Democrats Choose Former House Member to Replace Glazier

glazier_repalceCUMBERLAND COUNTY—Fayetteville lawyer Billy Richardson is the choice of Cumberland County Democrats to finish the term of retiring state representative, Rick Glazier.

Richardson was selected during a gathering of party officials on Saturday. Glazier’s final day as the representative for District 44 was Friday. Richardson is  a former member of the General Assembly himself and he had plenty of praise for his predecessor.

“You cannot replace Rick Glazier. You can only fill the seat and do the best you can. But Rick Glazier IS irreplaceable,” said Richardson.

By law, the governor must appoint the selection of the county party. Richardson hopes to be sworn in by early next week.

NC Democrats Seek to Re-Instate Earned Income Tax Credit

EITCRALEIGH—State Democrats say they are going to continue to fight to re-instate North Carolina’s Earned Income Tax Credit.

The program was meant to help low wage earners keep more of their paycheck. The credit ended in 2013, and Republican leadership has shown no signs of considering to bring it back. But Democratic leaders say they will continue to speak out in support of it.

“Of the valuable nature of this tool for all of our communities and for our state of North Carolina, our families, and those folks who are working hard everyday to make ends meet.  Especially in an environment where we have raised our gas tax, we now come back and say, the earned income tax credit more than ever is important to the citizens of North Carolina,” said Rep. Larry Hall, a Durham County Democrat.

Nearly 1,000,000 North Carolinians claimed the earned income tax credit in its final year of availability. State House Democrats have filed a bill to have the credit restored.

– Loretta Boniti

North Carolina Democrats Pick Keever to Head Party as Chairperson

PITTSBORO, N.C.–Nearly 600 North Carolina Democrats gathered in Pittsboro Saturday to choose the new chair of the state party.

Nearly five hours into the State Executive Committee meeting, and with more than 360 votes, Patsy Keever from Asheville was elected chair.

Keever hopes in her two year term, she will help replace many red seats with blue.

“We need to have somebody run for every single slot available. We cannot give away any of our seats,” she said.

Keever, former first vice chair of the party, brings experience serving the state, and she hopes to help the Democrats on a national scale in the 2016 election cycle.

“North Carolina is going to be a battleground state in 2016… we know that, that means we need are going to help elect a Democratic president,” she said.

Executive Director Casey Mann says the new chair could have a tough two-year term.

“In terms of the North Carolina Democratic Party, the chair of the party is an unpaid position, so that makes it very difficult because the person has to be a volunteer… and they are also responsible for raising the money, producing a vision,” said Mann.

Keever said county-by-county collaboration is key for candidates to have successful campaigns.

“To coordinate a program whereby we are mentoring, we are helping each other, we are providing resources to the candidates to the counties, every county,” she said.

A few party leaders also announced their resignations Saturday. Executive Director Casey Mann and Treasurer David Bland are both stepping down.

Keever has 30 days to choose their replacements.

In addition to Keever, the body elected Zack Hawkins to fill the seat for first vice chair, Veleria Levy for second vice chair and Andy Ball for third vice chair. Secretary Melvin Williams was reelected.

– Carly Swanson

House Minority Leader Blames Tillis for Maneuvers to Stifle Democratic Voices

RALEIGH– The state House Minority Leader is hauling accusations at Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis.

Durham Representative Larry Hall told media on Tuesday he believes Democrats are being persecuted for not agreeing with the majority party.

Hall points to the fact as Minority Leader Tillis has denied him funding for a chief of staff. He says he was specifically told that it was because of an action he took to question the majority parties’ new legislative building rules.

“I was told that unless I apologized to the members of the Legislative Services Commission for objecting to the new rules that we would not be funded. Bare in mind, when a court looked at those rules, two rules in particular that I objected to, said were not constitutional and could not be enforced,” said Representative Larry Hall.

Hall says beyond the funding issues, Democratic voices are also getting stifled through legislative maneuvers to stop votes on Democratic floor proposals.

Republicans have tabled more amendments in the current two year session, than from 2001 to 2009.

The Speaker’s office did not respond to request for comment.

– Loretta Boniti

AP-GfK Poll: Most still align with Dems or GOP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Whether it’s the Republicans or the Democrats, American political parties are far from beloved. Yet most people continue to align with one or the other.

Those who claim allegiance to the parties say they are driven by a mix of inertia, preference for one side’s policies over the other and feeling that one can depart from the party line when necessary. That’s according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. Despite heated politics, few say they prefer one party out of dislike for the other.

But affiliation doesn’t always equal admiration: One-quarter of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats say they dislike their own party.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pew Survey: Political Polarization Highest in Decades

WASHINGTON — A new national survey finds that the political split among Americans has outgrown the voting booth over the last two decades.

The Pew Research Center says about one in five Americans holds across-the-board conservative or liberal views, up from one in 10 in 2004.

Pew Research says ideological purity is more widespread among the politically engaged than the general public with the ideological shifts being accompanied by increasing animosity across party lines.

The study says political ideology is affecting people’s choices of associates and where to live and get information.

NC Democratic Convention Kicks Off in Raleigh

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Democratic Party kicked off its convention in Raleigh Saturday morning.

Hundreds of delegates arrived to talk about policies and resolutions for the coming months.

“Right now, the Democratic Party is pretty fired up for upcoming elections,” attendee Matt Pepper said. “We are going to work very hard in this election cycle to try and win back some seats in the General Assembly and hopefully gain some good footing as we go into 2016.”

The Take Back Raleigh resolution had many people excited for the party’s future plans.

“I’m really definitely more interested in the Take Back Raleigh efforts because the legislature here is just all out of wack,” attendee Nervahnah Crew said. “We all need to do everything in our power to get those Republicans out of office.”

Chairman Randy Voller encouraged the crowd to work towards reaching new voters.

“I am going to ask you to engage the 65 percent which includes people that aren’t registered, people that are newly becoming registered, people who have just moved here, lived here for multiple generations and encompass basically a governing majority of this state who believe in the state that we built,” Voller said.

Sen. Kay Hagan was going to make an appearance, but missed it to attend Maya Angelou’s funeral.

– Amy Elliott

Legislative Dems want better plan to raise teacher pay

Legislative Democrats said Gov. Pat McCrory’s plan to raise teacher pay doesn’t go far enough — and they compared North Carolina to its neighbors as their argument that teacher pay has reached a level of crisis.

“This is an emergency,” said Rep. Larry Hall, House Minority Leader, said at the pre-short session press conference Tuesday.

McCrory wants to raise the base salary of new teachers to $35,000 and give all teachers an average pay raise of 2 percent.

Hall and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue said that was paltry, and said there needs to be a plan to raise teacher pay to the national average in four years.

North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay, with an average salary of $45,737.

North Carolina’s neighboring states pay their teachers more, the Democratic leaders pointed out:

  • Georgia: $52,880
  • Virginia: $48,670
  • South Carolina: $48,737
  • Tennessee: $47,563

Attorney General Roy Cooper endorsed the Democrats’ teach pay plan Tuesday.

“Education in North Carolina should be a priority not an afterthought. For too long, pay for teachers has languished and North Carolina now ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay,” Cooper said, in a statement. “Reports show far too many good teachers leaving their profession because they are unable to make it on low pay no matter how much they love their jobs and their students.”

Cooper has all but announced he is running for governor in 2016.

But there’s a big problem standing in the way — a $448-million problem. That’s the budget shortfall legislators are facing in the short session. Democrats blame cuts to the state income tax for the budget hole. Overruns in Medicaid are still not firmed up yet.

“The budget crisis was created by the governor and legislative leaders in the last session,” Sen. Blue said.

But when pressed on how they would pay for their teacher pay plan, Blue and Hall dodged, saying it would take “leadership to come together and fix the problem.”

McCrory said on Capital Tonight that he still wants the pay raises to go through this year, and get legislative approval for his teacher career steps plan.

Democratic leaders also called on a permanent solution to cleaning up coal ash ponds in the state. Rep. Hall said it didn’t matter on whose watch the coal ash became a problem — whether Republican or Democratic administrations — it’s time to address it.

– Ben McNeely

NC Sen. Martin Nesbitt dies at age 67

Sen. Martin Nesbitt, (D) Buncombe County

ASHEVILLE — Sen. Martin Nesbitt has passed away just days after stepping down as the Democratic leader in the state Senate.

The Senate caucus director says that the 67-year-old died Thursday evening.

Nesbitt cited a recent medical diagnosis as the reason for vacating his post, and officials say he was diagnosed with cancer on Feb. 24 and began treatment this week.

Just Wednesday, political supporters and friends welcomed Nesbitt home.

After a stay at UNC Medical Center, Nesbitt arrived in Asheville by ambulance and was greeted by people from both sides of aisle.

The North Carolina Democratic Party released the following statement on Sen. Martin Nesbitt’s death:

“We wish to express our sincere sympathy at the passing of the Honorable Martin Nesbitt. Our prayers are with his loved ones at this time for they have lost a husband, father and grandfather. The citizens of the State of North Carolina have lost a leader and champion of exemplary and distinguished public service. The poet Mary Lee Hall, in “Turn Again to Life”, wrote:

“‘If I should die and leave you here a while, be not like others sore undone, who keep long vigil by the silent dust. For my sake turn again to life and smile, nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do something to comfort other hearts than thine. Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine and I perchance may therein comfort you.’

“We, the fellow Democrats who worked with and supported Senator Nesbitt will continue to champion the causes for which he fought during his illustrious career and we will incorporate his spirit into the permanent fabric of the Democratic Party.”

Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue, Jr. also said the following statement about Nesbitt’s death:

“Tonight, North Carolina lost a great leader, and I mourn a valued friend. Martin always believed in the people of our great state and strove to make North Carolina a better place. I have known and served with Martin for over thirty years and I will greatly miss his friendship, counsel, and candor. Tonight my prayers are with Martin, his family, and the families across North Carolina for whom he worked for so long.”

North Carolina Republican Party chairman Claude Pope said Nesbitt was a “dedicated public servant:”

“We are terribly saddened to hear of Senator Nesbitt’s untimely passing. Although we may have disagreed on some issues over the years, Senator Nesbitt was an honorable and dedicated public servant who worked to improve the lives of North Carolinians. Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Nesbitt’s family during this difficult time.” 

Gov. Pat McCrory has ordered all North Carolina state flags on state facilities to be lowered to half staff in honor of Nesbitt.

President Obama announces Manufacturing Innovation Institute

RALEIGH– Air Force One landed at RDU Wednesday afternoon, kicking off President Barack Obama’s visit to the Triangle.

His visit began with a stop in RTP to tour Vacon, a company that designs drives used to power everything from elevators to exhaust fans.

President announced the Manufacturing Innovation Institute, a new manufacturing venture for the country. The announcement is being made at NC State University, which is the school he has picked to lead his initiative.

“I’m here to act, to help make Raleigh-Durham, and America, a magnet for the good, high-tech manufacturing jobs that a growing middle class requires and that are going to continue to keep this country on the cutting edge,” he said.

The President said the institute’s goal will be to create new energy solutions using wide bandgap semiconductors to improve efficiency, reduce size and improve reliability. He also said two more “innovation hubs” will be launched in the coming weeks.

Wednesday’s speech centered around strengthening advanced manufacturing and attracting good paying jobs. The idea is to do this through a public private partnership that will include 18 companies and 6 universities.

NCSU will be the lead university in this venture, known as the “next generation power electronics innovation institute.” It will focus on energy efficient, high power electronic chips.

“NC State couldn’t be more proud to have been selected to lead this new institute, which truly embodies everything that our university stands for – from our think and do mentality, to our collaborative spirit and unending commitment to solve to the grand challenges of society,” NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement released Wednesday.

Chancellor Woodson will travel back to Washington with President Obama on Air Force One.

Woodson, along with UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt will attend an event hosted by the president and first lady Thursday on making college more accessible. They are part of a group of university leaders from across the country selected to attend.

President Barack Obama is traveling the country over the next few weeks highlighting some of the ideas we will hear in his State of the Union Address at the end of the month.

Watch the president’s speech here.