And of course the DSCC wasted no time going after Tillis:North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis is set to enter the GOP primary to compete to face Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) in 2014, making him the first elected Republican to enter the race.
Tillis adviser Paul Shumaker confirmed that Tillis will file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and launch his campaign shortly thereafter.
“He plans to file FEC papers to formalize the committee, and we will subsequently be doing a rollout,” Shumaker said.
Hagan is considered a top GOP target. But the field to face her — which is expected to be crowded — has yet to take shape, and doesn’t appear likely to feature any well-known Republicans. - Washington Post, 5/31/13
The DSCC is taking a very smart approach because their using one of Tillis' colleagues own words to back up their argument:National Democrats will characterize Thom Tillis, the most prominent announced Republican running to challenge Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), as too extreme and beholden to special interests for North Carolina in their first attack on the state House Speaker.
“Thom Tillis has created disaster in Raleigh, leading the ultra right wing North Carolina legislature and becoming a favorite of the special interests -- the same special interests who now fund a super-PAC to elect Tillis to the U.S. Senate, ” said Justin Barasky, a spokesman at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in a release obtained first by The Hill.
Barasky goes on to charge that Tillis has a "long record of putting his own career ahead of creating jobs" in North Carolina. - The Hill, 6/5/13
I've written quite a bit about how Art Pope and the Koch Brothers spent a fortune to take over the Tar Heel State and turn it into their corrupt, right-wing playground:
In an unvarnished speech, Republican state Rep. Larry Pittman recently expressed doubts about the House speaker's conservative credentials, saying Thom Tillis' possible U.S. Senate bid is making it difficult to push legislation.
"I was proud to vote for Thom Tillis to be the speaker again, when we got back up there this year," Pittman told a crowd of activists in a video posted online. "Because last session, he was great. ... But, now he's running for U.S. Senate, or planning to, things have changed.
"They tell us all the time about how bad it was when they were in the minority and the Democratic leadership wouldn't let them get their bills moved or anything. Well now the constitutional conservatives, the Republican part of the House, knows what that's like." (See video above, starting at 11 minute mark.)
Pittman, a Concord lawmaker in his second term, said the speaker's office pressured Rep. Carl Ford to drop a resolution he sponsored that asserted North Carolina's right to establish its own religion. Tillis declared the bill dead shortly after it was introduced. "Carl was told very plainly you will withdraw this ... if you want any of your other bills passed," Pittman said. "That's exactly what he was told."
The strong words are not likely to earn Pittman, who often appears out of step with most Republicans, any friends in the House leadership. And he prefaced them with a warning: "I'm potentially getting myself in real trouble telling you this stuff," he told the crowd. "Because, the speaker's office doesn't want you knowing this stuff. So I'm in trouble, right now. Because I'm sure it'll get to him. It means probably none of my bills will go anywhere, but they're not going anywhere anyway. So that's the kind of thing that's happening. It really amazed me."
A person in the crowd thanked Pittman. The video was posted on YouTube. - Charlotte News Observer, 4/30/13
And they've been able to put their cronies in charge of the North Carolina government:The GOP lost big nationally in 2012, but may have found the key to future success in one southern state.
Cash from groups backed by the Koch brothers and others helped North Carolina Republicans build a robust conservative infrastructure and fundraising network, leading to the GOP winning both the governor’s mansion and the state legislature in the same year for the first time since Reconstruction.
That takeover didn’t come overnight, but it caught Democrats by surprise, especially since Barack Obama carried the state in 2008 and lost only by 2 percentage points last year.
The hope, say conservatives, is to replicate their successes elsewhere.
“Getting dramatic economic change at the federal level is very difficult,” said Tim Phillips, president of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. “A few years ago, the idea we had was to create model states. North Carolina was a great opportunity to do that – more so than any other state in the region. If you could turn around a state like that, you could get real reform.”
Since November, change has come quickly.Gov. Pat McCrory appointed a Koch ally and major Republican donor, Art Pope, as the state’s budget director.
In the legislature, Republicans are expected to pass an overhaul of the state’s tax code, the public education system and election laws, including a controversial voter ID bill. The state House on Monday voted to allow concealed weapons on college campuses, at sporting events and in businesses that serve alcohol.
Several other measures, such as one that would establish Christianity as the official state religion, are not expected to pass but have made national headlines in recent weeks.
And last month, Pope proposed eliminating public financing for judicial races, and McCrory canned members of the State Board of Elections just as the board announced an investigation into contributions made to governor’s campaign. - Politico, 5/11/13
First there's science skeptic, John Skvarla, who is now the head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources:
Then there's Tony Tata, the new head of the the Department of Transportation, who was fired as superintendent of the state's largest public school system following a transportation fiasco:In 1978, with a law degree from UNC, Skvarla founded the Raleigh, N.C.-based law firm of Skvarla, Wyrick and Robbins, specializing in corporate taxes and capital formation -- the same firm where Pope served as an associate attorney from 1982 through 1984.
After leaving the firm in 1984, Skvarla went into business, running a variety of companies. Since 2005, he has served as president, chief operating officer and then CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based Restoration Systems, a "mitigation banking" firm that restores wetlands for credits it sells to developers to make up for those destroyed elsewhere, as required by the federal Clean Water Act.
Environmental advocates greeted Skvarla's appointment with cautious optimism given his experience and statements that his agency's work would be grounded in science. But that hope turned into shock after an interview with WRAL reporter Laura Leslie in which Skvarla expressed unscientific and poorly informed views.
For one thing, Skvarla rejects the scientific consensus on the reality of human-caused climate change, dismissing Leslie's observation there was such a consensus as "misleading." The problem of climate change is a major concern for the North Carolina, which is in a hotspot for sea-level rise related to global warming.
"I have studied this every day for almost 10 years, and I know there's great divergence of opinion on the science of climate," Skvarla said. "I'm not ready to say which is right and which is wrong."
Skvarla also questions whether oil -- which McCrory wants to drill for off North Carolina's coast as soon as possible -- is a finite resource. He pointed to the discredited Russian theory of abiotic petroleum, which holds that oil is not a fossil fuel formed from ancient zooplankton and algae but instead comes from deep carbon deposits that date back as far as the earth's formation. It's a theory popular among creationists who want to believe the earth is only 6,000 years old.
But at the same time Skvarla has been studying fringe ideas about climate and oil, he was ignoring a very real problem facing coal-dependent North Carolina: poorly regulated disposal of coal ash waste, which has resulted in groundwater contamination at 14 power plants across the state owned by Duke Energy, where McCrory worked for 28 years.
Asked about coal ash by Leslie, Skvarla replied, "It's not something that I'm overly familiar with at this point, so to opine on it would not do justice to the topic." - The Institute For Southern Studies, 1/13
We also have Aldona Wos who was chosen to lead the Department of Health and Human Services after questioning McCrory's pledge to reject pay-to-play politics:A retired brigadier general in the U.S. Army who served as the deputy commander of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, Tata attended The Broad Superintendents Academy, a 10-month program founded by billionaire businessman and education reform advocate Eli Broad to train non-educators to run urban school systems.
In 2009, controversial former D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee recruited Tata to serve as her chief operating officer. The following year, he was picked to serve as superintendent of the public schools in Wake County, N.C. -- hired by a school board that had recently been taken over by Republicans in an electoral effort for which Art Pope served as a financier and chief architect. The Republican board moved quickly to scrap a longstanding desegregation policy designed to prevent concentrated poverty in schools, sparking a wave of protests and a political backlash that resulted in Democrats taking back board control in 2011.
The new Democratic board majority kept Tata on as superintendent despite complaints about his educational inexperience and reportedly bullying management style. But the last straw was the chaos that ensued at the start of this school year, when Tata's decision to take 52 school buses off the road to save money led to a weeks-long debacle where buses arrived late or not at all, stranding children and inconveniencing parents. The board fired Tata last September after less than two years in office.
In naming Tata to lead the state Department of Transportation, McCrory said, "If he can do it in Afghanistan, he can do it here" -- apparently ignoring the fact that Tata was unable to do it in Wake County, N.C. - The Institute For Southern Studies, 1/13
And last and least, there's Department of Public Safety, Kieran Shanahan, who was found guilty of assaulting a neighbor's children:A Polish-born physician who grew up on Long Island, Wos left her home in New York City for Greensboro, N.C. in 1997 when her husband, Louis DeJoy, started a private logistics company there whose clients include the U.S. Marine Corps and the Postal Service. Wos soon became one of the top Republican fundraisers in North Carolina, resulting in her 2004 appointment by President George W. Bush as ambassador to Estonia.
Wos and her husband have contributed generously to McCrory's gubernatorial campaigns -- the maximum of $16,000 in his failed 2008 campaign, and at least $13,000 in the latest election cycle (final reports are still being tallied). Altogether, Wos, her family and employees of her husband's company have contributed over $216,000 to McCrory's campaign and the state Republican Party since 2008, according to an analysis by the liberal advocacy group Progress NC. Wos also served as co-chair of McCrory's recent campaign.
Though Wos has no experience in state government, McCrory appointed her to run the state Department of Health and Human Services, a massive agency with 17,000 employees and an $18 billion budget. That has led Progress NC and other critics to question the sincerity of McCrory's campaign promise to end the political patronage system that flourished under the Democrats.
"Pat McCrory isn't shy about rewarding big campaign donors with plum jobs in his administration," Progress NC said about the Wos appointment. - The Institute For Southern Studies, 1/13
Emphasis mine.A graduate of East Carolina University and UNC law school, Shanahan spent over five years as an assistant U.S. attorney before launching his private law practice in Raleigh, N.C. He's long been involved in Republican Party politics, serving as counsel for the state GOP and four terms on Raleigh city council. He's also been mentioned as a possible Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D) in 2014.
But in 1996, while still on city council, Shanahan was found guilty of two counts of misdemeanor assault for an incident in which he roughed up two neighborhood boys, ages 11 and 13, who were involved in a fight with Shanahan's children. Instead of being formally convicted, though, Shanahan won a "prayer for judgment continued" from the sympathetic judge -- essentially, a warning without a penalty.
"I believe in my heart that I did the right thing," Shanahan told The News & Observer at the time. "I think this will enhance my stature and reputation." - The Institute For Southern Studies, 1/13
And here's a little recap at what Pope and the Koch Brothers have been able to get done with their influence:
And all of this able to get done thanks to ALEC bought Republicans like Tillis:Voter Suppression : It’s a sad commentary on the state of American politics that once Republicans take over a state, they almost immediately begin enacting laws to make it harder for Democratic-leaning groups to cast a ballot. North Carolina Republicans, however, have embraced voter suppression with unusual enthusiasm. They’ve introduced voter ID, a common GOP method of reducing turnout among minorities, low-income voters and students. They’ve introduced Florida-like restrictions on early voting, cutting early voting hours and eliminating voting the Sunday before election day in order to thwart voting drives at African-American churches. And they want to punish parents whose children vote from their college addresses.
Reverse Robin Hood: A GOP bill in the North Carolina Senate would eliminate all individual and corporate income taxes, and largely replace it with higher sales taxes. Sales taxes disproportionately burden lower-income taxpayers, because they spend a larger percentage of their income on basic needs. It is also far more difficult to create a progressive sales tax than to enact a progressive income tax code that places a lesser tax burden on those who can least afford it. As a result, a similar tax plan in Louisiana would raise taxes on 80 percent of residents, while giving Louisianans in the top 1 percent of income earners an average tax cut of $25,423.
Shutting Down Abortion Clinics: Another bill in the state senate would add new restrictions to abortion clinics in an attempt to force them to close their doors. Among other things, the bill requires doctors to have admitting privileges in a hospital located within 30 miles of the clinic, an unnecessary restriction that serves little purpose other than to limit the pool of doctors available to clinics.
Anti-Worker Constitutional Amendment: A so-called “right-to-work” law, which depresses worker wages by cutting back unions’ ability to collectively bargain for wages and benefits, is already the law in North Carolina, effectively cutting both union and non-union wages by $1,500 a year. Nevertheless, 34 Republican lawmakers (and one Democrat) sponsored a state constitutional amendment that would lock this anti-worker policy into the state Constitution. The same amendment would strip public sector workers of their right to collectively bargain, and lock in policies making it easier for companies to pressure their workers against unionizing to boot.
Subsidizing Home Schooling: Eight Republican lawmakers sponsored a bill giving families a $1,250 per semester tax subsidy if they home school their children.
Judges For Sale: A pair of bills in the state senate would eliminate the state’s successful public financing system for judicial elections. Prior to this system’s enactment in 2004, “73 percent of campaign funds for judicial candidates came from attorneys and special interest groups,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice’s Alicia Bannon. Now, it’s 14 percent. So public financing was successful in rolling back moneyed interest groups’ ability to buy and sell judges through campaign donations, and these GOP bills would throw judicial elections back to the old ways.
State Sponsored Religion: Eleven Republicans, including the state’s House Majority Leader, backed a resolution proclaiming that the Constitution “does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional,” and then decreeing that North Carolina could establish its own state religion. On the bright side, state house Speaker Thom Tillis announced that he would not advance this resolution after it was widely panned. - Think Progress, 4/8/13
Now Tillis is just one of Pope's foot soldiers looking to defeat Hagan next year:Curious, it seems. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis headed off recently to the spring conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Oklahoma City. It’s a national group funded mainly by large corporations that advocates for conservative causes and even takes the step of helping lawmakers of a like mind in various states draft laws.
ALEC, as it’s known, has provided language for bills that’s even been used this session in North Carolina, ranging from creating an independent board to take charter school governance away from the State Board of Education to protecting a Philadelphia-based company from lawsuits involving asbestos exposure to installing an anti-union amendment in the state constitution. Closer to home, the Civitas Institute, a conservative group, used ALEC literature in an indoctrination...er, training...session for freshman lawmakers.
The organization is, in other words, going to pass any litmus test for arch conservatives. For his part, Tillis is national board member and Gov. Pat McCrory’s legislative lobbyist, Fred Steen, is a past state chairman of ALEC. - Charlotte News Observer, 5/7/13
In case you didn't know, Berger is the same clown who was busted spreading lies about the Affordable Health Care Act on his own website:State Senate leader Phil Berger of Eden says he plans to decide by the end of July, after the legislative session.
“Right now,” he says, “I’m just not there.”
Like Tillis, Berger would run on his record.
“I feel pretty good at this point that there are a lot of things we’d said we’d do that we’ve done, and a lot of things we said we’d put in motion that we put in motion,” he says.
Previewing a likely Democratic response, state party spokesman Ben Ray alluded to legislative cuts in unemployment benefits, rejection of Medicaid expansion and other actions that critics say will hurt the poor and middle class.
“If Thom Tillis and Phil Berger want to run on their record, I’m happy for them to do it,” Ray says. “They’re going to be held responsible for that. … These guys have made a mess in Raleigh, and they’d make a bigger mess in Washington, D.C.”
Tillis and Berger might be the potentially best-financed candidates. Each tapped broad fundraising networks to raise around $1.7 million during the last election, spending most of it to help elect Republican lawmakers. - Charlotte Observer, 6/2/13
Having Tillis and Berger in this race eager to win the nominee could get nasty and could result in splitting GOP voters allowing a wild card to win the primary:Months after the U.S. Supreme Court settled the debate about much of the federal health care law, Senate leader Phil Berger is circulating an online petition to “Stop Obamacare in North Carolina.”
The petition appears on the Eden Republican’s campaign website. And its language perpetuates one of the bigger myths about the Affordable Care Act, said Mark Hall, a health policy expert at Wake Forest University’s law school.
“These arguments have been rejected – it is the law of the land,” said Hall.
The petition is tied to the state Senate’s passage of legislation that prevents the expansion of Medicaid and a state-sponsored health insurance exchange, two key provisions of President Barack Obama’s health care law. - Winston-Salem Journal, 2/9/13
But even if Tillis or Berger are the nominee, Hagan can make this race a referendum on how the North Carolina GOP is ruining the state. And right now, the North Carolina GOP legislature aren't popular:We're still more than a year and a half away from the mid-term elections, but a challenger threw his hat in the ring to run for US Senate.
Wilmington was the first stop on Greg Brannon's campaign tour this morning. The Tea Party conservative wants to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan.
"I was raised by a single mom, I have a younger brother, grew up in a working class neighborhood," Brannon, an obstetrician from Cary, said. "I was the first member of my family to go to college. Fortunately I got a scholarship and was able to become a doctor. It's been the dream of my life, and I had the opportunity to live the american dream."
Now the conservative is calling out supporters in an effort to take over current Sen. Hagan's seat.
"I believe central planning has destroyed individual rights we have to get back to the understanding that when individuals are in charge of their freedom, society is at its best," Brannon said. - Beaufort Observer, 2/28/13
And Hagan has been raising a lot of money to get ready for the fight of her life:The Republicans as a whole are getting poor marks for their leadership over state government though- 38% of voters approve of the job they're doing to 52% who disapprove. That's largely a function of the legislature. Republicans legislators have a 34/53 favorability rating, and the General Assembly as a whole has just a 20% approval with 56% of voters disapproving of it.
A whole bevy of bills introduced by Republican legislators recently are proving to be quite unpopular:
-Only 6% of voters support allowing legislators to start receiving gifts from lobbyists again, while 88% are opposed. There's pretty strong bipartisan agreement that that's a bad idea with independents (4/93), Democrats (5/87), and Republicans (8/86) all firmly against it.
-Only 25% of voters support a proposal to forbid parents from claiming college students registered to vote away from home as dependents on their state taxes, compared to 57% who are opposed. This is another one where the Republican legislators supporting the measure are out of touch with actual Republican voters- only 26% support it with 56% opposed, not that different from the numbers among Democrats which are 22% supportive and 61% opposed.
-Just 33% of voters support cutting the early voting period by a week, while 59% are opposed. Republicans do narrowly support this idea (51/42), but Democrats (22/70) and independents (28/62) are heavily opposed to it.
-Only 22% of voters support eliminating the state's renewable energy standards, while 39% are against that idea. Republican voters (29/25) only narrowly support eliminating the standard while Democrats (13/47) and independents (28/41) are pretty firmly against it.
-Only 28% of voters support a proposal to make it a crime for law enforcement officers to enforce federal gun laws on North Carolina manufactured fire arms, while 42% are opposed. Democrats (33/41), Republicans (24/41), and independents (26/46) all think that one's a bad idea.
-The only high profile Republican initiative we polled that has much traction with voters is the one to make Christianity the official state religion. 42% support that to 45% who are opposed and while much of that support is because a majority of Republicans favor it (53/33) it actually has 41% support from Democrats too, much more appeal across party lines than any of these other proposals. Despite the decent level of support for Christianity as the state religion, only 16% of voters agree with the state legislator who labeled a prayer to Allah as an act of terrorism last week, although that does go up to 25% among Republicans. - PPP, 4/22/13
Not to mention Hagan has hired Preston Elliott as he campaign manager. Elliott ran Harry Reid's (D. NV) successful 2010 re-election campaign as well as Senator Jon Tester's (D. MT) 2012 re-election campaign. So while the GOP figures out who their candidate is, Hagan has more important issues to deal with:Hagan, a 60-year-old from Greensboro, has made numerous stops in Fayetteville in her first term, and she is commanding a $2.7 million campaign war chest, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.
She raised $1.6 million in the first quarter of this year.
One of Hagan's potential Republican rivals, N.C. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, announced last week she would not seek the U.S. Senate seat next year.
According to Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning pollster in Raleigh, Hagan and Berry were tied at 45 percent apiece when voters in a May survey were asked to chose between the two potential candidates. Nine percent said they weren't sure. - Fay Observer, 6/3/13
If you'd like to donate to Hagan's campaign, you can do so here:I will not stand for sexual assault in our military. Service members risk their lives around the world as they engage our enemies on the battlefield; they should not have to worry about their personal safety on our bases at home and around the world.
Women who have served on military bases in Afghanistan, a dry, desert climate, told me they limit their water intake during the day to avoid using the latrines at night, when they face an increased risk of being assaulted.
When our servicemembers are at war, facing threats from all directions, I want them focused on serving our country and getting the job done safely. They have too much on their plates to wake up wondering, “Will today be the day I become a victim of sexual assault?”
Unfortunately, the staggering number of military assaults each year justifies those fears. Even worse is that, according to the Department of Defense, half of all sexually assaulted servicemembers fear retaliation if they report the crime. They fear the military won’t maintain their confidentiality or that the military justice system will fail them.
Sexual assault victims in the military also fear losing opportunities for career advancement that they’ve earned through years of hard work. This is unacceptable. The men and women of our armed forces deserve better. - Salisbury Post, 5/25/13