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.

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TWC: Exile on 08

Exile on ’08
Race: U.S. Senate
Incumbent: Elizabeth Dole (one term)
Possible Challengers: State Rep. Grier Martin (Wake), State Sen. Kay Hagan (Guilford), State Board of Education Chair Howard Lee. At least one other major name is considering the race.
Conventional Wisdom: National handicappers Cook, Rothenberg and Congressional Quarterly all report the seat as either “leans Republican” or “advantage-incumbent.”
Unconventional Wisdom: A diverse group of observers ranging from Dem-cheering blogger SenateGuru2008 to GOP uber-fundraiser Paul M. Weyrich say a strong Dem challenge could unseat her.

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TWC: Shameful shambles

Better late than never: last week’s column.

Shameful shambles
As those of you following theses kinds of things know, irony is dead, replaced by stark realities and painfully obvious absurdities. So, no, it was not ironic to see front-page headlines the other day laying out so clearly the state of the state 2007.

Topping the page, naturally, was the shiny new incentive package for a couple of large international corporations. At the bottom of the page was the story of another state mental hospital about to get decertified by the feds. Doesn’t get a lot clearer than that.

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TWC: Trush and Consequences

Truth & consequences
As promised, there’s been a step-up of immigration raids. This at a time when our junior senator is making the rounds of local law enforcement encouraging the deportation of those apprehended and found to not be here legally.

On the surface it all kind of makes sense — an easy sale of nativist talking points. Break the law — get tossed out.

Except that the border is as porous as a colander and the laws of economics are in direct conflict with those in the general statutes. Then there’s the not-so-perfect federal I.D. system that’s already sent actual U.S. citizens out of the country.

A real immigration policy includes context and confronts these realities. But we don’t have a real policy and in response to the politics of the day we’ve seen a compartmentalizing of immigration. The result promises even greater chaos than we have today.

Most of that will come from the shift of greater responsibility for immigration enforcement to local law enforcement. In most places, this has been long resisted and for good reason. In this case, the short-term gains will be far outweighed by the long-term consequences for a couple of key reasons.

First, back to the border for a minute. There’s little reason to be confident that anyone deported today who wants to get back into the country will be deterred from doing so.

Second, local agencies have resisted joining the La Migra posse because it makes it very difficult to work within the immigrant community to make them safer — more crimes go unreported, more witnesses don’t come forward. Most agencies have tried to get closer to the immigrant community and win trust to prevent gangs and drugs from taking over. Driving people deeper underground is going to create more fertile ground for crime. And all the while, politicians will tout this as their effort to get tough.

We’ve already seen that “get tough” means breaking up families and tossing people out who are contributing members — in some cases, longtime contributing members — of society.

But with an election around the corner and politicians like Sen. Dole firmly committed to tapping nativist rage, there’s little chance that the debate will see an injection of sanity anytime soon.

Fred’s ahead
New poll numbers for North Carolina from Public Policy Polling show that the recently announced Fred Thompson has jumped ahead of his Republican rivals. A breakdown of the poll by area codes shows Thompson leads comfortably in all regions of the state. Overall, the poll shows Thompson favored by 34 percent, followed by Giuliani (16 percent), Romney (13 percent) and McCain (7 percent).

A bit tighter on the Democratic side with John Edwards and Hillary Clinton continuing to battle for the lead. Broken down by area codes, Edwards is running stronger in the Triangle and the mountains and Clinton is ahead in Charlotte and the southeast. Barack Obama is running strong in the southeast, where he’s tied with Edwards.

Overall, Clinton leads with 30 percent, followed by Edwards (28 percent) and Obama (21 percent).
The numbers on the governor race shows Beverly Perdue with a clear lead over Richard Moore. She’s ahead 35 percent to Moore’s 28 percent.

On the Republican side, it looks like Fred Smith’s “Q” factor has yet to kick in despite all those local pig pickin’s he’s been hosting. Bill Graham is up 23 percent over Robert Orr and Smith who are tied at 9 percent.

The poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent for the Dems and 3.8 percent for the GOP.

TWC: S.C. Primary, Guv money

Sorry I’m late with this one. From Last week’s issue of The Carrboro Citizen:

Is it that time already?
I hope you’re ready, because the Southern primary season is right around the corner thanks to the South Carolina GOP’s recent bid to maintain its first-in-South status.
Responding to Florida’s decision to change its primary date, Palmetto State Republicans moved their primary up to January 19. (That’s less than 160 days away, depending on when you read this.)

That backs up the train, since Iowa insists on first place, New Hampshire follows closely and so on. As a result, the 2008 primary season is edging dangerously close to 2007.

Unlike their fellow South Carolinians, Democrats in S.C. say they’ll keep their Jan. 29 primary date. That doesn’t mean it’ll be any less interesting though.

The S.C. had been a bellwether for the now-defunct Super Tuesday for some time – and the state rang the bell for Bill Clinton in 1992 when the soon-to-be president rolled over Tom Harkin, who had been campaigning with Jesse Jackson, and Paul Tsongas, who was considered Clinton’s top challenger after Nebraska’s Sen. Bob Kerry dropped out following dismal numbers in Georgia.

Clinton’s decisive win there on the Saturday before the ’92 Super Tuesday set him up for checkmate.

Scene: A ballroom after a rally in Columbia; dejected Kerry staffers throwing back a few with the Clinton crowd and everyone swapping tales about dirty tricks courtesy of Lee Atwater.

The Clintons have a solid set of connections in S.C., and not just former governor and Clinton-era Secretary of Education Dick Riley and friends. Hillary Clinton has worked the state’s historically African-American campuses since ’92 and knows the political landscape.

This makes South Carolina her chance to score big against John Edwards and Barack Obama early on in the South.

Edwards, who has been concentrating mainly on Iowa for years now, needs a solid S.C. showing – not just because it’s his home state and he’s seen as the Southern candidate, but in order to prove that his anti-poverty message is going to get him votes in places outside of union strongholds.

Obama has to prove that he can wrestle African-American support from the Clinton camp. If he doesn’t, then he faces hearing Brit Hume and Tucker Carlson question his blackness ad nauseam.

Meanwhile, in N.C.
The primary for North Carolina remains May 7, proving once again what a civilized and humble bunch we are. But eagerness to delve into the races down ballot from the presidential primary has many a pundit scanning for early clues among the scraps of information available, especially the wide-open governor’s race.

The latest campaign finance reports are doubling as tea leaves and show that State Treasurer Richard Moore has a slight edge over Lt. Governor Bev Perdue.

Perdue has a mere $3.4 million on hand right now, while Moore has $3.7 million, according to the latest reports.

That’s still far more than either Fred Smith or Bill Graham (the wealthy lawyer from Salisbury, not the beloved preacher), who are spending away and only have $171,313 and $15,025, respectively, as of the latest reports.

But the GOP candidates have skunked their Democratic counterparts in one category: money they’ve loaned themselves for their campaigns.

Smith’s report lists seven loans from himself for a total of $386,455.

Graham, who is not the former host of Hour of Decision, wrote his campaign one check so far this year – for $613,617.17.

Musta really worked the spreadsheet to get it down to the last penny.

TWC: Letter to no one in particular

A few thoughts on the press and the legislature aimed at no one person or entity. Honest.

This year there proved to be at least one great advantage to having been denied membership to the 2007 edition of the Capital Press Corps: I didn’t have to write about what a regular guy Don Beason is and how I was either shocked or knew all along that he was the one who “loaned” Jim Black half-a-mil’. Unlike some of the pros up in Raleigh, I’m not used to explaining how it’s important I get cozy with lobbyists and insiders and how I’m completely immune to their charms.
That could turn one all pretzely over time.
I’m only kidding slightly here.
The press — particularly the folks who trade on their insidership around the legislature — have some ‘splanin’ to do. After all, it was not they who tracked down the threads that led to revelations of a monumentally corrupt speaker, but a bunch of federal prosecutors. The scandal stories, nicely packaged and written as they were, fed off of the documents from the feds and seldom ran far ahead of the investigation.
Now, I know that transparency is still new to much of the established media, but a little soul searching is in order.
Even in the provinces, we rubes knew the Decker deal stunk and that it was likely the tip of the iceberg. Now, seven years after the loan, we’re starting to get somewhere. And as the evidence of widespread corruption, vote trading and donations tied to legislation mounts, so should the questions about where the watchdogs were while all this was going on.
Maybe they weren’t given the time or resources, thanks to consolidation and media’s addiction to mid-20th century profit margins. Maybe they were clueless or didn’t think it important or were worried about losing access.
Give me a bunch of (insert wildly misinformed stereotyping adjective here) bloggers with nothing to gain or lose over folks in the know sitting on their hands for fear of alienating a source. I’m afraid that, as in many places in this great land, those charged with occasionally mucking out the barn are either too concerned about soiling their trousers or have somehow become mesmerized into believing they too are a fine steed in the stable.
Loyalty to those in power is not in the job description – or shouldn’t be. The idea is to help the rest of us get at the truth not to recreate the Acta Diurna.
The first newspaper in this land, Publick Occurrences, Both FOREIGN AND DOMESTICK, was shut down after its first issue because it mentioned the doings of government without permission. Young Ben Franklin became publisher of the New England Courant after his older brother went underground for publishing without submitting his copy to the censors.
The right to publish without interference from the government was hard earned and should not be easily surrendered or taken for granted.
When I first started out in this business, a newsman of the old school used to remind me of a line from a poem by a famous colonialist: “If you can walk with kings and yet not lose the common touch. . .”
That goes double for y’all having lunch with those kings.

TWC: To the wire

This week’s column is about the doin’s on Jones Street this week and misbehaving reps (and former reps).

Not a stalemate, but not exactly a sprint to the finish either.

The state budget is close to done, but with a few major items – mostly on the revenue side – yet to be ironed out. So, how long before the deal is struck?

The president pro tem of the Senate says it could be a good be a long discussion. The governor says get on with it. And the speaker of the NC House says predictions are pretty useless.

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TWC: The 0.4 percent horror

The 0.4 percent horror
I was just a kid when it happened, and I can’t imagine what it was like to experience it, let alone live through it. But driving through what is left of Cary, with its dark, crumbling cul-de-sacs and boarded up split-levels, you get a feel for the devastation of 2007.

Like Smoot-Hawley, the impact of the real estate transfer tax had consequences far beyond the reckoning of politicians and it brought down a surging, vibrant economy in one swift act of legislation. It’s not like they weren’t warned. I got a glimpse of the beginning of the end times at Ray’s Number Two, a little dive in a corner of a former Bed, Bath and Beyond in an almost deserted mall.

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