The first week of December marks the shotgun start of the 2016 campaign season in North Carolina. That’s put-up-or-shut-up time. It’s when people have to step up and file for the March primaries and the November elections. Looking ahead, I think the key factors to consider can be narrowed to down to FOUR categories that all happen to start with the letter T:
- TRUMP. The party that once had Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth representing us in Washington is now led by the consultant-donor class and a governor and two US senators who take pride in “getting things done” and “working across the aisle.”
Like him or not, Donald Trump and his presidential campaign are shoving an awful lot of conservative issues into the spotlight. If the polls can be believed, Americans appear to be buying the blunt, straight talk from the New Yorker. Will Trump succeed in turning out or increasing the mad-as-hell vote here in North Carolina?
Pat McCrory — who is on the 2016 ballot — appears to be concerned about the possibility. The same guy who has been palling around with, and appointing, Democrats and whining about not enough money being spent by state government is now talking TOUGH. He may get a primary challenge from former legislator Robert Brawley, a feisty – um — brawler with a much smaller bank account who offers up a lot of Trump -style rhetoric but with a southern accent. If Brawley files, he will immediately start off with a huge financial disadvantage. (He has no bureaucracy to use as leverage in shaking down contributors.) But, if he plays his cards right, Brawley could benefit from March coattails provided by Trump and another T-guy named TED(Cruz).
- Tholls. Thom Thillis should be quite thankful that he is NOT on the ballot for 2016. Thillis was THE driver behind the plan to put tholl lanes on I-77 in northern Mecklenburg County. (Gov. Pat loudly and proudly sang backup vocals for Thillis on this.) But the recently completed municipal elections in Mecklenburg were a disaster for pro-tholl establishment pols. The anti-tholl forces say they are even more fired up for March and November. This could spell doom for state Reps. Charles Jeter (House Republican conference chairman) and Bill Brawley (House Finance Committee co-chairman). Both of these guys have been right there for McCrory and Thillis on the tholl scheme and other RINO shenanigans — which may catch up with them in March or November.
- Transplanting. No, I am not talking about the Yankees in Wake, Orange, New Hanover, Brunswick, and Buncombe counties. There is nationwide outrage over the failure to control our southern border. (There is a small North Carolina town near me where the downtown looks like it could be Tijuana — not an English sign in sight.) Yet, we have legislators trying to give these people, already flouting our laws, the same driver licenses the rest of us law-abiding folks get. Our (Democrat) attorney general is AWOL on the issue of amnesty. So are several of our state’s Republican members of Congress. Now, we’re facing the arrival of “Syrian refugees.” The left is making it an issue of “compassion” and slapping opponents of the effort “bigots.” Opponents of the refugee flow into our state are rightly concerned about having the stuff we’ve seen on the news in Baghdad and Paris start happening in Raleigh or Charlotte. The strength of Trump nationally and in-state should send a strong message about this issue. But there don’t appear to be a lot of North Carolina pols who seem to be hearing it.
- Tenue. I am getting all French on you — this is about behavior and appearances. Just like The Talking Heads, Raleigh Republicans appear to be trying to burn down the house around them. They took over in 2010 promising sweeping positive changes in the way business is done in our capital city. Six years later, despite the party change, we’ve still got a serious integrity deficit in our state government.
From Fletcher Hartsell to Tim Moore to Kelly Hastings David Lewis to John Torbett to Gov. Pat’s prison contracts to Dallas Woodhouse and Carolina Rising to Thom Tillis’s UNC appointments and even Jason Saine and his $19,000 worth of clothes — leaders of the GOP majority in raleigh have seemed more than happy to keep ignoring the rules and selling themselves to the highest bidder just like their predecessors on the other side of the aisle. At what point are voters going to harken back to those 2010 pledges of positive reform and good government, and dole out some punishment to these charlatans?
One interesting thing to watch is the high number of retirements from long-time / senior residents of Jones Street. If these people get replaced by conservative-minded new arrivals to Raleigh, the balance of power could be dramatically changed in Raleigh.
I am told that Tim Moore’s grasp on power in the House is tenuous at best. Roughly half of the GOP caucus would seriously consider a credible alternative to Moore. Right now, around the House side, majority leader Mike Hager is smelling like roses. Some see him as a potential rival to Moore in the next speaker vote. As a result, Moore allies have started a serious under-the-radar campaign against Moore and have started recruiting pro-Moore candidates for many of these open seats. Some of the folks in the caucus who have asked too many questions — like John Blust and Larry Pittman — are getting hit with primary opponents likely served up by Team Moore.
Will the voters FINALLY lower the boom on some of these shenanigans — making some much-needed changes at primary time? Switching from Republican control to Democrat control won’t fix the problem. We need to find more people to serve up there who (1) have actually spent quality time outside Wake County, and (2) put the plight of the state and the future of their neighbors ahead of personal gain and profit.
Time will tell. Let the “games” begin.