2024 Filing Follies: Jeff Tarte, the (um) “establishment”, and ‘Isn’t that Special(e)?’

“I sense something.  A presence I have not felt since …”

When I hear the name Jeff Tarte, the first word that comes to mind is ‘prissy’.  It’s been some time since the former liberal Republican state senator graced the pages of this fine publication.  Tarte grew out of the same Mecklenburg machine that blessed us with Thom Tillis.  Tarte used much of his time in Raleigh to have Tillis’ back in the then-speaker’s campaign to water down the differences between Democrats and Republicans.  Tarte got evicted from Raleigh by Democrat Natasha Marcus — who now wants to be insurance commissioner — in a race that revealed nary a difference between the two major-party candidates.

Well, Jeff is back and he wants to prove to us he’s bigger and better than Beth Wood.  I thought I’d comb through the Haymaker archives to give you all a refresher on Tarte.  While on Jones Street, Tarte was a huge fan of vaccine mandates — even acting to do away with religious exemptions.

Then-senator Tarte also tried to find some solidarity with The Round Rev – aka Bill Barber – himself by lamenting the decline of black neighborhoods due to “gentrification.” (Gentrification is a leftist word used to describe the demolishing of slums and projects and replacing them with new, shiny buildings that non-black folks actually might want to live in.  (It’s bad when folks try to block people of color from moving in.  But somehow it’s okey-dokey for black folks to be upset over the prospect of white folks moving into the neighborhood.)

Thom Tillis and then-Gov. Pat McCrory were clamoring for toll roads on I-77 at the time.  Tarte’s constituents were about to riot against the idea.  Tarte appeared to be more afraid of incurring the wrath of Tillis and McCrory. 

Tarte also suffered from a pork problem while on Jones Street.

At one point, it appeared to be coin toss whether Tarte would remain calm or go all Bob Etheridge on someone trying to ask him a question. 

Tarte has been a good soldier over the years for Thom Tillis.  Tillis has not been much of a soldier at all for conservatism or the party platform. Is the return of Tarte part of Tillis’s suddenly higher profile in state politics?  Madison Cawthorn, and now Mark Robinson.

Selective outrage over ‘The Establishment.’

The Mark Robinson fan club has tried to label ME and this site as “establishment.”  They’ve tried this all while Jim Blaine, of all people, has been discreetly driving the Robinson campaign operation.  (I’m seeing and hearing Mike Luethy’s name around the Robinson campaign as well.) This has also happened while Robinson himself has endorsed senate majority whip Jim Perry who was facing the threat of a conservative primary challenger, as well as Tim Moore and Phil Berger.  Robinson also heaped big-time praise on retiring congressman Patrick McHenry, a long-time fixture in GOP leadership in the US House.

A lot of the folks following Robinson’s campaign are new to politics, so I’ll do what I can to clarify things.  If you hang around and call ‘the shots’ in the party or in your particular legislative chamber — regardless of election outcomes – you are ‘the establishment.’  Lobbyists, consultants and aides who hang around the gears of power year-in and year-out, despite election results, are ‘the establishment.’

I bring inconvenient facts to light.  I make things public that a lot of people don’t want to be public.   But I don’t call ANY shots when it comes to running the North Carolina Republican Party or state government. (BOY, things would be a lot better IF I DID.)

People like former state Reps. Michael Speciale and Larry Pittman and John Blust and John Rhodes were what you call counter-establishment.  They tried to change things from the outside — just like the Tea Party and MAGA have tried to do.  

People who enjoy government and try to make a career of it are a big part of the problem. That’s why I proudly wrap myself in the counter-establishment mantle.  

Mark Robinson is surrounded by a lot of establishment and has endorsed a lot of establishment folks – protecting them from a counter-establishment challenge. His family business is totally funded by tax revenue from the NC DHHS.  Government is important to the Robinsons.  It puts a roof over their heads and food on their plates. 

Be careful when you are pointing fingers.   When you do that, there are almost always some fingers pointing back in your direction.

Isn’t that Special(e)?  

Speaking of Michael Speciale, it appears the former state House conservative gadfly is attempting a political comeback.  He left the House in 2021.  But it appears he’s back in 2024 to take a shot at the newly-drawn Senate District 3 seat – Lenoir, Craven, and Beaufort counties.  This possibly sets up a primary showdown with senate majority whip Jim Perry – a resident of Lenoir county. (Speciale has filed.  State elections records do not indicate that Perry has. You have to live in a legislative district you seek to represent.)

The Raleigh establishment does not relish the idea of Speciale being back on Jones Street.  Perry is a good friend to the PAC and lobbying community.  He’s good at spreading goodies, paid for by other people, across the countryside.

I’ve touched base with some sources in the area to try and gauge Speciale’s prospects.

A good chunk of the territory in the district includes areas previously represented by Speciale in the House.  The area is very conservative, which is a plus for Speciale.  But Perry is very tight with the PACS and party leadership, who would much prefer him to Speciale’s conservative independent streak.  Raleigh will open its checkbooks wide for Perry.  Speciale has been notorious for anemic fundraising.  But his shoe-leather grassroots campaigning style kept him afloat in Raleigh for many a term.

This race should be one to watch — should it materialize. It should also be a good chance for folks unhappy with Raleigh’s GOP establishment to fire a shot across the bow.