Energy has closed financing and begun construction on 21 megawatts of utility-scale solar farms across four locations in Guilford County, North Carolina . The solar energy plants will produce approximately 32 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year or enough energy to power over 3,200 average U.S. homes. Duke Energy will purchase the electricity generated by the solar energy systems through 15 year power purchase agreements.
Duke Energy CEO: What I learned from Dan River, Progress Merger (Triangle Business Journal) -- About two years and three months after the Duke-Progress merger, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good addressed a crowd of CEOs in Raleigh candidly about life post-merger at the utility mammoth – and a February crisis that dominated headlines: The Dan River coal ash spill. Acknowledging "a little bit of chaos" that popped up at the beginning of the merger – notably the leadership shift when Progress CEO Bill Johnson was ousted from the leadership seat, she says teammates were able to get together and demonstrate the value of the merger "from the very beginning." "The business case for consolidation is compelling and for us, because the growth in electrical sales is modest and we spend more capital than any industry in the U.S., the idea of getting bigger and creating bigger balance sheets to absorb that capital is compelling," Good says. "We had a commitment to deliver $700 million worth of savings and we got to work immediately."
U.S. Solar Panel Maker to Add 200 Jobs and Expand Its Plant (New York Times) -- Strong demand for solar modules is leading SolarWorld to expand its plant and capacity to make panels.
A strong field for NC Court of Appeals (Raleigh News & Observer) -- News & Observer endorses candidates in North Carolina's Court of Appeals races: Donna Stroud, Lucy Inman, Mark Davis, Sabra Faires.
LYNN GOOD: Duke Energy meets challenge of safe, reliable service (Charlotte Observer column) -- Throughout Duke Energy’s century of service to the Carolinas, we’ve been honored to serve our customers and communities by delivering reliable, low-cost electricity.
Regardless of GOP intentions, results of voting ‘reforms’ indefensible (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Voter ID advocates insist that their reasonable moves are intended to protect the integrity of the process, but the reality is that their policies have created confusion and chaos for hundreds of thousands of voters.
NC must do more to protect child workers (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- We need NC Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry to act. While national Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is tweeting about ending child labor around the world, reports from researchers and journalists are calling out North Carolina for something we have known for years: