Exile on 08 Senate race Part Deux

Putting the column up early due to the timeliness of it:

Deal with it

The question is no long whether the state can deal with a gay candidate running for high federal office. Jim Neal, who announced his run for Senate last month, spent an hour last weekend on BlueNC, answering questions about policy, politics and the Senate race. He also plainly and directly answered the question about whether he was gay. His reply went like this:

Subject line: Gay
Text: I am indeed. No secret and no big deal to me — I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think otherwise.

So, now the question is how will this state deal with an openly gay individual running for high federal office. Neal, obviously, is not going to dwell on it and intends to focus on what he would do if elected and on Elizabeth Dole’s record as a defender of an administration with an approval rating that rivals Nixon’s during the last days of Watergate.
Besides, it’s apparent that he’s already “dealt” with the fact that he’s gay. And, unlike other figures in the state’s history, he’s candid and comfortable. Now, it’s everyone else’s turn and what remains to be seen is how the rest of the Democratic Party responds, how the press treats the news and how the mudslingers on the right deal with someone who is not trying to dodge things.
Conventional wisdom has GOP strategists licking their chops. Vernon Robinson, who had his lunch consumed regularly in the last election, kept trying to link Rep. Brad Miller to some kind of Bay Area left-wing gay conspiracy (I’m still trying to follow the dude’s logic on that). And in the twilight of his years, even Jesse Helms, who made any contribution or endorsement of his opponent from the gay community political kryptonite, has acknowledged the damage of his demonizations. Nevertheless, look for prominent Republicans to offer Democrats friendly advice on the subject for the next year.
On the Democratic side, there are stories of some campaigns panicked about the effect on the rest of the ticket in eastern NC. There’s also a long-running split among the African-American clergy over gay issues that has been exploited in the past and is likely to be again. Meanwhile, Neal’s straightforward acknowledgement has been a breath of fresh air for many Democrats in and out of North Carolina. For some, it’s an example of much-needed courage. And the netroots, as one might guess, are a bit blown away that such a story would emanate from the South.
And the press? Well, as of this writing, the printed and broadcast press have not jumped all over the story, (links below) but you can bet the pollsters are redrafting a few question and we’ll see stories on the results soon.
So a conversation has started – one that we all ought to have had years ago. There’s also a higher level of transparency and candor in a business ruled for too long by sleight of hand and coded linguistics.
Deal with it.

Update: The N&O front-pages the story (gets BlueNC’s name wrong though).

AP has a story on it as well as featured on the heavily commented thread on WRAL.

TWC: The flip tax

The flip tax

I don’t know about you, but when I see a political organization whose name includes the phrases “concerned citizens” “good government” or “protecting the American dream” the BS detector in my head goes off with enough volume to wake the dead.
So imagine the cacophony as I scrolled through a list of “local committees” set up to fight the real estate transfer tax in the 17 counties that have it on the ballot this fall. Now, most of these organizations’ titles are plainly put — “Something-Something County Against the Transfer Tax” — but a few have to trumpet their effort to protect home equity, homeownership or, in the case of Pender County, “protect the American dream.”
After reading that name, I was a little worried that my homework on the transfer tax, which applies a .4 percent tax on the sale of real estate, is incomplete, because I could not for the life of me see how an extra $1,000 on every $250,000 was that big of a threat to our way of life.
Thankfully, Reuters settled it for me in a recent, unrelated article about the collapse of the subprime mortgage market. In the article, an individual in New York left holding the bag when values and sales plummeted on houses in which she was speculating said the American Dream in the 21st century involves flipping properties at a handsome profit. I suddenly felt silly and old thinking it was still a brick ranch in a quiet neighborhood. And that totally explains why Pender of all counties would choose to protect that dream – flipping property there is bigger than Texas Hold ’Em and Hair Bands put together.
You can find all the local groups on the revamped itsabadidea.org website, which is now stripped of any reference to the recent statewide campaign that failed to persuade the Legislature to not include a local option tax in this year’s budget. But please be aware, though, that there’s no sign on the site of Angie, the poor woman who drove around the state in a red pickup trying to warn us. She was so caught up in the effort to fight the tax, and now that she’s vanished without a trace I’m left wondering – worrying, really – what happened to her. Is she in some kind of narrative commercial limbo along with that couple who were always on the verge of getting it on thanks to Taster’s Choice coffee?
Evidently, the NC Realtors PAC, which sponsored Angie and her truck, have moved on and their website is focusing instead on the above-mentioned local organizations. Curiously, all those local organizations have managed to purchase toll-free phone numbers, most of which seem to have a very similar voice asking you to leave a message.
As you can imagine, money is flowing into these campaigns from local and state interests. According to Greg Flynn, a journalist who has been tracking the money going into the effort to stop the transfer tax, RPAC has already spent close to $2 million this year and last. Links and finance reports are at Flynn’s site, stopthenchometicks.blogspot.com
One thing to keep in mind is that this battle won’t end on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Several counties that considered the tax opted to wait to put them on the ballot until the May primaries.

TWC: Senate race, local electionzzz

This week’s column via The Citizen;

Senate race is on
Elizabeth Dole — recently spotted hobnobbing, fundraising and campaigning in the mountains with her man — has a challenger now that Jim Neal has made it official.

Neal, a Greensboro native who now lives in Chapel Hill, had been looking at the race for a while. Since he’s worked out of state for much of his career as an investment banker and financial advisor, he’s not a household name among Dems at the local level.

Read more

Neal to run against Dole

Via The Carrboro Citizen:

Chapel Hill man to run against Dole
By Kirk Ross
Staff Writer

Jim Neal, a key Democratic Party fundraiser, is on the verge of announcing a run for U.S. Senate, sources close to Neal say.

Neal, a native of Greensboro who now lives in Chapel Hill, will head to Asheville this weekend for the Vance-Aycock Dinner, a traditional gathering of Democratic Party movers and shakers and a place where potential candidates often test the waters. He is expected to file official paperwork as early as this week.

Neal was a top fundraiser for the John Kerry and John Edwards ticket in 2004 and a major supporter of Gen. Wesley Clark’s bid for the Democratic nomination that year.

He is a former investment banker and is currently a financial advisor.

Dole, a one-term incumbent who has already announced for re-election, has been raising money in preparation for the race. A recent Elon Poll found that 53 percent of respondents indicated they are satisfied or very satisfied with the senator’s representation of North Carolina and 24 percent disapproved or strongly disapproved.

But both Democratic and Republican election handicappers say Dole is vulnerable because of her support of President Bush’s Iraq policies. The same poll shows that only 32 percent of North Carolinians polled approved of her job performance on Iraq and 78 percent – the highest percentage – said the war will influence their vote in 2008.