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In many ways, Tim D’Annunzio would have been an easier target for Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell to take on in the fall. But now with former sportscaster Harold Johnson as the Republican nominee, state Chairman Tom Fetzer predicts the 8th  district “will be one of the top battleground seats in the country.”

Peace College political science professor David McLennan says Rep. Kissell, who is in his first term, is clearly viewed as vulnerable because of his opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care plan.

McLennan believes the freshman congressman must find a way to re-energize those who supported him two years ago if he hopes to hold onto his seat.

Dr. McLennan shares his thoughts on the Kissell/Johnson match-up and the outcome of Tuesday’s other runoff election this week on “News & Views.” For a preview of his radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon,  please click below:

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Cross-posted from the NC Conservation Network blog 

During my lunch break today, I headed over to my local precinct to do my civic duty (you know, vote). The street as I walked up was deserted, the fire station void of any life except for the fabulous poll workers (thank you!)

Out of curiosity, I asked the gentleman in charge of the ballots how many folks had voted already. (Now keep in mind the polls had been open for over 6 hours by the time I showed up.) He said, "Ma'am, you're our afternoon rush. You're the eleventh person to vote here today."

Hearing about this low turn-out, I started thinking about the voting process. Do people not know about these smaller elections (I had almost forgotten myself)? Or do they not care? What makes people vote or not vote? What are the best ways to get voters out to the polls at lower-profile elections? Would more people vote if the voting system was set-up differently?

And please, if you haven't voted, you don't get to complain about decision-makers. The next time a non-voter starts griping about a certain person in charge, I'm going to hand them this fine sticker:

shouldve_voted

Matt Clark

Keeping you Updated:

One of the projects that we’ve been working on this year is a survey to all candidates in the upcoming state elections. We hope it will serve as a barometer to gauge the candidates’ stance on ethics related issues.  The survey is open ended, and focuses on the often problematic relationship between lobbyists and legislators.  An open ended survey allows candidates to respond more precisely to the question posed, thus providing you and us a more complete picture of a candidate’s stance on issues.  Of the 370 surveys sent out, more than half have been returned, and we are continuing to receive responses.  We have gone to great lengths to ensure as many candidates as possible will respond, in an effort to provide the most comprehensive picture of state ethics support possible.  To date, each non-respondent has been contacted via telephone to check the status of our survey, once again, in hopes of coming as close to a full response rate as possible.

Some of the specifics the survey addresses include the legitimacy of lobbyists conducting fund raising ventures for candidates, support for “sunshine” legislation that would require disclosure of the name and occupation of anyone contributing more than $10,000 to a campaign, and restrictions on political parties for donating to candidates.  The survey also questions lobbyists’ involvement with PACs and asks if members of the Council of State should be allowed to solicit money for charities.  These issue areas allow us to discern how a candidate feels towards ethics issues, and will provide a reference point for drafting legislation or soliciting support for ethics issues in the future. 

Of particular interest to us are the gubernatorial candidates, and thus far we have received responses from the entire field.  Sunshine legislation and a strict adherence to ethics laws are important for any elected official, and in the case of the chief executive, this importance is magnified greatly.  Additionally, an executive who strongly favors campaign finance reform and greater transparency in the relationships between lobbyists and legislators will be a valuable ally in advancing an ethics related agenda in the future. 

The Raleigh News & Observer recently featured an article about our survey and the gubernatorial candidates’ responses.  This article and other information about the survey can be found at our website www.nclobbyreform.org.  Additionally, you can see what your elected representative said to our survey, and help in the process to keep them accountable on ethics related issues. 

Limiting the role of special interest money in politics is imperative to ensure citizens and constituencies are represented in a manner that is congruent with the spirit and letter of the laws of a democratic political system.  When external forces govern an elected official’s agenda, the representative system ceases to be an instrument of the people, and instead becomes a vehicle through which to advance personal interests of a select group.  The aim of sunshine legislation and ethics reform is to reduce the opportunity for these groups to circumvent the political process; thereby ensuring voters will remain the central focus in state politics.

dixieThe song, first recorded in 1969 by The Band, was of course about the Civil War. But for southern Democrats, the song could just as well have been describing the night of July 2, 1964. That was the night Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act. To this day, debate persists about the future of the Democratic Party in the South. Tom Schaller, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, started the most recent tiff with his book Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South.  

Call it the “anti-Southern Strategy.”  Schaller asserts that the Democrats should focus on more fertile areas (Midwest, Mountain West, Southwest) rather than “pandering to the nation’s most conservative voters.” Schaller uses analysis of southern demographics to illustrate why the South is openly hostile to Democrats.

An elegant rebuttal was Bob Moser’s cover story in the Nation (available here). In his essay, “The Way Down South,” Moser believes that the formula for democratic revival in the South is by way of economic populism (i.e. Jim Webb in Virginia). This must-read article is a gem. There are many great quotes from Moser, but one of my favorites is this:

“Many non-Southern progressives still see the region as a dank, magnolia-scented Otherworld where the cultural obsessions of race, religion, and rifles hold white voters together in an unbreakable sway.”

Moser continues, with a condemnation of the Democratic party leaders who are willing to surrender the south:


“It ain’t wise, and it ain’t right”

…and concludes, powerfully, with a quote from Chris Kromm, director of the Institute for Southern Studies in Durham:


“For progressives to give up on the very place where they could argue they are needed the most…would rightfully be viewed as a historic retreat from the party’s commitment to justice for all.”

There have been plenty of spirited interactive discussions on websites on this topic.  For instance, go to Dailykos (courtesy of Greg Flynn and  BlueNC).  Or, read Schaller’s entertaining and vigorous defense of his opinions at TAPPED.  Better yet, go to our comments and start one of your own.  See you there.

edwardsThe Edwards campaign inadvertently touched the third rail of politics last week; religion In a well publicized incident, Edwards hired two bloggers for his campaign that had written inflammatory remarks (gasp!) in their personal blogs, all this before their association with Edwards. William Donohue, president of the conservative religious group Catholic League, demanded their firing while calling them “anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots.” I’ll leave it to you whether Donohue is a credible judge of religious bigotry, but before you decide you may want to go here for his views on “Jews in Hollywood” or “Muslims.” Edwards, for his part, did the right thing and defended his bloggers, although too tepidly for my taste.

In a year when everyone is asking if a Mormon or a woman or an African-American can be elected president, there are two areas where American voters have near universal agreement: the next president won’t be an atheist or gay. A Gallup poll from September 2006 addressed that very question. Woman (yes…61%), African-American (yes…58%), Mormon (Mitt, are you listening?…29%), Atheist (definitely not…14%), Gay (are you kidding me?…7%). Now I don’t know Ellen’s religious beliefs , but something tells me we won’t be seeing a Madame President DeGeneres anytime soon. It is also notable, that in this poll at least, Republicans were more tolerant than Democrats for all demographic groups except women (an HRC effect I presume).

Putting aside for a moment the plight of gays in America (much less their electability), the prejudice against atheists I find interesting. One of my favorite statistics involves data on the elite scientists in the United States and Britain (the National Academy in the US and the Royal Academy in the UK). About 90-95% of the scientists identify themselves as non-believers. If one of the criteria we should use to elect our leaders is the ability to alleviate human suffering, than I’ll vote Salk and Sabin over Falwell and Robertson every time. Having written that sentence I guess I can forget forever my dream of working on Sen. Brownback’s presidential campaign . Sometimes life requires hard choices.

Is any of this important? Who knows. In presidential match-ups, I tend to think the perception of charisma (esp. on TV) counts for more than gender, race, creed, or policy papers. At any rate, we should try to keep religiosity out of our elections. To that end, shouldn’t the News&Observer stop listing “religious affiliation” in their voter guide?

UPDATE: One of the Edwards bloggers resigned on Monday stating that she felt her employment was putting the Edwards campaign at risk.