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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nine remaining fast-track charter school applicants speeding toward approval

Posted by on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 5:02 PM

If anyone doubted that the State Board of Education intends to rubber-stamp the nine fast-track charter school applicants recommended for approval by the Public Charter School Advisory Council, I'd say their doubts were dispelled today. Board members, meeting as a committee, asked two or three pointed questions about charter schools in general. But when it came to the nine specific applications, most of them drew no questions at all — and the zero-questions category included the controversial Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School in Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

The full board will vote on the nine at its regular meeting tomorrow (Thursday) morning. Assuming they're approved, they'll be allowed to open in the 2012-13 school year — in six or seven months, in other words.

Three of the nine applications are for schools in the Triangle. Two of the three, the Lee school and the proposed Research Triangle High School, are strongly opposed by the local school board — the Chapel Hill-Carrboro board and the Durham County board, respectively. The third, the Triangle Math and Science Academy, is trying to open in Raleigh; the Wake school board has taken no position on it.

***

Board Chairman Bill Harrison, reflecting his members' reluctance to fight the General Assembly insistence that there be more charter schools by September, took the position that while the CH-C and Durham boards raised important issues in their official impact statements, the state board isn't able to consider those issues under existing law.

Or, to be more precise, what Harrison said is that the state board isn't going to consider them in these nine cases, but it may choose to do so when the expected 50-70 additional applications arrive in April for charters starting in the 2013-14 school year.

Before the state board decides whether — or how — to judge the issues the local districts raised, however, it wants advice from the charter schools council, Harrison said. That's the group created by the General Assembly last year when it lifted the cap that previously limited the state to 100 charter schools in all.

The council is dominated by members from, as its chairman John Betterton called it today, "the charter school community."

***

What are the issues that should be considered but, for the nine, won't be?

Number one is the diversity of a charter school's population. All applicants submit a marketing plan and, by and large, all vow to comb the landscape for a diverse group of students. OK, but what happens if the school opens and, as is so commonly the case with the existing charter schools, they're anything but diverse?

State board member John Tate, a banker, asked the question today, apropos of no school in particular. The applicants go out and market themselves, Tate said, and if more students want to attend than the school can take, it's required to hold a lottery. But if the interested students are all white, or all non-white, he said, "You could end up, hypothetically, with a 99 percent affluent white school" ... or with a 99 percent non-white school.

Yes, that's true, said Joel Medley, director of the state Office of Charter Schools. Medley said one charter school, concerned that it wasn't drawing from a diverse student pool, wanted to alter its lottery to include some set-aside seats. But the law doesn't allow set-asides, Medley said.

What's missing is any standard by which to judge the glittering generalities of an applicant's marketing plan or, after the school is open, to judge whether its plan produced diversity or not.

Under state law, a charter school's students are supposed to be as diverse as the district it's in within one year of opening. Somehow, though, the state has taken to interpreting a rather specific provision of the law — which includes the word "shall" — to have little or no practical meaning.

The law states:

Within one year after the charter school begins operation, the population of the school shall reasonably reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the general population residing within the local school administrative unit in which the school is located or the racial and ethnic composition of the special population that the school seeks to serve residing within the local school administrative unit in which the school is located.

Number two is transportation. In theory, a charter school must accept all applicants, using a lottery if there are too many. But in practice, charter schools aren't required to offer transportation, meaning that students who live far away probably won't apply. If they do and are accepted, Medley said, the school is required to have a "plan" that keeps the lack of transportation from being a barrier to attendance.

Got that?

Me neither.

What's missing is any standard for what such a "plan" should — or must — include.

Number three is the whole subject of impact statements. Local districts are asked to submit them, so presumably there's something they could say about a charter school applicant that would register with the state board. But what?

Harrison said Durham's statement was "very compelling" about how the Research Triangle HS would undermine Durham's ability to offer STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) programs in its own schools — and about the fact that Durham has more charter schools already (and loses more students and money to them) than any other district in the state.

But in the next breath, he said he didn't know whether or how to weigh these issues, and he's asked the charter schools advisory council to tell him.

Board member Chris Green suggested that, if Durham has ample STEM programs, the Research Triangle HS should fail the test in the law that a charter school be "innovative" and meet a need that is otherwise unmet in the district.

But Harrison said the bottom line for him is, if enough parents choose the RTHS for their kids, then the need for it has been demonstrated.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dems: Dan Blue out for governor, running again for Senate

Posted by on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 6:09 PM

And to the list of Democrats not running for governor, add the name of state Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake.

His statement, as quoted by the N&O::

“After long and very deep thought, I have decided not to run for governor,” Blue said in a statement. “But I am greatly moved by and want to thank the hundreds of people who called, emailed and talked to me about mounting a campaign. I am forever grateful.''
“As we look to our future,” Blue said, “its going to take a lot of discussion, deliberation, determination and thoughtful decisions, and we have to be focused on education and enhancing opportunities for all the people of our state.
“I believe several of the state Democratic gubernatorial candidates share this conviction and either can successfully move this state forward. Whoever win the nomination is going to need a strong General Assembly to help translate his ideas into effective policy. And I pledge to be a fearless advocate in the Senate to help our Democratic governor get and keep our state on the right track.''

Bllue hasn't filed as yet for his Senate seat in District 14, but obviously he plans to do so tomorrow. No one else has filed in either party.

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Dems: Erv Portman running for state Senate, Caroline Sullivan for his Wake Commissioners seat

Posted by on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 5:44 PM

In state Senate District 17, southwestern Wake, the incumbent Republican Richard Stevens isn't running, and this afternoon Democrat Erv Portman, a county commissioner, filed for the seat. Apparently that "Draft Portman movement" I mentioned last week came true. Portman, unopposed thus far, will likely face Tamara Barringer, a Republican activist and the only GOP candidate to file — with one more day to go.

Senate 17 is a Republican-learning district, but no so much that a Democrat couldn't take it away if the wind is right. Especially with a formidable candidate, which Portman certainly is.

A business owner, Portman is a former Cary Town Council member who was appointed to the Wake commissioners board when Stan Norwalk retired.

Filing to replace Portman in his commissioners district today: Democrat Caroline Sullivan, a Raleigh PTA leader with a solid track record as a fundraiser for various nonprofit groups.

She'll run from District 4. Democratic incumbents James West and Betty Lou Ward are running for re-election from Districts 5 and 6, respectively.

I say "from" because, though a candidate must live in his or her district, the voting for every district is countywide. Commissioners serve four-year terms.

Incredibly, with one day left to file, only one Republican is a candidate for any commissioners seat: Paul Fitts, in District 6, has put his name in to run against Ward. He ran unsuccessfully for Raleigh City Council last year.

Nonetheless, even if they don't win any of the three commissioners seats on the ballot this year, the Republicans will retain their 4-3 majority on the board — all four Republicans, including Chair Paul Coble, were elected in 2010.

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Wake Rep. Grier Martin steps aside for Deborah Ross

Posted by on Tue, Feb 28, 2012 at 12:32 PM

State Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake
  • State Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake

I don't have Martin's announcement Now I do have it ... h/t Greg Flynn ... along with the earlier statement from House Minority Leader Joe Hackney, D-Orange, on Martin's decision.

First, Martin, who notes that Republicans seemed to target Democratic women legislators for extinction:

The abusive redistricting plan enacted this year does many things. It seeks to racially re-segregate the state. It splits a stunning number of precincts, sowing confusion and putting up barriers to voting. And, it targets female legislators. One way the plan targets women is by “double-bunking” them into districts with other incumbent legislators. That is the situation my good friend and colleague Rep. Deborah Ross find ourselves in.

Certainly, this is a tactic not unique to either party. But, it is important to note that the last time a Democratic controlled legislature engaged in redistricting was the recent Pender-New Hanover court-ordered redistricting. I chaired the committee that drew those districts. There, Rep. Danny McComas, a GOP incumbent lived a mere few hundred yards from the edge of his district. With an easy stroke of a pen, he could have been double-bunked with his fellow Republican Rep. Carolyn Justice. But, we chose to move beyond those kinds of games. We recognized that this sort of thing is a disservice to the voters who have elected those legislators to serve them in the General Assembly. We left Rep. McComas’ district unchanged. Both he and Rep. Justice were rehired by their constituents.

I wish the folks that drew the current district had moved further down the path we charted with Pender-New Hanover. But, they’ve gone back to the bad old days and beyond. In targeting female legislators, in particular, they’ve hit a new low. And, they’ve tried to make me part of that plan by double-bunking me with Rep. Ross. But, I’m not going to play along with their game. So, I have decided not to run for a 5th term in the House.

In making this decision, I am mindful that our job in the legislature is not centered around we legislators, but instead is rooted in serving our constituents. I am confident that my constituents in the current HD34 who are in the new HD34 will be extremely well-served by Deborah Ross, one of the most capable, ethical, and hard-working legislators ever to serve.

I look forward to continuing to serve you for the next ten months. And, as always, I am so grateful for the opportunity you have given me to serve you.

Sincerely,

Grier Martin


***

Now, Hackney's statement:


Rep. Hackney statement on retirement of Rep. Grier Martin

"Rep. Martin has been one of the hardest working legislators in the General Assembly during his four terms in office. His ongoing military service allowed him to quickly establish himself as an expert in legislation to protect and serve the fighting men and women who protect and serve us. At the same time, he was a progressive voice in efforts to protect our environment, women's rights and to keep North Carolina a state that leads instead of follows. The people of Wake County will lose a great representative, but we are hopeful that Grier will find a way soon to return to public service."

Will update as we go.

(And, Laura Leslie has a good story up at WRAL.)

***

The Republicans drew Martin and Rep. Deborah Ross into the same House district, forcing them to run against each other in the Democratic primary election unless one stepped aside. Ross has announced her candidacy. Martin — shades of Brad Miller when he found himself in the same congressional district as David Price — looked at the alternative and decided to move on.

Like Jennifer Weiss, who earlier announced that she isn't running again, Martin is highly respected and one of the best-liked members of the General Assembly.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

What does the anti-gay amendment mean? There's a commission for that.

Posted by on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Opponents call it Amendment One (or 1). Proponents call it the Defense of Marriage Amendment. If approved by the voters May 8, it will add to the state constitution language barring the state from recognizing same-sex marriages, same-sex civil unions and any other "domestic legal union" that two people might devise that isn't a marriage between a man and a woman.

So what would this phraseology really mean to people's lives? Enter the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission, which exists to explain it. Its job — per the 1983 statute which created it — is to write a clear explanation for the public. It meets Thursday afternoon in Raleigh; the meeting is open to the public.

The commission, by the way, calls it the Marriage Amendment. The members, all ex-officio, are Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Attorney General Roy Cooper and Legislative Services Officer George Hall.

Here's the official meeting notice:

Raleigh — The Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission will meet on Thursday, March 1 at 3:30 p.m. in the third floor Legislative Auditorium of the NC Legislative Building at 16 West Jones Street in Raleigh to prepare an official explanation of the proposed Marriage Amendment (Session Law 2011-409) to the North Carolina Constitution that will be put before voters in the upcoming May 8, 2012 election.

The Commission was created in 1983 and given the standing duty pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 147-54.8, to prepare explanatory language for all proposed constitutional amendments. By law, the language approved by the Commission will not appear on the ballot, but will be made available to the public and the media, and will be available to voters through county boards of election prior to the May election.

The Commission’s duty and function is limited to preparing an explanation of the proposed amendment in simple and commonly used language. Therefore, this meeting is not a forum for advocacy in favor of or in opposition to the proposed amendment.

The Commission meeting is open to the public.

The public is also invited to submit proposed draft language for the explanation to the Commission before the meeting. Draft text must be limited to the explanation of the proposed amendment. All suggested text should be emailed to CAPC@sosnc.com or delivered to the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission, C/O NC Secretary of State, 2 South Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601-2903 and must be received by Noon on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

If it becomes necessary for the Commission to continue its meeting to a second day, then the group will meet on Friday, March 2 at 9 a.m. in the third floor Legislative Auditorium of the NC Legislative Building at 16 West Jones Street in Raleigh.

***

The amendment would alter Article 14 of the constitution, adding a new Section 6 as follows:

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts."

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Friday, February 24, 2012

[Update] Tata apologizes to Evans and Kushner, admits he messed up

Posted by on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 8:14 PM

Tony Tata and Ron Margiotta at a Wake County Taxpayers Association meeting - FILE PHOTO BY D.L. ANDERSON

Updating this post from two days ago

School Superintendent Tony Tata met with board members Susan Evans and Christine Kushner today for a heart-to-heart. One of those frank discussions. Board chair Kevin Hill was there also. Tata apologized for flying off the email handle and acknowledged that nothing Evans & Kushner did violated any ethics standard, as he'd suggested. Board Attorney Ann Majestic was there as well. Her statement that she'd have to research whether there was an ethics violation didn't help — she signed on as well to the obvious: There was no ethics violation. Not even close.

Here the joint statement they released:

Board members Susan Evans and Christine Kushner; Board Chair, Kevin Hill; Superintendent Tony Tata; and Board attorney, Ann Majestic met today and had a serious, frank, and constructive conversation to discuss events of the past week. We all agreed that Ms. Evans and Ms. Kushner have not violated any ethical rules or principles in their work as board members. Mr. Tata has apologized to these board members for suggesting otherwise and has acknowledged that he should have handled his concerns in a different manner. We recognize the importance of a positive working relationship between the Board and the Superintendent and are all committed to working together on behalf of our students and our community.

Signed,

Kevin L. Hill, Board Chair

Susan P. Evans, Board Member

Christine Kushner, Board Member

Tony Tata, Superintendent

Ann Majestic, Board Attorney

***

The original post:

Screaming headlines in the N&O would lead us to believe that Earth has been attacked (Arm the Giant Font!) and somehow two members of the Wake school board are stopping Tony Tata from defending his schools against the enemy. The enemy being an alien force calling itself the Great Schools in Wake coalition.

As someone said this morning, let's all not forget to breathe.

In fact, what happened is that Tata, the schools superintendent, pitched a little fit in the form of an email and subsequent statement, both designed for public consumption, attacking Susan Evans and Christine Kushner for associating with people who don't agree with him about student assignment. No large weapons were discharged — to my knowledge.

Before I say why I think Tata's attack was so completely wrong-headed, let me first observe that Tata is obviously nervous about the rollout of his new student assignment plan — the choice plan — and how it's going. I get that. I'm nervous about it, and it isn't even my plan, although I have generally supported it with one big caveat that I've written about before.

Tata's nervous, everybody who's supported him is nervous, the people who brought him the plan (the Wake Chamber of Commerce and Wake Education Partnership) should be nervous, and nobody is more nervous than Evans, Kushner and Jim Martin, the new three school board members elected in October. The only people who aren't nervous are the Republican board members who took Tata's plan, stripped it of a key diversity ("achievement") element, and after setting in motion last fall, made plans to get out of Dodge, i.e., run for other political offices, while the getting was good.

Evans and Kushner, in particular, were active in the Great Schools in Wake coalition, which did not support the plan, though as anyone who followed the group will understand, some members were highly critical of it and others were thinking it might be OK if amended in one or two fundamental ways to restore what the Republicans took out.

I think it's fair to say that Evans and Kushner (and Martin) were in that latter category. This choice plan was underway when they were elected. They considered whether it should be stopped or delayed, say, for a year. But they didn't stop it. Presumably they could've, since the two holdover Democrats on the board, Kevin Hill and Keith Sutton, voted against the plan when the Republicans adopted it. Evans, Kushner and Martin chose not to stop it, however, which is why they as much as anyone are nervous today as a plan that they didn't initiate and didn't fully support unfolds for better or worse on their watch.

So what's wrong with Tata's attack? Plain and simple, it was ridiculous for two reasons.

First, he attacked Evans and Kushner for being part of a citizens group while being board members. Both have said they stopped being active in GSIW when they took office, but what if they didn't? What if they continued to attend meetings of the GSIW coalition just as Ron Margiotta continued to attend meetings of the Wake County Taxpayers Association when he was on the board? What if Evans and Kushner continued to attend Democratic Party meetings just as Margiotta, John Tedesco, Debra Goldman and Chris Malone did — and do — as board members. The last three are running for political office in Republican primaries.

And our takeaway should be, so what? It's a free country. School board members don't take vows of political or civic chastity when they take their seats. They do pledge not to let their votes be controlled by a political or civic group, and the fact is, Evans, Kushner and Martin have voted consistently against the wishes of the Great Schools in Wake coalition's leadership since they assumed office.

Second, Tata attacked Evans, Kushner and Martin for discussing — with some emails back and forth — whether the choice plan should be stopped. Earth to Superintendent Tata: Board members are allowed to talk with one another. They are allowed to talk in groups. The only thing not allowed is a private meeting (or, I gather, email exchange) to which a majority of board members are party — i.e., five members in this case since the full board has nine members.

To suggest that board members are barred from talking with each other about important school issues and how to address them except when they're sitting at the board table in an official session is ludicrous. Moreover, anyone with experience about a school board or city council functions will understand that the members had better compare notes beforehand, because the agenda and pace of their public meetings will be controlled by the Superintendent and his staff or the City Manager and his staff.

***

Tata thinks Great Schools in Wake is persecuting him. Although he "could not care less" about that, he clearly cares too much — way too much. GSIW's leaders, especially Yevonne Brannon, are highly critical of Tata. General, that comes with the territory. School assignment is a battlefield in Wake County and has been for years. But on this battlefield, it's not a war between one army led by former Brig. Gen. Tata and another army led by Commander Brannon.

On this battlefield, there are many, myriad forces thinking they know what's best for Wake County, and victory consists of finding consensus among as many as possible while continuing to reach out — and always listening respectfully — to those who disagree. Listening, even, when they're coming at you with information that you'd don't think is accurate. (But are you so sure there isn't something of value in it?)

That's why being a successful political leader — and being school superintendent is as political a job as it gets — is not the same as being an Army general. I continue to believe that Tony Tata knows the difference. But knowing it is one thing. Doing it when the pressure is on and the criticisms of you are coming fast and furious is something else.

It's that something else, however, that leadership requires.

No Moore: Former Treasurer won't go for Governor

Posted by on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 3:57 PM


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Lt. Gov. Dems: Dellinger out, Crisco mulling

Posted by on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 2:56 PM

So far in the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor, it's former state Rep. Linda Coleman, favored candidate of the State Employees Association (SEANC), against Sen. Eric Mansfield, who's backed by a number of legislators and some prominent progressives. (E.g., Barbara Goodmon, Dan Besse, Nina Szlosberg-Landis.) MansfieldPR3V1_copy.pdf

Coleman lives in Wake County, Mansfield in Cumberland County.

Hampton Dellinger, a Durham resident and the Indy's endorsed candidate in 2008, was thinking about it. He issued a statement a brief time ago saying he won't run. But Keith Crisco, the state's Secretary of Commerce, may run. Various accounts quote him as giving it serious thought and planning to decide over the weekend.

Crisco is from western North Carolina (Randolph County) and is white. Coleman and Mansfield are black.

Filing deadline is next Wednesday. One of these Lt. Gov. candidates could wind up being the state's top Democratic elected official when 2012 ends. Something to think about.

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Down with the DOMA: The campaign to defeat Amendment One

Posted by on Fri, Feb 24, 2012 at 2:28 PM

A brief update from Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for the Coalition to Protect All NC Families, on efforts to defeat Amendment One in the May 8 primary. Amendment One, called the Defense of Marriage Amendment by its supporters, would add a provision to the state constitution banning gay marriage or civil unions in North Carolina.

The generous donor he mentions is Self-Help, which has pledged — click this link — to match donations up to $25,000.

Watch:

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

[With a Dan Blue update] Politix: Who's running? Who's fracking?

Posted by on Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Wake Sheriff Donnie Harrison salutes a flag and a video screen #whatacountry

[Update, 2/18:: Sen. Dan Blue did come to the Wake Dems event last night, planted himself by the entry and worked to plant the idea that he is, in fact, giving serious thought to entering the gubernatorial primary. "Don't read too much in" to his not having been at the RWCA meeting Thursday, he said to me. So you're running? "I'm leaning," Blue said with a smile. I assume he meant leaning in the direction of being a candidate. He said he was having some meetings this weekend with potential supporters. With Brad Miller not running, Blue has a clear path to progressive support + Triangle support + African-American support.

It isnt that Dan Blue is short; Bob Etheridge is 66

[Blue did decline, as the N&O noted, an invitation to do 2 minutes on stage after announced candidates Walter Dalton, Bob Etheridge and Bill Faison did their turns. Truth is, the fact that Cal Cunningham, who ran the show, looked so expectant as he looked over to him said more about Blue's possible candidacy than any maybe-yes, maybe-no comments Blue might've offered.

[One other possible complication. Former Treasurer Richard Moore, who did not attend last night, is also a likely entrant, I was told by someone in contact with him. Moore has some progressive credentials. But he'd make four white males in the field (not counting either of the unknown candidates who filed yesterday), assuming all of them run.

[On that score, Faison on Thursday was handing out predictions that Etheridge, though he's announced, will decide soon not to actually file. Etheridge last night shrugged at Faison's comment. "Stay tuned," he told me.]


***

Here's the original post from 2/17 —

The Wake Republican Party put on a show last night at Dorton Arena. It was one-stop shopping for those of us not on the in of GOP politics. Then over to the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association meeting, where Democrats were gathered to install the Rev. Earl Johnson as the new RWCA leader — the meeting was at Johnson's Martin Street Baptist Church in the community center — and plot their strategies.

Here's what I gleaned:

* If Sen. Dan Blue is serious about running for governor in the Democratic primary, nobody at RWCA, the leading African-American political organization in the city, seemed to know anything about it. Two other gubernatorial candidates were there, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and state Rep. Bill Faison. Not Blue, though, whose constituency this would be if he ran.

* Dalton was gone by the time I arrived, but Faison was still shaking hands. Faison was predicting that former Congressman Bob Etheridge, the third announced Democrat, won't actually file for the office. (The filing period ends Feb. 29.) Faison opined that Etheridge isn't hearing good things about his prospective candidacy as he clicks the phone for dollars and support — that YouTube diaster from '10, Faison said. I'd dismiss this as self-promotion except that Faison correctly predicted that Gov. Bev Perdue wouldn't run for re-election, and I pooh-poohed that at the time.

* Etheridge, Dalton and Faison are supposed to speak tonight at the Wake Dems Valentine's Day thing at the NCAE building, 5:30. We'll see.

* On the Republican side, Pat McCrory is a much-improved public speaker from four years ago, when he lost to Perdue. McCrory's keynote to the GOP gathering (supposedly 1,900 in attendance; it's a great idea to hold all the precinct organizing meetings in one hall) wasn't great oratory, nor was there much policy heft to it. But it did have a theme — he's running against the "Easley-Perdue culture" to the strains of "We Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who — and pledges to 1) search for natural gas on land and sea, and 2) sign all the bills that the GOP-led legislature passed that Perdue vetoed. "Including Voter ID," McCrory said to huge applause.

* Oh, and no tax increases for anything. "Do more with less" will be the order of the day for schools and everybody else when he's the boss, McCrory said.

***

I'm struck with the thought this morning that the average GOP politician is not much interested in local offices, despite their professed belief in keeping government close to the people. They seem drawn only to state-level and federal offices where it's possible to make laws against local governments accomplishing anything.

* Thus, three of the remaining four GOP members of the Wake school board are looking to move on. (Up?) Debra Goldman — with freshly printed gold business cards — sees herself as the State Auditor. Ohhh-kay. John Tedesco is running for Superintendent of Public Instruction, of course, and Chris Malone is a candidate for a seat in the state House of Representatives. Only Deborah Prickett remains interested in the school system she and her Republican mates were running until the fall elections.

* Dorton Arena was lousy with candidates for higher office — former Wake Commissioner Kenn Gardner, e.g., running for Secretary of State (!) — but very short on candidates for the Wake County Board of Commissioners. I see from the filings that Paul Fitts, who ran for Raleigh City Council last year, has filed to run for a commissioner's seat against Democratic incumbent Betty Lou Ward. I don't think Fitts was on hand last night, and for that matter, I don't remember that any other candidates for the Wake Board of Commissioners were announced. Three Democrats — Ward, Erv Portman and James West — have terms expiring this year; the other four commissioners seats, elected in '10 for four-year terms, are held by Republicans. But two of the four, Paul Coble and Tony Gurley, are angling for higher office — Coble for Congress in the 13th District and Gurley for lieutenant governor.

***

At the RWCA, I heard that Betty Lou Ward is planning to seek another term, which would be her 7th. She's been on the Wake Commissioners board since 1988 and I thought she'd decided that was enough. She hasn't filed as yet.

James West is also running — and has filed. As for Erv Portman ...

* There's a "Draft Portman" movement to get him to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Stevens. The 17th Senate District is listed as "leaning Republican," but not solidly Republican, by the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation. With Stevens not seeking re-election, if it's a Democratic year a Democrat could take it away ... and Portman, a business owner and previously a Cary Town Council member, fits the profile of the moderate Democrat who could appeal to swing votes in this suburban realm. Portman hasn't said no.

* Then there's the 15th Senate District, also listed as "leaning" GOP but not solid by NCFEF. The GOP incumbent is Sen. Neal Hunt, whose conservative voting record could make him vulnerable in a Democratic year. And the Democrats have persuaded a very strong candidate to go against him. Sig Hutchinson, the county's leading greenways advocate, transit proponent (past chair of the Triangle Transit Authority) and all-around good guy, will announce on Monday that he's taking on Hunt, I was told. Hutchinson makes his living as a marketing consultant and public speaker. He could give McCrory lessons.

And that is what I've got, except for this swell picture I took of some other GOP candidates.

Republican candidates on parade (see below)

From right to left, they are: Doug Yopp, running for Congress in District 4 (David Price is the Democratic incumbent); Jeanne Smoot (didn't hear what she's running for, and she hasn't filed for anything; she ran for DPI Superintendent in 2004); George Holding, who's up against Coble and Bill Randall in the primary for Congress, 13th District; Michael Schriver, who's running for state Senate in the new 18th District (Franklin Co. and part of eastern Wake); Debra Goldman, running for State Auditor; and Chad Barefoot, who's also running in state Senate District 18.

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