Shawn Flynn

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Decision 2012: Up Close with Pat McCrory

In this News 14 Carolina Decision 2012 special, managing editor Shawn Flynn profiles former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, his life and career as he runs for governor of North Carolina.

Watch the full interview with Pat McCrory

News 14 Carolina’s Shawn Flynn sits down with Pat McCrory to talk politics, the biggest influences on his life and career and why he thinks he should be the next governor of North Carolina.

Sen. Marco Rubio rallies in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spent Wednesday in Charlotte rallying for a number of different North Carolina candidates and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The freshman Senator started the day at the Charlotte City Club at a fundraiser for 9th Congressional district candidate Robert Pittenger. Sen. Rubio addressed numerous questions, including what appears to be fading poll numbers for Romney.

"I think as we near election day, especially as we take on the debates next week I think we’re going to see some clear differences that are going to start to move people into our column. I feel very positive about that. I feel positive about North Carolina,” said Rubio.

Later in the afternoon, the crowd roared as Sen. Rubio took the stage at SteelFab, Inc. in West Charlotte. Using the backdrop of a factory, Sen. Rubio talked about the decline of manufacturing in North Carolina and how the state needs a pro-business President.
 
"Our workers are still the best workers in the world, but it’s hard to do business here particularly in manufacturing because it’s costs so much more to do it here. If government’s the one driving up the cost, it’s sad. It shouldn’t be happening,” said Sen. Rubio.

Sen. Rubio became a face for the national Republican party after being the keynote speaker at its convention last month in Tampa, Fla.

Presidential candidates target Hispanic voters

CHARLOTTE — Focus in the 2012 Presidential campaign is shifting to the Hispanic community.

While both parties are courting Latinos as voters, Republicans are reportedly considering a number of Hispanics as potential Vice-Presidential candidates.

Some political experts said this could be the push Republicans need to win the election in North Carolina and across the country.

"This Obama economy has been especially hard particularly on Hispanic businesses and Hispanic Americans," said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Both sides recognize the importance of this electorate.

"The Hispanic vote is going to be a big part of the key to sending President Obama back to the White House," said Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

A Latino name on the Republican ticket might help win over some of those voters. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval are all being mentioned as possible VP candidates.

"Symbolically, it would be important, because it would show the Republican party is at least interested in trying to include Latinos," said UNC Charlotte Political Science Professor Greg Weeks.

Weeks has written several books on Latin American politics, including the influence in the South.  He said Hispanics could play a role in Presidential politics in North Carolina.

"Since the state could go one way or the other, you have to pay attention to that constituency," said Weeks.

History shows Hispanics traditionally vote Democratic in Presidential elections. 67 percent of Hispanic voters in 2008 supported President Obama.

In swing states, like North Carolina and Virginia, the Hispanic population has doubled in the past decade. Weeks, however, said influence remains limited.

"In North Carolina, you have a growing Latino population, but the percentage of Latinos that are registered to vote is very low," said Weeks.

Both parties know the Latino vote could swing the state.

"What we’ve got to focus on are the key battleground states where the Hispanic vote can make or break the difference there," said Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist.

"We’re actively engaged in getting the Hispanic community out to vote," said Wassermann Schultz.

Romney is expected to pick his running mate by mid-August.

NASCAR drivers irked by proposed sports sponsorship ban for military

CHARLOTTE – A budget battle is brewing over military branding and NASCAR.

A 2013 Defense Authorization Bill in Congress includes a provision to ban Pentagon sponsorship of NASCAR drivers. That could impact one of the sport’s most popular drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“$80 million to promote your brand when you’re a government agency is quite a bit high,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, who co-sponsored the bill. “There’s got to be a better, more effective way to spend your money.”

The National Guard spends upwards of $25 million a year to sponsor Earnhardt’s No. 88 car. Ryan Newman is sponsored by the U.S. Army.

“The U.S Army and the National Guard have seen that value,” said driver/owner Tony Stewart.

Kingston doesn’t agree, saying National Guard numbers show the sponsorship does very little to drive recruitment numbers.

“Based on the results they’ve shown us, it’s not as effective as it could be,” he said.

The full House of Representatives still needs to vote on the bill. The Senate could also propose its own bill, which includes the funding.

South Carolinians coming north to fight for Romney

CHARLOTTE — The political battleground of North Carolina is getting more crowded.

We know tens of thousands of Democrats are coming to Charlotte for the National Convention in September — that’s on top of the President’s ground team. Now, the South Carolina Republican party is sending more than 1,000 volunteers to turn the state back to red.

"There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm to defeat Barack Obama," said South Carolina RNC member Glenn McCall. "North Carolina being a swing state, we want to make sure it goes into the Romney column."

The South Carolina Republican Party signed an agreement with the North Carolina GOP to assist in the election efforts. That includes setting up a phone bank in Rock Hill and sending an army of volunteers.

"We will send 1,000-plus into North Carolina, into wherever they are needed, whether Charlotte or Raleigh, helping to knock on doors or whatever task they have for our volunteers to do," said McCall.

The Obama campaign already has more than a dozen offices open across the state.

"We’re confident in the work we’re doing to keep North Carolina blue this November," said Adam Hodge with the Democratic National Committee. "Democrats are building an unprecedented ground game to turn out voters in support of President Obama as he continues to move America forward."

The Republicans want to send a message to North Carolina Democrats.

"Watch out there. We’re coming from the South and we’re going to bring it to them. It’s going to be a good fight," said McCall.

The spotlight’s already shining on Charlotte

Three months after Charlotte was announced as host city of the 2012 Democratic National Committee, the spotlight is already shining bright.

Take a look at this story that aired on CNN.

It talks about how Charlotte is growing and how the convention is only going to help. Honestly, the Chamber of Commerce and city leaders couldn’t have put together a better piece to showcase the city. The story talks about all of the benefits of the convention, but doesn’t go into any issues.

I’m sure as the convention gets closer, we’re going to see many more of these profile pieces on the big networks, both domestic and foreign.

Time to shine up the crown, Charlotte.

Convention Countdown

The selection of Charlotte as host city of the 2012 Democratic National Convention is already having an effect on our law enforcement agencies. The FBI just named M. Chris Briese as the Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division (all of North Carolina- see related story). Briese’s background is in counterterrorism and he led a group that deals with basically security at big time events, like inaugurations and conventions.

Briese said there would be hundreds of additional FBI agents in Charlotte for the convention. There will be thousands of other officers as well. Briese would not comment about the recent death of September 11th mastermind Osama Bin Laden, but said his office now watches ALL international events closely to look how it relates to Charlotte.

With a sitting present (most likely), coming to Charlotte to accept the Democratic presidential nomination, Charlotte becomes a potential target for terrorists. It’s Briese’s job (and others) to make sure nothing bad happens. While we will hear more in the coming months about security, it’s what we don’t hear that will most likely be what keeps those at the convention safe.

Convention Countdown

CHARLOTTE — Interesting change in the top over at the Charlotte in 2012 host committee. Two months after helping Charlotte secure the bid to host the convention, Will Miller is out as Executive Director. Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx gives some quotes on the decision in the news release (below).

Replacing Miller is former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Dan Murrey. While Murrey is a very experienced leader here in Charlotte, he’s a newcomer to national politics. Of course, Miller, led the effort in Denver four years ago. Mayor Foxx shared compliments on both Murrey and Miller, but didn’t go into specifics on the leadership change.

As far as the study former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt released, not too many surprises. Raise money, be organized, communicate and get minorities and women involved. They also offered NO insight into how much money the committee has raised so far. They need to raise $37 million by next year.

The other tidbit is 5,200 people so far have volunteered to help out at the convention. That’s a lot with so much time left on the countdown clock.

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Mayor Foxx and Former Mayor Gantt Also Announce Leadership Structure
CHARLOTTE, April 28, 2011 — Mayor Anthony Foxx today named community and business leader Dan Murrey as executive director of the Charlotte In 2012 Host Committee as the city prepares for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

“We have done our homework and we’re now ready to get going. We are building a leadership team that will assure Charlotte, our region and the entire state of North Carolina make the most of this unprecedented opportunity,” said Mayor Foxx.

Mayor Foxx and former Mayor Harvey Gantt, who earlier was tapped to study the best practices of previous conventions, also announced the staffing and volunteer structure of the host effort. Other key leaders and members of the steering committee are expected to be named soon.

Dr. Murrey recently served a term as an at-large member of the Mecklenburg County Commission. For the last 13 years, he has been a leader and prominent surgeon at OrthoCarolina, one of the country’s most respected orthopedic practices with 900 Charlotte area employees, most recently serving as Chief Executive Officer. He is a graduate of Davidson College and Harvard University, where he received both a medical degree and a master’s in public policy from the JFK School of Government. He recently received the highest honor bestowed upon Mecklenburg citizens, the Order of the Hornet Award.

“Dan brings just the right mix of skills,” Mayor Foxx said. “As a CEO, he understands how to build an organization, develop teamwork among talented people and drive results – all essential qualities for our Host Committee effort. As a committed citizen, he also understands the unique opportunity the convention offers to put our community on an international stage. Additionally, he and I share a strong desire to make our city’s host effort as inclusive as possible. He will begin work on Monday, and other leadership announcements will follow this one in the coming days.”

The mayor praised Will Miller, the acting executive director of the Charlotte In 2012 Host Committee who led the city’s successful bid for the convention. “I do not think it is well-understood how much effort it took to land this convention, and without Will’s tireless work, we simply could not have won the convention. He will continue to play an active role in the host effort, and his institutional knowledge will be incredibly valuable,” Mayor Foxx said.

“I’m humbled and excited about the opportunity to show the rest of the world why we love living and working in this city, state and region,” said Dr. Murrey. “My job is twofold: to work closely with the Democratic National Committee and our local partners to host a successful convention and to create an inclusive and interactive environment so all residents of our region have an opportunity to play host to visitors from around the world.”

The Host Committee recommended by former Mayor Gantt will include a broad cross-section of leaders from the Charlotte area and throughout the region and state. “The Committee’s leadership will work hand in hand with the staff team, led by Dan Murrey, to both meet the needs of the convention and create lasting benefits for our residents and businesses,” Mr. Gantt said.

Jim Black interview follow up

I wanted to give everyone an update following Friday’s interview with former NC House Speaker Jim Black.

The interview itself was quite interesting. It ended up being very last minute, and that’s the reason there was only one camera. While you could not hear my portion, we did ask Black some tough questions about what he did wrong, including accepting money inside a Charlotte restaurant bathroom (which he denied).

We did get some comments back, including from one viewer who wrote, "The man hasn’t been out of prison 2 weeks and you give him his own air time to explain away his crimes and try to garner sympathy. The man is a crook and he got off pretty light…"

We were also criticized for giving him the platform.

Here’s my response.

As far as the story, this was the first chance Black had to tell his side of the story since being released from confinement. He actually didn’t speak prior to going into prison as well. Since he was at one point, one of the most powerful lawmakers in the state, people wanted to hear from him about what happened. Unfortunately, because of the way Black organized this interview (very last minute), we were only able to do a one camera shoot. Therefore, you did not hear the questions we asked. We often put him on the spot asking him direct questions about what he did wrong, including passing money along in bathrooms.

Here’s where it gets most frustrating, personally. I contacted the agents in charge of his case who are limited on what they can say. They officially gave me a "no comment" about the Black interview. I did, however, take the FBI Citizens’ Academy course where they explained they typically can not talk about cases until after the evidence is presented in court. By taking a plea, Black prevented that evidence from ever appearing in court, thus the investigators most likely can’t talk about it.

I am still attempting to get a retired investigator to dispute many of the things Black said during his interview, but it’s proving difficult because the "other side" is limited in what they can say.

I agree with you about wanting another side of the story. We strive to make every story as balanced as possible. That being said, however, not covering it and allowing Black to share his story because the other side wouldn’t, is unfair as well. It’s a difficult balance.

We love to get feedback on all of our stories, but especially the big ones like this. Please feel free to email< or call me any time at (704) 973-5814.