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Political Notebook: Bitzer expects most ‘Trump-like’ candidate to be favorite in state’s Senate race – Salisbury Post

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SALISBURY — Following news last week that former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is “all in” for the 2022 U.S. Senate race, Catawba College politics professor Michael Bitzer says he expects the most Trump-like candidate to be the popular choice among voters.

McCrory now joins former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker as a top-tier Republican in the race to replace Sen. Richard Burr’s seat, who has served since 2005 and says he will not run for another term. U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, who represents North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, is considering a run but has not yet announced a final decision.

McCrory served one term as governor before Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, defeated him in 2016. Prior to McCrory’s term, he served as Charlotte’s mayor from 1995-2009.

Bitzer expects the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina to be among the top three most-watched races across the nation, behind Ohio and Pennsylvania. Democrats, he said, will view this race as an opportunity to build on the current majority, while Republicans will need the seat to reach a majority. The Senate is currently split 50-50 among Republicans and Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tie-breaking Democrat vote.

Bitzer said a pending decision from Trump’s daughter-in-law and North Carolina native Lara Trump could shake things up as the base of the Republican party is “very much still behind Trump.”

“The question is which candidate will appeal to that base,” Bitzer said. “It is the strategy since Trump won this state.”

Additionally, an endorsement from the 45th U.S. president could hold some weight in the race, Bitzer said.

The key advantage for McCrory at this time is his statewide name recognition, which is often “a critical point of candidacy,” Bitzer said.

In the final year of his term as governor, McCrory faced backlash from numerous organizations and negative economic consequences due to the fight over House Bill 2, a “bathroom bill” known primarily for prohibiting local authorities from expanding their own nondiscrimination ordinances. McCrory credits himself and Republican lawmakers during his term with cutting income taxes, raising school teacher pay, creating budget surpluses and passing a $2 billion “Connect N.C.” bond to pay for repairs and expansions across the state, the News & Observer reported.

Bitzer said whether the H.B. 2 controversy will haunt him during the campaign will “come down to how much social conservatism is in the Republican base during the primary election.” Though, it’s still very much a key component to GOP voters, he added.

The traditional pattern for such races has been that the party in control of the White House tends to lose seats during midterm elections. But it remains to be seen if that same pattern will be followed as “the dynamics get cloudier since there’s no incumbent” in the U.S. Senate seat.

According to polling done for McCrory’s campaign this month, McCrory has 89% name identification among likely Republican primary voters in the state compared to 32% for Walker and Budd.

The Cook Political Report has predicted the race to be a toss-up as of April 13.

Bill update for Rowan County lawmakers 

RALEIGH — A number of bills sponsored by lawmakers representing Rowan County in the state House and Senate have made their way to the other chamber. Those bills are as follows.

Rep. Harry Warren, R-76

• House Bill 2, establishing the bottlenose dolphin as the state’s marine mammal, passed the House unanimously on April 1.
• H.B. 10, authorizing the Greater Asheville Regional Airport authority to regulate and allow others the right to operate golf courses on airport premises, passed the House on April 14.
• H.B. 11, regulating the levels of alcohol in consumables such as candy, passed the House with on “no” vote on April 1. The vote against comes from Rep. Mark Pless, R-118.
• H.B. 23, authorizing the town of Spencer to regulate the operation of utility vehicles on any public street or road, passed the House on March 17.
• H.B. 32 passed the House 69-49 along party lines on April 13. This bill makes changes to eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarships for K-12 students — which allow students to use vouchers and attend private schools — authorizes the use of a nonprofit for family outreach and adjusts funds allocated to the State Education Assistance Authority. It also authorizes counties to appropriate supplemental funds for local students receiving such scholarships.
• H.B. 46, strengthening whistleblower protections in the state’s Human Resources Act passed the House 117-2 on March 31. The two “no” votes come from Reps. Linda Cooper-Suggs, D-24, and Carolyn Logan, D-101.
• H.B. 62, requiring counties and municipalities to comply with immigration laws, passed the House 67-51 along party lines on March 10.
• H.B. 70, establishing tax credits for the repurposing of historic school buildings, passed the House 114-3 on March 24. All three “no” votes came from Republicans.
• H.B. 84, which adds those convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor to the list of sex offenders with location restrictions, passed the House unanimously on March 17.
• H.B. 184, clarifying that the inclusion of real property in a comprehensive transportation plan doesn’t need to be disclosed in a real estate transaction, passed the House 98-18 on March 10.
• H.B. 194, allowing federal judges and federal prosecutors with a valid conceal carry permit to carry a handgun with them inside state courts, passed the House 96-22 on April 14. All “no” votes came from Democrats.
• H.B. 264, which limits the governor’s powers during statewide declared disasters, passed the House 69-50 along party lines on March 31.
• H.B. 289, requiring the Department of Information Technology to prepare and maintain statewide broadband maps and appropriate money for broadband expansion projects, passed the House unanimously on April 1.
• H.B. 296, prohibiting the parking of non-electric vehicles in spaces designated for electric vehicle charging, passed the House 115-4 on March 31.

Additionally, two bills supported by Warren have successfully passed both chambers and subsequently signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper. Those include H.B. 4, which extends the ABC permit renewal fee deferral, and H.B. 82, which provides a summer learning choice for North Carolina families and H.B. 196. Two bills in which he was a primary sponsor include H.B. 48 and H.B. 49, which allows EMS personnel to carry on them a pistol for defense during dangerous situations that involve the use of SWAT teams. H.B. 49 allows for a conceal carry permit lapse extension under certain circumstances.

Rep. Wayne Sasser, R-67

In addition to the number of bills Sasser supported alongside Warren, including H.B. 264, the following have also made it to the Senate chamber:

• H.B. 19, exempting the town of Norwood in Stanly County from the 10% cap on satellite annexation, passed the House 117-1 on March 9.
• H.B. 36, which increases the punishment for firing or attempting to fire at or into an unoccupied emergency vehicle as well as pointing a laser device at law enforcement officers or emergency personnel, passed the House unanimously on March 25.
• H.B. 91, establishing a licensure process for out-of-state behavior analysts, passed the House unanimously on March 17.
• H.B. 95, allowing organ donors to maintain their status until otherwise revoked, passed the House unanimously on March 9.
• H.B. 141, making changes to lumber regulation in the state’s residential code for one- and two-family dwellings, passed the House unanimously on April 14.
• H.B. 161 granting statutory authority for the removal of abandoned and derelict vessels from state waters or public and private land passed the House unanimously on March 24.
• H.B. 224, which adds the state to the Occupational Therapy Interstate Compact and allows occupational therapists to operate remotely across state lines, passed the House unanimously on March 24.
• H.B. 341, which creates the crime and civil cause of action for online impersonations, passed the House unanimously on April 14.

Additionally, the Second Amendment Protection Act, sponsored by both Warren and Sasser, passed the House 72-44 along party lines on March 11. That bill allows the conceal carry of a handgun on educational property associated with a place of religious worship, a conceal carry permit lapse, concealed carry for EMS personnel and certain law enforcement facility employees.

Rep. Julia Howard, R-77

• H.B. 76, expanding prohibition and subsequent civil remedies of debt adjusting and debt settlement, passed the House unanimously on March 3. Both Warren and Sasser also signed on to sponsor the bill.
• H.B. 136, which requires 100% muscadine grape juice to be made available in state schools, community colleges and branches of UNC, passed the House 91-22 on March 23.
• H.B. 320, authorizing certain entities to conduct meetings remotely and nonprofits to conduct all business electronically, passed the House unanimously on March 25.

Sen. Carl Ford, R-33

• Senate Bill 43, allowing for conceal carry of a handgun on educational property associated with a religious meeting place, passed the Senate 31-18 along party lines on March 1.
• S.B. 101, which requires the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement to be queried when a non-citizen is charged with certain offenses and creates a reporting system for ICE queries, passed the Senate 27-20 on March 11 along party lines.
• S.B. 323 authorizes funds deposited in certain decommissioning funds related to Catawba Nuclear Stations established by the state’s Municipal Power Agency Number 1 to be invested through the state treasurer’s Ancillary Governmental Participant Investment program.

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The Latest: Pakistan receives 1st vaccines through COVAX | Govt-and-politics

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Alf Johansson, head of the exercise’s communications, told the Swedish news agency TT that the affected unit had 200 soldiers and 8 positive coronavirus cases have been confirmed so far. He defended arranging the drill in the middle of the pandemic by saying that the military hasn’t burdened civilian health care.

“This is a very important exercise for the army to train together so that we can maintain our ability to defend Sweden,” Johansson told TT.

Sweden, a nation of 10 million, has recorded just over 1 million coronavirus cases, with 14,173 deaths by Friday.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Of the more than 1.4 million Connecticut residents who are now fully vaccinated, 242 later became infected with COVID-19, according to data released Friday from the state Department of Public Health.

Among the 242 so-called “vaccine breakthrough cases,” 109 people had no symptoms of the disease. DPH reported three deaths among vaccinated individuals who were confirmed to have had underlying medical conditions. They were between the ages of 55-64, 65-74, and 75 years and older.

Nationally, there have been 132 vaccine breakthrough deaths, DPH said.

“The main takeaway is that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and cases of infection after a person is fully vaccinated are very rare,” Dr. Deidre Gifford, the state’s acting public health commissioner, said in a statement. Cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated individuals in Connecticut is less than 0.1%, according to the DPH data.

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Montana to vaccinate Alberta truckers | 406 Politics

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About 2,000 Albertan truckers will be eligible for vaccinations this side of the border starting Monday, the governor’s office announced Friday.

The deal was paved by a memorandum of understanding signed between Montana and Alberta in hopes of maintaining trade routes across the border, according to Friday’s press release. The Albertan truckers have been allocated vaccine doses from the U.S. to be administered at a truck stop in Conrad, along Interstate 15.



Gov. Greg Gianforte

Gov. Greg Gianforte speaks on the step of the Montana state Capitol.




“The pandemic has had devastating consequences, including a severe impact on our economies,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a press release. “By working together and taking this critical action, we keep our trade channels open between Montana and Alberta.”

Last month, the Blackfeet tribe had provided about 1,000 surplus vaccines to Albertans who crossed the border for a shot. Canada has been slow to rollout its vaccination because of a lack of domestic manufacturing, the Associated Press reported earlier this week. The U.S. only recently began exporting its doses, requiring Montana’s neighbors to the north to turn to overseas countries in search or surplus doses. 

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Race, politics, partisanship: Bend school board race sees unusual division | Local&State

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Typically, school board races in Central Oregon are a quieter affair than City Council or state Legislature campaigns.

The elections are in May, not November, and during odd-numbered years. Turnout is lower, as most people don’t get as fired up about who’s going to be on the school board as much as they do about who’s going to represent them in Salem. And the race is nominally nonpartisan — no Republican or Democrat identifiers on the ballot.

But not in this year’s race for the Bend-La Pine School Board.

The campaign has become politically charged, and three candidates on a conservative slate have repeatedly criticized schools for how they teach issues of race. They’ve said local schools make white students feel guilty, and claim so-called “wokeness” — slang for an alertness to racial or social discrimination and injustice — is ruining local schools.

The conservative-learning candidates — Maria Lopez-Dauenhauer, Jon Haffner, Gregg Henton and Wendy Imel — did not participate in Central Oregon’s largest nonpartisan political forum and have barely spoken with local media. Instead, they tout themselves as “parents, not politicians,” while at the same time chatting with conservative pundits from outside Central Oregon, like Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham and Portland radio personality Lars Larson.

John Rexford, who spent 29 years as a local school administrator before retiring in 2018, said he had never seen a school board race this politically charged.

“This is the ultimate fallout from the severe partisanship we’ve experienced over the past few years on a national level,” Rexford said. “This is really — and I hate to say it — unprecedented.”

Partisan discussion of race

On “The Lars Larson Show,” Henton said local schools were making white students feel guilty.

“What they’re going to be doing is pushing a — I hate to say it — but a guilt trip on our children, especially our white children,” he said. “’Billy won’t play with me because I’m white.’ This is where this is going.”

Henton did not list his race on his campaign filing information.

Henton’s opponent for the school board seat, Shirley Olson, said Henton’s assumptions about race in local schools was off-base. Teachers do bring it up, but it’s more nuanced than simply making white students feel guilty, she said.

“He’s making some huge assumptions,” said Olson, who also did not list her race on her campaign filing information. “I don’t have any idea where he’s getting his information — he’s certainly not getting it from the school district.”

Fellow board candidate Marcus LeGrand added that the point of anti-racist practices in teaching is to make students aware of systemic barriers that harm students of color, not make white kids feel bad.

“An honest look at history may lead students to feel empathy and a greater understanding of the lived experiences of their marginalized peers, but guilt is not the goal,” LeGrand, who is Black, wrote in an email.

Phrases like “Wokeness” and “white guilt” are intended to shut down dialog rather than address underlying issues of racism, he said.

Ingraham described the candidates as running “on a platform of breaking the woke monopoly that’s brainwashing their kids,” and both Lopez-Dauenhauer and Imel made brief statements decrying what was being taught in schools regarding race and the United States.

Lopez-Dauenhauer complained about critical race theory — a practice of acknowledging how America’s racist past still has systemic impacts today. Critical race theory has recently become a hot topic among conservatives, according to The Atlantic.

“We’re finding they’re talking about critical race theory (in schools),” Lopez-Dauenhauer, who identifies as Mexican-American, said on Fox News. “We believe politics have no place in the classrooms.”

Henton has also been accused, both on Twitter and on Reddit, of making racist and Islamophobic tweets. These tweets come from multiple accounts — @HentonGregg and @gregghsunriver — that could not be independently verified as belonging to Henton.

One of the accounts, @gregghsunriver, was deleted after The Bulletin asked Henton and his running mates for comment.

Archived tweets from that account, from 2017, said that Muslims were “the western hating-murder-them-all kind” of people, and that the prophet Muhammad committed genocide against those who didn’t convert to Islam.

“I know of no historian who has written that Muhammad said ‘convert or perish’ or that he committed genocide,” David Hollenberg, associate professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies at the University of Oregon, wrote in an email to The Bulletin.

Henton did not respond to email and phone call requests for comment about the tweets. When asked about the tweets outside his Sunriver home Thursday, Henton refused to comment.

“I know who you are, and I’m not going to talk with you,” Henton said. “I don’t appreciate you coming to my house. Please leave.”

Local media mostly shut out

Henton has not responded to The Bulletin’s repeated requests for comment. Fellow candidate Jon Haffner — the only one of the board candidates who has not directly talked about race, but did mention a need to ”de-politicize our schools” on his campaign website — has also not spoken with The Bulletin.

Lopez-Dauenhauer has only responded to The Bulletin through email. Imel has briefly spoken on the phone with The Bulletin, but has also conducted all interviews through email.

All four candidates also did not participate in the League of Women Voters of Deschutes County and City Club of Central Oregon’s nonpartisan candidate forum — something that shocked the leaders of those organizations.

The four Democrat-endorsed school board candidates — Carrie McPherson Douglass, Marcus LeGrand, Janet Sarai Llerandi and Shirley Olson — participated in the nonpartisan forum and conducted phone interviews with The Bulletin.

Current board member Shimiko Montgomery said she was concerned about the conservative slate’s comparative reluctance to speak with local media or participate in nonpartisan forums.

“What I am surprised about is the lack of transparency and willingness to engage with the public by four of the candidates,” Montgomery wrote in an email.

Phil Henderson, chair of the Deschutes County Republicans, said neither he nor the party told the four candidates — all endorsed by the Republicans — to avoid speaking with local media. He declined to comment on the topic beyond that.

“They are running their own campaign,” Henderson said.

Jason Burge, chair of the Deschutes County Democrats, said he thought the candidates’ lack of participation in the forum, or unwillingness to do phone interviews with The Bulletin, was a red flag.

“The desire to only respond with written statements makes me wonder, who’s responding, and who we’re actually hearing from,” he said. “How much of the content is really from the candidates … and how much is scripted from somebody else?”

Evan Crawford, an assistant professor of political science at the University of San Diego who specializes in local and school board politics, told The Bulletin the slate’s communications behavior is likely an intentional campaign strategy.

In low-turnout elections in more liberal areas like Bend, it’s a common move for right-leaning candidates, he said.

“If you’re a conservative slate of candidates running in what’s perceived to be a majority Democratic district, you’re not incentivized to show your very Republican perspectives,” Crawford said. “I’m not surprised they wouldn’t participate in the League of Women Voters forum.”

Crawford added that appearances on conservative media like Fox News and “The Lars Larson Show” are a way to draw out the local conservative vote in a nonpartisan election, while keeping others unaware of their political views.

In a written statement sent to The Bulletin, Llerandi said she believes this school board election is being used as a test by outside special interests who “want to push an alt-right agenda on our schools.”

“These are nonpartisan races, so they think they can make inroads,” she wrote in an email. “So you see them lying to rank and file voters about who they really are and what they’re about, and then giving a wink to their base with implicit bigotry.”

Claims of ‘doxxing’

On Wednesday, Lopez-Dauenhauer filed a formal complaint with Bend-La Pine Schools, stating that McPherson Douglass — the only incumbent running for school board — had “doxxed” her by posting Lopez-Dauenhauer’s home address, the value of her large house, and a Google Maps screen shot of her home on Facebook. That Facebook post has since been deleted, but Lopez-Dauenhauer included a screen shot.

When asked to comment, Lopez-Dauenhauer did not respond.

Henderson said he did not approve of McPherson Douglass’ post — which also pointed out Lopez-Dauenhauer’s wealth — even if the information was publicly available.

“Where somebody lives doesn’t mean they’d be a bad candidate,” Henderson said. “It seems like a low blow.”

McPherson Douglass said the purpose of posting this information, and emphasizing Lopez-Dauenhauer’s wealth, was not to say that wealthy people can’t run for school board. But rather, that Lopez-Dauenhauer was trying to buy her way onto the board.

“Her decision to shirk voters, while using her money to fund attack ads … is trying to buy an election without engaging with voters,” McPherson Douglass said.

A person named Dennis Dauenhauer — who is listed as “candidate and immediate family” and as having the same address as Lopez-Dauenhauer — gave Lopez-Dauenhauer’s campaign more than $27,600 of in-kind contributions, according to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. All other contributions combined to her campaign, as of Friday, total slightly less than $8,250.

Dennis Dauenhauer also contributed $1,000 each to Haffner and Imel’s campaigns, although he was not the largest donor for either. He did not contribute to Henton’s campaign.

In total, McPherson Douglass has raised about $36,290 in cash and in-kind contributions — mainly comprised of many smaller donations — compared to a $35,850 contribution total for Lopez-Dauenhauer, as of Friday.

Montgomery, who was elected to the school board in 2019, told The Bulletin that the numerous instances of slander and demeaning rhetoric should not be a part of an election meant to focus on children.

“My heart is just very heavy as I watch these races unfold,” she wrote in an email. “Our children deserve leaders who embody kindness, empathy, and decency toward others.”

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