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Two radically different views on Senate campaign spending

Charlotte Observer totals the numbers and speculates that —at over $100 million — the Kay Hagan -Thom Tillis Senate campaign will be the most expensive in history.

But Carolina Journal takes a different approach:

While a Charlotte Observer analysis shows that total spending in the race, including that from independent groups, is expected to top out at around $103 million, that’s actually less in inflation-adjusted expenditures per registered voter than has been spent in the two most expensive U.S. Senate races in North Carolina.

At $103 million in candidate plus independent spending, the 2014 contest comes in at $15.56 per registered voter in inflation-adjusted dollars — or third place overall.

The top spending U.S. Senate race in North Carolina was in 1984, when incumbent GOP Sen. Jesse Helms defeated then Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt. That year, the two spent $20.14 per registered voter in inflation-adjusted dollars.

The next two highest per-voter spending races also had Helms’ name on the ballot. In 1990, Helms and Democrat Harvey Gantt spent $16.11 per registered voter in 2014 dollars. In 1978, Helms and Democrat John Ingram spent $14.69 per registered voter in 2014 dollars.

As for the morality of spending such money on campaigns to become one of the most 100 powerful people in country —if not the world — we have two different views there, too. As you can probably imagine, the N&R’s doug Clark says spending $100 million on a Senate campaign is —gasp —-obscene:

The amount of money spent is appalling. The wealthy individuals and special-interest groups that are bankrolling it — many of them not publicly disclosed — must have a very perverse value system. I can think of better things to do with disposable income in a state where one person in five lives in poverty. When charities need funds to provide food, clothing, medicine, housing, transportation and other basics for the poor; when deserving students can’t afford college tuition; when the sick go without health care, it’s grossly disturbing to literally watch $100 million spent on a political campaign.

As you can probably also imagine, JLF president John Hood has a different view:

It’s not fashionable to say this, but advertising makes truly competitive politics possible. Challengers, in particular, would have a hard time overcoming the inherent advantages of incumbency — such as frequent media coverage, name recognition, and the use of governmental resources for what amounts to campaigning — if they and their allies were unable to raise and spend money freely to communicate with voters.

Clark’s solution for a better world would be “each candidate would choose a number of charities and ask his or her supporters to give their money to them,” and then “voters could let the amount of good done by each campaign guide their selection.”

Guess Clark doesn’t see that such a system would be putting “good” up for sale, never mind the fact that the definition of “good” has been so skewed in this country for so long, not to mention the definition of freedom, which in my mind means that it’s your money and you spend it as you see fit.

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UNCG chancellor’s resignation: coincidence?

UNCG Chancellor Linda Brady announces her retirement in the wake of the university’s time sheet controversy that resulted in the arrest of three former employees.

Brady’s retirement is effective July 31. Seems like we see this all the time —- person at the top bows out in the wake of a scandal, but they assure everyone that it has nothing to do with said scandal.

As for how all this plays out — Brady assures us her administration was justified in in their action toward the former employees—note the interesting comment beneath the N&R’s write-up:

The truth will come out but don’t count on everyone accepting it. Their bias against women will not let them. It’s the liberal way of doing things. Facts aren’t important.

Not sure where the commenter is going here —- have no idea where a bias against women factors into this ugly situation, and anybody knows who’s paying been attention to the up coming election knows that bias against women certainly is not the liberal way of doing things. Or so liberals say.

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Hagan & Co. —worse than we thought

CJ’s Rick Henderson follows the free money benefitting various companies owned by family members of Sen. Kay Hagan. Lots going on here:

But here’s where we stand: Companies owned by family members of Kay Hagan got more than $400,000 in taxpayer funding to finance upgrades at facilities and for businesses they own — not just the $300,000 in stimulus and USDA grants we initially found. The grants used tax dollars to offset the costs of improvements in the physical plant, and provide tax breaks for one of the companies, and reduce the energy bills of another. Kay Hagan’s husband and son created a solar company and allowed it to handle some of the work. And we’re still digging for additional documentation.

Team Hagan has chosen to hire Marc Elias, a high-powered political lawyer and Caitlin Legacki, a crisis-management specialist and former Hagan press secretary, to argue otherwise.

And ask yourself: How can you not benefit from free money?

Absolutely true, but a bigger question remains —did Hagan family members actually try to convert stimulus funds into cold hard cash? CJ reports the Hagans reduced the budget for upgrades to its JDC Manufacturing property by more than $100k but “did not reduce any of the stimulus funding it had requested, and it wasn’t required to do so.”

In the end, “JDC now claims the project wound up costing more, and provided internal documents to WRAL and The News & Observer that allegedly add up to more than $500,000.” And if the company wasn’t “required to reduce any of the stimulus funding it had requested,” then they would say they were just playing by the rules. Perhaps. Come Nov. 4 we have to decide which rules we want to play by.

Update: …And Elizabeth Warren believes Republicans have rigged the game.


Senate race, sales tax hike, grits and baloney

What do they all have in common, you ask?

A couple of weeks ago the Rhino’s John Hammer speculated that the mere presence of Guilford County’s quarter-cent sales tax hike on the Nov. 4 ballot will tip the Senate election toward Kay Hagan because “women voters who don’t normally vote in an off-year election will turn out to vote for school issues.”

Immediately N&R publisher Jeff “Grits” Gauger —I’m starting to think he doesn’t care much for his paper’s alt-weekly competition —- pounced, turning Hammer’s theory into an attack on women:

So, to sum up: Women are softies about schools and too stupid to see through tax proponents’ baloney, so they’ll turn out in great numbers to support the tax. That will give us a local tax increase, cost a Republican a seat on the county commission, send a Democrat to the U.S. House, and prevent Republicans from taking full control of Congress.

The evils of two X chromosomes, according to John Hammer. The consequences of extending the vote to women in 1920. The absurdity of permitting women to join men in voting on something as patently dumb as a local sales tax increase.

If only our county commission had thought, as Hammer’s reasoning suggests, to protect us from the silly women among us.

Yeah I can only hope there are many women out there who will see through tax proponents’ baloney. Now how many women will see through Hagan’s baloney is another matter, especially when you have the NYT (which I have no doubt that Gauger holds as the standard of journalism) probing —you guessed it—-the Senate race’s gender gap:

Ms. Hagan needs women to show up at the polls on Nov. 4, maybe more so than candidates in other races. She has been running even with or a few points ahead of Mr. Tillis in a swing state that is better educated and more urbanized than Louisiana, and some polls have given her an advantage of as much as 20 percentage points over Mr. Tillis among women, the biggest gender gap in any Senate race.

Under the circumstances, she couldn’t ask for a more perfect opponent, because Mr. Tillis — the speaker of the state House — has a long record of making life harder for women in North Carolina, particularly poor ones. He led Republicans in defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides preventive health services and birth control.

“Long record of making life harder for women in North Carolina.” No baloney there. But just to make sure, do your informal poll while you’re on you lunch hour today. Walk up to 10 women and ask them what they think about the quarter-cent sales tax going toward schools and note how many see through proponents’ baloney. I’ll be optimistic and say more than you might think, and that will show at the polls when the sales tax hike is shot down —- again.

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Let the media endorsements begin….

No surprises so far…..N&R endorses Sen. Kay Hagan in the Senate race;

Winston-Salem Journal endorses Democrat Josh Brannon over incumbent Rep. Virginia Foxx in the 5th District Congressional race:

But as limited as his chances are, we believe Brannon could bring fresh ideas to Washington that Foxx has not. We freely acknowledge that Foxx has the experience edge over Brannon: years of service in the state legislature, then several terms in Congress. Experience is good and needed – if it’s applied right.

We’ve occasionally praised Foxx, such as in her efforts to help our military veterans. But for too many years in Congress, she has been a voice of negativity, a roadblock to political compromise.
We don’t agree with Brannon on all his stances – his platform on income equality is unrealistic – but we like his emphasis on education and equality.

I personally can’t remember a time when the Journal has praised Foxx, but if they say so I believe them.

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UNCG keeps the wagons circled

UNCG faculty draft a petition asking Guilford County District Attorney Doug Henderson to dismiss criminal charges against three former employees.

Or how about this —Chancellor Linda Brady simply drops the charges? But that’s unlikely, according to a couple of university officials:

UNCG Provost Dana Dunn …said professors should wait to send the letter.

“I would urge you that if you can give this a little time, information will come forward….Right now you have very incomplete information. So do I.

Susan Saffran, the chairwomman of UNCG’s board of trustees, said administrators are looking to see what additional information, if any, can be made public.

“When the evidence comes out,” Saffran said, “I hope you’ll understand the actions we took.”

Great—I can’t wait to see what moved supposedly liberal minded (I’m assuming here) people to call the cops over what appears to be an administrative misdemeanor.

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Rhino on Thigpen and gay marriage

The Rhino’s John Hammer writes about the controversy surrounding Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen’s decision to reopen his office last Friday to issue gay marriage licenses:

The Board of Commissioners really doesn’t have much authority over Thigpen, who, like the sheriff, is an elected official. In fact, in speaking to the Board of Commissioners, Thigpen noted that they have to answer to their constituents and, as an official elected countywide, all 500,000 residents of Guilford County are his constituents. No member of the current Board of Commissioners was elected countywide. They were all elected from districts. Although Commissioner Kay Cashion is serving as an at-large commissioner, she was elected from a district.

…Thigpen said, “I think the core of it, I hope you’ll understand, I was trying to provide service to the citizens of Guilford County.” He noted that in this county of 500,000, which he represented, some were Democrats, some were Republicans, some were gay and some were straight – but he was elected to serve all of them.

Interesting that Thigpen argues that his decision was based on the fact that he represents all Guilford County citizens, since that’s the same argument Commissioner Hank Henning made when he said Thigpen didn’t “send a very good message…..we need to have standard operating hours for everybody.”

Which indeed is more tactful than fellow Commissioner Alan Branson’s comment that if gay couples have “waited this long, they could wait until Monday morning.”

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Medicaid expansion still a tough sell

Yesterday the N&R editorialized that it was “encouraging” that Gov. Pat McCrory and DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos were reconsidering expanding Medicaid in North Carolina.

But who really makes that call?

But two key lawmakers with oversight responsibility of her agency made it clear that, given Medicaid’s checkered history, and lingering problems resolving years of mismanagement and budget overruns, the belief that Medicaid — the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled — is ready to accept more participants is a Pollyanaish view.

Wos has told several media outlets that the foundation is in place for a more efficient and more effective Medicaid system, and that she will ask McCrory to expand Medicaid in the near term. McCrory has said through a spokesman that he is confident in Wos, and she will advise him when the time is right to expand. But before that happens, the governor will have to convince skeptical legislators.

“I will say that the original rejection of the Medicaid expansion by the General Assembly required that any plan for expansion had to come through the General Assembly, and not through an executive decision, and I don’t feel that we’re in any position right now to consider expansion under the Affordable Care Act,” said state Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell.

You guessed it —trying to get straight numbers on how much the state is already spending on Medicaid in just the first two months of the FY 2015 is proving difficult, especially considering the fact that –as acting Division of Medical Assistance director of finance Rudy Dimmling put it —““there are certain outliers that you can’t predict”— one of which is –you guessed it again —- Obamacare round two.

With all this in mind, I’ll make a prediction —the $180 million in contingency reserves for Medicaid isn’t going to get it.

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Gboro fits major piece of greenway

Biz Journal reports Chandler Concrete has sold its Mill Street site and signed a covenant agreeing to cease use of the rail line running behind the property.

Chandler’s property was the missing piece in the development of Gboro’s greenway system. Now the proposed downtown greenway can connect with the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway along Battleground Avenue.

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Guilford register of deeds critcized for gay marriage…

Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen is drawing criticism from a couple of county commissioners for his decision to reopen his office Friday evening to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples following a federal judge’s ruling on gay marriage in North Carolina:

“I don’t know where he gets the authority to reopen a county building and a county office after regular business hours, or what the extra cost was to the taxpayers of Guilford County,” said Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson in an interview Sunday. “I think the whole thing was in poor taste. I doubt he would have reopened his office for a heterosexual couple who wanted to be married after regular business hours. I don’t see why this exception needed to be made.
click here!

“If they’ve waited this long, they could wait until Monday morning.”

Commissioner Hank Henning also weighed in, saying that since the county serves all citizens it needs to “have standard office hours for everybody.”

Thigpen is an elected official, so it’s not clear whether or not he needed the approval of county commissioners to re-open his office after hours.

Anybody who’s followed Thigpen’s political career — he was a county commissioner before he was elected register of deeds –knows he’s a strong liberal and gay marriage advocate. But when defending his decision to reopen Thigpen said “(i)f this was a judicial opinion that I didn’t agree with and my office had to reopen to address it, I would have done it to respond to the needs of citizens, no matter who they are.”


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