A Great Day for Democrats in North Carolina – 2018 Election Results

Democrats Broke Supermajorities in the North Carolina General Assembly and Won Statewide Judicial Elections

Yesterday, voters from across our state came together to elect dynamic new leadership to the NC General Assembly that will break the Republican supermajorities in both the State House and the State Senate. Based upon vote totals at this time, 6 new members were elected to the State Senate, and 8 new members have been elected to the State House.

The new members of the Senate will be Natasha Marcus, who defeated Jeff Tarte by 11,680 votes, Sam Searcy, who defeated Tamara Barringer by 3,798 votes, Michael Garret, who defeated Trudy Wade by 763 votes, Harper Peterson, who defeated Michael Lee by 36 votes, Kirk DeViere, who defeated Wesley Meredith by 306 votes, and of course Wiley Nickel was elected to a new seat in Wake County. These vote totals are preliminary since provisional ballots as well as absentee ballots will still need to be counted and it could potentially change the outcome in some of these close races. It really speaks to why when we say that every vote counts — we mean it.

In the State House, the victories went to Sydney Batch, Terence Everitt, Brandon Lofton, Ray Russel, Christy Clarke, Joe Sam Queen, and Julie von Haefen. The race of Rachel Hunt remains too close to call since she is only 52 votes down at this time. I’d like to congratulate all of the statewide candidates for judgeships who won, and, in particular, I would like to congratulate the newest member of our State Supreme Court, Anita Earls. Those winning seats on the Court of Appeals were John Arrowood, Toby Hampson, and Allegra Collins.

Unfortunately, four of the proposed constitutional amendments were approved by voters including the one which will require voter I.D.’s in the future. Voters soundly defeated the amendments that would change the way judges are appointed in our state as well as the one which would have changed the makeup of our State Board of Elections and Ethics.

I spent yesterday visiting many of Durham’s voting precincts, and, as the evening went on, I was up until 2:00 am watching vote totals come in in contested General Assembly races and celebrating with those who won statewide judgeships. It was a great and exciting day for NC, and particularly for the Democrats who offered themselves for the consideration of voters.

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Special Session of the NCGA Called to Discuss Hurricane Florence Relief

A Special Session of the North Carolina General Assembly Where Bipartisan Support of Hurricane Relief Ruled the Day

Today, a Special Session of the NC General Assembly was called by Governor Cooper to consider two bills which are necessary as a result of Hurricane Florence. Senate Bill 2, titled School Calendar & Pay/Hurricane Florence, would allow public schools in counties which had received a federal disaster assistance declaration to reduce the number of hours of instructions to students attending public schools in the designated counties. It would allow school districts the flexibility to make up some days of missed classes, however, these districts could actually waive up to 20 days of missed classes if it was necessary to do so. While I support this legislation, I did raise questions during committee discussions relating to how we can provide students in these districts with opportunities to take additional classes during the summer months or during other occasions. I do not want to see our students academically shortchanged and placed at a competitive disadvantage because they missed up to a month of classes in some of these districts. These students would also be placed at a competitive disadvantage end of grade tests. This bill provided $6.5 million dollars to provide compensation for school lunch employees whose compensation is normally provided for through school lunch receipts and federal funds on instructional days.

The other bill which was passed was House Bill 4, titled Hurricane Florence Emergency Response Act. This bill appropriated $56.5 million dollars for hurricane relief. Included within this figure was the $6.5 million dollars for the school lunch employees hereinabove. These funds would currently be directed towards 28 counties which have been designated under the major disaster declaration issued by the federal government. In addition, this bill extended the deadline for voter registration applications from October 12th, 2018 until October 15th, 2018 at 5:00 pm. It also provided County Boards of Election to provide for a substitution of a one-stop voting site if it was unanimously agreed upon by the local County Board of Elections. The bill also allowed County Boards of Election to alter voting places for Election Day if the change was for the purpose of providing a substitute location for a voting precinct damaged by Hurricane Florence. Local Boards of Elections must provide notice to voters of these changes in the most expedient manner possible which may include public service announcements, print, radio, television, online and social media. It would have been great if the bill could have allowed greater flexibility for people who have been displaced by Hurricane Florence to apply for, obtain, and submit absentee ballots, however, that was not included in the bill.

There were also funds provided in this bill to address the emergence of large populations of mosquitos in floodwater-impacted areas. Lastly, there were opportunities for the governor to waive the collection of certain motor vehicle fees for residents in these impacted counties in the event that a person perhaps needed a duplicate driver’s license or other similar types of documents that might have been lost as a result of Hurricane Florence. Fortunately, there was unanimous support in the Senate for both of these bills. I only wish that we could see such bipartisanship on other occasions.

July 24th Special Session Bills Impact on Upcoming Elections

Updates from the July 24th Special Session

House Bill 3 would limit public knowledge and understanding of proposed amendments.

Today, a bill was filed and introduced known as “House Bill 3” titled “Ballot Designations/Referenda.” The sole purpose of the bill was to eliminate the power of a commission currently composed of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, a Democrat, Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, and Paul Coble, a Republican who’s in charge of legislative services at the General Assembly, from writing a brief caption or synopsis of each of the six constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot in November’s General Election. This means that the public will not have any context or understanding of these amendments. As it currently stands, the language that will appear relating to each constitutional amendment is vague, obscure, and, in many instances, disguises the true purpose and intent of each of the constitutional amendments. Therefore, voters could be persuaded and misled into voting for an amendment because they are worded in a way that might lead someone to believe that they were a good idea. This type of intentional voter deception is problematic and unfortunate. The true purpose of these amendments is for the Republican majority to do messaging around them that will increase the turnout of their base voters in November.

The Republican majority is afraid that, without these constitutional amendments on the ballot to drive out their base, Democrats have an excellent opportunity to break the Republican supermajority and to potentially take the majority in this year’s General Election. I hope that voters will be smart enough not to be persuaded by these type of tactics. Two of these amendments are specifically targeted at undercutting the authority of Governor Cooper and future governors to appoint persons serving on over 400 boards and commissions as well as appointing judges in our state in a manner in which it has been conducted for decades. This is why former governors, both Republicans and Democrats, are opposed to the idea of amendments curtailing the power of our governor, which is already weaker than many states.

Senate Bill 3 will impact Judicial Candidates in Upcoming Election

In addition to House Bill 3, there was also another bill introduced today known as Senate Bill 3, which passed the Senate. The primary purpose of Senate Bill 3 was to eliminate Republican competition in the race for the North Carolina Supreme Court. Justice Barbara Jackson, who is a Republican serving on the court, is being challenged by Anita Earls, who is a Democrat, and announced her candidacy early this year after the Republican majority made judicial races partisan. Anita was well-regarded and respected as an attorney due to her successful challenges of laws enacted by the General Assembly that were determined to be unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering. Last year, the Republican majority also eliminated judicial primaries, therefore, it was possible for more than one Democrat or more than one Republican to seek positions at the same time in the General Election.

When the judicial filing period opened in June, Christopher Anglin announced that he was seeking a seat on the NC Supreme Court as a Republican. This would’ve meant that two Republicans were both running for the same seat that Anita Earls, a Democrat, was running for which would have likely increased her chances of winning. Therefore, today, Senate Bill 3 was introduced which was specifically targeted at Christopher Anglin, since he was previously registered as a Democrat before he decided to run for a seat on the NC Supreme Court. Senate Bill 3 essentially states that a candidate who changed his party affiliation within 90 days of filing for office would not be listed as running as a Republican or as a Democrat, or even as an Independent. The person would have no party affiliation next to their name, or they would be allowed to withdraw from the race altogether.

During debate on the floor of the Senate, it was clear that this was the purpose of Senate Bill 3, even though the bill theoretically applies to all judicial candidates in the State of North Carolina. When I asked today in the Rules Committee whether the bill sponsor or any person with our State Board of Elections could identify how many candidates would be impacted by this bill, no one could provide a number, and the only person identified was Christopher Anglin. During debate on the floor today of the Senate, another candidate in Wake County was identified as potentially being impacted by this bill as well.

I ran an amendment today that would require the State Board of Elections to provide notice to all judicial candidates of this new law via e-mail, telephonic communications, written notice, or by other electronic means as expeditiously as possible. This amendment was adopted as a part of the bill. Hopefully, if there are other candidates impacted, then they will find out how this bill impacts them in an expedient manner. It is absolutely wrong and unconscionable to change an important rule of this type after the filing period for a position has opened and closed simply because the General Assembly is not happy with the party affiliation of the candidates who had filed. I am positive that if two Democrats were seeking the position on the NC Supreme Court and only 1 Republican had filed, then we would not have been brought back to change the law. Please, this is one further reason why we must come out this November and vote to take back our state and to change the makeup of the North Carolina General Assembly.

Another Special Session of the NC General Assembly

Even though the General Assembly adjourned less than a month ago with plans, at that time, to reconvene on November 27th after the General Election, today, a notice was sent to legislators advising them that tomorrow we will reconvene for a Special Session months in advance for the purpose of crafting special language to describe the six constitutional amendments which will be placed before voters for consideration. There is already proposed language in the bills relating to each of these amendments, however, the Republican majority in the General Assembly does not want to leave it to anyone other than themselves to craft the final language.

Most disturbing is the fact that most of these amendments will be deceptively described in ways that will not reveal their true intent or purpose. For example, there is an amendment dealing with the creation of a new bipartisan election and ethics board. The problem is the governor in this state has always had the power to appoint these members in the past, but more importantly, additional language in the amendment would eliminate Governor Cooper’s ability to appoint members to over 400 boards and commissions. This is one of the reasons why prior governors, both Republican and Democrat, are opposing this amendment including Republican Governors Pat McCrory and Jim Martin.

Another proposed amendment would allow the NC General Assembly to review and select individuals which the governor could appoint to judicial vacancies. The General Assembly would have the responsibility of recommending two people for each position which the governor could select from. Currently, the governor selects from a list of 5 persons recommended by local bar associations, which have Democratic and Republican members, to fill vacancies. Once again, the governor is the loser regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican is serving in the future.

Today, I was interviewed with Rep. David Lewis to discuss this upcoming Special Session for a segment on the Capital Tonight program where the host is Loretta Boniti. It will be broadcast tonight at 7:00 pm and at 12:00 am (midnight).