Answering the Call of Duty in North Carolina
The most flippable state has some amazing candidates
|Jordan Zakarin||Jul 26|| 1|
Welcome to the big Sunday edition of Progressives Everywhere! There are now exactly 100 days until election day, on November 3rd, so today let’s dedicate ourselves to doubling our efforts to beat Donald Trump and his Republican cronies by such an overwhelming margin that no amount of voter suppression, electoral trickery, or whiney lawsuits can save them. And we know there will be a lot of that — they’re already going full-authoritarian in cities across the country right now.
Here’s the good news: Polls are looking good, at least in the presidential race. But there are thousands of important elections happening across the country this fall, many of which will have a direct impact on policies that will impact your life, no matter where you live.
A Hero in North Carolina
For all the (deserved!) attention that Texas and Georgia get for their flirtation with flipping blue this election cycle, there’s one southern state that’s even more likely to flip in November.
In fact, you could say North Carolina has already flipped blue — its representatives just need to reflect it. Democrats won a majority of votes statewide in 2018, but thanks to one of the most egregious gerrymanders in the country, Republicans were able to keep control of the state legislature and pass horrible anti-LGBTQ laws; only an end to their supermajority sustained a veto of a terrible anti-choice bill. Fortunately, the state Supreme Court stepped in and mandated some districts be redrawn, resulting in a number of GOP-held districts that now look ready to flip blue.
Democrats need just six seats to take control of the State Assembly, which is quite doable with at least three of them seeming locks to go blue. We’ll look at some of those races later this week, but today I want to focus on one seat that, if flipped, would virtually guarantee Democrats control of the Assembly and a large say in the next redistricting process.
After a career spent as a teacher and military officer, Marcia Morgan was enjoying a well-deserved retirement near the beach in North Carolina. Then 2016 happened, and like millions of shocked and appalled Americans, she decided that she needed to get off the sidelines and get involved in local politics.
She quickly became a precinct co-chair and saw up-close how many problems were plaguing the state, from low education funding to environmental disasters. Soon, she was running for elected office for the first time in her life — because no one was volunteering, Morgan stepped up to run as the Democratic candidate for House District 19 in the North Carolina State Assembly against an incumbent Republican State Representative who had gone unopposed in the last two elections.
“I was very good at being retired, I had found my passion in life with that, but I felt like [running] is a necessity,” Morgan tells Progressives Everywhere. “I said, ‘I'm not gonna let that happen again. He’s not gonna win this without a fight.’”
Despite having no name recognition, no political experience, and no organization to start, Morgan gave Rep. Ted Davis the closest race of his career, losing by less than 900 votes. Morgan also suspended her campaign for a time after a major hurricane in the fall of 2018, turning the organization into something of a relief operation. She hopes that won’t be necessary this time around, but given her background, I can’t imagine her thinking twice to do so if necessary.
Last fall’s redistricting actually made the 19th district a bit tougher for a Democrat to win, but Rep. Davis is now running in the 20th district, making this an open seat and giving Morgan the name recognition advantage.
It’s hard to fathom coming out of retirement to run two tough campaigns, let alone do the job of a state representative, but public service is in Morgan’s blood. She joined the military late, after already receiving a Ph.D. in education, and rose up to serve on the staff of the Army’s Chief of Staff, a testament to her work ethic and smarts. She traveled the world, picking up new perspectives and insights that would serve her well in Raleigh.
“A lot of the things that I did were things that I would have never thought possible,” Morgan says. “That ranges from living in a Quonset hut on the side of a mountain in Korea to briefing senior military officials. I could go from realizing there's no such thing as a five-second rule when food hits the floor because you don't have much food to dining with a Saudi Prince in his house.”
Her big focuses in the legislature would be what she considers the state’s two mishandled crown jewels: its children and its environment. She points out that North Carolina ranks near the top of the country in GDP but at the very bottom in education spending per pupil, even after massive teacher strikes that forced some reforms in 2018.
In her part of North Carolina, a toxic chemical called GenX, invented by DuPont, has been poisoning local water supplies for the last decade, resulting in a stark divide in children’s nutrition. “The schools in the wealthier districts have Parent-Teacher Association groups that will bring cases of bottled water in so that all the kids have water, but in the poorer schools, they don't have that resource,” Morgan laments.
Should she get elected, Morgan says she will also focus on expanding Medicaid — North Carolina Republicans have blocked that since 2013 — and passing legislation to create nonpartisan redistricting. And more than anything else, she plans on being an actual representative, someone who does right by her community. There’s no other reason for her to be doing this.
“I think that people are eager to have someone who will listen to them and that they can trust,” Morgan explains, “and I think I'm that person.”
Big News You Need to Know
Here are some of the big headlines you may have missed over the long weekend and late last week.
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Elections (and Future Elections) and Voting Rights
See, I told you that the polls were looking good — not that we should rest on our laurels.
One of the reasons that those polls look so good is that the suburbs are shifting dramatically to the left — or at least away from Trump. It began in 2018, when Democrats dominated in well-educated, middle-to-upper-middle class suburban Congressional districts, and now it’s turning into a full realignment.
I guess that’s what happens when you ignore a deadly pandemic that closes schools around the country, killing 140,000 Americans and leaving suburban families stuck at home with restless kids for the foreseeable future. Via Politico:
It is the same story in suburbs everywhere. In a Fox News poll last weekend, Trump was trailing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by 11 percentage points in the suburbs. An ABC News/Washington Post poll had Trump down 9 percentage points there — larger margins in the suburbs than exit polls have recorded since the 1980s, when Republicans were winning there by double digits.
In fact, Donald Trump is so unhappy that Ronald Reagan’s family wants nothing to do with the guy. And this isn’t just liberal Ronny Jr., this is the actual Reagan Foundation asking that Trump and the RNC pull the plug on commercials and promotions tying the two together. That their disagreement is over a worthless faux-gold coin is just too perfect.
Still, we can’t get too confident. Even if the vast majority of Americans hate Donald Trump and vote against him — and Democrats now have 1.86 million voters register to vote by mail in Florida alone, a 500,000 voter advantage — that doesn’t mean that their votes will actually be counted.
Activists across the country have been pushing hard to expand absentee balloting for this November’s election, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that securing the right to vote by mail is only half the battle. Absentee ballots have always been rejected at a higher rate than in-person votes, but in this year’s mail-heavy primaries, the rate of disqualified ballots have skyrocketed — especially for younger, Black, and Latinx voters.
A new analysis of primary votes in Wisconsin found that over 23,000 absentee ballots were rejected during the primary — more than the number of votes that Trump won the state by in 2016. Over half those votes were rejected because there was some kind of error with the outside of the ballot envelope, which must have the signatures and addresses of both the voter and a designated witness. Absentee voting made up 60% of ballots cast during the primary, and because the state does not require an excuse to mail in a ballot, there’s every chance that we’ll see a repeat performance come November.
It’s particularly awful here in New York, where a tight primary still hasn’t been decided because at least half of the absentee ballots still haven’t been counted.
Then again, it’s OK to remain optimistic — Republicans know they’re in trouble. For all their talk about how the “radical left” has taken over the Democratic Party (I wish!), it’s actually the GOP that has been subsumed by its far-right fringes. Last week, former Florida Rep. Alan West — remember him?! — became the chair of the state Republican Party. The upset victory that totally remakes the Texas GOP and could have a huge impact on an election in which Democrats could legitimately flip a chamber of the legislature and even win its electoral votes. Republican officials there are now terrified.
COVID-19 and Related Drama
Are governors just going to let the pandemic continue to spiral out of control? What’s the plan here? For a while, people were suggesting that all the new cases weren’t a big deal because the death rate was staying low, which was always misguided because:
COVID-19 wrecks your body in a million different ways, even if you don’t die
Deaths always drag behind surges in new cases because you don’t die instantly from most viruses.
Now we’re seeing a significant uptick in deaths, with over 1,000 a day for the last week. On Sunday, Florida had over 9300 new cases and 77 deaths, following a Saturday with over 12,000 new cases. It just surpassed New York for second-most cases in the country, a dubious honor.
The governors of both Florida and Georgia refuse to issue mask mandates, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is continuing to pursue his lawsuit against cities that have issued their own.
Right now Kemp is in mediation with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose staff is negotiating on behalf of the many other cities that also issued mask orders. It is not going well. According to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, Bottoms is willing to announce that the Phase One rules guiding businesses are voluntary, but Kemp is only willing to allow Bottoms to mandate masks be worn on city property, not in private businesses.
With lawsuits and outrage growing, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is suddenly saying that he’s cool with schools delaying their opening by a few weeks so that teachers, parents, and children have less of a chance of getting sick in the worst COVID-19 hotspot in the nation. The fact that 140 more people died of COVID-19 in Florida on Wednesday, including a 9-year-old girl, makes it that much more urgent that DeSantis is forced to accept online learning for as long as necessary. This thing does not discriminate.
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