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N.C. headed toward toxic 2024
Democrats plan to channel "fear" and "rage," while Republicans censure their own senior senator
I’ve been writing this newsletter since 2018, and a whole lot has changed since then — in my life and with this project. But a few things have stayed constant: My love for North Carolina, my commitment to being reasonable and fact-based, and my belief that politics can be a force for good in our state.
Those things will remain the same, but changes are coming to Longleaf Politics.
You’ll see a few of them in this edition. The idea is to make the weekly newsletter shorter, snappier and more useful. When you’re done reading it, you should be up to speed on what’s important in the world of North Carolina politics, plus have a few new things to share and talk about.
Our in-depth analyses and commentary pieces will begin to be published on their own throughout the week. The aim is to be more relevant in the day-to-day political conversation and to help our readers understand what’s happening in real time.
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I’m still working on what exactly a paid subscription will offer, but at a minimum, it will include emailed updates throughout the week and access to some subscriber-only articles. If enough people subscribe, I’d love to invest in more original reporting and shift from a weekly to a daily newsletter.
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Let’s dive in.
North Carolina is no stranger to nasty campaign seasons, and we’re about to enter into another one. Fault lies on both sides of the aisle: Feeling their power slip away, Democrats are planning to stoke fear and anger all the way until Election Day. But Republicans are discontent, as well — voting overwhelmingly to censure the state’s senior senator and comparing the party’s leadership vote to Maricopa County.
More than three-quarters of N.C. voters believe our country is on the wrong track, and that dissatisfaction is certain to bleed into our political discourse over the next year. It’s going to take a special type of leader to lower the temperature in North Carolina politics, but there are no signs yet of one emerging.
More on all of those issues below.
In other significant news, center-right publication The Dispatch weighed in on the North Carolina 2024 governor’s race last week, publishing details from a voicemail Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson left for a major political donor. It appears that the Republican frontrunner is working to counter the undercurrent of doubt that he won’t be electable next November. You can read more about it here:
Catch up quick
Michael Whatley re-elected NCGOP chairman
It’s hard to argue with Whatley’s results. Since taking the reins of the state party in 2019, he’s delivered the state’s electoral votes to the GOP twice, won two hotly contested U.S. Senate seats, and helped Republicans take back a supermajority in the General Assembly.
NCGOP votes to censure U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis
Conventiongoers voted overwhelmingly to chastise the state’s senior senator for “blatant violations of our party platform.” You can see the actual resolution here.
Ron DeSantis vows to restore Fort Bragg name
The Florida governor said during his state GOP convention speech that as president, he would change the name of the Fayetteville military base back to Fort Bragg (it was changed to Fort Liberty this month).
This feels like a rare miss for DeSantis. The tens of thousands of soldiers who’ve served at Bragg are worth honoring, but a disgraced Confederate general is not. The name change is long overdue — and the right thing to do. Even if “Fort Liberty” is a pretty weak name.
Democrat leaders plan to channel “fear” and “rage”
Brace yourselves: North Carolina is quickly headed toward the most toxic election cycle in recent memory. Two top Democratic party leaders — powerful consultant Morgan Jackson and new state party chairwoman Anderson Clayton — tell WRAL that they’ll be channeling anger and rage in an effort to boost fundraising and voter turnout next November.
“Folks realize that we are actually in danger,” Clayton said. I’m already feeling exhausted by the constant fear campaign. It’s an open question whether voters writ large will tire of it, as well.
Gambling bill goes to the governor
North Carolina’s sports wagering bill, House Bill 347, took its final votes in the General Assembly last week and now sits on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk — where he is expected to sign it into law.
Interestingly, the bill did not have enough Republican votes, so party leaders needed Democrat support to pass it. Thirty-nine Republicans voted in favor of the bill, with 28 opposed. Read more about what’s in the bill here:
Blue Cross bill signed into law
Gov. Roy Cooper has signed into law a bill that will allow the state’s largest health insurance company to reorganize and use its profits to expand into more lines of business. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey and State Treasurer Dale Folwell opposed the bill. Read more about the new law here:
Dan Bishop leaning toward AG run
The Do Politics Better podcast reports that U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop was spotted at a recent Republican Attorney Generals Association meeting and appears to be leaning toward a run. Bishop was one of the few Republican congressmen to vote against the debt ceiling compromise and perhaps is on the outs with House leadership.
Worth your time
This is a new section highlighting articles from other media outlets that are worth the read (or watch, or listen, as the case may be).
WFAE’s Steve Harrison explains how the recent U.S. Supreme Court on Alabama’s congressional districts will affect how North Carolina’s General Assembly will draw its lines. The upshot is that majority-minority districts — like that held by freshman U.S. Rep. Don Davis — could be pretty secure as the General Assembly redraws the lines again this summer and fall.
Tim Boyum’s Tying it Together podcast just released a three-part series called “The Endorser” breaking down how the surprise endorsement of Ted Budd by former President Donald Trump came about. The series includes interviews with Pat McCrory, Mark Walker and Budd advisor Jonathan Felts — and it’s fascinating to hear how they processed that whirlwind day.
The Assembly has a well-done profile on Sen. Paul Newton, who’s rapidly risen up the ranks of Republican leadership in North Carolina.
1 good idea from another state
Wisconsin looks to improve occupational licensing
It’s always maddening to take a look at the sheer number of jobs that require a license from the state to perform — and how many hoops you have to jump through to get one. Wisconsin’s state legislature is currently considering a series of bills to make it easier, including doubling the length of time an occupational license is valid, from two years to four years. People moving to Wisconsin will also be able to start work right away if they have a valid license from another state, for some roles.
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