The 2020 primary is around the corner: absentee ballot by mail voting has already started (request deadline is Feb 25), early voting is Feb 13-29,  and election day is March 3. Voter ID is NOT NEEDED for the March 3  primary as long as you're already registered to vote.

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The campaign season is in fullest swing, and North Carolina’s races are teeming with candidates who want to show off their platforms. NC-19, one of the redrawn districts which includes Brunswick and New Hanover counties, now has 2 Democrats in the race. Read about them here. You can also meet the 2 Republican candidates for NC-19 here. NC-20, also redrawn, will have some new faces, but none of them are Democratic. Meet the 2 Republican candidates for NC-20 here.

Candidates from NC-48 (Senate; Henderson, Transylvania, Buncombe) and NC-64 (House; Alamance) also answered questions about what they hope to achieve in office.

Republican candidates in the NC Attorney General race offered their platforms last week. They didn’t agree on a whole lot.

The race for Lieutenant Governor is particularly crowded. Six Democratic candidates tried to make themselves stand out in a primary debate earlier this week. Which one do you like?

Both Republicans and Democrats in the race for State Superintendent participated in a forum last week as well. See what they have to say here, and also read Michelle’s post from last week reviewing the office and the candidates in more detail.

There’s also been quite a lot of motion in several offices already. Governor Roy Cooper has named a new Transportation Secretary and a new Department Information Technology Secretary to replace outgoing officers. The NC Republican Party will be getting a new executive director; Jonathan Sink, the current director, has been in the post less than a year.

Phil Berger, Jr., who is running for a seat on the NC Supreme Court, may be approaching troubled financial waters. He has relied heavily on his father’s influence so far in his campaign but after several complaints over the last few years that both Bergers violated campaign finance ethics rules, that well of cash has run dry.

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Speaking of campaign finance, WRAL has published a very illuminating breakdown of how much money went to political campaigns in 2019. The report includes both Democratic and Republicans, private donors, PACs, and estimates for dark money groups, which are not required to report their donations.

If reading those numbers doesn’t make you want to shout for campaign finance reform from the mountaintops, maybe this will: a Republican-affiliated PAC has bought over $1.5 million worth of ads for state Sen. Erica Smith’s bid for Sen. Thom Tillis’ seat. Smith is a Democrat.

I know what you’re thinking: why in the blue heck would a GOP PAC spend a million dollars on a Democrat? Tillis remains very unpopular with both Democrats and Republicans, despite the vast amount of cash he’s raised. Cal Cunningham, another Democrat challenger to Tillis, has raised $3 million, has the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and is a “well-spoken veteran with Kennedy-esque looks”. The Republicans are hoping to boost Sen. Smith’s numbers, figuring Tillis will be more likely to beat a progressive woman of color than a more moderate white man.

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Agreement across party lines is becoming scarcer these days, but I’m very glad that the right-leaning Civitas Institute took away the same lesson from the disastrous Iowa caucuses that many Democrats did: there is no high-tech election solution that is more secure than hand-marked paper ballots. It’s time to fix our own election technology problem, which is ongoing and convoluted.

First UNC-Chapel Hill, now ECU: two institutions in the UNC system are embroiled in scandal. Last week we learned that two members of the ECU Board of Trustees, Phil Lewis and Robert Moore, tried to fund a student body president’s campaign in exchange for that candidate pushing their agenda. After that revelation, a UNC Board of Governors committee voted against removing the two board members. Then, last Friday, before he could be removed, Phil Lewis resigned during the full BoG hearing that could have removed him. The board members then formally censured Robert Moore, who was appointed by the NC House and thus could not be removed by the UNC BoG. This is only the latest in a years-long series of events that expose the dysfunction in the UNC system.

To top it off, it has come to light that the UNC Board of Governors has been pressuring trustees from schools across the entire UNC system to fall in line with its stance on the budget stalemate or face political consequences.

A number of trustees told Policy Watch that freedom of choice doesn’t exist in this instance. That’s both because of the explicit wording of the Board of Governors resolution, which calls on them to agree, they said, and because of a political environment that strongly discourages dissent.”

We’re still learning the extent of the problems that forced dozens of residents out of McDougald Terrace, a public housing complex in Durham, last month. The complex has had a bad safety record—so bad that it did not pass US Department of Housing and Urban Development inspections for the last 3 years in a row. We don’t know when residents will be allowed to return to the property, but “the noted problems [in inspection reports] were addressed”.

The fight over healthcare in North Carolina is still in stalemate. As long as we have no budget, the transition of Medicaid from a fee-for service system to a managed-care system cannot move forward. Managed care, a Republican plan, “would pay health-care providers a set amount per month for each patient’s costs. DHHS will reimburse the plans.” Healthcare insurers are ready to transition, and some warn that the delay will cost them millions of dollars.

The Trump regime has announced a “block grant proposal” that, if approved, would “let states opt into a lump-sum funding system to pay for the health care needs of low-income, working-age adults." This is similar to, but not the same as, the managed care system. Under the block grants, instead of the federal government paying the state on an as-needed, open-ended basis, the feds would pay the state a single lump sum, which, if exceeded, could leave the state on the hook for millions and take health care away from people. This is not, as Republicans say, an alternate route for Medicaid expansion. It’s an invitation to throttle cash flow and restrict healthcare instead of expanding it. Meanwhile, North Carolinians of all economic and racial kinds are dying because our state has not done what it must—and, most of all, what it can do: expand Medicaid.

I leave you with two bits of good news this week: Responding to public demand, the Raleigh City Council voted to create a citizen advisory board for the Raleigh police department. The advisory board would review police policies and procedures and introduce needed accountability to the police department, especially after a string of police shootings and bad conduct.

A bill to stop rape victims from being charged for their hospital visits will be introduced when the NCGA reconvenes this spring. Rep. Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland) is the primary sponsor, and he “plans to submit legislation that would reimburse victims who paid out-of-pocket back to 2008”.


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Tags: (ICYMI, NCpol, NCGA, 2020 elections, campaign finance reform, governor cooper, medicaid expansion, UNC BOG, election security, )

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