During an appearance at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C, a key center of power for the conservative movement, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory portrayed himself as a business-minded policy wonk, earnestly extolling the benefits of infrastructure development and government-efficiency measures. He might as well have been describing someone else. For the last year, McCrory has engineered a hard-right shift in North Carolina that has crippled millions in his state. His 2012 election gave Republicans control of all three branches of the state’s government for the first time since Reconstruction and they took advantage of it. In 2013 alone, North Carolina has said no to expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, approved a tax plan that redistributes wealth from poor to rich, cut education by half a billion dollars, instituted perhaps the toughest voting restrictions in the country, weakened campaign-finance laws, and passed its own version of Texas’ controversial abortion measure. In short, the GOP has turned America’s 10th-largest state —traditionally known as a rare bastion of southern moderation—into a massive testing ground for pure conservative ideology.
Charlotte Observer: The source of all McCrory’s troubles?
Moderate voters in Charlotte and across the state are kicking themselves for supporting consensus-building “Mayor Pat” only to find that Gov. Pat McCrory can be quite different. But my interview with him last week and a breakfast with him a couple weeks earlier make clear he hasn’t changed a bit in one respect: This is a man obsessed with his image and how he’s portrayed. It’s clear he doesn’t go a day without being deeply frustrated by what he sees as unfair attacks on his good name. My hour-and-40-minute one-on-one with the governor began with him complaining about an editorial cartoon and ended with a complaint about how Art Pope, one of his chief advisers, is depicted. In between, McCrory repeatedly sprinkled asides and bromides about how the media are out to get him and his administration. When I sat next to him at a recent breakfast, he tugged on my sleeve every couple of minutes, leaned over and murmured his displeasure with this cartoon or that editorial or a news story from six months ago.
In most major departments in state government, officials must explain in writing when they want to hire an individual with a contract for services. But at the Department of Health and Human Services, where Secretary Aldona Wos has awarded at least seven such deals, those rules are not being followed in most cases. Wos, an appointee of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, has awarded a number of high-dollar contracts, including one worth $312,000 a year to former State Auditor Les Merritt and another worth $310,000 to a vice president from the company owned by Wos’ husband. But in both of those cases, and in at least four others, the department says it can’t locate any memos written to justify the contracts.
Oh this will go over well. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s staff announced on Tuesday that they will be adding a “special service charge” for public records that take more than 30 minutes to process, to cut down on long lines at City Hall. The fees likely run afoul of North Carolina’s public-records law, which states outright that government documents are “the property of the people.” “The special service charge for administrative time in excess of 30 minutes has the potential for enormous impact on accessibility of public information and is inconsistent with the notion that these records belong to the people,” said Mike Tadych, a Raleigh lawyer who specializes in First Amendment cases. Also even worse: it’s pretty much the opposite of what McCrory ran on, when he pledged an era of open government.
As a candidate, Pat McCrory pledged a transparent and accountable government. But now that he is governor, those seeking access to public records are often met with long delays and unprecedented demands for payment. McCrory’s staff has interpreted a one-sentence clause in North Carolina’s public records law as providing broad authority to assess a "special service charge" on any records request taking more than 30 minutes for an employee to process.
After in-depth interviews and articles about Pat McCrory by Taylor Batten, editorial page editor of theCharlotte Observer, and John Frank, a reporter for theN&O, we’re finely getting a full picture of who Governor Pat McCrory really is. We thought we were getting a moderate, competent administrator. Boy, were we wrong. Batten’s devastating op-ed portrays a man obsessed with his image and blaming the media for all of his bad press. Frank reveals a guy who thinks he sounds folksy and genuine because he ignores talking points and talks of the cuff. And from interviews like the one on WFAE last week, we see a guy who plays loose with the facts either because he doesn’t have a firm grasp of them or because he doesn’t realize that other people do. Hence, he keeps making stuff up.
Gov. Pat McCrory is still trying to work the refs to get better headlines. The latest episode is described in a column by Charlotte Observer editorial page editor Taylor Batten. From his post in Charlotte, Batten has watched McCrory for two decades and his insights into struggling governor’s situation are insightful. It starts: “Moderate voters in Charlotte and across the state are kicking themselves for supporting consensus-building “Mayor Pat” only to find that Gov. Pat McCrory can be quite different. But my interview with him last week and a breakfast with him a couple weeks earlier make clear he hasn’t changed a bit in one respect: This is a man obsessed with his image and how he’s portrayed. It’s clear he doesn’t go a day without being deeply frustrated by what he sees as unfair attacks on his good name.”
As America pauses for the national holiday, North Carolina politicians have special reasons to give thanks. Here are a few things that should have our state pols whispering words of gratitude before they dive into the pumpkin pie. Gov. Pat McCrory is thankful for the abundance of young people willing to take high-paying jobs in his administration, and puppy love. Dr. Aldona Wos, head of the state Department of Health and Human Services, is thankful for the Affordable Care Act insurance enrollment site healthcare.gov. True, some North Carolina doctors still aren’t getting paid for treating Medicaid patients, but at least NC Tracks isn’t bringing down a presidency. DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz has 85,000 reasons to be thankful. • The governor’s guests are thankful that the Administration Building is close to the Executive Mansion – in case they have to use the bathroom. Phil Berger Jr. is thankful for Phil Berger Sr. U.S. Rep. George Holding is grateful for big, comfy chairs suitable for naps and campaign donations that allow him to eat in D.C.’s finest restaurants.
Just when conventional wisdom says that the governor is starting to get his game, he opens his mouth. This time, it was on WFAE, the public radio station in his home town of Charlotte. Maybe he thought that the mean old capitol press corps wouldn’t be listening to a Charlotte station. Or maybe he thought he could sneak away from them since he didn’t put it on his daily schedule. But, alas, they were listening. And not only were they listening, they heard him making stuff up again. Which begs the old joke: How do you know when Pat McCrory is lying? His lips are moving. This time, he got caught twice in the same interview. First, McCrory said that Duke Energy and IBM had stopped offering their employees health insurance because of Obamacare. That’s not true. That’s not even a rumor. He just made it up on the spot.
Last spring Governor Pat McCrory signed into law a rejection of billions of federal Medicaid dollars available to North Carolina under the Affordable Care Act to expand coverage to 500,000 low-income citizens. Issues surrounding the morality of rejecting health coverage 100% paid for by the federal government for three years and never less than 90% thereafter have been widely explored. In addition, the fact that NC is giving up 25,000 jobs by turning down these billions, has also been noted. Less visible however are the statewide job cuts among hospitals – especially rural hospitals – that are forming a sort of slow motion disaster caused in large part by McCrory and the NC General Assembly.I’ve assembled just a few of the recent stories from across the state to illustrate what is going on in our rural communities as a result of NC’s failure to expand coverage. So far I’ve found eleven hospitals and health clinics across our state that have already announced significant layoffs or even closure of facilities and I only expect this number to grow. Together there are over 560 layoffs already. All cite as a major reason for their layoffs the decision by Governor McCrory and the General Assembly not to expand Medicaid.
The president of the county’s NAACP hopes that the petition delivered to Gov. Pat McCrory this week by the association’s top leader in the state will convince North Carolina legislators to reconsider their decision to opt out of the Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act, a move that left nearly 30 percent of the county uninsured. The Rev. William Barber II, president of the state NAACP, delivered the petition Tuesday, saying as he did so that he wanted to remind the governor over the Thanksgiving holiday of the 500,000 North Carolinians who would be stuck in a coverage gap between the cutoff points of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act — and the more than 100,000 whose jobless benefits would run out as Christmas approaches. According to Scotland County NAACP President Terrance Williams, 27 percent of the county’s population— about 9,000 residents — would have been covered if the expansion, coming in the way of federal dollars, had been accepted. Federal money would have paid for three years of the extended coverage, and 90 percent of the costs in 2020. “Their reasoning was that in the long run, eventually we will be at a disadvantage and further expand our debt,” Williams said. “I’m not sure how much validity we should give to that because we are already seeing jobs being lost.”
Never one to shy away from controversy – if not outright provoke it – state Sen. Bob Rucho commemorated President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Twitter this way: “JFK could have been the founder and leader of the Tea Party. The real democrat party has been hijacked.” That unleashed a dust-up between the Mecklenburg County Republican and Democratic tweeters, who responded along the lines of “Are you delusional?” Rucho stood his ground with, “JFK believed in low taxes, hard work, personal freedom and achievement. You ought to try it.” He added in a third tweet that he wasn’t the only one who thought Kennedy was a conservative. Rucho’s observations were preceded earlier in the week by a number of articles arguing that JFK was, to one degree or another, more conservative than he is remembered by those who mythologize his legacy. “For them, his conservative dimension is an inconvenient truth,” George Will wrote. The argument can be made and argued on several fronts, including interventionism, taxes and government’s role in helping business. But a tea partier? Kennedy himself famously declared himself a liberal, saying he embraced the label if that meant caring about health-care, housing, education, employment and civil rights.
Thanks to Senator Bob Rucho for serving up a heaping holiday helping of hilarity: “JFK could have been the founder and leader of the Tea Party.” Let’s let JFK answer himself. In the 1960 campaign, he said: “I have yet to hear of one single original piece of new, progressive legislation of benefit to the people, suggested and put into a fact by the Republican Party.” Also in 1960, he defined himself this way: “If by a ‘Liberal’ they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a ‘Liberal’, then I’m proud to say I’m a ‘Liberal.’” As to Rucho, let us quote Lloyd Bentsen: “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
The state Department of Health and Human Services will hold a “Twitter town hall” at 3:30 p.m. Monday, using the social media tool to gather reaction to the Crisis Solutions Initiative of Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration. The initiative is described as a new statewide effort to improve mental health and substance abuse crisis services in North Carolina. Dave Richard, director of the DHHS Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services, will lead the session. To participate go to www.ncdhhs.gov, or use the hash tag #ncmentalhealth on Twitter. You can also follow the Department on Twitter, @NC_DHHS, to see responses.
Politico: Shutdown prevention: Back-room talks start
A bipartisan group of senators may serve as a last-minute lifeline if the government faces another shutdown at the start of next year. Led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and launched during the government shutdown as a springboard for bipartisan negotiations, the “common sense caucus” may offer solutions on budget issues that have long plagued each party. For now, the group is working in the shadows of the more high-profile budget conference committee chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The deadline for that panel to craft an agreement is Dec. 13, and there are some signs it might reach a narrow deal to replace the sequester with more targeted spending before the eruption of another fiscal impasse. But if that effort fails, the 16-member Collins-Manchin group may be the best hope of avoiding another shutdown on Jan. 15. Members of the group — who say theirs isn’t one of the Senate’s famous gangs — believe their personal relationships and built-in communication infrastructure might offer Congress a way out.
We did a whole “Hardball” hour Friday on how the GOP ratcheted up the crazy this year. Chris Matthews made me break down Rep. Steve King’s crazy anti-Mexican “calves the size of cantaloupes” slur, and I was forced to wonder why he’s thinking with such a sculpter’s eye for detail about another man’s calves, while otherizing him into a beast of burden, not quite human. Way to go for that Latino vote in 2014, GOP. But the long list of crazy made me realize that despite the RNC autopsy that kicked off 2013, looking at ways to make sure it wasn’t merely the party of “stuffy old men,” the GOP apparently learned nothing from its 2012 drubbing. With the stumbles of the Affordable Care Act, that might seem OK, and there will be no penalty for their year of dithering and race-baiting. Rep. Michele Bachmann says the ACA’s problems make Republicans “look like geniuses,” and while it’s easy to mock her non-genius, her party looks better politically than it did a month ago. Polls show a dizzying swing from October, when the GOP’s not-genius government shutdown put Democrats ahead in generic 2014 balloting. Now some polls have Republicans in the lead.
A portion of Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers’ Wikipedia page was removed about an Ar-15 being stolen from her home and Ellmers saying during the shutdown she would keep her paycheck.
County Democratic leaders in North Carolina have been watching weeks of Republican attacks on Sen. Kay Hagan over the Affordable Care Act. From the state’s cities to its low-wage rural counties, they say they don’t think the issue will crush their party’s chances to defend Hagan’s U.S. Senate seat next November. The local Democratic chiefs say that voters will have other issues on their minds in the months ahead, and they argue that it’s too early to know what the public will think of the health care changes by then. Republicans have made the health care law their top attack on Hagan as they try to unseat her in next year’s race. Local Democratic officials say they can’t afford the multimillion-dollar ad buys, and so are left trying to persuade people one by one to give the new law a chance. They also have to wait to see if the health insurance shopping site, HealthCare.gov, starts working properly. The White House set Saturday as its own deadline for making it work for most people.
Longtime North Carolina independent political analyst John Davis says in his latest weekly Political Report it’s inevitable that the eight statewide races in North Carolina next year will be influenced by big outside money. “That’s what we can expect in North Carolina in 2014: Super PAC attacks, where one check from an out-of-state wealthy donor can marginalize the total given by all traditional campaign funding sources.” Davis refers to the latest tally by the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation’s highly useful online campaign tracker – www.slideshare.net/NCFEF2013/2014-ncfef-candidate-tracker – which counts more than $4 million in independent expenditures to date in the battle for and against U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.
Phil Berger Jr. made no effort to distance himself from his father, the powerful state Senate leader, during his campaign kickoff at Bethany Community Middle School in rural Rockingham County last week. The banner announcing his candidacy for the vacant 6 th Congressional District seat conspicuously dropped the “junior.” “Dad is the conservative leader in our state,” said Berger Jr., who serves as district attorney in Rockingham County. “He’s taken the tough fight to Raleigh, and he’s winning. In the last session, under his leadership, North Carolina passed the largest tax cut in state history. They made voter ID the law of the land. And they’ve taken on the educational establishment, and they’ve put kids first, not bureaucrats. Talk about shaking things up.” Berger Jr. struck a partisan tone by saying that his father hasn’t made a lot of friends in Raleigh and alluded to the Moral Monday protesters, who have poured into the state capital week after week to decry the far-reaching legislative changes enacted by the Republican supermajority.
Former New Hampshire Republican senator Bob Smith said he has changed his mind and will try to defeat Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen for his old seat next year. Smith told WMUR Political Scoop on Sunday that he had made a decision not to run largely to get out of the way for other candidates, but as weeks came and went no major candidates got into the race, and he kept getting encouragement to run. "I have a decision to run again for the Senate," said Smith. "This is nothing personally against Jeanne Shaheen, who I like as a person, but I couldn’t disagree more with her politics." He said he will file paperwork to form his campaign committee in the next few days, and move full-time to New Hampshire and formally launch his campaign in January. Currently he is a Florida resident, but spends his summers at his home in Tuftonboro.
Twenty years ago, half the 12 largest U.S. municipalities had a Republican mayor. When Bill de Blasio takes office in New York on Jan. 1, none will. As middle-class residents moved out of cities and immigrants and young people replaced them, the party lost its grip on population centers even as it increased control of governor’s offices and legislatures. The polarization has pitted urban interests against rural areas and suburbs, denying Republicans a power base. “The New York election hopefully is somewhat of a wake-up call,” said Scott Smith, the Republican mayor of Mesa, Arizona, and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “If that doesn’t get Republicans on the national level more interested, then it should.” De Blasio’s election means that besides New York, there will be Democratic mayors next year in Los Angeles; Chicago; Houston; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Antonio; Dallas; San Jose, California; Austin, Texas; and Jacksonville, Florida. A runoff will be held in February in San Diego to replace Democratic MayorBob Filner, who resigned in August amid charges of sexual harassment. In New York, Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 6-to-1, yet voters hadn’t elected a Democrat since David Dinkins lost to Rudolph Giuliani in 1993. De Blasio, 52, won this month by the biggest margin by a non-incumbent in city history on vow to close the growing gap between rich and poor.
Wendy Davis. Alison Lundergan Grimes. Mary Burke. Allyson Schwartz. Michelle Nunn. Natalie Tennant. The Democratic Party is hoping 2014 will be a Year of the Woman—again. As party operatives prepare for the 2014 midterm elections, Democratic women are being cast in starring roles, on the ballot and at the ballot box, as the party tries to take back politically important governor’s mansions and keep its fragile majority in the Senate. "The importance of women to the Democratic Party in 2014 cannot be overstated," said Jess McIntosh, a spokeswoman for EMILY’s List, which recruits and supports Democratic women candidates. "They are running in our biggest, most important races in the country." President Obama rode to reelection in 2012 with strong support from female voters, and Democrats gained seats in the Senate and House thanks in part to prominent Republican stumbles over rape and abortion. Now, Democrats are pushing to carry over that 2012 "gender gap" to 2014, hoping the support of female voters will shore up the party amid a traditionally tough political atmosphere of a presidential midterm and the rocky debut of Obama’s health care law. They believe the slate of prominent women on the 2014 ballot will make the contrast with Republicans all the clearer.
State Sen. Josh Stein, a Wake County Democrat, is eyeing the state attorney general’s office in 2016. Stein, in a phone interview Wednesday, confirmed his interest in taking over for N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is expected to run for governor. Stein said his focus is on 2014, including picking up as many Democratic seats as possible in the state Senate and winning his own Senate race. “If I do win re-election, I do intend to run for attorney general in 2016 so that I can put my eight years of experience as a senior deputy attorney general to work moving that office forward,” Stein said. He currently works as an attorney at the Raleigh office of Smith Moore Leatherwood. Stein, 47, is in his third term representing Senate District 16, which includes parts of Raleigh, Cary and Morrisville. He is minority whip during the current two-year legislative session.
Inside Bright Hope Baptist Church, the luminaries of Philadelphia’s black political world gathered for the funeral of former Representative William H. Gray III in July. Dozens of politicians — city, state and federal — packed the pews as former President Bill Clinton offered a stirring eulogy, quoting Scripture and proudly telling the crowd that he was once described as “the only white man in America who knew all the verses to ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’ ” But it was the presence and behavior of Hillary Rodham Clinton that most intrigued former Gov. Edward G. Rendell: During a quiet moment, Mrs. Clinton leaned over to the governor and pressed him for details about the backgrounds, and the influence, of the assembled black leaders.
For more than two years, President Obama has endorsed reducing Social Security payments as part of an ambitious deal to tame the national debt. But then Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) — viewed by supporters on the left as a potential 2016 presidential candidate — embraced a far different proposal: increasing benefits for seniors. As Obama struggles to achieve his second-term domestic agenda, a more liberal and populist voice is emerging within a Democratic Party already looking ahead to the next presidential election. The push from the left represents both a critique of Obama’s tenure and a clear challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party’s presumptive presidential front-runner, who carries a more centrist banner.
This has been a big week in Washington politics, with both President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on the stump in Seattle, fund-raising for Democratic candidates. Pelosi, D-Calif., left behind some big ideas for Washington families to consider – including a campaign called "When Women Succeed, America Succeeds." It combines the issues of equal pay for equal work, paid sick leave and access to affordable child care – all of which affect economic and social health. State Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, who attended Pelosi’s presentation, said equal pay and 21st-century workplace policies will help drive the state’s economy. "Part of the problem is, even if you’re a business and you want people to come and buy your stuff, there aren’t enough people who are earning a good enough income now to be able to go buy your cars, to go buy your services," said Jinkins. "That’s the kind of approach we need to be thinking about."
News and Observer: When no child dreams of becoming a teacher, where will NC be?
Last month, I participated in the “Walk-In” movement that teachers in North Carolina were sponsoring. I chose to educate my class on this current event by combining it with our study of locating main ideas and details in an informational text. I handed them three articles to annotate and then discuss. The first was an article on the “Walk-In” vs. “Walk-Out” movement. The second was a piece from a teacher who had to leave the profession, and the third was about the official budget that Congress recently passed. My favorite moment was when a student posed the question, “What would you do if you were a teacher?” Students in unison said, “Quit.” Their reasoning was simple. They insisted that a job that pays so modestly and offers so little respect must not be a job worth having. This is in stark contrast to when I was a child. When we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, I remember a classroom chorus of “doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, teacher, singer, actor.”
Thanks to Gov. Pat McCrory and the current General Assembly, your tax dollars will soon be subsidizing discrimination across North Carolina and paying to teach children bizarre fundamentalist theories about dinosaurs and the age of the earth. The budget passed this summer and signed by McCrory created a school voucher scheme, euphemistically called opportunity scholarships, that will allow almost completely unaccountable and unregulated private and religious academies to receive state funding diverted from traditional public schools. For now the scholarship can only be used by students in low-income families who attended public schools last year, but don’t be fooled. Rep. Paul Stam, the primary sponsor of the proposal, clearly wants every student in private school to eventually receive a voucher from the taxpayers. He has said as much.
N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory has been setting new standards as the kind of politician who campaigned one way, but governs altogether differently. The latest example of his promise-one-thing-but-deliver-another treatment of the governor’s office comes as the result of his staff’s strange interpretation of North Carolina’s public records law. While past administrations have complied with requests for public records in a timely manner, and at little or no charge, McCrory’s staff has been assessing fees of hundreds of dollars, in some cases, to produce digital copies of things such as email messages written by his staff. State law says government documents are the property of the people of North Carolina, and anyone requesting copies should get them “as promptly as possible” at a “free or minimal cost.” The law stipulates a governmental body can levy a charge for certain time-consuming requests, but the charges aren’t supposed to be excessive, or at least in line with the cost of the paper on which copies are made. But McCrory’s office has begun to charge some media outlets for records requests that require more than 30 minutes of employee time to process, and at exorbitant fees for those outlets.
The Reflector: Mooneyham: Defending laws
Republican leaders, from the governor’s office to the legislature, are outraged, yes, outraged to find that Attorney General Roy Cooper is throwing around his political opinions about the laws that they have been passing. A big part of Cooper’s job is to defend the laws of the state. But, pissst, here’s a little secret. Have you heard? Don’t tell anyone. Cooper is planning on running for governor. So, a Democratic attorney general has been loudly barking about a Republican legislature and governor and the very conservative laws that they have been passing. Cooper has called controversial election law restrictions a “hodgepodge of very bad ideas.” He has characterized other legislation passed by Republican lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory — including blocking Medicaid expansion, curbing unemployment benefits and providing publicly-funded private school vouchers — as giving in to a “playground of extremist fantasies.” By the way, did I mention that Cooper is running for governor? In response, McCrory has said that Cooper should not be publicizing his personal opinions. “Good lawyers don’t do that,” the governor told an audience at a Washington think tank event.
Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
|Paid for by North Carolina Democratic Party. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.|