The government shutdown continues to hit NC families and workers hard. Remind Senators Burr (202-224-3154) and Tillis (202-224-6342) about this! Call as often as you can: "I'm a constituent calling from ___County to urge the senator to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government at pre-shutdown levels. It's the duty of Congress to balance the presidency; the notion of not passing important bills because the president will veto them is not what the founders intended. Thanks."

2019 has barely begun, but candidates for 2020 are popping out of the ground like political daisies! Senator Thom Tillis has his first serious challenger: Mecklenburg County commissioner Trevor Fuller plans to announce his candidacy for US Senate next week. We're bound to see more as time goes on.

Our other US Senator, Richard Burr, is in the news for a more direct and malignant reason: according to various reports based on FCC documentation, Senator Burr and the National Rifle Association may have illegally collaborated on each other's campaigns in 2016. That Burr and the NRA are familiar with each other is not news, nor is it illegal– distasteful though it may be. Neither, strictly, is the NRA and Burr's campaign using the same advertising vendor, but it's very possible each was involved in the other's campaign through the vendor, despite laws requiring firewalls to prevent this kind of cross-communication. My only salve is the knowing that Burr does not plan to seek reelection after his term is up in 2022. I can't wait to see the backside of him.

While we're on the subject of Republicans' reluctance to be forthright and deal fairly, Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch writes a delightfully blistering op-ed outlining the GOP's record of secrecy since they took power back in 2011. It's educational and cathartic– my favorite!

It's difficult to remember that not all conservatives are members of the Caucus of Awful (i.e., the chunk of the NC GOP who's out to gobble up power and money). Thanks to All Things Considered at NPR for reminding us of this. Becki Gray, a representative from the conservative John Locke Foundation, steps into the booth with Rob Schofield and discusses the new slate of legislators in a quarter-hour show to which I recommend you listen. It's a refreshing thing to hear a conservative and a progressive discuss politics without going for each other's throats.

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Though the Carolina Journal bends a little right (its author is a senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation), it's not devoid of merit. It reports on the NC Supreme Court's 200th birthday, which is that much sweeter for Justice Anita Earls' presence. Though Chief Justice Mark Martin's admonishment to "lay down [the judges'] preferences and opinions" smacks of condescension, the article itself notes that the (majority Democratic) court often did just that, and handed down decisions that worked against Democratic/liberal interests. It's good to keep that in mind, and even better to remember this:

"'It is often quoted that freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction...the members of this court are the ultimate guardians of the rule of law in this state...' [Chief Justice Roberts says] ...Follow that guidance, and avoid playing partisan political games, and the Supreme Court will give North Carolinians more reasons to celebrate its accomplishments in another 100 years."

It could be months before the NC-09 saga wraps up. Chalk it up to more of the NC GOP's delay-and-distract tactics. Mark Harris has had a rough ride to get to where he is, which may explain why he's so doggedly at this particular bone. My sympathies for him, however, are limited, because at least some of the roadblocks he encountered– especially involving McCrae Dowless and his shady electoral practices– are self-inflicted. He's been trying to get his case to have the results certified, and late yesterday a hearing was set for it.

North Carolina has the dubious honor of being the only state in the country where people in same-sex dating relationships cannot get a domestic violence protective order. NC Attorney General Josh Stein has called the law unconstitutional in an effort to get it overturned. Thank him for his efforts on Facebook or Twitter.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt will be leaving her post at the end of the year. She announced this and the decision to remove the pedestal that once bore Silent Sam, the Confederate monument that has embroiled UNC Chapel Hill in conflict for months. Both decisions by Folt apparently blindsided the UNC Board of Governors.

I'm a little frustrated that it's taken this long to come across a perspective on Silent Sam from a writer of color, but this piece by Danielle Purifoy of Scalawag is well worth the read.

To end on a positive note, though the action is only temporary, a judge has blocked a rule allowing employers to refuse to provide free birth control in 13 states, including North Carolina. Yes!

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