Absentee voting by mail has started, the ballot request deadline is Feb 25. Details here. VOTER ID IS NOT REQUIRED FOR THE MARCH PRIMARY.

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November 2020 will be huge, but one Durham race will be decided much earlier than that. When state Sen. Floyd McKissick left his seat last year to join the NC Utilities Commission, former state Rep. Mickey Michaux was appointed to fill the seat until the primary (on March 3rd; can't say it enough!) Normally, Michaux would have served until after the election in November, but he “made the decision with his wife and the delegation to serve just until the primary. He said it made sense for the primary winner to 'have a leg up in terms of seniority or whatever happens, because they would be active in the short session.'”

There are 4 candidates for Senate District 20, and three of them are Democrats: Gray Ellis, Natalie Murdock and Pierce Freelon. The Republican candidate is John Tarantino. Michaux has endorsed Pierce Freelon.

So what exactly did former Sen. McKissick give up his senate seat for? The NC Utilities Commission, now stocked with Cooper appointees, hopes to address several key issues this year, including the Duke Energy rate hikes to pay for coal ash cleanup and pushing Governor Cooper's Clean Energy Plan in 2020 and beyond. Follow the link at the bottom of the article to give your support to the NCUC and Governor Cooper.

I must take a moment to let my millennial flag fly and quote the following from Indyweek:

“Watching people get owned on Twitter is one of the purest pleasures in the hellscape called the internet. Everyone is entitled to speak their truth; they also have the right to have that truth absolutely steamrolled on the Bird App.”

Our good friend Sen. Thom Tillis find himself in this unfortunate position more often than not, because like our other good friend Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, he can't seem to keep his mouth shut. Anybody who's followed Sen. Tillis on Twitter for any length of time knows exactly what Indyweek is talking about, but in case you don't, they offer a pleasing selection of Sen. Tillis' greatest Twitter hits. Click through to read some of the replies and take heart that Sen. Thom Tillis will not be much longer in his seat.

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The good news is that Common Cause won its case against the Republican party in the gerrymandering case decided last year, Common Cause v.  Lewis. The slightly less good news is that Lewis represented the state of North Carolina legislature, which means that now the state of North Carolina-- specifically the taxpayers of North Carolina-- must pay around $100,000 in costs related to the trial (paywall after 5 free articles/month). The losing side paying the winning side's court fees is common practice; I don't blame anybody but the Republicans who got us into this mess in the first place. The sooner we vote them out, the sooner wasteful things like this will disappear.

Back in 2016, “the General Assembly, coming off a special session to pass disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Michael, quickly went back into session in December... and, within 48 hours, passed a pair of bills taking power from incoming Gov. Roy Cooper and the State Board of Education, granting it to Republican officials instead in the wake of 2016 elections that flipped offices between the Republicans and Democrats.” Common Cause sued because the NCGA did not announce what they would be voting on in advance and acted too fast for the people “to instruct their legislature, as laid out in the state constitution.” Last week, a bipartisan 3-judge panel from the NC Court of Appeals rejected Common Cause's suit, concurring with the ruling given by another court in 2018. The session was unusual but not unlawful, the judges say. They also “reject[ed] the plaintiffs’ claim that our State Constitution permits the courts to wade into this legislative process and dictate how much time our General Assembly must spend contemplating legislative action."

Like redistricting, this is not the court's issue to solve. It's the people's. And we do that by clearing out the legislature of Republicans who make these underhanded moves a regular part of their S.O.P.

Last year, North Carolina voted to raise the age of children admitted to juvenile detention centers (as opposed to adult prisons) from 16 to 18. So far, according to NC Policy Watch, it's going well!

More good news this week: "Sixteen North Carolina companies are among the top scorers in a new study of workplace policies and standards designed for protection of  lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) workers. That’s four more than in 2019." This is a welcome dose of hope for a state still suffering from the fallout of HB2, the "bathroom bill".

Even though the Trump EPA has announced severe rollbacks of clean water protections, the mood for North Carolina's environmental future is bright. Though not many green initiatives were passed in the 2019 session, many more bad ones were blocked. Switching from defense (blocking bad bills) to offense (passing good ones) will be much easier once we regain the majority in 2020.

Our friends (I'm using the term unironically this time) at Carolina Public Press have asked almost 80 candidates for North Carolina's US Congress seats about their stance on impeaching Trump. See what candidates from your district said here. If you like what they say, tell them so! If you don't, tell them you'll be keeping their words in mind as you head to the polls in February and March.

Speaking of Congressfolks' statements on impeachment, I'm frankly embarrassed to report Sen. Richard Burr's “statement” during the hearings last week: he handed out fidget spinners to some of his Republican colleagues.

“Twiddling with fidget spinners might be a violation of Senate rules that senators must sit silently and listen to arguments during an impeachment trial, but it wouldn't be the first time during the first days of the trial that senators have appeared to break the rules.”

Republicans have turned disdain for the rule of law into a sport.

Contact Sen. Burr and remind him that he represents not just himself, but his whole party. He may not be up for re-election this year, but many of his colleagues are, and we are done with the shameful, un-American way he and other members of his party have been acting. We will ensure that none of them see elected office again.

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest continues to embarrass us as well, also on a national scale: Slate picked up some comments Forest made on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day about race and abortion.

“'There is no doubt that when Planned Parenthood was created, it was created to destroy the entire black race,' Forest said. 'That was the purpose of Planned Parenthood. That’s the truth.'”
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While there is some controversy around Planned Parenthood and racist eugenics movements, the “truth” on which Forest hinges his argument has been debunked. Fact-checking the rest of Forest's speech reveals a parade of flat-out lies. Republicans have turned hypocrisy into a career.

The dismal parade continues: “Dennis Nielsen [warning for descriptions of violence and abuse in link], a Johnston County gun shop owner and Republican candidate for North Carolina Senate District 11, faces allegations of domestic violence from his wife.” He also reportedly told one of his (Republican) opponents that she was not qualified to run because she was a woman. He denied both allegations, but the charges levied against him in the restraining order his wife filed speak very much to the contrary.

This parade of lies, violence, hypocrisy, and offensively bold disregard for common human decency seems neverending. It is; the Republicans designed it that way. Their strategy-- “management by crisis”-- is designed to tire us out and wear us down while creating distraction after distraction to distract us from the latest screw-up, which was, itself, a distraction from something else.

Why?

Because in “Trumpland”, which, by this point, is most of the Republican party, “The goal is, at all times, to maximize one’s immediate personal and group wealth, status, comfort and power.” Nothing else matters, so all else is either something to be used for gain or something to be bulldozed and used anyway.

I say all of that to say this: nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Know what they're trying to do, know that they succeed in some of it, but also know that as long as you keep calling, emailing, writing postcards, protesting, talking to voters, voting, they will never succeed completely. As long as you keep showing up, they will never succeed completely.

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Tags: (ICYMI, NCGA, 2020 elections, Thom Tillis, Dan Forest, redistricting, raise the age, LGBTQ, voter issue: environment, clean energy, impeachment)

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