3-JUDGE PANEL TO HEAR LAWSUITS CHALLENGING GOP CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS: Lawyers representing Gov. Roy Cooper, the state NAACP and an environmental group argued Tuesday that four of the six proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall are intentionally misleading and should be excluded. "The General Assembly should not be allowed, cannot be allowed to violate the rights of North Carolinians," said John Wester, an attorney for Cooper. "[Voters] can exercise their rights and power only if they are fairly and honestly informed about the amendment before them." Cooper, a Democrat, has been fighting with Republican legislative leaders over appointment powers to various state boards and commissions since before he took office at the start of 2017. "Both [amendments] take a wrecking ball to the constitution's separation of powers principle, and they would ... strip the governor of constitutional powers," Wester said.
DEMOCRAT ED HANES RESIGNS FROM NC HOUSE, WANTS TO PICK HIS OWN REPLACEMENT: Ed Hanes, a Democrat who represented Winston-Salem in the North Carolina General Assembly, has resigned. Hanes announced Tuesday that he would retire effective immediately, and that he wants a Winston-Salem City Council member, Derwin Montgomery, to replace him in the state House. A newspaper in his hometown, the Winston-Salem Chronicle, first reported Hanes’ announcement. Montgomery, a 2010 graduate of Winston-Salem State University, is also a co-owner of the Chronicle. Hanes confirmed the reports to The NC Insider later Tuesday, saying “a good opportunity” came up that “demands my immediate attention.” He wouldn’t say what that opportunity was, only that there would be more information to come.
HERITAGE ACTION SET TO SPEND HEAVILY IN TWO NC CONGRESSIONAL RACES: The organization plans to spend at least $2.5 million, with the minimum investment in each district ranging between $200,000 and $400,000, Heritage Action officials told McClatchy, adding that they hope to be able to spend more. Their endorsees fall into “a couple buckets,” Chapman said. There are the “strong allies,” such as conservative Reps. Dave Brat of Virginia and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. There are “potentially new members of a coalition in the House” including Jay Webber, running in an open seat in New Jersey, and former pastor Mark Harris, the Republican nominee in North Carolina’s Ninth District, who is running against Democratic Marine veteran Dan McCready. And the organization is looking at “where is the left going all-in?” He pointed to districts including Rep. Ted Budd’s in North Carolina, and Rep. Ann Wagner’s in Missouri, two places where Heritage Action will be mobilizing.
OHIO SPECIAL ELECTION NOSE-TO-NOSE, DESPITE TRUMP CHEERLEADING: Despite the deadlocked race, the specific Ohio returns suggest considerably higher Democratic enthusiasm less than 100 days before the midterms. O’Connor’s total of nearly 100,000 votes far exceeded what the district’s former Republican congressman Pat Tiberi’s Democratic opponent got in 2014. Balderson’s total ” just more than 101,500 votes ” is barely two-thirds of Tiberi’s 2014 mark of about 150,000. The two will face off again in November to see who holds the seat in 2019 and 2020. It’s unclear how much Trump’s support helped or hurt Balderson. Described by campaign operatives as a “Whole Foods” district, the largely suburban region features a more affluent and educated voter base than the typical Trump stronghold. At times, the race centered on Trump’s tax cuts as much as the candidates. O’Connor and his Democratic allies railed against the tax plan, casting it as a giveaway for the rich that exacerbates federal deficits and threatens Medicare and Social Security. Balderson and his Republican allies have backed away from the tax plan in recent weeks, training their fire instead on top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
GATES BARES IT ALL IN CASE AGAINST MANAFORT: Gates implicated himself in broad criminal conduct on the stand, an apparent strategic decision by prosecutors to take some of the steam out of defense questioning. He told jurors he embezzled from Manafort by filing false expense reports. He also said he committed credit card and mortgage fraud, falsified a letter for a colleague involved in an investment deal and made false statements in a deposition at Manafort’s direction. Prosecutors summoned Gates to give jurors the first-hand account of a co-conspirator they say helped Manafort carry out an elaborate offshore tax-evasion and bank fraud scheme. Gates testified that he and Manafort knew they were committing crimes for years, saying they had stashed money in foreign bank accounts and falsified bank loan documents. “In Cyprus, they were documented as loans. In reality, it was basically money moving between accounts,” Gates said. Manafort and Gates were the first two people indicted in Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Gates pleaded guilty months later and agreed to cooperate in Mueller’s investigation of Manafort, the only American charged by the special counsel to opt for trial instead of a guilty plea.