Opinion Roundup: NC investigators find ballot scheme, key witness in 9th district wont testify, possible election re-do and more

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: NC investigators find ballot 'scheme' in House race, key witness won't testify in 9th District hearing, elections board weighs re-doing election, bringing back film credits, superintendent's invitation-only education event draws criticism, Greensboro unveils plan to remove PFOS from city's drinking water and more.

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McCrae Dowless
Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: NC investigators find ballot ‘scheme’ in House race, key witness won't testify in 9th District hearing, elections board weighs re-doing election, bringing back film credits, superintendent's invitation-only education event draws criticism, Greensboro unveils plan to remove PFOS from city's drinking water and more.
TRAVIS FAIN: Key witness refuses to testify in 9th District hearing, others detail absentee ballot scheme (WRAL-TV reports) -- Political operative McCrae Dowless won't testify as those around him tell the state elections board he had them harvesting absentee ballots.
MATTHEW BURNS: Denied immunity, political operative McCrae Dowless refuses to testify in 9th District hearing (WRAL-TV reports) -- The State Board of Elections holds a hearing into allegations of fraud in the 9th Congressional District election.
ALAN BLINDER: In N.C., Investigators Find Ballot ‘Scheme’ in House Race (New York Times reports) -- A political operative working on behalf of a Republican candidate for Congress oversaw an illegal absentee ballot “scheme” and went to elaborate lengths to conceal it, a state election official said at a hearing that could settle the final undecided House race of last year’s midterms. The spare and harsh allegation of a “coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced” strategy opened the State Board of Elections hearing with the first public pronouncement of state investigators’ conclusions about a get-out-the-vote effort they came to believe was endemic with fraud and misconduct to benefit Mark Harris, the Republican candidate in the Ninth Congressional District.
EMERY DALESIO: State elections board weighs re-doing marred election (AP reports) -- The country's last undecided congressional election was marred by falsified signatures, disappearing documents and blank ballots that were filled in by people hired by the Republican candidate, North Carolina elections officials said.
EMERY DALESIO: State elections head says ballots handled illegally (AP reports) -- A Republican operative conducted an illegal and well-funded ballot-harvesting operation, North Carolina's elections director said Monday, but the first session of a days-long hearing produced scant evidence that the GOP congressional candidate he worked for knew about it or even benefited.
AMY GARDNER: N.C. election officials: Harris operative collected and falsified ballots, tried to obstruct probe (Washington Post reports) -- The hearing on the 9th Congressional District race opened with allegations that Leslie McCrae Dowless tried to cover his tracks and encouraged witnesses to lie. No evidence has emerged that Republican Mark Harris knew of the scheme.
BRETT FORREST: N.C. Official Alleges Ballot Fraud in Congressional Race (Wall Street Journal reports) – A NC elections official alleged voter fraud in the unresolved race for the state’s Ninth Congressional District, accusing a contractor for Republican Mark Harris of engaging in a “substantially resourced absentee-ballot scheme.”
MILES PARKS: N.C. Officials Examine Fraud Charges In Disputed Congressional Election (NPR reports) -- A hearing enters its second day in the case of the state's 9th Congressional District — investigators are unveiling evidence about an illegal absentee ballot scheme that may have swayed the election.
MARTI MCGUIRE: Official Cites 'Unlawful' Balloting in U.S. Congressional Vote (Reuters reports) -- A Republican operative directed an unlawful absentee ballot scheme in North Carolina's 9th congressional district and tried to hide the evidence, an election official said on Monday at a hearing that could lead to a new vote in the disputed contest.
FRANK TAYLOR: Domestic violence in spotlight during forum on lawmaker’s home turf (Carolina Public Press reports) -- With state Rep. Cody Henson, R-Transylvania, having recently been served with a domestic violence order of protection, state and local organizations concerned about domestic violence conducted a forum Monday night at Brevard College in Brevard. A judge is expected to rule on whether to grant his estranged wife a permanent order at a hearing Tuesday, also in Brevard. Representatives from SAFE and Helpmate, domestic violence agencies serving Transylvania and Buncombe counties respectively, spoke at the event along with the North Carolina branch of the National Organization for Women and Progress NC.
COLIN CAMPBELL: Court Shrinkage (The Insider reports) -- The N.C. Court of Appeals would no longer shrink to 12 judges under a bill that's moving quickly through the N.C. Senate. Filed Monday, Senate Bill 75 would simply repeal a law passed two years ago that reduces the number of judges from 15 to 12 by deleting seats as current judges resign or retire -- a move that effectively deprived Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper of the power to fill those vacancies. Cooper sued over the law, but a trial court ruled in favor of the legislature last April. An appeal on the matter is pending, but Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell and sponsor of the bill, said Monday that he wants to resolve the legal battle. The lawsuit is headed to the Supreme Court, which now only has one Republican justice.
COLIN CAMPBELL: Unfair Committee Assignments (The Insider reports) -- While Democrats now make up 42 percent of the N.C. Senate, they hold a smaller percentage of seats on key committees -- and that's prompting criticism from one Senate Democrat.
RICHARD CRAVER: Plan for state health insurance to pay providers less touted by State Treasurer (Winston-Salem Journal reports) -- Republican State Treasurer Dale Folwell will be at the General Assembly to present his controversial strategy to cut the reimbursement rates the State Health Plan pays to health care providers Folwell will speak to the joint legislative health committee about the Clear Pricing Project initiative.
ROBERT BROOME: NC Health Plan changes would put patients first (Durham-Herald Sun column) — How much are you paying for health care? You may say too much, you may even cite the cost of a recent procedure you’ve had, but do you know what the actual cost of care is? More importantly, do you know if it’s fair?
MICHAEL GARRETT: Enough is enough, time to expand Medicaid (Greensboro News & Record column) -- Since 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly has said, “Thanks, but no thanks” to billions of dollars to provide half a million North Carolinians with health care coverage. The reasons for this refusal have been ever-changing, but the effect of this decision is clear.
Bring back the film credits (Winston-Salem Journal) — Freshman state Sen. Harper Peterson has hit the ground running, filing a bill last week to restore the tax credits that once boosted NC’s booming film industry. His bill faces an uphill battle — especially since the legislature is still controlled by the Republicans who axed the credits in the first place. But it’s a start.
PAUL SPECHT: He’s known for secession bill and attacking Obama as ‘Islamic.’ He wants a seat in Congress (Charlotte Observer reports) — Three Republicans plan to run for NC’s 3rd Congressional District seat, which was left vacant earlier this month after the death of longtime Rep. Walter Jones.
JANNETTE PIPPIN: Candidates begin announcing run for Jones seat (Jacksonville Daily News reports) - -As the wait continued for a decision on setting a special election, the first candidates for North Carolina’s vacant 3rd Congressional seat have announced plans to run for the office long held by the late Walter B. Jones Jr. The District 3 congressional seat for North Carolina is vacant following Jones’ death on Feb. 10, just months after his election in November to a 13th term. State Rep. Phil Shepard, of Onslow County and State Rep. Michael Speciale, of Craven County, both Republicans, plan to run for the congressional seat as does Phil Law, an Onslow County businessman and Marine Corps combat veteran who also ran for the seat in the 2018 GOP primary.
TEO ARMUS: ‘The whole community is terrified’: Hundreds rally against increased ICE presence in NC (Charlotte Observer reports) — A crowd of several hundred took to the streets Monday to protest increased immigration enforcement in NC — and the paralyzing fear they said it had instilled in Charlotte’s immigrant communities.
JOHN HINTON: SBI investigates computer use, clerk of court resigns in Davidson County (Winston-Salem Journal reports) -- Brian Shipwash, Davidson County’s clerk of court, resigned amid a State Bureau of Investigation probe into an allegation of improper use of state computers in the clerk’s office.
It’s time to get tougher on anti-vaxxers (Charlotte Observer) — Four years ago, NC lawmakers considered closing a loophole allowing parents to declare a religious exemption to vaccinations without showing evidence of their faith. It was a smart step to protect families from the misinformed irresponsibility of anti-vaccination parents, but lawmakers backed down in the face of small but furious protests.
DAWN BAUMGARTNER VAUGHAN: Durham mayor calls for $95 million affordable housing bond (Durham-Herald Sun reports) — Durham Mayor Steve Schewel wants a $95 million bond referendum on the November ballot for affordable housing. Schewel announced it during his annual “state of the city” address at Monday night’s Durham City Council meeting. The bond would fund a five-year affordable housing plan.
JIM SHAMP: Gene therapy firm to add 200 jobs, invest $60M in Durham county facility (WRAL-TV/TechWire reports) - AveXis, Inc. is doubling its planned workforce and investing $60 million more in its new Durham County manufacturing facility. State and company officials announced the Illinois-based clinical-stage company will create 200 additional jobs, expanding on a May 2018 announcement that it was investing $55 million to build the new Durham manufacturing facility and creating 200 jobs there.
ZACHERY EANES: Gene therapy company doubles plans for RTP jobs after receiving incentives (Durham-Herald Sun reports) — For the second time in less than a year, AveXis, a clinical-stage gene therapy company that makes treatments for spinal muscular atrophy, plans to create 200 jobs in Durham County. The new jobs would double the company’s planned headcount in Research Triangle Park.
JENNY BLACK: Alarm over late-term abortions is really about banning all abortions (Durham-Herald Sun column) — Inflammatory rhetoric surrounding a woman’s ability to access safe and legal abortion has flooded the media cycle in recent weeks. Having served in senior leadership for Planned Parenthood for 20 years, I know these types of attacks are nothing new.
JOHN HINTON: Her daughter died of an opioid overdose. Last week, the Lewisville woman talked with President Trump about it (Winston-Salem Journal reports) — Susan Stevens of Lewisville, whose daughter died of an opioid overdose last year, met with President Donald Trump last week and attended the president’s news conference outside the White House. “It was really neat,” Stevens said Monday about her meeting with Trump. “But he was visibly upset when I told him that my daughter had died of an opioid overdose.”
A new chief justice (Greensboro News & Record) -- Cheri Beasley follows some formidable footsteps as the first African-American woman and second African-American to serve as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
KELLY HINCHCLIFFE: NC schools chief boots teachers from invitation-only event, draws criticism (WRAL-TV reports) -- Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson plans to make a "major" education announcement in front of 700 invitation-only guests at the Raleigh Convention Center. But the event is drawing criticism from some teachers and parents who were turned away after trying to get tickets to the event online.
Fayetteville State University opens on-campus food pantry (AP reports) -- Fayetteville State University is joining other higher-education campuses by adding a food pantry at the school.
RUPEN R. FOFARIA: Representatives, local officials tour Mt. Pleasant Elementary and discuss House school bond proposal (EdNC reports) — NC Speaker of the House Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes, toured Mt. Pleasant Elementary in Ferguson Friday to talk about a NC House school bond proposal that would appropriate $1.9 billion for school construction, renovations, and repairs.
Edgecombe principal, 7 others competing for NC Principal of the Year (WRAL reports) — Eight public school principals have been selected as regional Wells Fargo NC Principals of the Year and will compete for the state title. The winner will be announced May 10 and will succeed the 2018 recipient, Tabari Wallace, principal of West Craven High in Craven County Schools.
JOHN NEWSOM: After meeting with appeals panel, Bennett College leader remains ‘hopeful for a favorable outcome’ (Greensboro News & Record reports) — The president of Bennett College said Monday she remains confident that the private women’s college will keep its current accreditation.
THOMAS GOLDSMITH: NC to consider hiking personal needs allowance for long-term care residents (N.C. Health News reports) -- Medicaid recipients in long-term care in N.C. receive $50 in personal spending money a month in nursing homes and $66 in assisted living, a sum that’s remained the same for years.
TAFT WIREBACK: Greensboro unveils $31 million upgrade that includes plan to remove chemicals PFOS, PFOA from city's drinking water (Greensboro News & Record reports) — The city water system is moving ahead with plans that should leave it well prepared for whatever emerges from the federal government’s newly announced effort to investigate the industrial chemical PFOS and its sister chemicals in drinking water, utility officials say.
RICHARD ADKINS: Watermen catch lost crab pots (WRAL-TV reports) -- The N.C. Coastal Federation is cleaning up the water by collecting lost and abandoned crab pots.
JENNIFER ALLEN: Group to Honor Etheridge, Life-Saving Crew (Coastal Review reports) -- Capt. Richard Etheridge, a slave who was raised on Roanoke Island and taught to read and write, was the nation’s first African-American keeper of a U.S. Life-Saving Service Station. The Pea Island Life-Saving Station, of which Etheridge was appointed as keeper in 1880, also made history as the only station with an all-black crew for most of its time in operation. The nonprofit Pea Island Preservation Society is set to present “Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes: The Unique Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Life-Savers,” at noon Saturday at the N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
Dead Humpback Washes Ashore (Coastal Review reports) -- A large humpback whale was discovered on the beach in Corolla early Sunday, the second whale within six days to beach along the Outer Banks.
ADAM LUCAS: The toughest Tar Heel (GoHeels.com Reports) – Roy Williams has coached Tyler Hansbrough, and he's coached Raymond Felton, and he's coached Joel Berry. He knows toughness. He is an expert on the subject. Friday night, he sat with a 16-year-old girl who turns 17 this week. She can't dunk. She's never drawn a charge. She wasn't even able to carry her own bag when she checked in at the hospital in late January. And Williams saw undeniable toughness.
‘Lost Colony’ is still lost, but archaeologists are getting closer, expert says (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports) -- Archaeologists are getting closer to figuring out where members of the Lost Colony went, according to Nicholas Luccketti, the principal investigator and archaeologist with the James River Institute for Archaeology. Luccketti’s presentation in late January at the Isle of Wight County Museum in Smithfield focused on the "possible relocation" of some of the Roanoke Island colonists to a site in eastern North Carolina named Site X
NC city hopes to renovate cabin used by author Thomas Wolfe (AP reports) — Asheville officials hope to work with the public to determine the best way to renovate the cabin that author Thomas Wolfe used as a rural sanctuary.

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