Monday, September 29, 2008

Coulda, woulda, shoulda in Senate race?

Do you suppose any well-known Democrats are kicking themselves in the rear, at least mentally, over what's happening in the U.S. Senate race? Remember last year, when such Democrats as Mike Easley, state Rep. Grier Martin, U.S. Rep. Brad Miller and state Treasurer Richard Moore were still pondering their political futures? And whether they ought to tackle incumbent U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R- N.C. in her first re-election campaign?
None of them wanted to challenge her, and for good reason. She looked hard to beat a year ago. She was a good campaigner in 2002 when she dispatched Erskine Bowles for Jesse Helms' old seat. And even with the war in Iraq, a lot of folks thought she'd be hard to beat in 2008. Me, too.
But Sen. Kay Hagan, D-Guilford, wanted in. She got talked out of it for a while when it looked as if someone better known would run, and then Gov. Jim Hunt, among others, talked her back into it when the only enthusiastic candidate was Chapel Hill businessman Jim Neal.
Hagan beat Neal last spring in the Democratic primary and has run a hard campaign against Dole, who suffers from her connection to an unpopular president, a sinking national economy and an impression that she hasn't spent all that much time in the state.
How's Hagan doing? In one poll -- Public Policy Polling's latest -- she's up by 8 points.
"Kay Hagan now has her largest lead yet in North Carolina's Senate race. She led by 5 points a week ago and a single point three weeks ago," writes Tom Jensen of PPP. Here's a link to the poll.
That may not mean anything on Nov. 4. It's several lifetimes between now and the election. But in this poll she's up 8 just 17 days before early voting begins. I imagine Dole's worried, Hagan's happy and those guys who didn't get into the race? They could be thinking about what might have been.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCrory-Munger: A different kind of debate

Wednesday's debate between Republican nominee for governor Pat McCrory and Libertarian nominee Mike Munger was a different look at Tar Heel politics from what we've seen in previous debates. One obvious reason: the decision of Democratic nominee Bev Perdue not to participate. Without the lieutenant governor's presence, the tilt between the Charlotte mayor and Duke University's political science department chairman was a more congenial affair, with the candidates often agreeing on issues.
Munger -- an economist who used to teach at UNC Chapel Hill -- is an interesting man whose classroom presence shows in his debating style. He's able to explain what he thinks about issues in a pretty clear way, and those watching the debate, broadcast statewide by UNC TV, may have seen something they like in his thoughts. He needs the help. Polls have shown him with just a few percentage points, trailing far behind McCrory and Perdue in what is seen as a tight contest.
I don't think I heard much new from McCrory, except that he went out of his way to say he likes the state's early childhood programs but wanted more evaluation of them. Just a week ago he was getting some criticism from Perdue and former Gov. Jim Hunt for tossing off a line about too many programs that rhyme, interpreted by some as slams on the Smart Start pre-school initiative of Hunt and the More at Four program championed by Gov. Mike Easley. McCrory also repeated something that makes little sense. He argues a new ethics law prevents him from even getting a bottle of water at some events. He's right that the law may be drawn too tightly and needs revision, but I don't think anyone takes seriously the claim he cannot get a bottle of water at a speaking event. It probably would be mighty hard to find a district attorney who'd prosecute him on a misdemeanor charge of illegally taking a drink of water. Please.
Everything Munger said was probably new to most listeners who may never have heard him before. He poked fun at the Global TransParking Lot, asserted that China has lost more jobs than North Carolina, said he was in favor of school vouchers and lifting the cap on charter schools and aimed a jab at Perdue. In previous debates, he said, she claimed she wasn't a member of the legislature and couldn't be held responsible for its excesses, and implied she wasn't part of the executive branch administration either. "So unless she's a judge, she's not in government at all," Munger joked.
Munger also said he didn't believe in capital punishment and that as governor he'd commute the sentences of all those on Death Row to life in prison. "I want the killing to stop," he said. McCrory wants to end the moratorium on executions. There have been horrendous murders in Mecklenburg and folks there have been waiting for more than a decade for the execution of two cop killers.
Munger also labeled the use of economic incentives to attract new businesses such as a Google plant to the western Piedmont as "economic prostitution." He said he supported allowing illegal immigrants to attend community colleges. McCrory opposes that.
Without Perdue's presence, McCrory perhaps was not as effective as he has been in some previous debates -- or perhaps it was harder for him to draw the distinctions between himself and Perdue, especially when it comes to his favorite lines about the "culture of corruption" in Raleigh. And I'm not sure he fully made his case when he said this election was the last opportunity to fix what's wrong. It may have sounded good as a rhetorical point, but the genius of our system is that we get to vote on a new government pretty regularly. If not now, there's always the next time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

McCrory v. Munger for governor

UNC Television will host a live broadcast debate Wednesday night at 8 p.m., but one of the key players won't be there. Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue has declined the invitation to participate, UNC-TV's Steve Volstad announced Tuesday morning, so the two contestants will be the Republican nominee, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, and the Libertarian nominee, Duke University political science department chairman Mike Munger. This may be a good opportunity for Munger, a smart and engaging fellow, to persuade voters who don't know about him that there's an alternative to the major political party candidates.
It's also interesting that the Perdue campaign chose not to have the lieutenant governor, the Democratic nominee, participate. It may confirm in some folks' mind that her advisers don't want her to participate in too many debates because it doesn't play to her strengths. I used to think her advisers were wrong, that after presiding over the Senate for nearly eight years and having to deal with such challenges as former Sen. Hugh Webster or Democratic leader Sen. Tony Rand, she wouldn't have any trouble with her opponents. But McCrory's the more polished campaigner in such head-to-head confrontations, though Perdue has improved some. And, as my colleague Ryan Teague Beckwith points out at Under the Dome, there will be one more debate, on Oct. 15 in Charlotte, sponsored by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg League of Women Voters.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A mayor's missed opportunity

One goofy moment at Friday's gubernatorial candidates debate sponsored by the Everybody's Business Education Coalition in Cary came when moderator John Dornan gave each candidate one question to put to the other candidate. Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, the Democrat, went first, asking Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory why he was critical of such education programs as Learn and Earn, a high school program that allows students to enroll in community college courses, or Smart Start, the program that aims to help get children ready to go to school. McCrory answered that he was not against those programs but didn't think the state should start new programs that rhyme without first assessing whether existing programs work.
But in what must be one of the strangest moments in the 2008 campaign, McCrory flubbed the opportunity to ask Perdue a hard question. Instead he sort of shrugged and asked, "Do you love education as much as I do?" Perdue laughed almost with relief and batted that softball out into the bleachers.
Why McCrory didn't take that opportunity to put Perdue on the spot is beyond me. Perhaps the question he wanted to ask had already been put by the moderator earlier, or perhaps he thought it wasn't much of an opportunity. But in a campaign built around his theme of challenging a culture of corruption in Raleigh, which he usually mentions at every opportunity, he missed a chance to throw a hardball.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Correcting the 'culture of corruption'

A forum Tuesday sponsored by the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform gave the leading candidates for governor an opportunity to talk about ethics in government and what they'd do to restore public trust in Raleigh.
Both candidates had some good ideas on what to do. Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, for example, would create an endowment that would tap private donations to provide candidates with funds to run for office. She's put state government bids and contracts online so anyone could take a look at how it works and who's getting state business, and put more state meetings online so folks can watch.. She said she'd change the way the state does its budget, and set up an efficiency commission that would make 10 proposals each election cycle that the legislature would have to vote up or down. She'd shut the revolving door between government and business or lobbying, and she'd stop legislators from soliciting money for charities -- a process that allows lobbyists to curry favor with lawmakers.
A good but unasked question was why she had not pressed to put in place these reforms when she was presiding over the state Senate -- or when she was a member herself. She'll have that opportunity in future public appearances.
Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, who has made cleaning up a "culture of corruption" in Raleigh that, he says, includes state officials intimidating local officials who press for improvements in such areas as transportation and criminal justice, had his own list. He wants to require political campaigns to update their financial contribution reports regularly and make them available online, so voters can monitor and know immediately who's getting money from whom. He wants to eliminate all cash contributions because they pose a risk of small contributors putting together a big bundle of little cash contributions to influence candidates. He also wants to stop elected officials from raising money for charities. He wants to beef up financial disclosure by requiring state officials to announce potential conflicts of interests before votes. He would veto budgets that include measures that neither the House nor Senate passed in their original budget bills, and he would eliminate fund-raising by members of major boards such as the Board of Transportation, the UNC Board of Governors and the state ABC Commission.. He'd also list all bids and contracts online, and he'd make all his office e-mails available.
There's more to these lists. Watching them explain their proposals at the forum -- where the candidates made separate appearances rather than a head-to-head debate -- it struck me that Perdue and McCrory both had a pretty firm handle on what they would do. Perdue was more relaxed and a little more effective in explaining hers; McCrory was more passionate -- and also willing to point out that sometimes ethics reforms go too far, such as prohibiting officials from eating a brown bag lunch provided by the sponsors of the forum. Many folks are confused about how far the law goes. But the forum was announced in advance and open to anyone who wished to attend, and the law allows officials and candidates to eat meals in those circumstances. Still, this is a question that keeps coming up.
But he's right about this: our problem was not that a politician might be influenced by eating a turkey sandwich and drinking a Diet Coke at a public meeting. Our problem was bribes, influence-peddling, vote-buying and illegal campaign contributions, among other things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Addicted to political campaigns

Gary Pearce, the former political reporter who cut his eyeteeth as a campaign strategist with Gov. Jim Hunt and then helped engineer John Edwards' upset of U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C. in 1998, is a great storyteller who co-authors one of the best blogs about North Carolina politics with his one-time adversary, Carter Wrenn. Their Web site is
The other day Gary wrote about the stress, fatigue and sheer terror of a political campaign at this stage, seven weeks before an election. Among other things, he noted:
"On top of the mental strain, there is the mind-numbing stress and physical fatigue. You go from before sunrise until you collapse at night. The cell phone and the Blackberry never stop. The conference calls stack up like planes at O’Hare. You’re fueled with coffee and Diet Cokes all day long. Your first thought every morning: 50 days to go. Can I make it? Weekends? Forget them.
"Only the most disciplined find time to exercise. And when it comes to food, there are two schools: Scarfers and starvers. The scarfers (like me) eat everything, especially doughnuts and burgers. Average weight gain per campaign: 15 pounds. The starvers can’t eat, and their clothes hang off them.
"Weighing over it all is the sheer terror of losing. As James Carville once said, the best thing about winning a campaign is that you didn’t lose.
"It’s a wonderful life. I miss it so."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Farm Report: The Nitty-gritty dirt pile

Farm Report
It was somewhere around the 50th shovel full that I recalled a story the veteran newsman Ned Cline had written for the Greensboro Daily News about visiting the Wilson County farm of Gov.-elect Jim Hunt in late 1976. Hunt was meeting inside the house with his closest advisers to begin putting together the new administration. As Cline pulled into the driveway, he saw a huge pile of gravel -- and one lonely figure out by the gravel pile. It was the state's soon-to-become First Lady, Carolyn Hunt, with a shovel in hand, moving that gravel from where it was to where it needed to be.
I don't know if she worked the whole pile down, but I was wondering how she got along with it as I waged continuing war on what began as 22 tons of No. 8 gravel that arrived back in early July. I thought I'd have it all spread in a few weeks.
What was I thinking? We've got maybe a half mile of gravel roads leading in to the house, over to the barn and back out along the property line to the old gate, and we knew we'd need a lot of rocks. But we don't have tractor with a front end loader. We've got a contractor's wheelbarrow, a transfer shovel, a garden spade and an aging ink-stained wretch who has bitten off more than he can move.
Every weekend for two and a half months we've whittled that pile down and can now see over it. One end is much diminished.
And the roads are looking a lot better. No mud puddles when it rains, and a lot less weeds poking up through the thin places.
We've put in gravel parking places, used gravel as a base for a flagstone walkway and spread some around the foundation as a kind of mulch.
Our conversation these days is sprinkled with technical references to various grades of gravel. We put down five truckloads of two-inch crusher run last year. It's got some big stuff and some finer screenings in there. They tell me it's best for driveways because, as one of our rural advisers put it, "It wallers in real good."
The year before, we had another fellow bring us a couple loads of No. 57 gravel. He was partial to it, he said, because that's what the county puts down on its roads. And when we put up the barn -- a glorified garage, I guess, but I'm telling this story and I say it's a barn -- we went with pea gravel. It's smaller than the No. 8 stuff we got this summer, and nice to look at. Flattens out real well.
When the sun was high the other day we were on the equivalent of about 24 wheelbarrow loads of gravel. I could have sworn I heard Tennessee Ernie Ford's deep voice wafting through the woods with his 1950s hit of the 1946 Merle Travis song "Sixteen Tons."
One line went, "You load sixteen tons, what do you get?"
I think Tennessee Ernie Ford just got richer. But all we got are sore backs, callused hands, and a mental note to ourselves: That's enough gravel, thank you very much.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Remember Durham's 'Super Collider'?

The news from Geneva this week about activation of the Large Hadron Collider, an $8 billion scientific race track in which protons travel along a 17-mile long circular track beneath the Swiss-French border in hopes of providing information about fundamental elements of the universe, harkens up the hopes of North Carolina to host a similar scientific station beneath Durham and Granville counties more than two decades ago.
The Superconducting Super Collider, "a ring particle accelerator, proton-proton collider," in scientific terms, would have featured a tunnel with a circumference of 54 miles. It was proposed by a national study in 1982 and by 1987 the N.C. General Assembly was excited about the possibility that it could be located not far from the Research Triangle Park in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. North Carolina was one of seven states contending for the facility. Texas won the competition but the collider was abandoned in 1993 when Congress pulled the plug.
But scientists and engineers in Europe persevered over 14 years to build the Large Hadron Collider, which news reports said "is expected to accelerate protons to energies of 7 trillion electron volts and then smash them together, recreating conditions in the primordial fireball only a trillionth of a second after the big bang. Scientists hope the machine will be a sort of Hubble Space Telescope of inner space, allowing them to detect new subatomic particles and forces of nature."
Observer wire reports went on, "The ... experiments could reveal more about 'dark matter,' antimatter and possibly hidden dimensions of space and time. It could also find evidence of a hypothetical particle - the Higgs boson - which is sometimes called the 'God particle' because it is believed to give mass to all other particles, and thus to matter that makes up the universe."
I won't pretend to understand that, either, but I can tell you that a lot of folks in North Carolina were intrigued by the whole idea. The Geneva collider features protons racing around the track at 11,000 time per second.
And as we recognize here in North Carolina, that's racin.'

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Televise legislative sessions?

Televise legislative sessions?
Folks who want to know what the legislature is up to have long known about the ability to listen in to House and Senate sessions as well as committee meetings in the appropriations and finance committee chambers. It's a matter of just having an internet connection and following the audio prompts at the General Assembly's Web site ( And the N.C. Center for Voter Education ( has set up a system for listening to more legislative committees.
That's a big help -- but it works best for folks who can recognize the voices of those speaking. For those who don't know the 170 membrs of the General Assembly, listening to debates may not make much sense.
That's just one reason that advocates from the left, the right and the center are proposing the regular televising of House and Senate sessions.
Just this week, House Speaker Joe Hackney appointed a committee to study the feasibility, cost and other issues involve in broadcasts of House sessions. In a news release the speaker said, "Televising our sessions will give the people of North Carolina better insight into the work we do here and open up the process to more people in this state. We want our citizens to see and understand how their government and their elected representatives work for them.”
Chairing the House study committee will be former Charlotte broadcast executive Cullie Tarleton, now a state representative from Blowing Rock. He was senior vice president and general manager for WBTV, WBT Radio and WCCB-TV and a member of the board of directors for the National Association of Broadcasters when he was in Charlotte.
Among members of the committee are Mecklenburg Republicans Rick Killian and Thom Tillis, as well as Wake Democratic Rep. Grier Martin.
Hackney deserves credit for moving forward on this issue. It has been kicked around in Raleigh for a couple of decades, but there are concerns about how to do it properly. Some legislators worry the public won't think they're working hard if there's just a short, pro-forma session when not much is going on. Others worry that legislators will grandstand. Those are legitimate issues, I guess, but it all comes down to showing the public what goes on in a democracy, which isn't always pretty.
Meanwhile, there's support for televising sessions in the Senate, too. A bipartisan group including Sen. Eddie Goodall, R-Union, Sen. Janet Cowell, D-Wake, Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg and Sen., Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, sponsored legislation in the last session to study televising sessions and key committee meetings, too. Senate Republican Leader Phil Berget, R-Rockingham, joined Hackney in calling for televised sessions after Hackney announced the House study. In a letter to Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, D-Dare, Berger wrote, "I think it would be appropriate for the Senate to move forward with authorizing the study of televising legislative sessions and committee meetings, similar to the coverage of C-SPAN for U.S. Senate and Congressional matters. "
Basnight has expressed interest in televised sessions in the past. In 1992 he signed on to a Senate bill promoting televised sessions.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Passing scene: 'The hub and the bub' in Raleigh

When he was in the General Assembly, J.J. "Monk" Harrington of Bertie County was one of those old-time Eastern N.C. politicians who made Raleigh such an interesting place to cover in the 1970s and 80s. His nephew Greg Lovins, an official at Appalachian State University, reports he died overnight. He'll be missed.

Harrington retired from the legislature years ago and I ran into him the next year when he visited Raleigh. I wrote the following somewhere along the way:

"Sen. J.J. "Monk" Harrington from Bertie County had shoulders a yard wide, an impressive pompadour and a white miniature poodle named Pierre. One day after he had retired he dropped by the legislature and remarked that he missed 'the hub and the bub' of the place.

"Me too. The hub and the bub ain't what it was, now that unusual nicknames have become unfashionable. We need to do something about this. If anyone has a good idea for nicknames for the current crop of politicians - Mike Easley, Beverly Perdue, Jim Black and so on - send 'em along. This crowd needs help."

I loved the kinds of expressions that Harrington came up with. Harrington represented a section of the state that long enjoyed political power -- still does in a lot of ways. He worried that urban legislators would amass more power after the Supreme Court's one person, one vote ruling that led to more frequent redistricting.

Our man John Drescher, then an Observer Raleigh correspondent and now editor of the News and Observer, reported in 1989:

"J.J. "Monk" Harrington remembers well the dark days when he feared the
city boys were going to take over the N.C. legislature.

"It was 1964. The U.S. Supreme Court said each person must be represented
equally in the legislature; no more drawn districts based as much on acreage
as on population.

"'They said trees didn`t have any more voting power, that land didn`t have
any more voting power,' said the lanky Harrington, 69, a former legislator
from Bertie County in northeastern North Carolina. "We boys from the rural
areas were scared the urban boys were going to frame up on us."

Harrington's newphew Greg Lovins, Interim Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs at Appalachian State, said that Harrington was 89 when he died overnight in Lewiston-Woodville. "He had been in failing health for the last few years but, as we sometimes say here in the South, "his mind was still good."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Easley aide to head GoldenLEAF

Here's no surprise: Dan Gerlach, a senior economic adviser to Gov. Mike Easley and a key aide on tricky topics such as legislative lobbying and dealing with the press, has been named the next head of the GoldenLEAF Foundation. The foundation, set up to receive up to $2.3 billion from a national tobacco settlement, is based in Rocky Mount.

Read about it in Jonathan Cox's story on the N&O Web site.

The board was set to consider a successor to Valeria Lee, the foundation's first president, earlier this summer. Some board members privately were outraged when allies of Gov. Easley urged postponing the selection so that Gerlach's name could be put into play, though UNC President Emeritus Bill Friday was the only one to speak out publicly about what he saw as legislative influence and politicization of the foundation's work.

Here's the text of a blog I wrote earlier this summer:

The state’s top politicians are trying to help Gov. Mike Easley’s senior fiscal policy advisor and chief emissary to the legislature, Dan Gerlach, get a new job, but not right away. Easley and Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight have prodded members of the board of the GoldenLEAF Foundation to delay picking the next president of the foundation, although the process was already delayed once and some members were already thinking of another delay. The foundation was set up in 1999 to receive up to $2.3 billion in a national tobacco settlement Easley helped negotiate when he was attorney general. The money was to be used to help economically distressed and tobacco-dependent communities.
But the foundation has also been at risk of losing its funding under at least two bills pending in the General Assembly. And that has discouraged some candidates for the job from applying. Gerlach himself expressed interest in the job but Easley has suggested holding off on a choice to see whether lawmakers take away the foundation’s funding, or a significant portion of it. That would also help Gerlach’s candidacy as the Easley administration enters its final months. The governor also tried to help Gerlach become president of the community college system, but a selection committee chose an academician instead.
The GoldenLEAF board was set to interview four candidates recently as part of the selection process to succeed foundation president Valeria Lee, who is leaving the foundation later this year. But instead of choosing a successor, it put off the selection for 90 days and asked Lee to stay on until September.
Bill Friday, who was instrumental in setting up the board, worries about any political influence exerted on Gerlach’s behalf, especially at a time when legislation is pending to take away any of the foundation’s funding: “Any politicization of the GoldenLEAF Foundation would be a huge mistake,” Friday said.
Gerlach says he doesn’t know what Basnight and Easley might have said to board members about his candidacy. “I don’t know.... I wasn’t part of that conversation. What I’m focusing on is getting the governor’s budget through the legislature.”
Here’s some background on this standoff from an Observer editorial published earlier this week:
Tug of war in Raleigh
Lawmakers should keep hands off GoldenLEAF fund
There’s a tug-of-war in the N.C. General Assembly over whether to dissolve a foundation created to help economically distressed counties, divert its future funding to pay for state construction needs or let its board pick a new president this week when it meets in Fayetteville.
Legislators ought to back off on plans to strip the GoldenLEAF Foundation – the Longterm Economic Advancement Foundation set up in 1999 to spend upwards of $2.3 billion over 25 years – to help “economically affected or tobacco dependent regions of North Carolina.”
But a number of influential legislators have been unhappy that the foundation hasn’t spent more of its income to help those communities. They have been threatening for more than a year to abolish the foundation and create another to focus more on tobacco-dependent communities, or to use the foundation’s income from a national tobacco settlement to pay for new state buildings and retire the debt on capital bond issues. One bill in the state Senate, sponsored by Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, would create a new Infrastructure Trust Fund to pay construction costs and interest.
These threats to the foundation likely have discouraged some candidates from applying to the foundation to succeed Valeria Lee, president of GoldenLEAF, who plans to retire later this year. The board is scheduled to consider four finalists for the job this week, but there is talk about postponing the selection to make sure there’s still a foundation to run after the General Assembly adjourns later this summer.
When the legislature set up the foundation nine years ago the plan was to plow hundreds of millions of dollars into communities suffering from the loss of tobacco markets and other traditional mainstays of the state’s old textile and furniture manufacturing economy. Until a year ago, there were still a handful of economically distressed counties that had not benefited from the fund. The foundation has begun to rectify that, and recently approved a $100 million grant for an aircraft components plant in Lenoir County that will pay wages about twice the local average.
That may be too late to stave off legislative unhappiness. But with the prospect of a new foundation president and a renewed focus on assistance to distressed communities, lawmakers should throttle back and allow the GoldenLEAF Foundation to fulfil its promise.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

N.C. to be a 'permanent swing state'? be a 'permananent swing state?

Tom Jensen at Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, a firm that does a lot of work for Democrats, reports how some changes in North Carolina's demographics may change political outcomes in coming years.

In short, he says in a new analysis based on interviews with a couple of thousand North Carolinians before the Democratic convention, "the state could trend more Democratic, particularly at the federal level, in the coming election cycles."
Among other things, he notes:

-- "Native North Carolinians are supporting Republican candidates for the major statewide offices this year, while migrants to the state are supporting Democrats."

-- "Newer North Carolina residents support the Democratic candidate more by a margin of anywhere from 11-15 points in the races for President, Governor, and Senate."

And he also cautions: "For Barack Obama to win North Carolina this year it will probably take an exceptional turnout from black voters and young voters. Moving forward though the changing demographics of the state would seem to have the potential to make it one of those permanent swing states in Presidential elections. Older conservative Democrats who often vote Republican will continue to be replaced in the population by more liberal Democrats who consistently vote for their party’s candidates. There will likely also continue to be an influx of voters who identify with neither party but at least for this year are leaning more toward the Democratic side of the spectrum."

Here's a link to the full report:

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Judge Susie Sharp's torrid love life

The hottest story in town has nothing to do with John Edward's affair or Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy.

It's Anna Ragland Hayes' new book about former N.C. Chief Justice Susie Sharp and her long-term love affairs with married lawyers over the years -- including a law professor at Chapel Hill, a Salisbury lawyer, a Reidsville judge and, late in life, with Charlotte's William Bobbitt, by then a widower and fellow justice of the Supreme Court. Bobbitt was my grandmother's first cousin, and after they stopped by my parents' house for a visit in the 1960s, she always wondered if Billy Bobbitt and Susie Sharp were pondering marriage.

They weren't, reports Hayes in this carefully-researched book. They both knew that marriage wasn't possible between colleagues on the high court -- and in any case, Susie Sharp was not particularly interested in marriage. It was a complication that would just get in the way of her professional life.

But as Hayes makes clear in "Without Precedent: The Life of Suse Marshall Sharp," available this month from UNC Press, she was quite interested in men and evidently had a long and varied love life.

Susie Sharp was a fascinating woman who had a distinguished career in the law and on the bench. She was a trail-blazing lawyer, a lifelong Democrat whom Jesse Helms once recommended for the U.S. Supreme Court.

There's more to come about this fascinating account of the nation's first woman to be chief justice of a state supreme court.

And John Edwards? Bristol Palin? Old news.