Museums, Vetoes, and How the Sausage Gets Made

There are many balls in the air right now in the North Carolina legislature. Where several will land depend upon the whims of “moderate” democratic legislators. These men and women are the new “swing votes” that are needed by House and Senate Republicans to override a veto of any bill by Governor Cooper.

With this power comes great….well….power.

Image result for ben clark

We saw this play out in Cumberland County this week. African American and Democratic State Senator Ben Clark voted in favor of the Republican budget in the Senate. Why did he do it? A few lines from Paul Wolverton’s recent column may shed some light:

“On Facebook, Clark outlined things that drew his favor:

– $2.5 million for infrastructure at Fayetteville State University.

– $1 million to build an annex for the Hoke County Courthouse.

– Public School Construction money — $35 million for Cumberland County and $18 million for Hoke County.

– $20 million for construction at Fayetteville Technical Community College and $6.5 million for Sandhills Community College.

“It’s notable that neither the Fayetteville State University money nor the Hoke County Courthouse money were originally in the budget. Clark said he requested those two items.”

In sum, Clark got “his” or “his District’s” (whichever way you want to think about it) and was satisfied enough to vote with Republicans. A pessimistic person might say that Clark “sold out.” A practical person might say that’s how the sausage is made and Hoke and Cumberland could use a little pork right now.

Regardless, we have a lesson in how Republicans can accomplish their major priorities and weaken Governor Cooper by throwing bones to swing Democrats.

Now take that lesson and apply it to a bigger project with more money on the line: The Civil War Museum planned for Fayetteville:

Image result for nc civil war museum legislation fayetteville

Representative John Szoka introduced legislation to fund the museum back in April ($55 million over the next two years). Not much has happened with his legislation. More importantly, there’s no mention of the museum in the current Senate budget online.

If this is going to get done, someone from the Cumberland County delegation is going to have to use political capital to make it happen. Either Szoka has enough swing within his own party to get the museum funded, or some Democratic legislator from Cumberland will agree to override Cooper’s veto if the money’s included. Senator Clark has already used up his capital by voting for a budget that didn’t include the funds for the museum, so look elsewhere.

If you’re frustrated, the mayor of Fayetteville shares your concerns:

I wrote about Colvin’s about-face on the museum project in an earlier post. In light of what is happening in this year’s budget process, Colvin’s starting to make a lot of sense. His suggestion for our local delegation: use your political capital wisely on things we absolutely need, and we have lots of needs in Cumberland County right now.

Wrap-Up

It will be interesting to see whether local Democrats can join forces with Szoka and get the $55 million for Fayetteville. Maybe the more important question is what they will trade in the process. Does it mean siding against their Governor, effectively stripping him of his veto power? We’ll know soon enough.

Image result for sausage making

Whether you like it or not, this is how deals get done on Jones Street. Now’s the time to place your bet on how much cash trickles down I-40, merges onto 95-South, and finds a place at the top of Haymount Hill.

When it all happens, nobody wins (NC-09)

While no one was lookin’ on the old plantation
He showed her what they do down the long valley road
She came back around like nothing really happened
And left him standing on the old valley road

Down the road in Bladen County, in between the Melvin’s hamburgers (all-the-way with hot sauce) and Houston’s peanuts, a campaign surrogate being paid by Congressman-Elect Mark Harris rounded up a whole bunch of absentee ballots from unsuspecting poor people.  He did something with these ballots, but no one knows what.  An investigation has ensued.  The man is a convicted felon, for fraud no less.

There’s evidence the ballot “harvesting” happened in both the Republican primary and the general election that Harris won by less than 1,000 votes.  Amazingly, a woman working for this guy admitted to the whole thing on tape, shrugged it off, and threw the guy under the bus:

North Carolina is now in the national news.  How we react to this blatant fraud will say a lot about whether we care about the integrity of our state’s electoral system or instead have thrown all that aside in a scorched-Earth war for partisan political power.

If we rubber-stamp this fraud, say by minimizing its effect on the overall vote tally, I’m afraid to say that we’ve lost who we are as a people.   Do we care about election integrity as our leaders proclaimed when they put a voter-ID amendment on the ballot, the same ballot that was rounded up by this crook in Bladen County?

If we do care, the answer is simple:  it’s time for a new election.  This will be expensive and we may face an empty seat in Congress until it happens, but that’s fine.

Sometimes you have to walk the long way around to get back home.

Midterm Scoreboard (Cumberland County)

The time for superfluous introductory paragraphs has passed.  The results are in.  Here’s what I predicted vs. what happened, starting with the upsets:

 

NC Senate 19

Prediction:  deViere will hold serve with Democrats and win enough unaffiliated voters to gain a significant early-vote advantage.  DeViere and Meredith will be sweating election night returns as deViere’s lead dwindles, but in the end deViere pulls off the upset with a razor thin margin: 50.6-49.4.

Result:  deViere 50.26 – Meredith 49.74

Image result for dick van dyke step winds east

What happened:  deViere jumped out to an early vote lead of around 2500 votes.  The lead dwindled to 700 votes with five precincts remaining.  The remaining precincts came in at 10:30 p.m., and deViere hung on to beat Republican Incumbent Wesley Meredith by just over 300 votes.

I’m a bit proud of myself for calling this one so close.

“Lookin’ good!”

 

Cumberland County District Court Judge:

Prediction:  Incumbent Tal Baggett was endorsed by the local Democratic party, but Caitlin Young Evans has run a smart and tenacious campaign.  Females have done well in Cumberland judicial races as of late, but I think Baggett will win with a combination of name recognition and a larger share of Republican and Independent voters.  Judge Baggett keeps his seat 53-47.

Result:  Evans 56 – Baggett 44

I should have stopped writing my prediction at the end of the pink sentence.  This was a “change” election and I, like many, over-estimated the power of incumbency in this race.  Evans ran an impressive campaign and outworked her opponent.  In the end, she shocked a lot of people in Cumberland County.

 

US House (9th District)  

Prediction:  McCready 51 – Harris 49

Actual Vote:  McCready 48.77 – Harris 49.43

We knew this one would be close.  It was the only congressional race in North Carolina that I thought the Democrats would flip.  They failed.

McCready won 6 out of 8 counties in the district, but was annihilated in Union County.  It cost him the race.

harris

 

NC House 44

Prediction:   Richardson holds off Republican Linda Devore 53-47.

Result:  Richardson 56 – Devore 43

Richardson outperformed even his son’s expectations.  The election-day vote actually increased his early-vote lead as the results came in.  On a good night for Democrats, Richardson solidified his position as “Olde Fayetteville’s” representative in the North Carolina House.

 

Other NC General Assembly Races: 

Prediction:  Ben Clark (Senate 21), Marvin Lucas (House 42), Elmer Floyd (House 43), and John Szoka (House 45) are all in radically gerrymandered districts.  They will all be re-elected without difficulty…..

Result:  They were all re-elected without much difficulty.

 

 

Cumberland County Sheriff:

Prediction:  This one is going to be a landslide.  You can look at the Democratic and African American turnout in the early vote in Cumberland County and tell that no Democrat is going to lose a county-wide race.  Ennis Wright remains our Sheriff by beating Charlie Baxley 60-40.

Result:  Wright 63 – Baxley 36

The result speaks for itself in this one.

 

 

Cumberland County Clerk of Court:

Prediction:  (Cindy Blackwell)….faces the same problem as Charlie Baxley and every other Republican that tries to run county-wide in Cumberland.  Lisa Scales will win 56-44.

Result:  Scales 59 – Blackwell 41

 

 

US House (8th District):

Prediction:  Hudson 53 – McNeill 47

Result:  Hudson 55.4 – McNeill 44.6   

Hudson cruised in this Republican-leaning District, as predicted.

 

 

Final Count:  9 for 11

 

One-Sentence Wrap-Up: 

On November 6, 2018, Cumberland County solidified itself as a Democratic stronghold in the era of Donald Trump.

 

 

Cumberland County Midterm Predictions

Below are my predictions for competitive Cumberland County races in the 2018 midterm election.  Unlike this year’s primary races that were relatively easy to predict (I was 9 for 10), several of the races up for grabs Tuesday are literal dead-heats .  In short, I may end up looking like a fool Wednesday morning.

Nevertheless, I started this blog because I saw a void of good political analysis in Fayetteville press and radio where the same talking heads were and continue to be quoted in every story.  I took a chance and tried something unique with this site, and this post is written in that spirit.  Thank you for reading.

Primer:

One theme I hit on often at Cross Creek Divide is the growing divisiveness and partisanship in our present moment of American politics.  This election will be a cross-country case study of the effects of this growing divide.

A referendum of the President has been developing since he took office in 2016 while losing the popular vote by 2,800,000 votes (the largest deficit in the history of the Presidency).  Trump’s Gallup approval rating has never been above 50% and has taken a dive as of late:

gallop

Right now, both Republicans and Democrats are entrenched in their positions.  Democrats are ready to send Trump a message.  Republicans are rallying to the promise of “Keeping America Great” by keeping themselves in power.  Nationally, turn-out is high across the board.

Partisan dynamics will have a greater impact than they would in a traditional mid-term election where state and local issues tend to dominate.  In short, there won’t be many votes stolen from across the aisle.  It’s all about getting your voters to the polls.

In the face of all this partisanship, we a have a growing “unaffiliated” group of North Carolina voters, driven in part by young people who are fed up with traditional parties.  Where do these folks land in 2018?

To make a good forecast, we need to start on solid footing, so let’s look at the raw data.  This is the early vote in Cumberland County by party registration, taken from carolinaelections.com:

early vote cumberland

Here’s the total vote in Cumberland County from the 2014 Mid-Term Election, by party registration:

cumberland county 2014

76,606 people voted in Cumberland County in 2014.  So far in 2018, 48,494 people have voted early.  The 2018 early vote is 63.3% of the total vote in 2014.

  • Thus far in 2018, Democrats have voted at 63.2% of their total 2014 vote, right on pace with the overall turnout.
  • Republicans are lagging behind at only 54.3% of their 2014 numbers.  
  • Unaffiliated voters, an ever-increasing demographic, have voted at 76.5% of their 2014 numbers.

Republicans, ever the traditionalists, will come out in greater numbers on Tuesday, but what we have seen so far is Democrats and Independents surging in Cumberland County early voting.  This cannot be ignored in a mid-term election and colors the analysis.

Predictions

We’ll start at the top of the ticket:

US House (9th District):  This race is a true toss-up that is being watched all over the country.  If Democrats flip this seat, they can flip others like it and easily capture the House of Representatives.

Democrat Dan McCready has run an impressive, well-funded campaign and solidified his position as a moderate that fits the District.  Due to the high Democratic and African American turnout in early voting in the bookends of the 9th District (Mecklenburg and Cumberland), I think McCready starts the night with a 3-4 point early-vote lead that dwindles to a 1 point lead by midnight as the election day results trickle in.  McCready will flip this seat and beat Republican Mark Harris 51-49%.

US House (8th District):   While this is a good year for Democrats, this 8th District is too red for former Aberdeen Mayor Frank McNeill to win.  Republican incumbent Richard Hudson is an expert politician, having been groomed for this seat since he was an aid to the seat’s former Congressman, Robin Hayes.  Hudson has learned the blueprint for success and is heavily backed by the Republican establishment.  Moreover, the 8th District was drawn by Republicans in Raleigh to remain red, even in a blue-wave election year.  Richard Hudson will hold his seat, 53-47%.

Tangential Prediction:  For these same reasons, Republicans will hold all other Congressional seats in North Carolina including the “competitive” 2nd and 13th Districts.  These Districts remain gerrymandered in favor of Republicans.  Expect only the 9th District to flip.

NC Senate 19:  Probably the most controversial and hardest race to call on the list, I’m torn between my head and my heart and the two often flip-flop when I analyze this one.

Incumbent Wesley Meredith spent over a million dollars to destroy my old man in 2014, and he’s done the same to challenger Kirk deViere this year.  However, as I pointed out in my last post, Meredith’s routine cash advantage hasn’t always had the impact one would expect.  In spite of the lopsided campaign expenditures, the Democrat running against Meredith typically gets close to the same percentage of the vote as the Democratic composition of the electorate.  Right now, registered Democrats are 49.62% of the early vote.   I don’t think this number will change very much on election day.

Having been recently redrawn, the 19 District is now more favorable to Democrats.  If you look at a breakdown of the votes for Governor in 2016 in the new Senate 19 District, it was McCory 49, Cooper 48.8.   This Meredith-deViere race has the potential to be that close.  The wild-card is the ever increasing number of “unaffiliated voters” in Cumberland County.   Unaffilated voters are 22.74% of the early vote in Senate 19.  Can deViere win with a coalition of Democrats and unaffiliated voters?

If I’m being honest, my head thinks that Meredith will hold off deViere,  but I’ve seen upsets in Cumberland County before.  One happened in 1992 when I was 9 years old.  Voters wanted change and elected a young attorney to the North Carolina House over an incumbent and former Mayor of Fayetteville.  No one saw it coming.  The lesson:  upsets are driven by outside influences, political winds that push close races in one direction or another.  The strongest wind is deep unrest and a desire for change.  Meredith was elected in 2010 when these winds were pushing in his direction.  The winds have shifted, and I’m going with gut feeling on this one:

DeViere will hold serve with Democrats and win enough unaffiliated voters to gain a significant early-vote advantage.   DeViere and Meredith will be sweating election night returns as deViere’s lead dwindles, but in the end deViere pulls off the upset with a razor thin margin: 50.6-49.4.

NC House 44:  Democrat Billy Richardson’s district is more favorable to a Democrat than Senate 19.  You can take deViere’s total and add two or three percentage points to it and get Richardson’s share of the vote.  Two years ago, Jim Arp came within a hair of taking out my old man.  For the same reasons I’ve already stated, this is a better year for Democrats, and I believe party will TRUMP gender in the minds of female voters (See what I did there?)  Richardson holds off Republican Linda Devore 53-47.

Cumberland County District Court Judge:  This is an intriguing race with two Democratic Judges facing off county-wide.  Incumbent Tal Baggett was endorsed by the local Democratic party, but Caitlin Young Evans has run a smart and tenacious campaign.  Females have done well in Cumberland judicial races as of late, but I think Baggett will win with a combination of name recognition and a larger share of Republican and Independent voters.  Judge Baggett keeps his seat 53-47.

Cumberland County Sheriff:  This one is going to be a landslide.  You can look at the Democratic and African American turnout in the early vote in Cumberland County and tell that no Democrat is going to lose a county-wide race.  Ennis Wright remains our Sheriff by beating Charlie Baxley 60-40.

Cumberland County Clerk of Court:  This race has some intrigue.  Sitting Clerk Lisa Scales is facing Cindy Blackwell.  Blackwell is a newcomer to Republican politics after changing parties to run in this race.  Blackwell has spent $144,000 so far after her husband lent her campaign $115,000.  Still, she faces the same problem as Charlie Baxley and every other Republican that tries to run county-wide in Cumberland.  Lisa Scales will win 56-44.

Other NC General Assembly Races:  Ben Clark (Senate 21), Marvin Lucas (House 42), Elmer Floyd (House 43), and John Szoka (House 45) are all in radically gerrymandered districts.  They will all be re-elected without difficulty and in doing so demonstrate the downside of racial and partisan gerrymandering:  these incumbents aren’t held accountable because they will never face a legitimate general election challenge.

Wrap-Up

Early voting enthusiasm for Cumberland Democrats will carry into election day giving Democrats an inherent advantage across the board.  Democratic voters will combine with young, unaffilated voters to produce landslides for Democrats in county-wide races and tip the scales in close legislative races.  Democrat Dan McCready uses these same trends to tip the 9th Congressional District in his favor.

Check back later this week for a breakdown of the results, and get out and vote if you haven’t already.

Democrats Surging in New NC Senate 19

Democrats are surging in early voting in the newly-modified 19th Senate District.  The potential for Democratic challenger Kirk deViere to take this seat from Republican Senate Whip, Wesley Meredith is growing each day.  Here’s a breakdown of all the voters, by voter registration:

Percentage of Senate 19 Electorate (By Party Registration)

19-early-e1541174512332.png

So far, registered Democrats are half of the early voting electorate in the new district.  This is driven in a large part by African Americans.  The tentacles that once captured African Americans in Fayetteville and combined them with Hoke County Democrats have been chopped off by the courts.

 

The result is a much cleaner district and surge in minority voters:

Percentage of Senate 19 Electorate (By Race)

race-e1541176027464.png

WHY THIS MATTERS:

The 19th Senate District has hosted some of the most expensive legislative races in North Carolina history.  Wesley Meredith raises and spends over a million dollars on a routine basis to keep the seat and he’s on pace this year:

The ironic thing?  The money may not make a difference.  I know, it surprised me too.  But, here’s why:  the Democratic candidate’s vote share in Senate 19 typically tracks the percentage of registered Democrats that make up the electorate.  19-final-e1541172970926.png

Here’s a chart of the Data:

19-data-e1541173162102.png

As you can see, registered Democrats look after their own in Cumberland County, even after the million-dollar barrage of negative advertising that Meredith throws their way every two years.  

On paper, it appears that Meredith beat George Tatum (2012), Billy Richardson (2014), and Toni Morris (2016) with a combination of Republican and Independent voters.   I’m not sure he can do that this year.

Registered Democrats are 49.6% of the early vote in District 19.

I’d call this a close race.