[Update 4: From WRAL: Edwards is acquitted of one count; mistrial is declared on the remaining five.]
[Update 3: CNN has a succinct report. The jury remains deadlocked on five of the six charges against Edwards, including the conspiracy charge. It reached agreement only on Count 3, which involved Bunny Mellon's money. The defense moved for the judge to announce the verdict on Count 3, obviously in the belief that it was the weakest charge and most likely to be the one they'd acquit on; it wanted the judge to declare a mistrial on the remaining five charges. The judge said no to both actions, so we don't know what the Count 3 verdict was as yet.
Because the laws on campaign contributions are so riddled with exceptions and work-arounds as to be completely useless as a shield against big money's influence in politics, I don't much care what the verdict on Edwards turns out to be. He probably will be found not guilty, but being not guilty of violating laws that it's almost impossible to violate is hardly any vindication. As I said before, the law ought to make it illegal for contributors to give huge sums of money to candidates—and for candidates to accept them—when they're in or running for public office. If that's not the case, and Duke Energy can give unlimited sums to Pat McCrory for his personal use, and McCrory can spend unlimited sums of his own money on his campaign—as he can—then you might as well give up entirely on having any limits on campaign contributions.]
[Update 2: WRAL is reporting that the jury reached a verdict on just one count; the judge sent them back to the jury room to keep talking about the other five charges without announcing what the decision was on Count 3: Bunny Mellon's money.]
[Update: No verdict yet. If you care, WRAL is streaming live coverage, waiting for word from inside the courthouse in Greensboro.]
My original post, before the jury came in the first time this afternoon:
While we wait. It should be illegal to give a candidate for public office hundreds of thousands of dollars for his personal use. Whether it is or not is another question.
Or rather, it's pretty clear, in the post Citizens United era, that it's not illegal at all.
Whether it was when Johnnie was raking in the money for the care and feeding of his mistress, I don't know.
Neither did the jury, apparently. At least, it took 'em awhile.
But as I say, it should be against the law if it isn't.
It's been three years since the General Assembly passed the bill allowing voters in Wake, Durham and Orange counties to decide whether they want to build a public transit system, i.e., add a 1/2-cent sales tax for transit in their respective counties.
Durham voters approved the 1/2-cent tax last year. The vote in the referendum was lopsided in favor.
Orange hasn't voted yet, but the Orange commissioners are expected to put the question on the ballot this year.
And then there's Wake.
Wake hasn't voted, and unless the solid bloc of Republicans (Chairman Paul Coble & Co.) opposed to letting us vote cracks a little, we're not going to be allowed to vote this year ...
... and we probably won't be allowed to vote next year either, because next year is ticketed for a much-needed Wake schools bond referendum.
This is, quite simply, not acceptable. The Republicans who control the Wake Board of Commissioners don't have to be in favor of transit. They can put the question on the ballot this year and urge everyone to vote no if they like. (They had no trouble urging everybody to vote yes on the Amendment One question; fortunately, 57 percent of Wake voters disagreed with them.) But by blocking a vote, they're thwarting the public will — and the law.
And by the way, Durham's tax isn't effective until a second county OK's it too. (That's the law.) But if Durham and Orange approve the tax and Wake doesn't, stay tuned for progress on a light-rail line from Chapel Hill to Durham, and a modern bus system in the western part of the Triangle, leaving CAry, Raleigh and points east to choke on our cars and overpriced gasoline fumes.
So today, WakeUP Wake County, the good government group, is out with a poll showing strong support in the electorate for transit and for a transit tax — and WakeUP is calling on the Wake Commissioners to get out of the way and let the voters decide. Here's their piece:
Poll Shows Strong Support for Wake Transit Plan and Half Cent Sales Tax
Wake voters would support the Wake transit plan and a half cent sales tax to pay for an expanded transit system of bus and rail, according to a recent poll commissioned by WakeUP Wake County. Of those polled, 66% support a proposed plan to double bus service, add bus shelters, create commuter rail between Wake and Durham Counties, and initiate steps for light rail. Sixty percent said they would be willing to pay a half cent sales tax increase to pay for this new transit system.
What’s more, Wake voters appear ready to vote on this sales tax for transit this November with 59% strongly supporting having the opportunity to vote this November on a ballot question of dedicating the half-cent sale tax to transit and an additional 19% would somewhat support this action. Durham County voters approved this transit tax by 60% last November, and Orange County Commissioners are strongly considering putting this same measure on their ballot this November. Approval by Orange and Wake County would have a very positive impact on moving the Triangle forward in efforts to improve transportation options.
“What this poll demonstrates is that once people learn what’s in the transit proposal, they are willing to pay for it,” said Ross Massey, engineer and WakeUP Wake County Board Member and Transportation & Land Use Team Leader. “The poll tells us that support for transit is strong and that Wake citizens understand transit is good for economic development and growth planning. This is especially true for our younger citizens; 76% of those aged 18-29 supported the sales tax for transit. With gas prices high and population due to double, now is the time to move forward. Because 2012 is a presidential election year, voter turnout will be higher than usual allowing a strong and vibrant view of the true will of Wake County citizens," Massey added.
The poll was a survey of 644 Wake voters contacted between May 18-20. Public Policy Polling (PPP) conducted the poll. PPP’s polls on the Wake school board elections last year proved to be accurate assessments of the voters’ actions.
The bitter taste of Amendment One is still in our mouths as we approach a holiday weekend dedicated to the men and women who died fighting for — well, we say freedom. We say equal rights for all. Some of us, as Jane Lynch narrates in the video below, are still striving to make it happen.
Our friend Seth Keel is one of the organizers, with Carly Campbell, of a "Rally for Equal Rights" this Sunday, 2 p.m., at the State Capitol. (The link is to a FB page.) Their message: "Don't mourn. Organize!"
In the wake of Amendment One, we need to take a stand and demand that every person in our state has the right to live and love! This is an opportunity for us to come together as a community and uplift the dignity of everyone.
We can send our lawmakers a message that we are here and we will NOT stop fighting for justice and equality. Don’t allow yourself to feel defeated because the Amendment passed – the march goes on, the fight continues, and we will see the day where we are all treated with dignity, love, compassion, and respect.
Please join us at the State Capitol on May 27 at 2:00 pm to rally for equal rights! We will feel the power of the people as we stand together and send a message to our state that we will NOT be silent.
Don't mourn, ORGANIZE!
I was also pleased to see this message of support from the Wake County Democratic Party:
Join us at the State Capitol on Sunday, May 27 at 2:00 pm to rally for equal rights! We will feel the power of the people as we stand together and send a message to our state that we will NOT be silent.
Address: 7 E. Morgan St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Date: Sunday, May 27, 2012
Organized by: Seth Byron Keel
Elected officials and candidates are urged to be on hand to show their support.
The Wake Dems' note came with a link to this Obama campaign video on LGBT rights, narrated by Jane Lynch:
Gov. Bev Perdue issued an executive order telling DENR and Commerce to study how fracking can be undertaken safely in North Carolina. The two departments are to form a working group and reach out to the General Assembly, which is considering a couple of different Republican bills aimed at allowing fracking. The order is open-ended — no time limit is set.
Here's the order:
“North Carolina needs a strong set of standards in place before we allow fracking here. If done safely, fracking can be part of a larger energy solution to create jobs and help lower energy costs. Before we permit anyone to ‘frack’ in North Carolina, however, we must hear from all sides, address all issues, and develop a robust set of rules.
First and foremost, those rules must put every necessary precaution into place to protect our drinking water and safeguard the health and safety of every single North Carolinian. The rules must also protect the interests of landowners and address the needs of county and municipal governments. “Today’s Executive Order will help to establish guidelines and create a framework for considering the type of standards that must be developed before any energy development begins.”
The gist of Perdue's statement seems to be, we're gonna be fracking, so let's get cracking.
Democracy North Carolina is, as its slogan says, of, by and for the people. Above all, it's for the people's right to vote — and to cast an informed vote about who's on their side and who isn't.
For that reason, Democracy NC is fighting efforts to curb early voting, put an end to same-day registration and voting (on early-voting days) and throw roadblocks in the way of people being able to cast a vote. Roadblocks like the nefarious Voter ID bills pushed by Republican leaders here and in many other states that are aimed at reducing voter turnout in low-income communities. Take a look:
Is this unprecedented in North Carolina history? Of course it isn't. In fact, the efforts of the wealthy and business elites, now in control of the Republican Party, to suppress low-income voters is all too reminiscent of what happened in 1898, when business elites were in charge of the Democratic Party. Back then, they turned away voters with guns and overthrew fusion governments in a coup d'etat.
Today, they do it by complicating the voting process while also flooding the airwaves with deceitful political advertising.
But the object is the same: Leave the rich in control by preventing the masses from voting their interests.
Getting the masses to understand their interests and vote accordingly is the point of Wednesday's HKonJ People of Color Justice and Unity Legislative Day.
In preparation, Democracy NC today released its short film on the history of voting rights struggles in North Carolina, produced in partnership with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. Yes, it's scare tactics. The events of 1898, the only successful coup d'etat in U.S. history, are at the film's center.
But think about it. Isn't the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited sums of money from global corporations and the wealthy to be spent in American political campaigns, the 21st century equivalent of a coup?
Find some time to watch this film, especially if you're a little hazy on what happened in Wilmington, NC in 1898. And consider how it compares to the corruption we see all around us today.
Today, Frank Eaton joined the race. He's on the Democrats' state executive committee, so he may have a leg up with the voters that way. He certainly has a leg up in terms of his video skills. Watch this (his announcement follows below):
FILMMAKER FRANK EATON SEEKS
NC DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMANSHIP
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Longtime Democratic Party activist Frank Eaton today announced his candidacy for the chairmanship of the North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP), which will hold elections for new party officers in Greensboro on Saturday, May 12. Eaton, 37, is a filmmaker from Winston-Salem and a life-long North Carolina resident.
Eaton may be best known for his political videography. During the 2012 primary, he produced Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton’s web ad “A Restless Energy,” (http://bit.ly/JhGgPt) which now has over 35,000 views on YouTube. He also filmed the web ad and television commercial for Eric Mansfield’s lieutenant gubernatorial campaign (http://bit.ly/xsHbKV).
Eaton has in recent years become widely noted for his video work for the NCDP. His videos are regularly shown at statewide Democratic Party events, from organizing meetings to high-dollar fundraising dinners. His “War on Women” video (http://bit.ly/vtGUu7) was viewed widely on the Internet and also aired as an NCDP television commercial in 2011. (http://bit.ly/JidZ9Q)
Eaton cites grassroots party activism surrounding his recent post-Amendment One video, “North Carolina After the Amendment,” (http://bit.ly/JfnEOz) as his encouragement to enter the party chair race. The video, which condemns the passage of Amendment One and calls on North Carolinians to reject the Republicans who put it on the ballot, riled many Democratic Party activists in the day following the May 8, primary election. The video was posted to the web the morning of May 9, and in the first 24 hours got well over 10,000 views.
Eaton authored this email declaring his party-chair candidacy, which was sent to the North Carolina Democratic Party State Executive Committee at 9 a.m., Thursday morning:
I don't believe in being coy about a subject as important as the leadership of the North Carolina Democratic Party, so I'll tell you that I've been asked to run for Chairman on Saturday, and that I'm deeply honored. As a member of the State Executive Committee, I know most of you and consider you all friends and fellow Democrats of sound judgement. So I'm going to run a very simple campaign and leave the difficult job of making this decision to you.
The video you just watched (embedded video - http://bit.ly/JfnEOz) was released yesterday morning, and immediately exploded to viral proportions. Folks have responded to it because it's aggressive— and arrived at precisely the moment Democrats needed it most. To me, defeating Pat McCrory is the penultimate goal of our party and our next Chair needs to engage voters across North Carolina with this level of energy and clarity.
If nominated from the floor, I will be honored to speak and welcome your support if you find me to be the best candidate for the job. As of this writing, there are two other excellent Democrats in this race: Greensboro Senator Don Vaughan and Raleigh Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin. Please get to know them. I hope that we will be joined by others, and trust that each of us will continue to serve this party in our own remarkable way.
Interesting story in the Charlotte Observer about the Queen City's new budget. Check it out: Money for infrastructure investments in underdeveloped parts of Charlotte. (Is there a Southeast Raleigh analogue?) And a plan to offer insurance benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. (Raleigh, so far, has ducked this one.)
Thus, in Charlotte:
The city would spend $119 million to continue building a streetcar line through uptown. The first 1.5 miles is expected to open mid-decade. This project would extend both ends of that starter line past Presbyterian Hospital and to Johnson C. Smith University.
How about a streetcar line out New Bern Avenue, serving St. Aug's and WakeMed?
Also, in Charlotte:
And for the first time, the city has proposed offering health benefits to same-sex partners. City Attorney Bob Hagemann said the city was exploring whether that would be legal after N.C. voters approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday defining marriage between a man and a woman as the only civil union recognized in the state.
Regardless of Amendment 1, it's my understanding that public employers can continue to offer benefits to same-sex partners by simply making such benefits available to all unmarried employees and any other person they designate. That designated person would pay for the benefits, by the way, so there would be no additional expense to the city by offering them.
This is my understanding of what Amendment 1 allows, I should add, because House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, the author of Amendment 1, said that's how it could be done while he was campaigning for passage.
President Obama finally declared himself: He thinks same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. He said he once favored civil unions as a way to recognize same-sex relationships without running into the "that's not a marriage" buzz saw. But you know what, civil unions — if properly defined in a statute — are the same as a marriage in the eyes of the law. And the law is all that politicians should care about. Leave the sacred trappings outside government's door.
It's obvious that the President waited until North Carolina voted to put himself on the record. Had he spoken up before the Amendment 1 vote, it wouldn't have changed the outcome. The polls made that much clear, not to mention the lopsided 61-39 percent vote in favor.
And, of course, a pre-N.C. vote statement by Obama most certainly would've been belittled as evidence, after Amendment 1 passed anyway, that people don't care what the President thinks.
Thirty-one states have now voted on the question of banning same-sex marriage, and all of them have come out in favor of banning it. But Minnesota, which will take up the question in a referendum this November, could break the string. Polls there show opinion to be closely divided.
In North Carolina, we're at rock bottom today. Mark this as the end of the beginning.
[Update No. 2. It's midnight, and I've made one final pass at the numbers. With all the votes counted, the outcomes are the same as two hours ago. So again, I'll make a very few changes as needed and call it quits for the night.]
[Update: It's about 10 p.m. Roughly two-thirds of the precincts are in, and almost 2 million votes are counted statewide. Not much has changed, so I'll change the text below only as needed.}
Amendment 1 was approved with
nearly some 61 percent of the vote. a tremendous disappointment. In October, when Public Policy Polling first tested it, Amendment 1 was favored 61-34 percent. That three-fifths majority held solid despite a strong effort by the amendment's opponents and $2.5 million poured into the opposition campaign.
The only grace note, if any: The amendment was rejected in Orange County (79 percent voted against); in Durham County (70 percent); in Wake County (57 percent), and in Chatham County (54 percent). So don't blame the Triangle. Don't blame Charlotte either, or Asheville: Mecklenburg and Buncombe counties also voted against by 54 and 51 percent, respectively.
In other elections of interest,
it looks like Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton will be the Democratic nominee for governor, beating former Congressman Bob Etheridge by a 46-38 percent tally; ormer state Rep. Linda Coleman, D-Wake, is the nominee for lieutenant governor.
In Wake County,
it appears that Wake Commissioners Chair Paul Coble will still be with us going forward.
s losing lost his U.S. House District 13 primary to George Holding, who i f he wins will have bought it fair and square with his family's money. Holding is at about 44 percent, enough to avoid a runoff. Coble trails by about 10 points. Bill Randall is pulling a respectable, and somewhat surprising, 22 percent.
Coble's defeat is bad news for transit proponents who hoped he'd be on his way to Washington and no longer an impediment to getting the 1/2-cent sales tax for transit in front of Wake County voters this fall.
Coble's mate on the commissioners, Tony Gurley, i
s locked in a three-way struggle for two placesfinished second in a five-way primary and qualified for a runoff for lieutenant governor, GOP-nomination category. Assuming Gurley wants it, the runoff will be against front-runner Dan Forrest, who got 33 percent to Gurley's 25 percent. The House Speaker Pro Tem, Dale Folwell, finished with 24 percent, unexpectedly failing to make it into the top two.
By the way, if either Gurley
or Coble — or both — should move up, they'dhe'd be replaced by another Republican. Thus, a 4-3 Republican majority would continue on the county board. Still, if they leave the supposedly pro-transit Republican Commssioner Joe Bryan might be allowed to take charge. With Coble and Gurley aboard, Bryan's strictly a petty officer.
Then there's our trio of Wake County school board members, Republicans all, looking to get out of
Dodge Cary (where the school board offices are) after what we'll tastefully term an eventful two-and-a-half in charge of the schools.
Chris Malone, of Wake Forest,
looks like he's won his primary— for the District 35 seat in the state House of Representatives. House 35 is overwhelmingly Republican, and no Democrat will oppose Malone, who prevailed if does indeed prevail over Wendell businessman Duane Cutlip. Malone won by 57-43 percent. Malone will run in the fall against Democrat Lori Millberg, an ex-school board member who was unopposed in her primary.
John Tedesco aspires to be state superintendent of public instruction. He
appears to have won a spot in a runoff for the GOP nomination — the winner to challenge Democratic incumbent June Atkinson.
Debra Goldman sees herself as the next state auditor. She, too,
appears to be is one of the two candidates who will move on to a runoff. She''ll square off against Greg Dority, a perennial GOP candidate. We were hoping former state Sen. Fern Shubert, would make it; she's an actual auditor — CPA — and a bona fide government watchdog. But Shubert's in third place so far.But Shubert finished third.
Tedesco and Goldman were both involved in five-person primaries, so getting to a runoff ain't bad.
Finally, there's our old friend Kenn Gardner, who's apparently decided being an architect isn't for him and instead would like the no-heavy-lifting job of being state Secretary of State. He was in a four-way GOP primary and battling for one of the two runoff positions. The winner takes on Sec of State Elaine Marshall.
As 10 o'clock approached, Gardner was a solid second in the field and also heads into a runoff against Ed (Eddy) Goodwin, chair of the Chowan County Board of Commissioners.
Another race we were watching that didn't turn out to be a race at all. In state House District 38, Yvonne Holley is the runaway winner in the Democratic primary over second-place finisher Abeni El-Amin. Our friend Lee Sartain, the only openly gay candidate on the ballot, finished a dismal third.
District 38 is majority-black. Holley, with long family ties to the African-American community in Raleigh, won about 60 percent of the vote. El-Amin, also black, got about 25 percent. Sartain picked up 14 percent.
No Republicans filed in this district.