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NC Politics’ Manic Monday
Tues., Dec. 7: The Court of Appeals stops, then starts candidate filing + Madison Cawthorn plots Republican domination + Jose Lopez isn’t done with Durham + goodbye, Steve + Biden’s NC “rebound”
» A Wild Start to NC Elections
On Friday, a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court denied injunctions in the final two lawsuits challenging the General Assembly’s congressional and legislative districts, which greenlighted candidates to begin filing for office, as planned, at noon on Monday.
Once candidates begin filing, courts are generally reticent to intervene. So even if the lawsuits eventually proved successful, remedies would probably have to wait until after the 2022 elections.
BUT! At the very last moment, an unnamed panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals issued an order—signed only by the clerk—granting the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary injunction.
The motion for temporary stay filed by Plaintiffs on 6 December 2021 is allowed in part to enjoin Defendants from opening of the candidate-filing period for the 2022 primary elections for Congress, the North Carolina Senate, and the North Carolina House of Representatives pending this Court's ruling on Plaintiffs' 'Petition for Writ of Supersedeas or Prohibition.'
The court gave the General Assembly until Thursday to respond and said it would rule on the injunction after that.
THEN! At 5:30, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that he and Attorney General Josh Stein had asked the state Supreme Court to jump ahead of the Court of Appeals and decide the cases itself.
In a democracy, the people should choose their representatives, not the other way around. To preserve the people’s sovereignty, our state constitution mandates that all elections be free; that the freedoms of speech and association be secure; and that all people enjoy equal protection under the law. Partisan gerrymandering violates each of these rights and, as a result, fatally undermines popular sovereignty itself. …
Amici [Cooper and Stein] seek to address whether this Court, in its discretion, should grant review before determination by the Court of Appeals. Amici submit that these cases involve legal and practical issues of the highest order, and that delay in this Court’s adjudication would cause substantial harm to the functioning of our State’s democracy.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Democrats have a 4–3 majority on the Supreme Court, but Republicans have a 10–5 advantage on the Court of Appeals.
AND THEN! On Monday evening, the full Court of Appeals reversed itself.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, upon a vote of the majority of judges of the Court, that the Court will rehear the above-captioned cause en banc. The panel's order dated 6 December 2021 issuing a temporary stay is vacated and the Plaintiffs' motion for temporary stay is denied. The en banc Court shall promptly rule on the pending Petition for Writ of Supersedeas or Prohibition.
Again, the order was unsigned, so we don’t know who voted for what.
Before all of this went down, U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker were at Mar-a-Lago, working out a deal to clear the U.S. Senate field for Ted Budd to take on Pat McCrory while settling MAGA endorsements for the congressional districts.
From Politico reporter Natalie Allison:
In case you were wondering, those R+ spreads in 10 races (plus an “even” in District 2) are why the gerrymandering lawsuits exist.
The new 7th District congressional seat that Walker would run for resembles the district Walker represented from 2015 through 2020. Budd currently represents much of that area in Congress.
Both Budd and Walker are campaigning as Trump loyalists, in contrast with McCrory, a Republican with more appeal to moderates.
As part of the deal brokered during the Saturday meeting — which was also attended by Republican congressional candidate Bo Hines, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Club for Growth President David McIntosh — Hines will receive Trump’s endorsement to run in the 4th Congressional District, [Jack Minor, Walker’s former chief of staff] confirmed.
Until recently, Hines has campaigned as a candidate in the 7th District. Trump’s maneuvering moves him out of that race and into the 4th District contest, thus clearing room for Walker to run in the 7th.
A few thoughts:
McCrory’s team says he’s up by 15. The Budd-backing Club for Growth says McCrory is only up three. My gut says the Club for Growth’s polling is closer, but that’s just intuition.
Walker will wade into a crowded primary field in the 7th, although a Trump endorsement should help considerably, as will his name recognition.
It will be interesting to see how the other Republicans in the 14th take to Trump’s endorsement of Michelle Woodhouse.
According to a poll commissioned by the liberal organization Carolina Forward, pretty much no one thinks the General Assembly’s maps are fair.
Well, yeah. The maps weren’t designed to be “fair.” They were designed to help Republicans win more seats. The question is whether that’s illegal under the state constitution.
As a side note, here’s how Carolina Forward press released its poll:
Following several legislative victories and an improving economic situation, President Biden’s approval rating has showed a rebound in new polling with North Carolina voters.
Here’s what the poll actually said:
41 percent of North Carolina voters approved of President Biden’s job performance, versus 50 percent who did not. … That compares with 40 percent approval/52 percent disapproval in a late September poll.
My poli sci master’s program had a stats professor named Hutch Pollock who looked like the Monopoly Man—we talked about buying him a monocle but never did—and was gracious enough to be my thesis adviser. I have this image in my head of Hutch shouting, “MARGIN OF ERROR, GAWDDAMMIT!”
Point is, that’s not a rebound by any stretch of the imagination. C’mon.
Filing for legislative and congressional races missed a day, but filing for local contests did not.
Four people—including incumbents Matt Calabria, Maria Cervania, and Vickie Adamson—filed for the Board of Commissioners.
Four people filed for sheriff, including former sheriff Donnie Harrison, whom Gerald Baker defeated in 2018. “It’s time we put law enforcement back in Wake County,” Harrison, a Republican, said at a news conference.
Four people filed in Cary’s town council races, and incumbent Blair Williams filed for reelection as clerk of the Superior Court.
Durham County didn’t produce a neat list of everyone who filed—or, if it did, I didn’t find it—but the Board of Elections tweeted pics of candidates as they came through:
Frederick Xavier Ravin III filed for reelection to the DPS School Board, Consolidated District B.
Bettina Umstead filed for reelection to the DPS School Board, District 2.
Incumbent Archie Smith and challenger LiBria Stephens filed for clerk of Superior Court.
Now. let’s get to the exciting part:
Jose Lopez is running for Durham County sheriff!
Yes, that Jose Lopez!
If you’re new, Lopez was Durham’s chief of police until 2015, when then-city manager Thomas Bonfield canned him—OK, “forced him to retire”—because the DPD was a hot mess of racial profiling, suspicious deaths, community distrust, and low morale. Even Lopez’s friends called him “tone-deaf.”
Lopez told the N&O he wants to be sheriff because: “I am unhappy about the degree of violence—the fact that nothing is quieting down.”
The Sheriff’s Office runs the jail, patrols unincorporated Durham County—there’s not much—handles gun permits, provides courthouse security, and serves warrants. Deputies are much more likely to deal with stray animals and road debris than violent crime.
Lopez is running as an independent, so he’ll avoid the Democratic primary.
It’s early, but as far as I can tell, Democratic Sheriff Clarence Birkhead is a decent bet for reelection—and probably safer than Baker is in Wake County. That’s a race worth watching.
Finally, new Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal, Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton, and council members DeDreana Freeman and Leonardo Williams were sworn in last night, which meant that after 40 years, Steve Schewel has exited the city’s political stage (though I suspect he won’t go far).
I’ve been thinking about how to mark his departure, but nothing I’ve sketched out seems adequate. I keep coming back to three things:
Through the INDY, on the school board and the city council, and as mayor, few people are more responsible for making Durham what it is today than Steve Schewel.
The first time I, a newcomer, was introduced to Schewel in 2015, I was told, “He knows everybody in Durham. He was in the room when most of them were born.” I soon learned that joke wasn’t too far off. Schewel and I walked through downtown to get lunch, and I swear to god, the man couldn’t go three paces without someone stopping him to say hello. And he remembered every name—knew their kids’ names, where they went to school, every detail.
I’ve known a lot of politicians (and newspaper publishers) in my life—and in the dark corners of my soul, I don’t always have nice things to say about them. (Imagine that.) But that’s not the case with Steve Schewel. In my experience, at least, he’s never been anything but genuine, decent, and kind. In other words, he’s a mensch, and I’ve been lucky to know him.
Which reminds me, Steve: Now that you’re no longer mayor, I think you owe me a lunch.