As the Democratic Presidential race moves to New Hampshire, the race tightens in NC

Joe Biden (L) and Michael Bloomberg (R)

New numbers by Public Policy Polling find the Democratic presidential contest in North Carolina growing ever tighter ahead of the March 3rd primary.

Joe Biden leads the pack of surveyed voters with 25% compared to 16% for Bernie Sanders, 14% for Michael Bloomberg, 12% for Elizabeth Warren and 9% for Pete Buttigieg. Thirteen percent of those polled said they were undecided.

And here’s where it gets interesting. According to PPP, Bloomberg who is spending heavily on traditional and social media is gaining ground on the field:

Bloomberg is the only one of the top four contenders who’s shown positive momentum over the last three weeks, seeing a six point growth in his support from 8% to 14%. By contrast Biden has dropped 6 points, Sanders has dropped 2 points, and Warren has dropped 3 points. The other candidates on a positive trajectory in the state are Buttigieg who’s gone up 3 points, and Klobuchar who’s gained 2 points.

Biden, who has won endorsements from Congresswoman Alma Adams and Congressman G.K. Butterfield, is enjoying strong support from African American voters:

African American voters continue to be the key to Biden’s advantage in the Tar Heel state. He’s at 39% with them to 12% for Bloomberg and 10% for Sanders. That allows him to break out of a logjam with white voters where he and Sanders are both at 18%, with Bloomberg and Warren each at 15% not far behind. There’s a huge generational divide- among seniors Biden gets 35% and Bloomberg 21% with no one else over 8%. But among young voters Sanders gets 27% with Biden and Warren and 16%, and Bloomberg actually running 5th at 9% behind Andrew Yang who gets 10% in that demographic.

As far as down-ballot contests, Cal Cunningham has nearly doubled his lead over Erica Smith in the U.S. Senate primary, from 10 points three weeks ago to now 19 points. Cunningham is at 29% to 10% for Smith, 4% for Steve Swenson, 3% for Trevor Fuller, and 2% for Atul Goel.

The winner in that race will face incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis in November.

Find full polling results here.

And for those interested in voting in the March 3rd primary, today (Friday) is the deadline for regular voter registration. But as reporter Melissa Boughton explains, this won’t be the last opportunity.

public health, race

NC has one of the worst records in the nation for the deaths of black babies. An expert panel offers some solutions at next week’s Crucial Conversation.

Image: Adobe Stock

North Carolina has one of the worst records in the nation for the deaths of babies a year or younger, according to new reporting by Lynn Bonner of Raleigh’s News & Observer. The rate of Black babies’ deaths is driving that statistic.

Statewide, Bonner reports, the gap between Black and white infant deaths was wider in 2018 than it was in 1999. Black infants born in North Carolina are now more than twice as likely to die than white infants. The state has acknowledged it won’t meet its goals for reducing that gap by this year.

Join us for breakfast next Tuesday, February 11 at 8:00 a.m. for an in-depth conversation with Bonner about her seven-month reporting project. Bonner will be joined by an expert panel to discuss the extent of the crisis and how North Carolina can do better for its Black infants, including:

Whitney Tucker, who is the Research Director at NC Child. There, she leads the organization’s research on child wellbeing and provides actionable analyses of public policies impacting NC children and families. Tucker also engages in research for academic publication, with special interests in advocacy evaluation and policy tools advancing racial and ethnic equity.

Rebecca Cerese is the Engagement Coordinator for the N.C. Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project where she uses her experience as a documentary filmmaker and producer to find and capture compelling stories that highlight the many North Carolinians struggling to access quality, affordable health care, especially those who fall in the Medicaid Coverage Gap.

Tina Sherman, Campaign Director for the Breastfeeding and Paid Leave Campaigns at MomsRising, has dedicated her professional life to supporting and empowering moms and families. Among many other things, she has served as a legislative aide in the United States Senate and worked with several child and women’s advocacy organizations.

When: Tuesday, February 11 at 8:00 a.m.
Where: North Carolina Justice Center offices – 224 S. Dawson St., in Raleigh
Space is limited – preregistration is requested.
Cost: $10 for those who pay online, $15 at the door; scholarships available. Click here to register.
Note: Online sign-up page will list the “pay at the door” option as “free,” but the actual, event-day cost is $15

Questions?? Contact Melissa Boughton at 919- 861-1454 or

Defending Democracy, News

Ahead of historic impeachment vote, Senators Tillis and Burr heap praise on President Trump

President Donald Trump did not mention his impeachment trial in Tuesday night’s State of the Union, but later today the U.S. Senate will hold a final vote on two articles of impeachment.

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have made it clear they will not vote to remove the President from office. Indeed the Republican-controlled chamber is expected to stick with Trump this election year and vote to acquit.

Last night following the State of the Union,  both Burr and Tillis took to social media to praise Trump.

Here’s how Senator Burr re-capped the speech:

Senator Tillis went a step further posting a video in which he said he was proud to support President Trump and looks forward to working with him in the next Congress.

The impeachment trial resumes today at 9:30am. A final vote on the articles of impeachment has been scheduled for 4:00pm this afternoon in the Senate.

Commentary, News

The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. In the impeachment trial, the fading credibility of Tillis, Burr and the Republican Party takes center stage (Commentary)

It was February 2011. I was a relatively young local government reporter and I will, if pressed, admit to being a bit starstruck that state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis stood right in front of me talking that year’s budget standoff with then-Gov. Bev Perdue, although that gauzy feeling did not last long.

The new Republican majority in Raleigh was going to “gut-punch her,” Tillis promised gleeful local GOPers in a private Lee County country club event, before digging into another Democrat, then-state Sen. Deborah Ross too.

At one point, a local conservative with a reputation for nauseating rhetoric urged a chagrined Tillis to “squeeze that little blonde” for the money—the little blonde being, presumably, Perdue, the first woman governor in North Carolina, an embattled Democrat reportedly referred to, nauseatingly, by leadership in her own party during her days as a state Senator as “dumpling.”

Nervous laughter followed and Tillis quizzically asked if there was a reporter in the room. Several dozen fingers pointed at me and I raised my hand for the House Speaker, who seemed mostly unfazed. [Read more…]

Bonus read: As Burr dismisses Bolton as hearsay, NC’s senior senator disappoints

2. ‘It’s not fine.’ Black mothers and babies are dying in North Carolina.

Black mothers and babies are dying at staggering rates in North Carolina and throughout the country.

The national statistics are alarming: Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. American Indian women are also more than twice as likely to die due to pregnancy-related issues than white women.

Overall, American women are more likely to die from causes related to childbirth or pregnancy than in any other developed nation, according to the CDC. Research has suggested that about half of those deaths are preventable. [Read more…]

3. Arehigh quality, well-prepared‘ teachers the key to a sound, basic education?

As North Carolina considers ways to meet its constitutional obligation to provide children with a “sound, basic education,” it musstop placing marginally qualified teachers in schools.

That’s one key conclusion reached by a work-group in Gov. Roy Cooper’s Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education, which recommends that North Carolina ensures all K-12 classrooms be led by highly qualified, well-prepared teachers.

“We need to move away from the short-term, ‘put warm bodies in schools at any costs’ approach,” Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, dean of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Education and a commission member, wrote in a memo to the panel’s chairman, Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Emeritus Brad Wilson. [Read more…]

4. Hiding from the Constitution and common sense: The so-called “gun sanctuary” movement (Commentary)

Even before one gets to the heart of the matter – namely, a) constitutional law, and b) the dangerous message of lawlessness and violence the concept conveys – it must be stated that there is something fundamentally incongruous and just plain wrong about the idea of a “gun sanctuary.”

Merriam-Webster offers multiple definitions for the word “sanctuary,” but none of them references the protection of human killing machines. Instead, it employs phrases like “a consecrated place such as the ancient Hebrew temple,” “the most sacred part of a religious building,” “the room in which general worship services are held,” “a place of refuge and protection,” and “a refuge for wildlife where predators are controlled and hunting is illegal.” [Read more….]

5. Not settled yet: New voices seek to be heard as legal battles over UNC’s ‘Silent Sam’ deal heat up

A barrage of briefs were filed Wednesday in the ongoing case against UNC’s agreement to give the Silent Sam Confederate statue to the NC Division of the Sons of Confederate veterans – along with $2.5 million.

A group of 88 prominent UNC-Chapel Hill alumni and donors moved to file an amicus brief in the case.

Among the list of prominent alumni are 14 members of the UNC Black Pioneers, a group of students who originally broke the color barrier at UNC-Chapel Hill between 1952 and 1972.

Other high-profile names among the alumni signing onto the brief were Pulitzer Prize winning historian Taylor Branch, former U.S. congressman Mel Watt, former President of the State Bar Bonnie Weyher, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court James Exum, former United States Solicitor General Walter Dellinger and retired Superior Court judges Howard Manning Jr. and Karl Adkins. [Read more…]

6. Leak in pipe at Chemours plant emitted a type of PFAS into air; amount not independently confirmed

Fifty pounds? Or less than half a pound?

Last fall, Chemours workers discovered a pinhole leak in a pipe at the Fayetteville Works facility that was emitting a type of PFAS, perfluoropropionyl fluoride, into the air. The company initially estimated about 50 pounds of the compound was released, according to its report to the US Coast Guard National Response Center. The center fields pollution and railroad incidents and forwards that information to appropriate federal and state agencies for response.

Today, in a response to an inquiry from Policy Watch, a Chemours spokeswoman said the amount has since been recalculated to be fourth-tenths of a pound.

It’s hard to gauge what is most accurate, since the amount has not been independently confirmed. For context, Chemours reported to DEQ that in the entire year of 2016 it had emitted 66.6 pounds of GenX-related compounds. That figure turned out to be a drastic underestimate. [Read more…]

7. SCOTUS conservatives give temporary go ahead to Trump’s immigrant wealth test

The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority will allow the Trump Administration to move forward with a wealth test that would deny green cards to immigrants who the government believes might make use of public benefits, such as food stamps and Section 8 housing.

The high court’s 5-4 decision is temporary (and doesn’t apply to the state of Illinois) as litigation over the “public charge” rule continues in many courts across the country. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by President Donald Trump, wrote the opinion granting the government’s request to stay a nationwide injunction out of New York, but he didn’t weigh in on the merits of the case. [Read more…]

8. Weekly commentaries and interviews:

Click here for the latest radio commentaries and podcasts featuring Rob Schofield and Senator Mike Woodard, Attorney Kym Hunter of the Southern Environmental Law Center, and Allan Freyer of the NC Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project.

9. Weekly Editorial Cartoon: