How do you know it's already campaign season? Here's a clue: State Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, has a stalker.
Though he hasn't announced, it's an open secret that Stein will run for attorney general, assuming ROY COOPER abandons that post to run for governor, which he will. And that's fine by us: Stein is a good liberal, more than willing to GIVE THE REPUBLICANS HELL when they deserve it (which is all the time).
Conservatives, of course, aren't so keen. And, because 21st-century politics is beyond depressing, they figure the best way to defeat him is not to wage a BATTLE OF IDEAS, but to catch Stein in a macaca moment. (Google it.)
Three weeks ago, Stein and his entourage noticed a young man just about everywhere the senator went, always with a camera trained on his target.
"He's standing outside of Josh's door," says SETH DEARMIN, Stein's longtime political advisor. "Anytime he leaves this guy follows him. It's incessant."
One day Stein asked him who he was. The young man answered. The stalker, Dearmin says, is ERIK PELLETIER, "Field Researcher, Delegate Tracker at AMERICA RISING LLC," according to his LinkedIn page. Dearmin says Pelletier also trailed Kay Hagan during her Senate bid last year. A video on Pelletier's Facebook page shows him tracking singer-turned-failed-congressional-candidate Clay Aiken, who refers to Pelletier as "THAT DOUCHEBAG WITH THE BLUE SHORTS" and his tactics as "the political version of TMZ," which sounds about right. (America Rising and Pelletier could not be reached for comment.)
This is how the game is played these days, and it makes a perverse kind of sense: The more video you amass of a politician, the better the chance he'll SAY SOMETHING DUMB or be seen with the wrong supporter, thus providing fodder for those campaign ads you'll be deluged with next fall. And yes, Democrats do it, too; earlier this week, a Rand Paul staffer was caught LICKING THE CAMERA of the presidential candidate's stalker. Dearmin says Stein's AG campaign won't track his GOP opponent, though an OUTSIDE ORGANIZATION might. Sigh.
Still, if you can judge a man by his enemies, it's worth exploring what AMERICA RISING is. The group—both a political action committee and an LLC, different entities that have the same goal—has ties to an array of conservative boogeymen. It was launched in part by KARL ROVE'S AMERICAN CROSSROADS, and the PAC has received $30,000 each from two Republican congressional committees, both of which, the Stein team gleefully notes, get loads of cash from the Koch brothers. Also, the PAC got $100,000 from WWE honcho (and failed congressional candidate) LINDA MCMAHON, so there's that.
Last November, Washington Post resident right-winger Jennifer Rubin fawned over the OPPO-RESEARCH OUTFIT as one of the most important players of the last election cycle, crediting the group with helping defeat Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Greg Orman in Kansas and, yes, Kay Hagan in North Carolina.
Now they want JOSH STEIN'S SCALP.
You know what Republicans hate SO MUCH? Voter fraud, that (cough bullshit! cough) scourge on our very democracy that empowers the young and the poor and the NOT-WHITE to vote.
(Triangulator fact check: Voter fraud is a 100 PERCENT MADE-UP PROBLEM, unless you consider the young and poor and not-white voting a problem.)
In North Carolina, this very serious and totally real issue was addressed by the General Assembly in 2013, via "reforms" that election-law expert Rick Hasen called "the most sweeping ANTI-VOTER LAW in at least decades."
You will thus be shocked—shocked!—to learn that the state may not be taking its duty to help register voters, especially those voters, all that seriously.
According to data released last week by DEMOCRACY N.C., the number of residents who have registered to vote at public-assistance agencies since GOV. PAT MCCRORY took office has fallen by more than two-thirds in just a few years, from 42,988 in 2011 to 18,758 in 2013 and 13,340 in 2014. Hooray!
One little problem: The state may be violating the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the so-called "motor voter" law, which requires those agencies to help register the residents they serve.
An investigation by Democracy N.C. and other voting-rights groups found that Department of Health and Human Services staff members at 19 different offices across the state "CONSISTENTLY FAIL to distribute voter registration applications to public assistance clients, as required by the NVRA," they wrote in an intent-to-sue letter to KIM WESTBROOK STRACH, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections. In fact, the letter says, three-quarters of the roughly 200 people who visited these offices weren't given an opportunity to register.
Surely this is just an oversight. There couldn't possibly be an ulterior motive.
Part of the Durham light rail plan is on the wrong track, City Council warned transit planners last week, telling them to THINK HARDER—a lot harder—about the East Durham station.
GOTRIANGLE, known as Triangle Transit before they figured out that was boring, had planned to build the last Durham station on the east side of Alston Avenue at Pettigrew Street. But upon closer inspection—TWO YEARS INTO THE PROCESS—engineers discovered, oops!, trains wouldn't be able to maneuver the tight spot near a historic water tower and the Durham Freeway; nor is there room for a 900-space parking deck and a station platform. And moving the station farther east to Briggs Avenue or Driver Street, as City Council suggested, would add to the $1.8 BILLION TAB.
"There are physical challenges here, forcing a pinch," said Pat McDonough, manager of planning and transit-oriented development at GoTriangle. "It's physics and fiscal."
Now the station is proposed for a quarter-mile west, closer to Murphy Street. The rationale is that the new location would still serve other neighborhoods, including the future (far in the future) redeveloped Fayette Place, which right now is a SCAB OF CONCRETE SLABS from a former housing project.
Not so fast, said City Council and, well, everyone else. "Everyone is uncomfortable with the west side," COUNCILMAN DON MOFFITT told GoTriangle reps.
While GoTriangle has moved heaven and earth to rejigger the Buchanan Boulevard and downtown stations—to the point of reconfiguring Pettigrew Street, they apparently ran out of BRAIN JUICEin East Durham.
"You've been creative elsewhere," Moffitt said, "but then in East Durham, you've been less so."
The station's placement is a very sensitive matter here, given the history of planners who in the name of "urban renewal" destroyed the nearby HAYTI NEIGHBORHOOD in the 1960s and '70s when they built the Durham Freeway.
"I don't feel convinced because I don't think this area got the same level of scrutiny as downtown," said COUNCILMAN STEVE SCHEWEL. "I don't think you're wrong. I just don't think you're right."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Who is Josh Stein's stalker?"