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Opinion Roundup: Presidential hopefuls vie for N.C. votes ahead of "Super Tuesday"; farmers feeling effects of wild weather swings; a look at immersion education; and more.

Posted February 24, 2020 9:11 a.m. EST
Updated February 25, 2020 9:08 a.m. EST

Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: Presidential candidates stump in N.C. ahead of "Super Tuesday"; polls show residents back Governor in state budget debate; local grocery chain closes its doors after 45 years; the power of immersion education; Supreme Court weighs pipeline permit; and more.


CAMPAIGN 2020
Courts are seeing through Republicans’ voter suppression trickery (Washington Post) -- A day after a N.C. state appeals court blocked a new voter identification law that discriminates against African American voters, a federal appellate court ruled that Florida can’t use wealth as a barrier to restoring the voting rights of ex-felons. The decisions are not final, as appeals continue in the two cases by Republicans who are intent on using whatever means necessary to try to stop minorities from voting. That, however, doesn’t detract from the significance of the rulings and the recognition by the courts that these laws are nothing but an unconscionable effort to interfere with the cherished right of Americans to cast a ballot. Intent to discriminate was a “primary motivating factor” behind the voter ID law enacted in 2018 by N.C.’s Republican legislature, as per the judgment of a three-judge panel of the state’s Court of Appeals in a ruling issued Tuesday.

Populism vs. pragmatism underpins N.C. Senate primary (AP reports) -- Voters seeking to take back a U.S. Senate seat in closely divided N.C. must choose whether liberal populism or centrist pragmatism is best suited to unseat Republican incumbent Thom Tillis, a devotee of President Donald Trump.

Top GOP super PAC confesses it spent big money on N.C. Democrat (The Hill) -- The largest super PAC that supports Republican Senate candidates will say in a filing with the Federal Election Commission it spent millions of dollars to boost a liberal Democratic candidate running for the right to face Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in November. The Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC run by close allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will reveal in the FEC filings that it was behind a secretive new group created earlier this month that has spent millions on television advertising ahead of the March 3 Democratic primary. Those advertisements touted state Sen. Erica Smith (D), a candidate who has raised about $210,000 for her campaign.

‘More successful than we could have imagined.’ GOP group funds ads for Dem in NC race (Durham Herald-Sun reports) -- A group tied to the Republican U.S. Senate leader is behind the mysterious super PAC that has poured millions into TV ads for N.C. Democratic Senate candidate Erica Smith. The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, gave nearly $3 million to the Faith and Power PAC, according to new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. It is the PAC’s lone contributor.

Cal Cunningham ad addressing Faith and Power PAC's Erica Smith (Durham Herald-Sun reports) -- Democratic US Senate candidate Cal Cunningham released an ad Feb. 21, 2020, addressing the “deceptive” ads supporting his opponent, Erica Smith, from a group tied to Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

Front group in U.S. Senate race increases voter disdain (Fayetteville Observer) -- A group with ties to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is trying to influence the Democratic Party primary in N.C.

New Congressional District Brings A Fresh Fight To The Once Heavily-Gerrymandered Triad (WUNC-FM reports) -- For years, the Piedmont Triad’s cities have been chopped up and divvied between Republican-dominated congressional districts, diluting their heavy concentration of Democrats. But last year, after courtroom fights over partisan gerrymandering concluded, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point were united in a new 6th district that’s likely to go blue.

TAFT WIREBACK: New 6th District has five Dems scrapping for votes (Greensboro News & Record reports) -- To draw a crowd of enthusiastic candidates, there's nothing like a new congressional district radically different from the present configuration and without an incumbent anywhere in sight. Welcome to N.C.'s new 6th Congressional District, slimmed down from its previous eight-county wingspan to just a pair of them in the new design. The fledgling district includes all of Guilford and part of Forsyth counties and nothing else in a new format that aims to rectify partisan gerrymandering the court system has condemned in its forerunners.

TAFT WIREBACK: Two Republican hopefuls take the place of a GOP incumbent for 6th District race (Greensboro News & Record reports) -- U.S. Rep. Mark Walker was preparing to run for reelection to a fourth term in mid-November when he held a forum at a training center on North Raleigh Street focusing on a prison reform bill he had introduced. But less than a month later, the Greensboro Republican announced he was leaving Congress at the end of his current term and considering instead a 2022 run for a U.S. Senate seat.

'Super Tuesday' primary bringing presidential candidates to N.C. (WRAL-TV reports) -- With "Super Tuesday" inching closer and N.C. residents already participating in early voting, Democratic candidates for president are campaigning in the state more and more.

Democratic House hopeful Brown leads voters to polls (Gaston Gazette reports) -- McAdenville resident David Brown, who is seeking a seat in Congress, has done the math. He knows if he's to advance with a win in the Democratic primary in two weeks, an eight-term Republican stalwart awaits in the November General Election. While N.C.'s newly revamped 5th Congressional District, which includes all of Gaston and Cleveland counties, has a definite red tint to it, Wilson has crunched the numbers and believes that if he can get the voters to the polls, it's possible he could unseat incumbent Virginia Foxx in November.

Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg plan N.C. visits (Charlotte Observer reports) -- The latest polls give Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders a wide lead, with 32% of registered Democratic-leaning voters giving him their support.

Sanders to visit WSSU on Thursday, five days before primary (Winston-Salem Journal reports) -- Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will visit Winston-Salem State University at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, five days before the March 3 primary.

Ballot access on the eve of the 2020 election: What Barriers Still Exist? (Elon Law Review) -- With the 2020 election on the horizon, the Elon Law Review invites submissions for a fall symposium exploring the past, present, and future of electoral participation on both sides of the ballot. The Elon Law Review Symposium will be held Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, at Elon University School of Law in Greensboro. A reception will be held on the evening of Sept. 24.

KATHERINE MONTWIELER: Moms, the 2020 election and Amy Klobuchar’s ‘Hot Dish’ (Durham Herald-Sun column) -- A woman presidential candidate cannot be too progressive but needs to be comforting, recalling Betty Crocker from the 1950s rather than Alice Waters of the 1970s. We have yet to see what Sen. Amy Klobuchar can do or how effective her strategy is. Two days after the recipe for "Hot Dish" casserole ran, J. Lo showed us what 50 could look like at the Super Bowl halftime show. At such a moment, we might ask, is capitalizing on nostalgia the way for the first woman to successfully reach the White House?

A fraudulent cause (Winston-Salem Journal) -- No means no. As far as the courts are concerned, the state’s Voter ID law is ill-conceived, unfair and calculated to disadvantage a certain group of voters. So judges keep saying no to it — most recently in a state appeals court ruling last week. And state Republicans keep refusing to accept no for an answer.

Reliability of pricey new voting machines questioned (AP reports) -- In the rush to replace insecure, unreliable electronic voting machines after Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, state and local officials have scrambled to acquire more trustworthy equipment for this year’s election, when U.S. intelligence agencies fear even worse problems. But instead of choosing simple, hand-marked paper ballots that are most resistant to tampering because paper cannot be hacked, many are opting for pricier technology that computer security experts consider almost as risky as earlier discredited electronic systems.

Republican House Candidates Vary on Key Issues (Southern Pines Pilot reports) -- Eliminating state taxes on military pensions, privatizing liquor sales and protecting Second Amendment rights are among some of the issues arising in a Republican state House primary battle.

SILENT SHAM
UNC System says it won’t focus on Silent Sam after judge orders statue and money returned (Durham Herald-Sun reports) -- The UNC board needs to be concerned with finding a new president and “not on the monument at this point,” leader Randy Ramsey says.

UNC leader says 'Silent Sam' won't return to Chapel Hill campus (WRAL-TV reports) -- UNC system leadership looks to press the pause button on the Confederate monument controversy.

Confederate group has 45 days to return 'Silent Sam' to UNC (AP reports) -- A judge imposed a 45-day deadline on the Sons of Confederate Veterans to return the Silent Sam statue to the UNC campus.

ED YODER: Why Silent Sam should stand again at UNC (Durham Herald-Sun column) -- Judge Allen Baddour should be hailed for his self-reversal this month on Silent Sam. His ruling, which vacates the $2.5 million Silent Sam settlement between the UNC System Board of Governors and The N.C. Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, denies possession of the memorial to an organization which, whatever its claims, would reinforce Silent Sam’s gratuitous association with neo-Confederate sentiment. Silent Sam should be put back where it was — and had been for more than a century — before the vandals struck. And with proper security measures and identification of its origins.

POLICY & POLITICS
WRAL News poll: N.C. residents back Cooper's positions in state budget debate​​​​​​​ (WRAL-TV reports) -- N.C. has been without a budget for almost nine months because of a stalemate between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican-controlled legislature over Medicaid, teacher pay and business tax cuts. A new WRAL News poll shows Cooper is winning the popular vote in the ongoing battle.

Forest: General Assembly produced 'a great budget' (Elizabeth City Daily Advance reports) -- Lt. Gov. Dan Forest told a gathering of supporters in Edenton that the budget the General Assembly approved last summer was "the best budget we have probably ever seen in N.C. that the governor has vetoed." Forest, who spoke to a crowd of 40 or so Chowan Republicans and regional GOP leaders at the Inner Banks Inn, said the "great budget" included things to improve the whole state.

What should top priority be for government? Answer is easy (Wilmington Star-News) -- We believe government secrecy has become too routine, rather than the absolute last resort it should be.

'In this crisis, we're going to figure out who we are' (Facing South commentary) -- Theologian Jim Wallis founded the progressive Christian community Sojourners, whose stated mission is "to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world." Wallis recently visited N.C, to speak about "Christ in Crisis" at Southeast Raleigh Table in Raleigh, and he visited Duke University to host a conversation on the topic of "Reclaiming Jesus." Facing South caught up with him to talk about the current political moment, the Christian church's racial divide, and how the nation's changing demographics are also changing religion.

LESLIE SCISM: Insurance Tycoon Greg Lindberg’s Bribery Trial Begins (Wall Street Journal reports) -- Lawyers for Greg Lindberg are fighting federal bribery charges by telling jurors that he believed he was staying within elections law as he made political contributions to counter what he perceived as overly tough regulation.

School Delay (N.C. Insider reports) -- Lawmakers' budget stalemate claimed a casualty on Friday. N.C. School of Science and Mathematics Chancellor Todd Roberts announced the Morganton campus won't open in August 2021, as previously scheduled. In 2016, voters approved a Connect NC bond package that earmarked $58 million to construct a second residential campus for the school in Morganton to house 300 students in its opening year of 2021. But to open on time, the school needed $3.39 million from lawmakers for operating expenses.

Budget Impacts (N.C. Insider reports) -- Smaller state agencies are seeing minor impacts from the budget stalemate, some of which are prompting them to shift money around to keep bills paid. The Office of Secretary of State was supposed to get an extra $211,000 for rent for its office space on Atlantic Avenue, which is located in a former Kroger grocery store. "Because of that deficiency the agency is paying the rent out of operating funds intended for other programs," agency spokesman Tim Crowley said. "Both the governor's proposed budget and the General Assembly's proposed budget would have resolved that challenge." He added that the agency has "tried to spread (the use of operating funds) across the board so that it won't impact customers working with the Secretary of State's office."

Goodwill manager called black workers ‘unprofessional’ and ‘you people,’ N.C. suit says (Durham Herald-Sun reports) -- A former Goodwill employee in N.C. said her manager repeatedly addressed black employees as “you people” and told them they were “too loud.” She complained and was later fired — now she’s suing. Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont racially discriminated and unlawfully retaliated against Angela Hamilton when they fired her in April 2019 following concerns about her manager’s behavior, according to a federal lawsuit.

FALSE: Did KKK endorse Donald Trump? (PolitiFact/WRAL-TV reports) -- A reader suggested we check a Facebook post that showed a poorly constructed image of President Donald Trump next to two people in what appear to be Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods.

2nd Amendment Talk Just a Big Show (Southern Pines Pilot) -- A bunch of people got whipped up, gave speeches, got a resolution passed, slapped each other on the back — and changed nothing.

Maury Correctional inmate dies after prison fight (Wilson Times reports) -- Authorities say a Maury Correctional Institution inmate Andre A. Young-Johnson, 23, died Friday in a fight with another inmate at the state prison in Greene County.

City to revisit using inmate labor (Elizabeth City Daily Advance reports) -- More than two years after suspending the practice in the wake of a deadly attempted prison break, Elizabeth City officials plan to revisit having minimum custody prison inmates from Pasquotank Correctional Institute perform work for the city. City Council voted in 2004 to use inmate labor from the prison's minimum-security level complex. Each of the inmates used by the city was considered a minimum security risk and housed in a separate facility from the main high-security prison. The program was immediately suspended, however, after four prison workers died following a failed escape attempt by four inmates from the high-security prison on Oct. 12, 2017.

CELIA RIVENBARK: Who’s the purest Dem of them all ... (Wilmington Star-News column) -- Apparently Elizabeth Warren prefers a single can of Old Milwaukee wrested from the bottom of the scratch and dent bin to a glass of fine wine.

JANNETTE PIPPIN: Sen. Brown honored at Onslow GOP dinner ​​​​​​​(Jacksonville Daily News reports) -- From the dance floor to the chamber floor of the General Assembly, Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, has had a hand in projects improving the lives of residents across Eastern N.C. and the state for nearly 20 years. On Saturday, a room full of friends and colleagues gathered for the annual Onslow County Republican Party Lincoln-Reagan Dinner said a collective "Thank You."

JEFF HAMPTON: Civil War raid of black troops in N.C. stirs emotions (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports) -- A one-armed Union general marched into eastern N.C. in 1863 with his African Brigade, burning homes and freeing thousands of slaves. The campaign stopped Confederate guerrilla resistance in the region. This summer, the state plans to place a marker on Water Street in Elizabeth City, commemorating that first major campaign in N.C. by U.S. Colored Troops.

A fake news trap (Greensboro News & Record) -- A page titled “North Carolina Breaking News” sounds innocuous enough — even authoritative, in a generic sort of way. And with feel-good stories about police officers helping unfortunate people and animals, it might seem to be an appealing click on Facebook. But as everyone should know by now, not everything is what it appears to be — especially on social media.

EDUCATION
Immersion education gives students new language (Education/WRAL-TV reports) -- Immersion programs provide Wake County students with a chance to study a foreign language while they learn the core subjects.

3,100 parents took survey on Wake’s math program. But will public get to see the comments? (Durham Herald-Sun reports) -- Parents who oppose the controversial math curriculum say the comments would provide a “treasure trove of enlightenment.”

Education Matters: Eggs and Issues breakfast and forum (Education/WRAL-TV reports) -- The sixth annual Eggs and Issue breakfast was highlighted by four guests who shared their insight on the current education system. The guests are Alan Duncan, Vice Chairman, N.C. State Board of Education; Ann McColl, co-Founder and president of The Innovation Project; Dr. Anthony Jackson, Superintendent of Vance County Schools; and Thomas B. Oxholm, vice president of Finance and Administration for Wake Stone Corporation.

HEALTH
LIORA ENGEL-SMITH: When a rural maternity unit closes, alternatives are hard to come by​​​​​​​ (N.C. Health News reports) -- Since 2013, at least nine maternity units across the state have closed and a 10th is slated to shutter in the coming months. Addressing this growing crisis requires a systems approach, providers in western and eastern N.C. say.

Poverty and no Medicaid expansion are taking a toll on N.C.’s health (Durham Herald-Sun editorial) -- Every 10 years, the state announces its health goals for the decade ahead. This year the state’s “Healthy North Carolina 2030” report called for action beyond wider access to health care. The report says, “Long-term sustainable improvements in the health and well-being of North Carolinians will only occur by addressing the social, economic, and place-based challenges that keep people from achieving optimal health.” Tax cuts and holding out on Medicaid expansion won’t do that.

The U.S. has its own virus to worry about (Wilmington Star-News) -- The flu has infected and killed way more people in the U.S. this season than the coronavirus has in China.

Embodied: The Long Drive To Safe Birth in N.C. (WUNC-FM reports) -- Childbearing in the United States is more deadly than in any other developed nation. Despite medical advances over the last few decades, the number of reported pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. continues to steadily increase.

Misconceptions about dogs and coronavirus making local group's rescue efforts difficult (WRAL-TV reports) -- Fears of the coronavirus is impacting a lot of people and businesses. For one local group, it's preventing them from rescuing dogs in China.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
Supreme Court to decide winner in case of gas pipeline vs. Appalachian Trail (Washington Post reports) -- The Atlantic Coast Pipeline begins in West Virginia and is planned to cross some of the most mountainous scenery in central Virginia before completing its 600-mile path in N.C. Work in Virginia has been halted for more than a year as the builders contend with a host of setbacks handed down by federal courts. None is more crucial than the question of whether the U.S. Forest Service has authority to grant the pipeline right of way under the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest. Judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit threw out a Forest Service permit in December 2018, saying federal law prohibits any agency from allowing a pipeline on “lands in the National Park System.” That includes the trail, the judges said.

Key Atlantic Coast Pipeline permit heads to Supreme Court (AP reports) -- When plans for the 605-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline were first unveiled in 2014, supporters of the natural gas project brimmed with enthusiasm and promises. Since then, the project has faced one setback after another, with legal challenges brought by environmental groups -- prompting the dismissal or suspension of eight permits and halting construction for more than a year. Now, three years behind schedule, with a price tag that has nearly doubled to $8 billion, the project is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court for a hearing Monday on a critical permit.

Pipeline permit heads to Supreme Court (Wilson Times reports) -- Two Nash County property owners affected by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline jumped on a train headed for Washington, D.C., intent on hearing oral arguments

Supreme Court Pipeline Fight Could Disrupt How The Appalachian Trail Is Run (WFAE-FM reports) -- The Appalachian Trail – the 2,200-mile hiking stretch that goes from Georgia to Maine — is at the center of a legal battle that has risen to the Supreme Court. The case involves a proposed pipeline that would connect natural gas fracked in West Virginia to population centers in Virginia and N.C. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would cross the Appalachian Trail within the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, and some environmental groups are challenging the legality of the permit the U.S. Forest Service issued allowing that to happen.

WILL HARLAN: Will the Appalachian Trail Stop an $8 Billion Pipeline? Don’t cross the trail (New York Times column) -- It’s up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Lorax on the Appalachian Trail (Wall Street Journal editorial) -- The Supreme Court sizes up a 2,200-mile barrier to development.

Summit Casts Net For Seafood Consumers (Coastal Review reports) -- The eighth annual NC Catch Summit set for next week will be held for the first time in Raleigh, a move from the coast to engage more seafood consumers in the conversation.

Fox Hunting Facility (N.C. Insider reports) -- Tally-ho! It's a word once heard in Scotland County. Along with Hark! They were popular phrases as hunters in the days of yore -- or, more accurately, in the 1970s -- hunted foxes on 5.9 acres of land belonging to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. But those days have come to an end, and the Wildlife Resources Commission will consider returning the property back to the family that owned it in the first place. A vote is planned Thursday to consider doing just that.

Group of wild horses has been on the loose on Outer Banks (AP reports) -- Volunteers have been routinely rounding up a group of straying wild horses on N.C.'s Outer Banks.

Local farmers feeling the effects of wild February weather swings (WRAL-TV reports) -- We have seen some wild swings in our forecast. Nobody is more affected than our farmers.

...AND MORE
28 songs in 28 days: How Eric Church’s isolation in the N.C. mountains birthed new music (Durham Herald-Sun reports) -- For his seventh studio album, country music star Eric Church decided to try something much different, taking him back home. The N.C. native went into the mountains of Banner Elk, where he said he recorded 28 songs in 28 days in an old restaurant converted into a studio, according to media reports. Church recorded his previous albums in East Nashville’s Joy Joyce’s Neon Cross studio, according to Rolling Stone, but he said during the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville he “felt like it was time to do something nuts.”

Rocky Mount woman who served in WWII helped lift spirits, blaze trail (WRAL-TV reports) -- A Rocky Mount woman who's one of the oldest living black woman who served in World War II is one of the four people we are honoring during Black History Month for igniting change in our community.

Earth Fare closes doors this week after 45 years in business (WRAL-TV reports) -- Earth Fare, a N.C. grocery chain that has served the state for over four decades, is closing this week.

Raleigh mayor to formally honor Zamboni driver David Ayres for leading Canes to victory (SportsFan/WRAL-TV reports) -- Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin wants to give Ayres a hero's welcome by formally declaring Tuesday as David Ayres Day.

She used library books to learn how to run. Next, she’s racing at the Olympic Trials. (Charlotte Observer reports) -- If Paula Pridgen enters herself into a road race in Charlotte, she instantly becomes the odds-on favorite to be the first woman to reach the finish. At the marathon distance, meanwhile? Even on a national level, she’s an ace. But when Pridgen steps into the starting corral at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta next Saturday, it’ll be much harder for her to stand out, because the Charlotte area’s only entrant will be joined by 510 of the very fastest female marathoners in the country.

Were Confederate women’s graves moved from near Terry Sanford High School? (Fayetteville Observer reports) -- The Confederate Women’s Home near Terry Sanford High School opened in 1915. Only a cemetery remains.

'Andy Griffith'-inspired movie to be shot in central Indiana (The Indianapolis Star reports) -- "The Andy Griffith Show" ended in 1968. The characters, however, never have. The feature-length, family-friendly comedy centers around a rude star actor who is pulled over for speeding while driving in a small Southern town. His sentence? To attend Mayberry Fest, where he learns a few things from the townspeople. Much of "Mayberry Man" will be filmed in Danville and the Indianapolis area, with a few days spent in Mount Airy and Los Angeles.

Cary has N.C.'s only 5-star hotel, spa, restaurant (WRAL-TV reports) -- Described as "a peaceful, wooded escape near Raleigh" by Forbes Travel Guide, the award-winning location is one of only 12 properties in the entire world to earn triple Five-Star status. The Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary was honored by the Forbes Travel Guide with a triple 5-Star rating and listed among other winners on their website. By comparison, the luxurious and renowned Biltmore Estate is a 4-Star.

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