Michelle Johnson Running For Re-Election

Carrboro Alderman Michelle Johnson made it official Tuesday on WCHL, announcing her intention to run for a second term on the Board.

Listen to Johnson’s conversation with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


First elected in 2011, Johnson is a clinical social worker and yoga instructor. Thus far, she says she’s proudest of her work with the Rogers Road Task Force to bring long-awaited remediation to the Rogers Road neighborhood – but she says there’s a lot more to do in the next few years.

“Affordable housing’s going to continue to be an issue,” she says, “(as well as) the ArtsCenter, (the) Arts and Innovation Center, the library and the Cat’s Cradle…

“And then one more issue is the police forums: in response to what’s going on in our country with police and institutional racism and cultural racism, we’re trying to be proactive with our police force and suggesting racial equity training and having some conversations with the community.”

(The next one of those conversations will be a public meeting this Monday, June 29, at 7 pm in Carrboro Town Hall.)

Johnson was elected to the Board in 2011 along with Dan Coleman and Lydia Lavelle. As it happens, she’s the only one of the three who’s still in that position: Coleman moved to Australia in early 2013 and Lavelle was elected mayor later that year. Damon Seils and Bethany Chaney now fill those seats – they won special elections in 2013 and 2014, respectively. (Neither Seils nor Chaney have announced their reelection plans publicly yet.)

Visit Johnson’s campaign page.

The filing period for local offices begins on Monday, July 6 and runs through Friday, July 17.


Czajkowski To Step Down: Will CHTC Appoint A Replacement?

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt has worked alongside Matt Czajkowski for nearly eight years – and squared off against him in a 2009 race for mayor that was one of the closest Chapel Hill had ever seen.

They’ve had disputes – but with Czajkowski about to step down from his Town Council seat at the end of this month, Kleinschmidt says he will be missed.

RELATED: WCHL’s Elizabeth Friend spoke with Czajkowski about his decision to leave the Chapel Hill Town Council to continue non-profit work in Africa:

“One of the things we say after every election is that with any change, even with one member, the Council becomes a different body,” Kleinschmidt says. “(Czajkowski’s departure) is certainly going to change the way our Council functions and operates and the way in which we have conversations and conduct our deliberations…

“I think Matt has added what he’s promised, which is a different view, an alternative view, and (he’s) helped ensure that our Council’s deliberations were enrichened with varying perspectives – and I think we’re going to miss that.”

Now the question becomes: will the remaining members of the Council appoint someone to fill Czajkowski’s seat until the November election? Following the town charter, Mayor Kleinschmidt will officially announce a vacancy on the Council after Czajkowski steps down, and the town will begin accepting applications for an appointment – but what the Council members do with those applications is up to them.

“Because there is no deadline on when such an appointment has to take place, it really depends on what conversations the Council has and how it responds to the applicant pool,” Kleinschmidt says.

Council members have two options for an appointment: they could choose to appoint a new member who would then run for a full term in November – or they could appoint a member who vows to serve only as a placeholder for eight months and not run in the fall.

Mayor Kleinschmidt says there are advantages and disadvantages either way – but any appointee would have to be experienced.

“There are several people out there who are contemplating Council races in the coming year, and we have to be thoughtful about what it means to appoint someone who’s presented themselves as a potential candidate,” he says. “Another way we could go is to perhaps seat someone who’s committed to not running, someone who’s a placeholder – and I think if we were to go in that direction, we would want someone who could come in and very quickly fill an important role that would involve finalizing our budget for the coming year as well as contributing to the Obey Creek development agreement process.

“Those are very complicated and difficult issues, and if we appoint somebody, they’re going to have to deal with those things immediately.”

There is also a third option: Council members could simply choose not to appoint a new member and leave the seat vacant until the fall.

Kleinschmidt, for his part, says he’s not sold on that option yet. “That would leave the Council with only eight members, and I’m somebody who thinks there’s a purpose behind the fact that the Council is made up of eight members and the mayor,” he says. “It’s been about 40 years since the town made that decision, and I think there’s value in maintaining a full set of officials to help make decisions. In that way, I think we can ensure that a diversity of views is being brought to the table during our deliberations.”

Regardless, the discussion about whether to appoint or not to appoint will not officially begin until after Czajkowski steps down at the end of March. And his term expires in November – so one way or the other, voters will elect a new council member to serve a full term in that seat by the end of the year.


Dems Gain In NCGA, But GOP Keeps Supermajority

As expected, the Democratic Party gained some seats in the North Carolina General Assembly in Tuesday’s election – but not enough to overcome the GOP’s veto-proof majority in either house.

It was a foregone conclusion that Republicans would retain their majorities in the State House and Senate; the GOP entered Tuesday’s election with a 77-43 advantage in the House and a 33-17 edge in the Senate, and very few of those 170 total districts were competitive in this cycle. (Many candidates ran unopposed.) But Democrats were hoping to gain enough seats to end the Republican veto-proof “supermajority”: as long as the GOP holds more than 60 percent of the seats in both houses, a united party can override any gubernatorial veto.

According to the State Board of Elections, Democrats did pick up three net seats in the House to cut the GOP’s advantage to 74-46 – but they needed at least three more gains to overcome the supermajority. In the Senate, Democrats actually dropped one seat, giving Republicans a 34-16 edge.


2014 Election: GOP Wins Big Nationwide

Republicans have seized control of the Senate and strengthened their hold on the House in a wave of Election Day victories.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell defeated his Democratic challenger in Kentucky, putting him in position to become the new Senate majority leader.

Republicans picked up Senate seats in seven states.

And Republicans are on track in the House to meet or exceed the 246 seats they held during President Harry Truman’s administration more than 60 years ago.

Republicans also swept governor’s races across the country, scoring upsets in Democratic bastions like Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois.

The Democrats’ only significant victory came in Pennsylvania, where businessman Tom Wolf ousted GOP Gov. Tom Corbett.

Three contests remain too close to call: Alaska, Colorado and Connecticut.

House Speaker John Boehner is telling Republicans that despite victories in the House and Senate, it’s “not a time for celebration.”

Boehner says instead, it’s time for government to start “implementing solutions to the challenges facing our country.” He says those challenges begin with what he calls a “still-struggling economy.”

Most voters would agree with that. Exit polls showed voters don’t have much trust in government, feel the nation is off on the wrong track and believe life will be worse for the next generation.

And above all, voters surveyed while leaving the polls say they’re worried about the economy. People who say their own financial situation grew worse in the past two years voted for Republican congressional candidates by a 2-1 margin.


Early Voting Still Strong In Orange County

If you haven’t voted early yet, you only have a couple more more days.

Early voting continues through Saturday at five locations in Orange County. So far, turnout has been brisk: on Wednesday, 2348 residents cast their ballots early. About the same number of people cast early ballots on Monday and Tuesday as well.

Through the first six days of the nine-day early voting period, Orange County saw 13,939 votes cast. That puts Orange County on track to end the early voting period with close to 21,000 ballots.

View a breakdown of early voting totals in Orange County, by day and location.

To put that into perspective: during the last midterm election, in 2010, only about 16,500 voters cast ballots early in Orange County – and that was with a significantly longer early-voting period.

There are five early voting locations in Orange County: the Board of Elections office in downtown Hillsborough; Master’s Garden Preschool, also in Hillsborough; Carrboro Town Hall; NC Hillel on Cameron Avenue in downtown Chapel Hill, just off campus; and the Seymour Center on Homestead Road.

Click here for a full list of locations and hours of operation.


Early Voting Turnout Still High In OC

Only three days remain for early voting this year, and turnout at the polls is still consistently high in Orange County.

On Tuesday, Day 5 of the early voting period, 2433 Orange County residents cast their ballots – almost exactly the same as Monday’s total. Through the first five days, 11,591 Orange County residents have cast early ballots – putting Orange County on track to end with about 21,000 early votes cast, if the trends hold.

See a complete day-by-day breakdown of votes cast by location.

To put that into perspective: in the last midterm, in 2010, a total of 16,500 Orange County residents cast early ballots.

Early voting continues through Saturday at five locations in Orange County: at the Board of Elections office in Hillsborough; at Master’s Garden Preschool, also in Hillsborough; at the Seymour Center on Homestead Road in Chapel Hill; at NC Hillel in downtown Chapel Hill, on Cameron Avenue just off campus; and at Carrboro Town Hall on Main Street.

For a full list of locations and hours of operation, click here.

Election Day itself is Tuesday, November 4.


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.


US Supreme Court Stops NC Same-Day Registration, Out-of-Precinct Voting

A United States Supreme Court ruling means North Carolina voters won’t be able to register to vote and cast ballots on the same day, and voters won’t be able to vote out of their precincts.

“We do want to encourage anyone out there who has not registered to make sure that they register,” says Orange County’s Board of Elections Director Tracy Reams.

The deadline to register is Friday. Reams says registrations are considered “on time” if they are postmarked by Friday.

The Supreme Court halted the ruling of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday. On October 1, the 4th Circuit Court reinstated same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. Before October 1 both were not allowed.

Reams says getting the word out regarding this change in election laws has been a top priority.

“How we’re going about getting this information out is through press releases and media such as yours,” Reams says.

She says word of mouth is one key way to share this information.

“When people come in here to register, we let them know Friday is the deadline, and ‘do you know of anybody else that needs to register, maybe family, friends, neighbors?’,” Reams says.

Early voting starts October 23, and November 4 is election day.

For more information, and to download a voter registration form, click here.


NC Election Law Ruling Appealed to Supremes

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals placed an injunction on two provisions of North Carolina’s 2013 election law, blocking them from being implemented for the upcoming November election.

On Thursday, the court denied a motion to stay that order until after the election – so attorneys for the state have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wednesday’s ruling does not put a hold on the entire law, but rather two provisions of it: one that eliminates same-day registration during the early voting period, and another that eliminates the counting of “provisional ballots,” or ballots cast by voters who come to the wrong precinct on Election Day.

A variety of organizations have challenged the law in court, saying it disproportionately affects black voters – which, if true, would violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Wednesday’s ruling doesn’t necessarily strike down those two provisions – it just puts a hold on them until the legal challenge is resolved. (The ruling means that same-day registration would be allowed during early voting, and provisional ballots would be counted, during this upcoming election.)

But the Supreme Court may choose to step in and reverse the lower court. In fact this week the Supreme Court did exactly that in Ohio, reversing a lower-court decision to allow enforcement of a similar law. Among other things, the Court ruled there that it’s too close to Election Day for a judicial decision to change election law without creating undue confusion.

Attorney General Roy Cooper filed the appeal on behalf of Governor Pat McCrory, even though Cooper has said he personally opposes the law in question. The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to take the case.


Dems Gaining In Race For Senate Control

The last couple of weeks have been good ones for Democrats in the race for control of the U.S. Senate – at least according to the pollsters.

This week, Public Policy Polling released its latest North Carolina survey, showing incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan maintaining a four-point edge in her race against Republican challenger Thom Tillis. That’s unchanged from PPP’s previous survey – and recent surveys from other pollsters have found much the same thing.

PPP director Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck last week (before PPP’s latest survey was released).


Jensen says the GOP still has a good chance of retaking control of the Senate in the November midterm – merely by picking up Democratic-held seats in Republican-leaning states – but he says Democrats are looking stronger in the so-called “purple” states like North Carolina and Michigan. Indeed Michigan may no longer be a “purple” state at all: though governor Rick Snyder is a Republican, Jensen says Michigan in general is “increasingly out of reach for Republicans” trying to win statewide office.

And while the GOP is still looking to gain seats in the Senate, Michigan’s turn is a sign of good news for Democrats when it comes to the presidential race – not just in 2016, but also beyond. While former “swing” states like Michigan have become reliably Democratic in recent presidential elections, former GOP strongholds like Virginia and North Carolina have turned purple – and that, Jensen says, means it’s “harder and harder for Republicans in presidential elections.” That’s especially true in 2016, he says, at least assuming Hillary Clinton decides to run: nationwide, Clinton currently polls stronger than Barack Obama did in 2012, and Obama won reelection by a fairly wide electoral-vote margin.

November 4 is Election Day this year. If you’re a North Carolina resident, the voter registration deadline is October 10.

Click here for voter information.