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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

DNC 2012: Did Charlotte's Chances Drop After GOP Sweep?

Last Tuesday’s Results And DNC 2012

Figure in 30 days or so we’ll know if the Democrats are coming to Uptown in 2012. And on balance I think the Midterm election has helped Charlotte’s chances.

Cleveland is right out if it was ever in it. After both a lack-luster Obama rally in Cleveland the other day and John Kasich taking the governor’s race, forget it. The DNC is scared of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, don’t think there will be much if any interest in trying to boost Obama to a second-term in Pawlenty’s backyard.


There is already a meme in the wild that Tuesday was the result of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine bending the DNC machine too closely to the “blue dogs” — ie, the South — instead of riding even further to the Left with organized labor. To the extent the Dems pursue this line of thinking that clearly sets up a Charlotte vs. St. Louis line of battle. If Kaine loses his job and is otherwise scape-goated for the midterm, that elevates labor-heavy St. Louis, which I’ve long thought is the only real competition for CLT.

Charlotte’s convention boosters have already had to try to prove that the city is organized labor-friendly enough to host the party of organized labor. Expect more surprises and twists there in the weeks ahead even if this get-Kaine movement dies out. (And frankly who knows what will go on while the White House is in India. Seriously.)

But the big picture remains that North Carolina has a female Dem governor, a female Dem senator, and only lost one incumbent congressman on Tuesday. Charlotte still has two Democratic congressmen — Larry Kissell’s win being something of a bright spot — a young, black Democratic mayor and a raft of long-serving and powerful state legislators. This reality along with Duke Energy and Bank of America, argues very well for Charlotte.

What is really interesting, however, is the chance that the GOP tide has made potential corporate donors to Charlotte’s DNC push a little gun shy. We’ve been told all along that $40m. in private money would be needed to put on Obamafest 2012 in Uptown.

After Tuesday, is there still a rush to write that check?

Republicans' New Clout Shakes Up N.C. Legislature

An election that turned the N.C. General Assembly upside down will flip the fortunes of Mecklenburg County lawmakers, dropping some from key positions and maybe lifting one to the top spot in the House.

Lawmakers on both sides Wednesday were still trying to figure out their roles on a playing field that changed dramatically. Constituents also were scrambling to find their places.

In a GOP wave that swept the country, Republicans took over the state Senate for the first time in 112 years, winning 31 of 50 seats. They'll retake control of the House after claiming at least 68 of 120 seats.

"Everybody in North Carolina is going to be trying to figure out how to relate to the new leadership," said Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan.

The results will change everything from the leaders who assign committees to the lawmakers who lead them and, in some cases, the staff that counsels them.

GOP Sen. Phil Berger of Rockingham County is poised to become the leader of the Senate. Rep. Thom Tillis of Cornelius, who chaired the party's election effort in the House, is on the short list of candidates for House speaker.

Veteran Sen. Bob Rucho of Matthews, one of the leaders of the GOP Senate campaign effort, is expected to get a top committee assignment.

On the flip side, lawmakers such as Charlotte Democrat Dan Clodfelter, who co-chairs the influential Senate Finance Committee, and deputy Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Dannelly almost surely will lose their leadership roles as well as their clout.

But what it means for Mecklenburg is less clear.

"I actually think it bodes pretty well for us," Tillis said Wednesday. "We shouldn't automatically assume Republicans will do what Democrats have done, and that is not have people in the minority party in prominent roles. We're not going to turn a blind eye to people who've established a pretty solid resume."

Tillis as House speaker?

Tillis, the minority whip, could end up competing with Minority Leader Paul Stam of Raleigh for the speakership. He says he expects the GOP caucus to decide its new leaders by Thanksgiving.

No one approached the election with quite the single-minded focus of Tillis.

It was in April 2009 that the Cornelius businessman quit his job as an IBM management consultant to devote himself full time to the effort. He put 45,000 miles and wore out a set of tires on his blue Toyota pickup traveling the state recruiting candidates and helping them hone issues and raise money.

The man who named his three dogs Reagan, Abe and Ike was on a mission: to elect Republicans.

Raleigh businessman Art Pope, a former legislator whose affiliated groups spent at least $2.1 million to elect Republicans, declined to say whom he favors for speaker. "The Republican House caucus has an excellent group of leaders, and they have a lot to choose from," he said.

But Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican also expected to rise in the new order, said Tillis has a good shot to replace Democratic Speaker Joe Hackney of Chapel Hill.

"I think right now it leans a little towards Thom," she said "That's what I'm hearing other people say."

Tillis and others say they don't believe Republicans would be wary about another speaker from Mecklenburg. He would be the first since Jim Black left in 2007, the year he was sentenced to federal prison on corruption charges. Black was just released to a halfway house.

"I don't think Thom Tillis deserves any blame for the corrupt criminal Jim Black," Pope said.

Mecklenburg influence

Mecklenburg's 15-member legislative delegation includes six Republicans. Returning are Rucho in the Senate and Tillis, Samuelson and Ric Killian in the House. The newcomers: Bill Brawley in the House and Tommy Tucker of Union County in the Senate, in a district that includes part of Mecklenburg.

While House Democrats such as Reps. Beverly Earle, Martha Alexander and Becky Carney have been around for years, the three returning GOP lawmakers were all elected in 2006. Even so, they could all move up in a Republican-controlled House.

"There is a good potential that Mecklenburg County will have a little more influence over what happens in Raleigh," said Samuelson.

Carney said the change could "bode well for Mecklenburg."

"It depends on the issues," she said. "It might have shifted everything upside down but, for Mecklenburg County, potentially you're still going to have those leadership positions. So hopefully it will not have any damaging effect."

Morgan, of the Chamber, said who's in charge may be less important than the challenges they'll face. Among other things, the state is staring at a budget shortfall of more than $3 billion.

"Regardless of which party won last night, that is the biggest issue that looms over any of us who care about the legislature or are dependent on the legislature," he said. "We're all going to be playing defense."

Legislative Changes On The Way In North Carolina Senate & House

N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare, has been one of the most powerful individuals in state government since the early 1990s, but his long reign as the Senate's top leader appears to be at an end.

Republican candidates for the N.C. Senate appeared to be taking over that chamber for the first time since 1898 and the party's candidates for the House appeared to be winning the House of Representatives for the first time since 1997 as well.

With an Anti-Incumbent mood running among voters in legislative elections, Democrats in North Carolina who dominated the General Assembly in the 20th and so far the 21st centuries will surely find Raleigh a far different place when the General Assembly reconvenes in 2011.

Democrat Bev Perdue will still be Governor for at least another two years, of course, but many things are likely to change

Republicans who have been thwarted in their legislative efforts will find a different atmosphere. The electoral change would open up new leadership opportunities for Republicans such as Sen. Bob Rucho of Charlotte and Rep. Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg.

The Senate changes include the biennial drafting of the state budget, for which Republicans have been laying plans for months to trim more than $3 billion from the state's roughly $20 billion operating budget. Some plans envision cutting up to 20 percent to make ends meet.

Perhaps just as important is the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts for the upcoming decade. Those districts must be revised every 10 years following the Census, and Republicans will have the chance to guide redistricting committees through the process for the first time in modern state history.

Also important to Republicans is Court of Appeals Judge Barbara Jackson's lead over Democratic Court of Appeals Judge Bob Hunter for the N.C. Supreme Court seat held by outgoing justice Ed Brady. Although these seats are nonpartisan, it's no secret that Jackson is a Republican, as is Brady. And her election would not only preserve a 4-3 Republican-Democrat split on the court, it will also give the N.C. court a majority of female justices. It's foolish to predict how justices will vote based on their political party, but it will comfort Republicans in redistricting lawsuits that the numbers at least appear to be on their side.

Democrats no doubt will now have second thoughts about their refusal to go along with Republican proposals in past years to create a nonpartisan commission to study demographic changes and draft new districts for the state's 13 congressional districts and 170 legislative districts. It will be another decade before districts could be redrawn, and Democrats will have time to ponder their lost opportunities - apparently from the back bench.

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Sources: Daily Kos, John Locke Foundation, McClatchy Newspapers, Meck Deck Blog, Minnesota Independent, NPR, WCNC, WRAL, Google Maps

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