The latest Elon University poll shows support for real estate mogul Donald Trump and retired surgeon Ben Carson virtually tied among North Carolina Republican voters.

The poll released this week shows Trump with 22 percent of the vote, Carson at 21 percent, and Carly Fiorina trailing at 10 percent in their bid to capture the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.

Over the past several weeks, the candidates have spoken out strongly on the issue of immigration. Trump has advocated for deportation and suggested a review of birthright citizenship. Carson said this week that while anyone is welcome in America, immigrants cannot alter who we are. For her part, Fiorina has said she would not support a pathway to citizenship.

Local Latino advocates hope to tone down the negative political stereotypes aimed at immigrants this weekend as they celebrate the 22nd annual Fiesta del Pueblo.

“The political debate on immigration has taken a negative turn in recent months,” says Angeline Echeverría, Executive Director of El Pueblo.  “La Fiesta del Pueblo counteracts this rhetoric by helping Latino and non-Latino community members to come together and learn from each other in a fun way.  It also encourages community members of all backgrounds who value diversity to connect with local organizations and promote civic engagement.”

In addition to the art and cultural exhibits, more than 50 non-profit organizations and state agencies will share information and resources with festival-goers. El Pueblo will also register voters and recruit for its on-going leadership programs.

Click below to hear Echeverría talk more about the anti-immigrant rhetoric in the presidential race. The full radio interview with NC Policy Watch can be accessed here. For more on the Elon University poll, click here.

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Commentary, News

If Gov. Pat McCrory signs House Bill 373 next week, North Carolina’s primaries would move from May to mid-March next year.

Senator Andrew Brock told his colleagues Thursday the bill would increase our state’s significance in the presidential primary, forcing candidates to address North Carolina concerns.

But Senator Jeff Jackson argued the earlier primary date also would give incumbents and unfair advantage over citizens who might have an interest in running for office  but have yet to establish their campaign.

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But another section of  HB 373 drawing considerable concern is a last-minute provision that would create “party affiliated committees.” As Chris Fitzsimon explains in his Friday column:

Unlike the personal campaign accounts of the legislative leaders, the new committees can receive unlimited contributions from special interests, lobbyists, even corporations, and can receive them during legislative sessions when lawmakers themselves can’t raise money.

Legislators are banned from received money from lobbyists at any time.

Grassroots activists on the Right are upset by the change because they think it diminishes the role of political parties by giving legislative leaders the ability to control massive amounts of money on their own that they can use to punish or reward other candidates. That’s true and disturbing enough.

But as Democracy North Carolina’s Bob Hall points out, the new committees also dramatically expand pay-to-play politics in the state.

It will now be legal for Duke Energy, the video poker industry, payday lenders, or any other well-funded special interest to make a huge contribution to a committee controlled by the most powerful legislators on the eve of a vote on legislation supported or opposed by the special interest.

Read Fitzsimon’s full column on the main Policy Watch website.  Read Democracy NC’s condemnation of the bill here.

Commentary, News

Good government and clean elections watchdog Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina issued a strong statement this morning condemning the bill passed by state lawmakers this week to move the state’s 2016 primary election to March. As Hall explains, the bill also contains “an unrelated terrible section that will greatly expand pay-to-play politics in North Carolina.” This is from the statement:

Section 3 of H-373 calls these slush funds “affiliated party committees,” but they are actually bank accounts completely controlled by one person – either the House Speaker, Senate President Pro Tem, or the House or Senate minority party leader. No money may be “expended except when authorized by the leader.”

Unlike a legislator’s campaign account, these new slush funds can accept limitless donations from lobbyists or corporations, even while the legislature is in session. Duke Energy, hog barons, gambling interests or a private contractor could pour money into a fund as a key bill is being debated. The money can be used to help elect or defeat candidates or for “daily operations” deemed relevant to the leader.

These changes take us backwards. They undercut the reforms adopted after the deal-making scandals involving House Speaker Jim Black a decade ago. They give wealthy special interests new ways to dominate NC politics. And they create new ways for legislative leaders to sell access, steer money into their pet causes, and exert control over other legislators.

Gov. Pat McCrory should veto this corrosive expansion of power for elites in the General Assembly. As a candidate, he pledged to fight pay-to-play politics and corruption. Now he has the opportunity to show leadership by vetoing this bill and calling for new legislation that only changes the primary election date.

Here are links to the bill and legislative staff’s summary:

Here are two news stories about the changes:


Things are apparently not going that well behind the scenes with the University of North Carolina system’s Board of Governors.

The 32-member board is in the midst of selecting a new president for the UNC system, and that process has some members grumbling, according to today’s piece from the News & Observer’s Jane Stancill.

From Stancill’s article:

The search for the next UNC system president has become bogged down with disagreements among UNC Board of Governors members and concerns about secrecy.

The board’s 11-member search committee met behind closed doors late Thursday to discuss its next steps. Last week, the committee interviewed about 10 candidates over a three-day period at meetings in Cary.

Board chairman John Fennebresque described the candidates’ quality as “superb,” but added that committee members hadn’t even started the hard part.

Apparently, they’ve hit the hard part.

Rumors have circulated that some candidates have dropped out, and board members not on the committee say they have been kept in the dark about progress of the search.

This week, a key member of the board, Jim Holmes, abruptly resigned his post as chairman of the board’s public affairs committee, saying that he was unfairly accused of meddling in the search by the head of the search committee.

You can read the entire piece here.

Also of note, the conservative John W. Pope Center for Higher Education also published an opinion piece of its own this week, criticizing the UNC Board of Governors for not making enough conservative-minded reforms.


After hours of anticipation yesterday as a bill lingered on a House Rules committee agenda that could allow for-profit charter school operators to takeover some of North Carolina’s worst performing schools, Rep. Rob Bryan (R-Mecklenburg) told the Charlotte Observer Thursday night that his proposal won’t be taken up by fellow lawmakers this year.

Bryan, a Mecklenburg Republican with a leadership role in education, said in August that he planned to introduce a bill that would force five of the state’s lowest-scoring schools to close or convert to independently run charter schools. But he said Thursday that prolonged work on the budget squeezed out time to deal with the bill in the House education committee.

He said the new plan is to have a House select committee study the proposal and hold public meetings early in 2016, with a vote in next year’s short session. That would still allow schools to reopen as charters in 2017-18, he said.

The plan to create an ‘achievement school district’ (ASD) has been tried in similar ways in Tennessee, Louisiana and elsewhere. It’s a controversial way to attempt to improve student success at low-performing schools because it allows charter operators to fire public school teachers and staff and implement their own curricula and governance standards that are not overseen by locally elected school boards.

And the data don’t paint a clear picture of success in other locales where ASDs have been tried.

NC Policy Watch also uncovered out of state ties to pushing the ASD legislation. A wealthy Oregon businessman who has a history of pushing school privatization initiatives around the country financed lobbying efforts for the bill.

Proponents of the bill say the status quo isn’t working for disadvantaged students, and efforts like an achievement school zone where charter operators can pull up low-performing schools should be considered.

Rep. Bryan worked on his legislation with various stakeholders behind closed doors, producing 40+ versions of the proposal before it would have made it to a public hearing this week.

But Bryan says many politicians and educators weighed in on the idea to create a charter school takeover district.

“It’s been way more vetted than most other bills we do,” he said Thursday.

For more background on ASD, check out the following stories: