PPP: Dems Up In NC Early Voting, But It Ain’t Over

Early voting turnout is high this year in North Carolina, with Orange County’s turnout significantly ahead of 2012 and 2008 levels. But who’s winning?

A new survey from Public Policy Polling suggests the early voters are heavily Democratic-leaning – but North Carolinians as a whole remain closely divided on all the high-profile races.

Among those who’d already voted as of Monday, 63 percent had cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton for president, to only 37 percent for Donald Trump. (Gary Johnson’s receiving almost no early votes.) The race for governor is equally lopsided so far: as of Monday, 61 percent of early voters had cast ballots for Roy Cooper, to only 33 percent for Pat McCrory.

Deborah Ross also holds an edge on Richard Burr in the race for US Senate, but by a much smaller margin of 52-34. (Libertarian Sean Haugh got 7 percent of the early vote; the other 7 percent described themselves as “undecided.”)

How well do those numbers bode for Democrats? PPP director Tom Jensen says the early-vote advantage certainly doesn’t hurt – it certainly helped Barack Obama win North Carolina in 2008, when an all-day rain depressed turnout on Election Day – but we shouldn’t read too much into it either. Even though early voting turnout has been relatively high, the vast majority of North Carolinians still haven’t voted yet – and Democrats do vote early at higher rates than Republicans, so the Democratic advantage here isn’t a surprise.

What may be telling, though, is the difference between the races. Jensen says it’s definitely good news for Cooper that he’s polling better than Clinton – but it’s bad news for Ross that her lead on Burr isn’t nearly as big.

Overall, PPP’s latest survey shows Clinton with a 3-point lead on Trump (47-44), Cooper with a 2-point lead on McCrory (46-44), and Burr with a 1-point lead on Ross (42-41). Democrats lead the generic legislative ballot by four points, 46-42 – not enough to retake control of the General Assembly, Jensen says, but possibly enough to keep the GOP from maintaining its veto-proof majority in both houses. (This would be especially important if Cooper wins the governor’s seat.)

Get the full results here.

Nationally, Jensen says it looks like a Clinton presidency is a safe bet – but with well over a week to go before Election Day, it’s still too early to be sure.

Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


McCrory Defends House Bill 2, While Businesses Line Up Against It

Governor Pat McCrory released a video message on Tuesday responding to criticism of House Bill 2 and Attorney General Roy Cooper’s decision not to defend the bill in court.

McCrory released the video amid protest against the bill and threats from national corporations to boycott the state.

McCrory said the bill is a matter of upholding an expectation of privacy and that opponents are speaking out for political gain.

“Unfortunately that has occurred when legislation was passed to protect men, women and children when they use a public restroom, shower or locker room. That is an expectation of privacy that must be honored and respected, instead, North Carolina has been the target of a vicious nationwide smear campaign,” said McCrory in the video.

Opponents of the bill say it rolls back protections for transgender individuals by forcing people to use the bathroom of the sex indicated on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

“This is not about demonizing one group of people, in fact, let’s put aside our differences, the political rhetoric and yes a lot of hypocrisy and work on solution that will make this bill better in the future,” said McCrory.

Bank of America has now joined the ranks of companies condemning the bill. The bank joins more than 80 companies whose CEO’s have signed an open letter to Pat McCrory, authored by the Human Rights Campaign, calling for the repeal of House Bill 2.

Other notable companies that have signed the letter include Apple, Google, Pfizer and Facebook, among many others. The NBA said the law could also impact the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, which is planned to be played in Charlotte.

Earlier this week, the governor of Georgia vetoed similar legislation after major companies like Disney and Dell, threaten to pull their businesses out of the state if the legislation passed.

A lawsuit was filed earlier this week by LGBT advocacy groups challenging the legislation.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Roy Cooper said he would not defend House Bill 2 in court. Cooper, a Democrat, is running for governor against McCrory.

Cooper said he will instead defend the Treasurer’s Office nondiscrimination policy, which Cooper said is violated by House Bill 2.

“In order to protect our nondiscrimination policy and employees, along with those of our client, the state treasurer’s office, part of our argument will be that House Bill 2 is unconstitutional,” said Cooper.

McCrory said the attorney general’s obligation was to defend the state.

“When you are the state’s lawyer, you are a lawyer first and a politician second, therefore, I want to encourage the attorney general to reconsider his flawed logic,” said McCrory.

The ACLU has asked that the law be temporarily blocked until the case is heard in court.


North Carolinians Find Common Ground

In a time where we continually hear about divided politics and the polarization of America, a new poll from Public Policy Polling said there are a few issues North Carolinians can agree on.

“Redistricting has obviously been one of the biggest issues in the state so far this year,” said director Tom Jensen. “We found 59 percent of voters in the state want the law changed so district lines are drawn up in an nonpartisan fashion. Only nine percent of voters are opposed to doing that.”

The democrats surveyed supported independent redistricting 65 to six. Independents supported it 56 to 12 and republicans supported it 54 to 11.

“What’s most interesting is those republican numbers,” Jensen said. “Certainly if there was independent redistricting republicans would not have quite as lofty of a majority as they do in the congressional delegation and in the state legislature right now, but we find on that ‘small d’ democracy issue even republicans are in agreement.”

Jenson said North Carolinians are also in agreement on mandatory background checks for gun purchases, raising the minimum wage to 10 dollars an hour and the EPA clean power plan, but these agreements don’t always turn into action.

“Even when you have 17 republicans running, not a single one of them would say they supported increasing the minimum wage, even to $10 an hour,” he said. “We find the republican base has a very different view than republican politicians with 53 percent supporting at least ($10 dollars an hour).”

While these issues are more closely associated with democratic candidates, democratic challengers at the state level are having a hard time picking up votes.

Republican senator Richard Burr and governor Pat McCrory are both up for reelection in November.

“The interesting dynamic you have with both McCrory and Burr is that republican voters aren’t that in love with them,” Jensen said. “Burr has about a 50 percent approval rating with republicans. McCrory is in the 60s. But then when you ask would you vote for McCrory or Roy Cooper, Richard or the democrat, they get 80 to 85 percent of the vote.”

Jenson said McCrory has a -7 approval rating, but still leads expected challenger Roy Cooper by a few points. Burr has a -11 approval rating, but leads his expected challenger Deborah Ross by six points.

“There are a lot of republicans who don’t actually like them, but will still vote for them over a democrat,” Jensen said.



Roy Cooper Warns NC About Super Bowl Ticket Scams

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper warned Panther fans not to fall for ticket scams ahead of Super Bowl 50.

“We want the Panthers to keep pounding, but we don’t want consumers to get pounded by Super Bowl ticket scams,” Cooper said. “Some Panthers fans are willing to do nearly anything to get tickets to this year’s Super Bowl, and unfortunately scammers know it.”

Cooper said fans should beware ticket prices that seem to good to be true.

Face value for a single ticket to Super Bowl 50 ranges from $500 and $1,600, but average resale values are reportedly near $5,500 per ticket on popular online ticket vendors.

He urged people to use credit cards to pay to increase their chances of getting their money back and to research ticket sellers.

If you spot a ticket scam, report it to our Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or by filing a complaint online at ncdoj.gov.


Senate Leader Says Cooper Should Defend Amendment

RALEIGH — State Senate leader Phil Berger says Attorney General Roy Cooper should defend North Carolina’s same sex marriage ban in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling striking down Virginia’s law.

The Rockingham Republican said after the Senate session on Monday that Cooper should stand up for the people of North Carolina and uphold its constitution.

More than 60 percent of voters approved the amendment in 2012.

Cooper said at a news conference earlier in the day that his office would not defend the state’s ban on same sex marriage, saying the ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, made it highly likely North Carolina’s ban will be overturned.

North Carolina is part of the 4th Circuit.


Carrboro Voices Frustration With Duke Energy Flat Rate Fees

CARRBORO – Mayor Mark Chilton says Duke Energy’s flat-rate fees are discouraging the town from installing high efficiency street lights in some areas of Carrboro.

“We pay Duke Power for our electrical bills for our street lights in Carrboro,” Chilton says. “The way that those are handled is by estimation of the amount of electricity used rather than metered, and Duke has a flat policy of charging a certain rate for street lights.”

Earlier this year, the Town intervened in the Duke Energy Carolinas rate case before the State Utilities Commission, which was taken successfully to the N.C. Supreme Court by Attorney General Roy Cooper. In August, Cooper filed again with the Utilities Commission to oppose the latest rate-hike request by Duke Energy.

Chilton and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen hosted a presentation by Piedmont Electric, which provides electric service to parts of Carrboro, about the possibility of using LED lights in Anderson Park, replacing the less efficient mercury vapor (MV) and high pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures.

“Here Piedmont Electric is being flexible and is working with us and is going to reward us with lower bills if we install these LED lights, using less electricity, where Duke Power is not offering us any other similar sort of deal,” Chilton says.

Chilton says that it is not advantageous for the Town to use energy-saving, cost-effective lights in Duke Energy’s territory.

“If we invest in LED technology, we will be using a lot less power. Duke’s rate structure needs to recognize that,” Chilton says. “They need to give us a break, in other words to charge a different rate for those of us who are using the super high efficiency LED lights.”

Piedmont Electric says it would replace some of the less efficient fixtures at no additional cost until a preliminary evaluation has been completed.

Duke Energy could not be reach for comment.


NC Democrats – Following a Lead and Finding a Leader

How are the North Carolina Democratic Party and the National Republican Party alike?

That is easy. Both lost elections this fall and do not know what to do about it.

It is particularly humiliating for North Carolina Democrats. They have to face a legislature totally dominated by Republicans, who have gerrymandered so effectively that it is hard to see how Democrats could regain control in the foreseeable future.

Thus, they are scratching their heads when they hear and read about how the Republicans lost their way and the Democrats won a great victory in November. Or, when they hear that North Carolina demographic trends favor Democrats in the long term.

So, what should the North Carolina Democrats do now?

One party activist told me they should follow the example of national Republicans and “and get some new leadership at the state and district level willing to critically evaluate our mistakes.”

He read that the Republican National Committee has a plan to review the 2012 elections to determine what worked and what did not. Their Growth and Opportunity project will address issues like “campaign mechanics and ground game, messaging, fundraising, demographic partners and allies, third-party groups, campaign finance issues, presidential primaries, lessons learned from Democratic campaign tactics.”

Assuming North Carolina Democrats are willing to follow the lead of the national Republicans, what should they be doing? Before they can follow anybody’s lead, they have to find a leader or a leadership group.

For the first time in 20 years, the Democrats do not have a governor who could claim responsibility to recruit party leadership. Nor are there senior legislative leaders up to the task.

That leaves statewide elected political leaders such as Council of State members Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Attorney General Roy Cooper, Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin, Treasurer Janet Cowell, Auditor Beth Wood, and Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson. None of them, of course, has the clout of a governor. But all have statewide contacts and supporters. Marshall and Cooper have high-profile positions and have earned widespread respect. Goodwin and Cowell have built good networks and are potential candidates for higher office.

Any of them who garnered enthusiastic support from the others would be a good candidate to take the lead in rebuilding the party.

The other major statewide elected official is U.S. Senator Kay Hagan. In recent years, North Carolina Democratic senators have not been active in state and local party matters. They have built their own organizations and fundraising efforts.

Hagan, too, has her own support group, and she is a successful fundraiser. Arguably, she should stay out of state party politics. But she has more to gain than any other statewide elected official from a strong active party. She is up for reelection in 2014 and her prospects would be improved by an enthusiastic, well-organized, and unified party.

Once Hagan or some other individual or small group takes responsibility, the first task will be to recruit and persuade the party organization to select a party chair and executive director who will bring unity and energy to the task. For an example, they could look back to the 1980s, which were also challenging times for North Carolina Democrats. People like current Congressman David Price, popular Raleigh lawyer Wade Smith, and current public relations executive Ken Eudy were recruited to party leadership positions where they helped strengthen the organization and prepared it for a string of successes.

For today’s North Carolina Democrats, time is wasting. The 2014 campaign begins in just a few days.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Fridays at 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage. A grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council provides crucial support for North Carolina Bookwatch.
This week’s (December 28, 30) guest is Kevin Duffus author of “War Zone—World War II off the North Carolina Coast.” Bookwatch Classics (programs from earlier years) airs Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4). Wednesday’s (January 2) past guest program features Lee Smith author of “The Last Girls.”
For a North Carolinian who is interested in World War II, here is a perfect suggestion: “War Zone—World War II off the North Carolina Coast.” Author Kevin Duffus reviews the first seven months of the war when German U-boats destroyed U.S. ships off the North Carolina coast at will. He also tells some of the human interest stories that accompanied military action in the North Carolina zone of that war. (Dec. 28, 30)