UNC Fraud Report Released

Election Day Is Nigh, And We Still Don’t Like Anybody

Election Day 2014 is less than three weeks away – and early voting begins in six days – but pollsters still aren’t sure how things are going to shake out, primarily because voters this year generally dislike all of their available options.

That’s on the national level as well as here in North Carolina. Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says there’s a general anti-incumbent sentiment – but that’s mitigated by the fact that voters are also opposed to the incumbents’ challengers. Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are having trouble gaining traction with the electorate; third-party candidates are drawing support in many races, but not nearly enough to have a viable chance of winning – only enough to (possibly) sway the vote from one major-party candidate to the other.

What will this mean on Election Night? Jensen says he suspects voters will ultimately hold their collective noses and vote whatever party they’ve supported in the past. PPP’s most recent surveys focused on two conservative states, Idaho and Kansas, where Republican incumbents are in surprisingly close races – but Jensen says those incumbents are building slightly more comfortable leads (or pulling closer to the lead, in Kansas) as GOP-leaning voters are falling back in their camps. The same goes, he says, for reliably Democratic states like Massachusetts, where Democratic incumbents too are slowly pulling away in surprisingly close races.

See the latest PPP survey from Idaho…

…and the latest numbers from Kansas.

In North Carolina, Jensen says the race for U.S. Senate is still a toss-up: Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan still holds a very slight lead, but Republican challenger Thom Tillis appears to have closed the narrow gap by a point or two in recent weeks. (Jensen says he doesn’t think the current flap over same-sex marriage will move the dial much: red-meat conservatives may be motivated by Tillis’s continued defense of the state’s now-defunct gay-marriage ban, he says, but just as many moderates will be turned off by it.)

As for the race for General Assembly, Jensen says Democrats are almost certainly going to gain seats in the North Carolina House and Senate – but not nearly enough to overcome the GOP’s enormous majority. At best, Jensen says, Democrats might be able to win enough seats to deny Republicans a veto-proof majority – which could be significant if there’s a split between House and Senate Republicans and Governor Pat McCrory (who campaigned as a moderate).

Tom Jensen spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL Friday.


So after all that, what do voters want? Jensen says there does seem to be something of a consensus, with Americans embracing a mix of some liberal and some conservative positions. (A majority of Americans oppose Obamacare, for instance, but support Medicaid expansion and an increased minimum wage.) But that particular blend of views doesn’t have a home in either party’s platform.


More Than 400 Disenfranchised By New NC Voting Rules

Democracy North Carolina says 454 voters who would have had their ballots counted under 2012 election rules were not able to vote in the May Primary thanks to two key changes made by the General Assembly.

North Carolina’s sweeping election reform bill was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory in 2013. Among the many changes to voting rules, the new law did away with same-day registration during Early Voting and no longer allowed voters to cast a provisional ballot if they show up to vote outside their assigned precinct.

Democracy North Carolina says new analysis shows the laws are disproportionately affecting minority and Democratic voters.

Black voters, who make up 22 percent of the state’s registered voters, counted for 39 percent of those whose ballots were rejected. Democrats are 42 percent of all registered voters, but were 57 percent of those disenfranchised by the new rules.
The data was released one month before the deadline to register to vote in the November general election. Voting advocates say it’s important to double-check voting status now because the October 10 deadline is your last chance to register.

To check your registration status and see a sample ballot, go to NCvoter.org.

You can find the full report from Democracy North Carolina here.


2014: Gains For Dems In NC?

On the national level, Republicans are poised to make some gains in the November midterm election. But in North Carolina, could 2014 be a Democratic year?

Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen says it might. Dissatisfaction with the government is high this year, and that’s good for the opposition party – whichever party that should be. That means Republicans would benefit on the national level, but in GOP-dominated North Carolina, it’s the Democratic Party that stands to gain. Plus, Jensen says, NC Republicans were so successful in the 2010 and 2012 elections that there aren’t many winnable races left that they haven’t already won – so while Democrats are looking to pick up seats, the best Republicans can hope for is to hold the seats they already have. (In the race for U.S. Senate, incidentally, it’s the same story in reverse: all the seats up for election this year were last contested in 2008, a landslide year for Democrats.)

What will this mean in November? Jensen says it’s highly unlikely that Democrats will pick up enough seats to reclaim a majority in the State House or Senate – but they could win enough to cancel the GOP’s veto-proof majority. That in turn would strengthen the power of the governor’s office – giving Pat McCrory more of a chance to flex his moderate muscle in the short term (if he so chose), and elevating the importance of the 2016 gubernatorial election in the longer term.

Tom Jensen spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL this week. In addition to the General Assembly race, they also discussed public opinion about a minimum wage increase – and (of course) the upcoming UNC football game.


Chilton Elected Register Of Deeds

The race for Register of Deeds is not one that usually draws much attention or competition in Orange County, but Mark Chilton’s campaign promise to sign same-sex marriage licenses galvanized voters in the May primary. Still, Chilton, who is a real estate lawyer, stressed that marriage equality was only one facet of his campaign.

“It’s important to me, and I hope to the voters, to understand that same-sex marriage is how I am running, but it is not why I am running,” said Chilton.

He pledged to make the office’s website easier to use and to offer Spanish-language services.

Chilton won with 42.53 percent of the vote, narrowly beating out incumbent Deborah Brooks, who garnered 39.05 percent. Only 547 votes separated the two, but Chilton was able to break the 40 percent threshold to prevent a run-off. The third-place finisher, Sara Stephens, trailed with 18.42 percent.

During the campaign Chilton defended his controversial stance, saying that North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions is “clearly contrary” to the federal Constitution, especially in the context of recent Supreme Court and lower-court decisions.

But he acknowledged there is a chance he could face a misdemeanor charge or be removed from office.

“Yes, is it possible that a misdemeanor charge could be lodged against me, there’s an arguable case, I suppose, but I believe ultimately I’ll be found not guilty,” said Chilton

Chilton faces no Republican candidates in the general election, meaning he’ll likely take office in December.


Carr, Coffey, Stephens, Williams Elected To OC School Board

Orange County School Board members Donna Coffey and Brenda Stephens held onto their seats in Tuesday’s election; they’ll be joined on the Board by two newcomers, Tom Carr and Rosa Williams.

Carr emerged as the top vote-getter in the six-person race for four open seats, winning 5,667 votes to finish about 350 votes ahead of second-place Stephens. Coffey finished another 350 votes behind Stephens in third. Rosa Williams finished well behind Coffey, but held off Greg Andrews by 682 votes to win the fourth and final seat.

The sixth candidate, Michael Hood, won about 2,000 votes, more than a thousand behind Andrews.

Carr and Williams will take the seats left vacant by incumbents Anne Medenblik and Debbie Piscitelli, both of whom chose not to run for reelection this spring.


Jacobs, McKee Win Reelection To BOCC

Incumbents Barry Jacobs and Earl McKee held onto their seats on the Board of County Commissioners, fending off strong challengers by wide margins in Tuesday’s primary election.

In the race for the at-large seat on the Board, Jacobs drew 10,680 votes, 68 percent of all ballots cast. Challenger Bonnie Hauser drew 4,974 votes, or about 32 percent.

The race between Hauser and Jacobs turned highly contentious, with both candidates challenging each other directly at debates and forums. Hauser outraised Jacobs by more than $3,000 and hoped to outpoll the incumbent in Orange County’s northern precincts; in the end, though, Jacobs drew more votes in every precinct but one, Efland.

In the race for the seat representing District 2, incumbent McKee also faced a strong primary challenger, Mark Marcoplos—but McKee too won easily, with 4,041 votes (or 60 percent) to 2,648 for Marcoplos.

In that race, though, there was a clear split between northern and southern Orange County: Marcoplos won all but one of the five precincts located south of Hillsborough, while McKee won all nine of the precincts located north of Hillsborough (as well as the Eno precinct, due east).

While Tuesday’s election was only the Democratic primary, neither Jacobs nor McKee will face a Republican opponent in the November election. The only contested County Commissioner race in November will be for the seat representing District 1, where Democrat Mia Burroughs will face Republican Gary Kahn.


PPP Poll: Tillis Weakened by Attack Ads, But Still GOP Frontrunner

Attack ads from both fellow Republicans and supporters of Senator Kay Hagan are lowering support for North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, in his bid for Hagan’s U.S. Senate seat.

That’s according to Public Policy Polling numbers released Monday.

Tom Jensen, the director of the Raleigh-based polling firm, says that while Tillis remains the front runner in a primary race against Greg Brannon and Mark Harris, he’s been weakened to a degree that increases the chance of a runoff.

But only slightly.

“We still find Thom Tillis at the 40 percent mark that he needs to avoid a runoff,” says Jensen. “But he’s lost some ground compared to a week ago, when he was at 46 percent. Greg Brannon and Mark Harris do have the momentum in the closing stage of the race.”

At 28 percent, Brannon is up eight points from a week ago. And Mark Harris is at 15 percent, which is up four points from a week ago.

Still, 11 percent of voters are undecided, so Jensen still rates Tillis as the likely Republican primary winner.

Senate Majority PAC, which supports Hagan, has already spent nearly $1 million on TV ads that highlight scandals involving his former chief of staff Charles Thomas, who resigned after his affair with a home builders association lobbyist was revealed; and Tillis’s former policy adviser Amy Hobbs, who also had an affair with a lobbyist, and later resigned.

The ad also slams Tillis for giving those two former staffers a combined total of $19,333 in severance pay.

“Democratic groups have been trying to weaken Tillis by exploiting the staffer scandals,” says Jensen, “and also by bringing attention to his semi-positive comments he made about Obamacare a couple of months ago.”

During an interview with Bill LuMaye on WPTF in February, Tillis called the Affordable Care Act “a great idea that can’t be paid for.” In a recent Hagan ad, the quote is edited down to the “great idea” part.


BOCC Candidates McKee, Marcoplos Meet In WCHL Forum: AUDIO

The race for the seat representing District 2 on the Orange County Board of Commissioners this year features two candidates, incumbent Earl McKee and challenger Mark Marcoplos. Both are Democrats.

Early voting is already under way for the May 6 primary. With no Republicans in the race, the winner of the Democratic primary will be unopposed in the November general election.

On Wednesday, WCHL invited McKee and Marcoplos into the studio for an informal candidate forum, hosted by Aaron Keck. During the hour-long forum, the candidates touched on topics ranging from school funding to budget priorities to taxes to solid waste and environmental development.

Listen to Part 1 of the forum, in which Marcoplos and McKee discuss school funding, budget priorities, taxes, and solid waste.

Listen to Part 2 of the forum, in which the candidates talk economic development, affordability, transportation, Rogers Road remediation, and more.


Hauser, McKee Lead In Fundraising For BoCC Races

With less than a week to go until the May primary, Bonnie Hauser and Earl McKee have raised and spent more than their competitors in the race for two seats on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

First-time candidate Bonnie Hauser is challenging incumbent Barry Jacobs for an At-Large seat on the Board of Commissioners. According to first quarter campaign finance reports, Hauser has raised $12,314 and spent $10,269, while Jacobs has raised $8,991 and spent $4,431.

In the race for the District 2 seat representing Hillsborough and rural Orange County, incumbent Earl McKee has raised and spent nearly double that of challenger Mark Marcoplos.

McKee brought in $10,848 in the last four months and spent $5,662, while Marcoplos has raised $3,948 and spent approximately $2,800.

All the candidates are Democrats with no Republican challengers, meaning both the At-large and District 2 races will be decided in next week’s primary. Early voting is currently underway now until Saturday. The primary election is Tuesday, May 6.


Alderman Hopefuls Meet In WCHL Candidates Forum: AUDIO

With early voting currently underway for the May 6 primary, WCHL hosted a forum Monday featuring the three candidates for the open seat on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

The three candidates are Talal Asad, Bethany Chaney, and Theresa Watson. They’re running in a special election to finish the term of Lydia Lavelle, who left her seat on the Board when she became mayor in December.

Aaron Keck hosted the informal forum during Monday’s afternoon newscast. During the hour, the candidates talked about topics ranging from building heights to affordability to parking and bike safety.

Listen to Part 1 of the forum, in which the candidates talk economic development, budget and tax issues, and how to retain existing businesses while attracting new ones.

Listen to Part 2 of the forum, in which the candidates discuss how to make Carrboro a more affordable community, how to manage transportation, how to promote environmental sustainability, and (to borrow a slogan from Austin) how to “keep Carrboro weird.”

The forum will re-air on WCHL on Tuesday evening at 6:00 p.m. Early voting is underway through Saturday at five locations across Orange County; primary election day is next Tuesday, May 6.